East Africa Safari – Episode 7 – Tanzania
As I said in my last African episode, it was time to catch a flight from Rwanda to Tanzania. After a stop to clear customs (very quick and easy), we landed in the Kogatende strip in the Northern Serengeti. We immediately met our new guide and new bestest friend, Ethan Kinsey, a freelance guide http://www.ethan-kinsey.com who is a native born Tanzanian but who also spent his college years in the states. Ethan had convinced us to come to the Northern Serengeti first because he said there would be fewer people as the migration was further south this time of year – we would have the animals to ourselves in this area. That was the gospel truth as we very rarely had anyone join us at our fantastic sightings. As we packed the safari vehicle at the airstrip for our ride to the Sayari lodge, Ethan told us it was about a 20 minute ride but would take longer if we had any good sightings on the way. That was prophetic: when we stopped for some zebra who were running across the road (still on airport grounds), he heard an “alarm call” from a nearby monkey meaning there was a predator nearby. We proceeded over to where the monkey was, expecting to find a lion (as the most common predator). To our surprise, Ethan spotted a Caracal in the bushes. We had never seen one before and Ethan told us that they are rarely seen. We not only saw this great looking cat, we got to spend a good 20-30 minutes with it as it wandered through the bushes and pounced on a lizard for lunch.
Caracals can range from 15 to 40+ pounds and are very stealthy and sleek as they move around. We finally decided it was time to leave “our” caracal and continue to the lodge. As it turns out, we saw MANY more animals on the way to the lodge and the 20 minute ride turned into 2 hours. That was to become a recurring theme – we were late for every meal and “return to base” during the week because of our tremendous wildlife sightings. When we finally got to the lodge we were immediately blown away by the Sayari Lodge http://sayaricamp.asiliaafrica.com/Home.aspx facilities and the hospitality of the staff. Our individual “tents’ included wonderful porches looking out across the rolling hills toward the Mara river (always with animals visible) and amazingly decadent bedroom and bathroom suites including a huge marble bath-tube set in front of the view toward the river.
We had a wonderful lunch under the trees, got settled in a little and then headed out on our first real game drive. I’ve already described part of this drive in my post http://scottseyephotos.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/weekly-photo-challenge-threes/ so I won’t repeat that description of the incredible pride of lions that we spent time with that afternoon. What I didn’t say in that post is that on the way back to the lodge, we ran into another of the African cats – a leopard comfortably watching the sun go down from a perch atop a large boulder.
We only spent a few minutes with this wonderful cat as were once again quite late for dinner and in danger of violating park rules. I hesitate to tell you “the rest of the story” for this incredible day as our wildlife sightings were just amazing for our first day in Tanzania. I’ll just finish by telling you ( I couldn’t get a photo) that as we were at our dinner table that night we were all treated to the largest fireball meteor that any of us had ever seen. It streaked across the entire sky, was large enough to see pieces of it burn off, and it came very close to impacting the ground. Other than that, it was just another day…….