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Sleeping with Shrews - Nairobi, Tanzania Safari, & Zanzibar, June 2007

Sleeping with Shrews - Nairobi, Tanzania Safari, & Zanzibar, June 2007

Jul 9th, 2007, 04:05 PM
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Sleeping with Shrews - Nairobi, Tanzania Safari, & Zanzibar, June 2007

First, let me say that the shrews to whom I refer are NOT the nine other women with whom I traveled! You’ll just have to wait until the Serengeti segment to find out about that. I haven’t even looked at my photos, yet, so be patient and I’ll get them posted eventually. I'll be posting in segments.

This safari had its origins in a trip I put together for an Oregon bank club in February 2005. Several people said they would love to go on safari in Tanzania, but couldn’t go on that trip. I started working on a 2006 trip, but that didn’t come together, so I planned one for June 2007. I know that many of you don’t like group travel, but I enjoy it in East Africa. It’s fun watching “newbies” experience Africa for the first time. We ended up with ten women for the safari. A couple of weeks before departure, one woman had an emergency appendectomy and couldn’t go. Strangely enough, I had just received an e-mail from another lady, asking if I still had space. With only 6 days until departure, she signed up and filled the open slot.

This was my eighth trip to Africa and my sister Linda’s second. I started working 330 days before our planned return to get frequent flier tickets and got two…business class for my sister and economy for myself (she’s taller.) We left a week earlier than the other safari-goers and stopped over in Switzerland for three days, given that we were using Swiss Air for several segments. The Berner Oberland area was quite beautiful and a nice place to get over our jetlag. No one seemed to mind that we were wearing our safari clothes.
ShayTay is offline  
Jul 9th, 2007, 04:08 PM
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From there, we traveled onward to Nairobi for another three days. At the time I booked the tickets, Swiss didn’t fly to NBO every day, thus necessitating the extra days in Nairobi. I had contacted Kennedy Muthoka for some of our Nairobi arrangements, given his high recommendations here on the Board, and wasn’t disappointed.

Regarding the issue of a second entry into Kenya after going to Tanzania: You only need a single entry Kenya visa for US$50. The period of time that you should list being in Kenya should include the Tanzania portion. For us, that was about three weeks, total. I explained the situation and asked for a visitor’s pass. I’m not sure if we got a special stamp, or not, but we had no trouble coming back in to Kenya for a few hours on our way home.

Our last minute traveler Ann W joined us in Nairobi, which were the original plans of the woman who had to cancel. We were actually able to get her a ticket from LAX to NBO and return for about $2700, six days before departure! We stayed at the Fairview Hotel. The rooms aren’t fancy, but the grounds are beautiful and quiet and the food was excellent. They have several restaurants from which to choose. Security in the area is especially tight, as the Israeli Embassy is right across the street.

On Saturday, June 16, we met Kennedy, having been picked up by one of his other men the night before. I wanted to have an easy day, so we went to Amani ya Juu, a women’s self-help group that makes sewn goods. They really have some nice things for sale and also have a small café on the grounds. We had Mexi-Kenyan: tacos and quesadillas, Kenyan style. Afterwards, Ann needed to pick up a few things, so we went to the Sarit Center Mall. Dinner was at the hotel.

Sunday was our big “tour day” with Kennedy. We hit the usual spots: the Giraffe Centre, Karen Blixen Museum, Utamaduni (had lunch there at the Veranda Restaurant), Kazuri Bead Factory, the Carnivore Restaurant, and the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. I had asked Kennedy about taking blankets or other gifts to the keepers. He asked if I wanted to know what they REALLY needed. My answer was “Yes,” and he said MONEY. That way, they could get whatever they needed. We got the keepers together and gave the head keeper some funds to distribute among all of them. We got to visit Chyulu and Makena, our baby eles. A visit with Kennedy wouldn’t be complete without the famous “cheetah hug.” The female cheetah was quite relaxed and seemed to enjoy being stroked. I sat next to her and she put her head on my leg and purred. For cat lovers like my sister and I, it was a special experience.

On Monday we visited with Special Ministries, a mission group with Hope Centers spread throughout Kenya. I had visited with them a couple of years ago, and now sponsor 5 children and one of their social workers. They picked us up and took us to their offices, where we gave them some office and school supplies that we had brought for them. One of their centers is in Kibera, so they took us over there. Kibera is one of the largest slums in Africa, home to about a million people and very little infrastructure. We walked the narrow streets to a primary school and I got to meet one of the boys that I sponsor. We gave each child in his class a gift (handmade bookmarks and pencils/pens.) We then visited SM’s feeding center where the children get a nutritious lunch. It was quite a contrast to the “tourist” Nairobi from the day before. We then flew out of NBO to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania to meet the other seven women going on safari with us.
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Jul 9th, 2007, 04:40 PM
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Our safari outfitters were Kibo Guides. I can’t say enough good things about this company. This is the third trip I’ve done with them and they just keep getting better. Josiah is the contact with whom I planned the safari and he took good care of us. We had two Land Cruisers, one which seated five and a longer version that seated seven. That way, we could split up 4 – 6, instead of 5-5, which would split up a set of friends. Our guides were Peter Njau and Godliving Limo. They were some of the best guides I’ve ever had in Africa; as lead guide, Peter was especially adept.

Our seven other ladies arrived on the June 18 evening KLM flight a couple of hours after we came in from NBO. We waited for them over at the bar at KIA Lodge. Everyone got their visas right at the airport and had no problems. Two pieces of luggage didn’t arrive, so that required some paperwork. We stayed at Moivaro Lodge and had a late supper there. That’s not an easy place to find one’s room in the dark! I made at least one circle before I found the right path.

The next day after our safari briefing, we traveled to Arusha National Park for an all-day excursion. I really enjoy this park, although most safari itineraries skip it. The forested terrain is unique, as are the black and white colobus monkeys seen there. There are lots of giraffe in the park and that’s what we saw first. The ladies went crazy taking photos. We had lunch at a hilltop picnic site overlooking the lakes. To the west, the clouds disappeared off Mt. Meru’s flanks. Kilimanjaro was a bit more coy, but finally showed herself. We picked up a ranger and took a stroll back to a waterfall in the park. Near the end of our day, we came upon a herd of about 20 – 25 giraffe, some of whom were sitting down. That was a quite a sight!

Two of the women brought along a stuffed dog that looked like Myles, their real dog back home. They took lots of photos and videos of “Myles on Safari”. It was hilarious! Even the ranger got into the act, holding Myles at bay with his gun. It was obvious this was going to be a fun group.

The next day, before we left Arusha, we did some shopping at the Cultural Heritage Center. One of our ladies didn’t get her luggage, so we went to Shop-Rite and Woolworth’s. Several of us shared extra shirts with her, as well.
ShayTay is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 01:33 PM
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Hi ShayTay:
Glad to hear there were no shrews among your party of 10. Picturing you and your sister in Switzerland in safari clothes. I appreciated your description of the Kibera visit.

And now it is off on safari with Myles.
bat is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 03:24 PM
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Great start...cant wait to read more!
jamikins is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 04:58 PM
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Great report especially the visit to Kibera; we were in Nairobi three years ago and drove past Kibera just as work was getting over and swarms of people were walking back to their 'homes'... real eye opener. I have not been to Zanzibar and can't wait to read your your report--my husband's family migrated from Goa in India to Zanzibar way back in the 1800's when these were all Portugese colonies. Our son leaves for Nairobi next week for a 3 week medical research program from UC Berkeley and hopes to visit Kibera--he plans to to trace his roots to Zanzibar after the program...

Keep posting....

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Jul 10th, 2007, 05:02 PM
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Thanks, all. Kibera was fascinating and the people were friendly, but we were accompanied by a couple of men who worked for Special Ministries and knew the "lay of the land."

We stayed at Tanganyika Wilderness Camps’ newest permanent tented camp, Lake Burunge Tented Camp. It’s on the west side of the lake, overlooking it and, further east, Tarangire National Park. There is a gate into the park about 4 kms away, but the Park Service had it closed. TWC is trying to get it open so that they don’t have to go all the way back to the main entrance, an hour’s drive away. If they can get this gate open, this will be a great place to stay. Otherwise, you’ll have to do an all-day excursion into the park, which is what we did. The camp has large, permanent tents on platforms with thatched roofs overhead. They have fully plumbed bathrooms with solar-heated hot water available at all times. A large, thatched lounge and dining area is at the central part of the camp. There is a fire pit on a large deck jutting out from this building.

The afternoon we arrived, we went out on a walk with two Maasai. They explained about the plants, spoor, and dung that we found along the way. The men answered our questions about their culture, as well. The lake was over its banks, so we didn’t go all the way to the water’s edge.

We started early the next morning, as we had to make that hour-long drive to Tarangire’s entrance. Surprisingly, we didn’t see many elephants at first, just a lone bull or two. We had a nice picnic breakfast at a picnic site overlooking the river. We managed to keep our bananas out of the hands of the vervet monkeys. After breakfast, we began to see the elephant breeding herds. We came upon a pair on honeymooning lions, the first time in three visits I’ve seen lions in Tarangire. After they mated, Godliving said to wait 15 minutes for the next round. He counted down, 3-2-1 and the lioness rose on cue and started snuggling.

We had lunch overlooking the huge, green swamp. On the way back to the entrance, we watched a giraffe drinking, throwing its head back for those last couple of swallows. Next to the road, we encountered a herd of elephants. A lone bull approached and entwined trunks in greeting with one of the females.

In the evening before dinner, we were privileged to have an elder of the local Wabugwe tribe sit down with us and share the story of how their tribe made their way to this area from Sudan. He also shared their marriage customs and death rituals.
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Jul 10th, 2007, 05:51 PM
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Peter had gotten permission for us to visit a Maasai village near Tarangire River Camp that had never had visitors before. The head wife was in charge of the visit and her brother-in-law supervised, as her husband was gone for the day. The wives and some of their neighbors greeted us with traditional songs and dances. The men showed us how they bled the cattle to get the blood, mixed with milk, to drink. They offered it to us and one of our group actually tried it…brave soul! We then helped thatch the roof and plaster the walls of a hut they were constructing. We also got to try our hand husking the corn with the large “mortar and pestle” they use for this purpose.

Finally, we all trooped into the first wife’s home for a tour and a Q & A session. Here was a group of ten American women and a dozen Maasai women given the chance to ask anything we wanted of each other… and we did! They wanted to know if we were married and had children (most of us weren’t and didn’t.) One lady showed them a photo of her dogs, her “children.” They expressed sympathy for one of us who was a widow and ululated for those taking care of elderly parents. It was obvious that family relationships were at the heart of everything for the Maasai. How do you explain “career woman” to them? The head wife’s parting advice to us was that it was better to have children than dogs, because the child could give you advice when you got old.

We bought some of their beaded goods and exchanged goodbyes with our new friends. The visit lasted about two hours. We then headed for the Ngorongoro Farmhouse and a late lunch.
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Jul 10th, 2007, 06:13 PM
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When I took a bank club to Tanzania in 2005, we helped plant trees at the site of where the Rift Valley Children’s Village planned to construct a new orphanage. It’s about 30 minutes off the main road from Karatu to the Crater, near the village of Oldeani. Our group visited Village and got to see how big those seedlings had become. Instead of an empty field, there is now a complex of buildings that comprise the RVCV, headed by an American named India Howell. I got a chance to meet the young boy I’m sponsoring there, Mole. They not only care for children at the Village, but also help the local villagers and primary school. They also give food to families raising orphaned children who are relatives. India is trying to ensure that the kids are raised “Tanzanian style” and will grow up to become productive citizens of Tanzania. They have several children away at secondary school and even have one girl in law school. Our travelers were greatly impressed with what they learned and enjoyed visiting with the children.

The Farmhouse has really grown and now has 51 rooms. They have added a new, larger gift shop, reception area, and internet spot since my last visit. The rooms are huge and well appointed. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and you can see the crops they grow all around the property. Our rooms looked out over a spacious lawn towards Ngorongoro Crater. Given all the clouds on top of the Crater, I was glad we were down at the Farmhouse.
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Jul 10th, 2007, 06:43 PM
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Okay, QueenofdaNile, here it is...


We got an EARLY start (5 am) Saturday morning to get to the Hadzabe before they went out hunting. I had expected to visit with the Hadzabe, but, as it turned out, we were actually going out HUNTING with them! Because it was going to be somewhat strenuous, only six of us went. We had some coffee and rolls, and took boxed breakfasts for later. We traveled down a VERY rough road, stopping at a village to pick up a local guide who knew where the Hadzabe were located and who spoke their language and Swahili. Our guides then translated into English.

We finally arrived at their small encampment about 7 am. They were huddled around two fires, one for the men and another for the women and children. They had constructed a few shelters out of branches, but I don’t think they slept in them. After visiting for a few minutes, three of the men and their dogs took off with us following along. I’m sure we must have sounded like a herd of buffalo, tramping along. When they began to stalk anything, we froze and let them go at it. They were hunting for smaller prey and shot at a few birds. We crossed a river on rocks and hiked down a dry, sandy creek bed. One of the men shot a spurfowl and brought it up to us. It was still alive and he killed it by biting its neck. Later on, they shot a mongoose and chased it around inside this large, thorny bush. It wasn’t dead, either, when they brought it out and they dispatched it with a couple of whacks to the head. According to our guides, we must have hiked 6 or 8 miles. Whew!

Breakfast time! While the Hadzabe were having spurfowl and/or mongoose for breakfast, we had our boxed goodies. Godliving played his favorite music tape – Dolly Parton. There is something quite surreal about listening to “Joleen” while in the company of Bushmen. They showed us items they had made, so we shopped (of course!) They wanted to sell us some bows and arrows, and it was difficult explaining why we couldn’t take them on those big birds in the sky. We shared the fruit from our boxes with them, which they enjoyed. They were also smoking marijuana, which surprised me. Apparently, they buy the stuff, so I guess the money from our purchases won’t go for food.

On the way back, we stopped at a Datoga village and watched a blacksmith at work. We also visited one of their homes and chatted with the husband, his wives, and their children. Again, it was an interesting interplay between two cultures. I find the cultures of East Africa as interesting as the wildlife, which is why I include so many cultural experiences. You may go to Africa for the wildlife, but you’ll remember the people!
ShayTay is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 08:11 PM
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Good report, ShayTay. Keep it coming!
Leely is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 08:15 PM
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Agree! Excellent report, keep it coming!
matnikstym is offline  
Jul 11th, 2007, 04:41 AM
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Perfect Sharon! Gives us a good idea what to expect. We are staying at Kisima Ngeda so we can go to bed early to prepare for the early morning hunt. But is 3 months, 12 days enough time to train for keeping up with the hunting party.... ?
QueenofDaNile is offline  
Jul 11th, 2007, 05:23 AM
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You probably have created 10 additional Africa Addicts.

Excellent start to your report. I didn't know giraffes were so prevalent in Arusha NP.

Did that missing luggage ever show up? An overnight in Arusha increased the odds of it showing up.

Your cultural experiences were outstanding--The Wabugwe trip and the visit to the Maasai village where you got to participate in daily chores and girl talk.

It must have been rewarding to see the grown trees you had planted on a previous trip. And meeting Mole would be a very special experience.

So how many nights did you spend in the area of the Hadzabe? Your account of the 5 am wakeup, rough road, the 7 am hunting party departure, and breakfast after 6-8 miles of hiking gives us a good picture of what that visit is like. The pot and Dolly Parton is not what I would have expected so I am glad you included it. What did the women who did not go hunting do while you were gone?

You had a fascinating first few days. Looking forward to the rest.
atravelynn is offline  
Jul 11th, 2007, 07:33 AM
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QueenofDaNile, we weren't expecting to go out on a hunt, so none of us were prepared for such a long hike. Still, we made it through, one step at a time. You sometimes get a chance to catch your breath when they stalk. Walking through the sand was the hardest. The guys were patient with us, though.

Lynn, we stayed at the Farmhouse and were back there in time for a late lunch (about 3 pm.) If you are asking about our four women who didn't go on the Hadzabe trip, they stayed at the Farmhouse and relaxed, got a massage, and enjoyed the pool. That sounded really good about 5 miles into the hike! They could have gone and stayed with the Hadzabe women, but didn't want to just sit there and stare at each other. The Hadzabe women sometimes go out on foraging trips, so they might have done in that.

One of the missing bags came the next day. It had actually arrived at JRO, but had fallen off the carousel in the back and no one noticed. The other bag took 5 days to arrive, but was delivered to the Farmhouse by Kibo. That person had flown Delta to JFK, then onward with KLM. We don't know where the problem occurred.

Yes, Arusha NP has LOTS of giraffe. We always see bunches of them, sometimes on the walk to the waterfall. I would encourage more people to visit this beautiful park. It's also good to have that extra day in Arusha for delayed luggage to (hopefully) catch up.

If anyone would like more information about the orphanage, their website is www.tanzanianchildrensfund.org. You can schedule a visit with them if you are in the area. The schools were on break when we were there, but Geytighi Primary School is next door and welcomes visits, as well, if they are in session. If you go to the website's "Photographs" section, Mole is the little guy in the big green shirt.
ShayTay is offline  
Jul 11th, 2007, 09:05 AM
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Really enjoying your report, particularly the cultural experiences. Looking forward to the next installments and your photos!
Patty is offline  
Jul 11th, 2007, 04:26 PM
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After two days of cultural visits, it was time to get back on a game drive. On Sunday, June 24, we made our way down into the Crater, passing large herds of hartebeests and zebras. The clouds hung low on the Crater rim and, in some places, hung over the edge like cotton candy. Some Maasai were bringing their goats and cattle into the Crater. The alkaline lakes provide much-needed minerals for their livestock, but they can’t stay overnight.

The guides took us to a new pool to which the hippos seem to have migrated. They weren’t doing their usual barrel rolls, though. Flamingos were also in the pool and on the main lake. There were large herds of zebras and wildebeests on the Crater floor. We spotted a couple of cheetahs, but they were quite some distance away. Apparently, there are only 10 cheetahs left in the Crater. We had much more luck with lions. We found a lioness with two small cubs that had not yet been introduced into the pride. In fact, there were lions everywhere: two here, four there, another four, another two… At the picnic spot, we watched the hippos in the lake, then were thrilled when a bull elephant with huge tusks crossed the shallows behind them…Kodak moment!

The NCA is supposed to have started enforcing the half-day visit rule on July 1. I can’t imagine how anyone will be able to see the Crater in a half-day visit. I don’t know how it will work for those staying off the Crater rim such as at the Farmhouse, given that the NCA gate doesn’t open until 6am and the half day visits are supposed to run 6am to Noon and Noon to 6pm. If visitors do two half-day visits, will the rule accomplish its goal of taking some of the pressure off the Crater’s environment?
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Jul 11th, 2007, 04:50 PM
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As was usual with our guide Peter, we got an early start, leaving the Farmhouse early so that we could have lunch in camp. We stopped at Oldupai Gorge (doing my part to correct the spelling!) and were briefed by a museum employee. I’m always fascinated by the cast of the Laitoli tracks. We weren’t able to go to the spot where Mary Leakey found the ancient skull, as there were researchers onsite. Rumor has it that they have found another skull. We made a brief stop at the Shifting Sands, a moving dune out on the plain. Lions were on hand to greet us after we passed through the Naabi Hill gate. There were lots of gazelles and some wildebeests and zebras, as well.

When I started planning this trip over a year ago, I had chosen a campsite near the junction of the Western Corridor and the Central area, Hembe. A couple of months before we left, Kibo said that we were now scheduled for Kubukubu, which was closer to the Seronera area, but still accessible to the Western Corridor. When I had been in the Serengeti in June 2004, we missed the Migration because our camp was at Rongai 2, south of Seronera. Now I found out that our campsite had been moved to…Rongai 2! I wasn’t happy about that, but I really should have known by then that Kibo was taking good care of us. As it happened, the Migration was SOUTH of Seronera, near the Moru Kopjes. They moved right through our campsite area while we were there. Kibo was able to slot us into that campsite at the last minute, which was great!

After having a late lunch and settling into our tents, we went out on a game drive. It actually began to rain a bit, so we closed the top hatches of the vehicles. Naturally, we spotted a lioness in a tree with a herd of wildebeests approaching. We peeled those hatches open fast! You could see her dilemma as the herd stopped right under her tree…”Food, food, everywhere and not a bite to eat!” She couldn’t get down without scattering the herd, and might have even gotten attacked. On the way back to camp, we found a leopard sleeping in a tree, which thrilled my sister. We didn’t see a single leopard on the 2004 trip.

I woke up in the middle of the night with the strange sensation that something was gently poking me on the left side. I jumped up and looked through my blankets, but found nothing. I thought, “Larium dreams!”
ShayTay is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 03:23 AM
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I'm enjoying your trip, Sharon! Your pre-(animal)safari sounds very interesting. Looking forward to more.
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Jul 12th, 2007, 05:31 PM
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We headed out the next morning for the Moru Kopjes. My sister’s increasing nausea kept her in camp for the morning. We soon found ourselves in the middle of the Migration, with vast herds of wildebeests and zebras surrounding us. I was surprised to see the Migration still so far south, but the rains lingered in the area well into June. Vultures were on several carcasses and we saw lions in the area, but they were all too full to do any hunting. We visited the Rhino center at the kopje, but didn’t see the beast itself. We saw the Maasai rock paintings, but only from our vehicle, as there were lions on the kopje. Gong Rock was lion-free, however, and we climbed up for a “rock concert.” On the afternoon drive, we followed a troop of baboons in the Seronera area, watching their antics. More lions were found on a rock kopje and also our tree-climbing lioness was back on her perch. Another lioness and some cubs were posing on a nearby log.

The food at the mobile camp was wonderful. It always amazes me how these guys turn out such tasty and elegant meals out in the bush. We heard a lot of wildlife near our camp at night – elephants feeding, lions roaring, hyenas whooping, and wildebeests grunting. It was windy at night and the tent was flapping noisily, as well. Nights are never quiet in Africa!

The next morning, we got up early to go to the Hippo Pool. We arrived before the crowds and enjoyed watching all their antics. What we thought was a battle between a couple of young hippos turned out to be “teenagers in love.” One big guy had obviously been in a fight, and had some nasty slashes on his side. On the way back to camp, we stopped to watch more baboons. One of our vehicles stopped under the trees…mistake! A couple of the ladies underwent a “baboon baptism.” On the afternoon drive, we had a great leopard sighting in a tree by the road. He was relaxed and posing for the cameras. Of course, a few dozen other vehicles were there, as well, and that concerned our guide. Apparently, the rangers take down license plate numbers of vehicles that may be disturbing animals and the outfitters can get in trouble. Given the relaxed nature of the leopard, he didn’t think there would be a problem.
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