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5-West and Central Serengeti Safari/Tanzania

Day 6-9 of Safari

View Tanzania 2009 on Sharon E's travel map.

“Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle... when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.”

August 19, 2009
Depart:.............Migration Tented Lodge
Arrive:..............Mbalageti Lodge
Animals Seen:...Birds, Hippos, Lions, Lions, Lions, Leopard, Wildebeest, Zebra, Giraffe, Gazelles...the usual

[*]In love with the Pak-it Cubes Karen G. let me borrow. With this much moving around, it is SO easy to pack and unpack the cubes and find stuff. It's a must have for anyone who travels!
[*]Giraffes can manage to strip the foliage off of the Whistling Thorn acacia without disturbing the thorns OR seeds. Pokea grabs his pocket knife and taps on one of the round, hard seeds. All of a sudden a bunch of stinging ants start coming out of them...those giraffes have pretty talented tongues
[*]The further south we go, the more ubiquitous the lions are and the more they are used to humans. Central Serengeti is known for the large number of cats as animals are not migratory in this area and the water supply, spread throughout the region, does not dry up in the winter
[*]It is rare to see a chui (leopard) up close in plain view since they are always seen up in the branches of trees but we get a pretty nice look as we pass through this big, open acacia tree in Central Serengeti. Leopards are solitary so you'll rarely see them with another
[*]We see an older male lion with a full mane...doesn't he look so 70's?
[*]From a distance, we saw a ginormous herd of elephants lined across the prairie...hundreds of them!
[*]They do have bathrooms at the visitor's center (but you gotta have strong thigh muscles for the squatting)
[*]The visitor's center is a popular lunch spot for picnicking. We unwrap the ridiculously huge lunch that Migration Lodge packed for us: fancy pizza, hot dog AND chicken along with the chocolates, fruit, cookies, nuts and chips
[*]Birds and hyrax cover the grounds of the visitor's center. There is also a nice, educational hike on the grounds
_DSC1360-1.jpg_DSC1354-2.jpg_DSC1356-2.jpgcactus grow huge here!
[*]We ran into Scott and Laurie who saw a duma (cheetah) kill a gazelle and tembo (elephants) mating (now that would be interesting to see)!
[*]Our first fuel stop since the beginning of the trip. The Land Rover has two huge gas tanks and a few spare tires so we don't have to stop often!
[*]There's a big hippo pool in the middle of Central Serengeti and we get our first view of hippos out of the water, which is quite unusual in the daytime, but the cloudy day prevents burning of their sensitive skin...there are so many of them!
[*]Even though the pools are stinky with algae and hippo poo (they defecate to mark their territory...it is a disgusting sight as the poo flies everywhere), it is still fun to watch them twitter their ears and climb over each other
[*]Wildebeest do not exist in Central Serengeti and we almost miss seeing them. But alas, West Serengeti has non-migratory wildebeest
[*]We check into Mbalageti (prounounce the M as "um") Lodge. They greet us as usual with "Karibu" (welcome), give us refreshing cold towels, a welcome drink and then ask us what time we will be having dinner, breakfast and what we want for lunch
[*]Our presidential tent which is near the restaurant and pool is pretty impressive. We have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room (with flat screen tv), a dining room, a sitting room, a huge deck that overlooks the wildlife and access to a butler. Again, we have a real door that locks
Wow, this is a huge bathroom for a tented lodge. And we have two of them!
[*]They have free internet here. It's slow like anywhere else and it takes 20 minutes just to check emails but it's better than nothing!
[*]The lodge's pool and dining area are gorgeous! I love this chandelier made of wine bottles
[*]A beautiful sunset
[*]There aren't many people here so we all get to dine outside.

[*]We spent a long day in the Central Serengeti Kopjes to avoid the crowd but there's a reason no cars were here...the animals are few and far between. It's hard to keep your eyes open when there isn't much to see
[*]Central Serengeti is really busy. It's full of tourists from cars to SUVs to these enormous vehicles that are a cross between a semi and a bus. They have hundreds of operators that just serve this area
You'll know if something exciting is being seen because there are a mass of vehicles in front of it, so you are competing with tons of people to get the best view
[*]You must stick to the roads here so sometimes the wildlife is a bit far from us
[*]No monkeys in Central Serengeti
[*]It is super dusty here due to the heavy traffic. Now I understand about the dust people have been talking about. My camera has layers of dirt on it as well as me
[*]Even though there is one bathroom in Central Serengeti, your hands get dirty from all the dust and grime...handywipes are essential!
[*]A little sad that the outdoor jacuzzi tub on our deck is a bit rusty

August 20, 2009
Location:...........Mbalageti Lodge
Animals Seen:...Hartebeest, Hyena, Jackal, Birds, Baboons, Lions, Giraffes, Wildebeest, Zebra, Hippos, Crocodiles, Elephants, Warthogs

[*]While fun, it is much easier to do breakfast at the lodge than out in the bush. They made me my favorite pancakes!
[*]We started later than planned but we were out the door by 6:45 so we still saw the sunrise over the clouds _DSC1417-16.jpg
and had a lot of beautiful, early morning light. The animals are so lively this hour. It rained a little last night and they are all excited and running about (except for the cats who hate rain)
_DSC1422-19.jpg hartebeest and calf frolicking
[*]Witnessing a super close-up view of scavengers munching on a kill. Actually it was just one hyena in control but it was both fun and disgusting to watch as the animals lose patience for their "turn" and start to get bold. There is definitely a hierarchy in the animal kingdom and a followed protocol. Here we have a lead hyena and then other salivating hyena, a jackal, flocks of buzzards/vultures/storks just waiting
In this video, you will see how bold the scavengers get

[*]Baboons are everywhere. West Serengeti is known for their primate population. While I'm not fond of adult baboons (they are skittish and mean; and their prominent butts are really unattractive, especially a female in heat), the babies are SO cute and fun to watch
Baboons are picky about their water (as am I!) and they will take a little scoop in their hands to taste before committing their face to it
[*]We can't believe there are hippos out in the open on this sunny day! We get to watch a territory battle, although it was rather calm
[*]Giraffes fighting for the hand (o.k., feet) of a female! It does seem rather lame at first because how much damage can one giraffe inflict upon another? But once in a while, they get in a good, solid head butt into the opponent's stomach. But still, I can't see how a winner would ever be determined. Watch the video to see what I mean

They can be graceful looking while at the same time be awkward
[*]Watching a kill in action. We saw a group of lions sitting by the river (as they always do so that they can sneak up on animals getting a drink of water) that trapped these baboons in a tree. As you'd imagine, the female baboon exerted the most effort to shoo the lions away but mostly, they just sat in the tree...stuck. Our guide saw one of the lioness leave so we followed her. All of a sudden, it crouched and chased a baboon out of the bush!
The baboon was not happy and was only too eager to fight back!
I gotta tell you that you not only have to have a really good guide but luck is a big factor in seeing a battle. We were the first to see the action and it did not take long for other cars to appear. Our guide had never seen anything like this. If you only see one video in my blog, this is it (I've been solicited by National Geographic as well as a Japanese production company to use the footage). Matt is the videographer and you'll see that it is my most popular You Tube video from Tanzania (people love a fight) and I have more COMMENTS (not rated G) on this video than I do VIEWS for my other videos!

Did you hear how mean Matt was to me? All I did was root for the baboon. While I did want to see a kill in action, my heart rooted for the baboon as they are a little too close to the human race. This large baboon, probably an alpha male, was at first protecting his troop. But soon his ego and bravado became his downfall. It is not common for a baboon to fight back with a lion which is why all the guides were in awe
[*]Big crocodiles by the river
[*]Crossing a bouncy, pedestrian bridge that is used during floods to transport you and your luggage to your lodge on the other side of the river (as well as monkeys). We got to swing on a huge vine
[*]While not as impressive of a lunch as Migration, we ate right next to a herd of zebra and wildebeest! Wouldn't be happening if they weren't so dumb and frightened
[*]Our guide explained to us the training needed to be a safari expert. You have to go to a professional school and pass the test. They are required to know all the latin names of the animals and plants which he complained about learning because none of his clients would understand him. I agree, acacia is hard enough let alone the Latin name!
[*]The west is not a popular area for visitors this time of year so there are not many cars and we can drive off road to get real close to the animals
[*]I think we've seen just about all the lions in Tanzania! Plenty of sightings today. The ones in the west are a bit skittish but laziness always trumps work. These lions are resting after feasting on a zebra kill. A couple of them got up and walked away from us but the rest were too hot
[*]Never tire of elephants
Here's one with flared ears that got super close, I can barely get him in view
[*]Even though we arrived back at the lodge a little behind schedule, I was determined to take a dip in the awesome (but really cold) pool, especially since it was such a hot day!
[*]A beautiful sunset _DSC1501-97.jpg
While not exactly what I wanted but good enough to check off on my wish list, I finally get a photo of a sunset beyond the acacia trees
[*]A special bush dinner, about 20 minutes from the main lodge, was arranged for just me, Matt and our guide. The weather looked foreboding but they promised it wouldn't rain...and it didn't! While waiting for dinner, we watched the baboons in the palms get ready to sleep and watched the beautiful sky turn to a nightfall of stars. Matt tried to explain the stars to our guide but it's a little different in the southern hemisphere. But he did explain the Milky Way which he found fascinating
[*]It was a delicious meal with a wonderful staff that was catering just to us...bartender/waiter, chef, escorts for protection. After some homemade chips and cocktails by the fire, we sit down to a traditional Swahili barbeque. The pork sausage was my favorite
[*]Matt, with super sonic hearing (no one else knew what he was talking about among the thousands of sounds we were hearing in the night), was excited about the bats soaring above
[*]Watching a fantastic lightning storm in the sitting room of our tent. We rolled up all the shades in the bedroom so we could watch it while we fell asleep...so cool

[*]The Masai escort was not responding to our whistle this morning so we had to wait a few minutes for some sunlight in order to cross safely to the dining area. This place is too big and hilly to just wave your flashlight in the dark so whistles are necessary but no one heard our whistle. Unfortunately, we got a bit of a later start this morning
[*]Mbalageti is about 45 minutes from the main road. It's a long way on dirt roads!
[*]I almost touched a poisonous tree that blinds you if you touch the flower and then your eyes...phew, I need to be more careful
[*]There are a lot of trees in the west; therefore, there are a lot of tse tse flies! You can see them in the lion photos. Pokea gave us a Masai fly swatter made from a giraffe's tail. We just keep waving it but there are SO many
[*]An open roof is hard to take on a sunny day but I wouldn't trade it for a pop up roof as they really do inhibit your view, especially for photographs
[*]Mbalageti has a separate tip box for the restaurant than everyone else. So we had to go back to the restaurant and leave a tip for last night's dinner and breakfast

August 21, 2009
Depart:.............Mbalageti Lodge
Arrive:..............http://www.serenahotels.com/tanzania/mbuzi/home.aspMbuzi Mawe
Animals Seen:...Vervet monkeys, Leopards, Cheetahs, Hippos, Gazelle, Waterbuck, Antelope, Elephants, Warthogs, Klipspringer, Lions and Lions

[*]Leaving a little later this morning, we got to have a more leisurely breakfast
[*]Check out this cute, baby vervet monkey!
Traveling back to Central Serengeti:
[*]As we enter Central Serengeti once more, we see a couple of elephants...Matt's favorite
The little one is nursing
[*]A leopard eating its kill. To avoid scavengers from stealing its hard earned reward, leopards bring their kill up to the tree. So smart!
[*]Watching cheetahs watching gazelle but they are just a little too far away
[*]Hippos fighting...it's all about who has the biggest mouth
[*]We are addicted to these tea biscuits! We started out with a huge jug of them and they have been our daily mid-morning snack. Got to find out how I can buy them!
[*]Animals out and about grazing
[*]Staring right on top of the lions as they sit directly below us where the car provides shade. Wow, they are so close I can practically touch them
You can see the scars on this one
[*]Warthogs make me laugh. The Swahili name is not Pumba as many think. It is Ngiri. Like the Disney character, they are really funny looking and they really do lift their tails straight out while running. From a distance, they are easily mistaken for one of the predators but so disappointing when you just realize it's another warthog
[*]Wow, we saw a male lion by itself with the biggest mane ever. Shhh, don't tell anyone, our guide drove right up to it so we could get a closer look
[*]Eating lunch in the Kopjes next to the big lion
[*]Going pee during lunchtime but with the door WIDE open as our guide instructed me. Better than going in the public toilet which requires strong thigh muscles and good aim...I hate those floor toilets!
[*]This hartebeest stares at a lion and is paralyzed in fear as the lion sits next to the water source...getting so thirsty
[*]Finally, a close up of the duma. Shhh (again)...our guide drove right up to the cats. This is why he likes to come out here...it's normally cheetah land (shorter grass so that the gazelle can graze) and they are usually abundant. With the drought though, it has been slim viewing but today the Kopjes paid off! We catch the two brothers marking a tree
[*]After checking into Mbuzi Mawe, Matt waits for the keys. When they ask what he is waiting for, everyone laughs and says "your room is a tent, there are no keys." To Matt's defense, the other two tents did have locks and doors. Technically there is a lock on the tent's zipper to keep the monkeys from entering the room but you just hook it through without locking (they can't figure it out)
[*]We arrive early enough to relax on the daybed, turn in some laundry (since we'll be here two nights and their prices aren't bad), wash some essentials (as they do not wash ladies' undergarments...against their religion) and enjoy the room before showering and dinner
[*]Matt thinks he sees a dik-dik (super tiny antelope) on the property but it's actually a klipspringer
[*]The lodge has entertainment at night featuring local, authentic music and dance. I love their sound...very Jamaican
[*]In love with the staff, as usual. Everyone greets us by name and chit chats about America. They really love Matt a lot

[*]The water levels are so low...it's quite sad
[*]Both nature and man destroy the forests but not sure if it's positive. The elephants destroy forests by killing trees and often don't even eat all the leaves and man intentionally burns the fields so that the grass will be short enough for grazing but as a result, some animals don't make it out of the fire alive...babies, snakes, birds with eggs, etc.
[*]Is it better to reinforce the dirt roads so that it doesn't erode and get everything dusty or leave it alone so that when it rains, it won't flood?
[*]The tents remind me of camping in Yosemite. They are quite close so you can hear everyone and you can also see your neighbors. The area is not super scenic and about a half hour from Seronera (the center of Central Serengeti). Food is so so but I love the staff.
[*]Am I getting boring?

August 22, 2009
Location:..........http://www.serenahotels.com/tanzania/mbuzi/home.aspMbuzi Mawe
Animals Seen:...Elephants, Hippos, Cape Buffalo, Crocodile, Lions, Hyenas, Gazelle, Antelope, Guineafowl

[*]A crossing of elephants
[*]It's a beautiful morning, even the buffalo look good and the birds are happy to get a ride
[*]Visiting one of the largest hippo pools. I think it's ironic that you always here from non-Africans how dangerous they are but the only place you are really allowed to get out of your vehicle in the wild are the hippo pools and they always place the bathrooms there. The locals seem more afraid of the buffalo
[*]The hippos are gross but can't help photographing them...yes, there's sh*t everywhere, they live with crocs and did you see their nasty teeth?
For some reason, I like the trumpeting of hippos

[*]Watching hundreds of elephants cross the hill while a pride of lions look on
[*]One of the largest pride of lions we've seen. I think there's close to 50!
[*]It looks like they are making their way over to the nearby camp
[*]We thought there was a dead elephant laying in the road but just turns out he was napping. He eventually got up and moved over when we got on his tail
[*]Hyena roll around and lay in mud to appease their stomachs and aid in digestion of all the animal bones they eat
[*]Our guide spots an injured gazelle. It looks like it lost one of its antlers in a fight. Unfortunately, if the antler doesn't fall off, he'll die because he can't graze with it in the way. Life is tough out here
[*]Watched a hyena feast on a gazelle, which he probably stole from a cheetah
Within minutes, the vultures circle the air. From a distance, a lion sees the vultures. She starts walking towards the birds
But she soon sees that a hyena has a kill and changes her trot to a gallop. She sneaks up on the hyena who, on first impulse was going to run with the gazelle in its mouth but thinks better of it and drops the meat and runs away. Lions are definitely the bullies in this land
[*]Getting a glimpse of a serval cat. They are so cute but their small stature easily gets lost in the tall grass
[*]Witnessing a chase between a female elephant and a huge bull elephant who is really ready to mate. They made a complete circle around us. The male elephant was a bit frustrated and kept crying out because he really didn't want to run anymore...it's probably hard running around with a fifth leg

[*]Mama and baby cheetahs sitting underneath a tree
[*]This super tall, ancient elephant doesn't like us hanging around and chases us away. Check out his feet!
He is right on our tail. This video is a bit funny because as our guide pulled away, we lost our balance (look at the last symbol you see on the video...they have rules for a reason, I guess)

[*]Wow, there are so many elephants here!
This baby elephant has so many wrinkles!
This one is a little itchy

[*]I love the tropical jungle feel by the river. The elephants and hippos mingle
[*]We were a little leery of spending another day in Central Serengeti but it was definitely worth it today!

[*]It's been sprinkling on and off all day but then it started to come down a bit harder. You have to quickly unroll the tarp roof and get out and snap them in place. But we didn't exactly have time to do that as we started to slide around in the slick mud and we violently jerked left, right, left, right... Thought we were going to roll over for sure and all I could think of was "how do I protect my camera?" instead of "oh no, we don't have our seatbelts on and there is no roll bar." But our guide finally saved it and we avoided disaster... thank goodness for mandatory driving school for the guides
[*]I am really getting tired of the public toilets
[*]A little tired of the crowded visitor's center but I guess it's nice and clean for lunch (some more chicken again). We also had a flat tire which Pokea changed in a matter of minutes. Not so uncommon, I guess

Posted by Sharon E 22:06 Archived in Tanzania

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