Walking and Night Safaris
 
Our journey from the Ngorongoro Crater to the Alamana Private Game Reserve was an amazing off-road drive straight through the Gold Mountains, across vast open plains dotted with golden gazelles, ostriches, zebras and hyenas.  With no specific road to follow, we were able to pick our path purely based on animal sightings.  Beyond the views of hundreds of plains animals, one highlight of the drive was a great ostrich chase, as we followed a running flock of these magnificent birds at high speed (we were driving more than 60 km/hr at that point).
 
Along the way, we made a short visit to a traditional Maasai village, where we were encouraged (or forced) to participate in a traditional Maasai welcome dance of sex-segregated jumping.  Over and over and over, the higher the better.
 
Because the Alamana reserve is a private game reserve bordering right on the Serengeti but under the control of our Safari company and a local Maasai village, we were able to spend the next four days exploring the wilderness on foot during the day and in open vehicles during the night (both activities not generally allowed in the national parks).  Our semi-permanent camp was set amongst kopje rock outcroppings with views of the vast fields and beautiful sunrise and sunsets.  It’s a bit misleading to call our accommodations tents, as it conjures up visions of pup tents purchased in outdoors stores.  These tents had wooden four post beds, zippered rooms, and a wonderful veranda.  Definitely a must for our next camping trip!
 
During the day we would walk for five or six hours accompanied by an armed guide and young maasai, following game by their tracks or sneaking up on them after spotting them on a distant hill or valley (being careful to stay downwind from them so they would not be alerted by our scent).  The walking safaris gave us a real appreciation for how the animals actually exist and act without cars or tourists around (we were the only two visitors to this entire reserve).  During these hikes, we found giraffes, elephants, hartebeests, buffalo, eland, gazelle and countless birds.  On one particularly long hike after seeing dozens of giraffes, we ended up along a dried up river bed, where our Safari company had driven ahead and set up a surprise “bush lunch” for us, complete with champagne, white table cloths, and a three course meal. The flies swarming in the semi-dry creek bed hastened our departure.
 
The highlight of our walking safaris was on the first day when we spent a couple hours trying to get close to a giant 40 year-old male elephant whom we had spotted several miles away on a hillside early in our walk.  Making sure to keep our scent from alerting the animal, we zigzagged and followed it for several hours before finally catching up and coming up within 30 feet of it.  We were interrupted while snapping a dozen close-up photographs of this great elephant when suddenly our rifle-armed guide shouted “RUN!!!!”.  Up until this point it had seemed to us that the fact that both of our guides were armed (one with a rifle, the other a spear) was more for show to make us feel excited rather than for protection from any animals.  That all changed, when the rather large pachyderm turned towards us and began raising its tusks – it now was clearly aware of us.  And at the sound of our guide yelling, all four of us began sprinting through waist-high bush running as far and as fast as we could from the elephant.  It wasn’t for several minutes until the guide finally stopped and pulled us into a river bed hidden by tall brush.  He had a huge grin on his face, it not being that often that he can get safari clients so close.  It was an amazing experience – and we both now gained a new appreciation for our armed guides.
 
Night time was an entirely different experience – in open game vehicles with large spotlights.  The reflection of animals’ eyes in our spotlight made it very difficult for them to hide beneath the bush, and thus we were able to come right up to giraffes, hyenas, buffalo, and lions.  On one drive, we actually found a leopard about to attack a large porcupine (something we were told later had never been witnessed by any of our guides before).  
 
 
Walking and Night Safaris
May 31st - June 4th, 2007
Alamana Private Game Reserve
Tanzania
Click on any photo to start a full-size slide show (in separate window)