Sunday, May 29, 2011

T.I.A. Part 2

Blog 2:
T.I.A. Volume 2
Did I leave you all in enough suspense?
The start of my second day in the Serengeti began with a sunrise hot air balloon ride, which was spectacular. This was definitely one of my big splurges, but completely worth it. It was an amazing way to see the landscape from above and incredibly peaceful. We didn't go as high as I thought we would (about 5-30 feet high) but this is to increase animal viewing. Again, we saw zebra, gazelle, wildebeest, and giraffe from above. The balloon moved pretty quickly and our hour long ride was over too soon. While the ride was over there was still much more to come. Champagne toast anyone? They gave us a story about why the French (who discovered hot air balloon riding) drank champagne after each ride and so they follow custom. No complaints here! At 730am and on an empty stomach my fellow safari friends and I enjoyed several glasses of bubbly while reliving our ride.
Next, we were whisked away for a full english breakfast, complete with cloth napkins and silver service under the largest acaia tree ever. Wait, am I on safari or in the movie Out Of Africa? What was already an amazing morning was made even better with real bacon, rolls, and an endless supply of coffee and champagne. Which, at our end of the table was quite a bit of champagne!! Feeling exhilarated (and a little tipsy!) we climbed back in the trucks for a mid-morning game drive. It was another amazing morning of driving through the plains viewing spectacular wildlife. A much needed nap after lunch and we set out for a sunset game drive. Saw several trucks, which generally means something was going on. Away we went to check it out. Watched a leopard in the distance jump down from a tree. Our driver, George, said, half joking, that the leopard might walk across the road. We stopped and waited, a few minutes went by and no leopard. Then, the leopard jumps up on a fallen tree about 50 feet away and poses a little for everyone. A few minutes later the leopard literally BRUSHES past our truck and walks across the road, hops on a fallen tree mere feet from the road!! Now, you know you hit something good when the tour guides start pulling out their cameras. The leopard laid down, posed for over an hour, and started calling for a mate. There were probably a dozen trucks in the area witnessing this awesome site. Leopards are usually sprawled in trees, not lounging next to the road. An awesome end to an incredible day.
The next day proved to be just as incredible. We were a patient group, allowing us to see a lot of unique animal activity. Pulled up to a group of lioness, they do the hunting for the pride. This group of lions looked like they were on a mission, not taking a mid morning nap, ear perked and on alert. We stayed and watched. Every time the lions would even flinch, someone would gasp a little, would they attack??? I wanna see some blood man! Finally, they pounced. We came really close to the kill being right in front of us, but in the end it didn't. Watching the chase was well worth the wait,they are stealthy creatures and fast. More driving and stumbled upon a male and female lion alone. Hmm...Wanna guess what happened next? That's right kids! Mating lions, literally feet from the road!! Learned that they go at it for 5-7 days every 10-15 minutes, up to 20 times a day! Whoa nelly! So we sat there and watching copulating lions for about an hour or so (yes, we're pervs!) Drove around some more, drove past again, and they were still going at it. A little later, stumbled upon a pride of lions, around 10 lions, with a fresh kill. The hyenas and vultures hovering near by. The lions crossed the road multiple times from the water to the kill, back and forth. Again, all right in front if us.
Left the Serengeti and headed back to the Ngorongoro crater. Set up camp on the top at the rim and enjoyed some of the most beautiful stars I've ever seen. The last morning we head into the crater, where there is a large consistent population of wildlife, due to the lake. The crater itself is stunning. Lush green walls and swaying gold-green grass with a lake in the middle of it all. Saw the last of the big 5, a black rhino. There's only 25 of them in the crater, they are incredibly endangered. The one we saw was pretty up close, maybe 300 yards. A few more looks at wildebeest, warthogs, zebra, giraffe, lions, and an elephant on the way out. On the way up our brakes started making a funny noise, not what you want to hear on a steep incline! Apparently the brakes had gotten something in them, which was fixed at lunch. A final dinner with the group, celebrating a birthday in the group. We managed to find cupcakes, candles, and even a birthday hat!  A great evening out with a great group of people. I couldn't have asked for a better or more memorable safari!
 Tanzania has truly been one of the most memorable places and experiences of my life. It completely made all the ups and downs of Africa worthwhile. Africa is certainly an interesting continent to explore. On a side note while sitting in the Nairobi airport waiting for a connection I randomly saw Drew Barrymore stroll past. Random, huh?

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