On Not Getting Eaten by Lions: Serengeti Safari
Trip Start Sep 02, 2010
77Trip End Jun 13, 2011
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But on all those trips in the San Jacinto mountains and in Joshua Tree, I've NEVER heard anything like the massacre that occurred outside my tent in the middle of the Serengeti. If you've ever wondered what it sounds like when a lion mauls another animal and when hyenas surround your tent, wonder no more. I can do a fun little impression for you when I next see you.
Before I describe that experience (which, by the way, terrified me more than bungy jumping, sky-diving, or swimming with sharks), I'll back up a few steps.... When Dan and I arrived in Moshi, I was practically bouncing off the walls--partly out of delirium from our long, harrowed bus journey but partly out of happy anticipation for seeing two of my Chadwick pals later that night
We had such a happy reunion with the Chadwick chums, and then we left Dan in Moshi as we departed for Lake Manyara. As Summar, Pat, and I laughed and laughed about Chadwick stories and round-the-world trip tales, our guide Emmanuel tried to insert some history of the landscape we were whizzing by. I realized how much I'd missed the old pals; it was really, really good to catch up with some peeps who know me in my "other" life.
When we did manage to catch our breath from storytelling and look outside the jeep, we realized how gorgeous the scenery was. As we wove our way up into the famous Green Hills of Africa, the plains gave way to lush greenery enveloped by clouds. Then when we pulled into our first park, Lake Manyara, we were stunned by the beauty of the rainforest.
To our delight, Emmanuel popped the top of the Land Rover, and Pat, Summar, and I lept to our feet. We admired the baobab trees and laughed at the awkward baboons
The next day, after a night of Kili beer and more ridiculous stories, we headed to a traditional Maasai village. We'd seen some Maasai tribes walking along the road with their beautiful, bright robes and their spears, and we were really curious about them. So when Emmanuel suggested we pay to visit a small village, we jumped at the chance. Our guide, whose Maasai name translated to "Scorpion," was a lovely guy who ushered us into the village welcome circles. Pat was shown into the middle of a circle of men, who chanted and jumped with him, rhythmically, in the air. Summar and I were led to a circle of women, who placed beads around our necks and then chanted, jumping some more. I didn't care that this village was an obvious tourist spot for those on safari; we were lucky to be the only tourists in the village at that time, and the women's kind smiles--as we hopped in the air together--were lovely
We continued along in our jeep until we reached the gorgeous Serengeti. I was so taken by the famous wide, infinite plains and the beautiful acacia trees. And the light--whether the sun was shining brightly or only barely reflecting off the puddles--was gorgeous. We all must've snapped a hundred photos of the landscape alone. And we were lucky to see all the animals we'd hoped to find! Lions, a leopard, a cheetah, zebras, giraffes, etc. The most amazing sites were seeing the different animals interact: watching a cheetah catch a gazelle and watching zebras guard a pack of migrating wildebeast from preying hyenas. Totally amazing.
The most noteworthy experience, however, was one that involved animals of the human variety. When we first arrived at our safari camp, and I learned we'd be sleeping in tents (with nothing but canvas between us and the lions), I was terrified. I like to consider myself a relatively adventurous person, but there were all sorts of cues in this safari camp that would lead me to believe that we SHOULD be at least a tad scared as we stayed here. Various signs warned us not to stray from the 50-meter perimeter inside the tents. And seeing hyenas' eyes glare at us as we ate dinner in the "mess hall tent" didn't help much. Nor did the knowledge--painfully obvious--that the three of us were the only residents staying in that camp for those two nights
So when Summar and I first heard the cat growls and snarls--around 9:00 p.m., we started to freak out. And when we heard the all-out maul-fest around 2:00, then again at 3:00, and once more around 5:00, I thought I was going to die from heart failure. In retrospect, I realize we must have looked like a pretty ridiculous couple of gals, but those sounds were utterly terrifying. I should have captured them on my camera, but I was too scared to leave the "safety" of my blankets and reach for it in my bag. At one point, because we'd heard that lions stay away if they hear human voices talking softly, we turned on our head lamps and read aloud to each other from her guidebook about giardia, another lovely beast to fear on our travels. We also heard Pat, in his tent next door, alternate between laughing at the hyenas (who looked at him through his tent window) and crying out to us in fear. Around 4:00, there may have been a few expletives yelled from one tent to the other.
When we awoke the next morning, Emmanuel gleefully asked us if we'd heard the hyenas and the lion. He GRINNED as he asked us this. With bloodshot eyes, we told him why yes, we had. He just laughed at us and reminded us to stay inside our tents the next night.
Good call, Emmanuel. Thanks, bud.