Serengeti - A Serendipitous Safari
Today, Ouvrou, I will kill two birds with one stone. As promised, here is the long overdue letter followed by a browse through my thousands of photographs before sorting, deleting and editing them starts in earnest. There will be no more gallivanting until I press post. I have been knee-capped with this missive, we've had appalling Wi-Fi connectivity for days now, which makes life impossibly frustrating.
Last time we spoke, you quite rightly said, “Maricha, you’re living your dream!” yes, we are. With my window wide open, I hear a dove with its incessant crow “le-ta-ba, le-ta-ba”. A reminder of my roots and how far we’ve come.
Spring is in the air; trees around us are sprouting new, shiny, soft apple green leaves which dance in the early morning air. In the sub-tropics, one can almost hear and see them unfurling. It happens so quickly. Mango trees are pregnant with fruit, and Butch even made a delicious green Mango chutney a few days ago.
A spicy family favourite his Dad used to make, fondly referred to as John Brand (burn) Chutney.
In my wildest dreams, I never imagined I would have an opportunity to go on Safari in the Serengeti, thinking Sir David Attenborough’s BBC documentaries would have to suffice.
It did not take too much persuasion for us to dip into the last of our savings, after our successful trip to Ngorongoro Crater, to accept Ernest’s quote for a four-night visit to the Serengeti National Park and Lake Natron. Rapha, our favourite guide, would accompany us with Chef Constantine.
The Serengeti (which means "Endless Plains or the place where the land runs on forever", in Swahili) is one of the largest parks in Africa but not quite as large as the Kruger National Park.
I’m sure you must’ve seen the groundbreaking 1959 film and read the book by Bernhard Grzimek and his son Michael entitled “Serengeti Shall Not Die”. If you recall, Michael, a cinematographer, died on location when the plane he piloted collided with a vulture.
“Serengeti National Park, in northern Tanzania, is known for its massive annual migration of Wildebeest and zebra. Seeking new pastures, the herds move north from their breeding grounds in the grassy southern plains. Many cross the marshy western corridor’s crocodile-infested Grumeti River. Others veer northeast to the Lobo Hills, home to black eagles. Black rhinos inhabit the granite outcrops of the Moru Kopjes.” ― Google.
Researchers have found that Serengeti National Park still has the highest number of globally threatened animal species like Black Rhinos, Wild dogs, Cheetahs and Elephants.
While we stood in our open-topped Safari vehicle enchanted by a pride of lionesses lazily stretched out while at the same time, their cubs frolicked, teased and nipped playfully at their siblings under a vast umbrella tree.
Rapha, who is vehemently opposed to hunting and guns (couldn’t believe gentle Father Butch hunted in his hay day), told us the Park was established as a game reserve in 1921 with only 800 acres of land by the British colonial administration after increased numbers of lions were poached around the Seronera area where the first American and his friend camped for one month and killed over 50 lions he told us, shaking his head and clicking his tongue in disbelief and disgust.
It is estimated that there are close to 3,000 Lions in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. Lions are the most sociable members of the more prominent cat family. Depending on food and water, they live in prides of 15 to 20 members, with up to three males, several adult females (one dominant), and numerous sub-adults and cubs. A few prides are boasting the title Super Pride!
It was reported on the 16th of March 2023 that the lion, Bob Jr. or Snyggve, named after Jamaican singer and songwriter Bob Marley and known as the king of the Serengeti, died. Younger lions likely killed him, BBC News reported. Rapha said he ruled Serengeti National Park with his brother Tryggve for seven years.
On our tick-list to see and photograph were the unique habitats like the riverine forests, a favourite spot for hippos and crocodiles. Other common animals are the long-neck giraffe and many other ungulates (hooved animals), such as the eland, zebra, topi, kongoni, impala, and Grant’s gazelle, which are resident at any time of the year.
August and September are the driest months in the Park and, according to the safari company’s website, not the best time to visit. Although difficult to predict, it is believed that the migration of the Wildebeest has already moved into Kenya.
The shrinking water supply in dams and lakes was evident when we saw massive pods of hippopotami wallowing suffocatingly close to each other in cramped mud pools and a little filthy water. Their frustration was evident as tempers flared.
Dominant males do not vacate a pool, no matter how dry it becomes. Young hippo calves and females are not a threat, but the sub-adult males, approaching sexual maturity, are quick off the mark, often losing fights with dominant males and being cast out of the pod.
They are forced to wander upstream in search of water and new territory. This infighting grows more contentious during the dry season as the hippos squabble over less and less water. Food becomes scarcer, and if the large, sub-adult males are forced to wander, they’re using up valuable energy, brawling with more dominant males as they move upstream.
Although a Hippo sighting is always exciting, they being so shy and elusive, I found the scenes depressing. One would think they’d have learnt their lesson by now; I’d lament to Butch, who would give me his sideways rolling eye glance and say, “It’s all instinct. If the species were threatened, they would’ve adapted and evolved.” He’d say wearily, just like that, picking up his binoculars dismissively.
You would love the birds in the Serengeti Sarine; this is a birdlife paradise with more than 500 bird species recorded. Rapha happily pointed out all the unique species in the area, like the bright green and yellow-coloured Fischer’s Lovebird or the Kori bustard with its impressive white beard. The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is one of Africa’s Endemic Bird Areas (land important for habitat-based bird conservation). Also, it hosts five bird species found nowhere else, half confined to the Tanzanian portion of the ecosystem.
With my beanbag set up, I tried to capture as many as possible while Rapha pointed them out with his excellent spotter’s eye.
To give you an idea of the varieties spotted and documented on my East African Bird App. There are seven different kinds of Rollers and 17 different kinds of bee-eaters to be seen! While in Tanzania (not the Serengeti specifically), we spotted 74 bird species.
On day one, we went from the southern Ngorongoro gate north. Along the way, we were mesmerised by the landscape; Serengeti National Park is carpeted mainly by savannahs.
This savannah landscape includes grasslands, plains, kopjes (or koppies), marshes and woodlands. Savannah is a general term for semi-arid land, from woodlands to open grasslands and all mixtures of trees and grasses. Savannahs cover one-quarter of the world’s surface. Savannah land can support more animals than any other land on earth. A common feature of the savannah is that it is vulnerable to wildfires. Savannahs will occasionally burn unless animals completely consume savannah grasses or if the savannah is frozen (temperate savannahs, such as tampas or steppes). With frequent fires and the potential to support massive herds of animals, savannahs are dynamic landscapes that may transform rapidly.
We have observed that grasslands are traditionally burned during the dry season. We saw evidence thereof and encountered veld fires during our Safari. We were told local people and farmers believe the veld has to burn to produce new, soft, succulent grazing for domestic and wild animals. It appears these fires are deliberately lit, not natural bushfires, as I supposed.
Bushfires can be started by natural causes, such as lightning strikes, or by people (accidentally or intentionally). Weather conditions and fuel conditions play a part in bushfires happening. Materials such as leaf litter, bark, small branches and twigs, grasses and shrubs can fuel bushfires.
The blue-hued smoke tinged large swathes of the landscape, and the pungent herby scent of burning scrub leaves lingered on the airwaves. At sunset, the smoke caused the perfect blood-orange setting sun so evocative of Africa.
On our first day, We were spoilt by seeing many Lions, a leopard fabulously posing in a tree, Wildebeest, gazelles, buffalo, giraffes and zebras.
But, it was not all work and no play. While we wended our way north, Rapha had our itinerary in mind, and just before sunset, we stopped at our campsite, where he and our private chef extraordinaire Constatine ( Costa) pitched our tents and laid out our mattresses and sleeping bags.
If truth be told, most guests on safari fly into the Serengeti and glide onto the airstrip in streamlined small planes, where safari companies’ guides await them with champagne in tall flutes and warm towels to mop their weary brows. They are decked out in designer Safari suits (not the crimplene ones so popular in South Africa in the 70s) but crisp linen ensembles.
Thank God the pith helmet is a thing of the past. Still, ladies have on their noggin Emthunzini Panama-styled hats “recognised by the Cancer Association as protection against the harmful effects of the sun.”
Some poor sods, just off the ship from England and the continent, looked like our “white Lighting” Alan Donald, cricket’s walking advertisement of zinc oxide, their noses and cheeks thickly plastered with block-out.
Camping is not big in Tanzania, and going solo in the Park is not popular due to the exorbitant fees. (Budget) Tourists like us, opting to camp, would do so with an adventure company like Foresight Eco Lodge.
Our tent, close to the communal kitchen and ablutions, was well placed (for obvious reasons), and soon Butch and I were relaxing with icy drinks clinking in our Yeti mugs while Costa carried his heavy crates of groceries and set up in the kitchen.
The communal kitchen was a hive of activity as arriving chefs lugged their ingredients in and set up to prepare dinner. Similar to the Superb Starling‘s song, there was a long ramble of rising and falling skirls and squeals as the chefs reunited and swopped recipes and caught up with news, sightings, and, I’m sure, their guest’s weird dietary requirements.
I know Rapha was relieved we weren’t vegetarians or, God forbid, Vegans when asked. This is carnivore country, and we love our meat, we assured him.
Soon, we heard corn popping on aluminium lids. During the sunset, hordes of campers arrived to pitch their tents in our bivouac. Butch and I nibbled on delicious, hot, salty popcorn, watching the performance unfolding around us.
Panicked, a very tall, robust Dutch girl realised she would not be sharing a two-person tent with her two best friends and feared for her life, crying out, “Daar lopen wilde dieren rond. Hoe zit het met de leeuwen? Finding her mates, she pleaded, twisting her blond braid nervously. “Vertel me dus wat er met mij zal gebeuren?”
Butch rolled his eyes and said, “The lions are asking the very same question, I’m sure.” And took a deep swig of his Serengeti Lager.
We laid our table under the stars (at least we could do that) with a colourful traditional Maasai cloth and were served a most delicious three-course meal by Costa. On the menu was a Creamy chicken soup followed by spaghetti bolognaise, creamy vegetables, baked pudding and custard for dessert.
Campers around us drifted off to the communal mess hall, where their respective chefs served them supper.
While we luxuriated in the cool night air, sipping our coffees and hot chocolate, the chefs tidied their kitchens and, I assume, prepped for breakfast.
We couldn’t keep our eyes open after a long, eventful day and snuck off early to read and ruminate on the day’s events.
Later, when it became quiet all around us, I could hear logs being added to the kitchen fire and hoped Costa would join his colleagues to chat and enjoy their communal meal or watch the fireflies while he relaxed, legs outstretched and savouring his last cigarette for the day.
We slept like logs. No animals sleep in the Serengeti; “The Lion sleeps tonight.” As we’re famously (and incorrectly) told in the musical hit The Lion King is false.
We’re invited to enjoy a cuppa at dawn before we set off for the day. Costa was up at 4 a.m. to start his prepping for breakfast. While we guiltily tucked into a scrumptious cooked breakfast, Costa and Rapha break camp and pack up the supplies. Together, we help Rapha repack the Land Cruiser. Teamwork is dreamwork.
The sun was still shining a golden light on the dry grasses and plains when, lo’ and behold, we spot a cream and blue candy-striped hot air balloon rising from a nearby field, its propane flames hissing as the flames keep the balloon aloft. In the enormous wicker basket, we glimpse an audience of passengers with cameras and binoculars at the ready.
As the balloon silently floated with the occasional click-whoosh, we noticed that they were being rewarded with a sighting of an elephant herd with youngsters quietly grazing, quite unperturbed by the cloud passing swiftly above them.
We were in awe at the spectacular sight—another iconic sighting. Three more hot air balloons rose and floated off before us.
Sarine; a Serengeti balloon safari must be the ultimate way to experience the vastness of the National Park. Just imagine floating above the Serengeti plains, skimming treetops in complete silence whilst seeing wildlife on the ground below. Being a witness made my day.
Rapha, knowing precisely what to do with us, insisted we visit the tourist information centre. There, we could stretch our legs, visit the facilities and do a self-guided informative walk through a small tourist village built on a Koppie in the village of Seroner. It comprises a reception area, video room, curio shops, a cafe with an outdoor seating area, administration offices and several illustrations about the Park.
An elevated walkway built around a cluster of rocks and trees details the wildebeest migration. Each point on the walkway represents a different point in the migration, with placards carrying information about that specific point.
We found the information extremely informative and educational. The Termite Towers, so common in East Africa, were fascinating and an engineering masterpiece. The tall towers work as ducts to cool the inner chambers, and the mounds provide lookouts for cheetahs, lions, mongoose, burrows for warthogs and territory markers for topis. Mongoose, bat-eared foxes, aardwolves, and even birds feed on tasty termites.
There is only one queen; she produces 1000 eggs per hour for up to 20 years. Her progeny each have a predetermined task as nurses, soldiers, cleaners, foragers and builders. A few are reproductively active and will sprout wings, enabling them to fly off to start new colonies.
Up high on a thick branch in an ancient tree, we spotted a reclining leopard who occasionally lifted his head to give us a beady eye before dropping his heavy head and falling asleep. I don’t mind how I see them. In my opinion, they are the unrivalled beauty queens of the cats.
Did you know? There are over 100 different dung beetle species in a tiny southern plains area. Some specialise in elephant dung, while others prefer Wildebeest dung. And so we live and learn.
We skedaddled over the plains in the old Land Cruiser with the pop-up roof, admiring the spectacular landscapes animals big and small. Guides keep in radio and telephone contact, and when something is exciting to see, we all hastily make our way to be part of the action.
This might be a conundrum for the purist, who’s done self-drive safaris in Nambia, Botswana and South Africa. For Butch, who is always the “Tour Leader”, this was a special treat, and he enjoyed the luxury of being ferried and catered for. Rapha would conveniently park at a sighting with a good view, and the excellent communication stopped the wild goose chase in its tracks. Our destination was predicted.
The downside was that one seldom had an exclusive sighting, nor could one, as we do, spend unlimited time at a sighting. We oftentimes enjoy a cuppa while watching a Kori bustard or Secretary bird pacing or scouring for a tidbit.
We never saw the photographic equipment commonly seen in places like the Kgalagadi, where serious enthusiasts bring out the big guns. I only saw one or two 500mm or more prime lenses at the Mara crossing. Most tourists, like me, occasionally use cellphones, iPads or point-and-shoot cameras, which confirms the thought that many visitors are doing a bucket list trip with a tick list. There is always an exception to the rule, but we were all there to capture memories, fulfil dreams and enjoy nature at its best.
Our second and third nights would be spent at Ikoma, another communal campsite with a kitchen and mess hall. This is not Rapha nor Costa’s first rodeo, and they knew it would benefit us if we arrived and set up our tents before the crowds descended on us.
Indeed it was. We pitched our tents in the shade of an acacia tree and settled in. Soon, we had our little camp table and chairs out. While sipping our sundowners, we enjoyed an uninterrupted view over the plains and spotted three lions scouring the horizon. Rapha suggested we keep shtum and quietly make our way over to the rocky outcrop. Our neighbour, Farshid, joined us on our un-“secret” mission across the plains to enjoy, for a short while, three lionesses basking on the cooling granite boulder, eyeing the plains for dinner. (There is an unwritten gentleman's code that guides adhere to: they always share knowledge of a sighting.)
This campsite on rolling green lawns was in better shape well-maintained, and the vistas were good. The modern ablutions were clean, and there was plenty of room to manoeuvre and accommodate all the campers.
Costa set up his workstation in the communal kitchen, and soon, the chefs were whipping up delicious meals. From the fires, pots and pans rattled, and fragrant steam wafted over to us with a promise of another delightful three-course meal.
While I scuttled off to shower, the water was warm, the floor dry, and I had the whole place to myself, Butch met our neighbour. Fashid. A delightful gentleman from the USA, a keen photographer with an artistic eye and more knowledge than the encyclopedia Brittanica. Later, when I caught up with the two men who were chatting up a storm in a camping mug, I was mesmerised, too. I do hope we meet up again sometime and resume our exciting discussions.
It was early to bed that night. The Italians sang a few songs, and I heard someone drumming from the mess hall while I drifted off to sleep. In the bush, lights out are early, and even the night owls are exhausted after a long day on the Serengeti plains. Quiet descended on us while the African night sounds started up.
On the vast plains of Serengeti National Park, comprising 1.5 million hectares of savannah, the annual migration of two million wildebeests plus hundreds of thousands of gazelles and zebras - followed by their predators begin their migration in search of pasture and water –and is one of the most impressive natural spectacles in the world.
We were up before the sparrows the following day to enjoy our coffee. Rapha suggested we leave early to enjoy our morning game drive, the best time to see cats and maybe a nocturnal beast before they go to ground for the day.
He had it on good authority that a herd of Wildebeest would be attempting to cross the Mara River.
He planned to take a shortcut before joining the “main’ road. Following us was a couple who embarked on a self-drive safari in a rental vehicle who had previously stayed at Foresight Eco Lodge and knew Rapha.
We would return to the same campsite afterwards; Costa didn’t join us but would take a well-deserved rest day while we embarked on our Safari across the plains without a compass or a GPS. Of course, we got lost, but fortunately, Butch used his offline, Mapy.cz and could reroute us, and soon we were back on track. I love unexpected adventures and found our short spell in the unknown bundus quite exhilarating.
Here are seven interesting facts about Wildebeest.
- The migration north toward the Maasai Mara occurs between July and October, but their exact movements and timing vary yearly.
- River crossings are dangerous while Hippos and Nile crocodiles lay in wait. In addition to predators that take advantage of the water, hundreds of Wildebeest could drown if they choose a time or spot to cross where the water is too high or fast. They will not cross a river if the water is too cold. Wildebeest have an acute, highly developed sense of smell, and it’s said that Wildebeest can smell rain in the air from thousands of kilometres away.
- During two to three weeks in January and February, wildebeest cows give birth to 300,000 to 400,000 calves. It is a feast for gluttonous predators such as hyenas and lions, who gorge themselves but soon become satiated, which reduces the risk of more calves falling prey.
- Newborn Wildebeest gain coordination faster than other ungulates. They get to their feet two to three minutes after birth and can run with the herd after just five minutes. They are known to outrun lions.
- With so many Wildebeest massed together, the chaotic separation of calves from mothers is common. To deal with this, calves and mothers drop out of the herd, calling as they trot in their search. Most are reunited.
- When the short grassy plains of the southern Serengeti dry out, the Wildebeest move west toward the Tanzanian woodlands, instinctively following routes where the weather determines good grazing and water.
- Though this massive seasonal movement is driven by the perpetual need for food, being constantly in motion helps Wildebeest evade many predators, who can’t follow herds very far because they are territorial and have young depending on them.
It took a few sightings of large herds of Wildebeest grazing lazily on the plains, moving slowly about, before the penny dropped.
The migration is enormous, but the migration and the crossing of the Mara River, which we were hoping to see, was not a once-off phenomenon where two million Wildebeest plunged perilously into the river hoping to cross. The stampede would kill hundreds of animals. This realisation dispelled the notion that “they have crossed into the Maasai Mara”, as we were told authoritatively in July.
Groups of Wildebeest, like families, are dispersed in large areas in search of good grazing and water. There were continuous crossings between July and October of hundreds of herds.
The news was good; someone reported there would be a crossing, and we were advised to get to the spot ASAP to secure a good vantage point.
That was all we needed to buckle up, secure our cameras and set off. Rapha was made for this, and soon, we were bouncing over potholes, culverts, and tree branches as we hurriedly made our way, within Park speed limits, to get to the apparent spot.
Fortunately, there was time to powder our noses along the way and to see new arrivals swarm from the "small" planes landing. With no time to dawdle, it was back into the Cruiser in double quick time.
The scene unfolding before us was reminiscent of going to the Drive-in Cinema in Nelspruit for a cowboy movie. It was pretty bizarre, with dozens of safari vehicles parked in rows along the river bank. All the drivers were confident that they had secured the best spot for their clients. The atmosphere was euphoric with anticipation.
We polished our lenses, replaced our camera batteries and inserted new data cards into our cameras. Butch still experiences nightmares about his camera giving him the message “only 1% battery” when the giant whale with her calf following close behind sailed out of the seas a few meters from us perched on the rocks in Hermanus. Butch was ready with his camera, aimed, focussed and pressed the button—battery flat.
Later, Rapha persuaded us to enjoy our picnic lunch individually wrapped for our convenience by Costa. Still no sign of the Wildebeest. The vehicle next to us was filled with American passengers who were there for their umpteenth migration and “would be right here next year, too,” the older man told us.
Eventually, watered and fed, I dozed and fell asleep. My gentle purrs woke me up. We had coffee and waited. I felt refreshed and ready—still no Wildebeest.
In a calm voice, not to get our hopes up, Rapha announced that he’d spotted a few animals slowly approaching in our direction. In a flash, we had our polished binoculars focused and trained on the indicated spot.
“Hell yea!" the vocal Texan drawled next to us in a stage whisper, his excitement getting the better of him. Indeed, there they were, five wildebeest grazing, looking up and slowly moving forward. Poli-poli.
And so the herd tentatively moved forward, the frontrunner braver, his snout slightly lifted to catch the breeze with water on its wings or a predator lurking, ready to strike.
When, at last, the brave male Gnu appeared barely concealed by the last tree, my attention was distracted by a key inserted into an ignition, turning and switching on the distinctive splutter, whine and whistle before cranking the safari vehicle into life as diesel fumes puffed blue. Fueling the rest of the back benches to fire up with boots on the pedal, they revved their engines and inched forward, ready to lurch, filling the gaps in the front row to get a better view.
As the humans jockeyed for better positions, the Wildebeest became braver, and an instinct written in their DNA kicked in. Like Indian braves, more animals started amassing on the edge of the river bank’s precipice.
When a thousand nervous beasts push, shove, and kick up dust, bucking and shaking their heads in anticipation, their noisy gnu-gnu-ing moans and explosive snorts egg the front runners on. Adrenaline and anticipation of water finally trump the fear, and the first animals buck and slide and scramble down the riverbank, kicking up thick dust clouds.
They will not move until they’ve tested the temperature of the water. Then, like sluices opening, an unstoppable Tsunami of brown hooves kicking, manes flying, and a thousand animals pushing against a gauntlet of perils come crashing into the sluggish water. There’s no stopping them now.
The lazy crocodile lies fat and sated on the hot sandbank a few hundred meters upstream, disinterested. He’s had his fill, and this herd lives to see another day.
There was a collective intake of breath and then silence as we, the spectators, watched, with nervous fascination, this natural wonder happening before us on nature’s big screen. And then, the click-click-click of fast shutters began as we all recorded what we were experiencing.
The first Gnu made it, and I could’ve cheered. Without delay they shook their coats and made off into the bush behind us. Relieved, we watched them kick their front hooves to grip the solid ground and run heads shaking.
An avalanche of Wildebeest poured into the river for at least half an hour before numbers came trickling and eventually settled as the last animals came through in drips and drabs.
And then a most peculiar event took place. A surging mass of nervous, highly strung animals turned about, pounced into the water, and inexplicably returned from whence they came.
This confusion of panic-induced running hither and dither happened for a while. Fortunately, we were informed that another herd was making its way to the river a kilometre downstream, which led to a mass exodus of safari vehicles intent on witnessing another crossing elsewhere.
We had seen and recorded enough of the migration, and after experiencing the human bunfight jostling for a better sighting, we wished the animals peace without our interference.
We took a quiet road home to our campsite, enjoying the landscape and peaceful herbivores grazing in the late afternoon and watched for a few minutes how a family of elephants crossed our path into the thickets.
Hundreds of hornbills also make a spectacular migration from the northwest Serengeti Savanna in Tanzania to the northwest Masai Mara Savanna in Kenya.
Some new tents were pitched on the campsite, and a few stragglers like us returned for the night after their game viewing. We had much to ruminate about before a spectacular dinner prepared by our Costa, who said he had all the time in the world to prepare our delicious meal.
I am still astounded by his use of ingredients, knowledge, creativity and ability to conjure exciting, colourful, well-balanced meals from a few crates and very primitive facilities. We had an Engel fridge tucked away so deeply in the recesses of our vehicle that we’d never seen nor heard grumbling.
Costa is a true genius, passionate about food, and a very knowledgable man who quietly slipped in a pearl of wisdom or wise word or two when he thought it appropriate. He is the chef I would be proud to present to my knowledgeable foodie friends who would enjoy a chef’s expertise at a private in-house function.
After supper, just before my eyelids became heavy, our dear Rapha joined us, luxuriating in our chairs. He entertained us with hilarious stories from his childhood. We were a delighted audience to a one-man show of a world-class stand-up comic. His theatrical renditions of his childhood and village life were insightful, comical and side-splitting. How his mother coped with this precocious, highly intelligent, mischievous child is anyone’s guess. I think he twirled her around his little finger until she was putty in his hands. I will always expect great things from you, Rapha. Remember, the world is your oyster.
After coffee and another delicious breakfast, we packed and stowed our tents and sleeping bags.
I packed my faithful turquoise Osprey backpack that has accompanied me to many wild and wonderful places, hikes, the Camino Portuguese with Lise, Italy with Butch and the Tozers, twice on the Fish River Canyon hike, the Whale trail and recently, Zanzibar. The stories it could tell. I still smell smokey campfires, Dettol and mozzie spray infused into its fibres, and mercurochrome stains. Drops dripped from my efforts at cleaning up my blistered feet.
Our last sighting was a cheetah stalking a herd of Wildebeest. We watched, captivated by his antics and hunting skills, as he zigzagged through the thick golden grasses with the wind on his face, cleverly using our vehicles as a decoy as he got ever nearer to the herd that grazed quite unperturbed. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in his attempt to down a calf and, once spotted, knew it was game over and slinked off into the veld.
We were heading to Lake Natron, but I will leave that rendezvous for next time, dear Sarine. You must be exhausted after reading this long-winded missive.
“I can shake off everything as I write about our never-ending journey. If you choose a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” Anon.
Take care Sarine, wrap up warmly and remember, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
P.S. We started our journey by travelling along the Ngorongoro rim, this time in daylight. Unsurpassed views, and the highlight was that we saw a few Maasai villages—a bonus. You'll note how different the landscape is.
P.P.S. While contemplating my navel and enjoying my morning coffee and rusks, I have a happy memory of my children migrating and running the gauntlet across Malan Street to spend half the day with you and Bubbles. How they enjoyed your sandwiches, hugs and the freedom to help push the lawnmower and wash the Volksie in anticipation of a slow drive to the village and their naps on your lap, Sarine. Such a privilege that was.