Posts Tagged ‘Land Rover’

 “Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins

Bilal always had our Land Rover swept and washed when he picked up us each day for our wildlife adventures. Above are Kim and I in our regular wildlife-watching positions. -- Photo by Bilal

African Safari: Afternoon in the Serengeti

Mating lions -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Bilal picked us up after lunch for an afternoon game drive in Serengeti National Park, one of the largest wildlife refuges in the world.

Meaning endless plain, the Serengeti is spread out over 5,700 square miles and ranges in elevation from 3,120 to 6,070 feet. The park provides habitat for over 500 birds and hundreds of mammal species. USA Today lists it as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

A Coqui francolin posed for us beside the road. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

A Coqui francolin posed for us beside the road. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

It was with great anticipation that Kim and I looked forward to seeing it. And Bilal, with his knowledge of where to find animals didn’t disappoint us.

Our list of mammal sightings included Thompson’s and Grant gazelles, hartebeests, topi, waterbuck, elephants, giraffe, cheetahs, baboons, zebras, lion, and of course lots of birds, including many of those already one my life list and new ones to add to it.

Because I often saw birds before other wildlife, the running joke soon became "Oh, there's an animal beneath that bird." In this case it's a water buffalo with an yellow-billed oxpecker on its back. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

One of our stops was even at a small lake where we saw quite a few water birds, including a family of cute red-billed teal.

On the grasslands, we watched a secretary bird stomp across the plains, then stop to wrestle with a snake of some kind, its favorite meal.

One voyeur viewing was of a pair of lions mating, which Bilal said they would do every 15 minutes or so for about three days. There was a lot of quiet ignoring in between the love sessions, and a lot of snarling during it.

Lion dads, while sometimes aloof around young cubs, do stick around to help protect them after they are born. Cheetah dads, meanwhile, go AWOL and leave all the raising of his offspring, to mom. Most of the cheetahs we saw this day, and for the remainder of our safari, had three or four young ones in tow.

Red-billed teal -- Wikipedia photo

Meanwhile, it continued to amaze me at how the animals acted as if our Land Rover was no threat. Of course we weren’t. Bilal said they just considered us a metal beast that wasn’t good to eat – thankfully.

Way too soon it was time to head back to our lodge for the night, where after dinner in the main lodge, we were walked back to our rooms by a guard. He told us to sure and keep our balcony doors closed against a baboon invasion.

Sleep that night, beneath mosquito netting in our luxurious two-bed suite, was accompanied by a hyena chorus, while our morning wake-up call was served up by howling baboons. It was all awesomely different from our regular routines – and we loved it.

Bird Log of New Lifers: Ruppell’s long-tailed starling, red-necked spurfowl, African white-backed vulture, Coqui francolin, red-billed teal, three-banded plover, Kttlitz’s plover, four-banded sandgrouse, little stint and little grebe, Aug. 23, afternoon drive in the Serengeti.

Next: A feminist conversation with Bilal.

Read Full Post »

 A Wild Race to Lake Manyara’s Park Gate

This was our first truly close-up look at an elephant. There would be many more before the trip ended. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“…nature has ceased to be what it always had been, what people needed protection from. Now nature tamed, endangered, mortal, needs to be protected from people.” – Susan Sontag

African Safari: The Ugly Poaching Business

There is no nighttime wildlife viewing in Tanzania’s national parks. That’s when the poachers come out, Bilal told us.

It used to be, he said, that the poachers made war on the park rangers, but now the park rangers are shooting back. And Tanzania doesn’t want tourists caught in the crossfire.

This is a Masai giraffe, the largest of the several subspecies of giraffe found in Africa. It is a bit darker than the other subspecies, has jagged spots and tuft of hair on its tail. -- Photo by Pat Bean

But despite the government’s crackdown, according to several recent news articles that I’ve read, poaching is still a major problem in Tanzania, as well as some other African countries, and in some areas is even increasing.

What Tanzania’s official crackdown on the illegal activity meant to us in 2007 was that the park closed its gates at 6:30 p.m. – and there was a big fine for not checking out of it by that time.

Perhaps because of some great last-minute sightings of an elephant dusting herself off and a mother giraffe with a young one that were too terrific to pass up, Bilal may have lost track of time. That was one of the great things about our guide. He always seemed as excited at watching wildlife as we were – well unless it was small, nondescript birds.

Anyway, all of a sudden Kim and I found ourselves being

Yellow-billed oxpeckers. We would see these on the backs of giraffes and water buffalo. -- Wikipedia photo

bounced around in the back of the Land Rover, holding on tightly but with grins on our faces, as a worried Bilal put the pedal to the metal in a race to get back to the entrance before the deadline. It was a deliciously wild ride that added a touch of adventure to our already full day.

We made it with two minutes to spare, and we could audibly hear Bilal exhale a sigh of release, and see the smile return to his face.

He slowed down for the drive back to our Lake Manyara Serena Lodge, and stopped to let us photograph our first spectacular African sunset.

Blacksmith plover: We would see many of these during our drives across Kenya and Tanzania's grasslands. -- Wikipedia photo

I’ve heard artists and photographers talk about Africa’s great light, and now I was getting to see it for myself.

What a great day.

Bird Log of New Lifers: Little egret, white stork, sulphur-breasted bush shrike, common bulbul, tawny eagle, white-rumped swift, emerald-spotted wood dove, blacksmith plover, grey-headed kingfisher, Egyptian goose,

African spoonbill -- Wikipedia photo

black-headed gull, grey-headed gull, great cormorant, lesser flamingo, great white pelican, yellow-billed egret, yellow-billed stork, black-winged stilt, African spoonbill, pied avocent, two-banded courser, southern ground hornbill, yellow-billed oxpecker, fish eagle, long-tailed fiscal, silvery-cheeked hornbill, crowned plover, marsh sandpiper, Hilderbrant’s francolin, helmeted guinea fowl, dark-capped yellow warbler, great reed warbler, cliff chat , August 22 afternoon drive in Lake Manyara State Park.

Next: Drive to Serengeti National Park

Read Full Post »

“Let your mind start a journey thru a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be … let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.” Erich Fromm

Bilal, in an unguarded moment. He was a bit camera shy. -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Bilal

Breakfast the next morning was interrupted by a black and white bird strutting around on the open-air dining room floor. I chased it out to the pool, East Africa guide book in hand, before finally identifying it as an African pied wagtail. Cute little black and white bird.

This interruption of meals for bird and other wildlife watching would become a common, and delightful, routine for the next two weeks.

After breakfast we met up with Evans, a Ranger Safaris supervisor who carefully went over our arranged itinerary with us, and then introduced us to Bilal, our native guide and driver for the rest of our stay in Tanzania.

“Bilal’s our best guide, but don’t let him push you around,” Evans said.

I figured Evans said that about all the guides when introducing them to their clients. As for pushing us around, well both Kim and I are assertive women not prone to letting anyone direct our actions.

Bilal standing beside his Land Rover, whose top and sides were removed for our sight-seeing pleasure as he bounced the two of us across the African landscape. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Bilal actually did try to push a few times, but it was always only out of concern for our safety. Mostly we let him, but a few times we didn’t. As to him being the best guide, Kim and I quickly came to the conclusion that Evans had spoke the absolute truth.

Bilal, who was older and looked out after some of the younger guides working in our general area, spoke very good English, drove his Land Rover down rutted roads and rough off-road terrain with great skill, and always knew where to find wildlife.


African pied wagtail -- Wikipedia photo

Some of the best moments of my time in Africa were spent standing up and bouncing around in his Land Rover – overjoyed at the lack of seat-belt rules – as Bilal rushed to a lion, cheetah or leopard sighting.

Kim and I finally discovered that Bilal was divorced. While he expected his son to look out for him in his old age – he worried that we also had sons to take care of us in our later years – it was his daughter, who had recently presented him with a grandson, whom he talked with regularly on his radio

Like Africa, Bilal was a bundle of contradictions. But then aren’t we all.

Next: The drive to Lake Manyara

Read Full Post »