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Tanzania Day 12: Elephant Crossing Once More

It was our last day on safari. Since we had seen wild dogs the day before, we decided to do the morning game drive and an afternoon boat ride. Brenda wanted the chance to see elephants crossing the river. So we headed out early on that Saturday morning. I'm not sure about other times of year, but at least in June, there were few flowers in the parts of Tanzania we visited. We stopped at this flower and asked what it was. Ezra said it was an Impala lily.
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Although beautiful, they are extremely poisonous. The bushmen used to ground them up and use them as poison for their arrows to hunt impala.

Some African cacti.
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The first animal sighting of the day were some female kudu. When they are scared, they curl their tail up so that the white part shows as a sign for the others to follow.
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We then found a small pride of lions who had just killed a cape buffalo.
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They were still resting after the kill so we decided to go have breakfast and come back later to check on things. We had breakfast with the wildebeest again.
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And this cute little ground squirrel.
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After breakfast, we went back to see what the lions were up to. One was resting in the shade of the bushes.
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Another was charged with guarding the carcass from vultures. Ezra said that they most likely wouldn't eat during the heat of the day; they would wait until it was cooler. In the meantime, someone had to keep the vultures and other animals away. This lion was hiding in the bushes and anytime a vulture would come near, he would come running out of the bushes to chase it off.
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He let this one get a little close.
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But then he came charging out.
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Before retreating back to the bushes, he decided to have a little snack.
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We decided to leave the lions to their snack, passing some guineas on the way out. Of course, Brenda yelled "GUINEAS!". Of course, I thought she said, "Denise". Then there was a short, Africanized guinea version of "Who's on First?"
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We also passed a herd of thirsty impala girls.
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And some zebra along the side of the road.
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These two baby giraffes were hanging out together with some adults.
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One was missing a tail, probably already nearly a victim of a lion.
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On the way back to camp, we encountered several giraffe lying down in the heat of the middle of the day.
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Our favorite Maasai warrior, the one who giggled at us frequently, was in camp when we arrived for lunch so we asked him for a quick picture.
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Today's lunch was stew mince meatballs served with Tanzania ugali, salad, and a mango shake for dessert. The ugali was the first local food I had tasted and it really didn't taste like much. It's made from maize and cooked to a dough-like consistency. It's really used as a filler for people who don't have a lot of food otherwise but many Africans love the taste of it. I tried eating it with the meatballs and this helped give it some taste.

After lunch and the rest period we headed out for our last boat ride with Ezra and Toboke. A lone, bull cape buffalo watched us from shore as we rode by, watching the African fish eagle.
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We saw a Hammerkop on a limb.
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And a Goliath Heron creeping along the shore.
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Lots of waterbuck and had come down to drink and graze.
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Of course, everyone has to watch out for the crocodiles on shore and in the water.
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Some giraffes were having a sundown drink as well.
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We came around a corner in the river to the spot where the elephants sometimes cross. Along the shore, were lots of waterbuck with babies and these Egyptian geese with their goslings.
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Around that time, a herd of elephants came down to the river to cross. Brenda would get her river crossing.
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After that herd crossed, another herd crossed as well. We got two river crossings.
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It was interesting to watch the older elephants help the smaller ones along, to make sure they got across, as some of the smallest ones were almost completely under water. Once across, all of the elephants continued in the brush and disappeared. What a coincidence that our safari began with an elephant crossing and ended with one as well. We made our way back to camp for dinner.

For our last dinner, we asked Barbara, the camp manager, if our guides Ezra and Rajabu could dine with us at our table. This appeared to be extremely uncommon at Selous as she was quite taken aback by our request. But to her credit, she arranged everything and didn't even charge us for our guides' dinners as we had expected. The courses that evening were olives bread soup, tuna salad, soya lime chicken with lentils and chapati (Indian flatbread), and coconut trifle for dessert. At dinner, Ezra didn't drink alcohol at all and Rajabu claimed to but sipped one drink all night. They seemed a little uncomfortable but we managed through it. It was good to get to know them a little better. Ezra was an excellent guide and Rajabu an excellent driver. Rajabu would also make an excellent guide if his English were better. I would ride with either one again in a heartbeat.

That night, during the night, the power went out. The fans went off and it was quite warm. This either brought the bush babies out or allowed us to hear them. They had some kind of party on our porch, running around and making all kinds of noise. We didn't get much sleep. We woke for breakfast then were driven to the airstrip for our flight to Dar es Salaam. Once there, we took a goodbye picture with Ezra (left) and Rajabu (right).
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Our flight to Dar was short and uneventful. Once there, a driver was waiting to take us to our hotel day room at Harbour View Suites. I talked to Mike on the balcony while Brenda found a computer to print our international boarding passes. Then we had a delicious seafood meal in the hotel restaurant. We had arranged for a driver to take us shopping at the local crafts market where we both purchased many souvenirs including several wood carvings and Tinga Tinga paintings (mine of a giraffe, the Tanzanian national symbol and Brenda's of zebras). Once we started to get overly harassed, we returned to the hotel to re-pack, shower, and wait for our night flight home. The hotel driver returned us to the Dar airport and we left Tanzania around 11p. We parted in Amsterdam with Brenda flying to Houston and me returning to Dallas.

For both of us, this trip had been a lifetime dream and for both of us, this trip was a life-changing experience. Being able to spend time with animals in their environment is fascinating. It's exciting to drive through the bush, not knowing what you might see next. At the same time, it was emotional. Nature is cruel and these animals have a hard life. For one to survive, another must perish. I wondered the whole time how I would feel if we saw a hunt and kill. We did not so I am still left to wonder. But it was upsetting to see limping wildebeest or other animals that appeared sickly or injured because I knew what was soon to come for them. Since we've returned, not a day goes by that I don't think about some aspect of this trip and that I want to return to Africa. The animals that call it home and the experience of spending time with them have a permanent place in my heart.

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Posted by zihuatcat 18:11 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania selous brenda Comments (1)

Tanzania Day 11: Hunting Dogs

Since we hadn't seen wild dogs the day before, today we had a mission. Ezra and Rajabu were hard at work from the get-go on the radio with the other guides trying to find one of the resident packs. We hardly noticed the radio intrusion, however, unlike when we were in Northern Tanzania and the radio was going off incessantly. I loved the silence of Selous. It was a slow start this morning with only some bird sightings. We first checked out some known leopard territory but just found these two Bateleur eagles.
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Ezra thought this meant that a leopard might be nearby as he said bateleurs will hang around in trees near carcasses killed by leopards. We searched and searched through the whole grove of trees but couldn't locate anything. We vowed to come back later.

A couple of Southern Ground-Hornbills were having their breakfast.
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This poor guy had to pull his breakfast out of a hole in a tree.
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These beautiful impalas were grazing along the road.
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We stopped for our breakfast amongst the wildebeest.
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And then the call came. Wild dogs had been spotted but they were a bit of a drive away. We headed in that direction, passing cape buffalo along the way.
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As we were driving along, I kept looking everywhere for the dogs. Then finally, I saw them, standing up on a slight hill. I could barely contain my excitement.
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We pulled up and stopped and there was the Beho pack of about 17 dogs, lying in small groups under palm fronds.
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One of the dogs walked by our vehicle and growled.
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Ezra thought they had finished their morning hunt and were resting up after the meal.
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After about 30 minutes, we left them to their snoozing.
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I wanted to stay longer but other vehicles were showing up and they deserved a chance to see the dogs, too. Plus, the dogs really weren't doing anything but sleeping, kind of like my dogs at home.

But then just down the road we saw lions so I guess it was okay. We came upon five lionesses who were none too happy about a strange male walking through their territory.

The male walked right by us.
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The females were lying down close by. The lioness in front was vocally expressing her displeasure at the male.
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Once he was gone, the two females joined the other three underneath a tree to present a united front.
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We headed back towards the road and encountered a giraffe blockade.
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Back on the road, Rajabu stopped suddenly. We looked around, not seeing anything at first until we looked directly in front of the vehicle at a black mamba, one of the most dangerous snakes in the world.
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Black mambas are the fastest snakes in the world, have some of the most potent venom, and are very aggressive. They can stand as tall as a human and their venom can kill a human in as little as twenty minutes. Without anti-venom, death is a certainty. In Ezra's six years of guiding in Selous, this was only the second black mamba he'd ever seen. We watched it slither across the road and into the grass on the other side.

Another giraffe blockade.
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Finally, we saw the elusive male kudu out in the open and of course they turned their backs to us so I could only get butt shots. Their racks are so incredible.
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Before going back to camp, we took a little detour down around the lake where a couple of lions were dozing in the bushes. They didn't stir at all so we didn't stop.
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What a morning: wild dogs, lions, and a black mamba! We were still on a high when we arrived back at camp for our lunch of prawns cake, zucchini patties, salad, and orange mousse for dessert.

When the afternoon rest time was over, we were ready to go on the afternoon game drive. Unfortunately, it was not as productive as the morning. We set out looking for the leopard that had evaded us that morning. Rajabu's eagle eyes caught a glimpse of the leopard on the ground in the tall grass and we carefully followed him. We could see the grasses moving as he walked through, but not the leopard itself, except for one brief moment when I saw his tail through the grass. We decided to wait for a while to see if he came back out. He didn't so we came out of the grove of trees and began following the sounds of a herd of elephants crashing through the trees. We couldn't see them either but we could certainly hear them. We figured they might be the cause of the leopard's hiding. So the afternoon drive was a bit of a bust but we weren't too disappointed after the success of the morning. Dinner that night was fennel soup, a bean appetizer, stuffed crepes with mushrooms, ham, and a b├ęchamel sauce, and a passion chocolate tart for dessert.

Posted by zihuatcat 17:12 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania selous brenda Comments (0)

Tanzania Day 10: One, if By Land, and Two, if By "Sea"

Morning game drives at Selous Impala Camp began at either 6:30a with breakfast in the bush or 8:30a with breakfast beforehand at camp. Both returned around noon for lunch. We opted for the earlier drives. Normally, guests might have to share vehicles here but for a very nominal fee, you can pay extra and guarantee a private vehicle. We opted for that as well. Our new guide, Ezra, and driver, Rajabu, showed up right on time and we hopped in ready to go. These vehicles were different from the Land Cruiser we had been traveling in with Maningo. This vehicle was completely open on both sides but had a roof for shade. I liked it a lot better, especially for photography purposes.

We started the morning off with a few birds - an African spoonbill.
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A hammerkop.
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A yellow-billed stork and an African skimmer. The skimmer was so cool to watch skimming across the top of the pond.
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We then came upon these juvenile giraffe.
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They were pretty skittish about getting drinks of water. Giraffes are commonly attacked by predators while leaning down to drink so some would stand guard while others drank and vice versa.
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This young one, with mom, was only about a week old.
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We drove by a known hyena den but mom didn't have the pups out. She was hanging out by herself. In years past, this den was used by wild dogs but was abandoned by the dogs when a python killed all the pups.

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A yellow baboon came wandering by.
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Around 9a, we decided to stop for breakfast. We weren't sure what to expect but what we got was way beyond our expectations. Ezra and Rajabu pulled a table and chairs with tablecloth, silver plateware, and a smorgasbord of foods out of the vehicle. There were hard boiled eggs, bacon, sausage, homemade breads, fresh fruit, and cereals. There was also an assortment of teas and most importantly, a cold Coke for me.
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After breakfast, we saw some waterbuck grazing.
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One showed us the target on her rear.
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Down the road there were some female kudu.
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We decided to drive down by the water. The hippos and crocodiles were having a lazy morning.
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A vervet monkey was playing just off the shoreline.
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By now it was about time to head back to camp for lunch. On the way back, Ezra pointed out this elephant skull. It belonged to an elephant that died from an infected leg a few years prior.
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Lunch at Selous Impala was served upstairs in the main building every day at 1p. It was beautifully presented in hollowed out coconut bowls on huge trays. Today's lunch was chicken salad, sweet potato cakes, fresh salad, horseradish salsa, and skewered fruit for dessert. The fruit was skewered on acacia spears. Although I didn't take a picture of the fruit skewers, this is an example of what it was speared on.
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After lunch, we had a couple of hours to relax in our tent. Usually we read, caught up on our written notes, or looked at pictures. At 4p, we met back at the main building for cookies and juice and our chosen afternoon activity. Today we were going on our first boat ride. Our guide Ezra was waiting patiently and walked us down the path to the boats. The camp has about four small motor boats that hold five or six passengers each. There is a cover on top of about 2/3 of the boat for shade. The driver sits in the back by the motor. Our driver was Toboke, a friendly guy who spoke very little English.
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We started out along the shoreline
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and came upon a pied kingfisher
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then a malachite kingfisher
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and a baby crocodile
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A much bigger crocodile was off to the left in the middle of the river.
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The scenery along the river was interesting. I'd never seen a palm tree with no leaves. It looked like a totem pole in the middle of the river.
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Then we came across a colony of white-fronted bee-eaters. They live in holes along the side of the river.
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We sat and watched them for a while. They were so busy, digging holes and flitting around.
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Some waterbuck were grazing along the shoreline.
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We were now in the middle of the river and we came across a group of hippos. Toboke thought it would be funny to provoke the dominant male so he got a little too close for comfort. The male started chasing after us, porpoising up and down in the water. I thought it was scary as hell and I didn't find it very funny at all. I don't like provoking the animals and that hippo could have easily turned the boat over if he'd wanted to.
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We passed by a grassy peninsula and this guy decided to show us his teeth, the second reason I didn't want to provoke the hippo.
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An African fish eagle surveying the sights from overhead.
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Just before sundown, we stopped along the shoreline where another boat was tied. They told us they had a surprise for us so we disembarked and walked up the hill to find four other guests. They had set up a table with a bottle of champagne to welcome us to Selous Impala. We toasted our good fortune at being able to have this wonderful experience.
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Brenda and I and our guide, Ezra.
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After the champagne toast, we enjoyed the sunset on the way back to camp.
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Back at camp, we set about our regular schedule of taking showers then met everyone at the bar and firepit for a drink before dinner. I tried to order a martini but that didn't go over very well. Apparently they are not familiar with the makings of a traditional martini in Africa. They started pulling out Martini & Rossi and Sprite. Ugh! So I went with the normal rum and Coke. That they knew.

For our romantic candlelight dinner of the evening, we were served pumpkin soup (which we again ate very little of and again this puzzled young David, our waiter). The second course was a cheese pate. For the main course, Brenda had the tagliatelle in ragu sauce and I had the nile perch fillet in parsley cream. Both came with rice and ratatouille. Neither was all that good but it was edible. Dessert was lemon meringue pie but at least at this camp the meringue was not blackened. After dinner, while walking back to our tent with our favorite tall Masaai warrior, we heard several hyenas in the dark somewhere. We commented that it sure sounded like a lot of hyenas which just made our Masaai guy giggle at us like a school girl. Just another night in Africa.

Posted by zihuatcat 19:43 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania selous brenda Comments (0)

Tanzania Day 9: The Safari Goes South

Today we were leaving the Serengeti to fly south to finish our safari with four nights in the Selous Game Reserve. This part of our itinerary was different from most first time safarigoers and we had two main reasons for choosing this. First, we wanted the chance to see wild dogs and Selous is the best shot in Tanzania to do so. Second, in Selous, we would be able to take boat rides amongst the hippos and crocs which would add a different kind of activity and perspective to the safari. The plan was for Maningo to drop us at the Seronera airstrip in the Serengeti and we would fly to Selous where we would meet our next guide provided by our camp, Selous Impala. So while we were sad to leave the Serengeti and Maningo, we were definitely excited about what was to come.

After breakfast, we settled our bill (which was quite reasonable after all those bottles of wine), said our goodbyes to Claudio and the rest of the wonderful staff, and left camp one last time.
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On the way, we had a short game drive. These cape buffalo were having some breakfast.
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One was missing a tail.
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A topi paused to look at us as well.
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A few minutes later, we arrived at the "airport" for our 10:30a flight to Selous.
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Maningo explained that the car on the side of the runway was the chase car, used to chase wild animals off the runway.
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This S&M looking bird is a gray-backed fiscal shrike.
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Finally, our plane arrived. It was a 12-passenger tin can.
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We both boarded only to find that we were one seat short. My seat. As it turns out, another plane was to arrive shortly and both were flying to Arusha at the same time. A father member of a four person family that was already seated was supposed to be on that other plane. But this family was all freaked out about being split up so the pilot asked me if I would mind flying on the other plane. He said he'd wait for it to arrive to make sure there were no problems. I didn't mind so I got off and we waited some more. Now I've never flown on a plane that small and just boarding that thing had made me claustrophobic so I was a little nervous about getting back on another one. I decided to take a little something to calm my nerves. My plane arrived and I boarded with our favorite Irish family from camp so I was pretty happy about that. Brenda was stuck on the other plane with a bunch of kids. Ha ha.

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There was a fairly large area in the back of the plane so I decided to sit in the last seat. I thought it would help with the claustrophobia. As it turns out, I was fine so long as I read my Kindle or looked out the window. I did get a little anxious if I focused too much inside the cabin. Brenda's plane took off first and flew straight to Arusha. Our plane headed down the runway and suddenly the pilot hit the brakes HARD! I looked up and saw a gazelle dart across the runway. We had narrowly missed it. I guess the chase car guy was on lunch break. So we had to turn around and try again. Second time was success. We had to make an extra landing at Lake Manyara to pick up a couple of passengers.

After I used what was one of the worst public restrooms ever at the domestic airport in Arusha, Brenda and I met up on her plane to continue on to Dar es Salaam. We said our final goodbye to the Irish family (they were on their way to Dubai) and I once again sat in the last seat. The camp had sent us on our way with lunch boxes which was nice so we ate those and then arrived in Dar a short time later. While getting off the plane, the pants on the large guy next to me were half falling down so that his butt crack was exposed. He bent over to climb out and stuck that right in my face. It was lovely! I thought Brenda was going to die laughing at my facial expression. So it was back off the plane in Dar and then a few minutes later back on again for the final leg to Selous. Brenda and I were the only passengers. After all the stops and disembarking, we were still on the original plane from the Serengeti. It was kind of like riding a Greyhound bus. A short 45 minutes or so later and the pilot banked the plane to the left. I looked out the window and saw a small runway amongst a bunch of trees. I thought, holy crap, we're going to land there. And we did. Safely. Finally, around 3p.

Our guide and driver (we had two this time) from Selous Impala Camp were waiting for us. They had some fresh cookies and cold pineapple juice for us. We went on a short game drive before arriving at camp.

The first animals we saw were warthogs.
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I finally got a shot of one on its knees eating.
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We then came across a tuskless elephant. She had a calf with her who stayed hidden in the thick bushes. Our guide said that tuskless elephants are common in Selous, possibly due to interbreeding.
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There are lots and lots of bones in Selous. We didn't see bones anywhere else on our safari as something always eats them. But for some reason, they remain in Selous. Maybe there is a shortage of the animals that eat them in Selous (like hyena). Here is a full giraffe skull.
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A palm nut vulture in a tree.
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The baboons in Selous are yellow baboons. The ones we saw in the north were olive baboons. Yellow baboons are taller and thinner.
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After the short game drive, we made our way to camp to check in, meet the managers, and get settled before dinner. While on the drive, it became pretty clear that this guide was not going to be a good fit for us. He was very encyclopedic. Whenever we asked a question, he didn't directly answer it. Instead, we would get what sounded like a memorized, rehearsed speech. He seemed new and not very dynamic. He didn't ask what we wanted to see nor what we had already seen. Although we wanted to see whatever the Selous had to offer, we were here to try and see dogs so we wanted the best chances to do so. When we got to camp and met with Andre the assistant manager, I voiced our concerns. Our conversation was overheard by the manager, Barbara, who listened and took our concerns seriously. She said she would see what she could do to assign another guide to us.

We received a tour of camp while our luggage was taken to our tent. This is the main camp building.
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Metal guinea hens on the stairs up the main building. My mother collects metal animals. I wanted to steal one for her but couldn't figure out how to take it home in my duffle bag.
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Sitting area located on the right side of the main building. This is where we would meet each afternoon at 4p for snacks and to begin either the afternoon game drive or boat ride.
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Dining area located on the left side of the main building. This is where lunch is served each day at 1p.
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Bar area and firepit. This is where everyone gathers in the evening before dinner for drinks and to let your guide know what you want to do the following day (game drive, boat ride, etc.).
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Our tent.
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View of the Rufiji River from our tent.
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Inside our tent. The bathroom is located behind the beds.
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This camp has 24-hour electricity, running water, and flush toilets. There are even fans in the tents which were lifesavers since it was very humid in Selous (much like Florida).
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Before dinner, Brenda went down to the firepit area to have a drink while I stayed behind for a shower. Some of the resident bushbabies were running around there and I'm sorry I missed seeing that. While she was there, she met our new guide, Ezra. Barbara was true to her word about assigning another guide and Ezra seemed like he would be a great fit for us. He knew all of the dog packs in the area and seemed very knowledgeable and personable. We were very happy with the change.

Dinner at Selous Impala is served at individual tables by candlelight (very romantic if you're not with your best friend) and each is a four course affair. You are assigned a waiter for the duration of your stay. Ours was David, a nice guy who couldn't understand why we never ate much of our soup course. We didn't because neither one of us wants to eat soup when it's hot outside and because the soup here was pretty watery each night. We had just come from Serengeti Wilderness Camp where the soup was tasty and creamy. Dinner the first night was vegetable soup, aubergine (eggplant) tempura, choice of honey ginger prawns or grilled pork fillet in coconut sauce, couscous, salad, and coffee nut cream. David also had to grasp the concept that we didn't drink coffee or tea after dinner; we drank wine or rum (usually a double). Poor guy....we are just so difficult!

Posted by zihuatcat 12:21 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania serengeti selous brenda Comments (0)

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