Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lake Manyara

We spent two days on the Serengeti (and one afternoon by the Serena’s pool overlooking the Serengeti plains). We dropped J off at the Serengeti airport because he had to leave us a day early to attend a meeting in Ethiopia for work.

John drove us back through Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area to Lake Manyara National Park, bordered on one side by the Rift Valley. We arrived late in the afternoon and, though we were tired of the car, decided to do a game drive then instead of waking up quite early in the morning for one.

Lake Manyara is famed for its tree-climbing lions and John seemed determined to find us one. Our morning drive through the Serengeti had been almost fruitless. We saw few animals and there were few in attendance at Lake Manyara as well. A sleepy day, I suppose. John drove furiously around the park, looking, looking, but we saw no tree-climbing lions.

Just as we were heading out of the park, however, we did have a close encounter with some elephants. When J lived in South Africa, his family came to visit and they went on safari. They have a story of making an elephant very angry and coming close to be trampled. There is a fabled video of the experience, which has been dubbed “When Elephants Attacked,” though J’s brother had misplaced it the last time we visited and I have never seen it. Nonetheless it has made me wary of elephants wandering too close, so when John stopped the car next to three big, male elephants and it became clear they wanted to cross the road just where we were parked, it made me a little nervous.

The first one passed just in back of our car, the second a little closer. The third elephant made it very clear he wanted to cross exactly where we were parked and I could tell he did not intend to alter his course in the least. I was so uncomfortable with the situation I sat down in my seat and decided not to watch. My parents seemed not to be concerned in the least. Without starting the car, John opened his door and began to push the car forward with his foot. The elephant passed at our back without any upset.

And that was our excitement for the day. When we arrived at the Serena hotel just outside Lake Manyara’s park boundaries, it had begun to rain and already turned dark. I woke up the next morning, showered, packed, and still had a few minutes before meeting my parents for breakfast. I realized there was a large curtain in the back of the room I hadn’t opened and I was pleasantly surprised to find the most astonishingly beautiful view.

And that was the end of our safari.

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