Safari - 12/20/00

Over a month in Africa already, and we still haven't been on safari. So, instead of hooking up with one of the hundreds of tour companies in Tanzania, let's do it on our own. Like Lisa always says, "How hard can it be?”

We met some guys on Zanzibar who said you could get to Mikumi National Park on your own by going to the town market in Morogoro and hiring a car. It would be much cheaper than going with a tour company and we'd be able to stay in a hotel rather than camping. Sounds easy right? The one thing they didn't bother to mention was that having a person with you who speaks fluent Swahili really helps. Who knew?

Our Morogoro/Mikumi experience turned out to be really interesting. We spent two days wandering around the town asking random people if they knew where we could hire a 4x4 for the day to take us to the national park. After several false leads, we ended up asking at the fanciest hotel in town. They spent two hours tracking someone down and we finally had our vehicle. Oh, it turns out we maybe saved $20 doing it this way.

That night things got really intense. It started with some thunder in the distance and turned into hours of continuous thunder and lightning right on top of us. It was awesome! Of course, this also meant rain, which had us a little worried about the next days safari.

It was also the night of the kumbi-kumbi. It started out innocently enough. A bug came flying in under our door. Pretty big; about an inch long, like a big ant with dragonfly wings. Ugly and stupid too, bumping into walls, falling on the floor. Lisa wasn't too happy with it in the room though, neither was I truthfully, so I went to swat it out of our misery. I ended up putting out our only light bulb instead (there must be some irony there somewhere since I tried to swat it with a bible).

After finding a flashlight, we opened the door to our room and there were maybe 100 of these bugs bumping around the lights of our bungalow. We ran through them, arms flailing, to the front desk, only to find hundreds more. They were everywhere. We went and hid in the darkest corner of the dining room since they were congregating around the lights. After a couple hours we noticed that there were only a couple kumbi-kumbi in the room. We looked outside and they were almost all gone. What's up?

Turns out it was kumbi-kumbi mating night. It happens once a year, a few days after the first fall rains. They mate and then most die all in one night. The next morning all that was left were hundreds of wings piled in every corner. It's no wonder they were clumsy fliers since they only have wings once and then only for one day.

The day we spent in Mikumi was a pleasant surprise. We saw tons of animals right next to the main road. The rains had just begun and the new green grass by the road was just too tempting. We saw zebra, giraffe, lions drinking from a stream and several elephants. We also got to go to a hippo pool at a fancy lodge that our driver Chuma had helped build. It was the one place we were able to get out of the car. “Leave the doors open for a quick escape if a lion comes.” Helpful hints like that definitely keep you on your toes.

It turned out really lucky that Chuma was there to drive us. He invited us to stay an extra day in Morogoro to go to the graduation ceremony and party for his wife Safia who was getting her masters in Ag. Science. We got a chance to meet and spend time with his family; the kids especially were a blast. His 4- year old was just fascinated by the blond hair on my arms, “like a lion.” The party was cool too, 200 people, an MC, a videographer and a 20-foot long buffet. The only downside was that all the jokes and speeches were in Swahili.

Our other safari was fairly stereotypical but really fun. We went on a five- day tour of the northern national parks including Tarangire, Serengeti and Ngorongoro. I know you don't know where they are, we'll have to get a map. We did a camping tour with three other folks, Simon, Sabine and Lisa as well as our intrepid guide Godfrey and our cook Noel (fresh garlic and coconut milk straight from the nut, yummy).

Tarangire gave us some really close looks at elephants and giraffes, but it was the Serengeti that just blew us away. How many nature shows have we watched about that park and now we were actually there. Yes, it's better than TV. I could go on for ages about all the animals we saw, but here are some highlights: 1000’s of wildebeests on their yearly migration, a giant python eating a gazelle, Secretary birds (very strange), buffalo and porcupine in our campsite, two lions in between lovemaking sessions and a cheetah stalking and killing a gazelle.

The Ngorongoro Crater was also spectacular. It's a collapsed volcano; the crater is over 20 km across and it's just full of wildlife. There's lots of water down there so the animals just stick around. In addition to the animals we'd already seen, we viewed tons of flamingos and got in close range of three rare black rhinos. Almost too close actually. Some of the safari cars got between the juvenile and it's parents and it got a little intense until it found a way around. We took lots of pictures, but this trip really showed us our lack of a good zoom lens. For some reason you just can't get very close to dangerous animals.

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"Please don't feed the baboons"

Impala abound

Zebras at Mukumi National Park

Buffalo skull

The Safari Gang

Baobab Tree vs. The Termites

Why doesn't it fall over?

Happy elephant?

Elephant yoga


Cheetahs and vulture

Cheetahs make quick work of a rabbit

Flies - 1; King of the Jungle - 0

King of the Serengeti

The breathtaking wildebeest migration

Lazy days

Dr. Seuss visits the Serengeti (secretary bird)

Spotted hyaena

A jackal slinks by

"Its my pool, dammit!"

Olduvai Gorge (for the geek traveler)

Flamingos in Ngorogoro Crater

Hippos and egrets

The rare black rhino, a little too close for comfort

Serengeti sunset - WOW!!!

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