Safari: Serengeti

Hi everyone! We’re finally back after about two weeks of exploring Tanzania! This was, by far, our favorite place yet! We already knew we loved Africa, but had never traveled Tanzania. We quickly fell in love with the land, food, animals, and especially the people! We saw and experienced so much I have decided to do a series of posts to adequately show and discuss what we experienced.

Remember the scene in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” where Wonka sings as he’s revealing his world of candy and chocolate… “Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination. Take a look, and you’ll see all the beauty.” That’s what I felt God was whispering to me this week… “Look at my creativity.. the product of my imagination. My Creation.” Everywhere we looked, His perfection was shown. From the intricacy of a bird’s feathers to the vastly different social patterns between two seemingly similar gazelles, it was undeniable that He put this all into motion. Each animal and species has different patterns of birthing and parenting their young, eating, social habits, and defense mechanisms, just to name a few. Sadly, evolution is what is generally believed and woven into education and even explanations on game drives. But the more we saw, the more it was confirmed to us this was part of His Divine design. There is no way this happened by chance. Our Creator purposely placed every detail very strategically.
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
Genesis 1: 31
Our first stop was a former game hunting block turned game reserve the northwestern side of the Serengeti Plains. Game drives are usually flexible, but for prime game viewing, its best to go before and after the heat of the day when the animals are often most active. The two daily drives are usually 6am – 11am and 4pm – 8pm, each with a stop for coffee and snacks to stretch your legs. Beyond that, there is usually no agenda other than to follow the animals. All rangers, or guides, are constantly sending out updates of any rare animal sightings across the reserve so all can have a chance at any particular sighting.
Our first drive did not disappoint! We came up on this mother-son pair of usually elusive and nocturnal leopards casually relaxing in a tree.
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Mother leopard
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The young male leopard will leave his mother when old enough to hunt and fend for himself.

This lion pride consists of 5 male brothers and their females and cubs in total, but prides are not always found together. We spotted part of the pride with 2 males, 2 females and 4 cubs. These cats were on the move when we caught up to them.

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This cub was preparing to pounce on its father. Cubs are encouraged to pounce and wrestle with their parents to learn how to eventually track and kill prey.
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After reaching a certain age, male cubs will be pushed out of the pride by their father, keeping the father’s dominance of his own pride and forcing them to create their own prides. 

It can be rare to see animals interacting, but we caught these two warthogs (or ngiri in Swahili) wrestling. They would stand nose to nose to hook their tusks then try to swing and push each other around. There was no female present that they would be fighting over, so they were probably just wrestling for social purposes

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One of the things that makes the Serengeti Plains so iconic and prime for game viewing is the wildebeest migration. Every year, the wildebeest migrate clockwise from Masai Mara down to southern Serengeti to drop their calves, then journey back. Constantly on the move, the 2.5 to 3 million animals make this annual journey across the plains, often joined by zebras.

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Grazing wildebeest and zebras in the morning mist

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Impalas are a medium-sized antelope. The males live and feed in “bachelor” herds, while the females and young are called a “breeding” herd. Impalas are easily identified by the black “M” on the hind legs and tail.

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Male impala

Much like the impala, giraffes live in bachelor and breeding herds. Females give birth while standing up and the young is usually up walking around within 5 minutes. A group of giraffes is called a “journey.”

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This bachelor herd had a total of 14 males. 

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Zebras can appear to travel and live in large herds, but they actually have very specific families they belong to. A zebra harem, or family, is usually made up of one male, two or three females, and their young. When traveling, they are in a single file line, male at the back to protect his harem from any potential predators.

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Zebras often stand facing opposite directions to make sure they are not attacked from the rear.
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Male waterbuck, with his female standing behind him

Although we were mainly camping in the bush, we would occasionally go to a neighboring lodge for lunch. At one particular lodge, they have lots of trees surrounding their dining area. Black faced monkeys fill the trees waiting for staff to leave so they can jump down and steal a snack from guests. This cheeky monkey jumped down right as we were eating dessert, grabbed an almost empty bowl and quickly finished it off, scurrying off just as the waiter came back!

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Africa is hot and I had just taken a huge bite, but there’s the culprit behind me!
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Another monkey from the same tree carrying her baby. This baby is probably less than a week old and will switch to riding on the mother’s back in about a week when it is strong enough. 

Pictured below is the Cape buffalo. These male dominated herds can range from small to large numbers. Once the dominate male(s) are too old and weak to keep their dominance (shown/measured by pushing and wrestling with their head and horns), younger, stronger bulls will push them out of the herd. These lone males usually live in small groups of 2 or 3 at a time and are often called “retired soldiers.” Although generally peaceful grazers, these large animals can stampede if feeling threatened.

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Another amazing animal on the Serengeti is the elephant. Being the largest animals on the plains, elephants can weigh up to 13,000 lbs. Their size coupled with poor digestive systems, elephants spend up to 18 hours per day eating. They favorite snacks are small, thorny acacia bushes and the inner side of tree bark. Their force while eating often results in uprooted and/or knocked over trees. A herd of elephants consists of females and their young. Everyone is usually very closely related. For example, there is a matriarch and she will be accompanied by a sister or daughters and their young. Bull (male) elephants usually roam solo. Elephants are very protective of their young and can be very dangerous when feeling threatened, charging, stomping and swinging their massive trunks at the threat. Despite all of that, they are so majestic. Their generally slow gait shows grace and the use of their trunk is fascinating.

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This male has stripped bark from a tree and now chewing on the inner part. 

We loved our time in the Serengeti, but don’t worry… there’s more about Tanzania coming soon! Stay tuned!

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Our evening breaks usually occurred right at dusk, allowing us to experience some amazing sunsets!

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Serengeti, we will be back!

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