The park itself is not particularly large. It has swampy areas...spots where the water from the melting snows of Mt Kilamanjaro surface in the plains. These are the areas that sustain life during the long dry seasons. A few years ago there was a long drought that sadly killed thousands of animals. David said that everywhere you looked you saw dead and dying animals, starving because there was no food. Fortunately, rains have improved but they're still way below normal in the grasslands...they are hoping for good rainfall for November. I certainly hope they get them. Mount Kilamanjaro casts this land in the rain shadow, compounding the problem. It looked like rain was falling on the other side of the mountain, in Tanzania, though none fell where we were.
Safari drives generally take place early in the morning and in the evening, catching the cooler parts of the day when the animals are more likely to be on the move. Now, you must know, this lodge is not small, even though the park is. David said to meet him out front at four o'clock. Apparently this is the optimum time to raise the top of the van (at the last minute so the monkeys don’t get in) and head off to bounce over the savanna. Everyone in the lodge was given the same time so twenty vans or jeeps were lined up outside the lodge, waiting to head off on the washboard roads, in search of wild animals to shoot...fortunately only with cameras! The drivers all have radios so that they can let other drivers know where the animals are. A hot spot might have ten to fifteen of the vans converging for the photo-op. Even with the confusion and dust, we had a chance to see some amazing views of these animals, up close.
I think the best view was a herd of zebras. They seemed a bit restless, shuffling, looking around, not really grazing. The stallions had a wary look to them. A good pair of binoculars told us why...there were nine lions lounging around in front of them. Now I would have thought the zebras would have moseyed along, moving away but no, they stayed in the area, watching. Perhaps they wanted to keep those predators in their sight...or maybe they knew that the lions were full already?
We seem to have an affinity for cloud covered mountains. We were in China, to see Snow Dragon Mountain but the entire time all we heard was how beautiful and stunning it was...never saw it. Now we are at the base of the largest volcano in Africa...maybe even the world...and it's covered in clouds. We are making offerings to the wind and picture gods to have it clear for us. Hopefully...
The next morning, after a wonderful breakfast, we again put up the roof and headed out on safari for another washboard drive across the savanna. The temperature dropped today so the ambulating herds heading for the water swamps were making the trek a bit later...good for us because we saw lots of them on the move.
We discovered the latest contestants for the Olympic synchronized swimming - pelicans. We found five of them swimming around in one of the swampy areas (though the video was taken before the other birds joined in). Every time they saw a fish or other delicacy to eat, ALL five ducked their heads, raised their butts and spread their wings a bit, in unison! They did it over and over again, not a fluke. David said it was a fishing strategy...if that tasty morsel got away from the first one, no matter which way it went, it was likely to get picked up by the next guy in line. Cooperative teamwork!
Dust devils are everywhere here. The dirt is very dry, silty, super fine, and the playing winds whip them up quickly. As you look out, you can see ten or more at any given time. The colors are interesting, varying from very red to sandy to nearly black.