Tanzania - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 71
Thursday 22nd May
We awoke this morning with the pleasant satisfaction that we had seen just about everything that there is to see during the past seven days of safari game driving in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Anything else from here on in would be icing on the cake. I still fancied my chances at finding the Cheetah with the five cubs that we had heard about and so we convinced our guide to take us back, once more, to the open, low-grass, plains of the Gol Kopjes, where we had had so much luck finding Cheetahs just a few days ago.
The drive out to Nabi Hill, where our guide made the necessary payments to the parks authority, was rather eventless save for the odd Hyena and Eagle here and there. We then headed into the open plains again where the Wildebeest migration had by now arrived. During the past seven days, the migration has progressed steadily northwards and we have passed through it at several different locations now. Even after having seen it several times, I still find it hard to comprehend the sheer numbers of Wildebeest and Zebra that flood the Serengeti plains in all directions as far as the eye can see. We have been extremely fortunate to witness this spectacle. Just a week or two earlier or later and we would have missed it completely.
We drove around the Gol Kopjes plains for several hours but, alas, did not see a single Cheetah, much less one with five cubs in tow. The weather was too cold for them to be out in the open and the herds of Wildebeest and Zebra also made spotting them much more difficult. We were not completely unrewarded for our labours, however, as we did get to see several interesting things. Another glimpse at a couple of Bat Eared Foxes was a real treat and we also saw no less than three separate prides of Lions, each with young cubs. One of the Lion prides was lying close to the remains of a Wildebeest that was fully exposed and half eaten already.
Probably the biggest reward of the afternoon was a group of Hyenas, surrounded by dozens of Vultures, devouring what was left of a Zebra. It was truly gruesome and the only recognizable features of this nearly completely consumed Zebra were the head (which was almost completely intact and looked quite bizarre) and a couple of hooves. The competition for the feast was quite a fierce one between the Hyenas and the many Vultures that kept flying in to peck at the remains. The Vultures were also fighting amongst themselves for pecking order and several internal battles were won and lost over the course of the twenty minutes or so that we observed.
We left the Gol Kopjes and the Wildebeest migration and departed the Serengeti. This marked the end of the very last safari that we will experience here in Africa, having never seen the Cheetah cubs. Perhaps we will one day return to visit the wildlife of Africa again in the future.
The drive back to Arusha was an interesting one to say the least. Since the rains have already started, the previously near impassable road that passes over the highlands between Arusha and the Serengeti was now even more treacherous as the rains had turned the road into nothing more than a mud slide in several areas. Since the road winds up and down the steep inclines of the highlands and mountains just north of Lake Manyana, we lost traction on a number of occasions and I was almost certain that we were going to fall off the edge of the cliff several times. We have the skill of our drive to thank for the fact that we are still alive to tell the tale.
On the way back, we got yet another flat tire. Luckily, there was still one remaining good spare tire bolted to the back and, yet again, our driver swiftly and adeptly made the change and we were on our way. We made it just a couple more kilometres before stopping besides another safari truck that was also having difficulty with a broken shock absorber. After a few exchanges of incomprehensible Swahili between our driver and the other driver, we took on-board two of their passenger to ferry them back to Arusha with us. Luck was still not on our side as we made it just another few kilometres when the first of our two fuel tanks ran dry and we had to switch to the other. The problem with the spare fuel tank, however, was that it was not feeding fuel properly (probably due to a dirty fuel filter or something) and we spluttered just a few hundred yards before coming to another complete stop. We managed to inch further over the next few minutes, all the way to the nearest filling station but it turned out to be under construction with no fuel. We weren’t sure why we were experiencing all these breakdowns but we all agreed that it best happen at the end of the trip as opposed to the beginning. We eventually made it to the next filling station and our driver bought just enough fuel to get us to Arusha where, after a bit of checking around, we finally negotiated a room here at the Naaz Hotel.
After reaching Mr. Fish on the phone, we finally handed over the remaining $200 that we owed Fun Safaris for our two-day extension and the three of us (our guide and ourselves) had a meal at a nearby restaurant. After presenting our guide with a nice tip, we bid our farewells and have now settled in for the night. The guy at the reception office is going to book us onto tomorrow morning’s bus to Nairobi, which will leave at around eight o’clock in the morning, immediately after breakfast. No rest for the wicked. It will be a long four or five-hour drive in the minibus tomorrow but it has to be done and we’ve been through much worse. When we get to Nairobi, we will immediately try to book ourselves onto the next available flight to Cairo where Egypt and all its treasures await us.