November 29 – Safari

Murray and I have been talking about the differences between the safari in Tanzania and the one in Botswana. The areas are very diverse with Tanzania being mostly arid, desert like in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater with areas of grasses and trees. Botawana, as we get closer to the Okavango Delta, has water and is green with trees, shrubs and grasses. There are marshes with large pools of water.

Ngorongoro Crater is abundant in game and visitors. It is easy to find the various animals and finding them is made easier by the number of guides in vehicles who radio and talk of where to find the lion or the cheetah. In the Serenget,i the animals were a little more spread around, but were still quite easy to locate. Patience pays off at an animal sighting to watch behavior. Although the animal sightings are numerous and easy, the number of vehicles is also numerous. At one leopard sighting, I counted 23 trucks parked watching a hard to see leopard in a tree.

In Savuti, Khwai and Moremi, in Botswana, the animals were more difficult to locate. But we do locate them and are able to watch some extraordinary behavior. The trucks can only communicate, via radio, with other trucks from the same company, there is no common channel. So in low season, we are the only Letaka truck in the area which makes it harder yet to locate the elusive game. Guides do talk whenever we meet another truck, but again, in low season these encounters are few. The game in Moremi is more abundant than in the other two areas. This is due to the lack of rain in Savuti and Khwai and the poor vegetation. Moremi, located in the Okavango Delta, has lush elephant and giraffe fodder and green grasses for the impala, zebras, buffalos and the antelope family of animals. Unlike Tanzania, the number of vehicles we encounter is a minimum.

The guides have different approaches to accommodate the areas and numbers of animals. In Tanzania it is easy to spot animals from the road so we do some “fishing”, go to Pascal’s favorite fishing holes and see what we can see.

In Botswana, we notice right away that Pat tracks animals. He has to. How else do we find a cat or a wild dog on our own? The animals routinely ply the dirt roads, so the tracks are visible. When we do locate an animal we stay and watch its behavior, sometimes sitting for an hour. This pays off as we see remarkable happenings – lions killing an elephant, wild dogs hunting two impala, a baby leopard eating an impala high up in a tree, an old elephant making the peace between two young elephants. Pat is extremely knowledgeable about birds, trees, flowers, insects, reptiles, not just mammals. When the sightings of mammals and birds (his passion) are few, we start to learn about insects, grasses, landscape and the geological history of the area.

Pascal paced the safari very well; I presume he has learned this over time. When we started out he knew it was our first time in Africa and we stopped at every animal. They are all new to us and he understood. We have just arrived at the gates of the Tarengire National Park, right inside the gate are a few Thompsons Gazelles, Pascal stops and we click away on madly taking an inordinate amount of pictures. We sit and ogle the tiny antelope and marvel at their beautiful coats. Over time Pascal knows that we spend less and less time with the Gazelles until by the last day we drive right by and will only stop for cats, elephants, giraffe and the like. The last day we only spend a good amount of time at unusual sightings like a male lion feasting on a wildebeest.  Pascal, in Tanzania, has the knowledge, but he does not pass it on so readily as Pat. I am quite sure that most people on their first safari experience information overload and will not retain the details even if told. So our more mature guide picks and chooses the information he releases and if we ask he expounds upon the base he has provided.

The safari we spend with Pat has a slightly different pace. He knows we will see so many impala that they will become commonplace so we stop but not for very long. Just as Pascal knows, Pat know the value of patience when we do come upon a promising situation, we wait and wait and sometimes wait longer, or maybe leave the site to return later, but with a little persistence we have been there at the events that are mentioned above.

In Tanzania, we use a Toyota Landcruiser that is enclosed. Windows and doors, perhaps to protect us from the dust that is everywhere on the roads. The vehicle has a pop up roof with a sun shade so we can stand to take unobstructed photos.  In Botswana, the Landcruiser is completely open. If it rains, we don rain gear, if a lion is close, we don’t stand up – we become one with the vehicle. It was quite scary being 3 meters away from a male lion with nothing but air between him and us.

Both Tanzania and Botswana are unique destinations with their own personalities, just like the safari guides, one not better than the, other just different

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One Response to November 29 – Safari

  1. laura wignall says:

    great post. I enjoyed it and your insight into the two experiences. I have been wondering how the two compared. Thanks!

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