News from the 2009 Safari Year
I really am no longer going to call it the “Safari season”. I’ve been losing out by encouraging people to travel only during the traditional safari season, while a couple of friends in the guiding business are doing safaris right through March, April and May. Then in November they carry on right up to Christmas. Mind you, on the other hand it is a treat to be able to spend some time at home. Just got to get the balance right.
The 2009 season … year … was an excellent one for safaris, well it was excellent all round really. We are finally getting some rain which is hopefully going to break this drought. Hopefully Maasailand will now be awash with water for a while, instead of awash with dead Maasai cattle. The Maasai moved all of their cattle out of Northern Maasailand by July or so and I actually missed the sound of the wooden cattle bells over the hills.
I started with three great safaris in February which always keeps the wolf from the door during those lean wet months that follow. The Chapin group was a big one, three jeeps, twelve people. We somehow became spectacularly stuck in the middle of the short grass plains of the Southern Serengeti …. all three vehicles … and not a tree around to winch off. And, whoops, we were somehow miles from any road, how did that happen. It was a sea of black mud and very short grass and bemused wildebeest. It took us several hours to become unstuck and involved winching one vehicle against another. And then the third vehicle against the other two. It was well into night when we reached camp wet and bedraggled and someone realized they had left their underwear out on the plains – now how does that happen? I never saw anyone running around naked, what kind of safaris are these?
Then came another big safari led by the Gruens’ – Houstonites and fun times. We went back to the same area and didn’t get stuck. My father in law’s saying was stuck well in my head “Anyone can make a mistake but only a fool makes the same mistake twice”.
And finally in February my friend and inspiration Ken Coe came out with some more wonderful people and we did some wonderful things – one of my favourites is visiting the volcano at Natron, and we got to see wild dog. Another highlight was our afternoon drinking hot beer at the weekly Maasai market in Orkijoloongishu, watching the world go by.
Then the long break to prepare for more Houstonites. Lynn Smith put together the ultimate ‘Wild Bunch’ for ten days of partying and game viewing in June. There were discos in our camp most evenings complete with flashing disco lights. When there was no disco there was great guitar around the fire … oh and games. The quote of the safari must have been the one Mini made when he won a long involved game of chance and skill: “WHOSE YOURE DADDY”.
Ned Holmes came back next with his extended family and we went from one great location to the next. We spent several wonderful days in the Moyowosi swamps which included Tiger fishing on the river … oh yes and we cant forget the Maasai wedding.
Then more good friends when the Hobby family came in July. We planted trees at rural schools ….. hundreds of them. Then just when our backs were really aching from digging holes, we climbed Kilimanjaro. Up the famous Western Breach we went, no easy route for us. Just when we were wondering if a helicopter could get up that high to fetch us … there we were at the summit, the highest point on the continent, and I believe, the closest point to the sun on earth. And finally off to Ugalla Game Reserve for some R & R.
The Collins family from Connecticut came out next and more friendships were made. Maasailand horseriding and the ever entertaining Mara River in the Northern Serengeti.
Tom and Ed Meredith came next, on their third safari, and we spent 16 days in Natron and Ugalla – walking walking walking tracking all sorts of animals.
Then the Carlsons on their fourth safari. Ken is a wildlife artist and we spent hours watching how the light changes on a buffalo bull, or a sleeping pride of lions. We also saw seven leopards in the 16 day safari. A record for me I think.
Tom Camp rounded up the season … year … and with his group we saw two cheetah kills. Surely another record. At the final kill we found ourselves watching two lions asleep under a tree. The lioness looked up at something a few hundred yards away. We followed her gaze and saw a cheetah stalking three reedbuck. The cheetah chased the reedbuck, caught it and was holding it down when the lioness decided she wanted it. The lioness swaggered over, frightened the cheetah off and took over the reedbuck which was still very much alive. The lioness then spent ten minutes playing with the reedbuck before killing it.
Now it doesn’t get much better than that!
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. And I will be seeing some of you in January in the US. Once again thank you all for your support and for coming back on safari with me and Ker & Downey Tz
Below are a few photos from some of the year’s safaris. Pls click on images to view enlargements: