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Safari Tales #7 and #8

Safari Tale #7 Dancing Hyena – On Day 2 we had an optional walking tour in the Serengeti in the morning with the guides and a park ranger.  We chose to do the walk along with Lee, Aileen, and Russ.  The tour was very interesting because the camp guide and ranger pointed different things like scat (translation: poop).  Hyena scat is white because they will literally eat anything, bones, glass, metal, etc.


This guy was out for his own walk and posed for some pictures.


The wildebeest migration was on from north to south and millions were on the move.


During the walk, we saw packs of zebras just hanging out.

As we were walking, Mark asked the guide, “Can we see a Hyena den?”.  Mark thought the guide replied, “I will show you the Hyena dance”.  Mark said to Lee, “Are they really doing a dance later?”  Lee said “No, he said we will see a Hyena DEN, not DANCE.”  That became a source of amusement every time we saw hyenas and most likely it becomes a t-shirt when we get back.  In all fairness to Mark, some of accents were a bit hard to understand.


This hyena, known as the scavenger since they eat anything and everything.

 hyena den

This den was created by aardvarks, used by warthogs, and then became a hyena home as it is abandoned sequentially and taken over by the next animal.

Safari Tale #8 Favorite sayings of our guides – Willie was the oldest guide on the trip and had been doing this job for 37 years.  When we would be stopped next to lions or cheetahs, Willie would say to Mohdy (a young guide), “When I was your age, I would run out there and grab one of cubs and bring it back to the vehicle”.  Or “When I was your age, I would run out there and grab one of the lion’s tails and run back before I got caught. Go ahead and try it”.  One time Mohdy replied, “You should go try it now because you have lived a long time.  I still have many years to live.”

Cheetah and baby

Momma cheetah and her cub just looking at us.  No one was getting near her.  She’s the fastest land animal, no matter how calm she looks here.

Safari Tales #6 – Take down by lionesses

Safari Tale #5 Take Down – Mark and Susan normally rode with JoJo, Ann, Lee, and Aileen in the safari vehicle. Mark kept saying that he wanted to see a “Take Down” (e.g. a lioness kill a Wildebeest or an Impala).  Mark knew it is pretty rare to see a kill, but he was still hoping for one.  Our guide, Willie, said people hope for a kill, but often when they do see a kill they start crying.  The joke for several days whenever we saw a lioness was, “I want to see a take down”.

On Day 5 in the Central Serengeti, low and behold, we saw one lioness stalking a herd of wildebeest. Then two more lionesses got involved in the hunt.  Suddenly, the first lioness takes off and everyone thinks she started too early, but the other two lionesses cut off the wildebeests’ escape route and the hunt was on.  We saw two kills in the same hunt.  Willie, the head guide, said one kill was rare; you almost never see two kills in the same hunt.  No one cried when the kills happened, but JoJo and Ann were hoping the wildebeests would all escape the lions.  “Take Down” was our motto after the kill.

This was definitely the highlight of the entire safari!

lion stalking

Lioness #1 was carefully and slowly stalking the wildebeest.

lioness getting ready to attack

The lioness was poised to start the attack.

Lioness chasing the wildebeests

This lioness is chasing one of the wildebeests. You can see the herd in the background.

wildebeest running away

This wildebeest was getting out of the way.

lioness missed

This is the lioness who missed the wildebeest she chased.

lioness with dead wildebeest

This lioness was successful on her take down. She’s standing next to the dead wildebeest in the grass.

After the kills, the lionesses headed back to their cubs to bring them to the kill.  We followed around to watch.  The lionesses and cubs didn’t appear at all phased by the vehicles watching them.

 lioness next to truck

This is out of focus but you can see how close the lionesses were to the vehicles.

Lioness and cubs next to safari vehicls

Mom found all the cubs and they started down the road.  These cubs belonged to all three of the lionesses but only one lioness went to retrieve them.

lion parade

They all calmly walked down the road with Mom taking a swat every once in a while to keep the cubs in line.

Lions on parade.

Lions on parade.

Lion cubs are just too cute!

lionesses and cubs in field

They all hung out under a tree or in a field for a bit before the lionesses sent the cubs off to the kill.

cub scratching the tree with family

This little guy needed to scratch the tree.

cubs playing on kill

The cubs were clearly not hungry since they played with the dead wildebeest, rolling over it and climbing on it.

lioness and cubs with kill

Mom finally tried to show them what to do with the kill.

Safari tales from Tanzania safari

We used Thomson Safaris to book our safari and they took good care of us. Gabriela in Boston answered all my million questions before we booked and then handed us off to Nicole and Annifreed. Both of them managed to make sure we got all of our published materials about two months earlier than normal since we left the country in August.

We had 10 people on the 12-day safari and used to safari vehicles (Land Rovers Defenders) every day – 4 people in one and 6 in the other.  Willy was our head guide with Harrison and Mohdy as the two drivers and assistant guides and spotters.

safari vehicle

We spent about 8 hours a day in this vehicle. There was a lovely blue stool for some of us to use to reach up the steps!

The groups consisted of:

  • Mark and Susan
  • Annie and Jo from Nashville. They had some amazing/amusing travel tales to tell and used their nursing expertise when needed by the group.
  • Jerry, a retired high school English teacher, and his grandson, Russ, who works on merchant ships.
  • Jean and John from Florida
  • Aileen and Lee from outside of Chicago.

We all landed at Kilimanjaro (JRO) airport either on KLM (everyone else) or Turkish Air (us because we used United Star Alliance miles for free Business Class tickets).  Our flight landed at 1:30 AM and the driver for the KIA Lodge was waiting after we exited Immigration and got our luggage. Staying there, saved us a 45 minute drive at 2 AM.

JRO Airport at 1 AM. We walked across the runway to the terminal.

kili viewing point

If the clouds weren’t in the way, we could see Kili from here. The locals told us Kili is very shy and doesn’t make an appearance often.

first view of Tanzania

Our first view of Tanzania from KIA lodge. The scenery looked like all the pictures we’ve seen of Africa.

After a short night, the next morning we transferred to Rivertrees Country Inn, as planned. We came in a few days early due to free ticket availability and Susan’s fear of cancelled flights.

monkeys grooming

Three types of monkeys live at River Trees Inn. These two were grooming each other.

Room and bed with mosquito netting

Our room had mosquito netting around the bed. We were lucky that we saw very few mosquitoes!

Susan at cottage

This was our cottage at River Trees Inn.

Here’s our Safari tale #1.  Two people in our group had luggage that was missing in action!  Jerry got his in a few days.  Aileen’s suitcase had a lovely trip – Chicago to Amsterdam to Tel Aviv to Dusseldorf with some of this on an Air France flight somewhere along the line.  How do we know this?  Air France put an apology card in her suitcase and a Dusseldorf luggage tag was attached when the suitcase FINALLY showed up 6 days late.

Everyone pitched in and loaned/gave combs, malaria meds, allergy meds, shampoo, cameras, chargers, etc.  Mark used his Google Pixel for pictures so he loaned his Canon camera to Aileen.  He’d left the camera battery charger in Germany, though.  Amazingly, Annie had a charger for the Canon battery!

The safari began with a drive from Rivertrees Country Inn to Arusha airport (about 1 hour) where we boarded a small plane and flew to Waiusa airstrip in the eastern Serengeti.

Where did we stay?

Most of the time we stayed in permanent tented camps, complete with real beds, camp toilets and camp showers.  We could have hot showers so no one complained.  All lighting was solar.  However, there were no outlets in the rooms.  We charged items either in the main tent or in one of the vehicles while we drove around. We just had to pray for sunny days, so the bar tent had solar power for charging!  It was only a problem one day.

Eastern Serengeti tent

One of the tents we had. We were always either tent 4 or tent 5 so those are the only 2 numbers I know in Swahili!

Inside tent with bed

Yes, it’s a real bed! The pillows were hard. At the camps that were “cold”, hot water bottles were provided at night. Mark and Susan only used the bags one night in Ngorongoro Crater Rim camp. The rest of the nights it was plenty warm.

Where did we eat?

Meals in the camps were served in a dining tent next to the bar tent!  Safari tale #2 – One morning, Russ was in the dining tent for breakfast and saw a snake on the ground. He lifted the edge of the tent, kicked the snake out, and told the camp manager who called the ranger (Every camp has one assigned to it.).  The ranger used a long stick to move the snake to a better location and THEN told Russ it was a highly poisonous black mambo that he’d kicked.  Russ promised never to kick another snake!

inside dining tent

All meals were done as a group with formal service. The food was good especially the variety of soups we had.

Eastern dining bar tents

Dining and bar tent where the charging of phones, batteries, Kindles, toothbrushes was done!

Safari Tale #3  Showers – Camp showers consist of a cloth bag filled by two guys with a combination of hot and cold water at the time you specified.  They worked pretty well and when one person in the tent was finished, the guys would come back, and we’d hear a voice say “Ready for another shower?”  They’d fill up the cloth bucket again and we’d hear the same voice say, “Shower is ready”.  These were the talking showers!

Shower set up inside the tent

You can see the water bag outside the mesh window. It worked pretty well!

Shower set up

Shower set up. The solar power was for the little lights in each tent.  The green rope controls the pulley system for lifting the bag.

Sink area in tent

We each had our own sink but you had to fill it with water from a pitcher. In the morning, we all got a big pitcher of hot water to mix with the cold water from the other pitchers. This was only for washing. Teeth brushing and drinking water came from bottled water.

We spent three nights at Gibb’s Farm and it was heaven – soft beds, proper showers and toilets, great food, and a cat who came to visit.  We had both an indoor and outdoor shower.

Living room in cottage.

This was a shared living room. We had Happy Hour here, inviting some of the other safari people. The lodge asked every night if we wanted the fireplace lit.

Bathroom at Gibbs Farm

The bathroom complete with African carving artwork.

croquet game

A lively game of croquet was played except no one really remembered the rules!

Mosquito netting and bed

Every bed had mosquito netting. Again, we saw few, if any, mosquitoes here.

our cottage at Gibbs Farm

We had the left side of this cottage. Annie and Jo had the right side. Our cottage was the furthest away from the main building and involved a nice little walk at about 7000 feet.

outdoor shower

This was our outdoor shower.

 Sandals being modelled

Mark modeled the slippers from our rooms for us during Happy Hour. They’re made out of old tires.