“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
Day 3: 26 October, 2019,
Embalakai Tented Camp, Seronera,
ADVENTURES IN THE STUNNING SERONERA
Our arrival in Serengeti was not without adventures galore. Close encounters with the gorgeous cheetahs, a brush with the regally satiated lion brothers, the two lionesses unwinding as the afternoon sun beat down upon them, a journey of giraffes here and there, a dazzle of zebras, herds of gazelles, and yes, thousands of wildebeests and zebras on the reverse migration. A lioness on the prowl, hiding in the golden savannah grasslands, hoping to hunt down one of the thousands that were migrating.
OF MYSTERIOUS NIGHTs AT EMBALAKAI
We reached Embalakai Tented camp, well in time to catch a surreal sunset. And also relax with our sundowners, as the star-spangled sky enveloped us in its warm embrace. The cackling bonfire cut the nip in the air, and warmed the cockles of our soul. The baboon family in the adjoining tree, that was their permanent home, rebuked their young ones reminding them of bed time.
The Masais stood aloft, cocking their ears to any sounds they needed to be wary of. Yes, Embalakai had two Masai men who escort us within the camp, from our cottage to the dining area and around. The two tribesmen play a key role in protecting the guests at the camp, in the wilderness. We had been given strict inspections on not to embark on our own, lest any wild animal might come charging at us.
The camp rests snuggled right inside the Serengeti forests, and it’s not an uncommon sight to see giraffes, hyenas, elephants, gazelles, hippos and the mighty lions on the prowl here.
An Outdoor Bush Dinner:
Julius and his staff very generously agreed to lay the table outdoor for us. As we sat digging into the sumptuous meal, lovingly put together by the chef, we exchanged notes on the day’s highlights. There were way too many to keep us excited, despite the long drive all the way from Karatu, via the stunning Ngorongoro.
The Konyagi was making me light-headed. Think I had been poured a way too stiff one. Konyagi, the favourite drink of Tanzania, had soon enough become our personal favourite too, in the last three days.
THE JUNGLE BAND & a NIGHT TO REmember
Post dinner we made our way to the tented cottages, escorted by the Masai. The baboons on the tree just opposite our tent (the permanent home, like I said earlier), were still chattering. And at times dispensing loud screeching rebukes to their younger ones, who were refusing to sleep. The clear, celestial sky looked dazzling and inviting. The DH and I after having said good night to the girls, chose to spend sometime in the verandah outside the tent; sky gazing.
It was just 9:30 P.M. but the forest was active engaged with myriad sounds that rend the air. It seemed all the inhabitants were on some kind of high alert.
A Lurking Visitor:
As we sat gazing at the star-studded sky, we heard a blood curdling roar just a few meters away, from where we were sitting. The DH tugged at my hand and pulled me into the safety of the tent. I laughed out loud, saying I wasn’t fearful of the wild beasts. And was happy to witness what lay in store. He pretended to be very brave, and claimed that neither was he. Just that he was worried for my safety. I reminded him of my forest jaunts in Satpura very recently. “Nights in the forests do not scare me”, I proclaimed confidently. Yet, tad wary, of what we had just heard.
We could hear the staff and the Masais from the camp looking out for the lion who apparently was crossing over the bridge, from right where we were sitting a while back for supper. I unzipped the tent partially and looked out to catch sight of the lanterns and flashlights, in their quest to spot the Lion King.
Slowly the sounds from the the search party abated. The jungle inhabitants kept playing a band all night. It was one musical concert that I’ll remember forever. The myriad mysterious sounds rend the forest air. We could hear hyenas right outside our tents, hippos snorting, the baboons chattering away occasionally. I guess they were staying vigilant of the Lion King who was on the prowl that night.
AFTERMATH OF THE MYSTERIOUS NIGHT
During my entire vacation, I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning. Instead of tossing and turning in bed I would go sit outside, and savour the beauty of the new dawn. This particular day break, was also a noisy one. The animals seemed overtly active. Yet the sky looked stunning and serene.
Around 6 A.M. the baboon family slowly made their way out of the tree, to go gather breakfast. They took turns to leave, one after the other. The baby clutching tightly onto it’s mother’s bosom.
We got dressed to leave for our morning rendezvous with the happy hippos and innumerable other inhabitants who made for another truly promising day.
But, there was yet one more mysterious night that was to follow, but quieter than the last one. The jungle band seemed mellow. The morning after, at dawn, as I sat gazing at the sky changing its hues; I heard a lion panting as though exhausted after a wild chase.