I forgot to include this great moment from my trip to the zoo the other day.
As we walked around the African loop on our way to see the ostrich and rhinos, we spied a man fully outfitted in scuba gear, just about to enter the brown, muddy, murky, duckweed-covered water below. As he put on his mask and regulator, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What can he see down there?” I have no idea what was down there that needed repair.
Anyway, once we got a nice close-up view of one of the rhinos, we started walking toward the giraffes and saw lots of bubbles coming up from the brown, muddy, murky, duckweed-covered water. I knew it was the diver, but a few other people didn’t. I heard them wondering out loud, “What’s down there? What animal is that? Is it a hippo? I think it’s a hippo! Look, it’s a hippo!”
I kept my chuckles to myself. I guess they haven’t seen many hippos. They wouldn’t have seen them here since the Jacksonville Zoo doesn’t have any. And hippos don’t breathe underwater. If they are in the water, they typically wade or lay around with their eyes, nostrils, and ears just above the surface. Otherwise, the ones I’ve seen like to lay at the edge of the water.
I have seen hippos at other zoos and in the wild. We saw them on safari in Kenya. Since they are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, armed guides kept an eye on them as we took pictures. If the hippos decided to get aggressive, we’d be escorted out of there. When they began bellowing at us, it was time to leave.
I did not spoil their fun and tell them about the scuba diver.
We got to sleep in a little later today and stopped at a Maasai village on the way back to Nairobi. They showed us around their homes, let us take pictures and of course offered to sell us an endless array of carved animals, masks, bowls and jewelry. Traditional Maasai dress, lifestyle and customs meets the traditional tourist stop.
We then drove to Nairobi, about five hours on unpaved and then paved highway. We stopped for lunch at another souvenir-type place, and got back to the Scripture Mission Center around 5.
We went out for supper at Tamambo Karen Blixen Restaurant in Nairobi. Awesome meal. Karen Blixen is the woman who was played by Merrill Streep in the movie “Out of Africa.”
Tomorrow: Elephant orphanage, more shopping and we begin our flight home.
The day started out pretty much the same as yesterday: up early to fight our way to the breakfast table, and a 7:30 departure back into the park. We took a different route through the park this time, in search of some more big cats and larger herds of elephants.
We did see a couple more lions eating the last of a wildebeest before beginning their “honeymoon,” an intense week of mating. I think there were more zebra and wildebeest on the hillsides than yesterday, as far as the eye can see.
We rode and rode and rode, not really finding much. We did come across a lone bull elephant and got very close for pictures. Then we drove all the way out to a place where the borders of Kenya and Tanzania come together and we all stood in both countries simultaneously.
Driving just a little ways into Tanzania, we did a short walking tour down to the Mara river where we could see two large families of hippos. Hippos are very dangerous animals, coming out of the water at night to feed, so you only go to see them in the afternoon, when they stay in the water to keep cool. A armed guide took us down the river to see them and assure our safety. The closer we got, the more the hippos bellowed, letting us know we were close enough. Walking the other way up the river we saw a few crocodiles sleeping on the bank and some monkeys playing in the trees. Great sightings!
Back in the vans, we drove and drove and drove, stopping periodically to view some vultures, giraffes and wildebeest. Finally, just toward the end of the day, we saw three elephants with a baby who was nursing. It was a nice way to end the day.
Today was safari day number one. Breakfast was served at 6:30 am. It was tough fighting our way through a group of very rude Italians to try and get some food. On lady took almost a whole loaf of toast from the serving table.
We left for safari with our two drivers, Simon and Edwin, about 7:30. We rode in converted Toyota Land Cruisers that had pop-up tops so we could stand up and see out. As we waited to enter the park, Maasai women pushed their wares on us – bracelets, woven shawls and wooden carvings.
We rode around the park in search of animals all day, with just a short break for lunch. We saw zebra, Cape buffalo, giraffes, elephants, gazelle, elian, topi, zebu, hippos, crocodiles, lions, baboons and thousands of wildebeests. We tried to catch the wildebeests crossing the river, but the presence of too many safari vans scared them off. The lions we saw were mating, which made them very docile and easy to photograph.
The park and views were amazing, but the day was grueling. I wish we could have gotten out and walked around more, but that was impossible.