Day 13 – A day in the Serengeti, a night in Manyara
What a long day. What a long, long, long day. We woke up at 5 am this morning and left camp by 6:30. A full day of exciting driving brought us to Manyara National Park at 7:30 pm. Killerai joked that we would see everything exciting only when we were in a hurry (haraka), which we were today, but it turned out to be less of a joke and more of the truth.
We went back out to the Grumeti River to see if we could catch the wildebeest crossing when we stumbled upon two lions engaging in an act that we had not witnessed before: mating. It was disappointing to hear that they had just finished when we spotted them, but it was only a matter of 20 minutes before they went at it again. A whole 17 seconds of fun ending with lots of snarling! 10 minutes of waiting, and then they did it again! It was so exhilarating to see animals engaging in a very natural behavior. We probably would have watched them longer but we were in a hurry so we moved on.
Not long after there was a flock of vultures on the ground by the side of the road. Why were they there? A freshly killed zebra. A lion must have killed it but there was none in sight. Maybe it was a peace offering to the vultures. There was a new species of vulture there too. Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture. Again, we moved on quickly, until we saw the next mortality.
A little Thompson’s Gazelle that had fallen prey to a motor vehicle. There was a flock of vultures waiting to gobble it up too. We would have liked to collect a sample from it for our workshop, but TANAPA probably would have had some things to say to that. It seemed as if we had used up all of our good animal-spotting luck for the day, when we stumbled across another new bird species. The Imperial Eagle. It was not fully matured but it was still a beautiful sight. We noticed that it had been eating something but we didn’t figure out what until Dr. Vavra went to go check the spare tire. There, by the side of the road, was a dikdik with its legs splayed and its intestines out for the world to see. It was a quick stop and we continued on our way.
Not more than 2 km before the exit of Serengeti National Park we pulled to the side of the road where three land rovers were stopped and looking at something. We figured that it was another lion or two and were about to leave. That would have been a mistake. Less than 200 meters away was a duma. A CHEETAH! Everything we had seen thus far had built up to that moment. It truly was the climax of our trip. It seemed to trot along slowly as it went after some Tommy’s, but it covered a lot of ground very quickly. It was a unique and wonderful experience to see a cheetah in action. Once again, our rush separated us from the cheetah before we would have liked to go. When we finally made it to the Serengeti entrance we stopped to have lunch. Brittney successfully a bottle of coke with another bottle! Dr. Vavra is still the master though.
After lunch, we rattled along and gassed through the Ngorongoro crater. It was nice to see the beautiful crater once again. At the top we noticed that a brace holding the spare tire had broken off of the land rover, and an axle cap had fallen off. Good thing we are nearing the end of the safari. Although we are all sad that it’s almost over, our land rover has been through a lot and we’re not sure how much more it could take.
At the exit gate of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, we stopped to pay and take a restroom break. We observed more over-confident baboons trying to enter vehicles. As three of us were still sitting inside the land rover, a baboon tried to jump into it through Dr. Vavra’s open window but we managed to scare it away. But it wasn’t done trying yet. Again, it jumped up on the hood of the car but ran away when we rapped the hood with an orunga, a Maasai club. It was done with our car but it moved on to another target across the parking lot. A land rover with one door not fully closed. We watched as it opened the door and hopped inside. Killerai ran over to the land rover as it was exiting with its prize: a nice banana. It went and sat down on the sidewalk and ate the banana like Curious George. Those monkeys sure do like to rub it in our faces. Killerai came back and described to us the look of shock that was on the woman who had been in that car’s face. The baboon had taken her by surprise and she had been frozen in terror and strapped into her seat. Baboons 2 – Humans 0.
We stopped in Karatu to refuel. No one tried to sell us anything this time. We also managed to pick up another axle cap. After the land rover was ready, we set off again. This was the home stretch. Through Mosquito River town (Mbutoma) and finally settling in at our camp in Lake Manyara. There are lots of bugs here, wadudu they’re called. Everyone ate dinner quickly and retreated to their tents. Tomorrow will be another busy and eventful day.