Safari Adventure in Serengeti 25 years ago
By Rob Bosma
Back then, it was possible to travel in battered old landrover carrying camping equipment in the back of the vehicle and go on a safari adventure in Serengeti. There were dedicated campsites even then, but the only facility was a flat area. On a safari adventure today you have all the modern luxuries of hot showers, fine dining, bedrooms with king size beds and butlers to cater for your every whim, but not then. It was a golden era of adventure.
The campsites in those days were often hard to find, indicated with an old rickety sign, when you were lucky, but most of the time we found a nice shady spot under an acacia tree, where we put up a tent and nobody was around to mind.
On this particular safari adventure in Serengeti, there were three of us. We had driven from Nairobi, to the Masai Mara, where we spent a few days game viewing and enjoying the peaceful landscapes.
Our safari adventure continued into Serengeti this was when the border between the Mara and Serengeti was open. We found a lovely campsite. There was no sign, but there was a rickety old pole where a sign had once been erected. We could tell this was a designated Serengeti camp site.
In a way our stop was an enforced one, as the landrover had decided to start running on two cylinders earlier in the day. I wasn’t too worried, as I always carried a box of spare parts. I had already found out that the high-tension coil had packed up and decided to put in a spare on the following day. So our mechanical stop was not a hardship.
Feeling very pleased with ourselves and congratulating each other on finding such a fantastic spot, we erected the tent and prepared our camp. As the sun began to set we opened our customary cold beer and enjoyed an evening sundowner, with the sights and sounds so typical of game parks like Serengeti.
Impala’s with their ears twitching just a safe distance away from us, a far cry of a hyena in the background and the sun setting beautifully behind the acacia trees. What more could you want on a safari adventure in Serengeti?
Following our dinner and a few more beers our freshly purchased sheepskins, bought at Nairobi market beaconed. We decided to retire for the night. Well fed and watered we dropped off without a care in the world.
In the middle of the night all three of us were woken by a low growling noise. We knew immediately this was the sound of a lion. Slowly the noise got closer and closer, no doubt attracted by the still smelly sheepskins rugs.
In my imagination, I could clearly see the lion entering the tent. I immediately grabbed a panga (an African machete). The only other items we had were a flashlight from one of the cameras and a kitchen knife. which I handed silently to my travelling companions. I heard a sharp intake of breath, nothing more was said.
We kept as quiet and still as possible, every breath we took sounded like a volcano erupting. Adrenalin pumping, we sat in our tent for what felt like a lifetime. We had never been so scared in our lives. We could tell from the sounds just the other side of the canvas of our small three man tent the lion was pretty close.
After what seemed like ages, the sound disappeared, only the faint whisper of the wind could be heard and one by one we relaxed, but decided not to peer out of the tent as a camera flashlight, a kitchen knife and a panga as means of defence didn’t feel appropriate. We relaxed further and eventually fell asleep.
The next morning the sun rose beautifully as it does in Serengeti, the warmth on the canvas tent walls and the dawn chorus lured us from our sheepskin mats and we peered out of the small opening of our tent, there before us were the footprints of what we believed to be the lion. They were pretty big.
We had a thorough look around to make sure the lions were not in close proximity. They were nowhere to be seen, our adventures of the night before seemed a world away.
When you consider the recent event which has sparked huge global interest, the slaughter of Cecil the male lion in Zimbabwe for nothing more than wanton greed, the very thought of killing any kind of mammal could not have been further from our mind, even while we lay in our little tent, armed with a panga, kitchen knife and flashlight.
Our experience was very different. We were in Serengeti to enjoy the wide open spaces to watch and observe animals and birds in their natural habitat. To shoot with a camera. We were the intruders in this animal kingdom, with our little tent. The lions were not intruding.
In those days in Tanzania, we knew many people who hunted big game. Lords, royalty, presidents they all did it, why we will never understand. It was sadly part of life, in many parts of Africa, the thrill of the kill. There are arguments constantly flying around about trophy hunting helping conservation. It is a controversial subject.
If you feel strongly about this please take a look at this petition http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/stop-the-savage-and-sickening-trophy-and-sport-hunting/
Unlike elephants and other endangered species, lions are not currently listed as threatened or endangered, although moves are afoot by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure they are listed. In the meantime elephants are being slaughtered in their hundreds as the world mourns the death of Cecil the lion.
As we sat enjoying our fresh fruit breakfast, contemplating the day ahead we were aware of our surroundings a feeling of privilege to be in such a beautiful location unspoilt by man. Despite our scare of the previous evening, we decided we would spend a few more days on our tranquil camp site in Serengeti.
A few repairs had to be done to the battered old landy. I had brought a spare coil with me, and we began to do the necessary repair of changing the coil. The task did not take long to complete and the Landrover was running smoothly once again.
In perfect time to enjoy a game drive round the Seronera River. As we drove slowly through the bush, we came upon a pride of lions. It was a spectacular sight. One large male surrounded by his family. Several cubs were playing and the females were lounging in the grass.
We were about 20kms from our campsite and although we were not certain we felt sure this was the same male who had visited our camp in the night. He seemed very docile now, lying under a shady acacia tree. He was huge; no wonder the lion is called the King. Our memories of our Serengeti Cecil will live with us forever.
We left the pride in peace and returned to our camp. That night we fell into a peaceful sleep, but again were woken up during the night, this time by the giggling of hyenas.
I had no idea that hyenas could pose a bigger threat than the huge male lion, neither did my companions, so we didn’t worry, rolled over and went back to sleep.
When we woke to the Serengeti dawn and emerged from our tent, we were faced with a camp in total shambles. The hyenas had it appeared to us enjoyed an all night party. All our pans, dishes and other utensils were spread across an area of about 50 metres. The wooden spoons had bite marks on them and what little food we had carefully stored at the front of our sleeping tent was all gone. The hyenas must actually have been in our tent, which also was proven by their footprints around the tent and we had never even heard them.
But all’s well that ends well. We salvaged our belongings and decided to break camp and go in search of some new supplies. We still had water, so we carried on with our safari.
We will never forget our safari adventure in Serengeti. Serengeti shall not die