Tanzania 2008: The Safari Begins

I told Tamy that it looked slightly larger than the "puddle jumper" we took to the Osa Peninsula in 2000. We were a group of 13 and rather than drive to the Serengeti, we were scheduled on a regional flight. The airport lacked all of the security precautions to which we have grown accustom. There were three other safari groups crowded with us into a pre-boarding room. Slowly each group was escorted to a plane or to staging area number two. I sat sipping a freshly brewed cup of Tanzanian pea berry dreaming about the wildlife we would soon see. Once on the plane Tamy and I realized that we made a critical error in judgment... too many fluids in and nowhere to let the fluids out. As the plane took off, the fidgeting began. Fortunately, twenty minutes later the plane landed. So as I gathered my things the pilot explained that this was a pick-up not a drop-off. Ok... more fidgeting. When the plane landed again, I could hear my bladder sigh in relief as we made our approach for the second landing. Unfortunately the relief was short lived as this was a too was a pick-up and not a a drop off. We repeated the same dance two more times before landing on a marked patch of grass that served as an airstrip.

As the plane came in for its final approach we could see miniature versions of giant animals in the distance. I think we saw giraffe from above, but this could have been just my imagination. As we climbed out the plane it was clear that we were not in Kansas anymore. The airstrip was a cryptic patch of grass that was simply an extension of the Serengeti. Zebra, wildebeest and ostrich meandered in and around the "runway." At the edge of the landing pad we could see three Land Cruiser safari vehicles and a well-guarded concrete shack. When I approached the armed guard to inquire about a bathroom, I quickly learned that Tamy and I would soon become intimate with the bush.

This trip has added a new expression to our vocabulary. From now on, any remote potty stop will require that we "circle the bush." The Serengeti is so wild that trees and bushes must be inspected for predators and snakes before they are approached. Because we were all about to go on our first game drive and Tamy and I were not the only ones suffering from fluid overload, this became a very well watered bush! As the last person walked away from the un-toilet tree, I gasped as I saw a large hippopotamus walking less than 20 meters from our bush. For those who are not aware, startled hippos kill more people than any other wild animal in Tanzania.

Each of the safari vehicles is a stretched Toyota Land Cruiser. Our guide and driver for the next few days is Joseph and riding shotgun is or tour leader, Terry. The back of each truck has an open roof, four bucket seats, and windows that can be opened from side to side. Tamy and I climbed into the truck and staked out a spot for all of our photo gear. As we headed down the runway and into the endless Serengeti, we saw more wildlife in a two-hour period than either of us had ever seen before. In short we saw a herd of elephants taking a mud bath, giraffe browsing on acacia trees, and crocodiles flooding their mouths with river water in search of some sushi. The Serengeti was covered by ungulates in the near and far; it was a smorgasbord for our wildlife seeking eyes. By the end of the day we spent eight hours on safari and can't wait for tomorrow!

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