The Tsetse fly
We entered the park from the West Gate after spending the night in Musoma – a small Lake Victoria town. Everyone had their eyes peeled and camera’s ready. We saw two ostriches in the distance and everyone went crazy snapping pictures. But then, nothing. In the open air overland truck four people got to sit up top over the cab, and the rest sat in the back with the canvas windows all rolled up. We drove and drove. It was our turn to be on top. We kept seeing black blankets hanging from the trees. We ask our guides what they were for, and he said: “For poison.” We really didn’t understand well. We saw some animals and wanted to stop, and the guides said: “No stopping here.” And kept going.
Sharleen and I witnessed a lot of commotion at the group below and they seemed to be swatting at bugs. We felt smug where we sat because the wind kept most insects away from us. The truck stopped shortly and it was time to trade seating assignments. When we got down Giel, our travel mate from the Netherlands told us: “They’re hard to kill, get them before they get you!”
That is where I encountered my first Tsetse fly. The were large like horse flies. When they landed they proceeded to bite immediately. It didn’t matter if it was on a camera, towel, or skin, it would bite and fly. I watched one land on my shorts and start biting the fabric immediately. It made a small hole. They took large hunks of whatever they bit into. Sharleen proceeded to wrap herself with our towels and more clothes immediately. The rest of us swatted away the pests. I swatted one that landed on my leg. I watched it fall to the ground, get up and come right back at me like: “So what, you want a piece of this?” This time I clapped my hand together sandwiching it. It fell to the ground again. It got up again and came at me one more time. A little more angry. This time it landed I hit it hard against my leg, let it fall to the floor and stepped hard on it. That did the trick. That was one fly. We spent the next hour killing what we could.
Wide open land
When people see nature shows of the Serengeti, they see massive herds of animals and non stop life and death battles around the watering hole. The Serengeti (A UNESCO world heritage site) is a massive area (5,700 square miles). However, together with the Maasai Mara Reserve (580 square miles), and the Ngorongoro Biosphere Reserve (3,202 square miles), they combine into a huge sanctuary for the millions of migrating animals. Adding to the wild area are quite a few private Game Preserves nestled next to the protected park areas, that allow hunting. In all, this area is about the size of Massachusetts or Vermont. While there are many animals there, they are not evenly dispersed and require quite a bit driving from place to place to see where the animals congregate.
After three to four hours of driving through wide open space occasional comments and murmurs about the lack of animals became more and more common. We started to double think whether or not this safari strategy via overland truck was a good choice. We went over a dale and just like that we happened upon a herd of 20 African Savanna Elephants.
I’ve seen elephants trumpet, but I’d never sat and watched them eat. When watching deer or horses, or other large animals eat they are relatively quiet except for some discrete munching. But these elephants were loud. Aside from the sound of snapping tree branches and the corresponding crunching, there were these consistent low rumble-growls. I had never heard anything like it. (Click Here for an example– Thank you Africa Freak for access to the sound clip). They snorted and chortle while intently eating. There were babies and adults but they were all very vocal. I guess that when you are near the top of the food chain you have less to worry about. Sadly, The African Savana Elephant is vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List. Poachers and habitat loss are the only threats to this incredible animal.
Just 30 minutes within the presence of these amazing beasts erased the hours of nothing and bumpy road driving. Many of us just couldn’t get enough of this fantastic sight.
We next stopped at the Serengeti Visitor Center in the Seronera area. Here we saw some very loud shrieking Hyraxes.
As the day was getting late we set out for our campsite – we needed to pitch tents, prepare dinner, and exchange stories.