Tanzania Wildlife Safari and Chimpanzee Trekking Dispatch
January 5, 2017 – Schuy in the Sky!
Dispatch by Nancy Souza and Donna Moll
We woke to a 4:15 AM wake up call outside our tents and made our way to base camp in the pitch black with an incredible starry sky...time for the Serengeti balloon ride!
Our one hour, VERY bumpy ride in the dark to reach the launching field was well worth it as our arrival was celebrated with much fanfare and we met up with the other 43 weary adventurers who would make the ride along with us in three separate balloons!
We were introduced to Capt. Mohammed and the other 11 people who would share our balloon basket with us as we embarked on a sunrise journey across the Serengeti! We donned our safety straps and hoisted our bodies into the sideways-facing basket preparing for launch as the fire was lit and the cold air met with heat and up we flew - to the incredibly quiet and tranquil airspace above the Serengeti! Awe took over and all you could hear was the clicking of cameras taking in the magnificent scenery! The images here will say it all...
Mohammed was a fantastic pilot in that he took us low and high during our one-hour, breathtaking journey to experience all that this magnificent land had to offer. As we descended and our basket dragged sideways along the ground we were filled with both trepidation and thrill – reminiscent of the original French balloonists that started this wild ride! As we emerged from the baskets there was an exuberance and bonding that spread across all balloon mates as group pictures were clicked to mark the event and we finally peeled off our layers to reveal our "Schuy Is The Limit" t-shirts that reflected our support and celebration of our dear Schuyler Arakawa in embracing her love of life and adventure!
And in a very fitting and emotional ending, all 48 passengers who shared the morning ride were met with champagne and a toast to "long life"...Maisha marefu was the cry! And then in a stunning and poignant gesture, the entire group and staff sang "happy birthday" in the middle of the Serengeti to honor my mom on this - the trip of a lifetime that was planned to mark her 80th birthday!! As her lips quivered there was a glorious sense that we were witnessing an intimate moment together, and strangers were suddenly "friends" as they stepped forward to congratulate "Bibi" and marvel at her adventurous spirit!
After a delicious "white tablecloth" breakfast set among the Acacia trees, we met up with Simon our safari guide and set out on our mission for our last afternoon in the Serengeti - in search of the elusive Leopard!! And I'm pleased to say we were SUCCESSFUL in finding two families of Leopards and it was WELL worth the wait!!!
We were also thrilled to find several new animals that we had not yet discovered including:
- Lappet Faced Vulture (largest of all vultures!
- Kori Busterd (heaviest flying bird)
- Klipspringer (tiny antelope)
- Agama (Spider-Man lizard)
Our day ended with a restful afternoon back at Pioneer Camp - hanging by the pool and sharing cocktails overlooking the last sunrise on the Serengeti. We toasted to the end of our mind-blowing 7-day Safari and fell off to sleep to the sounds of "lions and tigers and bears (and water buffalo) - OH MY!!"