iSTEP Tanzania

Mikumi

Posted on: July 15, 2009

Last weekend the iSTEP team (plus a couple friends of ours from the hostel) took a trip to Mikumi National Park. Mikumi is about 200km west of Dar, so the drive probably should have taken about two and a half hours. We set out on Saturday morning, around 8:00AM, and although traffic added some time to our journey, our drivers’ liberal use of the accelerator took that time back off. We only stopped for breakfast, gas, and to discuss traffic laws with a local police officer.

Even before we got to the motel where we were staying, we saw baboons and giraffes. I had, until that point, never seen a wild giraffe before, so I already thought this was really cool. Little did I know what I was in for. Following lunch and a much needed nap, we left for our first game drive. The first day we saw Thompson’s gazelle and impala, wildebeest, giraffes, zebras and even elephants. It was kind of surreal looking out of our Land Rover and seeing a bunch of giraffes, or a family of elephants casually wandering through the savannah. It’s a totally different experience from seeing those same animals in the zoo.

A zebra and some gazelle - this was a fairly common sight on our safari.

A zebra and some gazelle - this was a fairly common sight on our safari.

After sundown we returned to our motel. I would describe genesis motel as a passably nice place. The food was good, but not stellar. The beds were clean, although a little short for my lanky frame. The showers had hot water, but almost no water pressure. To us, though, it was heaven. I hadn’t had a hot shower in seven weeks, and the one I took at Genesis Motel, low water pressure and all, was one of the best showers I’ve ever taken.

At dinner we got to know our guides, Kathleen and Innocent on a friendlier, less professional basis. They were both very nice and fun to be around. They also had some (hilarious) comments that I can’t reproduce here, since we’re trying for a PG rating on this blog.

Early the next morning – and by early I mean really early, like 5:30AM – we left for our second game drive. En route to the hippo pond we got a real treat: simba. Not only did we see lions, but two of them even walked right in front of vehicle, maybe ten feet away. And there were cubs too. Lion sightings are not rare by any means, but they’re definitely not a given, and we were extremely lucky to get one as good as we did. The rest of the day we had a few other good views: the hippo pond, a bull elephant who decided he didn’t really like us and lots more gazelle, giraffes and zebras, but nothing could compare to the lion sighting.

Two simba.  I cannot accurately describe Hatem's reaction to this sight, but let's just say he was kind of excited.

Two simba. I cannot accurately describe Hatem's reaction to this sight, but let's just say he was kind of excited.

A bull elephant we got up close and personal with.  Apparently they flare their ears out like that when they're mad.

A bull elephant we got up close and personal with. Apparently they flare their ears out like that when they're mad.

Following our morning game drive we took a brief trip to the Genesis Motel’s attached snake park. In addition to a wide selection of snakes, they had some tortoises, a few crocodiles and a small guinea pig farm, presumably for feeding the snakes. I’ve owned three guinea pigs in my life, and it kind of broke my heart to see them as future snake food, but the snakes need to eat to live, and so it goes. The snake park operator took it upon himself to repeatedly poke the largest crocodile with a broom, which he would furiously snap at, for our viewing pleasure. I felt bad for the poor crocodile being bothered by the broom it could never quite get, but it was amazing to see (and hear) its powerful jaws working.

iSTEP and friends.  From left to right: Laura, Timi, Bea, Brad, Kate, Hatem, Me (Dan) and some guy we don't know.  Notice the hippos in the background.

iSTEP and friends. From left to right: Laura, Timi, Bea, Brad, Kate, Hatem, Me (Dan) and some guy we don't know. Notice the hippos in the background.

After the snake park we headed home, stopping in all the same places as we had on the way there, even talking with the same traffic officer. By the time we worked our way through Dar traffic (which is brutal), and found our way home, everyone was tired and in need of a shower, but we all agreed that the trip had been awesome.

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