Our first day on safari and we see lions

Baby baboon.

The surprising thing about the drive from Arusha to Lake Tanagire National Park was all the Maasai in traditional dress going about their daily life. Little villages dot the landscape made up of small Maasai round huts. The huts look too small to fit one of the tall people, let alone a family. Children watch over herds of goats and sheep. Women in brightly coloured clothes carry water. Men mostly wearing dusty red robes and carrying sticks and spears go about their lives.

The animals in the Park, similarly just seem to be getting on with things, while the tourists pass on by. Now we’re going to be on safari for 10 days so I’m not going to list all the animals we see. But within moments of entering the park we saw an impala just by the track and spent ten minutes marveling at it. Then there was a zebra we were similarly entranced by. By the end of the day we’d seen hundreds of each. We saw mongoose, monkeys, baboons, giraffes, elephants, and many many more. In fact we think Harry, our guide, thinks we’ve used up several years of luck on the first day.

The highlights were seeing a couple of lions eating their kill very near to us, complete with tearing sounds and dripping, bloody maws; seeing cheetahs, which is exceptionally rare, although in the heat shimmering distance; and stopping while a procession of 70 elephants of all ages crossed the road right in front of us.

Declan wielding his new binoculars was in seventh heaven standing on the seat with his head out the top of the troop carrier like a manic meerkat.

We spent the entire day in the Park and it was wonderful. Then with rain threatening in the distance, we set out for the Lake Manyara Ranch Conservancy. The Conservancy is a privately run corridor joining two national parks. The fact it is privately run is important to us because it means they don’t have to abide by the National Park rules on walking – which means we’re hoping to go on a hike in the coming days.

We’re staying in a tent. It is definitely a tent, but it’s a tent with an en-suite bathroom complete with hot water shower. They have an ingenious gravity-fed system that runs a water-pipe through a wood fire tended by a Maasai.

And right now, I must say that sitting sipping a gin and tonic while watching the sun go down over a herd of zebras and wildebeests is a pretty special experience.

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