If you have been following my East Africa blogs: https://suddenly70.ca/2019/02/09/wonderful-trip-to-east-africa-pt-1/ and https://suddenly70.ca/2019/03/21/wonderful-trip-to-east-africa-pt-2/ you might remember that after our time at Ngorongoro Crater we planned to head to a tented camp. We knew very little about this camp except that we had confidence in Roar Africa, our travel advisor. We were simply delighted when we arrived.
We left early morning and travelled on a small aircraft from Manyara, picking up and dropping off passengers as we went. This is the way in Tanzania, and I suspect all over Africa. We finally arrived at our destination airstrip in Grumeti Reserve, which is owned by Singita, and the camp is called Singita Sabora. I had of course checked out the website, but wasn’t prepared for the actuality.
We were met by our driver/guide, Calson, and taken to the outdoor restaurant area to have cold drinks, a light lunch of red pepper soup and salad, and be welcomed. The raised platform where we sat had a splendid view outward to vast plains and visions of impalas in the distance. As soon as we met him, Calson impressed us with his love of the area, the animals, and life in general. He was charming, well spoken and very knowledgeable. We both knew we would be happy with his company and looked forward to our game drives.
Monambo, Charles, and scenes from the camp site
Our butler/server/new friend, Monambo, took us to our tent. What a tent! Everything was fashioned in the style of the early twenties, when the first travellers from overseas in England arrived for safari. There were cars outside that were from the period, steamer trunks inside, copies of oil lamps, the netted double bed, the wash basins, outdoor shower and tub; all were in the old style, but of course every amenity and comfort was offered. Books were everywhere with wonderful pictures and photographs on the walls. We were immersed in another era, well almost. There were dark covers for the windows at night so as not to attract animals or tiny little flying critters. We had bottles of water for our drinking and to clean our teeth. No water was to be used from the taps for drinking. This was the same in the other hotels where we stayed. And eco-friendly, everything was in glass, no plastic.
We met Calson for our first game drive at 4:00. The open-air jeep in khaki green was very comfortable, and as we learned, not threatening to the animals. I had to climb up into it using a small step. We were given excellent binoculars, water, and blankets for the chill that would come later in the evening. We saw the graceful gazelles, giraffes, and amazingly Calson spotted a leopard in an acacia tree. We hung out there mesmerized watching her. Calson was very excited, as were we.
first game drive with Calson
As the sun was setting he found a spot with an incredible view of the massive never ending spaces, opened the back of the jeep and brought out some libation; champagne for me and red wine for Charles and little appetizers to nibble on. We just stood there awed by the beauty of it all, and the quiet, for our sundowner as they call it in Africa; a happy hour watching the sunset.
After awhile, we headed back to the base camp to freshen up in our tent and eventually head for dinner. Already there was a chill in the air. The amazing thing about the weather was that in the mornings it would be around 46F/9 C and then rise in the afternoon to the 80’s F or 30 C. The dress code was definitely layered with a sweatshirt or fuzzy, and cape of the softest wool, that the resort supplied, our own gloves, sunglasses and then everything, well almost everything came off as it warmed up.
That first evening we ate our dinner on the outside raised platform/terrace with lanterns lit with fire and tables set with fine china and crystal. It didn’t matter if you dressed up, as it was so dark. It was January in case I didn’t tell you. Monambo quickly learned our drinking habits, champagne and white wine for me, and red for Charles, then cognac afterwards and scotch. I had a perfectly cooked filet of beef and Charles had fish. We were escorted back to our tent, although we didn’t have far to go. This is a must in the African bush or plains, that an armed escort takes you to or from your room in the dark of morning or evening. There were no fences at this camp so the animals could wander freely nearby, although they seemed to have a sense of how far to approach.
During the night I kept hearing this wild call echoing around us. I learned the next day it was the hyenas. Getting in and out of the mesh of the netted bed during the night was not easy, especially in the dark, although flashlights were supplied. We were expected to meet at 6:00 am still in the dark, and to call for our escort. We had some drinks, Charles his cappuccino and me some freshly squeezed orange juice, and a nibble of a muffin. Then we headed out in the chill morning air in the open jeep.
Calson was headed back to find the leopard in the tree and he did in a nearby one. This gorgeous creature was busy watching for prey and we were busy watching her and of course taking pictures. My little Canon did a great job with its zoom lens and Calson taught me how to take a picture with my i-phone using the binoculars. This was not easy as a very still hand was required to hold both, but the results were amazing as you can see. Aside from the leopard we spotted many hyenas waiting for the kill, giraffes looking beautiful, little mongoose flitting about, more gazelles, topi, eland, all part of the antelope family. We learned there are many members that belong to this family of elegant and strong animals.
We stopped for a long while and enjoyed watching, and Calson brought out some juice and coffee and small snacks to keep us until we returned to the base camp for lunch. There was a daily routine that I loved, which was rising early for our first game drive, back at the camp for a leisurely lunch sitting under a tree and watching the animals roam very close to us, and then a swim in the unheated pool to escape the afternoon heat. I tried the spa for an appallingly awful manicure. I could have done a better one with my eyes closed, but the manager apologized, and I then settled for a nap until our next game drive.
cubs hanging out
It is amazing how good a guide can be and how superb Calson was. He would see animals in the distance with his binoculars. Every thing looked beige to us, and then we would spot the animals he saw and approach. Of course that is what he does and he has a practiced eye, but he was very good at it and knowledgeable and also good at teaching us to spot. When we saw the hyenas grabbing and carrying prey with their strong jaws, he told us that the females also have pseudo penises. Check out the link above if you are interested in this unusual physical trait. The baby hyenas have very sweet faces, which of course hide a nasty nature. Also if you are interested in how giraffes mate, check out this link. The male will taste the female’s urine to see if she is ready. We also learned the new words used for a collective of animals like a leap of leopards. I have a picture of these words, see below, some of which are quite hilarious. We also learned that the tsetse fly is in this part of Africa and not to wear blue. In fact there are structures in blue hung in the trees to attract this dangerous pest. We were comfortable in our beige safari clothing on many accounts, not just for the fly, but also to blend in with the scenery so that the animals would not see us as different.
tsetse fly attractor
While we drove, Charles would ask questions or just talk about things with Calson. I usually sat quietly and just absorbed the nature around us. We got used to seeing the gazelles and all the different varieties of antelopes, like the eland and the topi. We got used to seeing the beauty of the vast plains, as our property was right next to the Serengeti or really a part of it. There were other guests with other guides who shared information about which animals were where. One morning Calson had heard of a male lion siting right on the border of our property and we saw him with his cubs. The female was out hunting so the male was the baby sitter. We amused ourselves watching them.
We saw different prides each day mostly without the male. They would walk very close to our jeep and at one point I stared deep in the eyes of one of the females and felt a spiritual rush, much like what I feel when I look deep in the eyes of our dog, Oscar, a really close connection. This is what I love about seeing the animals in the wild. At one lazy lunch we spotted about a dozen ostrich prancing around. The thing about these giant flightless birds is that their legs seemed to be hinged backwards. When they walk away from you they look as if they are walking toward you. You have to see it. It is so beguiling.
king of the birds
We fell into a lovely routine of sunrise to sunset looking at gorgeous animals in the wild, stopping for libation, and one morning when Calson wanted us to see the lion male, he suggested we have our breakfast on the plain. He brought egg and bacon sandwiches so we could stay out a long time. Often near the end of the day we would see the Cape Buffalo, also known as Black Death and apparently very dangerous.
Each night our dinner situation would change; the first night on the terrace as I described earlier, the second in a more beautiful part of the terrace closer to the plains. The third night we were set up by the swimming pool with lanterns, and the last night right outside our tent, which was magical as they had hung lanterns in the trees and set a table with china and crystal finery. Monambo served us each course separately, and had amazing wines to accompany. Charles brilliantly brought out his phone and set Google music up, and we danced in the moonlight. It was incredibly romantic.
love the teeth
But I am a head of myself. One early morning Charles awoke with a miserable cold that he believed he got from the Massai chief who had a cough when we visited, see Pt. 2: https://suddenly70.ca/2019/03/21/wonderful-trip-to-east-africa-pt-2/. I went by myself on that early morning drive. The air was very cold, but I had my layers with the Cape etc. Everyone was very solicitous to Charles and his cold..what could they bring him, did he need a doctor etc. Of course the next day I got the cold, but it was old news then. We just kept eating and drinking and enjoying the scenery and animals through misty eyes. We saw many wildebeest and got very close to an eland that we presumed was dead because it didn’t run away, and these are very skittish animals. Then it saw us, and ran to its pack. Charles suggested that it might be deaf, which made sense. It was quite exciting to see this large antelope see us.
my lovely giraffes
When you are in the wild you start to grasp the scheme of things. There are animals that prey on others and kill the weak ones. Then there are the hyenas, the robbers, waiting to get in on the leftovers. You see the frail ones that can’t survive and you feel for them, but it is the order of their life. Just about every day we saw our favorite giraffes eating the sharp needle like leaves and twigs of the acacia trees. Elephants in great groups wandering near us were a common sight. At a certain point in time we became used to being near these wild animals. Now I miss them. Did I mention that at our last dinner there was a guard standing nearby just in case any animals were drawn to the lights. The guards there carried machetes.
When our last morning was upon us, we travelled with Calson to the airstrip and on the way in the early dawn many animals came out to say good bye or so I thought; the impalas, buffalo, baboons, and just as I figured they had forgotten us, the giraffes. We arrived at a part of the road that was filled with elephants washing themselves in dirt, which is how they get rid of pests from their bodies. Then all of a sudden a very large male elephant approached our jeep head on and my heart stood still. I saw the newspaper headlines flash ‘Canadian couple killed by elephant in Tanzania’. This big guy was heading straight for us, but Calson stopped the engine, put up his hand and said softly, ‘Easy fellow, take it easy’. Sigh. The elephant turned away and Calson said he was a young male showing off. After we left, this young not so small probably about 10,000 pound male, followed us for a bit and bellowed loudly, more showing off. I managed only to get a photo of the other elephants.
We at last arrived at the splendid Singita airstrip and waited for the small plane to transport us back to Kilimanjaro airport where we were again put through multiple layers of security and then we flew to Wilson airport in Nairobi where Nzioti, our guide, was waiting for us. My cold was bothersome, but we still managed to stop at a large marketplace and buy some souvenirs.
Charles had a massage at the hotel, an offering from Roar Africa. I passed because I just felt like having a nap. We had dinner outside with a soothing hot Thai soup and then left at midnight on British Air for London. For some reason Mr. Bipen, our driver, was late picking us up, but he soon got us to the Haymarket Hotel where our room awaited us. Charles had a bit of traveller’s tummy, which I had had earlier. There is nothing like sharing.We took Malarone to prevent malaria and I think this was one of the side effects, definitely better than malaria though. I went out to get some cash at a machine, we had a nice dinner and then off to Orlando the next morning with our heads and hearts filled with memories of our African journey.
Till next time, asante Africa or thank you!