Magical Mikumi

Dear @KenGreig,

Jambo! How are you? Is Toronto absolutely freezing right now?

I only ask because today in Mikumi, it’s a friendly 34˚ Celsius (94˚ Fahrenheit) and even with all the fans blowing on me, my tent/office feels a bit like a warm convection oven.

As one of my most dedicated followers, I must congratulate you on your impervious skill of tracking me down. No matter where I go in this wide world, you always find me out. Like a small hunted animal in the bush, I try desperately to confuse you, laying false tracks and traveling by night, but like a lion on the prowl, you always seem to track me down and nab me in the end. Hats off to you, Sir. Bravo.

As you correctly guessed three seconds after I first landed, I am in Tanzania and reveling in every minute of this vast country. I am not sure if, during your lifetime of travels, you have been to this corner of Earth, but I can already recommend it highly, especially if you like wildlife (which I think you do).

I came specifically to Mikumi National Park because as African savanna goes, this is the anti-Serengeti. For one, it is less than three hours away from Tanzania’s largest city, Dar Es Salaam—so close and convenient. Better yet, whereas an afternoon on the Serengeti can rival a Times Square traffic jam, in my first 5-hour morning game drive through Mikumi, I saw exactly zero cars. None.

Basically, I had the park to myself. Best of all, Mikumi is probably the least expensive safari experience in Tanzania: my daily park fees were only $20 and my bandas (cottage) in the park cost me $40/night. (That is less than park fees and a camping spot at Yellowstone.)

And what did I see? Everything: my favorite zebras in droves, giraffe family reunions under giant shade trees, eland, wildebeest, and buffalo—and impala like popcorn jumping on the plain.

Oddly, the whole safari experience often gets sharpened down to the obsession with blood, guts and carnivores, and for this I can only blame the Discovery Channel (National Geographic? Never, we are merely educational).

Honestly though, Ken, wildlife documentaries have ruined us. While I am quite content to drive around the savanna looking at peaceable ungulates, others will not rest until they see some saber-toothed carnivore ripping up some sweet little animal into pieces. This is how it happens on TV we expect it. After a day of looking at lots of happy vegetarian animals at play in Mikumi, I was summoned quickly to the jeep when a lion was spotted only a few hundred yards away from my bandas.

Upon arrival, I spotted the lion, not far away at all from us, camped out under a bush and devouring the cutest baby zebra carcass you’ve ever seen. It looked like a merry-go-round horse, really, only bathed in blood. The lioness was hugging the prey closely to its mouth and licking it, not unlike a kitty cat would lick a toy or its front paws—only this was a dead baby animal and she was treating it like a popsicle.

Emotionally I wasn’t sure how to react. I was so close to this natural event—maybe 25 feet—and I felt privileged to be watching something I had only seen on television before. And yet, I was crushed for this adorable zebra baby, so new in life, as well as its mother who was probably having a very bad day out on the savanna.

Yes, nature is treacherous—and beautiful, and you accept both when you come to such a raw and vivid place as Mikumi. In any case, if it is any comfort, watching lions kill and eat a poor helpless animal reminded me of your sharp online hunting skills.

Having traveled with me (going on three years now?), you know how I move and what I like, so in a way, you are an expert. For the present, you know I am roaming the wiles of Tanzania, but this is a big country and I am still ever determined to lose you within its wide borders.

Thank you Ken for reading and following along. I wish you warmth and health from the middle of Africa—

–and, as they say in Swahili, kwaheri sasa—bye for now.

Your friend,

Andrew

Comments

  1. Ken Greig
    Toronto
    November 26, 2012, 3:16 pm

    Thanks Andrew; am honoured to receive a letter from you while exploring #Tanzania. Being retired, I have too much time on my hands to follow you but the rewards are outstanding. (My BFF is threatening to cut off my Internet.) If only I knew as much about the world that you have taught and introduced me to, when I was younger, I would have passed geography with honours. You are providing an important service to us all, showing us all of the continents from your inquisitive and unique perspective. That was pure genius to conceive and consummate “A bus ride to Antarctica” three years ago. The excitement and drama of that adventure has spun off to your other treks, making following you a shrewd choice. Thank you Andrew for showing us our earth and the people and animals who share our habitation with us. I couldn’t have a more exceptional Sherpa. Looking forward to seeing more of Tanzania and then on to other wonders of our universe. Live Long and Prosper.