Thursday, September 11, 2014 – The Central Serengeti

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Well, today was another truly amazing day, but not because I’m in the Serengeti (which alone is something that most people can only dream about), but because we were able to take a hot air balloon ride across the Serengeti this morning at sunrise. Leonard’s brother just happens to be a balloon pilot here in the Serengeti and invited both Danielle and me to go on the balloon ride here as his guest which means we just had to pay the park concession fee which is a small fraction of the actual cost. It would have not been possible otherwise. We got picked up at 5:45 this morning to be taken to the balloon launching site, climbed aboard the balloon gondola lying on our backs with our feet up on the seat cushions as the gondola was lying on it’s side awaiting the balloon to lift us up.

Our view of a neighboring ballon

Our view of a neighboring ballon

Our view of sunrise on the Serengeti

Our view of sunrise on the Serengeti

Zebras from our baloon

Zebras from our baloon

The wide open Central Serengeti from aloft

The wide open Central Serengeti from aloft

This was my very first balloon ride and it was a beautiful morning here as they all have been. The ride lasted about an hour and afterwards we had some champaign to toast the flight (a ballooning tradition apparently) followed by an incredible breakfast on the Serengeti for all three balloons that flew this morning. Wow! What an incredible experience and far exceeded what I had imagined it would be like. It was made even more special with Jones as our pilot as I know how proud his brother is of him for that accomplishment.

Abuu met us at the visitor center where we were dropped off and we began our game drive for the day. The first thing we came upon was huge pride of lions under some trees with lots and lots of cubs and watched them for a bit only to then watch the dominant female and three of her sisters suddenly get up and head off for a hunt. It was amazing to follow along with them as they were strategizing for the proper position and such, but ultimately the hunt pooped out and never fully materialized. We watched them for quite some time and finally decided to call it quits ourselves. The good news is that we heard on the radio later that they never completed their mission and called off the hunt fully as well.

A mating pair of Serengeti lions

A mating pair of Serengeti lions

We spent the remainder of the day traveling between the Serengeti Hills (there are seven of them all numbered) and the various kopjes. The Masai Kopjes are the largest of these and they are rock outcroppings scattered throughout the central and southern Serengeti as the word “kopje” means little head in Dutch. During the day we saw at least three additional large prides of lions, most with plenty of cubs. They are usually sleeping pretty soundly during the day as was the last pride we ran across and since we were all alone miles from anywhere we decided to make animal calls and whatever else we could think off to just get them to notice us so we could take a few photos. I suddenly had this thought that perhaps they would like music and since I had my iPad with me I decided to play them some traditional Tanzanian folk music that I had. I put it on and all the lions immediately looked up and right at us. Abuu was in total stitches over the whole affair as it turned out the song I played was a traditional song from his tribe that he used to sing as a child. It was pretty hilarious I guess to have these lions in the middle of the Serengeti responding to a crazy mzungu (a white person – me) playing Tanzanian folk music and the only Tanzanian in the car unable to stop laughing. It was a wonderful moment.

Up close and personal

Up close and personal

A cozy pride of lions

A cozy pride of lions

On the way home I spotted a serval cat in a marshy area and we got some great photos of him. They are a tall, small cat that looks like a cross between a cheetah and a leopard, only much smaller than either of those cats. They are well spotted and very beautiful. Earlier in the day we had also spotted another cheetah. We watched sunset before getting to camp and had a lovely dinner back at camp.

A wonderful Serval Cat

A wonderful Serval Cat

Overall, it was another spectacular day on the Serengeti dominated by pride after pride of lions and amazing weather all kicked off by an incredible balloon flight for a totally different perspective on this miraculous landscape. As you’ve guessed there are not enough superlatives to describe the Serengeti. Hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have.

Mike

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