Saturday, December 10, 2016

Travelling to Selous and the Lions

After Sadaani it was time to travel to Selous National Park.  Originally our flights called for us to go to Dar es Salaam and then ten minutes after our due arrival time on one safari airline to take off in another for Selous.   This didn't make sense to us and our agents at Gane and Marshall duly contacted the airlines and sorted it out such that we were to be picked up and flown directly to Selous.

Now I've never flown in anything smaller than about a 40-seat twin engine modern aircraft, so when this little fellow showed up I was properly nervous:

The pilot, having introduced himself, sensed our nerves and basically went out of his way from that point on to be reassuring and considerate.

The flight itself was uneventful, though that was deliberate as we worked our way around a thunderhead and when we did have to go into cloud the pilot descended and gunned the engine to about 85%, so we were firmly in the yellow zone and flying as fast as the little plane could take us safely.   I kept my eyes closed above 5,000 feet and that helped with my vertigo.  At one point I moved in my seat a bit, and my elbow half opened my door.   My heart was thumping but it all went well.

We landed, breathed, and were met by our new guides, who were the only true bird guides of the entire trip, they were brilliant and a great team.  Ezra and Kharidi. 

On the short trip back to our lodge we saw our only wild dogs of the whole trip, relaxing close to the track:

Sunset from our tent on platform overlooking the Selous river was beautiful.

We stayed at Impala River Camp.  The tents are very comfortable and well done.   Each tent has its own Masai guard whose job is to stay a discreet distance from the tent but to notice when you want to leave and to walk you and to and from the heart of the camp.   We thought this a bit unnecessary to start with....

The next story is a bit out of sequence however the post for the next day is a long one and it needed breaking-up, it also helps to understand why the Masai Guards proved very reassuring and, on the third night why we had an escort of four of them!

On the second evening, our first couple of drives into the park, we were headed for a 'bush break', there are no toilets in this park other than at the camps,   We turned the corner to the exact spot they'd picked and we found these lions.  It being nearly sunset, they were stirring although doing their best to look half-asleep:

The one on its back was sniffing the air.   On our last morning, I wrote the following guide for lions based on our experience:

A guide for lions

When the tourists are headed for a bush break be there waiting, pretending to be either sleeping or rolling around nonchalantly while sniffing the air.   When they drive back past you on their return from said bush break make sure you've already moved to an ambush position, then feign indifference as they have to go around your new positions.

During the coming night, walk the 15 or so kilometres to the camp they are staying in and roar loudly at 4am for a few minutes, then head a little away.   

The next evening walk past the tourists' tent, making sure to be heard just walking, as they are getting ready to go out for dinner after dark, leaving lots of visible paw prints, sufficient to excite the Masai guides to walking round in patrol groups.   When everyone is sat down to dinner, roar again, somewhere not too far from camp.   Sleep that night just outside the staff quarters and make sure everyone hears you again.

Depart satisfied at a job well done!


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