Cheetahs, elephants and warthogs: Tales from a safari

Ever fantasised about going on an African safari? Here’s a diary from the Serengeti.

Amod Chopra December 29, 2011 16:00:56 IST
Cheetahs, elephants and warthogs: Tales from a safari

Editor’s Note: Ever fantasised about going on an African safari? Our travel blogger Amod Chopra got to do it. Here’s his diary from the Serengeti.

Day1: Our adventure begins with a ride on a two wheeler twin engine plane. Whoo! Hooo! We see giraffes and elephants from the low altitude we are flying. Time to land the plan on a dirt strip.

After a one wheel landing by our gender neutral pilot we head out into the Serengeti.

Almost right away we run into a mother cheetah on the prowl with her 3 cubs. Our ranger points out the kill the cheetahs are eyeing, a herd of zebras and wildebeest on the hillside. We are tracking the action. The cheetahs are upwind. They stretch their bodies and are making their way to the kill. They stop at a bluff to assess the situation. They are a quick burst of speed away from the herd. We are on the edge of our seats. What the hell? These two jeeps from another tour pull up between the cheetahs and the herd. Now their clients can get better pics of the cheetahs. Unbelievable! Where are the park rangers? The cheetahs back off and the herd moves away.

It is wildebeest migration time in the Serengeti. There are wildebeest everywhere. By the way, wildebeest=flies.

Cheetahs elephants and warthogs Tales from a safari

The cheetahs are upwind. They stretch their bodies and are making their way to the kill. Reuters

Our camp is this lap of luxury group of tents in the middle of the jungle. The days are spent swatting away the flies and the nights are spent trying to identify the call of the animals and the footsteps of different animals running through the camp.

Day 2: Vicky and I start on an afternoon walk. After a few minutes it dawns on us that isn't in the best interest of our survival. We turn around and see the camp staff running towards us. We were reminded that we are in the middle of a jungle. Darwin would not be proud of us.

We see the cheetahs in the same area meaning that they haven't made a kill yet. The star today is Pumba the warthog. They are shy animals who have a very short term memory.

We spot one, more like he spots us and starts running. A few minutes later he slows down and then comes to a stop. Uh! Why was I running? Oh yeah! The jeep. He starts running again and slows down and stops again. He looks around spots us and starts running again. What a crackup.

Day 3: We go to the Masai village. The school children (under five) noses running and all sing at the top of their lungs. Their little log cabin school has no roof. I sit among them and immediately have them feeling up the hair on my arms. Repeatedly. They haven't seen such a beautiful animal with so much fur I guess.

There are 3 rock stars today. Star #1: Mr. Dung Beetle. He cuts up wildebeest dung (elephant dung is too big) and starts rolling it into a ball. The ball is still bigger than him but he moves this all over the place with his hind legs. This is a mating ritual. He is peeing in this dung as he rolls it and this piece of aphrodisiac attracts a female.

Star #2: We finally run into a herd of elephants. I see a young one and am happy. Then the tiniest elephant you can imagine runs out from the bush. This thing is about two weeks old. It has no control over its trunk or ears. We watch it run around stepping on its trunk.

Star #3: The wildebeest have all moved into one plain. A 20 km drive to the Masai village and every direction to the horizon you see wildebeest. There are 1 to 3 million wildebeest here, grunting away. We have finally seen the mega herd.

On the way back from the village we come to an overlook over a dry river bed. It’s very Lion King. There are wildebeest, zebras, elands, gazelles, giraffes, elephants, and more. All together in this area. All hanging out doing their own thing.

The last night we sit around a camp fire with the camp rangers telling us stories. I am ordering all kinds of booze for these guys. I am a guest so how can they refuse. Maeshliaki, our ranger, tells us even though he is Masai he has been baptised. How did this come about? The Christian missionary school he went to had him convert. His grandfather still doesn't know. I tease him that if his grandfather found out he would say "Son, start running", and throw his spear through Maesh. All the other rangers are rolling at this point.

The next morning our flight is taxiing off the dirt runway. Maeshliaki who is starting his vacation is sitting on a tempo hitching a ride home. I see him, Didas the camp manager, and K.K. the chef with whom I swapped recipes waving to us with both hands. Watch out for the spear, Maesh.

I have tears running down my face. Maybe my blood sugar is low. Maybe I will miss my new friends. The words of my friend Jag ring in this atheist’s ears, “This is god's country.”

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