Now in March/April 2020, the virus stopped me from being on the road. I am at home. After all, I am 65+…
My home tells me stories – I just have to listen: In my latest blog I have talked about the the Schefflera plant that reminds me of having climbed the Kilimanjaro with Ernst.
Let me continue with the Kilimanjaro tour of February 2006 that was topped off with two safaris. These bowls remind me of them. They are made from ebony wood. I often use them, when serving apéro snacks to guests. And I love to have guests – I hope that will be possible sometimes soon again.
Let me tell you about the first two Africa safaris I have experienced in my life.
After the ascent to the Kilimanjaro we recover visiting the Ngorongoro Crater and the Tarangire Park
These are the destinations we visited in Tanzania in February 2006: After having climbed the Kilimanjaro, we visit the Ngorongoro Crater and the Tarangire Park.
Source: Google Maps
Ngorongoro Crater – we sit in the cage (the safari car) and are surrounded by so many animals
The Ngorongoro Crater is a collapsed volcano in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The crater or caldera is at 1700m, 400-600m deep and 17×20 km large.
We stay at the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge at the rim of the crater and look north to the Lake Makat and to the Olmoti mountains, if I get that right from the guidebook we have bought.
The handsome and tall Maasai (about 50’000) share the Ngorongoro Conservation Area with the animals. The crater as such is reserved for the animals.
We enter the crater in our safari car. Our driver is called Jahaia.
When I notice the first zebras, I am so happy – my first wildlife experience! I want to take a photo… but Jahaia – he does everything for his guests – shakes his head: “I am not going to stop for a few zebras.” Hm, yes, he is right, we see many more zebras in the crater. We wonder, whether they are “white with black stripes” or “black with white stripes”. Jahaia solves the question: “Look, their noses are black, therefore zebras are black and have white stripes.” Okay, right, the noses are black, this is a way of looking at it.
Very soon we reach a wildlife traffic jam (we are at the Lerai Forest now): About six safari cars have stopped and the binoculars of the tourists are directed towards some dead wood under the trees. I hear that a rhino is resting in the dead wood. “Yes, there it is, I can see it!” voices say around me. Hm, I cannot see any rhino. But then a vivid monkey jumps into the dead wood and disturbs the “siesta” of the rhino. It stands up and leaves the dead wood. Angrily it drops a few large pieces of brown dung, paws them away and moves on majestically.
Our driver is happy to have shown this rhino to us… we will not see another rhino on our two safaris. At the time, about 15 black rhinos (Spitzmaulnashörner) still live in the crater (in 1965 there were about 100 of them). The rhinos are being protected carefully and my guidebook warns: “do not disturb rhinos… You can be fined… for doing so” (p. 37). Well – I asume, the cheeky monkey will not be fined and we are happy that it has disturbed “our” rhino.
We continue our tour and see gnus that graze not far away from two lions resting in the shade.
One female lion is desperately looking for shade and finds it under the car of our friends.
The buffalo looks frightening with these huge horns.
The warthogs love the mud – they have a special charm.
The marabou stork belongs to the family of storks (as the English name indicates). It looks peculiar to us with its short legs, the compact body, the huge pink sac and the bold head. It is a scavenger that lives from dead animals.
Wildlife is abundant in the crater; Elephants, hippos (at the hippo pool), various kinds of antelopes and gazelles, a gepard and a variety of birds such as eagles, vultures, flamingos, ducks, geese, storks, ibis, egrets, herons, kites (“Milane” in German), just no giraffes (too steep for them to get down to the crater). I have the feeling, I am in a zoo, whereby WE are in the cage and the animals walk around freely; they may look at us, strange creatures that humans are in those strange cages that safari cars are…
While taking a good-bye photo of the Ngorongoro crater, I am told by the more experienced Africa travellers that I should not expect to always see that many animals in Africa.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is part of an ecosystem of crater highlands at the border of the Serengeti National Park which reminds me of Bernhard and Michael Grzimek and their film “Die Serengeti darf nicht sterben” (Serengeti shall not die, 1959). The Grzimeks and their films were very present, when I was a child. Yes, I agree, the Serengeti shall not die. The Ngorongoro Crater is has been an overwhelming experience (see my post scriptum about the Grzimeks and their successors).
Tarangire National Park
The Tarangire National Park stretches along the river Tarangire. We live in luxurious tents with a sleeping room, a bath room and an outside sitting area bordering the river. Our tent has just a small problem: The zippers of the “doors” to the bathroom and to the sitting area do not glide well – they always get stuck. Ernst, my engineer, gives his best to open and close them (he is so kind to take over this task, because it needs a lot of patience which is not exactly one of my strengths). On the last day, even Ernst can no longer open the zipper and we crawl out of the tent. Nevertheless it is wonderful to fall asleep in the tent with all the noise of the jungle around us and to wake up with all that noise in the morning. From the sitting area in front of our tent we can watch elephants and giraffes drink water in the river.
Though the animals are not as close to one another as in the Ngorongoro Crater, we see a lot of them: Lions,…
… elephants, …
… more elephants, …
… giraffes – this one keeps the overview -, …
… more giraffes, …
… and another giraffe waving its tail, …
… baboon monkeys, …
… and impala.
In addition Jahaia can show us a leopard sitting high up on the branch of a tree. And again we enjoy the rich bird life.
Near a large baobab we get out of the car. The baobab reminds me of Saint Exupéry: Le Petit Prince said that, on his small Asteroide 612, he would root out each of the Baobab germ buds carefully, as a large baobab tree would make his asteroide explode.
When leaving the Tarangire Park, we stop at a souvenir shop. This is where I buy the bowls for the snacks that I have included to start this blog about our safaris.
Chale Island – just relaxing
We round off our tour to Africa by relaxing on Chale island in Nairobi. Looking up Chale Island in the internet, I find that it must have been refurbished since our staying there in 2006.
In 2006, the hotel offers tents and in addition two penthouses. After the experience with the zippers in the tent of the Tarangire Park, Ernst wants to stay in the penthouse. Okay for me, as he wants that so clearly. And we find a place like a fairy tale: A large living room, a large sleeping room with a canopy bed, a huge balcony and even a second floor with more beds. On the canopy bed there are three cushions, two normal ones and in the middle a pink cushion shaped like a heart. Wonderful. When going to sleep, we remove the heart shaped cushion in the middle, it is in the way…
For two days, our program now comprises activities such as eating, resting, reading, swimming, taking a mud-bath, drinking tea with our friends on the balcony of our penthouse – solving the problem of the 36 legs of dancing elephants and ostriches – how many elephants and how many ostriches? Solution: 6 elephants and 6 ostriches.
We walk along the coast line, where we can see that this island is a cliff that rose from the sea.
On Monday, 27th of February 2006 we return home. On our flight, we can see the Kilimanjaro from above. When we arrive in Zurich, we find Switzerland covered with snow – it is winter and it is cold at home.
Thank you, Hans-Ueli und Lise, for having invited us to join you and your family in Africa.
Post Scriptum: The pandemic may endanger financing the preservation of the Serengeti and other wildlife refugees in Africa
When thinking about father and son Grzimek and googling their film, I find “die Serengeti darf nicht sterben – die Erben“. It is about the Swiss Markus Borner that continued the project of the Grzimeks for the Zoogesellschaft Frankfurt, assisted by his son Felix. Markus Borner saw Grzimek at the television, when he was a child (as I did). Markus Borner then worked for the Serengeti for more than 30 years and retired in 2017. I am impressed by the film of the Borners, in particular, when they follow the migrating gnu herds in their plane. The Serengeti is an ecosystem, where one and a half million (!) Gnus migrate, as they follow water and food – and the predators follow them. Now climate change endangers this ecosystem. As the rain tracks are shifting, the animals looking for water are colliding with civilization – however, the Borners found ways to vaccinate the population and their animals against rabies that are a danger for the wild animals.
On top of the climate changes, the tourists do no longer come due to the virus and, I believe that endangers the financing of the indispensable infrastructure for the Serengeti and other wildlife refugees (just think of prohibiting poaching!)… I do hope, we will overcome this virus such that tourists return to the Serengeti. It is not only about us people and the economy… it is about much more that is in danger – it is our planet with the last ecologic reserves such as he Serengeti! We have to preserve the Serengeti and the wild life refugees of Africa for the next generations, following the Grzimeks and the Borners – both father and son.
Sources: Jeanette Hanby and David Bygott, “Ngorongoro Conservation Area”, A Kibuyu guidebook, Regal Press 2004; Mary Fitzpatrick, “Tanzania”, Lonely Planet 2002.