Wednesday, June 19. 2019
Today we must rise at 4:00 a.m., eat the little breakfast the hotel provides for early departures, pack and get downstairs by 5:30 a.m. for our trip to the Dar es Salaam Airport.
This is from the Yellow Zebra description of what comes next: “Lodge hopping flights to and from airstrips during your safari operate on a ‘lodge hopping basis’, which means flights may stop en route at other airstrips and departure/arrival timings may change locally depending on the schedule. The stops are determined on the day and therefore we are unable to advise the number of stops in advance.”
Also our luggage allowance with Auric Air is 44lbs per person (including hand luggage) in soft bags only. Back home, this had caused us endless amounts of negotiations and purchases but our whole party makes it through the size and weight issue. The good news is this airlines does not weight us (which has been true in the past on other small airlines I have flown).
At the Dar airport we are in a different part from the international jet terminal we were in yesterday.
At 7:30 a.m. we board an Auric flight to our camp, Selous (ce-loo) Kiba. Denice, Don and I sat behind the pilot and co-pilot which was pretty cool. The pilot turns around and informs us we are going to have a short 20 minute flight…to Zanzibar (insert your own joke here if you read the previous blog).
Sitting behind the pilot in a very small plane is pretty cool until he had to land the plane—it looked to me like he would be short by about a 100 feet but we landed smoothly and safely.
Our stop in Zanzibar was to drop off some passengers and picked up others. The pilot turned around and informed us that we would have a 55 minute flight to Selous Kiba.
When we arrive at the lodge by air, the runway is a strip of reddish brown dirt that I can testify was not even smooth. It all worked but I might not look when we take off or land the rest of this trip.
9:00 a.m. we are on the ground at Selous Kiba. While we are waiting to board the Jeep waiting to take us to the lodge, we saw another small plane land and load two passengers who had ridden down to the airstrip that morning.
Our guide for the trip to the lodge is Deo and he offers us a ride about. I am glad we did because on that short excursion we saw more animals (and close up) then I anticipated see on the whole trip. This is despite the fact that everyone is saying June is off season.
Deo stopped to show us the remnants of a cape buffalo that was along side the road. What I learned in the first half-hour in the bush is that it is a killing field.
Here is what we saw:
As time went on during both our safaris, the Impala became the butt of a lot of jokes. Think of the Impala like a sparrow in an urban American city--your first sighting of one might be special but as time goes on for the experience safari traveler not so much. I, on the other hand, found each Impala photo worthy but will not trouble you with too many photos of them.
Where we are in the Selous is the 10% of the game reserve that is not for hunting. That means in this area, animals that are hunted are not too happy to see our Land Rover and are skittish to say the least. Zebra are like that.
Last trip we were thrilled to find sheep blocking our way on the roads of Ireland. We did not expect that giraffe would fill that same role in Tanzania. They are also fun to play the game: Who Blinks First? Giraffe pretty much win that one.
After all of this we arrived at camp. The staff was all out front waving a friendly hello and we were instantly offered tea and some light things to eat because we had no breakfast.
Here is the description we were given to explain where we are: “Sand Rivers is the most famous camp in the Selous! Set up by the famous guide Richard Bonham, Sand Rivers has an unbelievable location directly on the Rufiji riverbank. The main area and rooms all have uninterrupted views of the river and its resident hippo. Each room has an open front, huge fourposter bed and lovely ensuite. Sand Rivers also has one of the quietest game-drive and walking areas.”
Here is the description of the area the Sand River camp is: “Well respected as one of Tanzania’s areas of true wilderness, the Selous is absolutely vast. The northern section is the location of the park’s best camps, the majority being based on Rufiji River or one of the River’s lakes. These waterways are the lifeblood of the park and the focus of the region’s game movements. The Selous is most famous for its boating and walking safari – it is one of the finest destinations for boating safaris in Africa, as well as being one of the first parks in Africa to operate extensive walking safaris. Game statistics are very high, with the park supposedly containing more elephant, buffalo, lion and hippo than anywhere in Africa!”
Don, Chris, Marijeanne, Michelle the camp manager, Becky and Denice
Next for us was an orientation to our room and a chance to unpack. Unpack at this facility is a euphemism because the best plan here is to keep everything in your suitcase because the room is open air. That means nothing is safe from the monkeys or the bugs. I will admit at this point it took me almost 48 hours to calm down and get used to this.
The view as you enter our room
Pretty much what we saw as we laid in bed
There are no windows on our veranda or in or bathroom. At night I thought it was best to just not turn lights on so as to not attract the bugs. We do sleep on a beautiful bed but under a canopy because it’s a jungle out there.
Denice, Becky, Marijeanne, Chris and Don
We had lunch which included catfish from the Selous River and other delicacies. Our food is cook each day by a wonderful woman named Bernadette who mixes local customs with other types of food. The food here is A-1.
Next it was time to do a driving safari with assigned guide, Ernest. My theory is that a vacation with a guide is only special if you fall in love with the guide. We did.
Here is what we saw:
Unfortunately, those who live become those who die. We did come across a giraffe kill that at this point was only of interest to the Vultures.
The next part of our safari taught us so much. If there is a kill, there are most likely killers and they can be found. Fat and happy after eating all they could, we were able to find two males lions sleeping off their feast in the bush. (The picture below was take with a normal lens setting on my camera--or, yes, that is how close the Land Rover could park to these two boys!)
In the lion world, it is the females who do all the work (insert your own comment here). We were also able to find two of the females as they recovered from the hunt and the meal.
This next female was sitting in the shade. Just like my cats at home, she looked everywhere except at us.
Here is my favorite photo of this beauty of the bush:
Nope, not dead...just a sleeping Hyena alongside the road
Not sure what these are so I am going with Antelope
Ernest took us out for a three hour plus tour which is going to be the typical schedule for us each day. Refreshments are served in the bush for each journey. Tonight found us returning in the dark (something not allowed or frown upon by the rangers in this park).
Dinner tonight was on the terrace with one large table holding our party of six, the other guests and Michelle, the Sand River manager.
After dark in this lodge, you must be walked home to your hut by one of the guides. In case you think this might be unnecessary, we were told a story of the night the guests had to walk around the hippo or the fact that elephant scat can be found on the grounds of the lodge.
Each day the staff prepares our cabin after we leave on a safari. At night the staff prepares our room by lowering netting around our bed. It is very elegant.
Again, we slept sound. We know we had bush babies in our room tonight because Denice found their scat this next morning. The trees are right outside our open windows and the bush babies are looking for food. Each room is equipped with a monkey box for food and other things you want to lock away from them while the bathroom has a wire box for looking up that stuff so they do not steal it.
Interesting. Again, if you don’t want this, don’t travel to foreign locations with different ways—a lesson I had to keep learning here.
Thursday, June 20, 2019
This morning we were up at 4:45 a.m., had tea delivered at 5:20 and was with our guide Ernest by 6:00 a.m.
We went on morning drive until 12:30 p.m. which included breakfast by lake Talala (named after a local type of tree).
Here is what we saw:
African Open-Beaked Stork
Breakfast in the bush with Ernest, Becky, Chris, Marijeanne, Denice, Don
Marijeanne and Don
We stopped in this dry river bed to stay hundreds of yards from these elephants so that they would not move on. While we sat in the Land Rover watching them, there was a bunch of noise from the trees to our right.
Ernest told us that the noise was baboons and indeed we could see the baboons busy with the fruit in the trees.
However, when we shifted the Land Rover a bit, we discovered we had a neighbor in the trees.
The evidence that life is ongoing in the bush
Lunch was again served at the lodge at 1:00 p.m. I went back to our place to do this blog while Denice swam in the pool at the lodge.
By 4:00 p.m. we were with Ernest on a night drive until 7:30 p.m.
Here is what we saw:
A very busy dry river bed as the other animals use the holes dug by elephants for fresh water
African Fish Eagle
Drinks and snacks in the bush with Chris, Marijeanne, Becky, Don, Ernest and Denice
Becky and Chris
At 8:00 p.m. tonight the six of us had dinner alone because a number of guest had left and the remaining wedding couple was having a special dinner this night. We sat up and told very interesting stories about our family life until we went back to our lodges by 9:30 p.m. to get some sleep.
Tonight we had a bush baby come visit us, sit on our coach, a scream us awake. I clapped my hands a few times and out he went. No harm, no foul, no scat.