Long day’s journey

We knew our second safari day would be a doozy. We had a lot of ground to cover, from Lake Manyara all the way to the Central Serengeti with stops inbetween.

I started in Rebak Island Marina fashion by getting up early to watch the sunrise over Lake Manyara. It was a perfect beginning.

If our first day was a bit underwhelming, day two got better and better with each passing hour. We started with some game driving in Lake Manyara where we saw our first impalas, more monkeys and hornbills different from the familiar residents of Rebak Island we’d lived alongside for three years.

We left Lake Manyara behind and entered Ngorongoro Conservation Area, but just as a drive through. We’ll be returning to the explore the crater in a few days but for now the road to the Serengeti goes right through the park. We stopped for our first look at the largest intact volcanic caldera in the world.

It’s impossible to convey the size of this thing in a photo so we didn’t try. Back in 2014 we hiked to the second largest crater, Sierra Negro on Isabela in the Galapagos but this one is nearly double the size. Emanuel pointed out that those tiny dots down there were animals, probably wildebeests. We could barely make out the dots. We couldn’t wait to spend a day down there.

As we drove through the conservation area we continued to see more and more animals, and while we technically weren’t game driving we stopped again and again to take pictures.

If you’re as old as we are and interested in science you probably remember the news in 1959 that Louis and Mary Leakey found remains of early hominids in a place called Olduvai Gorge in what was then called Tanganyika.

As a college freshman I took a course in Physical Anthropology and learned more about the discoveries here and in Ethiopia. While we were planning our safari I saw the Olduvai Gorge on Google Maps and asked that a visit be included in our itinerary. You can read more here if you’re interested.

We were the only visitors when we arrived and I asked Emanuel if many people come. He smiled and shook his head. “Why?” I asked, incredulously. But I know why. Most people come for the animals, not for fossils. Still, we found it interesting and wouldn’t have missed it. There’s a new visitor center and beautifully presented museum and we had a guide tell us the history, geology, and significance of the site. For us it was worth the stop.

Not long after the Gorge we arrived at the outer gate of the legendary Serengeti. The Masai word means “endless plain” and it’s aptly named.

Almost as soon as we entered the park our animal sightings went through the roof. We saw our first secretary birds, now my favorites.

Lions were everywhere, and often so close! One female walked right past my open window, and Jack hissing “close your window!” almost made me miss the shot.

We were amazed at how oblivious most of the animals are to the presence of the Landcruisers. Maybe not oblivious but certainly not bothered by them.

Many of our photos were taken on normal focal lengths and we were often only about 5 or 6 meters away.

As the sun dipped low in the sky we saw our first hippos, a large group of elephants and our first hyena.

We got to our camp just as the sun set, and we were tired and hungry. What’s worse, I felt the beginnings of a cold coming on, caught, no doubt, while jammed in the airport bus in Doha to be driven to our plane out on the tarmac. So much for social distancing. And we had our sunrise balloon safari the next day. Four AM is going to hurt. Time to sleep.

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