Lions, and tigers and bears, oh my! I am just kidding, there were no tigers or bears on safari, although I did see a couple lions! My adventures in Tanzania are coming to a close, and as I prepare to say goodbye to one of the most beautiful and amazing places of the world, I appreciate that it will be on a high note.
On Tuesday, July 8, our group traveled to Lake Manyara for a safari. While there, I came within a few handspan of a group of tembo, or elephants! They literally passed within mere feet of our car! When you think of seeing animals in their natural habitat, you do not think of seeing them up close and personal, right next to your vehicle. But there were zebra that were right alongside our path, and monkeys that were in the middle of the road and alongside the car.
One of the most comedic was the blue-balled monkey. I’m not sure what it got into, but those monkey balls were almost a glowing neon blue! The mother and baby monkeys were my favorite, and some of those monkeys sure could pose! Lake Manyara also offered us a breathtaking view of giraffes, hippos (OK, they were not so breathtaking) and different types of birds.
The safari continued on Wednesday, July 9 at Ngorongoro Crater. When we arrived at the park entrance, we were told to watch the baboons and not leave any windows or doors open. After picking up a couple souvenirs inside, I headed back to the car to get ready to enter the park. That is when I was double-teamed.
I spotted a monkey perching atop the side mirrors of a vehicle. I went for the camera around my neck, and my mind was focusing on the photo. Another baboon took advantage of my distracted vision, and snatched the brown bag with my souvenirs right out of my hand! He probably thought there was food in there.
My Kilimanjaro bottle tumbled out and was rescued, although my postcards and earrings were still in the bag. Lewis charged at the baboon and scared it away, rescuing the rest of my souvenirs in the process. Leave it to me to get robbed by baboons.
After the morning’s excitment, we explored the crater and its wildlife. There were more zebras of course, but no giraffes. Apparently it is very hard for them to get down into the crater. There were plenty of wildebeest roaming around, some new birds to photograph and what looked like impala. We also spotted....lions....about 15 feet from our car. Thanks to my uncle’s camera lens, I was able to get some really great photographs.
We also had lunch next to the hippo pool. Boy, did they sure put on a show for us, what with the constant surfacing and swimming. Although my boyfriend says hippos are jerks and very territorial in the water, I will admit that the baby hippo swimming with its mother was pretty cute.
Right before lunch we spotted some lions crouching by a pool. It looked like they were setting up to wait for their own lunch. We saw some zebra nearby and figured they were waiting for one to come close enough to pounce. I did feel a little weird, anxiously waiting to see a lion hunt and kill its prey, but as it turns out, was not the only one of our group feeling that way. It kind of felt like the animal kingdom equivalent of a frat party and “chug, chug, chug!” But lions are patient creatures, far more patient than a group of tourists, lol. It is a good thing we did not wait for the lions to pounce, they were still lying in wait when we came back after lunch!
It was pretty amazing to see all the animals coexisting in the crater. I was amazed to learn that zebra and wildebeest will travel together. Apparently they zebra can better sense a predator. We also saw two zebras with their head positioned over the other’s back. To me it seemed almost like a zebra hug, but they apparently do it to look out for each other, like friendly sentinels.
As we were leaving the crater, we gave some of the Maasai children some food from our lunch. They were very grateful. We met a second group of children and they were very thirsty. In exchange for a bag of popcorn to share and a bottle of water for each of the three children, we were able to take their picture.
Seeing animals that I have never seen in person before, or if I have, from behind the confines of a zoo, was unbelievable. It was like being transported into The Lion King. (Oh, and by the way, Simba is Swahili for lion, while Rafiki means friend. Way to go Disney, you got it right.) It was during the safari at Lake Manyara that it really set in: I am in Africa. And in that moment, I knew I was in love.
I am in love with the people, and with the amazing friends I have made. I am in love with the culture and the colors and the animals. I do not have much time left, and I know that going back to Wisconsin and Edgerton will be hard, probably the hardest thing I have ever done. I truly wish I could stay and live here, and if it were not for my dog, Artemis, I probably would try to find a way to move there in the next year or so. But alas, I love my pooch to much to permanently leave him. It would be like moving and putting your child up for adoption.
I have enjoyed the slow African pace and Hakuna Matata (no worries!). It is such a change from my everyday life of deadlines, deadlines, deadlines! Going from Africa time to the hustle and bustles of my regular life is going to be like jumping in a pool on a hot summer day: very brisk and a wake-up call. But I know that it is not a matter of IF I come back, but WHEN I come back. I found a part of myself and my heart in Tanzania, and I know that it will be here when I return.