Day 5- Serengeti National Park

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Day 5 started us in the Sergenti National Park, where we had pitched camp the night before. Brekky was scheduled for 6am so I set my alarm to give us enough time to get everything ready. It was only about 830 when we went to bed so it was really loud and we put our earplugs in or we’d never sleep.

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Of course, in the night I had to go to the bathroom. I took my earplugs out and heard all sorts of noises including crashing around in the kitchen and a whooping noise. I couldn’t remember if the whooping was the zebra or hyena- because seriously, the zebra make such odd sounds. I felt I wouldn’t dare try to go to the bathroom alone so woke Bryan up.

He was confused but understood my request (and probably would have been upset if i hadn’t gotten him up). He heard all the noises too and agreed. Mat had taught us to shine our headlamp around and if you see red eyes, get back in your tent, because red eyes mean a predator. If the eyes are white it’s ok…so the first thing, Bryan said, “Use your training [from Mat]!”

Imagine my surprise when I shined my light around and saw multiple pairs of white eyes- many- including ones pretty close and very low on the ground. This was super confusing because it made me a bit more startled as I had two kinds of animals to contend with! It was a bit creepy but we figured out the majority of them were zebra grazing right next to the tents- and we guessed the other was some small animal like a bunny or something (if they have bunnies here?). 

They whooped it up as we noticed there was one right next to the doorway to the women’s bathroom. Zebras are kind of shy so they don’t let you get very close before they just walk off. They never run- they are too cool for that- but they will never let you get close at all, moving carefully to keep the same amount of distance no matter what you do (believe me, I have tried). In their general custom, the zebra near the door moved away so I could get into the bathroom. Bryan told me to wait for him- very seriously, I might add- which of course I was going to do! Especially after seeing how many animals were out there.

When we got settled into our sleeping bags again, neither of us were going to use our earplugs so we could hear the animals (because we like them, not because we’re scared)- but then of course, we were trying to figure out what each noise was.Bryan fell asleep much faster than I but eventually, whooping zebras lulled me to sleep again too.

I woke up a few times in the night, but at 430 Bryan heard one lone cook getting up so he woke me up to see if we needed to get up yet. The entire camp was silent otherwise so I scolded him for waking me up when NO ONE ELSE was, just to ask me if it was time to get up!? He knew I set the alarm and I am pretty sure when more people got up and going we’d hear them- never mind the plan B would likely be that no one would just leave us behind…

I had trouble falling back to sleep so I ended up just getting going sooner than planned, which was fine because the bathrooms are less busy then and there are only 2 western toilets…although I will say when it is required you sit and paper is scarce (or not at all in this case as it was gone within an hour of our stay), squatting over a big hole with nothing to get dirty and nothing to touch, is hygienically rewarding. I never thought I’d say that as it feels so primitive to use them, but in the western toilet, I would just have to line the seat- with precious paper I don’t have much of otherwise- so this was for the best.

Bryan and I were first to brekky which was a crepe, a piece of omelette with tomato and then a piece of french toast. I wasn’t sure if I dared drink coffee but I didn’t want to feel drowsy while trying to find animals either, so I took the risk and hoped this wouldn’t be a repeat of Etosha with me peeing behind the truck illegally, hoping a lion didn’t jump out of the bushes…

We ate pretty quickly as it was time to get going to see all the animals first thing. Really, dawn and evening are the best times- while the animals are not trying to escape the sun- so you want to get going quickly. It took everyone a bit longer than we’d have imagined to get going- Spear, mostly- and even though I was anxious I knew there would still be plenty to see 😉

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The water buffalo from the night before were still pretty much in their area so they were our first spot for the day, but as we drove down the driveway of the campsite we saw a hyena running. Spear didn’t seem keen to stop, which was a bit annoying because we hadn’t seen a hyena that close yet (although admittedly, it still was a bit far away for an impressive pic)…but hyenas are not usually a huge draw for most people either. They get excited to see one or two, but then quickly grow bored- perhaps Spear grew very bored of seeing them.

We quickly spotted  two cute dik diks which are so adorable it hurts. I also saw an impala with a little baby that didn’t look much bigger than Meatball- but this was something only I saw and didn’t yell out about it because no one stops for impala after their first few encounters. Frankly, you’d never get anywhere if so 😉

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We saw a lot of great animals including more dik dik, a warthog and a hartebeest, which is a more unusual antelope and we only saw a few of them on our last safari- Mat seemed surprised and excited so I know they must be a bit unusual. They have wildebeest looking faces but are brown and darker brown with shorter horns that look more like the are covering their entire forehead rather than growing out of it.

Up ahead we could see some trucks stopped, which always means there’s something good to see. This was a lioness leaning against what I thought was a log (but turned out to be a water buffalo she’d killed) with 3 baby cubs!! The cubs were crawling around and eating a piece of red meat- and this is when i realized the entire water buffalo carcass was their jungle gym!

This is where I can’t understand what Spear is thinking because he did NOT give us much time here at all. Definitely not enough for the whole splendor of it for sure, never mind getting some vids and such, before he was moving us along. Turned out there were 2 other lionesses nearby and we got a close up good look at them, so that somewhat made up for his haste…but really, 3 cubs a kill and their mom. That’s worth at least 5 minutes!

Shortly after that we came across a male lion, sunning his face as the sun rose. He would sniff the air, close his eyes and enjoy the warmth. It was very cool- he wasn’t too far away, maybe 30 feet- when suddenly the truck lurches forward nearly knowing all of us down and he drives off the road toward it!?

It was crazy, I was scrambling to get the camera zoomed out but he circled this lion and came within 5 feet of him! The lion looked up at me and I caught a great glimpse of his eyes and the look of “WTF” on his face as he started grumbling a bit about being disturbed. He seemed to be asking, “Why, dude?”, which was actually my response too! I mean it was awesome, but we were all so unprepared for it in terms of catching it on cam)- and really, it was too much; you shouldn’t disturb the animals like that- even much as I loved looking into that lion’s eyes…

We saw 2 more lionesses sleeping under a tree about 30 feet away, which was pretty cool and brought the tally to 9 lions already- and we’d not even been on the drive for an hour! We also saw the slightly less exciting secretary bird and Egyptian goose, as well as some giraffe- which never really get tiring to see. They are such BIZARRE animals?!

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Next was an impressive herd of elephants walking quietly in a row with 3 or 4 babies (I will have to check the pics to remember)…this was awesome, until I saw one straggler in the back- a moderately young, but past teenage stage, female who was limping! She looked like she was really trying but with every step she fell further and further behind. I just kept saying “oh no, oh no”, because I was actually worried she’d stop and collapse right there- which would have seriously broken my heart. 

She stopped liked she’d found something to eat, so if the others noticed they just think she wasn’t paying attention…but she started out again before anyone really noticed…She limped along until we drove off…I still shudder when I think of this and I was very sad for a while after that; I just couldn’t get rid of the sinking feeling, knowing what would happen to her if her leg/ foot wasn’t able to be fixed (which it almost certainly will not be attended to in the first place).

Before you start crying, we saw another 3 lionesses on a small hill, but they were far enough away it was hard to photograph so we didn’t linger for too long (appropriate stop). As we drove around the corner I recognized this was where all the cars and the leopard with the kill was from the night before. There were a few trucks stopped and pointing- so we knew we’d see something.

There were 2 leopards actually, but I only saw one as it jumped down. Somehow everyone else saw them both hanging out, but I just could not figure out where they were, which is pretty unlike me- usually i am often the first to spot something! It was definitely cool they were there, even if I didn’t get “see” them too much.

We drove around for a bit and suddenly came across a lioness walking away from a few others who were sleeping. Spear backed the truck up to follow her path more, when suddenly she laid down in front of us. She was on the other side of a small creek but it was still a really close, clear view..suddenly the reeds nearby started moving and a large male poked his head out just as the other females walked over and laid down against another!? This was a great image for sure- 5 lions in one picture?!  Awe striking, really. The male got up like he was going to walk out and put on a show, but instead foiled us and went deeper into the reeds- in true rock star fashion: “no pictures, please”.

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Shortly after, we came to a herd of elephants all standing still under a tree- and one baby was laying down. For a moment we thought the baby was hurt, but then we saw all their eyes were closed and they were all sleeping?! Spear said they have to sleep at least an hour- I am not sure if that’s a day, or after walking to wherever they are going but before going back. It was pretty cool and they looked so cute all huddled under the tree.

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We turned around and found a troop of baboons hanging out and chilling before finding another elephant grazing nearby (likely a bull who was kicked out of the herd for getting too old and is on the hunt for a wife of his own). As we pulled away and passed another truck, I saw a kid about 11, playing on his phone/ tablet while this entire amazing scene was playing out 20 feet in front of him. I’m sorry but I would not allow my kid to do that- had I even brought my too-young-to-appreciate-it child along for such an adventure?! How sad for the kid really that he couldn’t even just stop and look- at least for as long as everyone else was enjoying it (if he was “done”).

We turned back and passed where the lionesses were on the hill and we saw a male lion wandering around nearby. as well, we saw one of the female who suddenly paused, got super stiff then started off after an impala! The excitement (which ended up happening behind a bunch of bushes and apparently I had turned my phone off, rather than to record), culminated with the lioness stopping and the impala getting away. It would have been super cool to watch the hunt, but I probably would have been upset to see an impala killed in front of me too- so I can just appreciate that I saw the moment she decided to try going after it as an amazing, not often experienced sight!

After coming across 3 more lionesses under a tree sleeping- and then later, one sitting on a rock in the blazing sun, panting, as another laid nearby- this brings the total to 23, which is of course immensely appealing (as this is my fav number)…and it is pretty darn fantastic for not even half a day’s effort!

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I’m not sure I mentioned yet how very dusty it was! It was so dry and every car that passed created a ridiculous dust storm and we had to shut the windows- but then it was so hot too, you couldn’t stand that for long either. By the end of the day we had dirt in our ears, black boogers and sore throats!

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Although dusty, the Serengeti was truly beautiful, especially against the beautifully clear sky.

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We got back to camp and had to get our tents set up before dark. These were like the tents we’d had on the last trip so we knew how to set them up and it was pretty fast. There were a bunch of other campers here from different groups also.

I was pretty tired and I had to take a nap for a while while the others played some card games and Bryan read.

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More soon, but would like to get this uploaded while we actually have wi-fi!

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