10/2/09: Serengeti National Park
Before embarking on our journey, when I imagined Zhou and me in the Serengeti, I pictured us wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, hanging onto every second as we saw lions, hyenas, Pride Rock, singing warthogs and everything else we could dream of from the Lion King.
This afternoon on our way out of the park, the scene was much different. While I was standing in our truck looking for wild game, Zhou was napping in the back, another from our group was listening to his iPod and a third was watching Scream on a little video player she brought. At one point after it started to sprinkle, she even proclaimed that we needed to shut the roof of the truck because it was getting her screen wet. This is not as I pictured things at all.
I suppose though, that after the long, eventful day we had, this sort of behavior was somewhat acceptable (although I still don’t condone it). Here’s what had happened:
Last night our tent and food truck broke down somewhere on the way to the campsite, so we had to set up the tents in the dark and then eat after 9pm, forcing us to get to bed much later than usual. We were also unfortunately stuck in between a few loud snorers, who I mistook for lions several times through the night. If we were home in the U.S., this would not be a big deal, but we were in the middle of the Serengeti, and there was nothing separating our tent from actual ferocious beasts. So it was a short night.
This morning we had an early morning wake up for our eventful game drive. Our driver, Emanuel, could spot Waldo in an ocean full of candy canes, and this amazing eyesight led to some incredible sights.
First, a cheetah was laying in the brush a football field away. This would have been somewhat boring if it weren’t for the gazelle he was stalking that was standing under a tree closer to us. After about ten minutes of slowly getting closer and waiting for the right moment, the cheetah took off after the gazelle.
After a lengthy chase, the gazelle unfortunately escaped, thus making us 0 for 2 in our quest for a kill (see our lengthy “Scrap Footage from the Animal Planet” post from last week).
Shortly thereafter, Emanuel spotted this lion sleeping under a tree:
and this leopard hanging out in another tree:
These were the highlights of the game drive, but our day did not end there. We then survived five different truck breakdowns:
- Our truck wouldn’t start after checking out of the park. In the pouring rain, we hopped out and pushed it to give it a rolling jump start.
- A second truck also wouldn’t start in the rain, but after a minute of fiddling, it went on its way.
- Another truck broke down three times: once catching on fire, once breaking a belt of some sort in the engine and once leaking battery acid.
So by the time we were leaving the Serengeti, we had seen and done more than I accomplished in my last six months at work. I suppose I’ll cut everyone some slack for not enjoying the moment.
Picture of the Day: I was so excited at the Olduvai archaeological site that I jumped down the cliff to see it up close. Several hours later, I managed to climb back up to rejoin the tour.