Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti

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Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we entered the gate to the Serengeti to begin our game drives. There’s a second check-in center once you get into the Serengeti, so we stopped there (clean restrooms!) and then made our way to the center to look for animals.

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The rules are that the trucks have to stay on the road, and we can’t get out of the vehicles around the animals (you wouldn’t want to). You also aren’t allowed to feed the animals or make sounds to attract them. When animals are around it’s best to stay silent to not scare them away. While we game drive our trucks padded roof lifts about 2 feet up, so we can comfortably stand in the truck and see out to take photos.

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I thought the above animal was a Thomson’s Gazelle, but it’s missing the black stripe so it might be a different gazelle? The gazelle’s scare easy, so just the slightest truck sound and they go running.

Here’s what I learned about the animal life out here- every animal has ways to protect themselves and ways that they are a target (pros+cons). For example, the gazelle is the size of a deer, smaller and thinner than a lot of other animals, so it’s an easy snack for a lion, but their thin legs make them fast runners. While the lions are big and scary, they can’t run very fast, so assuming the gazelle is healthy it should be able to outrun a lion. It really is survival of the fittest!

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I come from a family of birders, so I had to include the giant ostrich images (they are huge!). And their legs are SO pink! Below is the Superb Starling Bird, which is a very colorful bird.

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I just love the landscape here. The uninterrupted land goes on for miles.

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The above colorful lizard is an Agama Lizard. I wonder if the less colorful lizard is also a Agama lizard… maybe the female Agama?

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So pretty! When on a game drive your eyes are constantly scanning the land looking for animals. Lions sleep 90% of the day, so it’s best to look for them laying down in the grass. The cheetah’s also like the tall grass. Leopards climb trees, so it’s best to look up at tall trees for them.

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Above is a beautiful giraffe. You can identify the different types of giraffe by the pattern of their skin. This is a Masai giraffe.

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Above is a hippopotamus. They easily hide in the water as their backs look like wet stones.

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A vulture keeps post at the top of a tree. One way to look for animals is to follow the vultures. They scout out for animal attacks, which means they are usually around when lions are feeding.

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The sunsets on the Serengeti are so beautiful. The bright colors and the silhouette’s of these umbrella trees have me in awe.

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Our first LION! Night one of game drives and we turn a corner to see a lion feeding on a newly deceased warthog. As a vegetarian, I had to really prepare myself for this sight. But once you see how much life is sustained off of one deceased animal, you see that it is the circle of life and it needs to happen to keep the world moving. For example, when the lion is done with the warthog, hyena’s will come in to snack, next the large birds pick at it, and then the smaller animals come in until that warthog is just bones licked clean. Nothing is wasted, and this warthog ends up helping so many other animals survive.

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I shoot my photos on a Canon G12 (nothing too fancy), and I attempted some video footage with it while in Africa. It’s not amazing quality since it’s not really meant for videos but I just have to share:

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(Above) Nomad Tour goers, scouting out the lion. The photo gives you a sense of how the truck and game driving works. The guides (who are driving) try to get you the best view of the animals. Our driver was AWESOME! He was so good at navigating that he would get us so close to the action. I was so impressed. Once the guide gets you in a good position you take photos and hang out until there’s some action or you decide to move on. Our guide had strong binoculars that we would pass around.

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I just love the colors at sunset! Note one of our 3 Nomad Tour trucks to the left.

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Just when I thought we were going to head to our campsite for the night, we turn a corner and see a pack of LIONS!! Can you see them above? Now do you see how difficult it is to find animals hiding just feet away from you in the tall grass. There are about 10 of them here in the grass.

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Our driver was able to get us SO close. Night one of game driving and I could literally stick my hand out and pet them if I wanted to (but obviously that’s not allowed and not a good idea). It’s so tempting though… they seem just like large kittens!

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They were sleeping and yawning and stretching, just like a pet cat. Like a really large pet cat 🙂

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After spending lots of time with these cute lions, we had to make our way to the campsite for dinner and bed.

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I should note that the whole group slept in one and 2 person tents at a designated campsite (above). This campsite doesn’t have a fence, or a guard or anything. It’s literally open to the animals. Later in the trip Norman told me a story from three weeks earlier when he was in this same campsite with a different Nomad Tour group and a large group of lions cut through the campsite. They say if you need to use the bathroom (they have group camping style toilets and a couple cold water showers- bring your own toilet paper), you flash a light outside your tent to scare off any animals. That night there were baboons hanging near the tents. Be sure to keep your tent zipped as the baboons would love to get in and take your cell phone.

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Dinner is prepared for us and we eat in the structure above. Bring your headlamp, as it only has a few little lights. The food is delicious as it has been all along. They always do a soup and bread, then meat (or a veggie stew dish for me) and pasta or rice and veggies. Usually there’s a fruit plate for dessert. If you want to drink alcohol you’ll need to pick it up before you arrive in the Serengeti, as there aren’t any stores here. When we were near the Snake Park in Arusha, we stopped at a place where people could buy juice, wine and beer. They provide hot water for tea and hot cocoa. The food is quite filling, and then we make our way back to our tents for the night.

Up next: More game drives!! So many more animals!

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