Serengeti

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Serengeti.jpg

Melissa: No such luck on the clothes. They stayed damp, but we packed them up anyway and jumped into the jeeps that arrived to bring us to the Serengeti. The first zebra we spotted was a huge event--it was fairly far away, but healthy and plump and its stripes stood out vividly against the plains. Our fellow jeep mates, the nineteen year old couple from England, told us that these zebras were much more attractive than the ones that they had seen in other parts of Africa. Then we saw wildebeest and giraffe, both fairly far away, and I was intensely happy.

Later, we marveled that the jeep driver was so patient with us, as he must have known how many hordes of animals we would eventually see, and how close they would be. But he was very good natured and stopped every time we exclaimed over a new exotic animal in the distance. By that afternoon, however, we had seen lions, hyenas, cheetahs (with cubs!), wildebeest, hippos, Thompson's gazelles, grand gazelles, baboons, impala, buffalo, and vervet monkeys, all from about ten to twenty feet away. We eventually made it to the campsite, in the middle of the Serengeti, where we pitched our tents by an open structure with fenced walls and a roof used for cooking and storing food (so the animals don't tear down people's tents searching for food). The sky finally cleared and we were able to see the Milky Way while we dined on lamb barbecue and sat around our first campfire of the trip. We fell into a contented sleep.

The next morning we woke up before dawn to head out on the jeeps again to try to spot the animals at their most active time of day. We saw much of what we had the day before, but this time we were able to see a leopard from fairly far away, hanging out in a tree. We spent the afternoon, the hottest time of the day, in the bar of a luxury safari lodge. We had another great dinner around the campfire, and after, Rich suggested that we take a little walk to try to hear the lions roar. We wandered a bit away from the campfire, and suddenly Rich yelped and slapped at his ankle. We trained the light of our headlamps on his ankles, where we saw biting ants swarming up his leg. Suddenly, I felt fiery hot stings on my right leg, which was especially distressing as I was wearing long pants and closed shoes--clearly the ants had gone up my pant leg. I started swatting my leg, but the ants were very resilient and continued climbing inexorably upward, biting along the way. I raced to the bathroom, where I stripped down and found tiny ants clinging to the inside of my clothing by the dim light of my headlight. They were extremely hard to remove, and hard to kill.

That night, we fell into an exhausted sleep, only to be woken by screaming. The ants that had attacked us were not an isolated incident--there was a huge swarm, and they had covered and infiltrated two tents before people had awoken to the stings and began panicking. We moved our tents over a bit and eventually fell back asleep, but our guide and one intrepid traveler stayed up to divert the ants from our relocated tents with hot coals.

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