African Safari-Serengity National Park

Here is the continuation of the previous post written by my SIL on  their African Safari:y

Our next destination was the western corridor of the Serengeti National Park, a journey of approximately 6 hours from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, all the while staying within the park. The Ngorongoro Conservation area transitions at some point into Serengeti and is really one vast sea of plants and animals. Located in north western Tanzania and bordering Kenya’s Masai Mara, the Serengeti National Park is one of Africas most famous game parks and measures over 14,500 sq km. Together with Ngorongoro, the 23000 sq km is larger than a few countries. The Serengeti hosts vast savannah plains, wildlife in awe inspiring numbers and of course, the annual Great Wildebeest Migration which takes place from the end of October to mid July, depending on the rains. When we arrived at the Serengeti, we were simply awestruck. Husband and I looked at each other wondering whether this place is for real. It is an endless sea of grass & 360 degree view is just flat green land touching the horizon. If I didnt go to school & lived in Serengiti, I would vouch that the earth is flat! Moreover the name Serengeti is derived from Masai word “Serengit” meaning “Endless Plains”. Volcanic soil a few feet under the ground does not allow tree roots to survive and penetrate. This has resulted in endless grassland with occasional trees. However, vegetation alters to dense tree canopied forest on hills and there is a transition zone. Each type of vegetation harbours a different set of animals, birds and reptiles.

Few minutes inside the park & we saw a sizable number of wildebeests (called gnu in Swahili). Of course, we wanted to experience wildebeest migration & we were expecting it. But few more minutes passed & we breathed slowly at what we saw. They were in huge numbers yes. But how many you ask, I would say probably 200,000. I dont know what that number would look like. But as far as our eyes could see, we could see wildebeest all around us. They looked like black ants queueing up at a distance & this view stretched for a few kilometers. Then we spotted the zebras & they were more than 50000 in number. I smiled remembering how I counted the 72 zebras just a day ago! Steven told us that zebras & wildebeest migrate every year from Masai Mara in Kenya southwards to Serengeti in Tanzania. This is mainly in search of food which is available in plenty in Serengeti. The wildebeest have good sense of sound & zebras have powerful sight. This combination makes then great partners during the migration. We also spotted many gazelles, few hyenas, impalas in the park enroute to our lodge. At one instant, herd of 7-10 gazelles were running next to our vehicle at the same speed as our car – 60km/hr! It was a sight to remember 🙂

We visited the Seronera region in the Serengeti Park the coming day. This is famous for the ‘cat’ population & we were not disappointed at all. We spotted many lions, lion cubs, leopards in the park. One of the leopards was sleeping on the branch of a tree 20ft above the ground & had its prey, a dead impala on another branch. We were told leopards normally don’t like sharing their food or being disturbed while they are eating, even by a fly. Hence, they climb on the tree with their prey & eat for 2-3 days! On our way back, our hearts stopped for a few seconds when we saw 3 lioness walking towards us from a distance of 30 feet to just under 7 feet, then walking away casually looking extremely disinterested in us – clearly husband and I would probably amount to less than half a snack!

Last of our stops was the Lake Manyara National Park. Located between Arusha and the Ngorongoro Crater and stretching 50km across the edge of the Great East African Rift Valley, Lake Manyara National Park is famous for the elusive tree-climbing lions & pink flamingos. The forest here reminded us of the forests in India – very dense unlike the other National Parks we visited here. But the lions here eluded us and the pink flamingos were small in number & very far away when compared to what we saw in Ngorongoro.

For those wanting to visit Tanzania, I would suggest pre-book on one of the safari tours. There are many & you will be surprised that three of the major operators have Indian owners. Also, Tanzania is an expensive place, mainly because of tourism. The US Dollar has become normally used currency apart from the Tanzanian Shillings. Tipping culture is big. From the person who brings your luggage to your hotel room, to the one who serves you at breakfast, to the one who comes to spray mosquito repellant sprays. And people normally give anything between 2$-10$ for each service. The lodges we stayed were part of a group called Sopa lodges. I would recommend these as they were situated inside the park with great views of the parks. Those who are vegetarians needn’t worry at all. Rice, Chapatis & Sabzis are very common here.

Overall, Tanzania is a wonderful place for African Safari. If you want to catch the wildebeest migration, it might be prefered if you visit in the month of November as you can see these crossing the river from Masai Mara in Kenya to Serenegeti while the crocs wait on both banks for the annual feast as a million wildebeest brave the odds and lunge into the water. In all, highly recommend it – one of the best holidays I have had.
elephants

giraffe

wildbeest

black ants

here he is

impalas

SP-5

spot the leopard

African Safari-Tarangire National Park

Wait Wait Wait! No, I didnt go there-my Brother and Sister-In-Law (SILI) made a trip to the African safari during their christmas vacation. Here is her account of the trip,(Ofcourse Im not cheating-I want everyone to read this and I have made small edits and shrunk the pictures and attached them here) which I have split into 2-so the weekend is a nice read 🙂 Enjoy!

Though we have been living in the UK for less than a year, the culture of being obsessed with weather is gradually growing on us. Every conversation usually starts and ends with discussions about weather. So does this post. With the intention of getting away from the London chill in December, we planned on sunny Tanzania for the promise of endless plains and exciting safari. The bookings were the easy part – recommended vaccinations were the challenging part : DTP, Yellow Fever, Typhoid – you name it.

Come 25th, we landed in Kilimanjaro Airport at 9:10 AM. But only when we didnt find our pick-up person did we realize that we have come almost 45 minutes early because we arrived via an earlier flight – not the one that we were booked on.. We have no clue how this happened, but we saw we had the boarding pass for a different connecting flight from Nairobi!! Anyway we were at the right destination, so it didnt matter much!

After a short wait at the airport, we were escorted to Arusha in a mini-bus. Arusha is one of the major cities in Tanzania. During the drive, the place reminded us so much of rural India with rich vegetation like rice, maize, coffee, banana plantations. They even grow a red colored banana! Fruit vendors queued with their basket of fruits at the arrival of every tourist bus; Street Vendors would walk up to your windows to try & sell some cheap earings / T shirts / chains while trying to make small talk. Our driver, Steven gave us lot of insight to the culture & people of Tanzania. Men start their work early and call it a day around 3 PM to spend time with family & friends. People save every penny to give their kids the best education possible. The International Schools cost anywhere above 5000 USD a year and an English medium school costs 1500 USD a year. They follow an arranged marriage system though the girl has a choice to accept / reject the proposal.

Our Safari began on the 26th with Tarangire National Park which is 4 hour drive from Arusha. All the lodges we stayed were located inside the national park. Hence, it was definitely a week spent amidst nature.

Strewn with baobab trees, Tarangire National Park houses some of the largest population of elephants in Tanzania. It is around 2400 sq kms with most number of elephants per sq km (about 4000 in all) in the world! We were welcomed into the park by a dozen elephants & couple of giraffes which were wanting to cross the road. Seeing these animals at such close quarters simply took our breath away. And like kids we were thrilled every time we saw an animal walking right across our safari vehicle. We found elephants to be more accustomed to humans, but giraffes seem very shy. They look at you in the eye & then look away when you start looking at them again. We observed they normally walk in pairs with the baby.
The park also has a wide variety of birds & we were amazed that our driver/ guide Steven knew the names of every species of bird found there. He also had a collection of Collins Nature Guides which he shared with us when we bombarded him with questions on the various flora & fauna we saw in the park.

The Impalas, which are a type of deer were found in huge numbers too. They typically lived in groups of 3 kinds – Polygamous (1 male surrounded by 50 females), Young adult male only group or group which has one older adult which normally acts as a guide for the rest of other adult males. We found them locked horns & practising a fight with their peers. We also found a blue-orange colored bird called the Superb Starling as well as hornbills, eagles, kites, bustards etc.

The National Parks here are known for the Big 5 & everywhere you go you will find people asking you whether you spotted them. The Big 5 being Lion (“simba” in Swahili also refered to in slang as “sharubu” (moustache)), Cheetah, Leopard, Rhino & Buffalo. And yes, we saw the 5 during our 7 day Safari.

We next visited the Ngorongoro Crater Conservancy. It is located in northern Tanzania and is the worlds largest of its kind. Covering over 8,000 sq km, it is home to the local Masai tribes and provides some of the most spectacular landscapes in Tanzania.The crater itself, technically classed as a caldera, owes its existence to the violent fracturing of the Rift Valley over a period of some 25 million years. At one time a volcano occupied this spot that then became extinct and collapsed into the empty magma chamber beneath it; leaving only the gigantic natural basin and is now considered a veritable “Garden of Eden”. This vast expanse of land is around 300 sq kms in area & is famous for elephant, lion, cheetah, buffalo and rhino, not to mention the hyenas, zebras and wildebeest. Throw in a few hippos and pink flamingoes and there you have it. Probably a few reptiles. Oh wait a minute – and birds, cute and ugly.

We were 500m from our lodge and still trying to digest the incredible panorama of the crater from the rim during the journey here when a leopard decided to appear right in front of our car on the road. Quite taken aback from this unexpected entry, our driver immediately shut off his engine so that he did not scare the leopard away. But leopard was way smarter than us & quickly slid behind one of the bush to see if we would drive away. From behind the bushes it made eye contact for 2 minutes & then decided that he was comfortable amidst the bushes & stealthily slipped away. The lodge itself was extremely beautiful, located on the edge of the crater rim with the most fabulous views into the crater. The windows faced west and provided good views as the Sun went down.

The following day we descended 600m into the crater floor. When we reached the floor the first sightings were of the zebras. They were in a huge group nibbling grass to heart content. It was the biggest group of zebras I had seen – binoculars proved their worth as I counted 72 of them!. I now think, our driver, Steven must have silently laughed seeing me count as he knew what was to come in few minutes time. We then spotted the Wild Buffalo which we frankly didnt think too much until Steven mentioned that if you have to chose between facing the buffalo or the lion, the latter is the safer choice!! Buffaloes in the wild tend to be very aggressive creatures and do not tolerate humans. Few meters after we entered the crater floor we spotted thousands of zebras accompanied by wildebeests, impalas, elephants, hippos, innumerable birds like ostriches, grey crown cranes, egrets, storks etc. We also spotted the Abdim’s stork which apparantly migrates from Europe every year during the winter. I now perfectly understand why Africa is prefered over cold chilly Europe, but still wonder how it can patiently fly every winter to Tanzania & go back to Europe in May!

Special mention here for the pink flamingos. They are countless, which from a distance looks like a pink blanket covering quarter of the lake Magadi which is on the crater floor. All the herbivores & carnivores found here come to this lake to drink water!! Other sightings of the day – lioness eating a wildebeest & group of hyenas feasting on what was left of a buffalo calf. Giraffes live in the rim and not the crater floor because they don’t find the trees they need and they find it hard to walk down steep slopes ! Leopards like the tree cover of the rim so they are missing in action on the crater floor.

PS: Next: Serengity National Park.

Crater Flamingoes Lions Vast Plains Wild Cat

Guest Post – Rahul Dravid Retires…

Rahul Dravid retires!!! What does it mean to the great game of cricket, to world cricket, to Indian cricket in general and to the great Indian cricket fan in particular. I being a great fan of this game, am at a loss of words to describe the sense of loss I feel at this point in time.Cricket has lost one of its most faithful servants and the game will not be the same without Dravid walking in at that customary No.3 position that he has made his own over the course of a brilliant career.

 I was not a great Dravid fan when I started playing this game about 16 years back (incidentally the life-span of his career) and found him drab and boring and very conservative with his approach towards the game. But having grown up playing & watching & understanding this game over the years, I concede I was too naïve and dumb to have not followed this unassuming, sometimes shy but superlative intellectual and one of the great learners of the game more closely. A lot has been said about the gentleman he is, the dignity he has brought to the game and his grit and determination to battle it out in the middle, but I would say what enabled him to bring all this and more to the table was his quest for constant improvement. He never stopped being a student of the game even after he was inducted into the Cricket Hall of Fame. If this quality can be emulated by each one of us we would be better human-beings/individuals in all walks of life.

 I remember that fantastic day at Eden Gardens when he and Laxman pulled off the greatest come-from-behind victories of all times by batting out the entire day. Laxman, deservedly, was the man of the match but there were passages in that game when Dravid absorbed all the pressure from one end which allowed Laxman to play the way he wanted to. Infact I remember a feisty spell from Jason Gillespie that day (that would again go down as one of the greatest fast bowling, but luckless, exhibits of all times) and it was Dravid who took it on the chin and faced most of the deliveries (in some ways shielding Laxman). This ability of his, to absorb pressure and put a price tag on his wicket, has been a great contributor to the resurrection of India becoming a formidable force overseas. His game allowed others to play around him.

The golden period between 2001 and 2005 saw Dravid coming into his own and stamping his authority on both forms of the game thus enabling India to win games overseas. When he played for Kent in the English county championship, his teammates were stunned to see an overseas player so humble, unassuming and gentle without any airs that they had become accustomed to see in other overseas player. Magically this guy could transform himself into the fiercest competitor on the field of play and would give no quarters or ask for any.

 We all remember the 95 dogged runs he scored on his debut but the greatest thing that happened that day was this young man walking off after having nicked the ball ever so slightly to the wicket-keeper even without waiting for the umpire’s decision. Any lesser mortal would have atleast waited for the umpire to decide but not Dravid. That showed the stuff that he was made of and that day the world saw a gentleman cricketer’s birth.

No doubt that the void created by his exit cannot be filled in quick time, it is like this sentence which has encountered a comma but does not have anything succeeding it. Again the time of his retirement shows the selfless character he is because he had it in him to continue and contribute immensely to the team for atleast two more years but went out wanting to pave the way for youngsters. With great sacrifices come great opportunities and I hope the youngsters realize this and grab the opportunity that would make his sacrifice worth it.

Rahul Dravid, you will certainly be missed and the game is poorer by your exit but I just hope that the precedent that you have set will be carried forward and the baton that you have passed on will be carried forward with the same zeal, conviction, dedication, discipline and respect that you always showed to this great game of cricket. Thank you for entertaining us for 16 long years…… Will always remain a great fan of yours.

 

<PS: Written by the husband. Hence tagging it under borrowed words, for these are definitely not mine>

Who is a Teacher?

How many of us even think about the teachers who influenced us in life? I do have a couple of them I really respect and look up to. Those teachers who not only taught me subjects but a lot of other values in life. And its so sad that in  today’s money-making world the dearth of good teachers is so obvious 😦

Got this mail from my Dad:

From A School Principal’s speech at a graduation..

He said “Doctor wants his child to become a doctor………
Engineer wants his child to become engineer……
Businessman wants his ward to become CEO…..
BUT a teacher also wants his child to become one of them..!!!!
Nobody wants to become a teacher BY CHOICE” ….Very sad but that’s the truth…..!!!

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.
One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued,
“What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”

To stress his point he said to another guest;
“You’re a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?”

Teacher Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied,
“You want to know what I make?
(She paused for a second, then began…)

“Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can’t
make them sit for 5 min. without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make?

(She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table)

I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them how to write and then I make them write.Keyboarding isn’t everything.

I make them read, read, read.

I make them show all their work in math.They use their God given brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know about English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life ( Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant. You want to know what I make?

I MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN ALL YOUR LIVES,EDUCATING KIDS AND PREPARING THEM TO BECOME CEO’s ,AND DOCTORS AND ENGINEERS……….
What do you make Mr. CEO?

His jaw dropped; he went silent.

Amen! to that

(Image courtesy:Google images)

Mother

We dont need a ‘Mother’s Day’ to appreciate Mothers…

If there is something one cannot do without,it is Mother.Father loves her,daughter imitates her,son ignores her,salesmen thrive on her,motorists hurry around her,teacher phones her,and the woman next door confides in her.
She can be sweeter than sugar,more sour than a lemon,all smiles,and crying her heart out all within any given two minute period.
She likes sewing,detective stories,having her birthday remembered,church,a new dress,the cleaning woman.Father’s praise,a little lipstick,flowers and plants,dinner out on sunday,policeman,one whole day in bed,crossword puzzles,sunny days tea, and the newspaper boy.
She dislikes doing the dishes,Father’s boss,having her birthday forgotten,the motorist behind her,spring cleaning,junior’s report card,rainy days,the neighbour’s dog,stairs and the man who was supposed to cut the grass.
She can be found standing by,bending over,reaching for,kneeling under, and stretching around,but rarely sittin on.
She has the beauty of a spring day,the patience of a saint,the appetite of a small bird,and the memory of a large elephant.
She knows the lowest prices,everybody’s birthday,what you should be doing,and all your secret thoughts.
She is always straightening up after,reminding you to,and taking care of,but never asking for.
Yes,a Mother is one thing that nobody can do without.And when you have harassed her,buffeted her about,tried her patience,and worn her out,and it seems that the end of the world is about to descend upon you,then you can her win her back with four little words.”Mom,I love you”.

~ William A Greenebaum 11

Courage


…….You say it is hard for you to change.

Ofcourse it is hard to jog along in humdrum toil for the sake of being honest when acquaintances all round are getting rich by leaps and bounds.

Ofcourse it takes courage:

~to refuse to bend the knee to questionable methods,lies,schemes and fraud,when they are so generally used.
~to tell the exact truth when a little deception or a little departure from the right would bring great temporary gain.
~to refuse to be bribed when it could be covered up by a little specious mystification.
~to stand erect when by bowing and scraping to people with a pull you can get inside information which will make you win what you know others must lose.
~to determine never to put into your pocket a dirty dollar,a lying,deceitful dollar,a dollar that drips with human sorrow,or a dollar that has made some poor gullible wretch poorer,or has defeated another’s cherished plans,or robbed him of ambition or education.
But this is what character is for.This is what back bone and stamina were given us for,—-to stand for the right and oppose the wrong,no matter what the results.

Do we have it? …