We started our third day at Alamana with Maasai culture — a visit to a Maasia boma and a primary school for Maasai. We stopped for lunch under an acacia tree and a bush walk back to camp.
In the evening there was another bush walk, where we saw hyena dung. Hyena dung is white because of the bones that hyenas eat. High in calcium, other animals eat hyena dung to build strong bones quickly.
At the end of the bush walk we hiking up a high kopje, just in time to see our last sunset in Alamana. The fire and champagne were a nice surprise! Thank you, Joan, for the photo. The acacia trees are far below the kopje.
The Alamana camp is located on Maasai lands outside Serengeti National Park. We may use open vehicles, go on bush walks, drive off-road, and do night game drives. These activities are not permitted within the National Park.
The first morning we climbed into open vehicles to drive to a bush walk. Lucas, a Maasai camp employee, is standing in front. The open vehicle with three levels of seats facilitates game viewing and photography.
We did a game drive to a dry stream bed, where we did a bush walk. Noeli, a camp guide, led the the group and carried a loaded 416 caliber rifle. Lucas brought up the rear and carried a spear, the traditional Maasai weapon. We stayed close to Noeli, who carried the gun. He has used the rifle on bush walks, killing a charging hippo with a single shot from his bolt action rifle. No one asked if he would have had time for a second shot in case the first one only wounded the hippo. Remember, hippos kill more people than any other animal.
Noeli showed us a whistling thorn acacia, which has a symbiotic relationship with ants. Some thorns have a bulbous base where ants live, entering and exiting through a hole. Wind causes some acacia bulbs to whistle as the wind passes the hole. If the acacia is disturbed, the ants crawl out and bite the animal eating the acacia. Although this acacia has long thorns, evidently the thorns aren’t enough to protect it against herbivores!
Noeli cut open a bulb. Ants crawled out of the bulb and are biting his hand as he holds the bulb for this picture. Noeli is one tough dude.
Here’s a leopard tortoise, which has spots like a leopard.
To our surprise, Lucas pulled all this from his backpack, so we enjoyed coffee and cookies in the shade.
Driving back to camp we saw a male impala and his harem.
Near the camp, we saw one of the three Maasai camp guards. Each guard is stationed on a kopje, a granite outcropping.
We did an evening bush walk after a much-needed siesta, . A troop of baboons watched us from a kopje. Baboons are a favorite food of leopards, so baboons stay vigilant.
We did a night game drive after dinner, but we didn’t see much. Day 1 in Alamana.
From Ngorongoro we drove to Olduvai Gorge, then north to our camp in Alamana. It would be a long day of driving starting at 8:30.
Driving west down the Ngorogoro highlands, giraffes browsed in the acacia woodland. Do you see six giraffes? We played see and count the animals with our guide, and he always won. The first person would say “I see a giraffe at 2:00!” “I see two!” Our guide would say “I see six”, and we’d eventually see the six.
Almost every tree or shrub we saw was an acacia, all with thorns. Giraffes browse on acacia buds and leaves despite the thorns.
Driving across the savannah, we saw some diagonal lines in the distance.
At first, I couldn’t tell whether these were animals. Watching them longer, they moved, confirming they’re animals. The neck and legs are long and thin — giraffes. The necks lean the same direction, so they’re walking or running together. Traveling in a single file, they’re migrating. Giraffes migrating across the Serengeti plains — we’re in Africa.
The plains are brown and dry. Although we visited between the short rains and the long rains of the wet season, rainfall has been scant, so there’s no grass here for grazing wildebeests and zebras.
At Olduvai Gorge, streams cut through several geologic layers, exposing old formations.
From Wikipedia, “Olduvai Gorge is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world and has been instrumental in furthering the understanding of early human evolution. This site was occupied by homo habilis approximately 1.9 million years ago, paranthropus boisei 1.8 million years ago, and homo erectus 1.2 million years ago. Homo sapiens are dated to have occupied the site 17,000 years ago.”
We listened to a talk, visited a small museum, and walked through the gorge to the excavation site.
After lunch, we drove north cross country across the short-grass plains, until the acacia woodland, where we turned to head for camp. Cross country means no roads. We drove off-road for three hours across the Serengeti, navigating by bearing and mountain landmarks. We saw no fences, no rivers, no walls, no roads. Africa is a vast land.
On a game drive, the three cars drive parallel and radio the others when they spot something interesting.
In the acacia woodland, another car spotted a cheetah and radioed us. As our car pulled up, the cheetah ran. Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land animal, accelerating to 60 mph in 3 seconds. I had time for only one picture before it disappeared into the brush. (400 mm, 1/1600 sec, f/9) We searched for the cheetah, but it had vanished.
Here’s a higher resolution image cropped from the photo.
We also saw a tawny eagle and Coke’s hartebeest.
We pulled into camp at Alamana just before 6:00 pm — a long day on the Serengeti. But we would be at camp in Maasai lands for four nights before moving on.