A Tanzanian Dream, continued

Last fall, Ola and I traveled to Africa for the first time and had a beyond incredible experience over the two short weeks that we were in Tanzania. We spent the first week climbing Mt Kili before going on a two day safari and diving in Zanzibar. Going on a safari was a dream come true; I felt like I was living in a National Geographic magazine!

Our first safari day was spent exploring the Ngorongoro Crater, the world's largest inactive, intact, unfilled volcanic caldera that has a diameter of about 20 km (thanks, Wiki). !!! My mind was blown. On our drive down onto the crater floor, we stopped at this lookout spot and I felt like my brain couldn't fully process the immensity and vastness of what I was looking at. This was a very familiar feeling to me by this point of our trip!

Safari trucks are designed for maximal views: large windows everywhere with elevated seats and massive sunroofs.

Soon after we drove through the park gates, we had our first animal sighting: an elephant walking through the trees. I couldn't believe my eyes or handle my excitement; I was seeing an elephant in his/her natural habitat! So cool.

I constantly felt like my eyes were playing tricks on me as I looked out the window. Because most of the crater floor was flat and a cohesive mix of shades of yellow, green, and brown, it kept registering as a small lump of land rather than the kilometres and kilometres it really is. Seeing an animal walking or eating in the distance kept giving me shocking perspective.

Can you spot any animals in the above photo? We drove over to check out the pride of lions resting atop the hill behind the pond and because I was so focused on watching the lions, I didn't notice the other animals until our guides pointed them out. 

The large, smooth "rocks" in the water are hippos!!! HIPPOS! If you knew me during my grade school years, you'd likely know that I was obsessed with hippos and their teeny tiny eyes and itsy bitsy ears on their gargantuan bodies. I know they can be scary in real life but they're just so loveable!

Look at all the pairs of disproportionately tiny ears! 

I couldn't stop staring at and watching these guys, hoping to see one come out of the water or swim or something! I improvised and started putting binoculars in front of my phone camera to watch them more closely, extremely hopeful. Sadly, besides seeing one roll around in the water once, the hippos stayed in the water to stay cool as our guides predicted. 

If you've been on a safari before, you'll likely know about the "Big Five". It's a term coined by big-game hunters that refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. The Big Five are the lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, rhinoceros, and leopard. We were lucky enough to see four of the five, all but the leopard! Though we saw many elephants and buffalo, we only saw a handful of lions and one single rhinoceros. One of our guides spotted this lone rhino among some Cape buffalo, far off in the distance! (Yay for blurry binocular photos!)

After driving along the crater, we found a male and female lion on their "honeymoon", as our guide called it. We missed all the action, which I'm not exactly disappointed by! We watched them for a bit as they relaxed in the field.

Oh hello there.

I didn't expect to see ostriches! Maybe because I had seen them in Canadian farms growing up, I assumed they couldn't possibly live in such a different climate. 

So many zebra! Aren't their beautifully patterned coats mesmerizing?

On our drive up and out of the crater at the end of the day, this water buffalo came out of nowhere to say hi and cross the road! Not pictured: the various species of antelope that were prancing around, including the dik-dik and gazelle, a bunch of vervet monkeys playing and swinging around in a group of trees, and herds of cows grazing on the side of the road. Safaris are unreal.

The next morning, we spent an hour visiting a Maasai boma before heading onto day two of safari. The Maasai and their traditions were so intriguing to learn about as their way of life is a stark contrast from mine. A lot of their traditions and customs have carried on, from their physical homes to social structures and ceremonies. 

Upon arriving, the Maasai women lined up and sang while the men performed a traditional dance. A few women sang the melody while the others' voices resembled an array of percussion instruments creating a deep and steady bass line.

Afterwards, Ola and I were draped in colourful fabrics and brought into the courtyard. We stood among the women and tried to join in on the traditional "jumping dance". My favourite part was watching the women as they moved to the beat of their rhythmic throat singing; beyond the cohesive, melodic sounds themselves, the women's stamina was most impressive as it looked like they were pulling out the low sounds from deep within their cores.

After visiting the Maasai, we left for Tarangire National Park, a park that is known for it's high concentration of elephants. And elephants we did see! One of our guides stopped the truck when he spotted this family of elephants walking towards the road and we watched them go about their day for a good thirty minutes. The baby elephant was just the cutest!

I spy with my little eye (binoculars) a couple of grazing giraffes.

The watering hole like in Lion King, in real life!

A lady lion heading over to the stream to spy on the other animals. The guides knew she wouldn't be going there for lunch by herself but we wanted to stay and watch, just in case.

A few long minutes later, she slowly strolled back towards us.

Like, really straight for us. 

Though our guides assured us that we were safe, Ola and I couldn't help but instinctively scoot away from our window as she continued walking towards the truck! I was in the middle of taking a video when fear crept up and took over; I stopped the video as I hastily and clumsily stumbled away from the window...as our guides laughed at us. She walked right up to the truck and brushed alongside its side, not unlike a house cat brushing alongside human legs, and continued on her way.

We enjoyed our packed lunches at a picnic area where tons of monkeys waited for dropped morsels from tourists' lunches or an opportunity to steal an entire package of crackers or banana...like the one lucky monkey with a baby clinging onto her frontside that scored something from Ola's lunch!

Hi Toucan Sam!

Experiencing a safari was a dream come true and still feels like a distant dream some days, along with the rest of our Tanzania adventure. Stay posted for the last leg of our trip: Zanzibar.


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