A First- Timer's View of Safari: Ensuring It Won't be the Last! Submitted by a Traveler
"Safari Adventures in Africa" was written by Mark Beaubein , traveling in Kenya and Tanzania with a small group hosted by our own Dennus Baum
Welcome to Kenya. Once our small prop plane landed on the dirt landing strip all travel from that point was off road. We were met by our Maasai guides and started our adventure before we even arrived at our camp. We saw a lot of wild life roaming the fields: Zebra, warthogs, gazelles rhinos and I found I was getting excited at the possibilities.
The camp was spectacular and I quickly became familiar with “glamping”. The tents were in fact canvas walls but the interiors were decorated and equipped like a high end hotel. Very classy and comfortable. All of our meals were outside with many of them served to us out in the bush.
We would spend the next 3 days rising early to do game drives. Our first day out we found two beautiful Cheetah’s. Of course this was an amazing sight but it was how close we were able to get to them that just blew my mind. Many of the animals we would encounter would be 10-20 feet from our jeep. And several of them would walk within several feet of us.
We were just above the equator at about 5500’ elevation. Nights were chilly and days would be dry and pretty warm. The colors at dusk and dawn are vibrant and warm. The landscape was dusty, grassy and scattered with older dead trees. Elephants like to knock them over and eat the roots. The land goes on forever and it is just beautiful. It would be easy to simply drive all day and never get tired of the beauty.
At night we could hear the sounds of wildlife until just after midnight. Suddenly everything became incredibly quiet until just before sunrise. It’s amazing to listen to and then watch the animals come to life.
The camp compound is open to animals coming and going, except the elephants. They’re kept out with a surrounding electric fence. There were guards to monitor the animals and ensure the camp was safe.
We had the great fortune of engaging with some amazing people at a Maasai village. They value higher education and are incredibly smart while maintaining many of their ancestral traditions. The children from all around were so full of life and always so excited to see us. At this stage of the trip I found Kenya to be an amazing and magical place.
Arriving in Maasai Mara, the landscape changed quite dramatically. Many more hills, greener pastures, not so many elephant-ravaged trees. Though the Lewa Conservancy was amazing we were introduced to a whole new world here. The amount of wildlife increased dramatically. One thing that was blatantly noticeable was the amount of animal remains in sight. It seemed like every couple minutes of driving we would pass a carcass or skeletal remains. We came across an untouched skeleton of a fallen giraffe. Laid out just as it had fallen. Not to dismay though, there was an equal amount of new life everywhere. Circle of life you know.
This camp, though very nice accommodations, definitely felt more like a camping safari. The tents were nice but not as glamorous as the previous camp but very comfortable nonetheless. Each morning we were delivered hot coffee and cookies with our wake up call. My tent was just by the river. Walking about 20 feet from the tent there was a pod of hippos. Very cool, except they were a bit noisy at night. No electric fence around this camp. One night I was woken to the sound of heavy steps just outside the tent and then the snorting sound that could only come from some large beast. It truly sounded like it was right over my head.
We had our first sighting of a male lion having a zebra dinner. As with so many other times, we were able to drive up to within 15-20’. Seeing this animal that close and devouring a fresh kill was just slightly intimidating. The lioness showed up with the family and it was a spectacular sight.
We had the opportunity to witness a beautiful sunrise while riding in a balloon. There were so many animals everywhere and gave us a much different viewpoint. As it was becoming customary, we had our breakfast served to us out on a hillside right after our landing. What a view to watch a small herd of elephants march by us while sipping coffee.
In addition to our newly sighted hippos this is our first time to see hyenas. Not to be judgmental of one species but I immediately found these guys to be simply creepy. It appears that they have no eyes, just eye sockets. Until later in our journey I designated these guys to be the most creepy animal in Africa.
Another day after an early morning game drive, we stopped for b’fast on a river bank. The bank was about 15’ high so we had a great view watching hippos and crocodiles. Those crocs are of a ridiculous size that one could only appreciate by seeing up close. We were told that it was not uncommon for people to be attacked while fishing or washing clothes in the river.
Day after day I told myself that we must have seen it all by now, but each presented itself with more incredible life and beauty. This experience hyper stimulates all of your senses. The vastness of the landscape and endless skies. Life in its most raw form with death and life being equal players. The sounds of life especially at night when you have nothing to look at. The smell of firewood continuously in the air. The cold nights replaced by the dry warmth of the equatorial sun. Africa is an amazing place.
On to Tanzania. The border crossing between Kenya and Tanzania was super busy and very third world. Lots of road side merchants surrounded by a lot of chaos. Buildings that have been hastily erected and jammed together competing for sales space. There was a constant movement of people coming and going similar to any major market place. People walking, on motor bikes, in speeding cars. Motor bikes carrying loads way too big for them to handle with their riders delicately balancing those loads. Miscalculation leads to collapse and required assistance getting things back on track.
Another small prop plane ride departing from one dirt landing strip to another. The accommodations continued to be so much more advanced than the actual adventures. It amazed me just how much the terrain continues to change. Tanzania has so many more rolling hills and large amounts of golden colored boulders. Trees appear to grown from inside them. Remember The Lion King with Pride Rock? Yep, that sums it up. And just to make the image stick we encountered just that. A pride of lions hanging out on these boulders. And for a guest appearance we were able to catch some great photos of what appeared to be Simba himself strutting across those boulders.
In Kenya I said that I thought Hyenas were the creepiest animal I’ve seen. Well here that thought has been replaced. We came across a large number of Vultures picking clean the remains of some poor beast. Remember how creepy those flying monkeys were in the Wizard of Oz. Yeah, that’s these guys.
We were fortunate enough to be here at the tail end of the migration season when herds of animals migrate between Kenya and Tanzania. We watched a herd of wildebeest and zebra on the other side of a river. Basically there is this water crossing that is a very long process for these animals. All along the river there are multiple possible crossing points. The animals will gather together and try to decide whether to cross. Keep in mind that there are thousands of these guys. Some will get right down to the river to check things out to see if it’s safe to cross or not. If one of them gets skittish then the whole herd will move to the next crossing point.
We watched these guys do this whole decision or lack of over the course of a day until finally they made a crossing. It was such an awesome sight to see so many animals and so much energy do this crossing. The herd running down this bank, kicking up dust behind them while splashing the water in front of them. Wow, it so exciting to watch! Now, keep in mind why they were so hesitant to cross to begin with. They were afraid of being attacked by some predator in or out of the water. From the distance through my lens I watched the other side of the river where there was a lion who began chasing after them as they came across. It was like watching a dog chase after cattle. Bouncing from beast to beast until finally she latched onto the neck of one small unfortunate victim.
On our last day here we drove the endless Serengeti just watching random animals until all of the sudden Walter stopped the land rover and very quietly said, “lions hunting”. At the bend of the road just on the other side of a mound were 3 lion cubs and their mother. The three little heads sat motionless with all 6 eye intent on a zebra in-between us and them. The prey was too far for the mother to chase so it was simply a waiting game. And then, one of the cubs shook his head most likely due to flies, and the wait was over. All the zebras in the area spotted them and a long staring contest began. Needless to say there was no hunt. At this point all I could imagine was little childlike voices saying, “Bobby! What did you do! Mom’s going to be so pissed.”
I have to say that this was an amazing and eye opening adventure. A once in a lifetime event that I will never forget and have stories that I will share for years to come.
By Mark Beaubien, Traveler- Seattle