Living the Lion King

I began the next step of my journey in Arusha, Tanzania. I joined a “participation camping” tour. This means that we drive around as a group in a great big truck-trolly thing. We almost always cook our own meals and set up and take down our own tents. Touring this way saves a lot of money. I joined the group a day late at Snake Park; thank goodness it was not named accurately!

Our crew in the Land Rovers

Our crew in the Land Rovers

The following day we packed our things and headed out to the Serengeti for a three day safari. I’m not really an animal person and the idea of a safari intrigued my expectations for the experience were not that high. Wow, was I wrong! The Serengeti itself if something to marvel at. Serengeti means “endless plain” in Maasai. The Maasai picked a perfect name for it. You could look into the distance as far as the eye could see and it was a never ending plane of arid shrubs and dust spotted with various animals. If the sheer size of the area does not amaze you then the animals living there will.

As far as the eye can see

As far as the eye can see

I thought a game drive would involve driving around in a beat up Land Rover for hours with the occasional sighting in the distance of a giraffe or some sort of buffalo. Once again, I was proven wrong! Before we even arrived through the official Serengeti gates we saw zebras, giraffes, and baboons.

Serengeti Gate

Serengeti Gate

I was expecting a game drive would involve driving around in a beat up Land Rover for hours with the occasional sighting in the distance of a giraffe or some sort of buffalo. Boy was I wrong! Before we even arrived through the official Serengeti gates we saw zebras, giraffes, and baboons. Shortly after we got through the gates we saw a cheetah standing statue still on a giant boulder. The next thing we knew the cheetah had disappeared into the long grass. We were so busy watching the cheetah that we didn’t notice the group of gazelle behind us crossing the road from the opposite side. The next thing we knew all the gazelle were scattering except for one that had been taken down by the stealthy cheetah who had snuck through the long grass. The cheetah found its friend and in between pants to catch their breath they scarfed down on the gazelle. Once in a while the cheetahs would pop up out of the grass to take a break from eating and they looked like a pair of drag queens with a bad lipstick job. Blood was everywhere but I suppose that’s the Circle of Life.

The cheetah stalking the gazelle.

The cheetah stalking the gazelle.

We drove on for a while longer and suddenly got a radio call. The driver was speaking rapid Swahili and before we knew it, Seif (our driver) was ripping off down the road in search of god knows what. We tightly held the bars in the jeep and ducked just as time as a flock of birds flew right across the path our jeep was heading. Our jeep smoked a few but we all came out with featherless smiles so we were ok with that.

Got the roof popped in the jeep!

Hanging on for dear life in the Land Rover

We veered around a dirt pile and saw a few other jeeps. We also saw two giant male lions resting and we were about 15 meters away! This pair of brothers weren’t the only lions we saw. There was a solo lioness that had just eaten a huge meal and was strolling down the dirt road without a care in the world. A few days later we saw a lioness with her cubs. Needless to say, a lot of references to the Disney movie “The Lion King” were made.

Male Lion ... Simba or Mufasa?

Male Lion … Simba or Mufasa?

Lioness strolling casually down the road

Lioness strolling casually down the road

We continued on our drive and saw numerous zebras and wildebeest. The wildebeest travel in large packs and they all run together in a big herd. Wildebeest are the animals that accidently trampled Mufasa in the Lion King. It turns out that the wildebeest are really stupid so they follow the zebras around because they know that the zebras are smart. However, the wildebeest are not as dumb as the warthog (or pumba as they’re called in Swahili … and the Lion King). Warthogs have a memory span of 3 minutes. They might be kneeling down eating and then suddenly forget why their kneeling. Similarly, they might be running from a predator and forget why they are running. I think they need to take a page out of the Wildebeest’s book and follow the zebras around.

Wildebeest following the Zebra

Wildebeest following the Zebra

We set up our tents at DikDik camp that night. We were taught how to shine our flashlights into the grass to look for reflective eyes so we could stay safe. We also had to open the bathroom doors carefully because once a small lion wandered in and when it turned to try to get out the door shut behind it. One of our guides clients went to use the washroom and the lion tried to pounce to get out of the stall but instead accidently shut the door on itself again. I doubt the client would have needed the toilet after that scare! Our guide (John) also told us of the time a lion was brushing up against his tent, trying to scratch itself. John was afraid the whole tent would come down and the lion would step on him so he moved over to the side of the tent and gave the lion a quick punch in the side. Although it would be super cool to say I punched a lion, I’m really glad no wildlife bothered us at night.

Beautiful view at sunset

Beautiful view at sunset

The next day our game drive started at 6:30. Two people in our group went on a hot air balloon safari but this hobo couldn’t justify the $500. Our jeep went and picked them up before lunch and as we were driving back we saw a leopard with its kill. The leopard was slowly dragging the gazelle body over to a tree. When it eventually got to the tree it must have decided it was too heavy to drag up the tree (which is what they usually do) so it simply ate a bit them climbed up to relax. The ease with which it climbed was amazing!

Leopard hanging out after a big meal

Leopard hanging out after a big meal

We stayed at Simba Camp the next night which was at the top of Ngorongoro Crater. It was COLD. I never realized how chilly the desert got at night and definitely should have packed my warm jacket. Ngorongoro Crater is named after the sound of the bells that the Maasai used to put on their cattle and goats so they wouldn’t lose them. It is one of the largest unbroken volcanoes that is not a lake in the world.

View of the Crater

View of the Crater

We made the steep drive to the bottom in the hopes that we would see the endangered black rhino. We didn’t see the rhino but we did see more elephants, hyenas hunting, ostriches, baby jackal, tons of hippos (literally), baboons, a bird carrying a green mamba snake, secretary birds, a family of giraffes, blue balled baboons (named accurately), flamingos, and many more zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, and gazelle.

Hyena Hunting

Hyena Hunting

Photobombed by a Hippo

Photobombed by a Hippo

Seeing the vast landscape and the incredible wildlife was so much more remarkable than I expected. Needless to say, I will be borrowing Mama Hobo and Daddy-obo’s VHS copy of The Lion King when I get home. But first, The High Class Hobo is hitting up the Zanzibar. Tutaonana for now!

Staring contest with an elephant

Staring contest with an elephant

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