Saturday, September 26, 2009

Africa Part VIII: Tarangire National Park and Olduvai Gorge

So, it looks like my emailed blog post worked did not work.  I can't couldn't see the photos but I can could see a little blue square indicating that there is a photo there that is blocked by The Man.  Apparently that is what was visible to everyone else as well.  Hopefully everything looks the way it looked to me when I emailed it.  I can get to my blog at school, but I want to get caught up because there are more current things I'd like to blog about!

After leaving Amboseli, we drove to the border to enter Tanzania.  Most of our group had already applied for and received our visas before we left the U.S., so we waited in lines to get stamped and then got back on the bus.  One person had not been able to get her visa before leaving, but everything went smoothly and I think she waited the least amount of time in the end.  We said goodbye to our Kenyan guide, Joe, before entering Tanzania.

My first impression of Tanzania was that it was much drier and dustier than the places we had visited in Kenya.  The Maasai homes were built using different materials and different construction.  The ones in Kenya had a flat roof while the ones in Tanzania were more cylindrical with a thicker, pointed roof.

Here's Kenya first and Tanzania second.

In Tarangire National Park, we saw a lot of baboons, zebras, elephants, and giraffes.

Sometimes the giraffes tried to hide from us.

We usually found them still.  Look!  Twiga!

The elephants, of course, were my favorite.  We caught an early morning scratch and stretch one day.

Some were content munching on the plants.

Some looked a little like they might want to charge at us if we got any closer.

Tarangire National Park was much more forest-like than the other parks.  There was a river, which we drove through at one point.  We took an off-road route to our lodge because it was a shortcut unavailable during the wet season.  Thank goodness for guides.  I don't think we saw a single sign on the way.

When we arrived in the Tarangire National Park, we got our first sightings of the very interesting Baobab Tree.  These trees are huge and so interesting in a creepy-looking way.  As you can imagine, there are all sorts of stories about spirits living in the trees, etc.


Tarangire was beautiful.

On the way to the Serengeti, we stopped by the Olduvai Gorge, the "Cradle of Mankind", and looked around.

(My archaeologist father would probably not want me to leave it at that, but this was back in July and I want to get on with the posts of now.  So, I'll let you look here and find out more information on the Olduvai Gorge yourself.  Sorry, Dad.)

We drove by the Ngorongoro Crater as well.  This time, we had just a brief stop before heading to the Serengeti.  After visiting the Serengeti, we returned to the Crater for a couple of days.  I'll include those pictures when I post about that part of the trip.

(I am not liking the new formatting for blogspot.  It won't let me put my photos where I want them.  I have only a short time before I need to go home where blogspot is blocked so this is how it stays.)


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Africa Part VII: Amboseli - Land of Death and Babies

Our next stop after the Maasai Mara was Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya. On our way, we saw a Gerenuk or Giraffe-necked Antelope. This animal will stand up on its hind legs and stretch out its long neck to reach leaves like the giraffe. I only got a good picture of it sitting under this tree though.

From Amboseli, we had fantastic views of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Amboseli was much more arid than the parks we had been to so far and we saw many more carcasses of animals that died or were killed during their migration. While this was sad to see, we kept the circle of life in mind as we saw the vultures feasting on the recently deceased.

Amboseli National Park is where Echo the Elephant lived. She is maybe the most famous wild elephant and was featured in BBC documentaries: Echo of the Elephants; Echo of the Elephants, The Next Generation; and Echo of the Elephants, The Final Chapter. Echo died May 2009, so we were unfortunately not able to see her leading her family. We did see her final resting spot and there were still elephants nearby. Echo was the matriarch of her family for at least 36 years.

We spotted this baby elephant on a game drive and asked our driver if it was unusual to see a baby this small with no adult elephants around. He said that the baby was likely an orphan. We informed the park rangers upon leaving the park and, hopefully, they took care of the baby.

Even with all the death that seemed to be in this park, we also saw quite a bit of new life and families surviving.

We also saw many animals feeding and hanging out in the water around the park.

We saw some of the usual spotted animals......

and some of the not-so-usual spotted animals.

Our driver had to help this driver to get unstuck. We were glad it wasn't us needing help and that our vehicle was a little more off-road appropriate.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Africa Part VI: Maasai Jumping, Leopard Eating, Balloon Riding, Animal Sighting

We arrived in the Maasai Mara National Reserve and went to visit a Maasai village. It was interesting to see the warriors dancing, jumping, and singing with the strangest sounds. Amelia and I were dragged into the dancing with the women in what ended being an engagement dance and they gave us beaded necklaces to wear while we danced around with them. After the dancing, we visited inside their village and were shown into one of the homes. It was interesting, but this village seemed a little commercial which was disappointing.

After the village, we went on an afternoon game drive. As soon as we entered the reserve, our driver began driving faster and wouldn't answer our questions while he listened to his radio to the other drivers in the park. We figured out pretty quickly that he heard on his radio that there was something very exciting and he was wasting no time in getting us over to it. He didn't want to tell us in case it wasn't there when we arrived.

We saw our first leopard! Up in a tree! And it was eating a kill! This was amazing to see and I tried to get the best pictures I could. We were pretty close but far enough away to not bother the leopard too much. The leopard had stripped the animal and looked up at us a few times. We were not sure what animal it was but our driver guessed a young wildebeest because of the hair on the animal that was still visible.

The next morning, we woke up very early to go on a hot air balloon ride. Before we even got into the balloon, the excitement began! Two women got attacked by ants! These ants were about two centimeters long and bit hard! Very quickly, these two women had ants all over them. They literally had ants in their pants and the only way to get rid of them (according to the balloon workers around) is to take off your clothes and get them all off you! So, the two women, not caring about anything other than getting those ants off, stripped down and started pulling off ants.

When we got in the balloon, one of these women was standing next to me and was still picking off ants. I helped her when I saw one, but also was crossing my fingers that no ants would make their way to me! They didn't but they sure did ruin the first half of the balloon ride for these two ladies!

In the balloon, we could spot so many animals below us. At some points we were pretty high above them, but then the balloon pilot would let our balloon sink down to not very far off the ground at all! At one point, when we were near landing, we parted a herd of wildebeests and zebras.

After landing, we got back in the vehicles and on the way to breakfast saw some hippos.

After the hippos, we had a champagne breakfast in the bush!

After breakfast, we we had another game drive that was supposed to last until the afternoon. This meant that we also got to have a picnic lunch in the bush.

During our game drive, we saw a couple of cheetahs chilling under a bush.

We saw a very big elephant.

And we also saw some very small elephants.

And some medium-sized.

We found a big lion.

We found some Maasai giraffes.

And then we had lunch.

After lunch, we found some more hippos.

This is where I took one of my favorite pictures of my mom during this trip (after of course the one with Kalama).

That evening, to round out our bush meals, we had dinner in the bush! No pictures for that one though.

As always, more pictures are at my flickr site.