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Title image - BAI takes you to:  Kilimanjaro
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Kilimanjaro Expedition Dispatch

March 15, 2008 – Everyone Spots Africa’s “Big Five”

We began the day feeling like kindred spirits with the view of the Serengeti plains as viewed by prairie people having a breakfast on a terrace overlooking grazing water buffalo and watching hot air balloons rise in the distance.

Everywhere we travel we are met with “karibu sana” which means you are welcome. We indeed do feel welcome.

Scattered all around the Serengeti are giant termite mounds

Scattered all around the Serengeti

are giant termite mounds

As I write this dispatch we are sitting in the hotel bar having tea, cookies, and of course a kili beer for Greg. We are watching over 20 elephants walk by, just past the hotel pool! There are big bulls, mothers and babies trailing behind. Just amazing!

This morning as we left the property we ran straight into the migrating wildebeests and zebras. It seemed like thousands of these beautiful beasts were moving in unison across the road ahead of us. We shut off the truck and just took in this spectacle. As they passed we drove for perhaps a minute where we saw giraffes grazing on tree tops. We were also fortunate to have seen the rare Topi which is a member of the antelope family. They stood off to the side of the road standing upon massive termite mounds.

Jacob has taught us well as we are becoming amateur guides. We scan the skies for circling vultures. This could mean that a big cat has made a kill. We were on a quest today. There are five big animals of Africa. Every day our guide Jacob tests Hannah on who is in the big five. Her answer is the lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo, and leopard. We needed to spot the leopard to complete our collection.

As Jacob piloted our land cruiser over muddy roads (due to rain), over the vast sage and gray grasslands (favorite phrase hold on tight - bumping bumping), around acacia trees with their two inch barbs, we were extremely lucky today. Thanks to Julia's eagle eyes we spotted three big lionesses on what could have been the inspiration for pride rock in the Lion King movie. We saw what must have been the dominant male sunning himself after a night of romance with a lioness by his side,, and just a little further two more females. If we wanted to we could have literally reached down to touch them. But we like all of our hands and fingers where they are.

We had lunch at the Serengeti National Park Center. We went on a self guided tour explaining the migration cycle from Kenya to the Serengeti to Ngororongo crater. The wildebeests and zebras make this trip together facing incredible risks and difficulties ranging from crocodiles to poachers, to crossing dangerous rivers. An interesting side bar for a gang of Canadians presented itself. What we thought was a rodent which resembled a ground hog was begging for food. We found that out that it is a Hyrax, which is not a rodent at all but a member of the same family that elephants belong to.

A leopard lazily hangs out in the tree trying to avoid the hot afternoon sun

A leopard lazily hangs out in the tree trying to avoid the hot afternoon sun

After lunch our hunt for the leopard continued. Our guide Jacob was comparing notes with some other guides and thought he has a lead. A phrase we used while climbing Kili seemed appropriate, “twende” or “Let's go!” And we jumped into the cruiser and hit the road.

After sighting hippos, a crocodile, hyenas, warthogs, we saw a lonely tree in the distance. We couldn't see it, but our guide saw a spotted tail dangling from a big branch. As we got closer it reminded me of seeing Tigger's tail from Winnie the Pooh. We saw four legs dangling as well. Finally, our hunt was over. Here was the elusive leopard. After a kill the big cat was resting in a tree. We were watching him in awe until a thunder storm blew in. As rains were pouring down and thunder booming about us the leopard continued to snooze. We on the other hand were busy closing out roof canopy and windows

A lone warthog plays around in the dirt

A lone warthog plays around in the dirt

While we celebrated seeing all of the big five, Jacob worked to get us back to the lodge. As the clouds exploded with waves of water, the roads disappeared. Ditches became full, the windshield fogged up. Karen attempted to regulate the air flow by rolling her window up and down. Heroically braving rain she tried to help Jacob keep the wind shield clear. We seemed to be in trouble. Jacob always navigated directions by knowing where he was in relation to the mountains. Guess what, we couldn't see them anymore. Ruts in the road were becoming streams of water. Ditches were now rivers. But we had no fear. Jacob was in control. With hands firmly on the wheel he piloted the land cruiser to the lodge.

We ended our day seeing giraffes, water buffalo, more wildebeests and zebras, and the herd of elephants.

It was another fantastic day; chock full of memories. Thanks to Tracy and Jacob for an adventure of a lifetime.

Lala Salama everyone - sleep well!

Bev and Greg Kochuk