National Parks and Zanzibar
from 11-08-2003 until
It has been less than a year since we went on our biggest
adventure yet in Africa. Now, in August of the next year, weíre ready to leave
for Tanzania. We compiled an itinerary together with Jozef Verbruggen of
Untamed Wildlife Safaris, whom we instantly liked when we first met him at the
Holiday Fair in Utrecht. Half of the places we will visit are not new to us; we
visited the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater and the island of Zanzibar before.
We even went to the first two parks twice and have fond memories of the
Serengeti in particular. Ruaha National Park, Mikumi National Park and Selous
Game Reserve are on our itinerary for the first time.
I could enumerate all the reasons why we fell in love with this magnificent continent,
but I canít really find any other or more beautiful words to do so than those
which I used in previous years. I am probably hindered by my limitations
in committing my experience to paper. Every evening before I doze off, I think
of the most well-turned phrases imaginable which, in my eyes, are unequalled by
any of the great authors, but I know now that dreams can be lies sometimes.
However, I am not restrained in any way in experiencing the feeling I get when
I think of our adventures of the past and in the future. This feeling sometimes
grows so strong that I think of settling down somewhere on this marvellous
continent but then doubt starts gnawing in the back of my head. Once we have
found a place for ourselves, can we still do what we like to do now when we
visit Africa? The point is to find something which will allow you to still
enjoy this continent, but so far I havenít succeeded in doing just that. Now, I
look forward to our next adventure with much joy and anticipation. This past
year has been a hard one indeed and we feel we deserve to enjoy the wonderful
glory of Africa once again. What sort of experience will we have in Tanzania
this time? Of course, we donít know but we are aware of the pitfall of
comparing it to last yearís trip because a comparison of any kind would be
unfair and could taint whatever adventure we are now undoubtedly facing. Our
local travel agent in Tanzania is Msafiri Travel which will provide us with a
driver/guide and a cook who will travel with us throughout our safari. Four of
last yearís fellow travellers, namely Patricia, Wilfred, Hendri and Anja, will
join us again. Mind you, Tanzania wasnít our first choice for a place to spend
our holidays. We considered going to Cameroon or another West African country.
I am convinced that in this case all is not lost that is delayed.
10/8 To Brussels
It is already the sixth time that we leave for Africa. Every
step we take brings us closer to the tranquillity, the natural splendour, the
sense of perspective and the uncontrollable urge to experience our adventure in
a tent. We take our first steps to the station in the afternoon where we meet
Wilfred and Patricia, who have also taken their first steps, at the platform
where the train to Brussels will depart. In Den Bosch, Anja and Hendri join us
and complete the group. Our backpacks are blocking the entrance to one of the
carriages of the double deck train which is taking us further and further
south. Bags of liquorice and other sorts of candy are opened and it feels as if
we are on our way to make a new instalment of a travel programme after a long
Once we are in Brussels, we change trains to go to the
airport where we reserve seats on next dayís flight. We sleep at the
Ibis hotel near the airport, where we first pack away our things in the small
but well-maintained rooms before going outside to eat. The first beers we drink
are a tradition which instantly reminds us of last year. Itís warm, very warm.
This day, like most days this summer, has been a good preparation for the heat
we are going to have to face in Africa.
11/8 Brussels Ė Nairobi
The night does not refresh us because the heat of the day is
caught in our room. The sweat on my body keeps me from falling asleep. It is
undoable to lay quietly with the windows closed. Every few minutes I wipe the
sweat of my heated body with a towel while I sit on the edge of the bed. A huge
fan, which whirrs loudly, is positioned on the roof of the building across the
street. So I have to choose the lesser of two evils. When you are struggling to
get to sleep this choice becomes a dilemma; in short, this is an exhaustive
night which Iíd prefer to forget. At 7 a.m. I take a well-earned shower and
rinse the sweat which I lost during the night off my body.
Weíre glad that the night is over and meet each other at the
breakfast buffet. Itís still early morning, but we plan to leave for the
airport at 8 a.m. We are well ahead of schedule and itís a good thing that we
are. There is a long queue at the check-in desk. The monitors indicate that we
will fly by way of Entebbe in Uganda. We canít escape stricter security checks
and I even have to go into a separate room. Of course, I know that the customs
officer is performing the check needlessly in my case. This is the first time
we have had such a meticulous security check.
The way the customs officer performed his job was just as meticulous as the way in which I
monitored the migration of the wildebeest from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara
on the Internet. Up until now, the group consisting of millions of
animals balances on the edge of both parks near Kleinís Camp. We may still hope
to see the rear of the migration, which obviously moves more slowly than in
previous years, in the northern part of the Serengeti. In the middle of July,
the migrating animals were just at Grumeti River Camp in the Serengeti after
which they moved north more slowly than usual. They passed the Sand River, in
the north east of the Serengeti, at the end of July. It seemed as if they were
waiting there for the rest of the groups to catch up so they could move north
together. At the end of the first week of August the migration moved somewhat
again. Even though some animals have started to cross over into Kenya, a large
group lingers and waits near Kleinís Camp. In this period of time the migration
is split up when the zebras and wildebeest separate to move on with their own
kind, but the main part of the migration is still in the Sand River area. The
animals are expected to wait a while before they make the big crossing which
increases our chance to catch a glimpse of this miracle of the natural world.
Now, a week later we are our own undertaking a migration to Tanzania. We will
be in the Serengeti in two days.
We fly over the Alps where the glaciers are small
because of the heat which has taken a hold over the whole of Europe. Emerald green lakes lay
between the mountains like beads. We glide through the air and reach the
Mediterranean Sea while music which creates a magical atmosphere comes from the
headsets. Sloops, which are probably gigantic tankers in reality, leave small
wakes in the sea. A coastline with a vast country with shades of brown
indicates that we are entering Africa. I am lost in thought as I think of some
of our famous predecessors who made their way into Africa. One of those
predecessors was Kuki Gallman. I saw a movie about her last week and we travelled around the area where she lived at
the Laikipia Plateau. The Sahara seems endless; there are only a few tracks in
the sand which indicate that there are in fact roads which occasionally meet at
a junction. It would be a disaster to have to find your way through there after
a sandstorm without a navigation system.
We arrive safely at Nairobi Airport at 10 p.m. We have no
trouble getting through customs and soon we are out in the arrivals hall with
our backpacks in search for the contact person we are supposed to meet and who
was sent by Irene Haneveld, who works for Savannah Travel and the NGO project for street children and orphans in
Nairobi. We met Irene through our website and her project appealed to us
immediately so we promote it on our website. In return, she offered to arrange
transportation from and to Nairobi Airport and to Arusha. She also booked hotel
rooms for our night in Nairobi. Of course, one always worries on arrival
whether or not everything has indeed been arranged. It is not long before we
see a sign with my name on it. We quickly put our stuff into the cars and split
up into two groups to go to the hotel. Catherine is Ireneís contact person.
What we donít know is that the girl in the car with us is Glaciana, who works
for another organisation. We wonít meet Catherine until next morning.
We strike up a conversation about the differences in temperature in the Netherlands and Kenya, from which we conclude that the Netherlands wins on account of the heat there.
Glaciana tells us that the migration just arrived in the Masai Mara. We tell her that we
had hoped to be able to see the migration in the most north eastern tip of the
Serengeti but that these hopes are now shattered. She asks us if we will be
back in Nairobi with a few days to spare after our journey through Tanzania. We
tell her that we will be back and plan to spend our last days in Nairobi to
visit Ireneís street children and orphans to give them the material we brought
with us. We also have other ideas about visiting sites in the Nairobi area.
Then Glaciana makes us an offer. Why would we want to go to those street
children and orphans? She can make arrangements for us so we can go to the
Masai Mara and still see the migration. With that remark she plucked at our
heartstrings. We are easily persuaded because we assume that Glaciana is a
contact person for Ireneís organisation who more or less advises against paying
a visit to these children. We find out later that this assumption was somewhat
naÔve, but we are glad to have an extra chance to see the migration.
We arrive at Hotel 680 and check in after which Hendri and I go to the office at which
Glaciana works. She warns us about the level of crime in Nairobi, which
is especially high in the evening and at night. Itís almost midnight and
primetime for crime. The streets are very quiet and there is a mystical air about
them. The office is at the top of one of the characteristic buildings in
downtown Nairobi. A porter, who is not recognisable as such, lets us in. We
make arrangements for our visit to the Masai Mara and return to our hotel with
a feeling of contentment. When we get there Allen, Patricia, Wilfred and Anja
are having a drink in the hall. Itís a pity that Patricia and Wilfred canít
join us in the Masai Mara. They both have to leave Zanzibar early. We have been
travelling for two days now and canít hide the signs of fatigue any longer.
Itís time to go to bed.
12/8 Nairobi Ė Arusha
Fortunately Ellen and I get a good nightís sleep. We expect
that the shuttle which will take us to Arusha will pick us up at 7.30 a.m. We
meet Catherina, who is an absolutely charming girl, before we leave. We pay the money we owe
after which we have to hurry to get into the shuttle which is ready to leave
exactly on time. We will see Catherina again when we return to Nairobi.
Itís business as usual in Nairobi when we stop at a few other hotels
to pick people up. Itís a small miracle that everybody can find their
way in the mass of people and cars that is Nairobiís rush hour. Our bus driver
also pulls it off and eventually we are on the road out of Nairobi. The shuttle
is packed now as we drive south on a road that becomes increasingly quiet. The
only obstructions which we come across now are the large number of speed bumps.
The Kenyans probably learned through experience that this is necessary.
At the Tanzanian border one cannot avoid being bothered by the pushy Masai women who
try to sell you their curio. One of the women tries to palm a bracelet
off on me by telling me ďYou get it from me for free,Ē while at the same time
she tries to already put the bracelet in my hands. I know from my experience on
previous holidays that this is a sales gimmick which often works: Once youíve
touched the bracelet youíre stuck with it and the women will unavoidably hold
up their hand for you to pay them all the same or try to sell you some other
piece of curio. I put my hands into the air so the women, who are generally
somewhat smaller than I am, canít reach them. The women donít give up and try
to put a bracelet around my finger, hoping that one of them will catch on it.
We donít run into any problems when crossing the border on the Kenyan side, but at the
Tanzanian side itís a whole different kettle of fish. The passport and
visa checks go smoothly but when we get back to the shuttle we hear that all
our baggage, which is a rather large amount of bags, has to be taken out of the
bus. We have to go into a customs office one by one, taking our luggage with
us. We put our bags down fearing that we have to take everything out of it. We
expect this to take quite some time, but we couldnít be more mistaken. Wilfred
and Patricia are already in the office when Ellen and I, followed by Anja and
Hendri, come into the room. The customs officer also comes in and puts a chalk cross
on our luggage with great panache, but without saying anything. We wait for him
to do something else but he doesnít, so we ask him if this was all. He
indicates that he is finished and we can put everything back into the bus
without having had to open a single backpack. The other passengers also have to
go through this procedure for formís sake and we are back on the road to Arusha
faster than we expected.
An hour and a half after weíve crossed the border we arrive in Arusha, where we meet our
driver/guide, Mfume and our cook, Petty. We put our baggage into the
Land Rover. Mfume looks somewhat troubled when he sees how much luggage we have
taken with us but we donít think the amount of luggage we carry is excessive.
We take less and less with us every year and on average we stay well under the
fifteen kilo. After moving the bags around we succeed in getting everything on
the roof of the car and we leave for Klub Afriko, where we will sleep.
When we turn into a side road everybody in the group looks at each other as if to say
ďWhere on earth are we being taken?Ē The gullies in the road are
broadening and the road becomes bumpier as we go along. Mfume has trouble
finding his way around and we get the impression that he doesnít exactly know
where Klub Afriko is. Our suspicion is confirmed when Mfume has to drive to the
beginning of this road in reverse gear. He already hit a child on a bike so we
wonder if he will manage to get us out of here in one piece, which he does. We
arrive at Klub Afriko, which is a green oasis of tranquillity and luxury, while
we thought we were in one of Arushaís slums. The accommodation contains seven private
bungalows, which are well-decorated and all have a bath and a patio. There is a
restaurant with good cooking, so this is a wonderful start of our adventure in
Tanzania. We get three bungalows and Ellen and I get what is called the
honeymoon suite. We are in fact the only married couple in the group soÖ..
Every bungalow has its own path which winds its way through the typically
African coarse grass. Banana trees and other plants with magnificently blooming
flowers complete the garden and make it a stunning sight to see. At the back of
the garden, there is a library where I can peacefully catch up on my journal
writing. The only sound I hear on this
quiet spot is that of playing monkeys. The others join me and we discuss
whether the monkeys are vervet monkeys or squirrel monkeys. When we see the
animalsí blue balls we know that theyíre vervet monkeys: squirrel monkeys are
smaller and a brighter shade of yellow and donít even live in Africa. Donít be
embarrassed if you didnít know this, because neither did I at first. I just
never saw them in this part of Africa, which isnít surprising seeing as how
they donít live in Africa at all.
The afternoon draws toward an end and itís time to enjoy a nice bath while we still
can. Unfortunately, the (warm) water supply is typically African, which
means that thereís no warm water, if there is any water at all. I washed myself
as best I could and had a short nap before going to the restaurant to eat. We
agreed with Mfume that we will leave for the Serengeti tomorrow at 8.00 a.m. In
the evening I rearrange my luggage for the coming days.
13/8 Arusha Ė Serengeti NP
We have breakfast in the restaurant after a wonderful
nightís sleep. We asked Mfume to pick us up at 8.00, but we forgot that the
African concept of time is different from the Western one, so Mfume and Petty
arrive an hour late in the drizzle. It takes a while for us to put all of our
luggage into or onto the Land Rover. We are convinced that we didnít take too much
with us and it seems that the Land Rover will manage to tow all our things. We
finally leave at 9.40 a.m. The weather is still gloomy when we leave Arusha to
spend five days in the bush.
I realise that we didnít pack any water bottles when we were loading up the car, so I ask
Mfume if we really donít have any water with us and should get some bottles
before we leave Arusha. His face lights up with recognition and he parks
the car near a large supermarket not much later. I wonder how Mfume could have
forgotten to bring something as important as water. When you spend five days in
the bush, you need a large amount of liquid, and not all of it is water, of
course. After we got some light snacks, we are done shopping. We get back to
the car with a cart full of groceries. Mfumeís face says it all. He probably
thinks: ďHow on earth am I going to take all this with me?Ē A general purpose
trailer would have come in handy at moments like this. The passengersí space is
now packed as well. We keep an eye on a boy who is loitering near the car while
we are stocking it up and who obviously is waiting for a chance to snatch
something from the boxes or out of the car. We tell him in no uncertain terms
that we donít want him around and after we repeatedly asked him to leave he
goes away at our third request. After we got everything into the car everybody
is having trouble finding a comfortable spot in the car.
We finally get out of Arusha. The weather improved and as soon as we leave Arusha,
thereís less traffic on and at the side of the road. After driving for an hour
we turn right to go to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This road was rather
rocky when we last visited this place, but now I look in wonder at the tarmac
road which stretches out in front of us. We find out that the road to the
Ngorongoro Crater has been asphalted until it reaches the village of Mto wa
Mbu. This village is near Lake Manyara National Park and the roads to that park
are also in the process of being asphalted. It remains to be seen if these
developments are an improvement. I canít help but to fear that the Ngorongoro
Crater and the Serengeti will now be absolutely flooded with tourists.
Even though we seem to be driving on at a steady pace, other cars keep overtaking us. While
we were driving, Hendri noticed that sparks were flying up from under the
bonnet. Mfume pulls the car over to the side of the road and puts the bonnet
up. The battery has come loose entirely. Mfume admits that he knew about this
problem and that this was the reason he was delayed this morning. The cables
are put into the battery again and we begin the second leg of our journey to
the Serengeti. The scenery starts to change and weíre now driving through an
undulating landscape. The car has trouble negotiating even the smallest of
slopes and we are being overtaken by other cars. The journey is taking longer
than I expected it would. Houses and bushes by the side of the road are covered
in the red dust which was raised by the passing cars. Itís a typically African
We get to the gate of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. We get out of the car to
stretch our legs and enjoy the Sikeís Blue Mokeys while Mfume is going to pay
the entrance fee to the park. At least we thought heís go and pay the fee, but
after we get back into the car and want to drive away, we are detained at the
gate. Apparently, Mfume didnít pay anything even though he was gone for a
quarter of an hour. So, we have to get out of the car to pay the fees. We bear
this delay with a frown.
The road to the lip of the crater is fantastic. The dark red road meanders upwards
through the rainforest on the slopes of the crater. Just below the edge of the
crater mosses hang from the trees like drapes. The Land Rover barely makes it
to the top. This gives us the opportunity to enjoy this miracle of nature. We
move at a snailís pace, but when we finally reach the top we are rewarded by a
spectacular view of the crater. Despite the chilly wind that blows on the lip
of the crater, we admire this wonder of the natural world. I canít truly relax,
though and that is definitely not because Iíve beheld this sight twice before.
I worry about whether or not weíll make it to the campsite in the Serengeti on
time if we keep on moving at this pace. On previous visits it took us
considerably less time to get to the Serengeti: we were already there in the
amount of time it had taken us this time to get to the lip of the crater even
though the condition of the road is much better now.
I start getting the feeling that all isnít going as it should, but fortunately Mfume
signals for us to go on. Even though we are speeding up now, we canít
drive like a madman on the road on craterís the edge but we reach the plain
between the crater and the Serengeti without any further adversity. The road is
becoming more like a washboard as we go along and Mfume has to slow down from
time to time in order not to loose control over the wheel. Meanwhile, other
cars are overtaking us effortlessly. Iím getting increasingly concerned about
the time we have left to get to the gate, because I know how long it will take
us to get all the way to Naabi Hill Gate and then to the campsite near Seronera
lodge. It wonít be an easy matter to get to the gate before six oíclock. The
yellow plains glide, or rather jolt, by slowly, which doesnít give us much time
to take a good look at the Grant and Thomsonís gazelle or the kori bustards.
We finally reach Naabi Hill Gate at a few minutes past six. We make a turn to the
left to drive to the parking spots. We have to turn right now, so Mfume can
park in one of the spaces. Everything seems to be going well when Mfume puts
the gas pedal down a little more and we come to a halt by crashing into a low
wall with a big bang. The engine stalls and we look at each other dumbfounded.
Mfume looks at us with the most self-conscious and clumsy smile you ever saw.
We got out of the car, as we would have done if everything were going according
to plan. We immediately draw the attention of witnesses to our accident, which
include giraffe at the edge of the acacia bushes, and German and Italian
tourists. In order to get the car away form the wall, Mfume tries to get the
engine running again. He doesnít manage to do so and we try to help him by
trying to tip the Land Rover backwards, but the car doesnít budge an inch
because the brakes are hopelessly jammed.
We seem to have no other choice but to put the bonnet up. Employees who work at the
gate, including those who already finished their shift, come to meet us. We
think that one of them is the boss of the gate, but we canít be sure because
everybody wants to look their best and is bossy in these sorts of situations.
One thing is clear: Mfume is under quite some pressure. People threaten to take
his tourist licence away from him. If that were to happen it would be a
disaster. In any case, we have to make arrangements in order to pay for the
damage. While we are discussing how we can best solve this problem, Mfume makes
sure weíre allowed to go into the Serengeti. He has to come back to the car
three times in order to do so. The first time he forgot a form, which he now
takes from his form folder, then he return to the office. After a while he
comes back dragging his feet and says ďforgot another formĒ with the same
clumsy smile he gave us before. He takes another form out of his folder and walks back. We think it may be wiser if
Mfume were to take the entire folder with him because it would save him a few
walks to and from the car. Eventually, everything works out fine, with the
forms at least.
How we are going to fix the car up is an entirely different
matter. The bonnet is up now and the battery cables, which werenít fixed too
firmly to the battery in the first place, have now come nearly loose. I have to
hand it to the gate employees; theyíre all very helpful, even the one we think
is the boss. He bends over, looks under the bonnet and grabs hold of one of the
cables. Almost immediately, he quickly moves out from under the bonnet just in
time to dodge a jet of flames which erupts from the bonnet. Untechnical as I
am, I fear that this is the end of the Land Rover, but fortunately this turns
out not to be the case. Not yet at least. Dusk is setting in and an armed guard
comes to our car to ensure our safety. The tourists who did manage to get into
the park on time are now at their campsite or luxurious lodge. We follow the
guard to the barrier at the gate of the park. He tells us that lions and hyenas
come to this place after nightfall to drink of the puddle of water which formed
beneath the tap during the day. The tap is situated among a few acacia bushes
behind the gate office and the barrier.
Mfume can start the engine of the car again but the brakes
are still jammed. We try to get the car in motion with all our might. Itís 9.00
p.m. already and a hyena circles the car. The guard loads his carbine for
formís sake, but we know a solitary hyena wonít attack us unless it feels
threatened. The hyena is a good way to take our mind of the mess weíre in now.
People in the group are in varying moods, but at 9.30 p.m. we hear a sound that
is music to our ears. When the Land Rover has to drive a short distance in
reverse gear, the sound it makes sounds less like music because the slow
warming up of the car is accompanied by squeaking and grating noises. However,
Mfume pulls the brakes to pieces and drives up to where we stand, brimming with
Mfume tells us that he has permission to go into the park,
which is actually against the rules. I lean through the window which is rolled
down and I hear Ellen saying that she is not all that keen on going into the
park. She is right in objecting and I tell Mfume that we think the condition
the car is in is too bad to drive another forty kilometres to the campsite.
What if it breaks down again; nobody is driving through the Serengeti at this
time of the day which would mean we would have to stay in the car all night. We
think itís much too dangerous. I demand that Mfume makes sure we can camp near
the gate to which Mfume reacts with a submissive nod and by saying ďhmm, I think
youíre right.Ē The gate employees cooperate fully and escort us to a special
campsite. We drive clockwise around Naabi Hill with the car in which the boss
of the gate sits in front of us. Mfume follows the car slowly over the narrow
path. Mfume has his mind on other things, which becomes clear when he manages
to lose the trail of the car in front of us when it makes a gentle turn to the
right. We followed the car at a distance of less than ten metres and we still
lost it. We can see the funny side of the situation but at the same time we
think itís pathetic.
We stop at a clump of trees and bushes at the foot of Naabi
Hill and set up our hard-earned camp. We barely ate all day and I didnít even
think about it often. We pitch our tents at a few minutes after 10.00 p.m. We
start a charcoal fire on which Petty tries to make us something to eat. Our
sense of adventure is aroused and we start explore our surroundings by shining
our flashlight. We discover now that Mfume canít even pitch his own tent, so we
decide to help him. Then we think we see eyes flashing in the bushes. Our
suspicion is confirmed when we shine our light in the direction of the eyes and
see a reflection. Could it be a lion? We think not, because they have a
different eye colour. Mfume joins us, so we ask him what kind of animal he
thinks it is. He says itís a lion, probably to compensate us for the problems
we had today. The boss of the gate also joins us and immediately recognises the
animal as a reedbuck. I didnít notice
that Mfume walked away from us and all of a sudden we find ourselves shining
into the eyes of the reedbuck by ourselves. We donít know what to do with
Petty does the utmost to put something tasty on the table.
She is clearly uncomfortable with the dayís events. When you think about it,
the special campsite has a unique atmosphere, but weíd rather that everything
would have gone according to plan. The aspect of this safari from which I
shrink most is spending three weeks with Mfume. We quickly go to sleep after
diner in order to put the dayís events to rest.
14/8 Serengeti NP
We agreed to get up at 6 a.m and be ready to go into the
Serengeti at 8 a.m. This should be easy because weíve got enough time. We had a
perfect nightís sleep and werenít bothered by yesterdayís experiences. A pale
sun rises above the horizon and Petty has to struggle to keep the campfire
going. The hornbills and starlings near us are drawn to the camp by the toast
that is being made.
We are supposed to go to the campsite near Seronera, which we should have already
reached yesterday, after which Mfume will drive on to the service station near
the lodge. We hope this wonít take too much time, so we can still go on
a game drive in the afternoon. We may even be lucky and see something
interesting from time to time on our way to the campsite.
Mfume is standing around idly: he doesnít know what to do with himself and doesnít show
any initiative. So eventually, we have to urge him to help us so we can
leave at 8 a.m. Weíre all fired up and want to enjoy the Serengeti for as long
as we can. Itís somewhat discouraging to be confronted with negative influences
over and over again but the packing of the Land Rover is not done practically.
In this case Mfumeís sense of initiative leaves much to be desired. Instead of
applying himself, he makes a rather disheartened impression. We finally leave
at 8.30 a.m. It is hard not to become a cynic in this situation, but itís a
small miracle that Mfume can find his way back to the gate. At this time of day
there are no other visitors of the Serengeti who want to leave or enter the
park so we are kindly greeted by the staff at the gate.
We ride into the Serengeti on a slightly undulating slope and get to the plains by
driving through a path flanked by acacia bushes. We see a bird in an
acacia tree on the edge of the plains where Naabi Hill rises up from it. Mfume
utters his first words of the morning and tells us itís an eagle. We look at
each other and know better, this is clearly a vulture. A topi stands quite near
the vulture and now Mfume wants to put his best foot forward and tells us this
is a Kudu. The situation is starting to get laughable and Hendri asks Mfume
what kind of Kudu it is. Mfume doesnít know, but we do: a Kudu doesnít even
live in the Serengeti. A long road with a small number of faint curves on both
sides of the golden plains lies ahead of us. The road still looks like a
washboard and we crawl toward the Seronera area with a speed of just 20 miles
an hour. We can see the first kopjes ahead of us. Kopjes are rock formations
that rise out of the plains and are typical of the Serengeti.
This is not our lucky day because the Land Rover stops and its engine canít be started up
again. The bonnetís up again. I could go over and have a look but since
I donít know anything about cars itís best to leave this to others. One moment
Mfume is under the bonnet, the other he is under the car. His shirt and arms
are covered in oil and petrol in no time at all. Eventually Mfume discovers
that the fuel pump or supply is broken. The Land Rover canít be repaired here.
While Mfume was checking the car all of us got out. So here we are in the
middle of the Serengeti with no AA service in sight. We are just glad this
didnít happen last night. Iím glad I put my foot down last night and didnít
allow Mfume to take us into the Serengeti.
We see an overland truck coming our way. When it comes up to us the people in it
tell us theyíve seen lions rather close to where we are, so we decide itís wise
not to go too far from the car. Mfume suggests that he hails a car and drives
back to the gate to get us out of here, but if thereís one thing a guide isnít
allowed to do under any circumstances itís leaving his clients alone in a park.
So I tell him I donít think itís a good idea to leave us. Then Petty suggests
that she could go back to Arusha in order to contact Leina there. I donít think
that is such a good idea either because it would take two days for help to get
here so if we were to keep to the itinerary weíd already have to leave the Serengeti
when help arrived.
I tell Mfume and Petty that Seronera Lodge, where we can telephone or send a telex for
help, is approximately ten miles from here. So, Petty and I decide to go
there for help, taking with us as many others in the group as we can. Petty can
phone Leina at the lodge and I can call Jozef in the Netherlands so he can put
some extra pressure on Leina. Luckily, we donít have to wait long for a car to
come along. The car we hailed only has a driver in it so we can all go to the
lodge, except for Mfume, who has to stay behind to guard the Land Rover and the
luggage. The car doesnít have a backseat, but we get into it as best we can and
signal to the driver that we are ready to drive on.
We instantly notice that this car has more power than our own car. We
hardly notice the washboard like state of the road; it really is such a big
difference. Soon after we left the spot where the car broke down our attention
is drawn away from the comforts of the car when we see four lions heading in
the direction of the car. We are dumbfounded and realise we could have been in
serious trouble had this car not stopped by when it did. The lions walk past
the car in the half-length golden grass, stopping every now and then to find
their bearings. We wonder how this is all going to end and realise things canít
go on as they have. We are going to demand that Jozef arranges for us to get
another car and driver/guide.
We speed toward Seronera Lodge where a number of rock hyraxes are waiting for us at the
entrance, but I donít pay much attention to them. Petty and I ask if we
can use the phone while the others go to the bar to get something to drink. We
can use the phone, so Petty phones Leina in Dar Es Salaam to explain what
happened to us. She gets more emotional and raises her voice as the phone
conversation goes on. When she finished calling Leina she puts down the horn
and starts to cry. I really feel sorry for her because she is trying her best
to make us feel as comfortable as possible in these circumstances. Leina promised
to call her back soon.
I canít reach Jozef but one of his employees promises that they will make sure he calls
back and takes action to ensure we can go on with our safari. We have to
wait for a while but eventually Leina calls back. She asks to speak to me and
indicates that she is not happy at all with the situation. She even wants to
try to make arrangements for us to stay at the lodge this night, which is of
course impossible seeing as how weíre in peak season, so everything will be
fully booked. We donít mind, though, because we prefer sleeping in our tents.
We still donít know if Jozef has done his part of the job but Leina says that
she is going to book a ticket to Arusha immediately so she can be at Seronera
with a new car and driver/guide this evening or tomorrow morning at the latest.
Of course, weíre happy to get this news but as matters are now, this delay is
taking half of the time we could be spending on game drives in the Serengeti away
from us. Of course, Petty called a service centre to pick Mfume up.
We go to the bar, to tell the others what we know. The news of our delay has its
effect on all of them and everybody has their own opinion about the solution to
the problem, but we canít change the situation so we just have to sit tight until
we hear from Mfume.
Mfume expects the Land Rover may be repaired in the
afternoon, so we hope to be able to make a game drive. I pass the time filming
hyraxes and the redheaded agamas at the lodge, but Iím not planning to spend an
entire day doing this. Leina offered to pay our lunch at the lodge. When lunch
arrives big dishes with several titbits cover the table in front of us. Now we
realise why lodges arenít cheap: the lunches here are substantial. I always
gain weight when I go on holiday to Africa, but if I were to stay here for a
few days I would become obscenely fat.
When we get back to the bar we meet Wander, a Dutchman who
comes to the Serengeti every year by himself to take photographs of the natural
splendour of the park. We tell him our story and he shows us some of his
magnified photos, which are magnificent. Then he invites us to join him on his
evening game drive. He tells us he is always alone with his guide and heíd like
to have some company. We canít hide our excitement and gladly except his
invitation. We agree to meet at the entrance of the lodge at 4 p.m. When we are
about to leave on our game drive, Mfume comes walking into the lodge. He says
the car is still broken but he found another car so we can go to the campsite.
We tell him we are going on a game drive first and that Wanderís guide will
drop us off at the campsite. We leave Mfume in a somewhat bewildered state and
go on our game drive.
We are ecstatic and feel like a fish in water when we stand
in the car and feel the wind blowing through our hair. We start to scan the
surroundings for wildlife. We donít have to wait long to see animals because we
are going to a hippo pool where we see impalas, topis, Thomsonís gazelle,
vervet monkeys, elephants, warthogs, hippos, a hyena and some reedbuck. We stop
at an acacia bush on top of which is a lilac breasted roller. This is one of my
favourite birds. When they take flight, their wings have a wonderful light blue
sheen on them. The bird leaves us while itís dancing through the air. We drive
on and see two overland trucks standing still on the road in front of us. We
drive to where theyíre standing and see a group of eleven lions lying in the
half length grass. The group is noisy and even though we travelled by overland
truck the first few years we came to Africa, we would like them to move along.
They do so not much later and leave us to enjoy the group of lions together
with people in another car. The lions donít look too well. Some of them are
very skinny or walk with a limp. The end of the dry season is clearly a rough
time for the lions.
The drivers talk to each other and agree that they can take
us off the road for a short while, so they drive into the grass to quietly
stand at just a few feet from where the lions lay. The setting sun gives the
lions and the grass a fabulous colour. Nobody is thinking about yesterdayís or
this morningís events anymore. However, we canít stay here for too long because
it is prohibited to go off the road.
The sun is sinking closer and closer to the horizon and
Wander asks us if we are ready to go back. We consent to leave for the lodge
and campsite, grateful for the opportunity he has given us. On our way back we
still see a fair amount of wildlife such as two secretary birds which are
making a nest at the top of an acacia bush. They do so with the utmost care and
sense of ceremony. They in turn slowly bend their jaunty legs, which can be
deadly weapons because the secretary bird is a bird of prey which kills snakes
by kicking them to death. We pass by some impalas, elephants and a waterbuck
before we finally arrive at the campsite.
Petty pitched our tents with some help of her colleagues and
is already cooking diner. She tries to make us feel comfortable in a pleasant
way. She is such a kind woman. Mfume still hasnít returned with the Land Rover
and itís starting to get dark. We wonder what tomorrow will bring. Mfume is
brought to the campsite with another car and he looks a right mess. There is
hardly a thread of his clothes which isnít covered in oil. We ask him what
condition the car is in. Mfume tells us that the Land Rover still isnít fixed,
so we canít go on a game drive early next morning. We wash the bad news down
with several drinks. The Sambuca was especially popular because it reminded us
of last yearís fantastic journey through Botswana where arrangements were made
15/8 Serengeti NP
One car after another leaves to go on a game drive while we
have to stay at the campsite, feeling sad. We canít understand why the few
people who stay behind donít go on a game drive while they have the chance. We
kill time by cleaning the photo and film equipment. We watch every car with
eagleís eyes hoping to spot Leina and our new guide in one of them. After being
disappointed a few times I go to the tent to catch up on sleep for a while.
Mfume has left for a garage this morning.
I have barely lain down on my self inflatable mattress when I hear a car approaching
again. I deduce from what the others are saying that Leina is in this
car and that she brought our new guide and, another thing which is just as
important, a new Land Rover.
We meet Leina and our new guide, and Leina indicates that it may be a good idea to go
on a game drive first and discuss our setbacks over lunch. We agree with
her and get into the Land Rover as quickly as we can.
Our new guide is called Makuru. He was born in the Serengeti which means he
knows it like the back of his hand. It is instantly clear that Makuru is a
guide of a different calibre than Mfume was. We have driven for less than half
an hour and he has said more meaningful things than Mfume did in the previous
days. He shows that he has an extensive knowledge of the flora and fauna in the
Serengeti by the sort of information he gives us. The first animals we come
across are zebras, topis and ostriches. The ostrich is eating with great gusto
and gobbles up seeds with every clump of grass it eats. It stores the seeds in
its long neck. When the seeds have cluttered together in a crop, the ostrich
slowly lowers the crop down his neck as if it were a lift.
We drive across the plains and reach the kopjes, for which the Serengeti is famous. A
lion and a lioness lie on one of the kopjes. They have a marvellous view of the
plains from this place. We see an owl sitting on a rock in a hollow at the next
kopje. The owlís feathers are nearly the same colour as that of the kopje so the
owl blends beautifully into its surroundings.
We get off the road and are now driving across plains which
are practically deserted. Makuru explains why weíre allowed to go off the road
in this area. Driving across the plains off road and without seeing other cars
has a special feel to it. Often you see no animals on the plains ahead but then
all of a sudden you drive through a large herd of Thomsonís gazelle and topis.
You occasionally come across a forlorn acacia tree. Two lions jauntily lie
under one of those trees. At this time of day, all animals try to get into the
shade if they can. The hyena also makes use of the shade.
We drive toward a group of elephants. We see an oasis with
bright green grass and reed amid the golden yellow plains. The beautiful
pattern of colours indicates that there is a waterhole nearby. The group of
elephants seize the chance to take a mud bath in order to protect themselves
against the sun and parasites. The mud which reflects the sun turns their light
grey skins into a darker shade of grey and makes them shiny. The elephants walk
through the water in our direction. They stop for a moment. It is as if a
silent voice tells them what to do. This same voice seems to tell them to walk
on. They move on and come closer to us. Makuru starts the engine to let the
elephants pass. The elephants silently come out of the water at the spot where
we stood less than ten seconds ago. We turn the Land Rover around in order to
follow the elephants a while longer. They continue to groom their skin. They
deftly sprinkle sand over their bodies by using their trunk. One of the
elephants even sucks up sand with its trunk to go on and spray it into its ear.
A cloud of sand envelops its ear and the rest of the sand pours out of the
elephantís ear in a small waterfall.
This is a good moment to return to the campsite. When we get
back a lovely lunch is waiting. We discuss the events of the past days with
Leina over lunch. Leina is a Masai and after talking to her we feel that
everything is going to work out well from now on. She talked to Jozef. At the
end of our talk Leina tells us that she is going to arrange for us to stay in a
better hotel on Zanzibar, as a recompense for our inconvenience. We also make a
bet with her that we wonít see more than six cars in Selous. If we do see more
than six cars, Leina will treat us to diner on Zanzibar.
We spend the rest of the afternoon in the shade of a tree
and talk about different topics which are linked to Africa. Before we know it,
it is time to go on our next game drive. We start off with marvellous views.
The combination of colours, which is produced by the dark blue clouds that are
gathering at the horizon combined with the setting sun at our back, is
stunning. The deep dark blue sky and the vast, brightly coloured golden yellow
plains look truly amazing. A well-formed, bare tree stands forlornly on the plain
and lights up fantastically.
We are as fortunate in spotting wildlife as we are in the
views that we see. Of course, we see the usual animals, but we also get to see
special animals. For starters, we see a large group of elephants which is
divided over both sides of the road. To the left of the road, two young males
test their strength in order to establish their place in the group. They fence
with their trunks and push each other back for minutes. To the right of the
road, a very small elephant is walking toward the Land Rover. An adult female
stands between the car and the baby elephant and indicates that we stand too
close by using her ears. This is a sign that we have to move the car back. The
biggest elephant of the group crosses the road in front of us and quietly
starts to eat acacia leaves. We wait until we can drive on, because we have to
drive through both sub groups if we start moving. Makuru waits for the right
moment accelerate. It would be fatal to stop now. We have to keep on driving
even if a small elephant tries to cross the road right in front of our car. The
baby elephant changes its mind and makes a curve around an acacia bush in order
to get to the safety of the grass. However, the grass covers a ditch or a hole
in the ground which causes the small elephant to fall to the ground with one of
its front legs and topple over. Luckily, the elephant gets up unharmed and
continues to make its way into the grass. Despite the fact that this incident
is sad, it is at the same time comical to watch. After this adventure, we see
three lions, which are enjoying themselves while resting. This lasts until one
of them sits up and starts scanning the surroundings for prey. The lion fits
perfectly into the beautiful image of the yellow plain, the dark horizon and
the beautifully formed acacia trees in the background.
We come to a strip of acacia trees and bushes. A few cars
have stopped and Makuru has already seen why. We have to search for a few
minutes until we see the leopard, but our effort is rewarded. After less than
ten minutes and only a few kilometres from where we saw our first leopard, we
see a second one. This leopard is perched on the canopy of an acacia tree and
is munching on a young vulture, which lay in its nest there. We drive on and
canít believe our luck when we see another leopard within ten minutes. This one
is also up in a tree. Makuru tells us that he has never witnessed or heard of
anything like this, even though he was born and raised here. Of course, it is a
unique experience to see three leopards in less than a quarter of an hour.
The sun sinks lower to the horizon, which brings out the
wonderful colours in the landscape even better. It is time to return to the
campsite, but we donít get a chance to do so yet. A group of lions walks ahead
of us. On first sight we see three lionesses with approximately eight cubs.
While we focus our attention on the family, Makuru points out that the family
is even larger than we thought. The big heads of two male lions poke out of the
grass. They lie in the half-length grass and keep an eye on their family. The
group moves forward slowly. The young lions walk along effortlessly, while
their mothers alternate walking with short stops to rest. When one of the
lionesses lies down, a few cubs go to her for attention. If the lioness ignores
them, they move along and keep each other company. Then, we notice that one of
the lionesses has lost the biggest part of her tail. The bright red colour of
the tail shows that she was recently wounded. Her injury doesnít seem to bother
her and she deals with the mischievous behaviour of the playful cubs with ease.
The sky looks like it can produce a downpour any moment so
now it is really time to go back to the campsite. A wonderful game drive is
nearing its end. The sky is still lit up by the sun, which has already set
behind the horizon. A gigantic cumulus cloud reflects the remaining sunlight
and stands out against the darkening sky in bright white.
During diner, a group of singing Italians set the mood. At
our table, the mood is somewhat less boisterous. Mfume has joined us and sits
at the table looking like a small disheartened boy. I make an effort to have a
meaningful conversation with him, but he is not up for it and draws his horns
in. We discuss our plans with Leina before we go to our tents. Lions have been
spotted near the campsite. We are advised to be careful when going out of our
tents at night.
16/8 Serengeti NP
We slept well last night despite the fact that we could hear hyenas. Some of us
even heard lions. We say goodbye to Leina, whom we will see again in Mikumi NP,
and Mfume at six oíclock sharp and leave on our game drive.
Itís still dark and rather chilly. Leafless bushes by the side of the road have a ghost
like appearance when the headlights of the car shine their light on them in
passing. The horizon slowly lights up as a hippo returns to the water after its
nocturnal binge. In the distance a hot air balloon rises while the sun tries to
separate itself from the horizon. A few cars are standing still and we join the
queue to find out whatís doing.
We all look to the right and see why so many cars have stopped: four lions, two females
followed by two males, are coming straight toward us from the plains. Itís
impressive to see through the view finder of my camera how the male lions confidently
follow the females. They are heading straight toward us. The hot air balloon
also comes our way and the lions and the balloon cross paths even though the
hot air balloon is at a height of twenty five metres. One of the male lions
looks up to the gigantic colossus. Its body shows signs of fright when the
balloonís burner is operated in order to gain altitude again. The lions find
their way among the car and come out on the other side of the huddle of cars to
go on and quench their thirst. The other cars try to follows the lions while we
drive of in a different direction. We try to dodge the other cars. If you are
60 kilometres or more from a lodge in the Serengeti youíre allowed to go off
the road and drives across the plains. We didnít know this before. You get a
great sense of freedom when youíre driving across the plains in this way. We
canít make out any road in this area. We see many Thomsonís gazelle, topis and
hartebeest. A hyena and her cub run to hide behind a termite mound when we
approach and a group of bat-eared foxes scurry toward the entrance of their
den. We drive across the plains for the main part of the morning until we come
to a road again. The morning is drawing to a close when people in an
approaching car tell us that six cheetahs have been spotted further up the
road. Even though the guides communicate mainly in Swahili, we already deduce
that they are talking about cheetahs. We drive toward the area where the
cheetahs were spotted. Other cars are already at the scene. When we get to
where the cars are parked, we see six magnificent cheetahs lying at the foot of
a termite mound. The group consists of a mother and five, nearly fully grown
cheetahs. This female cheetah must be a terrific mother in order to raise five
cubs at once.
We take ample time to enjoy this beautiful scene. Even though the cheetahs donít
do anything spectacular, the young cheetahs are especially lively. In the
background a few Thomsonís gazelle pass at a safe distance. Finally, we are the
only ones left who are watching the cheetahs. However, our stomachs indicate
that itís time to return to the campsite. Even though I think it would be a
superb sight to see six cheetahs walk across the plains, we decide not to wait
until they get up. We drive back to the campsite via an alternative route.
Before we arrive at the campsite to have our belated breakfast, we still see
elephants and giraffe.
Things have quieted down considerably at the campsite. The sun is at its highest
point now, so we go and sit in the shade of one of the buildings nearby to have
breakfast. The buildings consist of four walls which are fifty centimetres high
and a thatched roof. Apart from this, pieces of wire netting make sure we can
safely store our luggage in the buildings at night so the hyenas canít get to
Itís nice and cool in the shade. The table is already set for the others to have
lunch when they return. This immediately draws birds to the campsite. The birds
use the wire netting to rest so they can feast on the food that is on the
table. Our belated breakfast is very tasty and my rumbling stomach is
definitely a thing of the past after we are served lunch an hour later. I pass
my time by catching up on the writing in my journal and at 4 p.m. we leave on
the next game drive.
We plan to drive toward the Lobo area in the north of the Serengeti. Makuru tells
us that the tsetse fly is more common here. Ellen had nasty experiences with
this fly on our previous journeys. For some reason Ellen gets an allergic
reaction when she is stung by this panic inducing bug. In Uganda half her face
was swollen because she was stung. Makuru warns us and tells us to be careful.
We also see many animals common to the Serengeti in the Lobo area. Two lions are
resting on the banks of a small river. This area is very different from the
plains we saw this morning. The many acacia bushes and trees form an area where
you might find a special animal behind every bush. We discover that the rivers
in this area are the cause of the larger amount of tsetse flies in this area.
We see a family of baboons walking on the road in front of us and beside it.
The youngest members of the family provide some comical moments. One of the
young baboons falls off its motherís back while another one prances around
somewhat too merrily which causes him to slide down the ledge, that marks off
the road. While we stand still to enjoy this spectacle, an adult baboon jumps
on the bumper at the front of the car. It sits against the car grill and looks
inside, but since there is nothing of interest to be found in the car, it
returns to its family with a jaunty jump. Stopping a car in an area where
tsetse flies are common is not a particularly good idea, as we now find out.
Hitting movements with or without a lethal weapon in hand indicate that we are
starting to panic. However, these bugs cannot be beaten or killed with one
blow. The best option is to drive on and try to get these small vampires to fly
out of the window by swatting them. After this fencing match Anja, Ellen,
Patricia and Wilfred are stung. There are no casualties that we know of on the
opposing side. Ellen has an extraordinarily large bump on her leg in no time.
We give up and leave the Lobo area in order to enjoy the wonderfully coloured
On the right side of the road, we see a family of elephants. One of the younger
elephants has strayed from the group and tries to get to its family before we
overtake it. Even though the elephants are some distance away from the road the
startled young elephant makes the rest of its family uneasy. We passed the
elephants and enjoy the sight of the group in the back of the car when all of a
sudden the entire group charges at us as if a signal were given to do so.
Fortunately we kept enough distance between us and the elephants. It is hard to
describe what goes through your head when a group of more than ten elephants
comes charging at you. The front line of attack is formed by four elephants. Is
this situation threatening, exciting or are we just plain stupid to still be
here? Patricia decides that the last option applies. She doesnít hesitate to
let ďGo, go, go, go, goĒ come out of her mouth. Makuru doesnít hesitate to act
either. He canít see the charging elephants well from the driverís seat. By
stepping firmly on the gas pedal, Makuru makes sure the distance between us and
the elephants doesnít get too small. The distance between us and the elephants
wasnít so close that we were in any danger yet, but how fast can elephants run
exactly? The events took place so quickly that we didnít have a chance to
record this on a camera. Still, the four elephants at the front of the group in
particular will be etched in my memory for ever.
We drive back to the campsite. The sun already spread a red glow on the horizon.
After diner, we take a moment to enjoy the starry night sky. Some of the other
guests at the camp site feel they have to go and take a short midnight stroll
on the only entrance road to the campsite. They have no idea how dangerous and
stupid their behaviour is. They remind me of people who walked toward a giraffe
which came to the campsite. They felt it was necessary to stand as close as
they possibly could to the wild giraffe, which can kick you to death, in order
to make a unique photograph. I already had my video camera at the ready to make
other unique recordings.
17/8 Serengeti NP - Ngorongoro Crater
We heard hyenas again last night. Ellen congratulates me
with my birthday in her sleeping bag. We can lie in today. We will be leaving
for the Crater this morning. Putting our luggage on the Land Rover takes longer
than we expected but it is no wonder that it takes us longer to pack up be
cause Makuru has to take stock of our luggage for the first time. Weíve got
time enough to wait. Fortunately, we were able to enjoy our stay in the
Serengeti after a false start. Weíve seen many beautiful and special sights, as
we did on our previous visits to this wonderful park. Iím sure this wonít be
the last time we visit the Serengeti.
We leave and are curious to know what our adventure in the Ngorongoro Crater will bring
us. We are treated to a sighting of two lions on our way out of the
Serengeti. They lie near a pool. Then, all of a sudden, I see that one of the
lionesses has a short tail. This is the same lioness we saw in the evening of
the day before yesterday. The wound on her tail is no longer fresh: the light
red colour has been replaced by a dark, scabby wound, which looks dry and
clean. The lioness doesnít seem to be bothered by the loss of half of her tail,
despite the fact that the skin has disappeared from her bottom to her feet. The
lions are not very active.
The road that we dubbed ďthe washboardĒ on our way to the Serengeti now slides by
underneath us. This experience is completely different from the one we
had in the first Land Rover. Now we know for sure that our uncomfortable
journey to the Serengeti was due to the bad state the car was in and not to the
amount of luggage we took with us. Just before we get to the gate we yet again
see two lions. They are skinny and one of them is chewing on a piece of wood.
Maybe the Dutch proverb to describe a situation in which one doesnít have much
to eat comes from sightings such as these. Despite their posture the lions look
magnificent. They are two young males which are probably having a difficult
time in the dry season. Itís possible that they recently had to leave the group
and have had to fend for themselves for a short time now.
There is little extra space in the Land Rover, so Ellen
canít take photographs. Fortunately, I can catch the lions on tape. Petty is in
the back on the Land Rover on a cooler with a small pillow on top. The room
between the top of her head and the roof of the car is less than a centimetre.
Given the condition of the roads here, she canít afford to doze off: she would
almost certainly end up with a bump on her head.
At the gate we meet one of the persons who helped us so well
on our way into the park. He shows that he recognises us by waving both of his
hands at the same time, a gesture many Africans make. He tells us what he
thinks of Mfume while smiling compassionately. We are glad to hear that we are
not the only people who thought negatively about him.
We drive on in the direction of the crater. The plains
between the Serengeti and the crater seem to fly by us. Now we are inside the Ngorongoro
Conservation Area again. Just before we reach the first hills we visit a Masai
village, which is called a manyatta in Kimasai.. The manyatta is situated at
the left of the road and obviously caters to tourists. Despite this last fact,
I always like to visit these villages. This is not the first visit Ellen and I
visit a Masai village. The others, however, are visiting a manyatta for the
first time. When we come in the corral men and women prepare to sing and dance
The Masai people are probably the best-known tribe of
Africa. The word Masai means: he who speaks the language of Maa. The Masai
became well-known because they lived in areas which were often visited by
tourists. They have a conspicuous appearance and are often good looking. Except
for the people in the village we visit now.
Women still do most of the exerting work in the village. The
tasks of the women are to build huts, make sure there is food, firewood and
water. Sometimes they have to walk long distances to get these things. The
young boys, who are not old enough to be a warrior, or moran in Kimasai, herd
the cattle. In the past boys became moran by killing a lion. This tradition has
now disappeared like many other Masai traditions have. The warriors donít do much
because they donít have to go out of the village to take back cattle that was
Ďtheirs.íAfter all, cattle used to be
the pivotal element of life in a manyatta. The Masai thought all the cattle in
the world was their property so they fought to take all the cattle they found
on their way with them. Matters have changed now and many say that the warriors
now lead an easy life.
We walk further into the village. In the middle of the
village there is a circle on which souvenirs are hung. Around this circle we
see several sober houses made out of a frame of tree trunks and branches which
are covered with cow manure. The houses have thatched roofs. We are invited
into one of these houses, where a woman lies on a bed and makes a gesture to
indicate that we can sit on the beds. She shortly explains what life is like
for the Masai. Petty is our interpreter when we need one.
We walk to the back of the village. Hardly anyone is to be
seen here. One of the moran walks toward me and tries to sell me something. I
would like to buy a blanket, so he walks off and returns with two used pieces of
cloth. The scent of Masai life comes wafting through the air toward me. This
scent adds a pureness to the cloth but it is too pervasive to suit my taste. I
saw a bell of sorts. It is made out of metal and is shaped like a hollowed out
banana. Over the length of the bell you can see a groove which holds three
metal beads. A leather strap is tied to both ends of the bell. The moran
explains that the Masai use this tool when they walk across the savannah. The
sound of the metal beads warns the lions that someone is approaching, which
avoids unexpected confrontations. Another explanation is that the bell is hung
round the neck of the goats when they walk across the plains, but it serves the
same purpose as in the first explanation. Whatever the use of the bell may be,
I never saw it before and I think itís a special tool. After haggling for a
time, I buy the bell for a reasonable price. Our visit to the manyatta nears its
end. We say goodbye to the Masai and leave and travel the last few kilometres
to the crater.
When we arrive at the campsite a few young Masai boys are
getting into mischief. The traditional clothes they wear shows that they have
recently been circumcised. This clothing consists of black cloth and a white
mask painted on their faces. At the moment, it is quiet at the campsite. That
will probably change soon.
We unload the Land Rover and immediately pitch our tents. On
this campsite, like on that in the Serengeti, two simple buildings were erected.
One building is a kitchen and the other is a restaurant. This only shows that
much can change in a few years. Still, I can imagine why someone would want to
put buildings on the lip of the crater. In this way people can take shelter
from the wind and the rain, both of which are typical for this campsite which
often disappears into the clouds. We leave for our first game drive into the
crater after we pitched our tents, stored our luggage and after Makuru changed
the punctured tire.
This is the third time we visit the crater, which many call
a wonder of the natural world, the Garden of Eden or even Noahís Ark. However, our
first two visits didnít convince us that these titles were applicable. To be
sure, the crater has a varied and beautiful landscape, but we never had much
luck when spotting animals. Even though it must be said that our luck did
improve after our first visit, so we hope our luck will hold.
We descend the crater wall via a narrow road. It is rather
windy. The white salt of the dried up crater lake rises as a dust cloud and
forms a veil of dust which indicates the direction of the wind. We drive
counter clockwise around Lake Magadi toward the Mandusi Swamp. The roads are very
dry and the dust is damaging our film and photo equipment greatly. Hendriís
video camera plays up, just as it did last year. Hopefully this is a temporary
The first animals we see are zebras and a buffalo. The second
half of the game drive starts when we drive through the veil of dust. You could
imagine that by passing through this veil we get to another part of the crater.
All of a sudden we see more animals. We see hyenas and large groups of
wildebeest and zebras. I never saw so many wildebeest and zebras together and
now weíre driving through the middle of the group. The wildebeest make a
distinct sound which is actually rather funny. The sun sinks toward the lips of
the crater wall. This causes a beautiful incidence of light to shine on the
backs of the thousands of wildebeest and zebras. Itís already later than 5 p.m.
and we have to be out of the crater at 6 p.m., so itís time to drive toward the
gate via Gorigor Swamp.
We see a few waterbuck, elephants and even a few lions which
are hiding at the edge of the swamp. We ascend the road to the gate at 5.45 p.m.
The road winds up the crater wall and we have a stunning view off the crater at
different points of our way up.
Before we reach the campsite, Makuru picks up the repaired
tyre. The campsite is now filled with more tents which belong to others who are
on safari. We put our things into our tents and go to the building which we
will call the restaurant for now. Our table has been decorated by balloons
because it is my birthday. Apparently, Petty has spent two days preparing
something special for this day. The interior of the restaurant is lighted by a
few oil lamps. When everyone is inside, we sit with fifty people spread over
twelve simply constructed tables. We have chicken, samosas, chapatti and
fritters for diner. The chicken smells somewhat odd and for the first time in
all our visits to Africa, we are not sure if this food is still edible. The
other dished were delicious by the way. Petty made a cake and a basket carved
out of melon for desert. Both deserts have a birthday wish on them. It is very
I get my presents and when Petty says: ďBut you are not
singing,Ē this is the signal to start singing me birthday songs. To my
surprise, the Dutch birthday songs cause the other campers to congratulate me
as well, in their own language. I am sung to in Spanish, Basque, German,
Finnish, Swedish and Spanish again. It is a special experience to be sung to by
people of different nationalities on the lip of the Ngorongoro Crater. We
conclude the festivities by me making a short speech, by request, after which
we eat some cake and drink wine.
We have a few more drinks before we go to our tents. While
we walk to our tents we shine the light of our torch around us. All of a
sudden, we see three pair of eyes lighting up. Are they hyena eyes? We think
they are. When we get to the tent, we see that a few balloons have been tied to
it. I shine my flashlight around the tent again. We see no eyes lighting up.
The hyenas must have disappeared.
18/8 Ngorongoro Crater Ė Wild Palm Camp
Ellen awakes early in the night by a dull thud against the
tent. After a while a second thud follows which I can feel too. We are both sitting
straight up in our beds. We hear an animal sniffing around the tent. Could
these animals be hyenas? It may well be the case. Now, I remember the balloons
which are tied to our tent. Could it be that these balloons attracted the
attention of the hyenas. Again, we hear the sniffing around the tent. Of
course, the hyenas are curious to see how the balloons move in the wind with no
will of their own. Their curiosity can only be satisfied in one way which is to
try to grab hold of the balloons. The only explanation we can come up with is that the hyenasí
efforts to do so created the dull sound. I grab my Mc-lite. When I hear the
sniffing again I lash out. I beat against the tent cloth with a bang several
times. After that, we donít wear any more sounds. The two of us listen
carefully for a sound. Normally we would have rolled up the flap of our tent
which would allow us to see what was going on outside through the mosquito
gauze, but the flaps are rolled down now because the weather on top of the
crater is often too rainy and windy to sleep like that. I call to the others in
their tents and ask them if they would come out of the tent together with me. On
my signal, the three of us get out of the tent. There I am in the dressed in
the Masai cloth which I got for my birthday just a few hours ago and that I
hurriedly wrapped around myself. I see nothing. Before I get back into the tent
I take the balloons off it. Ellen and I talk shortly about this event. The rest
of the night passes in a blur.
We get up at six oíclock in order to descend into the crater somewhat later to go on our second
game drive there. We sit in the car wearing warm clothes because it is quite
chilly. We can see a dim blue light appearing behind the crater wall. This is
the first signal that the sun is trying
hard to rise above the crater wall once again. We wait for the rangers at the
gate. We are the first people to descend into the crater together with people
in another car. In front of us, a hyena descends into the crater over the same
roads in the direction of the crater
lake, where ten more hyenas lie at the shore. The hyenas are about to spread
out across the crater. It looks as if they are having a work meeting before
they are going to go about their daily business.
We take a right turn and drive off in the direction of the forest. When we get
there, we see an elephant eating parts of an acacia tree by the road. We can
cearly see how the elephant uses its trunk and tusks to clutch the branches and
removes them from the tree by a downward movement of its head. Only when we
pass it by, it shows that itís noticed us by widely flapping its ears. Apart
from the elephant the forest looks wonderfully desolate. When we drive out of
the forest, Makuru thinks he has spotted a rhino. We canít drive over there
because a branch across the road indicates that we arenít allowed to drive on
the road it is barring.
We drive further into the crater counter-clockwise. The amount of widlebeest,
zebras and hyenas we see is overwhelming. We can also easily spot warthogs,
bat-eared foxes, jackals, Thomsonís gazelle, bufallo and hippos. We manage to
make close-up photographs of two hyenas which are laying half outside of their
den. Thier half-closed eyes give us the impression that we are disturbing them
during their nap. They lift thier heads out of curiosity for a short while but
quickly lower it into the loose sand. As we drive further into the back of the crater,
we see less and less animals. A few hyenas and some warthogs are all we see.
This is the reason why we decide to return to the part of the crater which we visited
earlier after a short tour of this part of the crater. When we get to
the familiar part of the crater we get caught in the middle of a group of
wildebeest and zebras. A large group of mwildebeest walking in single file crosses the road in front of our Land
Rover in order to go and drink at Gorigor Swamp. As the wildebeest are crossing
the road in front of us, the wildebeest, which have drank their fill, cross the
road in the other direction behind our car. There are at least a few thousand
of them. The whole process goes on at a slow pace and is accompanied by the
familiar and catching sounds which wildebeest make.
We re-enter the forest when we see a cheetah at the left side of the road. I thought
they didnít live here. After all there is a cut-throat competition within the
confines of the crater between the predators in it, which include hyenas of
which there are many present. A cheetah will hardly have time to enjoy its
freshly killed prey. The cheetah will loose every battle it does for its prey
agianst lions, hyenas and even leopards. But apparently theyíve been
reintroduced into the crater. Hopefully for the cheetah this reintroduction
will be a succes. We stop the car to enjoy this scene, which apparently is
unique. The cheetah lies by the side of the road in the half length grass. A
jackal unsuspectingly walks into the cheetahís direction. At a distance of less
than ten metres it stops. One of his senses probably indicates that all is not
well here. The jackal lifts its head somewhat higher and when the eyes of the
jackal and the cheetah meet, the cheetah pounces toward the jackal at half
speed. This is enough to chase off the jackal, which may have disturbed it
during its preparations to hunt. The cheetah walks toward a group of far off
Thomsonís gazelle at a hurried pace, which clearly shows its frustration, to
disappear into the high grass afterwards.
Itís nearly 10 a.m. when we leave the crater. We plan to leave for Ruaha National
Park today. It will take us two days to get there, so we want to sleep at a
hotel which is near the Arusha-Dodoma road. We pack our bags after brunch. To
our right, a waterfall of clouds which spills over the crater wall makes for a
On our way to the junction with the Arusha-Dodoma road we spend time looking for
knick-knacks, against better judgement, because we know that the prices are so
high here, due to the many Americans who visit this area and arenít used to negotiating
the price, that you can hardly find a bargain. I have set my sights on a
leather pouch tied in straps. The Masai used to get their medicine from the
medicineman in these sorts of pouches. At least, thatís what the shop assistant
tells me. He also tells me that this is the lowest price for which heíll sell
the pouch. He obviously doesnít know me. I have earned my spurs when it comes
to bargaining in Africa. I have already become very fond of this knick-knack. I
havenít seen something like it before, so itís unique for me. This way of
bargaining has been the cause of long stops more than once already during our
holidays in Africa, but the results are worth the wait. After the shop
assistant consulted with his boss, he sells me the knick-knack. He makes use of
the situation and asks me if I would care to give him something extra for his
trouble. Even though I give in to his request I donít feel unhappy about doing
so. After all, the negotiations had the typical African elements of humour,
respect and patience in it.
We fill the tank up at the junction. Immediately tens of Masai women flock around
the Land Rover. They are out of luck because they wonít be able to sell their
goods to Ellen or to me. However, the
sales techniques in this area are more aggressive and it takes considerable
effort to convince the women that they are wasting their time.
Fortunately, we can quickly go on to Dodoma. It is already late in the
afternoon, so we wonít drive very far. We turn into a wide sand road at the
Wild Palm Camp sign. The area is quite arid. A few palm trees stick out of the
dried out bushes like an oasis to indicate where the campsite is. Whether they
are wild palms or not, we arrived at our sleeping place for the night. Wild
Palm Camp is a basic campsite with several coveniences such as showers, toilets,
a roofed over kitchen and eating facilities. The best thing about this camp
site may well be the cold beer thatís available here. No thatís not fair. This
is a fine place. Petty immediately goes to work in the kitchen. We pitch our
tent after which we sit beside a wild palm to catch up on writing in our
journals or attend to other urgent matter while enjoying a beer.
19/8 Wild palm camp Ė Dodoma
Weíve got a long and exhaustive day ahead of us. Makuru told us yesterday that adversity
lurks at every bend in this road. If we have a breakdown today, itíll take a
while for help to get on the way. This road is the shortest way to Dodoma and takes us through the Rift
Valley. If all goes well today, the rest of our journey to Ruaha NP will be no
But weíre already out of luck before we leave. The breaking up of camp and putting our
luggage onto the Land Rover takes much more time than necessary. After moving
our bags around several times, the Land Rover is packed to Makuruís
satisfaction. We leave at 8.15 a.m., which is an hour later than we
We drive on a dusty road of coarse gravel. The road bulges, which makes the sides of the road
slope toward the verge of the road. This causes us lean over toward the verge
of the road relatively far. Our confidence has somewhat lessened after last
yearís episode in which our car keeled over in Savuti Channel. More often than
we would want, we clutch the person sitting next to us and hold our breath
while our eyes are wide with awe. Some of us even canít suppress a scream.
The grey landscape changes into a beautiful green one through which road, which
resembles a red-brown vein, winds to its end. This change of scenery is caused
by the Rift Valley, which weíll have to cross several times. Our journey is
never monotonous due to the difference in height and the differences in
temperature which are linked to it.
The scenery consists alternately of plantations and arid areas. We drive at a fast pace.
Cyclists and pedestrians are warned of our approach by Makuruís agitated
tooting. We can easily see whether or not our fellow road-users noticed us.
They get off their bicycle, sometimes in a rather comical manner, and try to
get across the ditch to safety. Some even skip jumping across the ditch,
because they think they do not have enough time. Sometimes the poor people are
in such a panic that they end up stumbling into the ditch and look back
frightened afterwards. Some people even manage to wave. This is the road to Dodoma, the Tanzanian capital. However,
itís barely used. We barely see other cars, let alone other, white people, or
mzungus in Swahili. Just outside a village, we stop by the side of the road for
lunch. Immediately children come to stand round us. Initially, they keep an
acceptable and respectable distance but eventually their curiosity compels them
to get closer.
One of the boys has a football made out of plastic bags. I encourage him to kick the ball
to me, which he does and we continue to engage in a game of juggling the ball.
Petty spends her time doing other things altogether. She teases a boy with a
naughty air by pretending to chat him up, to the hilarity of the other
children. We are an hourís drive from Dodoma. During that hour, I often dose off
because of the shaking of the car, so before I realise whatís happening, we
drive into Dodoma. Makuru searches for the Nam Hotel, which doesnít seem a bad place to
spend the night at first sight. The rooms are suitable and we take the
opportunity to scrub the filth of our first week on safari off our bodies, to
rearrange our luggage and reload our batteries.
When we took care of those matters, we spend the time we have to wait for diner drinking
a nice cool beer in the garden. During this time, I have another look at the
route in the itinerary, which I got at the beginning of the safari. I didnít
notice until now, that one day at the Sau Inn on Zanzibar has been omitted. Makuru had to
phone Leina anyway, so I join him to make sure everything is arranged according
to plan. When I return, itís dinnertime. When we order, we find out that the
hotel didnít prepare for our visit. Normally, guests, let alone Mzungus, donít
eat at the hotel. Many stores have to be visited to comply with our requests.
The grocery shopping is done in a typically African manner. First, one item is
bought at one store, then someone else goes to another store to buy a different
item while, finally, a third person goes to yet another store to buy yet
another item. In this way, we can see all the food that we are going to eat.
Diner is ready surprisingly fast and it tastes delicious. When we want to pay,
this presents yet another problem. A great deal of arithmetic is involved, but
we shouldíve never asked them to split the bill.
We go to bed at about 9.00 p.m. Our day travelling and all the impressions we
have taken in have worn us out. I catch up on writing in my journal in bed.
Tomorrow weíll spend another long day travelling to Ruaha NP.
20/8 Dodoma Ė Ruaha NP
At the beginning of our second travelling day, weíre awoken by a rooster crowing at
one side of the hotel and the sound of Muslims being called to prayer at the
other. After having a quick breakfast, we leave for Iringa driving over small
roads. Dodoma is a capital city with a small- town provincial atmosphere. There are
no flats and buildings are grouped together in a disorderly manner, but this
last remark actually applies to all towns and villages which we pass by. It takes
us a while to find the main road to Iringa. As soon as weíre some kilometres
away from Dodoma, traffic gets lighter. We donít see any cars for a long time. We pass
by small villages where we see the same recurring scene: people who go into the
shade in order to avoid the rising temperature and small shops which range from
bicycle repair sites to butcherís shop and small eating places.
Midway between Dodoma and Iringa, a dam was built, behind which a large lake has formed. It
is prohibited to take photographs or stop in the near vicinity of the dam and
strict security is in place, so weíll have to wait a little while longer to
take our bathroom break. Even though the landscape is arid, weíre surprised by
the marvellous scenery. We enter an area with many baobab trees and mountains
as we leave the Rift Valley behind us once again. During our bathroom break, we
happen to take a good look at the top of the car, which is covered with dust
and on which one of the backpacks has come completely loose and is on the verge
of falling into the desolate African landscape if we come across one more bump
in the road. I see that the backpack in question is my own. Itís a good thing
we find out now so we can strap everything back to the car again just in time.
Itíll be another hour and a half before we get to Iringa. When we have almost travelled the
entire distance, and the hour and a half is over, we get a puncture at a slight
incline in the road. Weíve still got one hundred twenty five kilometres to go
to Ruaha NP. I canít help dosing off, as I did yesterday, during a part of this
When we come to a junction, Makuru chooses to take the right hand road, which he says
is a shortcut. After we drove for a kilometre, an oncoming driver tells us that
the bridge further down the road has collapsed, which means weíll have to turn
around and drive on over the left road at the junction. A sign at the junction
indicates that itís sixty kilometres to the gate. Elephant, impala and giraffe
tracks are the first indications that we are nearing the park.
We get to the gate at 4.30 p.m., where a bridge over the Ruaha river gives
entry to the National Park. Makuru and Petty take care of the formalities,
while we explore the surroundings up to the middle of the bridge. We are able
to spot a number of hippos, a crocodile, two giraffes and we have a marvellous
view of the low water in the river. The formalities have been taken care of
quickly. The camp is approximately eight kilometres down the river from here.
On our way over there we see kudus, impala, giraffes, zebras and buffalo.
The camp consists of bandas made out of green corrugated iron. Thatch has been put on
the top sheets to keep out the worst of the heat, which is a nearly impossible
endeavour. Soon after we arrived, an overland truck comes to the camp.
Everybody is exhausted after two long days of travelling. We take our luggage
from the Land Rover and put everything into the bandas. While moving our
luggage, we pass a sign that says: ďElephants are dangerous, keep away from
them.Ē The sign must be here for a reason.
At the river, a space is allocated for making
campfires and enjoying the approaching darkness. So we will make use of the
opportunity to do so. Wilfred and Hendri in particular can tend to the campfire
to their heartís content the coming days. The setting in of the evening is
heralded by the sounds of African fish eagles and hippos. A family of baboons,
comes into the camp and at the bank of the river, a crocodile is waiting for
diner to come by. While we are relaxing, Petty is busy in the kitchen, yet
again. A good meal is a perfect end to this day.
21/8 Ruaha NP
We agreed to get up at 6.00 a.m. to go on our first game drive in
Ruaha. We have a quick cup of coffee and take some sandwiches with us into the
Land Rover. We are ready to go once weíve woken Makuru up as well. We leave in
Ruaha NP is situated in the south of Tanzania and, with approximately 10,300
square kilometres, itís the countryís second largest park. The park started out
as a part of the Saba Game Reserve in 1910, after which it was proclaimed a
national park in 1964. Ruaha is an interesting park because the flora and fauna
of Eastern and Southern Africa meet here. Ruaha is the most Southerly park were you can find the
Grantís gazelle, the lesser kudu and the striped hyena. Approximately twenty
percent of the park is situated at the banks of the Great Ruaha river. Most
tourists visit this part of the park, as we do.
We see a giraffe during the first few kilometres of our game drive. It is still dark,
but we can see how the giraffe peacefully ruminates on the ground because the
lights of the Land Rover are pointed toward it. All else is quiet. When we get
to the river, we follow it over a winding path. We approach a forest with Winterthorn
and tamarind trees in it. By now, the effect of the sun can clearly be felt,
even though it is still hiding behind the mountains. We take another turn
toward the half dried up river. All of a sudden, we spot a dark-maned lion. We
see several lionesses and young lions near to him. We slowly approach the
pride. We try to disturb the lions as little as possible because this may cause
them to move. We see more and more lions. The young lions can be divided into
three groups. There are also very young cubs in the pride. We didnít see
anything spectacular on our game drive up until now and now, we are suddenly in
front of this large pride of lions. The adult lions lie down quietly to recover
from their nightly activities, while the young lions are actively playing with
each other at the bank of the river or try to suckle with their mother.
However, the mother indicates with a painful grimace that she wonít stand for
it, which means that the young lions have to fend for themselves once more.
More and more lions descend to the river. We try to regain sight of them by
driving around a clump of trees. The male lion stays where he is, without a
care in the world.
We are now at the edge of the river bank and look two metres down to the riverbed. The
scene we see is nearly indescribable. We feel as if weíve walked into the
prideís playground. The youngest cubs play with each other and are at times
brutally disturbed by the older cubs. Many tactics are applied such as
pouncing, tripping each other up, chasing and stalking. When things get really
rough a hardly audible meowing of the young cubs can be heard. The performance
has been going on for an hour and half when, one by one, the lions start moving
up from the riverbed to the bank again.
The largest part of the adults are still on the bank when the youngsters join them again.
The lions look as if they didnít have much to eat for quite a while, but they
donít look skinny by any means. We might even see a kill one of these days. A
pride of this size will have to hunt regularly.In any case, the young lions are already practising their hunting skills
on dried up palm leaves. Itís a beautiful sight to see how the young lions drag
the leaf to and fro and pretend they want to strangle the last breath out of it.
The male lion slowly starts to move and begins making his morning toilet by licking its
entire body. We stand at a distance of barely three metres from the male lion
which allows us to see how it bares its teeth in order to suppress an
irritating itch in its groin. He shakes his head in order to arrange his manes
and roars impressively while doing so. A young lion approaches to greet him. I
immediately keep my video camera at the ready, because generally something
spectacular happens in these situations. Itís no different now. The boss of the
pride is not amused at all. While the young lion brings its head, which is many
sizes smaller than its fatherís, closer to its father, the male snarls at the
young lion and nearly has the young lionís head in its mouth. The cub walks by
as if nothing happened. Dad also gets up and walks toward a female to smell if
sheís ready to mate. By grimacing, he tries to find out whether the time has
come to procreate. Apparently the time is not right yet. He has shown off
enough for now and lies down again.
At the other side of the Land Rover, a group of impalas passes at a respectable
distance. They probably want to drink from the river. Both the lions and the
impalas are aware of the presence of the other. The impalas indicate that
theyíve noticed the lions by making a piercing whistling sound. While the
youngest lions suckle with their mothers, peace and quiet returns to the pride.
We count ourselves lucky that weíve been able to witness what a regular day
looks like for a pride of lions for three hours.
We further explore Ruaha. We pass by a group of impalas and donít see any animals for a
while. We occasionally see giraffes, a few elephants, impala and zebras. Up
until now we didnít see any other cars. It feels as if weíre on an exclusive holiday.
We turn into a narrow path which takes us along several rock formations. The
scenery is beautiful an varied. Acacia, baobab and sausage trees are
characteristic elements of the hilly landscape and the plains on which yellow
dried up grass grows. We pass by a few zebras and are driving toward a large
group of impalas which stand halfway up a hill. The group of impalas splits
into two parts and we hear the piercing whistling sound again. We wonder why,
but we soon find out.
We see a leopard bolt skittishly between two baobab trees. The leopard had already
approached the impalas closely and it may have been preparing to make the
decisive leap. We clearly disturbed its hunt, even if we didnít mean to do so.
However, one of the impalas can count itself lucky. We try to find the leopard,
but donít succeed in doing so. The leopard is hiding in a ditch between two
hills. This is the reason that a group of Elands goes to a higher point on the
hill. We drive over to see if we can still catch a glimpse of the leopard from
the other side of the hill. This is also not a success and we drive back to the
We get back to camp at about 11.00 a.m. and we have had a lovely morning
when Petty brings us brunch. She really pampers us. Itís not until now that we
notice that the temperature has risen considerably. So we decide that itís time
to sit back and relax while reading a book or catching up on writing in our
Itís still rather warm when we leave on our next game drive at 3.30 p.m..
Of course, weíre curious about the lions we saw in the morning. Will they still be there?
And if they are, will we be treated to many
lovely scenes as we were this morning? Makuru indeed drives in the direction of
the lions again. Animals donít show themselves because of the heat. We, the
opportunistic fortune seekers, are the only ones who are on the move. When we
come to the place where we saw the pride of lions this morning, theyíre gone,
but Makuru spots them two hundred metres down the road. The lions lie on the
river bank in the shade and look down at the Ruaha river. Hiding in the bushes,
they are lying in wait for thirsty animals which will undoubtedly come to the
river to drink. The male lies on its back with all four paw in the air. We
canít relax in the car, as he can. The sun relentlessly shines on our backs and
heads. In order to get to the shade we either have to loose sight of the lion
or disturb the lions to a too great degree. So we quickly agree that itís best
to drive on.
We follow the river. A herd of elephants is waiting for us while relaxing. We stop the
car and notice itís very quiet. When the matriarch gives a signal, the entire
herd follows her. We drive along with the elephants in the rear of the herd.
The only sound we hear is that of the Land Rover. The elephants walk to the
river without making a sound. Itís as if youíre part of the herd for a short
while. When they turn right onto a path they descend to the river. From here,
we can see that several herds of elephants are quenching their thirst. Other animals
which we commonly see are giraffes and impala. For the rest, all is quiet and
we donít see many spectacular sights, even though the scenery is fantastic.
Dusk is setting in when we get back to the camp. The wind rises and causes the fire to
flare up. We see a group of approximately two hundred African spoonbills and
yellow-billed stork which comes flying toward us across the river. We run to
the river bank to witness this beautiful spectacle. The sound of their wings
and their landing in the river is impressive. They land directly in front of us
and leave with the entire group after a short while. When we return to the camp
fire with a nice cool beer we make plans for tomorrow. Makuru suggests we leave
at 7.30 a.m. We think thatís rather late.
We convince him to leave at 6.00 a.m. again by using the argument that
the animals are most active before 7.30 a.m.
22/8 Ruaha NP
An elephant leaned against Wilfred and Patriciaís banda last night. Wilfred was awoken by
strange noises and decided to look out of the window to see what was happening.
His view was completely blocked by the big behind of the elephant. When you
look out of your window half asleep, you must think about many options to
explain what youíre seeing before you think of an elephantís behind. We leave
in the dark and take some sandwiches with us to serve as a pre-brunch. We see
kudus, which are hiding in the bushes and look ghostly, looking at us. We still
call kudus topis by way of a joke, because Mfume confused the two.
After weíve seen a few giraffes we donít see any more animals. For the first time, we see
people in other cars trying to spot animals as well. We try to track down the
African wild dogs, which are often sighted in the park. We frequently see dried
out droppings, which bear witness to their presence in the park. When just
looking at the colour, you could also think that these are hyena droppings, but
when you take the number of droppings and the way they are grouped together
into account you know these are wild dog droppings. We occasionally pass by
zebras, giraffes, impala, warthogs, dikdiks and klipspringers. The animals in
Ruaha are more skittish than in the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater.
Generally you canít get close to the animals. We see three lionesses lying to
the left side of the road. The lions in the park seem to be the only animals
which arenít bothered by our presence. This also makes them the only animals
which you can come close to.
All of a sudden we hear the piercing whistling sound of the impala. We know what that
means by now. Danger. Everybody is immediately on the alert. We spot some
impala standing in the bushes. The direction in which their heads are turned
indicate in which direction we have to look. What will we see? A leopard?
We scan the area and finally see a
silhouette. The head pokes out of the grass. Itís hard to make out what sort of
animal it is. One of us thinks itís a leopard, others, including Ellen are
convinced itís a hyena. Itís indeed hard to tell. Then, the animal moves
somewhat which allows us to see more of its features. Itís a hyena.
The temperature has already risen considerably. After a visit to a viewpoint with a
fantastic view of this part of Ruaha, we drive back to camp. A few buffalo mark
the end of this game drive. We realise that we were extremely lucky to have
witnessed the playing lions. On the riverbank there are two open wooden bandas
which allow you to enjoy the marvellous view of the river and the other
riverbank in the shade. A few elephants, impala and giraffes populate the
opposite riverbank. A giraffe slowly crosses the dried up river with its
sandbanks. It walks right in our direction. We barely move or make a sound
while we wait to see whatíll happen. The giraffe comes closer with every step
it takes. Every now and then the giraffe stops and scans its surroundings and
continues to cross the river afterwards. Finally, the giraffe takes a turn when
it is twenty metres from us and follows the riverbank in search of fresh acacia
branches which can be found further down the riverbank.
Itís very warm and after I took a nap and caught up on writing in my journal I take a
nice refreshing shower. Itís a glorious feeling to be able to rinse off the
dust and dirt of the past few days with warm water.
Itís 4.00 p.m. and we are going for another game
drive. We decide not to go for a long game drive. We drive to a natural dam in
the river. Thereís more water in this part of the river than we saw in the rest
of the park. The water flows between rock formations toward the dam in order to
form a small lake, which is fringed by a sandy beach of sorts. The crocodiles
on the beach raise their body temperature by lying in the sun on the warm sand.
Itís a beautiful spot and it seems an alluring thought to go and lie on the
beach. A few palm trees complete the exotic image.
Three giraffes walk side by side across a hilltop,
deeper into the park. Things are quiet as far as the animals go. Very quiet.
The fantastic park has settled down. We see a few elephants and a few buffalo
just before we drive into our camp. Far away, across the river, we see an
enormous herd of buffalo. We light the campfire. The large group yellow-billed
stork and African spoonbills which we saw yesterday, land on the river again to
have a quick bite to eat and fly on again. Itís dark when Petty comes to tell
us that dinner is ready. We pack our bags and conclude our second full day in
Ruaha NP in this way.
23/8 Ruaha NP Ė Mikumi
We leave Ruaha NP with mixed feelings. From a scenery point of view itís a must see. In
addition, the low number of visitors makes the long drive to the park
worthwhile. However, you need more luck here to spot wildlife close by or see
spectacular scenes than you do in, say, Tanzaniaís northerly parks. This is why
we can count ourselves extra lucky to have witnessed the fantastic moments with
the pride of lions. For the rest, the park has sufficient main and byroads over
which to drive through the park. Itís a disadvantage that there are many bushes
in large areas of the park, which allows the already skittish animals to
quickly disappear from sight. Another downside may well be that the variety of
animals is less in this park. But if someone were to ask me whether Iíd like to
visit this park again, I would certainly answer in the affirmative. We leave
the park by driving across the bridge which gives entry to the park. The first
part of the road to Iringa is passable with ease, but the second part is filled
with potholes, which we continually try to dodge.
clearly visible on the outskirts of Iringa. We quickly change the oil filter at
a garage. Itís rather windy. We read in the newspaper, which Petty bought, that
Idi Amin died and that Ruud van Nistelrooy broke some record or other. These
are the only news items that we notice. We stock up in Iringa and Makuru fills
the tank up completely, just the way we did when we were on our way to Ruaha
NP. Weíll need food to last us another five days, which means that the Land
Rover is completely packed again. A bus stops at the petrol station and I look
at it in amazement. I canít believe that this banger can still move. I think
this may well be the oldest bus in the world and with all its age and defects,
the monumental wreck is a wonder to behold. I didnít realise that I could
admire a bus to the degree I do.
We leave Iringa through the mountains. Due to road construction only one lane is
available, which plays right into the hands of the local sellers of corn and
other foods prepared by the road side because they can use the traffic jam this
creates to sell their goods. The road to Mikumi is monotonous. Dried out trees
cover the mountains and I dose off. I wake up just before we get to Mikumi. I
can see that everybody has had it. Mikumi looks like a park where not much is
doing. Still, this is one of the few communications between the south and the
large seaport town of Dar es Salaam.
We park the Land Rover at the site of the Vocational Education and Training Authority and
take out our luggage. Weíll be staying here for two nights and we can sleep in
normal beds. We still need to get some groceries and we try, together with
Makuru, to succeed in getting them. If all goes well, Leina will come to visit
us here. Makuru needs more money for the rest of the safari and Leina will come
from Dar es Salaam to bring it. When sheís here she can also fill
us in about the day we wanted to stay at the Sau Inn at Zanzibar, which she didnít include in our
The evening is getting well on its way and everybody needs to sleep. Leina still hasnít
come to see us, but we donít wait for her because weíll have an early morning
Petty has been up for a while to make breakfast. Itís 7.00 a.m. when we get out of bed after a long
nightís sleep. Even though we wouldnít want to go on a different type of safari
than a tented safari, which means we mostly sleep on self inflatable mattresses
and in a sleeping bag, sleeping in a bed for once is a welcome change.
Apparently, Leina has come to visit us last night. We didnít hear anything at all. We leave
at 8.30 a.m., which is late for a game drive,
but weíll stay a full day in Mikumi NP. Weíll take lunchboxes with us. The
entrance to the National Park is situated a few kilometres outside of the village of Mikumi.
A tarmac road divides Mikumi NP up into northerly and southerly part. Before we reach
the gate we already see giraffes, elephants, zebras and impala by the side of
the road. We take a left turn to go to the gate, where thereís a small museum
which shows the consequences that the road from the south to Dar es Salaam too often has for the animals.
Photographs of a dead hippo, a run over leopard and run over impala bear silent
witness to the effect of the road through the park. Despite the many speed
bumps the car and lorries are still able to drive with considerable speed.
We drive into Mikumi NP, which is a very popular park due to its good accessibility. The
park was proclaimed a National Park in 1964, but it wasnít until 1975 that the
park got its current form. Three sides of Mikumi NP have mountain ranges as
their natural borders. From the South via the West up to the North the border
is formed by the Lumango Mountains and in the East by the Ulguru Mountains. With its 3220 square kilometres,
Mikumi is one of the smaller National Parks.
Immediately after we enter the park we drive onto a plain, an empty plain no less. We donít
see any animals at first. We take a right turn. To our right, there are mainly
bushes which barely have leaves. To our left we see the plain. We occasionally
see a reedbuck, a giraffe or an elephant. Most of the animals are far away, or
run away as soon as we carefully try to come closer. The road system in the
park makes it increasingly difficult to get close to the animals. We pass by a
number of wildebeest and zebras before we get to the hippo pool. At the other
side of the pool, a bigger group of wildebeest approaches. They carefully walk
into the water in order to drink standing side by side. We spot some lion
tracks close to the hippo pool, but that is the last thing we see thatís worth
mentioning. The park seems to be deserted and the road system does not leave
much room for adventure either.
The morning is drawing to a close when we decide that Mikumi doesnít have much to offer
today. After many days our luck has run out for once. It could well be the case
that many animals migrated to Selous GR, a reserve that we will visit the
We drive back to our guesthouse where weíll have lunch. We adjust our plans for the day,
which will mean that weíll go into the village of Mikumi to have something to drink. We saw
a few billiards when going to and coming from Mikumi NP. We play a few games of
billiard while enjoying a beer. The local children watch wide eyed as we make
shots with a cue tip on which we can barely put any chalk. We spend the main
part of our afternoon in this way.
Once we return to the Vocational Education and Training Authority we hear that Makuru
and Leina have argued about the amount of nights weíll spend in Selous GR.
These matters seem to be the thread running through our holiday. Itís very
annoying and certainly has its impact on the atmosphere in the group. First we
had the ordeal with Mfume, then we found out too few days had been booked at
the Sau Inn and now thereís the discussion about the amount of days weíll be
staying in Selous GR. We wonder how this discussion got going. Leina didnít
tell us how the situation at the Sau Inn could be resolved either. In addition,
no promise for compensation has been kept. Weíd rather that we wouldnít get compensation
but a good arrangement of things which can be easily taken care of. Now, the
problem in Selous is added to the list. Makuru tries to phone Leina, which he
doesnít succeed in doing. It turns out that Leina gave Makuru money for the
rest of the safari, but she didnít give him Tanzanian shillings but US Dollars,
which are hardly accepted around Mikumi or at a very high exchange rate. This
is why Makuru phoned Leina to tell her that he canít make it to the end of the
safari with this amount of money. Leinaís proposal to not sleep in Selous the
first night, didnít go down well with Makuru or with us for that matter. Leina
almost pushes Makuru to the extreme. Makuru tells us that we will follow the
itinerary and that he will make sure the money will be taken care of. Weíll
still have time to make arrangements in Morogoro tomorrow.
25/8 Mikumi Ė Selous Game Reserve (Mbega campsite)
The first part of the road to Selous, by way of Mikumi and Morogoro, takes us over a
tarmac road. At Mikumi we see as many animals by the side of the road as we did
yesterday in the park. Of course, Iím exaggerating somewhat. Zebras, elephants,
giraffes, impala and baboons walk by the side of the road or cross the road. It
is unbelievable how many packed busses almost seem to fly over the road with
We try to reach Leina in an internet cafť in Morogoro. Morogoro, is a rather large and
dusty town. The main market is held at a central point in town. Itís very busy
today and it seems as if all 130,000 of Morogoroís inhabitants are out in the
main street or at the market. We park at a petrol station.
The area around Morogoro, which is the last
large town weíll see before going into the Uluguru mountains, is very fertile.
But weíll have to try to reach Leina first. While the others wait for us at the
petrol station, Makuru and I try our luck at the internet cafť. Makuru will try
to phone her, and Iíll try to e-mail her. After several efforts, Makuru gets
Leina on the phone. The entire internet cafť is witness to the way in which
Makuru comes down on his boss. I donít type anymore and listen at a distance so
Makuru can continue to talk freely to Leina. He slams the horns down out of
He wants to try to confront the group with problems as little as possible because, he
reasons, this is our holiday after all. When I listen closely to the way he
talks, I notice that he didnít get his way, which would mean one day less in
Selous GR. Even though Makuru canít hide his bad mood, he tells us that weíll
follow the itinerary and that the appropriate arrangements have to be made,
afterwards if need be. Our only problem is that our camp site is at the other
side of Selous GR, so weíll have to drive through Selous GR to get there. In
addition, he doesnít have enough money left for our boat safari on the Rufiji
river due to the high exchange rate for dollars. On the other hand, I realise
that Leina wonít make a profit on this safari, she may even have to add money.
I hope sheíll learn from this experience. Maybe she still can write it off as
an investment of sorts.
We leave and the dejected atmosphere in the group is immediately compensated by one of
the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful road, which we saw in Africa. We drive through the Uluguru
mountains. A red road takes us through a green landscape through which we drive
to the border of Selous GR by way of Msumbisi and Kisaki. On our way to Selous,
we see people in multicoloured clothing which complement the colours in the
landscape. Children come running from the houses, which are as red as the road
to greet us with phrases such as ďHow are you, how are you?Ē or ďMzungu,
mzungu.Ē The happy children have ample time to greet us because the road is
hard to negotiate in places. The scenery often resembles that of a rainforest.
In this area, too, pedestrians and cyclists go to the safety of the verge when
they see us coming, often with jaunty leaps. Makuru often swerves at the last
moment in order to dodge holes in the road. The locals have probably learned by
experience that itís best to get out of the way when a car approaches. Most
visitors to Selous GR donít come by car, but fly into the park. They donít get
a chance to see all the wonderful places we see because weíre travelling by
car. I can imagine that this road is passable with difficulty or even
impassable during the rainy season. The deep gullies in the road bear silent
witness to the large streams of water which try to find a way downhill during
the rainy season.
We reach Kisaki, the last village before we go into Selous. We stop here to buy some
sugarcane. We regularly see the locals walking around eating sugarcane, so we
want to try it for ourselves. The road in the forest is so narrow that weíre
completely blocking up the road. Small houses, which are fitted out as shops,
stand on both sides of the road. We have to try to see in what way the
sugarcane can best be eaten, but it tastes good once we figure out how to eat
Just outside the village, we drive through a small river in which children are
playing. When we reach the other bank, we take a left turn and reach the gate
of Selous GR after crossing the Uhuru railway several times. We are about to
enter the Game Reserve with a size of 55,000 square kilometres. But how big
exactly is 55,000 square kilometres? If you combine the complete size of the
Netherlands and half the size of Belgium youíre going to be rather close to
it. Itís hard to imagine.
The reserve has many rivers and lakes, which together form the largest fresh water basin in
During the First World War the Germans and the English fought here. Itís hardly
thinkable now. I, for one, canít imagine it happening. Up until now large areas
in the reserve have been inaccessible. There are also less animals here than
there are in, say, the Serengeti and the animals are not used to cars due to
the small number of visitors to the park. Leina had good reason to make a bet
with me that I wouldnít see more than six cars in the park. In a part of the
park hunting with a guide is allowed, which makes the animals exceedingly
We have to drive 85 kilometres to the campsite. We drive on a
broad road with dense growth of acacia thorn bushes and whispering thorns. The
acacia bushes have a light grey glow about them because of the gigantic thorns
which are part of the plant. The animals we see, such as a group of buffalo,
giraffes and impala, donít hesitate to run to hide in the bushes. It would
undoubtedly take me five minutes to get past those bushes in one piece. But
this is a clear indication that the animals are skittish indeed. We get to the
Mbega campsite at 5.00 p.m. on a narrow path. We set up camp at the bank
of the Rufiji river, hidden among the trees. Just after weíve settled down, a
car comes to the campsite. Inside are Veerle and David, two Belgians with whom
we have a nice chat. David works for Via Via and Joker on Zanzibar and he and his girlfriend are now
on a holiday. This means the counting of the cars has started for me. We hardly
started exploring Selous GR and weíve already spotted a car. If things go on as
they do now, I think Iíll win the bet with Leina.
After diner, we chat on with the extremely friendly couple and exchange experiences.
While we are talking at the table, we hear the leaves over our heads rustling.
When we shine our flashlight up, we see our first ever bushbaby in the tree.
After a while, a genet comes into the camp and lets us come close to it. Itís a
wonderful experience to see these nocturnal animals in your immediate
26/8 Selous Game Reserve (Mbega campsite)
Our morning game drive starts at 6.30 a.m., just after sunrise. We have a
quick breakfast to ensure we wonít scare the animals away by the sound of our
rumbling stomachs. Iím very curious to see what we will see in Selous. We
follow the sandy main road for a while and turn left into a more narrow road
after driving for a quarter of an hour. The road winds through the forest and
the thorn bushes
All of a sudden we stand at a large open space in the forest. The large lake with palm
trees which spreads out in front of us, looks like an oasis. Several groups of
hippos live in the lake and have crocodiles as their neighbours. For the rest,
the lake is populated by birds, such as spoonbills, yellow-billed stork, egrets
and herons. It is striking that there are no antelopes which come to drink
here. The only animal which dares to bend down to drink on this early morning
is a giraffe, which bends down three times and pulls its head up with an
elegant swoop every time. Water spatters up every time it does so. Itís as if
all this happens in slow motion. This area is extremely beautiful and we go on
to explore the banks and the immediate surroundings of the lake. Behind every
bush, tree or bend in the road, a predator may be waiting until it can pounce
on an animal which is drinking without too much effort. But in order for this
to happen, there needs to be animals on which to prey, which there arenít at
the moment. We drive back to the forest, while giraffes, elands, hartebeest and
hippos run into the bush in front of us. There are many possibilities to turn
from the road and go in search of something interesting. You are continuously
on the alert because you may drive by an interesting sight before you know it.
The road brings us to a second lake, which looks similar to the first lake we
saw. Then, all of a sudden, we see the first lions in Selous: two adult males
and four females. The males are definitely not the best looking lions we ever
saw. The heads of the males look a sorry sight and the mucus in their mouths
gives the males, which are getting on in years, a shabby appearance. We get the
impression that the lions ate not too long ago. We drive around in the bush.
Every now and then, we smell rotting meat. However, a search for the carcass
comes to nothing, so we watch the lions to see if anything is going to happen.
The bushland changes into the landscape near the lake in the area where the
lions lie. Itís beautiful here.
We visit several lakes, which lie in a row behind each other but are partly linked, in
this manner. There is more water in one lake then in the other. Small shoots of
grass form a green sheet around the lake where the water has retreated. Again,
we see a giraffe drinking. It takes considerable effort to get to the water
with such a long neck. The backs of the hippos look like rocks coming out of
the water. When we get to the shore of the lake, the hippos run deeper into the
water. They run from us, as most animals do in this park. The behaviour of the
animals in this park, which is rather different from that of animals in more
busy parks, gives you an entirely different perspective on the animals.
Giraffes gallop in front of us in at what seems to be a slowed pace, until they
find a place in the bushes through which they can disappear. The wildebeest,
zebras and buffalo we see donít behave any differently.
The rumbling noises our stomachs make indicate that the morning progresses. Weíre
on our way back to the campsite, when we see a second group of lions consisting
of two lionesses with their cubs. Three cars are already enjoying the sight of
the lions. We also find a place to put the car, and as soon as we do, our full
attention is on the lions. Iíd almost forget that weíve seen four in all in the
park. So things are not looking good for Leina. The cubs look wonderful. Their
mothers are asleep and seem unaware of the fact that they are the centre of
attention. When one of the cubs walks toward its mother and greets her, the
mother puts a paw around her young which causes the cub to lie between her
front paws. The way the lioness licks her cub makes the whole scene even more
The headache I had when I got up this morning is getting worse. Itís getting so bad
that the headache turns into nausea, which makes me gag occasionally. Could I have
drank too few fluids? In these situations you donít feel like drinking anything
but I drink anyway because the others advise me to do so.
When we return to the campsite, I immediately go to the toilet and afterwards to my
tent to try to rest and hopefully get some sleep. I manage to do the latter for
an hour and I awake somewhat fitter. Petty saved me some lunch. Despite the
fact that I donít feel like eating, I eat something in the hope that it will
get up my strength. There is a tented camp near to the campsite. The owner of
this camp has come by to tell us that his camp has a bar with nice cool drinks
and invites us to come to the camp to take a shower whenever we want. I use the
peace and quiet to catch up on writing in my journal at the riverbank. Luckily,
I feel much better than I did the past few hours. When the others return, they
tell me that there are delicious roasted cashews over at the tented camp. Itís
time to go on our evening game drive. Again, we follow the main road for a
quarter of an hour, but instead of taking a right turn we take a left turn.
We drive into an area which looks entirely different than the one we visited this
morning. We donít see any lakes or palm trees here. We occasionally see thorn
bushes, but the area mostly consists of deciduous forest alternated with open
spaces. We can also see giraffes here. In addition, we also see warthogs and
impala. A special sight is formed by an African civet which runs to the shelter
in the bushes, when we approach. Makuru thought it was a honey badger at first.
I tell him that I think this animal is rather large for a honey badger. I
secretly hope itís a young leopard, but Makuru tells me that the posture of a
leopard would be different in this situation. A leopard would bend its legs more
if it were standing still and knows itís being looked at. Itís a rather large
African civet, as one of the guides we consult confirms.
We have a quiet spell animal wise when, all of a sudden, Makuru yells ďleopard.Ē Luckily,
I immediately look in the right direction to see the leopard disappear into the
bushes. In the middle of the bushes thereís a tree. Makuru points to a dead
impala which hangs over a thick branch just under the treetop. A hyena lies in
wait under the tree to see if any pieces may fall down. The impala is already
half eaten. It doesnít look as if the leopard will return before dark.
We donít have the hyenaís patience and drive on toward the main road, which is closer by
than we think. We have to take a left turn if we want to return to the
campsite, but we take a right turn, which turns out to be a good decision.
Makuru stops the car after four hundred metres. He drives back slowly and then
drives forward in order to be able to have a good look between the acacia
bushes. Makuru says he thinks he saw a group of lions at some distance from the
road. Before we drive off to see if heís right, Makuru apologises in case heís
wrong. Makuru deftly manoeuvres the car toward the lions, at least thatís what
we hope. We canít see anything yet. It isnít until we come closer, that we see
the lions too. Itís a group of nine lions in all. Makuru has done a great job
spotting them. Four lionesses and five cubs are in front of us. We take in the
group for a long while. Some of the cubs are clearly bothered by stinging
insects. They regularly make nervy movements, when theyíve been stung. Before
we know it, more than half an hour has passed. The sun has already set and itís
time for us to return to the campsite so we wonít have to find our way back in
During diner we talk to our southern neighbours about the past days and we exchange
experiences. Veerle enthusiastically tells us about her first experiences in Africa.
She canít hide the fact that her enthusiasm is somewhat lessened when we talk about diseases such as malaria and
bilharzia, but this doesnít last for long.
27/8 Selous Game Reserve (Mbega campsite)
After a bad night, during which I barely slept due to a headache and diarrhoea I get out of
the tent. I get into the car, fearing that this morning may be a repetition of
the end of yesterday morning. We discussed the possibility to go to the tree
with the dead impala to try to see the leopard in the early morning. Before we
get to the tree, we see the nine lions we saw yesterday in almost exactly the
same place. Now they lie by the side of the road. The cubs are more playful
than they were yesterday evening. Of course, we canít simply drive by now. We
take many photographs and the number of minutes on the counter of the video
camera also increases considerably. A young lion with two different coloured
eyes particularly draws our attention.
We decide to have a look at the tree with the dead impala. When we get there, Hendri
thinks he sees a leopard leap out of the tree. The impala is still there and if
Iím not mistaken, there is less meat on it than yesterday. The hyena we saw
yesterday, is still there too, but this time the hyena is less patient than we
are. We, too, donít see the use in waiting any longer and leave.
Even though we donít see anything spectacular we do see animals such as, elephants, elands,
impala, giraffes, crocodiles, hippos, kudus and a reedbuck. We return to the
campsite at approximately 11.00 a.m. After lunch we go to the tented
camp to have a drink at the bar.
I still donít feel all that well and try to feel better by taking a shower and catching
up on my sleep. We planned a boat safari on the Rufiji river this afternoon,
but Iíd rather not think about that now. I was able to suppress my nausea and
queasiness yesterday but I have a feeling that I wonít be able to do so in the
burning sun while Iím bobbing on the water. Everybody leaves for the boat
safari at 2.00 p.m. I take time to recuperate in an easy chair in
the shade while looking out over the Rufiji river.
At the end of the afternoon, I walk back to the campsite, where I hear that Leina took
care of the money, which caused so much trouble in Morogoro. So Makuru got his
way after all. All may not go smoothly, but eventually all arrangements are
made properly. The only problem that remains to be solved now is the booking of
our extra day on Zanzibar. During this holiday the proverb, ďpatience is
a virtueĒ seems an apt one. Just now, when I had to pay for my drink at the bar
and was the only customer left, this proverb came to mind. I had to pay 1500
Tanzanian shillings and paid with a 5000 shilling note. I had to wait at least
a quarter of an hour for my change. The African lifestyle is different than
ours, but youíve got to love it.
I go into my tent to catch up on some sleep and be fit and cheerful when everybody gets
back. When I wake up, itís already dark. They havenít returned yet, which is
odd because I donít expect them to sail in the dark so they should have been
back by now. Even though Iím not greatly worried, I expect that something
delayed the group, which caused them to come back later. My patience is tried
for a while, before I hear the first sounds of a car. After several minutes, I
can see the first sign of the headlights, soon followed by the Land Rover.
When the others get out of the car I can tell by the look on their faces that Iíve
missed something. My first thought is that theyíve seen the African wild dogs,
which we hoped to see since weíve been in Ruaha NP. I donít get a chance to
have a second thought because Hendri enthusiastically tells me what happened
while the others stand by. On their way to the boat, they already saw a group
lions at the dead body of an eland, which they killed less than two hours
before. Its entrails were still hanging out. Ellen confirms Hendriís story with
a face which simultaneously shows signs of happiness and sadness. Sheís sad for
me. On their way back, they stopped again to see how the lions gorged on the
dead eland. Images on the video camera and the digital camera confirm all Iíve
been told. I canít deny that it hurts to see the images. Of course, Iíd like to
have been there, but the fact is that I wasnít there. In this way, Selous tried
its best to give us a good safari at the last moment and at least I get to see
the spectacle on film.
Nobody talks about the boat trip anymore. There was
too little shade and not much spectacle during the boat trip. Itís not until
now the group realises that they could have watched the lions longer and that
they could have skipped the boat trip. Of course, they donít talk about
anything else for the entire evening. I canít blame them. Iíd be full of such a
sight as well.
28/8 Selous Game Reserve (Mbega campsite) Ė Zanzibar
Today weíll have a long drive to Dar es Salaam ahead of us. Once we get there,
weíll have to take the boat to Zanzibar. Itís almost 8.00 a.m. when we fully packed the Land
Rover. We leave the Mbega campsite and drive north on a bumpy dirt road which
takes us along several stretched out villages. Generally, the villages are rather
quiet. In one of the villages, we see many children in school uniforms. When we
drive by, they cheer loudly and wave at us. Sometimes holes in the road take us
by surprise which means weíre quite shaken up. We have lunch by the side of the
road just after the dirt road changed into a tarmac road. From here, itís only
an hourís drive to Dar es Salaam.
We agreed to meet Leina on a curio market in Dar es Salaam. We plan to look for bargains
there, but itís also the place where we have to say goodbye to Petty and
Makuru. When Leina arrives, weíre still busy bargaining. The market consists of
a long row of shops. I think Iíve been to every shop three times. But the
moment that we have to definitively say goodbye to Petty and Makuru is
irrevocably coming closer.
Leina takes us to the harbour while giving us a mini tour of the town. By way of the
wealthier areas and the new American embassy, we get to the harbour half an
hour before the boat leaves. Itís clear that Dar es Salaam is being beautified. Grimy houses
are painted over and big buildings are either restored or rebuilt. During our
drive Leina tells us that she made arrangements for us to stay an extra day at
the Sau Inn.
Itís a rather big transition from being in the bush where itís quiet to being in the
hustle and bustle of Dar es Salaam. Fortunately, Leina already gave us
our boat tickets. We can go on board through a strict security check. We can
just manage taking all our luggage and curio with us. The boat is packed and
things are rather chaotic on board. It takes a while before we can leave. The
expected time of crossing is two hours, so I decide to sit back and get this
crossing over with as quickly and quietly as possible. The sea is quite choppy,
but in the first leg of the journey I can manage. During the second leg of the
journey, I have to close my eyes and relax in order to suppress the nausea
which is starting to set in. The end of the crossing is near and the coast of Zanzibar looms in the distance. The moment
the boat moors at the harbour, matters get chaotic once again. People who try
to get off the boat are obstructed by those who are trying to get on the boat.
But the boat has to be emptied before other passengers can get on. Everybody
creates their own route by clearing a path with their luggage where there
actually is none. The harbour on Zanzibar is possibly even more chaotic than
the harbour in Dar es Salaam.
I stand on the embankment together with Wilfred and Patricia to wait for the others, who clearly chose a worse route.
While the others arrive, a man with a beard and a hat, which mark him as a
Muslim, speaks to us and says he is our guide. Of course, everybody can say
theyíre our guide, but he proves he is indeed our guide by telling us his last
name. His first name is Hamin and heíll be our contact during our stay on
Zanibar. He gestures for us to follow him. First we have to go to the
immigration office and then we can go to the gate which almost immediately
gives entry to Zanzibarís Stone Town. We drive the last part of our trip
to the hotel. Within three minutes we are dropped off near our hotel, which is
called Safaris Lodge. Itís a two-minute walk from the drop off point to the
The sun has already set when weíve checked in and walk to our rooms. Weíll be sleeping here
for the coming two nights. The somewhat grumpy and gruff man leaves as quickly
as he came, after informing us that weíll be going on a city and spice tour in
Actually, weíre rather hungry. We donít have to think long about the place weíre going
for diner. I remember from my last visit to Zanzibar that thereís a market at Forodhani
gardens every evening where the locals sell food from stalls. We liked eating
there in 1999 and we feel the same this year. The stalls with meat and fish
create a friendly and exotic atmosphere. There are many different sorts of food
to choose from and after I passed by the stalls several times, Iím full. Itís
hard to imagine that we were in Selous GR twenty four hours ago. We go back to
the hotel with full stomachs.
Our room has a view of a big house, in which a large group of boys dressed in long white
robes, gather in a room. When they donít hurry up enough, they get caned on
their behind. It looks somewhat like the way in which the Masai urge their
cattle to quickly go to the side of the road when a car approaches. By the way,
it doesnít look like the boys are mistreated in any way. But I do think that
the gathering probably has a religious character. When everybody is inside they
start singing and praying. I donít know what exactly is going on, but judging
by the volume we think itís wise to wait before trying to go to sleep.
29/8 Zanzibar (Stone Town)
After having breakfast in the simple restaurant on the roof terrace of the hotel,
weíre standing in the lobby ready to go on the tour. Hamin arrives exactly on
time and took a guide with him whoíll show us around Zanzibar today. In the morning, weíll be
walking through Stone Town and in the afternoon weíll go on a
When we leave the hotel, we take a right turn and walk through narrow streets to Nyumba
Ya Moto Street and go to the House of Wonders or Beit-el-Ajaib, as they call it
here. I film several buildings when weíre walking through the narrow streets.
There are Muslim women at the top of some of these buildings. A local passerby
sees that Iím filming and I immediately get scolded for filming. Obviously,
filming locals is a touchy matter here.
The actual tour of the town starts at the House of Wonders. We are told about the
relationship between Zanzibar and Tanzania, the different religions and the
history of the Arabs, Indians and the slave trade on Zanzibar. We enter the House of Wonders,
which was commissioned by sultan Barghash in 1883. The building consists of
four stories and a porch, which makes it stand out from the rest of the
buildings in Stone Town. The building was fired at by the
British navy in 1896 in an attempt to force the sultan to
abdicate. The House of Wonders was the first house on Zanzibar to have electricity.
From here, we go to the Arabian fort (Ngome Kongwe) which was first used as a fort in
1710. Prisoners of war were also held captive here. Nowadays itís a theatre and
We walk into the centre of Stone Town again and we pass by many
beautifully crafted doors and equally beautiful buildings which are
characteristic for Stone Town. The last site in Stone Town we visit is the slave market. Itís
impressive to see, in what sorts of small rooms people were locked away and
chained among the ill and the dead. The work of art made by sculptor Clara
Sornas evokes the appropriate atmosphere which you can also sense when youíre
at the slave market. The work of art consists of chained slaves standing in a
hole in the ground, with their heads sticking just above the ground. The atmosphere
on the other markets we visit is entirely different. We visit vegetable and
fish markets. In certain places in Stone Town the scent of spices comes wafting
down the street, but the smell of fish dispels the nice smell of the spices.
We leave Stone Town by minibus and drive to the
Maruhubi ruins. The road out of town looks horrible. Itís so busy and itís such
a mess. This is clearly Zanzibar at its worst. When we arrive at
Maruhubi we see something completely different. The former grandeur of the Maruhubi
ruins has been long lost. Like the House of Wonders, the palace, of which now
only the ruins remain, was commissioned by sultan Barghash in 1880 and was
completed in 1882. His wife and ninety nine mistresses lived in this palace.
The mistresses mostly were the most beautiful slave girls available. The number
ninety nine was probably considered to be a sacred number by the sultan. The
drive way to the castle was lined by ninety nine palm trees. By the way, the
sultanís lifestyle was not respected by everyone and the palace was burned out
of protest in 1899.
We drive on to the North and start the spice tour. We are welcomed at a plantation. During
a tour of the plantation we get to smell and taste different sorts of spices.
From vanilla to ginger, from cinnamon to turmeric, all different sorts of
spices go by our noses. We also taste different sorts of fruit. From coconuts,
which are picked from the trees by small boys, to custard apples and from
pineapples and litchis to passion fruits. In this manner, we are told about
what may well be Zanzibarís biggest export products for about an hour.
Of course, we stock up on spices to use at home before we leave the plantation.
We have lunch at Haminís home, where his wife made a delicious and spicy dish. She asks
us if weíre interested in getting a henna tattoo after lunch. Everybody wants
one. Everybody gets the pattern of their choice, painted on them in a small
room which has a television and DVD player. The day isnít even half over when
we get back to Stone Town, so weíve got enough time to go out
by ourselves. Ellen wants to buy a nice long robe. There are enough shops to
choose from but itís difficult to make a choice. Finally we find a robe, which
looks nice and is well-priced as well.
We walk to the hotel by way of Mizingani Road. We want to e-mail home first. We
succeed in doing so, and dusk is already setting in when I reach the hotel.
Ellen already took a shower and I, too, get ready for the evening. We expect
Leina to drop by so we can all go out for diner. I wonder how sheíll take it
when I tell her that I saw more than six cars in Selous GR. Leina arrives at seven
oíclock. Wedecide to have dinner at Mercuryís bar, which is named after Freddy Mercury,
who was born here. We had a drink there this afternoon and we liked the
atmosphere. We arrive at Mercuryís bar, taking a shorter road than we usually
do. During diner, we exchange all our experiences of the day. Itís no use
getting all worked up about all that happened. Besides, I donít think youíd get
to hear what really happened.
More general experiences one has when travelling through Africa are discussed and, of course, the
bet also comes up. Leina doesnít live up to her part of the bet, just as she
didnít live up to her other promises. Itís rather peculiar, but Iím not going
to make an issue out of it. Letís just assume that she already lost too much
money already arranging this safari. We say goodbye to Leina in the street.
Sheíll still take us to the Sau Inn at the east side of Zanzibar in the morning.
30/8 Zanzibar (Sau Inn)
We asked if we could leave as soon as possible this morning, because today is the only day
that Wilfred and Patricia have to enjoy the beaches on the eastern coast of Zanzibar. This is the last full day of their
holiday. Tomorrow morning, theyíll fly to Nairobi to fly back to Brussels the same day. All the more reason
to try to get to the beach as early as possible and to spend as much time there
as we can. Hendri, Anja, Ellen and I still have two full days to relax after
Before we go and relax at the beach, weíd like to see the red colobus monkeys in JozaniForest.
The road to Sau Inn leads through Jozani Forest, which means that it doesnít take
much effort to see the red colobus monkeys, which are used to people, so you can
get close to them even though they can move freely through the forest. This is
the case again today. We donít have to walk far before the red colobus monkeys
show themselves. We know one thing when we see them: this is going to cost us
another roll of film. The colobus monkeys nimbly jump from branch to branch,
followed by a few white people. Even though there is enough food for all the
monkeys, they gobble up the leaves on the bushes at high speed. Sometimes they
even smack their lips. At some point, the distance between one of the monkeys
and myself is less than one metre. They pretend as if weíre not even here. The
only things we shouldnít do is make sudden movements or drive the monkeys into
We barely saw Jozani Forest itself. We have spent little less
than an hour looking at the monkeys when we decide to drive on to Sau Inn, near
to the village of Jambiani. We reach Zanzibarís eastern shore after thirteen
minutes. From there, we have to drive fifteen kilometres southwards along the
coast on a road with many holes in it.
We didnít see a single quiet remote beach when we get to Sau Inn. The space between the
road and the sea has already been filled by locals or by the growing number of
hotels and/or resorts. We are pleasantly surprised by Sau Inn. We are received
well, theyíve got a swimming pool and the rooms are simple but clean and they
have large beds. In addition, Sau Inn gives you a marvellous view of the
beautifully coloured ocean, which now has retreated to the reef.
We immediately make arrangements to go snorkelling at the reef this afternoon. We
sail to the reef in a small dhow. I jealously watch how the two sailors nimbly
move across the boat. I look around me as if I go sailing every day, with both
hands on the edge of the boat. If only the others knew how unnatural this
feels. All of a sudden, a tortoise races by at full speed from under the boat.
I never realised that they were such fast swimmers. We reach the reef and the
sail is taken down. Wilfred, Hendri and I put on our flippers and our goggles
with a snorkel attached, which is quite a feat in a rocking boat of this size.
Wilfred and Hendri donít seem to have all that much trouble getting their gear on; theyíre
already in the water while Iím still trying to put my second flipper on. Of
course, I still have my poker face on so the others think I know what Iím
doing. Finally, I, too, am in the water. This is the second time I go
snorkelling, so it takes some adjusting. Still, every time I try to enjoy
myself I end up swallowing a mouthful of seawater, which causes me to surface
in a panic, thrashing around in the water and lifting my head up in order to be
able to breathe. I canít swim properly with flippers either. It seems as if the
flippers donít give me enough extra power. I feel the flipper break every time
I move my feet. When I check my flippers it turns out that thereís a crack in
both flippers just in front of my toes. Just my luck.
Wilfred and Hendri are swimming around as if theyíre professional snorkelers. I may as well
have looked down at the water from a high bridge: then I wouldíve seen more
fish then I do now. Slowly but surely I get the hang of snorkelling and I get a
chance to keep my head in the water for longer periods of time. I see several
beautifully coloured fish, such as anemone fish, swim around the coral. I also
manage to spot a snake, which lies in the sand near to the coral. I want to
alert Hendri and Wilfred, who are swimming further away and, of course, mostly
have their heads under water. So I can yell all I like, but they wonít hear me.
So I decide to enjoy the sight of the snake by myself. I put my head under
water again, but I wonder where the snake is, or the piece of coral where it
laid for that matter. The current took me along. I try to find the place where
I saw the snake, but unfortunately, I fail. The result of this search is that I
am exhausted and have to rest for a short while. I still canít swim properly
with these flippers. I have to move my feet with extra force in order to swim
against the current, because of the cracks in my flippers. I make a final
effort to enjoy the beauty of the coral, but I donít manage to do so. Iím
exhausted from making all this extra kicking movements and decide to go back to
the dhow before the distance between me and the dhow becomes too big.
Luckily Wilfred and Hendri are having more fun. They regularly come to the surface to
tell each other what they saw. Iíd rather watch them from the edge of the dhow.
The sun burns on my skin. Wilfredís still in the water and I see that his
shoulders are the same shade of red as that of the beautiful starfish I managed
to spot earlier. It seems as if Wilfred wants to enjoy every minute he spends
here doubly. And I canít blame him for wanting to do so. After little under an
hour, Wilfred and Hendri have had their fill of snorkelling and return to the
dhow. As opposed to myself, they can swim along with the current due to which
they get to the dhow sooner than they expected. Wilfred bumps his head against
the dhow as a consequence. He is not badly hurt, but itís a funny sight. Weíre
back at the beach, at about 3.00 p.m. The sea has risen to the terrace
wall by now. We spend the rest of the afternoon basking in the sun and enjoying
the swimming pool.
This evening we have diner in the restaurant at Sau Inn. Itís not busy at all, but
still all doesnít go as it should. We get other dishes than we ordered, parts
of dishes are forgotten and the waiter is hardly intelligible due to his
inadequate knowledge of English, but his personality makes it impossible to get
angry at him, if youíd want to do so in the first place. He wraps us around his
finger when he once again forgets something we ordered. After approximately ten
minutes we ask him to bring us the dishes he forgot again. He apologises and
says that he hadnít forgotten the dish, it simply slipped his mind. Now how can
you get angry at someone like that?
31/8 Zanzibar (Sau Inn)
Itís still early when we get out of bed to give Patricia and Wilfred a send off. Itís
still dark. We asked Leina and Hamin to pick Patricia and Wilfred up at 5.45 a.m.
The plane to Nairobi leaves at 10.00 a.m.
The sun slowly rises. The horizon is rather cloudy. We stand at the seaside and enjoy
the sunrise. Patricia and Wilfred canít do so. Itís already well over 6.00 a.m. and nobodyís come to pick them up
yet. Of course, waiting is never pleasant, but if youíve a plane to catch
thereís an added tension. As the minutes patiently tick away on the clock,
Patricia and Wilfred get increasingly impatient. Itís 6.45 a.m. now and still thereís no sign that
transportation to the airport is on its on its way. We canít wait any longer,
so we have to have to arrange transportation by ourselves. Fortunately, we
manage to do so quickly at Sau Inn. It costs 40 USD but the plane wonít wait.
Our annoyance with the way in which Leina made arrangements increase by the
minute. This is the umpteenth incident and it occurs at a crucial moment. When
the car arrives, we put Patricia and Wilfredís luggage in the car at high speed
and Wilfred and Patricia leave quickly after a short goodbye. Their holiday has
come to an end. Itís hard to imagine that theyíll be at home tomorrow.
Weíve still got two days on Zanzibar and a short visit to the Masai Mara ahead of
us. Weíll spend this day relaxing, sunbathing, swimming, reading and playing
Bao, a game which is often played on Zanzibar. When weíre on the beach women
regularly walk by and ask us if we want a massage. We answer in the negative
every time. Boys, who try to sell fruit, apply the same tactic. Theyíre more
successful. Our favourite fruits are custard apples and litchis.
In the afternoon, we play a few games of bottle football with the local boys. The aim
of bottle football is to tip your opponentís bottle, which is filled with
water, over with a ball and spill as much water as possible. The bottle can
only be put upright after the person whose bottle was tipped over has collected
the ball. You canít keep this game up for long in the sun on the beach,
especially not when playing against such nimble young boys.
In the afternoon we walk along the beach and look for a place to eat this evening. We
donít have to search for long. The place we choose has good food and better
service than the restaurant at Sau Inn. This is how we end our first day at the
beach. We walk back to Sau Inn, with more of a tan than we had yesterday, to
have a good nightís sleep.
1/9 Zanzibar (Sau Inn)
After a long night, we have a chance to lie in as well. Itís been a while since we were
able to do so. Today weíll spend another day at the beach. Weíll enjoy the sun
and live the good life, as we did yesterday. We alternate playing a game of Bao
with catching up on writing in our journals and swimming.
The day goes by rather quickly. Before you know it youíre having lunch. We donít do
much for the rest of the day. The only difference with yesterday is that we
exchanged playing football for drinking cocktails. I canít believe how quickly
you get a tan here. Iím getting more and more tanned every day. We enjoyed our
dinner at the neighbourís restaurant yesterday, so we book another table for
Today has been the laziest day of our entireholiday, but we planned to have a few days to relax on Zanzibar.
Tomorrow weíll go to Stone Town again, where weíll spend our last
full day on Zanzibar. On this day, we can buy some souvenirs. Iíd
like to buy a Bao game to remember my stay on Zanzibar by.
2/9 Zanzibar (Stone Town)
Today we go back to Stone Town. Weíve got more luck than Wilfred
and Patricia, because our transportation is properly arranged. This is not
surprising because Patricia immediately phoned Leina when she came home to talk
to her about the course of events. Leina promised that Patricia and Wilfred
will be reimbursed for the additional 40 USD. Hamin, who was responsible for
the transportation, will provide the reimbursement. When we get back to Safaris
Lodge in Stone Town, Hamin immediately comes to meet
us. He brings the incident up in a rather embarrassing way and gives us the 40
USD. Itís clear that bystanders arenít allowed know whatís going on. Hamin
wants to avoid loosing face at all costs.
Weíll spend the main part of today shopping for souvenirs. We quickly put our luggage in
our rooms and head into town. Our most prized acquisitions are a beautiful bracelet
for Ellen and a beautiful Bao game. We had to search for a while in order to
find a Bao game of considerable size and good quality. Iím happily surprised
when I hear that this game only cost 19 USD and I have it wrapped. We browsed
many shops and in all the shops we saw smaller games for the same price. In
addition, we buy more herbs and Anja and Ellen have another henna tattoo done.
The day flies by and at the end of the day we walk to the African House. Many tourists
often come here to look at the sunset on the balcony while sipping on a
cocktail. Itís a pity that we donít have a good sunset today, but itís still a
special experience. We enjoyed our diner at Mercuryís bar last time we went
there, so weíve got good reason to go there for diner again this evening.
This is how we end our last full day on Zanzibar, an island which I wonít revisit
soon. Stone Town and its surroundings are often rather grimy. I didnít experience the magical and exotic atmosphere for which Zanzibar is known. But at least Iím
3/9 Zanzibar Ė Nairobi
We have enough time this morning to start our day. We take our time packing our luggage
after breakfast. We have to fit our souvenirs and other luggage carefully
because thereís so much to pack. Especially when we have to leave room for
possible souvenirs weíll buy in the Masai Mara. After we deposited our luggage
safely behind the counter of the hotel, we go into Stone Town one last time. We have the typical
feeling of wanting to leave already, but not being able to do so. When we walk
by the small shops, we canít resist looking for herbs we havenít got yet. I
canít imagine that we didnít already buy all herbs that can be found on the
Slowly, the moment that we have to leave for the airport comes nearer. Haminís van is on
time. The airport is situated slightly to the south of Stone Town, on Zanzibarís west coast. Itís a twenty-minute
drive. The airport is equally chaotic as the harbour. Of course, the airport
isnít large, but the queue with passengers who want to check in stretches out
into the street. We stand waiting in the sun, packed together for little under
an hour. Finally, the queue starts to move. I donít know what the limit is to
the amount of luggage you can take with you, but it seems as if the amount of
luggage some people want to take along is never ending. Finally, however, the
queue gets smaller.
We barely took off when the plane makes a right turn in order to fly along Zanzibarís coast to Nairobi.
The colours of the ocean are a feast for the eye. Watching the ocean restores the feeling of being in an
exotic paradise, which I didnít have when I was on Zanzibar.
We near the Tanzanian coast and pass by Mount Kilimanjaro after a short while. The summit is
visible and many passengers want to catch a glimpse, which causes the plane to
bank to the left. The sun is sinking toward the horizon when we land in Nairobi. We go through customs quickly. We
hope that our contact will be there to pick us up. We agreed to meet at a small
travel agent in the hall of the airport.
A man addresses us and shows that he knows we were to be picked up and brought to the
hotel. Weíll leave for the Masai Mara from this hotel the next day. He says
that Hotel 680 is fully booked and that we have to go to another hotel. I ask
him how this is possible when we booked so long in advance. He tells us that
the Kenyan vice-president has died and that heíll be buried tomorrow. Itís
busier than normal because of this and all hotels are nearly fully booked. But
he says he managed to book rooms for us in another hotel. We buy into his story
and are brought to the hotel some time later.
The streets of Nairobi are extremely busy. Disabled
people, some of whom can only crawl, ask for money at nearly every traffic
light. We are advised to close our windows and keep our doors locked. Deft
thieves can quickly grab something from the car and disappear into the crowd.
We tell the driver that weíd like to eat at the Carnivore. After some discussion, we agree
on a price and he promises to pick us up and bring us back to the hotel. We
check into the hotel and take a nice shower. The hotel looks much better than
Hotel 680, but half of the price of a stay at Hotel 680 is added to the price
for a stay here. Once we freshened up, we wait for the driver in the lobby of
We are about to leave when Catherine comes in. She asks us why we didnít come to Hotel
680 with a surprised look on her face. We answer that we thought the hotel was
fully booked. She tells us that the hotel isnít fully booked at all, she waited
there for us for a long time. We tell her the story we were told at the
airport. She doesnít need to hear the entire story to realise that we, and
indirectly she, have been conned, probably by the business partner of Irene Haneveld and herself. She is clearly
disgruntled at this situation but she says that she doesnít blame us. However,
this is not the end of the whole affair. The driver in service of the business
partner looks dumbfounded but wisely doesnít say anything.
So, I decide to tell Catherine about what happened three weeks ago, when we arrived
in Nairobi. I explain that we assumed that
everything was arranged by one company, namely Irene Haneveldís company. This is why we agreed to
go to the Masai Mara tomorrow instead of visiting the street children. We
thought we did so on the advice of some we thought was a colleague of Irene and
Catherine. She asks how much we paid, and Iím glad to see the price doesnít
startle her. We decide that we canít do much more than stick with the choices
we made. We do agree that this isnít the end of this matter. I promise
Catherine to phone Irene when we return to the Netherlands. I actually feel sorry for
Catherine because she tried her best to arrange everything well and now the
project falls through, on what may be considered a typical East African manner.
Rush hour in still isnít over when we leave for
the Carnivore to forget about all this for a while. This has been quite a
holiday. We never had so much setbacks during a holiday in Africa, but we learned much from this
experience. Fortunately, diner doesnít taste less good because of our problems.
We are served many different sorts of meat among which are ostrich, zebra and
crocodile. I decided I wasnít going to overeat myself. Iím able to stop exactly
on time. Itís a rather special experience to eat at this famous African
restaurant. The driver picks us up at the agreed time. Weíll have a long day of
travelling ahead of us tomorrow, so weíll quickly go to bed.
4/9 Nairobi Ė Masai Mara
Nairobi has woken up already when weíre having
breakfast in the restaurant at the hotel. Weíve got another half hour before
weíre going to be picked up, so we donít have to hurry. We already made all
preparations for the coming two days. Most of our luggage will stay in Nairobi. We are somewhat sceptical due to
our experiences this holiday and the way the organisations with which we
travelled treated us. It doesnít feel right to have to travel with an
organisation which tried to outwit you several times. But we still hope to be
able to see the Migration. Under these circumstances itís not difficult to
choose between spending two days in the Masai Mara or in Nairobi. We wouldnít want to spend two days
in Nairobi before going back to Amsterdam, despite Ireneís shelter for street
The minivan picks us up and takes us to the office where we booked the safari to the Masai
Mara. We leave our redundant luggage at this office. We leave for the Masai
Mara from this place with other people. When the vans are packed, we notice
that more people are coming with us, which wasnít what we agreed on. Somewhat
overly annoyed by our previous experiences this holiday we indicate that we
booked a safari for four people in a Land Rover. We all think ďthis canít be
happening.Ē Something to do with Murphyís Law also comes to mind. The driver
answers that the groups will only be divided this way for the duration of the
journey to the Masai Mara. He says that a minivan may even be better suited for
a safari in the Masai Mara than a Land Rover. We frown but hope heís right.
We leave Nairobi and drive to the Rift Valley. The
top of a mountain gives a marvellous view of the Rift Valley. Of course, there
are some curio shops at this magnificent place and, of course we have to go
inside them to see if we can find something special. I see some beautiful and
extraordinary items but I have met my match when it comes to bargaining.
We take a left turn at the bottom of the mountain. Soon after that, we park the car
again, in order to change the division of groups and to change cars. From now
on itís just the four of us in a car. Weíre moving at a slow pace and it may
take a while before we get to the Masai Mara. The condition of the road is
getting worse as we go along. There are more enormous holes in the road as we
drive further away from Nairobi. Sometimes there arenít even
potholes but entire pieces of road are missing. We drive in the direction of
Narok and sometimes itís better o drive by the side of the road than on it. In
Narok, we eat in a service area of sorts for people who are going on a safari.
The pace at which the guests arrive and in which the food is served is high. Of
course, everybody wants to get to the Masai Mara as fast as possible. Weíve
still got a few more hours to go until we get to the gate of the Masai Mara.
The cars regularly swap positions during the long drive. But finally we reach
the Masai Mara, as the signs along the red and dusty road indicate.Masai women are waiting at the Sekani gate to
make a few shillings.
We go on a game drive on our way to the campsite. The top is taken off the car, we stop
dosing and we soon see our first wild animals: Zebras, antelope, wildebeest
and, when weíre further into the park, a small herd of buffalo. A few cars are
parked at the herd. The buffalo move on to the plains when we approach and the
other cars move on as well. I see a shadow disappearing into the grass. I think
it was a lion, but Iím not sure and the animal canít be found anymore in the
grass. The Masai Mara looks beautiful. We try to spot animals on different
small roads. We pass by giraffes, elephants and a large herd of buffalo. The
sun canít resist the pull of gravity on the horizon and sinks lower into the
sky. We see an oasis of green amid the yellow plains. A few cars are busy
searching, so there must be something there.We drive over. This behaviour is typical of going on a safari in the
Masai Mara. When thereís a special sight to see, many cars crowd around the
scene. We are also guilty of this behaviour. We see a lioness at the point
where the bushes blend into the grass. After a while, we also see a few small
heads of three very young cubs. The cubs play with each other, suckle with
their mother and nuzzle up against each other. Each of these beautiful moments
is accompanied by a loud oooohhhh or hmmmmmmm from the car beside us. If only
that were all that came from that car: the piercing sounds of Spanish resound
over the plains as if we were at a market. Unbelievable. The lioness regularly
lifts her head to see where the noise comes from. Fortunately, our boisterous
neighbours leave and we can enjoy the sight of this beautiful family in
relative quiet before the sun goes down.
We drive to the campsite in dusk. We sleep at a tented camp near Sopa lodge. The tents are
put in a circle around a boma and thereís a small cafeteria where weíll have
diner this evening. Inside the boma, a few Masai men sit around a campfire on
which a large pot with meat is stewing in what could be soup. A dog walks
around to see if it can find something edible. I greet the men and sit beside
them. We strike up a chat and I introduce myself. One of the men sees the
necklace which I bought on Zanzibar hanging around my neck. He takes it
into his hand and pulls it toward him. I follow him with my head and hand in
order to prevent injury to my Adamís apple. He says he likes the necklace and
ask me if he can wear it for a while. I donít mind and I give him the necklace.
We continue talking in this way. He asks if we want to watch their performance
this evening, when theyíll sing and dance in the boma. Of course, we want to
watch, despite the fact that we already saw the Masai dance on previous
holidays. It gives them the chance to earn extra money.
A gong is sounded as a signal that itís diner time. In the restaurant, tables stand in
two long rows. I sit beside a Mexican couple. We talk about Africa and exchange experiences. I tell
the woman that Iíve made a website and giver her the URL. She tells me she
visited the website. Itís good to hear that someone from Mexico visits my website. The performance
by the Masai men starts after diner. First, I get my necklace back. Every time
I met Masai it was a good experience. It looks as if the man who borrowed my
necklace is the leader of the Masai who work here. The combination of his dark
skin, the red Masai robe, his slightly crooked teeth and Stetson is rather
nice. Maybe nice isnít the right word to describe him and comical would be more
apt. After a few songs and dances the ladies are invited to join in. Hand in
hand, the Masai and the women walk around the boma a few times. The long
travelling day has exhausted us. We go to our beds and soon fall asleep on the
5/9 Masai Mara Ė Nairobi
Our alarm clock indicates that itís time to get up. The black figures in the light blue
screen show that itís 5.30 a.m. This is the beginning of the last
day of our adventurous journey. It was quite an adventure. When we get out of
the tent, we can just make out the contours of the campsite. The day slowly begins.
We see more signs of life coming from the other tent. Some drivers already let
their engines tick over. We have a small breakfast and as far as weíre
concerned we can go on a game drive. Weíre eager to see what the last hours in
the Masai Mara will bring us. My Masai friend is also awake and greets us with
a wave of his hand and a broad smile, which shows all his teeth. When we leave
an orange glow is already visible at the horizon. The Masai Mara wakes up and
weíre here to experience it.
A hyena crosses the road in front of our car and looks back every once in a while to make sure
we wonít follow him. When he made sure weíll stay where we are he stands still
for a while. Hartebeest and Thomsonís gazelle stand in the golden yellow grass.
At little less than two hundred metres we see a car standing still near an acacia bush.
An animal walks toward us. Itís a big maned lion, which approaches in a regal
manner. The road is rather narrow and we stand at the right side of the road.
The lion passes us by without batting an eyelid and his body language exudes a
great deal of self-confidence. I follow the lion, which is now les than two
metres from the car and I temporarily loose sight of it due to the low sun. The
lion emerges out of the sun as a silhouette. It looks as if it knows exactly
where itís going. He stops for a short while and looks toward the hills with an
air of interest. I see a few hardly discernable dots move along the hillside,
where another car is parked. Our driver wants to drive on, but I ask him to
drive toward the hills. We could find something interesting there. The car
which was parked in front of us also follows the lion. Follow being the
operative word here, because there is hardly any room left between the front
bumper of the car and the lionís heels. Itís horrible. We try to get in front
of the lion by taking small byroads. The silhouettes on the hillside become
increasingly clearer as we come closer. The lion has to have a keen eye to be
able to see and distinguish the group at such a great distance.
We have to leave the lion here. We canít follow him with the car. Again, we try to get
close to him by taking a byroad. However, this road leads us directly to the
large pride of lions. Elephants stand at a distance and eat acacia leaves. This
pride of lions, which consists of two adult males, several females and many
cubs, is beautiful. There are approximately fifteen lions in all. Shortly after
we discovered the group, the lion we saw earlier approaches the group. Do these
lions know each other or are they strangers? If theyíre indeed strangers, will
it come to a fight? In short weíre keen to see whatíll happen. However, the
lion which we initially followed stays at a respectable distance in order to
prevent trouble. The cubs play in the knee high, golden yellow grass. Itís a
beautiful sight, as opposed to the seven cars which surround the pride. The
lions donít seem to mind, though. They slowly move in a westerly direction.
They occasionally stop to lie down, sit or play. The two males follow and the
third male walks along at a distance.
The two males lie down. They lie back to back in a brotherly way. They completely
disappear into the grass, only their manes are still visible. I can imagine
that youíd drive or walk by without noticing them. A cub walks over to the
males. This is cause for me to be extra watchful. Most greetings provide some
form of spectacle. The view finder of my video camera is focussed on the trio.
Then, all of sudden, itís as if everything within my viewfinder moves. Itís
hard for me to stand still. I was startled by the enormously loud roar the two
males produced, but I managed to keep them in my viewfinder all the same. A
short chase shows whoís boss. The other lion falls to the ground in a
submissive position. While heís on his back and has his paws in the air and his
teeth bared, the lion has to take several swipes across his head dealt by his
opponentís enormous paws. The lions temporarily find themselves at an impasse.
A lioness makes herself heard by giving a loud roar in the distance. She
gathers all the strength for this roar from her chest. When sheís done I focus
on the male lions again. The impasse hasnít been solved yet. The attention of
the winner of the first round wanes for a moment. The lion on the ground uses
this lapse of attention to his advantage. He quickly gets up and runs to the
road. The second lion shortly chases the strange lion while roaring loudly. The
winner stops the chase when heís two metres from me. The power of these animals
have is unbelievable and this spectacle is impressive to watch. The lion makes
a turn and walks past the car to return to his pride. The lions slowly move in
a westerly direction, followed by seven cars. A few topis walk by in the
distance. Of course, the lions already spotted them before we did and decide to
stay out of the topisí sight by going to the shelter of the bushes in a
lower-lying ditch. Now the lions are out of the topisí sight as well as out of
We drive on in order to leave the other cars behind and try to spot animals by ourselves.
We see a topi mother with a young, a few ostriches, among which one with a
fiery red neck, and a herd of buffalo. We have a short sanitary stop at a lodge
after which we relish our last moments in the Masai Mara. A troop of baboons
escorts us on our way back. In a bed of bushes we notice two cars which stand
still. People in a few oncoming cars tell us they saw a leopard near the bushes
but that it went into the bushes. We decide to have a look nonetheless. Itís
hardly doable to catch a glimpse of the leopard. We continually change our
position. Then we shortly see the leopard. The tangle of bushes releases the
leopard for no more than ten seconds. We decide to return to the campsite, the
moment the leopard goes into the shelter of the bushes. We arrive at the
campsite late in the morning. We didnít see the migration we hoped for after
We end our visit to the Masai Mara with a substantial lunch. When we are about to get into
the car, my Masai friend approaches. He will drive with us for a while because
he has to go to the village he lives in. He was told this morning that his wife
gave birth to a son. I give him my necklace and tell him itís a gift for his
son when heís big enough to wear it. Again, he smiles broadly. His entire
facial expression shows he loves this, which makes me happy.
We leave the Masai Mara by taking a road which is hardly travelled on. This road, which
is hardly ever used by tourists, takes us along several Masai villages. The new
father gets out of the car in the middle of nowhere and points to a village in
the bush in the distance. We stand on a hill, which allows us to just make out
the village. We say goodbye by firmly shaking hands.
We drive toward the main road to Narok through an area with many acacia bushes, on a
road which is hardly passable at times. We donít see anyone else. Itís a
special and adventurous route, for us at least. Just before we come to a rough
patch in the road, a car approaches. We stop when they pass and the drivers
exchange information. The oncoming car has an ad on it with a Dutch phone
number. The dialling code, which is 0571, gives us even more information. Itís
a dialling code from villages near us, either Twello or Teuge. The blonde woman
in the passengerís seat makes eye contact with us and asks us how weíre doing
in English. I ask her in Dutch if sheís from Twello or Teuge. Sheís surprised
at meeting Dutch people here and tells us sheís from Twello. I tell her we live
near her. We quickly exchange some information. The woman is called Ans Voskamp
and works for AV tours. The driver, David, is from Nairobi. He also works for AV tours and
tells us heís visited before. We take the card of AV
tours with us and say goodbye to Ans and David. Thereís not much of a chance at
meeting someone on this road. Thereís even less chance of meeting someone who
lives less than ten kilometres away from you here and still we managed to do
so. I think youíve got a better chance to win a few million euros in a lottery
than you have at having the meeting weíve just had.
We have to drive on a while before we get to the road to Narok. Before we reach Narok we
have to stop at a checkpoint. Our forms are checked here. Apparently something
is wrong with our forms. I donít even want to know whatís wrong now. We stop
for a short while at a curio shop by the side of the road. My instinct is to go
and look for a special souvenir, but my mind tells me to just leave it. This
may make me more particular than I normally am in what I want to take with me.
The afternoon goes by slowly, as slowly as weíre getting closer to Nairobi.
Weíll be flying to Brussels this evening. We probably wonít
have much time to freshen up. Dusk has already set in when we arrive at the
office from which we left yesterday. Itís odd, but it seems as if itís been
much longer. The driver wants to leave us here, but I tell him that we were
promised that heíd also take us to the airport. He is not convinced by my
story. I complain to an employee of the office and they immediately call the
driver. The transportation to the airport is arranged now. There is a short
moment of panic when we discover that part of our luggage with the souvenirs
disappeared. We check our luggage to see if we lost anything, which we didnít.
We later discover that we panicked for nothing because the luggage has been
moved to another place. There is a shower at the office, which fits the
surroundings of the office, so we can go to the airport relatively clean. We
check our luggage for the last time before we leave for the airport. Then
events follow each other relatively fast and weíre in Brussels before we know it. We have no
trouble on the flight to Brussels or on the train from Brussels to Deventer. Itís good to know that some things
do go according to plan, which weíre hardly used to after this holiday. The
setbacks, in itís many forms, were particularly new to us. We have trouble
enumerating all the setbacks we faced this holiday. But then again, the
setbacks have made this holiday into the experience it was. Would I have want
to miss out on this? Absolutely not, Iíve learned a great deal because of these
On the other hand, weíve also experienced many
special moments in the bush where we saw beautiful animals and stunning views.
Those moments will be etched in my memory. When you compare the special moments
to the setbacks, the joy at the special moments outweighs the annoyance at the
setbacks by far. So, weíve got good reason to go back again.