Nothing Beats the Serengeti!

Well, a lot has happened since the last time I was able to update! We only spent a little over 24 hours in Rwanda but even in that short amount of time, I noticed a few differences compared to the other countries that we have visited. Rwanda drives on the right hand side of the road because of their French influence, they are on a different time zone than the rest of East Africa, and surprisingly the country is better off than I imagined–everyone was wearing shoes, we didn’t see a single hut as we drove through the country, and people were comparatively well dressed. Trees lined the street and trash was picked up. In fact, Rwanda is considered the “Singapore of Africa” because of how clean it is. In fact, plastic bags are even illegal for cleanliness and environmental reasons. We had the opportunity to visit the Genocide Museum in Kigale, the capital city of Rwanda. There is no doubt that the museum and the events of the genocide are beyond saddening but the museum itself is very well done. It amazes me that this all occurred so recently and that basically the entire world seemed to simply turn a shoulder to what was happening. The genocide took place in 1994 between two groups, the Hutus and the Tutsis. Originally, Belgium was trying to create a pure country in which the rich, those who had more than ten cows and thus named to the Tutsis group, ruled while the poor, those with less than ten cows who were named to the Hutus group, were oppressed. The Tutsi were the minority that had ruled for centuries but the Hutu people gained power during their rebellion in 1959-1962. In 1990, a group of Tutsi people invaded Rwanda in hopes to defeat the leading Hutu people which brought about a civil war between the Hutu regime and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (a rebel group of Tutsi people). Hutu ideology came about, promoted by propaganda. The assassination of Hutu-leader Juvenal Habyarimana in 1994 resulted in the mass killing of Tutis by Hutus. No Tutis was safe from the genocide which was carried out in an extremely brutal manner by the government and Hutu individuals. Over the course of 100 days (from April 6-mid-July 1994), more than 1,174,000 people were killed. This amounted to 20% of the country’s total population as 400 people were murdered every hour during the genocide… this also equates to 7 people killed each minute… wow. Two million Tutsis fled to Congo, Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda for safety during the genocide. The stories and pictures in the museum were horrific. People died from starvation and many were brutally murdered in front of their family members. As punishment, women were beaten and raped by HIV positive men hence Rwanda is now seeing the effects of a population living with the presence of widespread HIV. The museum also had a segment dedicated to other genocides that have happened around the world and an outside memorial dedicated to those who were killed during the genocide. As I mentioned, the museum was extremely well done–one of the best museums I have ever been to–but obviously the reason for the museum is sickening. After the museum, we were off to Tanzania! I even got to sit in the cab of the semi-truck with Charles (our driver) on the way… what fun that was! We all immediately noticed the change in wealth as we crossed from Rwanda to Tanzania. Tanzania (based on GDP-per capita) is the poorest country we have been to and the houses, buildings, and appearance of the people showed. Once again, huts lined the streets, people were wearing ripped clothing, and trash was widespread. Despite the poverty, Tanzania has been nothing less than absolutely incredible. The first night we spent camping on Lake Victoria which was absolutely beautiful then we headed out to see the animals! We have been on quite a few game drives here already–game drives and safaris are all about being in the right place at the right time. Well, I don’t think we could have been any luckier these past few days which can be summed up as simply incredible! As we made our way to the Serengeti, we drove through the last bit of the great migration… all I can say is wow. We saw thousands of wildebeest that were making their way from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara along with tons of zebras, elephants, etc. The amount of animals was simply mind-blowing! We went on a night game drive when we made it to the Serengeti and the highlight was spotting a cheetah! We also saw wildebeest, zebras, a bush baby, and a chameleon along with other animals. As we were driving back to our campsite for the night, we spotted a hyena with kill that was about a hundred feet from our campsite… that was comforting, ha. We spent the next two days driving through the national park and we made all $2,200 fee per night that our truck costs to camp in the Serengeti well worth it! The Serengeti (14,000 square kilometers) is known as one of the best safari locations in the world and the park didn’t let us down! We saw all of the typical safari animals as we ventured through the park, including the cats (which are usually the hardest to see!). In fact, we saw more than thirty lions … it was absolutely unbelievable! Usually the goal is to spot a lion and even spotting just one would make for a successful day. But literally everywhere we drove, there were lions… so many that by the end when we saw a bunch of vehicles gathered around we assumed it was just another lion… ha! We even saw some female lions hunting impala–we watched for about twenty minutes as the lions closed in on the pack of impalas but the impalas ended up getting away and the lions gave up. Lions use so much energy while hunting that they must be successful with each hunt or they might go hungry so they must be certain that they will be successful or they will simply give up… a bummer that we didn’t get to see the circle of life in action but the hunting aspect was quite neat! I think nearly every vehicle that was game driving in the Serengeti was watching the action because afterwards there was quite the traffic jam… who would have ever thought we would have been in a traffic jam in the Serengeti, ha! On top of all of our lion sightings, we saw quite a few leopards! Leopards are usually up in the trees and blend in very well so often very hard to spot. We got lucky and saw a group of four in one tree and saw another group of three in another tree–the latter group consisted of a mom with her two babies (which were thought to be about two months old). As we were contently watching the group in the tree, the two babies climbed down and started walking around… extremely close to all of vehicles. They ended up walking between the vehicles and right next to our truck… literally a leopard just a few yards away from us! V, our tour guide who has been leading groups for about ten years, said it was one of the neatest things she has ever seen! They got so close that they walked under our truck and one of them jumped up onto the chassis (back frame of the vehicle) of the overland truck behind us… the leopard was literally on the truck… madness! That night, as we were talking around our campfire, a vehicle pulled up. We were kind of confused as we were the only ones at our campsite. Nonchalantly, Charles (our driver) told us it was the mobile bar. We all thought he was joking until they pulled up, set up the bar, and were ready to take orders… what! The next day we spent game driving in the 8,288 square kilometer Ngorongoro Conservation Area–specifically in the crater area which is 20 kilometers across with walls more than 600 meters high. Because of the steep roads, we took 4x4s into the crater where once again we saw the typical safari animals in an absolutely stunning setting. Besides the hyena walking feet away from our vehicle, the highlight had to be coming across the birth of a zebra. We saw everything from the birth to the first steps and as of now, it has to be the highlight of my trip. It was incredible. Just a few minutes after the animal was born, the little fellow tried standing but his wobbly feet and knees made it a bit problematic at first. After a few attempts, the baby was up standing and just a few minutes later, it was getting the hang of walking… and to see it all was unbelievable. It was simply luck as we were in the right place at the right time but it is a memory that will last forever! It might be an understatement to say that the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area were extremely good to us! Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to the game driving for now as we are headed to Arusha where we have a massive goodbye party planned. With the nature of overlands, we gain and lose people as we go but these goodbyes especially will not be easy ones. Four people that have been on the trip the entire twenty-five days now are headed home and another six that joined along the way are also headed home. The people have been absolutely incredible and we have all become quite good friends as we have spend nearly the entire day together. Tomorrow we are joining with another group so our truck will once again be filled with many new friendships to come. I suppose that is all for now–wishing you the best!

~Susan

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Rwanda Genocide Museum

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Camping at Lake Victoria

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Serengeti

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Serengeti

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Serengeti–Great Migration

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Serengeti Night Game Drive

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Serengeti–lion

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Serengeti–leopard

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Serengeti–leopard

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Serengeti–leopard

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Serengeti–lion

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Crater–baby zebra

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Tanzania

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1 Comment

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One response to “Nothing Beats the Serengeti!

  1. Uncle Greg

    Wow, what an awesome experience!!! The Rwanda conflict was indeed tragic.

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