August 5, 2021 (DAY 1 of safari) by Pamela Hamburg
We got up at 6am this morning to get breakfast by 6:30 and out the door for our first day by 8am. We headed to Arusha National park today for a walking/riding safari. This is the only day we’re really allowed out of the truck to do any kind of walking. We loaded up into the trucks (4 of us per vehicle). It took about 45 min to 1 hour to get to the gate of the park. Once we went through the gate, we stopped and our driver, Cornel, popped the roof up so we could stand in the land cruiser and take pictures through the opening in the roof. I’ve never seen anything like it. The first animals we saw were zebras, then giraffes, then baboons. The first pictures weren’t that great but we were so excited just to see them 😊. We came across a giraffe in the middle of the road who was happy just standing there despite the truck.
As we went further, we saw bush bucks (similar looking to deer), water bucks, cape buffalo and a few different types of birds. We drove for about an hour until we came to the walking part. We had Raymond as our guide for this part. He was carrying a really old rifle just in case we got in trouble with an animal encounter. He took us on a 2 hour walk where we got to see giraffes up close and personal. It was the most amazing experience. The giraffes weren’t afraid of us at all and got as close as within 30 feet of us (or so.) We saw a few baby giraffes that were about 2 weeks old but already so big. We also saw a large herd of Cape buffalo on our walk. We had lunch when we got back and then headed back out in the trucks in search of more animals.
There were wart hogs that looked just like Pumba from the Lion King. In fact, I found out later that “Pumba” is “Wart Hog” in Swahili. All of the wart hogs are called ‘pumbas.’ We also saw Colubus monkeys (which I nick-named ‘tree skunks’), more bush and water bucks, more zebras, giraffes and lots of baboons. The baboons were actually super cute despite their ugly little butts poking out. We searched for hippos and elephants but no such luck today. But guess what? This wasn’t even Day 1 of the official safari yet. That’s tomorrow!
One disturbing thing about today – we woke up to a bunch of texts from our friends at home about a new fire (The River Fire) that started in Meadow Vista on Weds – way too close to home. Thankfully it seems to be moving north of us but it’s so sad. Already 2400 acres burned with 0% containment. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. On the safari front we check out of Airport Planet Lodge at 7am and head to Tarangire National Park (approx. 3 ½ hours away). We’ll stay at Eileen’s Trees in Karatu tomorrow night and the following night. Until tomorrow.