Safari Tales, March 2005

Well I arrived in Rwanda today – I’m staying in the capital Kigali for a couple of days. I almost had to buy another plane for the Kenya Airways fleet to get here but that’s another story.  So I have traded Swahili for French now (old Belgian colony) and the green hills are a little cooler and the place has an air of better organization than Tanzania.

I am a little exhausted after the pace in Tanzania – arrived back late yesterday from a 4 day safari. I think the experience surpassed even my expectations – we visited 3 National Parks within a few hours of Arusha.  The contrast was amazing – Lake Manyara is a relatively small area crisscrossed by safari tracks with a “captive” population of wildlife wedged between the sheer escarpment of the Rift valley behind and the marshy lakefront of Lake Manyara.  The density of animals and the variety of landscape was incredible – from lush rainforest, open scrub and savannah to marshlands.  We also visited the Ngorongoro crater – an old volcanic caldera that has created a unique biosphere for an astonishing array of wildlife living within its rim.

From there we travelled to the Serengeti (a Maasai word meaning endless space) and the contrast couldn’t have been greater – endless plains almost devoid of trees stretching as far as the eye can see.  The savannah is dotted with herds of thousands of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles now migrating north again towards Kenya. The wildebeest have just finished calving near the Ngorongoro crater and it’s inspiring to watch the mass of new life as thousands of fawn coloured calves teeter after their mothers, joining the throng on the move.

We camped at each of the National Parks – a tent seems so vulnerable a shelter when you are listening to lions roaring in the not so distance in the Serengeti!  We watched as a herd of male elephants came trumpeting within metres of our campsite in Ngorongoro – they tore down trees and generally wreaked havoc for half an hour – the guides told us they were probably upset from being bitten by ants in the forest!

I think the highlights and the animals I’ve seen over the last few days are too many to list. But I was almost close enough to smell the hippo’s breath, see the wrinkles on the elephant’s hide and count the spots on the cheetah’s back!  I have some fabulous photos and I will try to see if I can send a couple through (very slow download times here), otherwise you will all have to wait for the album when I get home!

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