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On To The Central Serengeti

As we moved to the Central Serengeti, we found places where there was obviously much more rainfall, making for more greenery, and larger herds of animals, plus some we hadn’t seen before.



We saw lots of scavengers. They had a lot to choose from!


These aren’t your storks that bring babies! They’re scary looking!


Secretary bird


A baby vervet monkey. They were so cute!






Dik dik (the smallest of the antelopes)

One of our funny stories of the trip was “The great sandwich theft!” This cute vervet money came right up to the truck and I snapped a photo right before he jumped onto the back of it. I told our guide, and he looked around, but didn’t seem concerned. Then the monkey jumped into the open top, opened Mr. Tattered’s boxed lunch, grabbed his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and jumped out. I was so shocked I couldn’t even lift my camera to get a shot. I had no idea what he was doing, and I was afraid he was going to bite me! This was NOT his first rodeo. He knew EXACTLY what to do and was in and out in a matter of seconds.


male leopard


We’d already seen 4 of the “big five” animals (Lions, Leopards, Elephants, and Buffalo) and were hoping to see the last, the Rhino. We never got real close, but we DID see one from a distance. That counts, right?

The big 5, surprisingly to me, weren’t the most common ones, but the ones most “trophy” hunted. That distressed me. MY big 5 were the lions, giraffes, hippos, elephants and the….well, there’s probably a 10-way tie for 5th place. Heeheehee!

Tomorrow we head for Gnorongoro.







On this day we left the Serengeti and passed through Maasai land on our way to Ngorongoro, a giant crater at about the 9000ft level.


As we neared the crater, everything was covered by red dirt.

We saw more lions here than anywhere else, but aside from new birds, there were not a lot of “new” species. Which didn’t surprise me. I mean how many more can there be???



This one was taken with NO magnification. She was that close…

This is one of my favorite photos of the trip. The male lion has eaten his fill and looks like a guy in his recliner after a big meal. Notice the herd of wildebeest in the background who know they are safe for the moment!

The thing that DID surprise us was how cold it was at night. I mean, it’s at a high elevation, but for some reason that didn’t equate to cold to me. Had it not been for the hot water bottles they put in our beds, Mr. Tattered may have frozen to death. He got his, AND mine! I was comfortable. Heeheehee!

We did see a baby rhino (again, from a great distance, but hey, some people never see them at all, so we were grateful for what we got!)

One of my favorite stories, was the one about how the white-headed buffalo weavers find their mates. The males build the nests, then the females find the nest they like best, and accept the male who built it!



I guess if I had to give up one area we went to, this would be it, but it had its own charm, especially when it came to the lions. We did see a TON of them. So enjoy a few more photos, then tomorrow we’ll move onto Manyara Lake.










Overflow Northern Serengeti

As I put together the post on the Northern Serengeti, I realized there were way more photos I wanted to show you. So, I’ve put together another array, but I’ll let most of them speak for themselves… Enjoy!


















Okay, so that’s an overview of the Northern Serengeti. There were lots of smaller animals and many more birds, but you get the idea. If this had been it, it would have been an amazing trip, but there was more to come!


Northern Serengeti

We flew from the small airport in Arusha into the Northern Serengeti on a tiny little plane, landing on a dirt air strip (Kogatende) in the middle of nowhere. It was quite thrilling.

Our permanent guide met us there, having driven up with our suitcases, and we immediately headed out to the Mara River, the dividing point between Kenya and Tanzania, where the Great Migration takes place.

We were seeing animals right away – We had to laugh. As excited as we were to see a few animals at a distance in Arusha National Park, it was just awe-inspiring to see many, many more up close!

Impala were first, followed by zebra…





The migration of the wildebeests from Kenya to Tanzania was our primary reason for choosing Tanzania, and although we were towards the end of the migration, it didn’t disappoint. The first 2 days we saw smaller migrations, just a few thousand at a time. Day 3 we saw many, many thousands.

One of the more interesting parts of it was that frequently, the wildebeests waited for the zebra, who have a good memory for the crossing points to go, then they follow. In the absence of the zebras we couldn’t tell what the tipping point was that took them from milling around to taking the plunge.


Although the river looks pretty calm, there is quite a current, and for the younger animals, the crossing is treacherous. Many get separated from the herd, and these are waiting to pick them off…

We only saw one get taken down, but there were many we were afraid would drown.

Mothers and babies would get separated in the river. Once the mothers got across, they would begin calling out to their babies. It was heart-warming to see them connect up. Some of the animals were so exhausted when they reached shore, they’d collapse to rest for a few minutes before continuing their journey.


Also in the river were large groups of hippos. They stay mostly in the river during the day, then move onto shore at night to graze.



We also saw giraffes and lions.

And elephants. Lots of elephants.





Late afternoon the first day we saw cheetahs hunting. They just casually sauntered by the herd of wildebeests, trying to act like they weren’t interested. We’d been there for quite awhile, and it didn’t look like they were going to attack, so we left. Minutes later our guide got word they’d made a kill so we went back. It was gross, but part of the circle of life we knew we’d see.


I swear, if this was ALL we’d seen it would have been fabulous. But there was so much more. I think I’ll probably need to add some more photos from the Northern Serengeti tomorrow. And then there’s still 4 more places!!!



Next Up, Tanzania – Arusha National Park

After our Gorilla trekking, we flew from Kigali to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania, to begin our 11 days on safari.

There are 6 major areas of Tanzania that are “don’t miss” things, Arusha National Park, the Northern Serengeti, Central Serengeti, Gnorognoro, Lake Manyara, and Tarangire. And we decided since this was probably going to be a one-time visit to Africa, we’d do them all.

The one thing we didn’t schedule was down time, and we should have. We severely underestimated the toll that the washboard, pot-holed, bumpy dirt roads, lack of vegetarian protein, traveler’s diarrhea, and side-effects of malaria medication would take on us oldsters!

But, in spite of the difficulty, we had just an amazing trip, full of surprises. We saw more animals than we ever dreamed we’d see, and many of them very close up. I really don’t know how to do the trip justice, so I’ll just jump in, area by area, and show you my favorite photos from each, adding explanation as necessary, and of course adding an off-the-wall photo from my tattered lens. I hope you enjoy.

Our first day “on safari” was spent in Arusha National Park. The first peek we got at the wildlife was an area called “the little Serengeti.” All the animals were quite a ways away from the road, but it was still exciting to see them.

We saw water buffalo, zebra, gazelle, bush-back antelopes, and giraffes right away. We knew it would only get better from there.

Our first close ups were monkeys – vervet, and blue-faced.


We did a couple of miles of a walking safari with a park ranger. I can’t tell you how odd it was to be walking around with the giraffes, buffalo and wart hogs right there. It was nothing like seeing them in a zoo.



Back in the safari vehicle, we looped the park, seeing scads of olive baboons and flamingos.




One of the most interesting birds we saw was the crowned crane (shown here with a sacred ibis, too.)

We saw quite a few colobus monkeys, too. The guide said we were lucky because they tend to be pretty shy. We came upon a group that sat still and watched us (although I did take a lot of pictures of black and white blurs jumping from tree to tree!)

From Arusha, we flew to the Northern Serengeti on a little 10-seater plane, and that’s where things got REALLY crazy! Stay tuned.

Rwanda’s Silverback Gorillas

I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that we were in Rwanda. Rwanda, Africa, as in genocide…

A lot has changed in the 23 years since then. And what an amazing transformation they’ve been through.

When we made plans to go to Rwanda, it was to see the Silverback Mountain Gorillas, not to learn about the genocide, but learn about it, we did. I believe most tours that go to Kigali start at the Genocide Museum. They want the world to know what happened, and how they’ve recovered.

It was an incredibly disturbing, emotional experience, but one I’m glad we had. Part of the benefit of traveling is seeing how other people live. It seriously does change your world view. We live such sheltered lives here.

I had considered just skipping writing about this, and getting right to the animals, but I would be doing an incredible disservice to an amazing people if I did that. And there were some pretty scary parallels with what is happening in America with the “us and them” stuff that seems to be accelerating. So bear with me.

I don’t want to give you a history lesson. If you’re interested, it’s easy enough to look up. Its WORTH looking up. Somehow, I slept through it as it occurred.

The bottom line is, about 1,000,000 Tutsi men, women and children were slaughtered. Many thousands of additional Tutsi women were raped and infected with HIV, many giving birth to HIV infected babies. Children who had gone into hiding were left as heads of households. Our guide for our time in Rwanda lost an aunt, uncle and brother. He was 16 at the time, and took us for lunch at the hotel where he was hidden.

The genocide lasted about 3 months, and by the time it was over the country was shell-shocked.

The new President told the people the the only way the country would ever heal, would be if they forgave the perpetrators, and they did. They worked together and put the country back together, everyone working for the good of the whole. Amazingly, Rwanda has become one of the success stories in Africa, with a comparatively vibrant economy. The people are hard-working, industrious. Saturdays are community days and everyone works to clean up there community. It is rare to find a piece of trash on the ground, and women can be seen sweeping the dirt roads and pathways all over the villages.

And now, tourism is very important to their economy, and the gorillas are at the heart of it. 80 passes per day to see them are sold every day. They need to be purchased well in advance. The price just increased from $750 US dollars to $1500, and does not seem to be having a negative impact on the sale of passes. The money is spent protecting the gorillas, and a portion is divided among the the local communities to fund education and social services.

There are 20 gorilla families, but only 10 are available for people to visit. The rest are set aside for studying. Each of the 10 families have a group of 8 people visit them each day for 1 hour. The rest of the time they are left alone to do what gorillas do… eat, rest, travel. Each family is composed of a silverback and his “harem” and their children.

Trackers follow the gorilla families through the jungles, both to protect them from poachers, and to report to camp where they are. Then the determination is made as to how difficult it is to get to them, and groups are formed based on the participant’s physical ability to get to them… easy, medium or difficult.

We were encouraged to do a “medium” trek the first day, going to see the Sabyinio family.

But as the gorillas traveled it was actually a “high side of medium,” much more challenging than I expected. Some of the inclines over large rocks were daunting. The porters carrying our backpacks were incredibly helpful. They were determined that they would get us to the gorillas, offering boosts up, and a steadying hand. There were some places where the rocks we were climbing on were almost like climbing straight up a ladder. I honestly don’t know how I made it up.

But, just as the articles I read predicted, once you see the gorillas, it all feels so worth it, and you forget how much you hurt.

The gorillas are completely uninterested in people. They go about their business, barely even noticing you are there. But just in case, the guide taught us a few submissive positions to assume and sounds to make, should they get alarmed. And they ARE wild animals, so the trackers carry guns to fire warning shots if need be. We never felt at all like we were in danger.

We couldn’t believe how close we were able to get to them. My camera had a hard time with the low light conditions, so my photos aren’t the greatest, but you’ll get the idea. Our first look was just jaw-dropping.




We saw the gorillas feeding, mamas nursing their babies, and “teenagers” swinging in the trees. Our hour flew by, and before we knew it, it was time to head back down the mountain.

Getting back down was much easier, and of course, we were higher than kites having witnessed something so special. But we were exhausted.

During the night, it occurred to me that there was no way I would be able to do it again the next day. I tossed and turned, fretting all night. In the morning, I suggested that we not go on the planned 2nd day. Mr. Tattered jumped on the idea, and we broke the news to our guide. He suggested we do a cave visit that started from the same place. BUT, when we got there, he found out that a new family that didn’t even have an official name yet was right inside the park and much easier to get to, so they put together a group to see that family, and we got to be a part of it.

What a remarkable difference. There was still quite a bit of walking, but it was rolling hills instead of straight up, and we did fine. This family was headed by a silverback who had killed 2 other silverbacks in an attempt to take over their families, but both sets of females refused to follow him. He ended up stealing a couple of women from other families and starting his own family. His history was slightly unnerving, but he seemed so mellow.

The trackers for this group were so accommodating. They cut down bamboo to help us get better photos, and were constantly changing our positions so we could get closer. It was an all around much better experience than the day before. We were SOOOO glad we went! The photos are MUCH better, AND, they were taken with my iPhone instead of my fancy camera!




The baby was goofing around, and


swung right onto Mama’s head!

And my very favorite photo…

It was one of the most incredible experiences of our lives, and I’m so glad we did it, but it won’t be one we’ll be repeating!


Out of Africa!

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a month since I last posted. But here we are.

The week before we left on vacation, I was up to my eyeballs getting ready to leave, and now we’ve been out of the country on the adventure of a lifetime!

It was one of those fabulous vacations that you are so glad you went on, but are so happy to have over!

Africa is an amazing place, but part of what makes it what it is, is that it is so hard to get to, and a challenge once you’re there, at least for us, shall we say, mature folks. Old age ain’t for sissies, and neither is going on safari for 12??? days, 8-10 hours a day, on dusty washboard roads, day after day, sleeping with one eye open because wild animals are right outside your hard-sided tent, trying to remember not to put your toothbrush under the tap because you’ll come down with God knows what intestinal distress, and getting it anyway because you forgot the fresh tomato sandwich you had every day (for lack of a better choice) are grown in the same filthy water.  Add to that, being vegetarian in a country that doesn’t really understand what that means, concerns over potential side effects of malaria medication, and packing up every 2 or three days to go to yet another camp…It was interesting, educational, thrilling, exciting, and HARD!

I’m pretty sure Mr. Tattered is through with expedition type vacations, but fortunately I can’t think of any I’m dying to take, so I think we’re okay. China, Cambodia and Vietnam (set for next fall) seem pretty tame in comparison.

So. Now I need to figure out how to convey the spirit of the trip in as few posts as I can, so I don’t bore you to death.

This was one of our sunset photos, one of my favorite non-animal photos of the trip!

Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll have a set of gorilla photos ready to go!


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