Where We Be
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
As soon as we stepped out of the vehicle, the wildebeest, zebras, and tommies
increased their distance dramatically, forming an enormous circle around us
The grazing wildebeest stretched for mile after incredible mile. Amazingly, all the female wildebeest
give birth during the same two-week period, thus glutting the market with prey animals. The result is
that four out of five baby wildebeest survive if born during this window, versus only half born outside it.
The wildebeest form columns when they're on the move. The wildebeest birthing hadn't happened yet, but we saw hundreds
of baby Thompson's gazelles -- and they were fast! Only a few days old, they were already able to keep up with their parents.
As we drove towards Serengeti National Park,
we passed right through the midst of the
wildebeest migration making its slow march
northward. It's estimated some 3
million large
animals roam the Serengeti plains -- wildebeest,
zebra, tommies, Grant’s gazelle -- stretching for
miles and miles in all directions. This is the
largest terrestrial mammal migration in the
world, and we felt privileged to see it firsthand.
It's no wonder this is considered one of the
Seven Natural Wonders of Africa -- and one of
the ten natural travel wonders of the world.

Since we were still in Ngorogoro Conservation
Area, our guide was able to take us off-road
through a significant concentration of animals.
Tommies and wildebeest scattered before our
vehicle. What an exhilarating sight! We poked
our heads up through the pop-up, felt the
breeze on our faces, and stared in amazement
as hundreds of animals ran before us. At one
point our guide stopped the van, and as soon
as we stepped out, the wildebeest, zebra, and
tommies  increased their distance dramatically.
Within seconds they had made a wide circle
around us. The terrain was empty for fifty yards
in every direction and chock-full of animals
beyond that. It felt like we had the plague!
The further north we drove, the less wildebeest we saw. Eventually we were only passing scattered clumps of tommies and Grant’s
gazelle...and then nothing. The plains were suddenly bare as far as the eye could see. We had passed the northern edge of the
migration. The only animals we saw for the next ten miles to Naabi Gate (southern entrance to Serengeti National Park) were birds.
At Naabi Gate we ate lunch and took a brief nature walk up a hillside offering sweeping views of the treeless plains beyond.
The aptly named Serengeti ("endless plains") spans 30,000 sq km (12,000 sq mi) and is contiguous with Kenya's Masai Mara.
Seronera Wildlife Lodge is architecturally striking -- it is built right in the midst of a kopje and incorporates the
kopje rock outcroppings into the wooden beam structure. A lovely verandah offers indoor and outdoor seating.
The lodge is very close to nature -- there are no fences and no effort to keep animals away.
From the verandah we saw impala, waterbuck, giraffe, vervet monkeys, and baboons.
We also spotted dwarf mongoose, bats, and even a spitting cobra on the premises!
The northward migration was still south of us, but closer to our lodge there were thankfully still animals.
We began spotting herds of impala (shown above), topi, and hartebeest. These populations are resident
year-round because of the Seronera River, which forms a U-shape around the Seronera Wildlife Lodge.
Next day we went on two game
drives, staying close to the lodge
We also saw astonishing numbers of beautifully colored birds during our safari, including
these superb starlings in the lodge's bird bath and a lilac breasted roller on a high branch
The leopard padded down the dirt road, away from the squawking guineafowl.  “I hope you know this is not normal,” Fideles said,
a broad grin on his face. “We know!” we replied. Seeing the normally secretive leopard active in the middle of the day is rare.
We drove to several kopjes in hopes of spotting a predator -- and were rewarded with our first and only leopard of the trip! He was
resting on a rock in the shade of an umbrella acacia. All of a sudden, apparently annoyed by a guineafowl that kept squawking
at him, he leapt down from the rock, passed close to our vehicle, and followed the dirt track toward another kopje in the distance.
That afternoon we drove north of the lodge to a large hippo pool. We sat
for half an hour watching some thirty hippo bathing, grunting, and feeding.
At one point two males engaged in a dominance battle -- and this little hippo got
caught up in the frenzy! Things quickly settled down, though, and he was fine.
It felt a little scary being so close to such enormous animals. Fideles said
it was safe since the hippo were in the water where they felt protected.
We also saw a hippo grazing on land -- another first for us
The closest hippo kept eyeing us intently, then submerging,
then reappearing a foot or two closer each time -- yikes!
As dusk fell, we headed back out to the verandah and spotted giraffe close to the lodge,
munching on acacia leaves. Several young giraffe startled and ran. What a glorious place!
Two-toned agama lizards sunned themselves
on the rocks near where we had lunch
Is this my favorite trip ever? Yes!
I think I could go on safariing forever.
We spied this waterbuck
hiding in the tall grass
Rock hyrax were all over the place; you couldn’t help
seeing these cute marmot-like creatures scurrying
over the rocks on your way to and from meals
We walked to a nearby river overlook -- and saw this enormous
12-foot-long Nile crocodile sunning himself. Double yikes!
Either a dominance display or a yawn!
About that snake... We saw it in a garden area on the verandah, slithering in our direction. It was black, four feet long,
and two fingers-width in diameter. We decided to move away when it got to within ten feet. When we described it to
Fideles, he told us it sounded like a black spitting cobra. He said they were poisonous, could spit from a distance of
ten feet or more (!), and that if one spits in your eye you can go blind. So we're glad we moved away when we did!  
[Not my photo]
[Not my photo]