Posts Tagged ‘Serengeti’

 “Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears”

From Fiddler on the Roof

The magic in a day is easy to find when it begins with a golden sunrise photographed from a hot air balloon flying low over Africa's Serengeti.

The magic in a day is easy to find when it begins with a golden sunrise photographed from a hot air balloon flying low over Africa's Serengeti.

Travels With Maggie

As I’ve aged and become an old broad, as sadly has my spoiled but faithful dog, Maggie, whose natural years left are fewer than my own life expectancy, I’ve come to view each day as magical.

But the magic also exists in a quiet Southern Idaho park, where one would be a fool not to acknowledge the gift of the hours with every sunset. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The writer in me realized early on that what didn’t get written down one day would never be exactly the same as would be written the next. Age in me has taught me that each day is a gift that vanishes with the sunset. What we’ve done, or not done, is over and ended. We can’t call it back.

All we can do is wake with the sunrise and live the next day through. Be they hours filled with joy or sorrow, they’re still a magical gift not to be tossed away lightly.

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 “There is always something new out of Africa.” Pliny the Elder, 23 Ad – 73 AD


An up close and personal big cat experience. -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Photo Souvenir

We had the “Kids” with us for our wildlife drive yesterday and again this morning. The young couple, newlyweds, were Frankie and John from London, and as excited as Kim and I about the wildlife and landscape.

I caught Kim’s eye as John bounced around from one side of the Land Rover to the other, and may even have smirked. .

I had done exactly the same thing until Kim strongly let me know that my bouncing was interfering with her photo taking. She was as serious about photographing our adventure as I was about seeing Africa’s birds. I tried to be more sedate after her scolding, but enthusiasm is hard to contain.


Friends still on our very last wildlife safari outing. -- Photo by John

Today, as John bounced, Kim resignedly smiled back at me and ruefully shook her head. Some times you just have to go with the flow.

And today’s flow was perfect – from a wake of Ruppell’s griffin vultures feasting on a dead wildebeest to a lion mom and two young sons strolling past our vehicle. Joseph had seen them and had parked near where he thought they would pass. He was right on, as he had been so many times in selecting our viewing sites. It was as if he could read the animals’ minds.


One last cheetah -- Photo by Kim Perrin

It was one of the young males that gave me my final tall cat tail. Just as the trio were passing, it veered toward our Land Rover and casually scratched its back on a rear tire – the one I was standing over. It looked right straight up at me and I stopped breathing. I was sure hoping, that as we had been told, the wildlife considered us just a part of the non-digestible metal beast they saw everywhere.

When it finally looked down and started to walk away, however, I snapped its picture. It’s not a great shot, but I considered it one of my favorite African souvenirs. When I showed the picture to Joseph on my digital camera, he was surprised. From his seat in the front of the Land Rover, he hadn’t seen it. Neither had Frankie or John, whose names always made me want to burst out in song “”Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts ….”

But Kim had seen it. So I had a witness to my tallest cat story of all.

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 “Most of us don’t need a psychiatric therapist as much as a friend to be silly with.” – Robert Brault.


Sharp-eyed Kim spotted this serval in the bush. It was a rare daytime find. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: The Rest of the Day

Joseph picked us up after the hot air balloon ride for yet another exciting Safari day. Right off Kim spotted a cheetah – No, we quickly saw it was a serval, a rare daytime find, said Joseph, who quickly followed it off the road to give us a better look before it slunk off.

Then we watched a river full of crocodiles dining on a dead hippo, the same dead one we had seen them guarding the day before. Joseph had told us that hippos’ thick hides were too tough for the crocs to eat, and that they were waiting for it to rot a bit so they could tear it apart.

I thought you might enjoy this picture of a live hippo enjoying its spa day better than the one of the dead hippo being chomped up by crocodiles. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And that’s exactly what they were doing. Several toothy snouts had hold of it and were twisting their bodies in circles to tear off chunks. Really gruesome to watch, but Kim and I were fascinated.

Our big event for the day was to watch wildebeest on migration cross the Mara River. We watched for hours but it never happened. All it would take is for one wildebeest to start across and the all the rest would follow in a mad dash. Such a crossing is prime dinner time for the Nile crocodiles, but the mass swim allows most of the wildebeest to survive the day.

The animals make the crossing twice a year.

Today's wildebeest preferred dry land to water -- Photo by Kim Perrin

But this day, despite many a wildebeest approach right up to the river, they all skittishly turned back.

Finally Joseph gave up, as disappointed as Bilal was at not finding rhinos for us to watch, and went in search of lions and cheetahs for us to watch. He always found them, and watching their feline ways was never disappointing.

It was a wise choice because we heard over dinner that night the wildebeest never did get up the nerve this day to cross the river. The cat-watching, meanwhile had been great, Among other things, we got a glimpse of a hyena that was stalking a cheetah that was stalking a tommy.

The gazelle ran, the cheetah slinked away, and the hyena decided there might be easier prey around and trotted off as well.

Pink-backed pelican -- Wikipedia poto

Toward the evening, Joseph lingered in a swampy area of the park, where birds were plentiful.

I spotted what I thought was a pink-backed pelican, which would be a lifer for me. Joseph, however, thought it might be a white pelican, which would have been a lifer for him.

So off we went for a closer view. While I felt sorry for Joseph, I’m glad my identification proved right. It would be one of only two lifers I would get this day, the other being a black-chested snake eagle. I was still happy, however. We saw lots of birds I had seen earlier and it was becoming easier for me to recognize the common ones.

Back in camp, Kim and I bemoaned that our African Safari was coming to an end. We only had one more wildlife drive with Joseph in the morning and then we would be flying back to Nairobi, and from there home to the United States. .

We made it a two Jack and Coke night, celebrating both the adventure and the fact that our friendship had survived over two weeks of 24-hour togetherness. Given how quirky and different from each otherwe are, that was as important to celebrate as was our fantastic safari.

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 “The balloon seems to stand still in the air while the earth flies past underneath.” – Alberto Santos-Dumont.

The two balloons behind us as we made our way over the Serengeti. -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Moving with the Wind

Kim and I were up well before dawn this day. We were going ballooning over the Serengeti. It was one of the costly extras not included in our already expensive African Safari package. So, foolishly, or wisely, depending on how you consider these things, we signed up for the adventure.

One large elephant trumpeted in unison with the whoosh of flames that lifted our balloon higher. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

I, as did Kim, knew that if we didn’t do it we would probably suffer regrets for passing up the rare experience for the rest of our lives. It took me until about 40 to realize that I had a lot more regrets for things I hadn’t done than for any things I had done. And I had remembered the lesson well.

The balloons were still being blown up when we arrived at the take-off field, and we got a briefing from Captain Neal, who would pilot our balloon, one of three going up this day. I thought him kind of cocky, but then I’ve never met a pilot who wasn’t.

Having survived our windy landing, and with smiles all around, we pose for a group photo we will receive as a souvenir.

Perhaps they need to be to have the necessary confidence to believe they can fly without wings.

It was still fairly dark when we took off. So when the flames roared to give the balloons an extra burst of hot air to keep them aloft, they took on a colorful glow in the gray morning light. It started the day like a fairy tale, and images of the hot air balloon in “Around the World in 80 Days” flashed through my head.

Our balloon flew low over the landscape, passing over a small herd of elephants. At the whoosh of flames as Captain Neal turned up the burner to take us up a bit higher, one of the larger elephants looked up at us and trumpeted.

To celebrate our successful hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti, we are all treated to a champagne breakfast. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The wind was fairly brisk this morning, and not only did we arrive at our destination more quickly than normal, we overshot the landing site. And then when it landed, the wing dragged the basket a way and then it tipped over.

All was well, however, and we posed for a group picture before crowding into a land rover to be taken back to the landing site, where a champagne breakfast had been set up for us.’

What a fantastic morning. I’m so glad I didn’t miss it.

Le Figaro said it best in 1908: “I have known today a magnificent intoxication. I have learnt how feels to be a bird. I have flown .. I am still astonished at it, still deeply moved.”

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Above Photo: Masai Mara sunset, Wikipedia

How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has this glorious starry firmament for a roof! In such places … it is easy to realize that whatever special nests we make – leaves and moss like the marmots and birds, or tents or piled stone – we all dwell in a house of one room – the world with the firmament for its roof.” – John Muir

Me playing John Wayne in "Hatari" at the Ambolseli Air Strip. Also pictures is Jackson, a member of the Maasai tribe who was nearing the end of his five-year apprenticeship to be a guide. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: Little Governor’s Lodge

After breakfast, Emanuel drove us the Amboseli Airport, a dirt landing strip with only a sign announcing its purpose, where we were to catch an 8:30 a.m. flight back to Nairobi’s small Wilson Airport.

In reminiscence of John Wayne in “Hatari,” I sat on the fender seat of the Land Rover and drank my coffee while we waited for the small plane to arrive. It was late.

The flight was a replay of the informal flight we had taken to Tanzania on our first full day in Africa, and was repeated again on the connecting flight we took from Nairobi on to the Masai Mara National Reserve, which is the northern end of Serengeti National Park.

Kim on board for the boat ride across the Mara River to get to Little Governor's Lodge. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Our small plane landed on a dirt strip within sight of zebra and giraffes. The smallest airport I had landed in up to this point had been a dirt strip in Smiley, Idaho, but then there had been a small town across the road.

A wart hog visits our tent at Little Governor's. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Here, at the Amboseli airport, there was nothing but wilderness and wildlife. I loved it.

From the airport it was a just a short distance to Little Governor’s Lodge, another tent camp and one where we would sleep for the next four nights. 

To get to the lodge complex, which was on an island surrounded by the Mara River and a swamp, we,took a boat powered by two staff members and a rope, to get across the river. Once across, we were met by a big-stick armed guard who escorted us the quarter-mile to camp.

Other stick-armed guards took us from the main, open air lodge buildings, to our tent, which in any sense of the word was much more than that. It included a large, tiled open shower and a front porch on which we could sit and watch animals across the swamp.

At closer range were wart hogs that roamed the tent complex. Our favorite of these was a mom with a tiny young one. The pair came right up to our porch. What fun, especially after we were told they were harmless.

Wart hogs were funny animals. We often saw them running full speed through the grass with their tails stuck straight up in the air. Then suddenly they would stop, as if they forgot where they were going.

Such behavior assured that they were often the entrée on a lion’s menu.

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 “There is just something spectacular about seeing wildlife in its natural environment that thrills us … Arun Kejriwai

We were too late to catch our leopard up in a tree, but I couldn't resist sharing this Wikipedia photo of this magnificent one out on a limb.

African Safari: A Day to Remember

I welcomed my first morning in the Serengeti from the balcony of our spacious Sopa Lodge suite, breathing in Africa’s morning light that left me eager to start the day. Red-cheeked cordon bleus – what a strange name for a bird – welcomed the morning with me.

After breakfast, and more great African coffee, Bilal picked Kim and I for a full day of wildlife viewing.

Red-cheeked cordon bleu

The day’s fantastic wildlife started as we exited the lodge compound’s gate – beginning with a green wood- hoopoe (another strange bird name) and a troop of baboons that included several babies being lugged around on an adult’s back – and never let up.

We saw impalas, water buffalo, hippos, lions, cheetahs, ostriches, dik-diks, zebras, wildebeest, Nile crocodiles and of course many species of birds – all before we stopped for a nature hike in a developed tourist area where the wildlife were sculptures, well except for the monkeys, one of which tried to steal Kim’s box lunch.

Kim being funny during our nature walk among the wildlife sculptures. -- Photo by Pat Bean

After lunch, I wandered around doing my usual bird hunting until Kim came rushing up telling me to come quick.

Back at the Land Rover, Bilal said “Come on mama,” and then we were off on yet another wild ride.

This time we were racing toward a leopard sighting, which Bilal had learned about while talking Swahil on his radio with other guides. We weren’t the only racers. Only about one in five visitors to Tanzania are lucky enough to see a leopard, we had been told.

Our leopard intently watching a Grant's gazelle. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

It was like a traffic jam at the sighting site when we got there, and learned the leopard had just jumped out of a tree and disappeared.

Then suddenly, as all binoculars were turned toward the distant landscape trying to find the animal, it walked right in front of our Land Rover. Our spot in the traffic turned out to be the best one for leopard watching.

Little bee-eater

Ignoring all the human fuss going on around it, the leopard stayed in the area for the next 30 minutes or so, patiently stalking a Grant’s gazelle. The gazelle finally spotted it, however, and was off and running, while the leopard simply slunk out of sight.

For once, I forgot to look for birds.

Bird Log of New Lifers: Red-cheeked cordon bleu, green wood-hoopoe, red-billed oxpecker, spotted redshank, brown snake eagle, lilac-breasted roller, black crake, sooty chat, blue-capped cordon bleu, speckled-fronted weaver. Verreaux eagle owl, Hilderbrandt’s starling, speckled pigeon, grey-capped social weaver, purple grenadier, lesser masked weaver, wood sandpiper, yellow-breasted apalis, white-headed vulture, hoopoe, little bee-eater, white-bellied bustard, bare-faced go-awaybird, white-browed coucal, Aug. 24, 2007, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.

Next: Swahili

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 “The very idea of a bird is a symbol and a suggestion to the poet. A bird seems to be at the top of the scale, so vehement and intense his life … the beautiful vagabonds, endowed with every grace, masters of all climes, and knowing no bounds – how many human aspirations are realised in their free, holiday lives – and how many suggestions to the poet in their flight and song.” – John Burroughs

They say ostriches stick their heads in the sand. Maybe so. But the ones we saw in the Serengeti preferred to stretched out their legs and run. It made for a glorious parade. -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Colorful Birds

Kori bustard -- Photo by Kim Perrin

The drive from Lake Manyara to the Serengeti was one of the most exciting bird-watching days in my life. I saw my first free roaming ostriches. Much bigger than I imagined, and boy could they run.

We passed a Kori bustard, which strutted across the grasslands like it owned them. We were close enough for Kim to even get a great photograph. This was a big bird, standing over three-feet tall.

There was this great big red-faced fellow, a lappet-faced vulture. he made ugly look beautiful, well at least to the addicted birder.

A flock of Ruppell's griffin vulture, with a lone lappet-faced vulture on the far left. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

A face only a mother could love, or not. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

And then there were the secretary birds,  so named because someone thought the stiff neck feathers looked like the quill pens secretaries used to stick behind their ears. it hunts its prey — small mammals, snakes, lizards, young birds, on the ground.

Secretary bird: Do you think this bird's neck feathers look like quill pens? -- Wikipedia photo

Like the bustard, the secretary bird we saw was strutting across the savannah as if it owned it.  

Next : the Serengeti’s Sopa Lodge

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It's easy to see that giraffes are what help give the umbrella acacias their shape and name. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

“Each day I live in a glass room unless I break it with the thrusting of my senses and pass through the splintered walls to the great landscape.” – Mervyn Peake

African Safari: Runners, Wildlife and Thorns

When I travel from place to place in my native America, I try extremely hard never to get on a boring freeway. In Tanzania, Kim and I never had to worry about our driver, Bilal, taking such a wide interstate from place to place. There were none, or at least none in the areas we traveled.

We were lucky if the roads were paved. Their roughness prompted Bilal to joke that along with being our driver, he was giving us a free massage.

Which was perfectly fine with me. The bouncy ride was part of the adventure. And the slower we were forced to go, the more time it offered for sightseeing.

And there was plenty to see this morning as Bilal transported us from Lake Mayara’s Serena Lodge to the Sopa Lodge in the Serengeti. The drive took us from wide-open Wyoming like scenery through a misty jungle that brought images of Jurassic Park floating though our brains.

Wildebeest and morning mist on the Ngorongoro Crater escarpment. -- Photo by Pat Bean

One of the populated areas we passed through was Karatu, which Bilal told us was the home of many great marathon runners. Watching the area’s slim, black men brought to mind images of the Boston marathon and other long-distance races I had seen in which racers with such physiques were always frontrunners.

The misty jungle scenery came near the top of the Ngorongoro Crater, which was formed seven million years ago when the land was pushed up by volcanoes, then collasped. At the crater overlook, a Maasai salesman was immediately upon us, but Bilal suggested that we wait to shop somewhere that would benefit an entire Maasai community.

This hungry simba had his eye on a tommy (Thompson's gazelle). -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Zebra, cheetahs, lions, gazelles, monkeys, giraffes, gazelles, and other African wildlife were also on the sightseeing agenda this morning. We lingered the longest to watch a mother cheetah with four young cubs that stayed mostly hidden in the grass while the mother kept a look out.

Bilal stopped to show us the whistling acacia tree, on which grow hollowed nodes favored by ants. The ants create holes in these bulbous growths and when the wind blows over them the produce a whistling sound.

Despite the thorns, giraffes find this plant a delectable meal.

Whistling acacia

I found this information fascinating, but once again, our sight-seeing put us behind schedule. And so Bilal again put the pedal to the metal to get us to the Serengeti lodge in time for our scheduled lunch. Kim and I just hung on – and smiled.

Next:  The Homeless Maasai

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Early morning balloon ride over the Serengeti toward the rising sun.


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