Friday June 20, 2014

We ended today on a high – literally – 2,200 metres above sea-level, in one of the most astonishing places in all Africa: a vast volcanic crater. But more of that in my next blog. Right now we’ve got some catching-up to do …

If you’ve never been on an African safari, you probably can’t imagine what a game-drive is like. Well, we’ve been on a few of them now. At least once a day, sometimes early morning while it’s still quite darkish, 35 Mad Midlife Kiwis pile into six waiting 4WDs (Toyota Land Cruisers) and bounce off along the dirt roads that criss-cross East Africa’s wildlife parks – in search of the animals, birds, landscapes and highlights that this continent is famous for.

The ‘lids are up’ (meaning the vehicles’ roofs are elevated) allowing us to stand, if we choose, for fresh air, clear views and photos. The terrain is frequently cross-country, with lots of lurching and lunging – which all adds to the camaraderie and fun. Our drivers (both here in Tanzania and in Kenya) are also qualified as safari guides, with specialist knowledge of ecology, conservation, birdlife and animal habits. In short, they’re a goldmine of information – plus they’ve got amazing eyesight, constantly scanning the surrounds and accurately spotting our moving targets long before we see them.

You’ll probably think I’m exaggerating when I tell you and show you what we’ve witnessed so far. But it’s the honest-to-goodness truth! These photos are for real, and while they don’t give you the constantly changing movement and sounds and dust and smells and silences and anticipation and sheer excitement, they do speak for themselves …

While at times you’ve gotta look for it, the wildlife is simply everywhere: snorting buffalo, sharp of horn and eager to charge … fat hippos, lethally dangerous but looking like they couldn’t get out of their own way … lanky giraffes, nibbling at sweet shoots in the tallest acacia trees … plus vast herds of elephants: here a few bachelor bulls, sticking together for company – there a big extended family of mums and their playful muddy youngsters.

On our final game-drive before we left Amboseli National Park, we spotted our first lion and enjoyed a rare feline treat. This handsome male, spotted a long way off, decided to come our way and cross the road right between our vehicles. He continued across the dusty terrain towards lionesses resting in the far distance – but they saw him, and quickly ran for the cover of trees. He was not of their pride, apparently, and they could tell his intentions were not honourable.

We spent much of yesterday on the road – heading across the border (at Namanga) into Tanzania, where we changed vehicles and drivers and enjoyed a classy lunch-stop at Arusha. Our lodge-for-the-night is set high on a ridge overlooking the Great Rift Valley and the gleaming, tranquil waters of Lake Manyara – a scenic gem extolled by Ernest Hemingway as “the loveliest I had ever seen in Africa”. And our after-breakfast game-drive today was yet another wildlife-smorgasbord: baboon troops lounging along the roadside, blue monkeys scampering between the ancient mahogany trees, dainty bushbuck treading warily through the undergrowth, giraffe families gliding gracefully across the mudflats, and oversized forest hornbills honking loudly in the high canopy.

Wonderful? Oh yes – out of this world!


We’ve been too busy lately to find many new candidates for our famous yellow ducks, but another was announced yesterday:

  • Nola L received our ‘Getting A Little Behind On My Bananas’ Award … while en route to Lake Manyara. After warning her husband (as they boarded their 4WD) “Don’t sit on my banana,” Nola went and did just that – and, several hours later, discovered a squishy, fruity mess all over the back of her shorts!


We arrive at the Eighth Wonder of the Natural World – the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater. You won’t want to miss this, I promise …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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