Every year, come June, the clouds clear and the dry season is on us. It drizzles in Arusha, and mornings at Ngorongoro are like a dream with fog enveloping the trees and only lifting towards midday. Convoys of safari vehicles heading on conventional itineraries stream out of town, and small-plane pilots who have been on standby are suddenly working maximum hours.
Instead of frolicking in lush green grass, animals, particularly herbivores and their young are now making daily treks to a few remaining seasonal ponds, or have migrated to more permanent water courses. There’s still grass on the plains and it hasn’t been totally bleached by the sun, the skies are blue, and the faint wisps of smoke rising in the distance signal the burning season in the Serengeti.
Prides of lions that have scattered through their territory because the benefit of having a small kill like a warthog to yourself outweigh the cost of hunting alone, gather together again, reestablishing their bonds and territories and eagerly lying in ambush where animals must come drink. The massive crocodiles of the Grumeti and Mara rivers slide into the still waters, elicited by the vibrations of hundreds of thousands of hooves like Pavlov’s dinner bell.
There is so much on safari that can’t be planned. Whether it’s finding an ostrich egg that’s just been laid in the center of 23 others, or arriving at a camp when there isn’t a wildebeest in sight and waking up in the morning to find a front of wildebeest a half-million strong marching like a determined army. Whether a leopard will be in the tree is out of the hands of the guide, which is part of the adventure, part of the freedom that draws some of us to fall so deeply in love with the bush.
|How much more luxurious does it need to get?|
Every safari is completely different and I don’t blog frequently enough to be able to go into the details of each safari, but the first three safaris of the season proved just that. The first safari involved making sure that a family would have a smooth experience in a mobile camp before heading to the world’s best hotel- Sasakwa.
The next safari was designed to maximize 5 days of wildlife viewing. As you’ll know if you’ve read more of my blogs, I value the wilderness experience above the luxury experience. We began by ticking off Ngorongoro Crater because the reality is that as busy as it is, it is a spectacular wildlife destination. Combined with a visit to a Maasai boma and you learn about one of the most imminent wildlife conservation issues- massive population growth expanding into wilderness.
|It's just beautiful.|
|The wildlife in the crater is so habituated to vehicles that it offers fantastic wildlife photographic opportunities... these photos were all taken with iPhone.|
Following this we jumped on a plane and flew to Sayari Camp in northern Serengeti. This camp is one of my favorites and goes back to when I worked for Asilia and Sayari was just a mobile camp. It's obviously changed a lot but continues to offer a first class wildlife experience especially when I’m guiding and when I chose to come.
|Who wouldn't want to swim here?|
|And how can you beat this breakfast... (NB. the only breakfast you should have in camp is on the last day)|
|The front of wildebeest...|
The wildebeest migration accelerated this year and while there were thousands of wildebeest on the plains at the mobile camp on the first safari, the tsunami of wildebeest had moved further north. We arrived just the day before they arrived and the next day spent the morning listening to the incessant gnuing of tens of thousands of wildebeest as they moved into the area.
|Wildebeest on the runway...|