A few days ago Mike and I took a camping safari through Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. Along with us in the Land Rover were a guide/driver, a cook, and three other travelers, including an Irishman named Michael who was severely visually impaired. He is not blind, but he cannot see the faces of people standing right in front of him. His girlfriend, Fionnoula, told me later that he had come along as a favor to her. What amazed both her and me was that on this safari, the wildlife was so close—just a few feet away at times—that Michael could actually see much of it well with the help of binoculars. When Michael couldn’t see something, like a flying flock of sacred ibis, he sometimes commented on how he could still hear their noisy call. This made me think about experiencing a safari through all the senses, not just vision. So here are five snippets of our trip through their sound, smell, touch, sight, and taste.
The squeaky sound of the grass as Cape buffalo pulled it from the ground and ate it in the middle of the night just outside our tent on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. The buffalos huffed through their noses as they chewed. The Cape buffalo is one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, known to gore even lions with its enormous horns. So we lay very, very still.
The smell of a pod of hippos wallowing in a pond. We could catch their stinky scent before we saw them. Let’s just say that they do more than just pee in the pool. Hippos themselves have a good sense of smell and hearing, but poor eyesight. I will not be wearing Eau de Hippo anytime soon.
The feeling of the hot wind and sunshine on my face as I stood up and looked out of the roof hatch while we drove across the Serengeti. The word Serengeti is derived from the Maasai language and means “endless plains.”
The sight of two lionesses and three cubs resting on the road directly in front of us around dusk. We skidded to a stop. Then we learned that we had a flat tire and had to get out of the vehicle directly in front of the lions. While we nervously watched these wild cats disappear into the grass as the sun set, our guide and cook fixed the car.
Celebrating the end of our safari with Daniel Mengoriki, left, and another new friend, Laurence Masawe, far right.
The smoky, savory taste of nyama choma, or barbecued beef, which we had back in the city of Arusha with our new friend Daniel Mengoriki and his cousin Evans. The beef is served in small slices on a plate with little piles of sea salt on the rim. You eat it with your right hand, along with a little ball of sticky ugali, a doughy staple made from cornmeal and hot water. All best washed down with a cold Serengeti beer.