“How do you like it now, assholes?” A voice from outside my tent shouted angrily.
What a lovely way to wake up! I thought to myself as I opened my eyes and looked around the dark canvas two-man tent I was sharing with my high school friend, Giancarlo. We were in the middle of the Serengeti – our first morning – on the third day of our East Africa Tour with Nomad Adventure Tours. We had been lucky since we didn’t have to be up at a ridiculously early hour – which is par for the course when you’re overlanding through Africa- however, I guess our campsite neighbours were less than enthralled that our late arrival to the campground meant that we were probably up later than most. And let’s be honest, as a group of 16 people, we probably weren’t the quietest.
I checked the clock on my phone and realized it was pretty much time to get up to get ready for breakfast followed by our first game drive in the Serengeti, so I collected my toiletries and made my way across the campsite to the shared ablutions and got ready for the day.
I met up with the rest of my East Africa Tour group members in the mess hall, where the organizers from Serengeti Experience (the company that takes Nomad’s clients into the Serengeti) were serving up a delicious breakfast complete with fried eggs, sausage, toast and fruit.
Soon after we’d filled our bellies for the morning, we all made our way to the 3 LandCruisers that would be taking us on our first game drive.
Personally, my only objective of the day was to finally cross off that nagging item from my bucket list – see all of the big 5. I was unlucky on all of my previous safaris (such as in Etosha and Chobe National Parks on my Cape Town to Victoria Falls tour, and during my game drives through Masai Mara, Hell’s Gate, Lake Nakuru and Queen Elizabeth National Parks on my Masai Mara & Gorillas tour) and had been unable to track down the ever-elusive leopard.
“Chui!” I cried out my new favourite Swahili word – meaning leopard. “I wanna see a chui!” And with that one Swahili word being our morning’s battlecry, we set of into the savannah – in search of chuis, simbas and toto tembos (leopards, lions and baby elephants).
Our first animal sightings were those of the more ‘boring’ variety. The herbivores that scatter the dusty, sundrenched plains – topi, gazelle, striped mongoose, dik-diks and even a cute baby hyrax. While I did take the opportunity to snap some great photographs, I made sure to keep an eye out for leopards which are often found lazing on high branches. Unfortunately for me… no chuis were making an appearance for me or the others on my East Africa Tour.
On our quest for big cats (specifically leopards) – we came across beautiful birds (including my favourite – the lilac breasted roller), a hippo pool, and even a lone bull elephant wandering through the Serengeti’s iconic savannah. And then we saw it.
The massive line up of vehicles.
When on a game drive – when you see a giant cluster of vehicles, there’s only 1 thing it can mean – CATS!
A lot of the binoculars and cameras seemed to be pointed high up into a tree – which I could only logically deduce that there was likely a leopard high up in the tree – as they are really the only cats who are regularly found in trees. A surge of excitement rushed through me… THIS WAS IT!
Only it didn’t happen just then and there. Abraham – our driver from Serengeti Experience – pulled over and tried to position our vehicle into a prime spot with as clear of a view of the trees. I peered excitedly through my 300mm lens, others peeked through their binoculars – but there was no spotted cat in the tree. I desperately searched each of the trees around the area- but there were no leopards to be found. Abraham drove up and down the dusty roads… and then when we least expected it – there she was!
A young leopard – likely around 6-7 months was relaxing high up in a tree, about 100m away. We oohed and ahhhed over how perfect she was. My camera sounded more like a machine gun – the shutter continuously clicking as I filled up my 32GB SD card with photos of my first leopard.
After spending longer than most normally would watching the young leopard in the tree, we decided to slowly make our way back to camp for some lunch and to relax for a few hours before we went on our late afternoon game drive. On the way back to camp we were lucky enough to spot a lone lioness lazing about in the tall grasses and even a cheetah who was beating the heat by relaxing under a tree.
Upon our arrival back at camp, we were delighted to find our lunch had been prepared and was waiting for us – fried fish, pasta salad, spinach and hot vegetables! It was quite the delicious meal.
Despite not really doing anything too active or strenuous that morning, many of those on the tour with me decided to just relax in our tents. I was waiting for an acceptable time to call home (yes – call… while in the middle of the Serengeti) to wish my boyfriend a happy birthday. Just to hear his voice after being away for nearly a month was enough to top off my already perfect morning!
As I lounged around in my tent – I started to hear a big commotion outside of the tents – I peered out only to find Michel, Nicholas, Dirk, Milan, Giancarlo, Tom and Marije watching a massive male baboon eating a pile of food scraps left by our foulmouthed campsite neighbours from the morning. Everyone seemed shocked as to how close the baboon was getting to our tents. But we took the opportunity to get photographs – for many on my tour, this was their first experience getting up close to a wild baboon.
Soon thereafter we met up in the parking lot of the campsite and jumped in our LandCruisers once more. For the next few hours we drove around the Serengeti in search of anything exciting. Excitement was brought to us in the form of elephants! Big, small, old and young – we saw them all. We even had a few get really close to our vehicle – which was definitely an unexpected treat.
Upon returning back to camp we had some dinner – a beef stew with rice and salad. Since I had big plans for the next morning – to cross off a BIG bucket list item– I turned into bed pretty much as soon as I’d finished, hoping to get as much shut eye before my iPhone’s alarm function would be waking me up.
I snuggled into my sleeping bag and quickly drifted off to sleep excited for everything the next day had in store!
Start reading about my experience on the East Africa tour from the beginning! Click HERE for Day 1
Click HERE to read the next chapter of my adventure on my East Africa Tour with Nomad Adventure Tours.
**DISCLAIMER: While Nomad Adventure Tours asked me to partake in this tour and did provide me with a discounted tour price, all expressed thoughts, opinions and experiences remain my own.**
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