After spending three days in the Western Serengeti it was time for our safari party to migrate to a different region of the national park. We enjoyed our final meal at Kirawira, and piled into the Land Cruisers to head due east. If you recall your kindergarten days, you might remember playing musical chairs. Well, today we played musical Land Cruisers. After spending three full days with Joseph, Terry, Anne, and Bernice, they gave us the boot. Actually, Terry pre-planned the vehicle switch. Because there were three guides who each offered a unique perspective on the safari experience, Terry wanted us to meet and ride with each guide. Our guide, driver, and Swahili tutor was Clementh; riding shotgun was our field chef Michael. The vehicle "switcharoo" was also an opportunity to make new friends. Heidi and Mike (pictured above in an Acacia tree with Tamy and I) became our safari buddies. Much like the teens at any family reunion, it took less than an hour for the four of us to bond and descend to the depths of sophomoric humor. Being a high school teacher and one time delinquent, this was not too difficult for me!
The game drive from the west to the east allowed us to see the diversity of habitats that define the Serengeti. The west is a sea of grass. This endless savannah is dotted by the occasional acacia tree, pond, or river. During the wildebeest and zebra migration, huge herds of ungulates mow the grassy fields to the soil as they make their way towards the Tanzania - Kenya border. It is here that the newborns, weak, and injured must survive the gauntlet of predators as they cross the Mara River that separates the Serengeti from the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya.
As we drove east, we could see and feel a shift in the elevation. We encountered wildlife near forests of acacias that surrounded rivers bisecting the savanah. Kopjes, rocky outcrops, emerged from the grassy plains like giant pimples on smooth skin. Here we searched for lions on granitic perches. Once again this drive offered a great opportunity to photograph a pride of lions. Although pictures "say a thousand words," no photo can describe the disgust and pain we felt for the lioness that had been caught in a snare. Pictured below, you can see her beautiful face juxtaposed by her ensnared abdomen. A tight snare, set by a poacher, enveloped the belly of this female and dug into her skin. When she walked, her stomach bulged, and when she reclined the scar of the experience was visible. Clementh explained that poachers had not intended to entrap a lion, but she was a casualty of the illegal activity. Although the snare had been removed by park rangers, the damage from the snare had already begun to impact the future of this lion.
Today initiated a ritual that would be repeated during the remaining days of our safari. Sometime after 1:00 the guides would search for a suitable tree or kopje, they would circle and inspect the area, and then they would park. Like the music that precedes a sitcom, this preceded the "Michael Show." Once we parked, tables, chairs, stoves, pots and pans would be dragged from the bowels of the Land Cruisers and assembled under the shade of a tree. Each table was coated by a table cloth, and set as if you were in an outdoor cafe. This was followed by the wash-bucket, beer, soda and appetizers. Meanwhile, Michael would fire up the stove and produce a superb meal in the bush. There were full vegetarian options, meat, breads, and of course, desserts. How he did this still remains one of the great safari mysteries of June, 2008.
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