Saturday June 13th, 2015
Guys, we went on our first safari today! Let me just tell you, it was incredible. I have never had any experience like this before. After breakfast, we left camp at 8am to head to Manyara National Park, a 127 sq mi park along the Rift Valley ridge and contains Lake Manyara, a HUGE lake (77 sq mi). Also, it’s only about 30 minutes away from our camp in Rhotia.
Luckily, a group of us who get along very well were able to get a land cruiser together. Our professor, Kioko, was our driver, and we started by taking the top off of our cruiser. It was super fun, because for the whole excursion (9 hours) was spent with us standing on our seats with our upper bodies outside the top of the car. We were the first vehicle in the caravan, and as soon as we got in the park, Kioko spots elephant poop on the road. He asked us if we want to see inside, and before we know it he hands it to me and Meg on a piece of paper. This poop was literally just a tad smaller than a basketball. And covered in bugs. So, that was something. But it’s kind of cool, because the elephants eat 20-30 types of plants and their digestive tract is only 60% efficient, the poop is loaded with nutrients, and locals actually add water to it and drink it.
After that, we went on to observe baboons for two hours for a research paper we have to write. Every 5 minutes, we had to observe if they were foraging, mating, playing, being aggressive, etc. and little details about each of those topics. It was actually very interesting and I really enjoyed it. The troop we watched had about 50 baboons in it.After those 2 hours, we just got to drive around and identify animals! First, on our way to ‘The Hippo Pool’ we say zebras, wildebeests and bunch of cool birds!When we got to the hippo pool, we saw many more zebras, wildebeests, pelicans and of course… hippos. It was so crazy to be seeing these animals wild and not stuck in a cage at the zoo.After that, we just drove around. It was crazy though, because the roads are very twisty-turny and there is a lot of low hanging foliage. Also, Kioko went at hyper speed. Like, when we would take off from a stop, your neck would crack back. I can honestly say that drive was better than most roller coasters I have been on, no exaggeration.Anyway, in Tanzania there are these scary trees covered in 2-3 inch thorns. While cruising along the trials, you had to be so careful for low hanging branches, because if you took one of those to the face, you would definitely have to be medically evacuated out. So, cruising down the trail and full speed, I turned around to say something to a friend, turned back and there was a branch headed straight for my face. I literally dove into the truck, and it was the funniest thing! I’m sure you’re picturing it and laughing too. (:All in all, we saw plenty of baboons, wildebeests, zebras, elephants, giraffes, hippos, pelicans, ostriches, flamingos, mongooses, antelope, hyrax, impalas, water bucks, blue monkeys and even two leopards, which are really rare to see in this particular park (and especially 2 at a time, as they are usually solitary unless mating).Overall, it was an incredible day. I will definitely put more pictures up on facebook soon. As for now, an exhausted and sunburnt Amanda is ready for bed. Tomorrow, we have breakfast at 7:30am, Swahili from 8-9am and then (for our free day) I will be going to the town of Mto wa Mbo with some friends to go to a market and go knife painting. I will fill you in about that later. Kwaheri!