01.02.2005 - 03.02.2005
3 days in the Serengeti! This trip is filled with great names: Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Zanzibar.
We started by stopping at a Maasai boma. The Maasai are a tribe that is still mostly living their traditional lifestyle living off the land and raising cattle. Cattle are the measure of wealth in Maasai culture, and the richest Maasai own up to 10,000 head of cattle.
We were shown around the Maasai village by the chief’s son, Michael. Michael took us into the boma. The boma is a circular village surrounded by a wall of thorny branches to provide protection from lions and other wild beasties.
First we saw a traditional dance, which involved the women and men standing in separate groups. The women sway up and down and chant in a low, throaty voice. The men stand around in a horseshoe shape. Occasionally one will step into the middle of the horseshoe and start jumping up and down. They let me try, and let me say that white men can jump, just not as high as Maasai warriors.
For a Maasai male, the more cows they have, that means they get to have more wives. Maasai are polygamists. Marriages, however, are arranged by the parents. Michael said that it was permissible to have a girlfriend, as long as the wives don’t know about it. I said that was the same in my country.
We next went into a Maasai house. Each wife will have their own house (built with her own hands), and the husband will spend each night in a different wives house. The houses are made of mud and branches, and a very dark inside. There are 3 beds, one of the wife, one of the kids (up to 10 in the bed) and one for the husband. I can’t figure out how they have 10 kids if the husband and wife sleep in different beds.
Up next was a trip to the Olduvai gorge. Richard and Mary Leakey found a bunch of really old bones from early human ancestors there. 1.3 million years ago, someone was standing on the same spot I was standing and thinking about what to eat for lunch. I stood there, and thought about what to eat for lunch. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Entering the park, we past through the wildebeest migration. The wildebeests were moving from Kenya in the north to the western corridor of Tanzania in search of better grass to eat. Over 3 million wildebeests were migrating, along with a number of zebras and impalas. They all eat different types of grass, so they get along together well. Also, the zebras have good eyesight, and the wildebeests have a good sense of smell. Thus they are great a seeing potential predators.
Joseph said that the zebras pull a little trick on the wildebeests at watering holes. The zebras let the wildebeests go first. If the wildebeests don’t get eaten by crocodiles, then the zebras say, “hey, what’s that off in the distance?” The wildebeests get scared, run away, and the zebras have the watering hole to themselves.
Serengeti means endless plain in Maasai, and it certainly is.
At camp that night, Joseph told us that the campsite didn’t belong to us. “It belongs to the wild animals. Don’t get out at night.” I always made sure to pee before going to bed!
We did a morning game drive one day, and I found out that Magic is a “perfect shot” kind of guy. Whenever we stopped, Magic would stand up, put his camera to his eye and not take it off until we started up again. Magic and Beata wanted to get the “Africa shot,” the sun rising behind the Umbrella Acacia tree. We found a good place and waited for the sun to rise. The sun rose, I took my shot (see the pictures) and sat down. A half an hour later, Magic was still taking his picture.
At first I felt a smug superiority over Magic and all those who stood there with cameras glued to their faces. I would take a few quick shots, and then put my camera away and watch the animals’ behaviour in intricate detail, catching all the subtleties and nuances of the true beastly nature.
The problem is animals don’t actually do much. The carnivores just sit there and sleep all the time, occasionally standing up, stretching, shifting positions and sitting back down. Herbivores just stand around eating grass, occasionally moving two feet to their left to munch on a new stand of grass. Once in a while, one of the herbivores will look over at the car disinterestedly. Otherwise, they didn’t do much. There really aren’t too many subtleties and nuances of animal behaviour to catch.
Birds are probably the most active of the animals. They fly around and land on things. But I’ve never been a big bird person, really. I just can’t get excited about something that eats seeds. One of the raptors, like an eagle or a falcon is okay, because they eat mice and stuff. But seed eaters? Yawn.
But I still think my shot is pretty perfect.