The Circle of Life
It was our most anticipated trip - a trip to Africa, the best safaris in the world. We spent many hours and days planning the trip, and many more hours dreaming. We were going to go to Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara National Park and Arusha National Park. We dreamt of not only the big 5 but also the 100s of species of birds that we would encounter.
Finally, the important day was here and we were buzzing with excitement as we reached Arusha and took our first safari early next morning with Nico, our friend and guide. As we entered Arusha National Park we had our first sighting, and it was an exciting sighting, a beautiful creature. It flashed with thin white stripes and brown patches, from head to toe. It stood 16 feet tall. It was the tallest animal on Earth. The Maasai Giraffe. They grazed, pulling leaves off thorny acacia trees with their armored, blue tongue. Next to them, were three grazing Plains zebras. They fed on the short stubs of grass. This was only the start.
After a few minutes, we came across a great plain. The grass was green, unlike the grasses in the other National Parks. Grazing on the grass were hundreds of zebras, as far as the eyes can see. Then, there was movement in the grass. "Pumba" our guide said. We watched as a common warthog scattered past us. We also spotted a black patch in the distance. I zoomed in with my camera. It was our first member of the Big 5. It was a Cape Buffalo. They grazed far away in a tightly packed herd. We continued for a few more minutes down the road, and across a stream. Then the jeep stopped unexpectedly. The tires screeched as I turned my camera on. I looked around, trying to find the creature. "It's right here" somebody said. Then I almost jumped. It sat in the tree, eating the juicy leaves. It was a Black and White Colobus Monkey, only found in Tanzania in Arusha National Park. It plucked on the juicy leaves of the tree, just meters away from us.
The next day, we set off early to get to Lake Manyara National Park, which was two hours away. Lake Manyara was also called home of the tree-climbing lions. We hoped to see the lions today. For the first hour we didn't see anything. Our hopes were down until we saw a congregation of jeeps. We went closer. Our driver maneuvered around the other jeeps, trying to find a good spot. There was a clearing. We saw a hot dusty, plain, and there was our second member of the Big 5. It was the largest land mammal on Earth. The African Savannah Elephant. It was a group of five adults and one baby, led by a matriarch. They blew dust on to themselves as they watched out for predators. They stood under an acacia tree, probably for shade. The elephants didn't budge, and after ten minutes we set off again. Then, we exited and made our way to our hotel.
The sun rose, as we headed off to the Serengeti National Park. We would go drive around the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, and pass through Ndutu (South Serengeti) and reach our camp in Central Serengeti. We exited the crater rim, and watched as the herd sizes increased. There were herds of zebras and wildebeest, and a few giraffes in the distance. Their herds seemed to have carried on forever. Finally, we stopped at one spot to get a few pictures. We saw as they grazed on the grass. A few even crossed the road. Then, more did. We just ignored, until a large group crossed, closely followed another. Then it started. Groups ran across the road.
This was the Great Migration. Thousands sprinted across the road, in great herds, some females with babies. They sprinted across the road. Then, in the distance, giraffes started to appear. They formed a line. The waited at the back, waiting for the zebra and wildebeests to cross. The final zebras sprinted across. hen continued to the Serengeti. We passed the site where the first human (Zinzinthropus erectus) fossils were found.
We had lunch over the great Serengeti plains. We started again after lunch, driving on the hot, flat grasslands of the Serengeti. We drove down a long path, until we came across a group of jeeps. We crept up, trying to get a good angle. We saw it. The African Lion. There was a group of three lionesses basking in the sun, licking themselves. They watched over the grasslands. They were the queens of the Savannah. Next to them, hidden in a bush, a king watched over his pride. A lion. We continued on. as we were heading to a destination where a leopard had been sighted. We raced there and saw it sitting on a tree. We waited for a long time, where I got really, really bored. Finally, it moved. It climbed down the tree and descended into the long grass. We looked around but couldn't spot it. Then, we spotted it right next to us. It allowed a few photos then vanished back into the grass.
The next day we woke up very excited, as we had a full day in the Serengeti. e went over a few rocks, and it was a bumpy ride. We came upon three cheetahs. They were just meters away from us. A few times they got up and looked like they were going to hunt, but they just laid down after a few seconds. It was amazing, and we were alone. Soon we had to leave.
The next day, we set out, looking for some crocodiles and maribou storks. We soon saw some marabous on a tree, and a Nile monitor lizard basking on a rock. We stayed for a few minutes and took a few photos and went towards a hippo pool. We stopped there to see a hippo out of the water. It was scary but we went to the hippo pool. We watched them for a while, but finally, we ran to our jeep when the hippo went back to the water. We then decided to have lunch and head to Ngorongoro. Suddenly, the jeep rushed to a halt. We looked forward. A serval. We followed it for a while, taking good photos. Finally, it walked into the long grass on the side of the road.
The next day, I got sick, and we could only leave in the afternoon. We set out in the afternoon, and didn't see much except for a black rhino from far away. After that, we saw every species of the Big five in the crater. We spotted a male lion in the grass, a leopard run across our path, and herds of elephant, buffalo and one rhino. All that in the Ngorongoro Crater. We had very little time and then headed back.
It was an incredible trip of 4 national parks, and 9 days of safari and more than 170 species of mammals, reptiles and birds including the big 5 and the ugly 5 (wildebeest, vulture, marabou stork, warthog and hyenas) and memories to last a lifetime.
Neel Murali has his own blog (where you can read the full article) and Instagram account.