When the novelty of watching yet another giraffe, zebra or elephant wears thin, you begin to look to other visual stimuli. In the days where our visual senses are assaulted constantly, our attention spans reduced to a bare minimum to conserve precious nervous energy I reckon, even a Safari can be borne with equanimity for about three hours. After which, everything gets rather repetitive, like watching National Geographic on a large television screen, endlessly. Although, this happens mostly while out hunting ceaselessly for the big five with your visual capture implements.
An African safari is not always quite what many imagine it to be, although a few brave enough to trek through charted routes with a park ranger or researchers with permits to stop through the plains and take a closer look at what otherwise flies past your car’s windshield (as you drive through different dusty circuit routes), may have a rewarding organic experience than the more refined circuit drives of busy tourists.
But this blog isn’t the Itinerant’s Plan b for nothing. There’s always something, isn’t that what lemony Snicket’s Violet always has, as her life’s axiom. You have to carve out the novel and interesting in the mundane.
Mikumi, being just 283 km from Dar es Salaam and about four hours if you awaken early enough to beat the traffic entering town was a good choice for our getaway weekend. This park, 3230 sq. km., the fourth largest in Tanzania is a visual bonanza. The sightings can start as soon as you course the A-7 highway and reach the gates. Every macro and microscopic organism abound in abundance. The Mkata Floodplain is littered with a generously extravagant array of wildlife.
Mikumi has representations of the floodplain, wooden savannas, hills in the distant borders covered by species of Brachystegia and vast grasslands. There are, dotting the plains, distinctive looking Sausage and Baobab trees, Cassia, Acacia’s and Tamarind. Also Marula, that’s a great favourite of the Pachyderms.
So when you have no flight to catch the next day, lots of time, a spare tyre, a full tank, abundant supply of mosquito repellent, sunscreen, water and some bites, you are all set for a laidback, ‘at your pace’ safari in Mikumi. Have your bird books in tow, binoculars and cameras. Now drive slow, as we did, without a guide, along any circuit road that catches your fancy. Have your compass ready, get a map of the roads before or better still, take pictures of guide maps that appear along the way for ready reference.
Now begins your actual safari. Since it is not advised to get out of the vehicle at any point except designated lookout points, it would be wise to remember that large pachyderms and herbivorous hippos don’t take kindly to human attention. You could possibly scare off a lion but not a charging hippo.
So, we did, wander around , aimlessly, stopping at any and every little thing that moved. And move they did; a spectacular array of birds, the hot breeze of the Mkata plains, it bore down on us, the summer sun, we could feel it through the glass, the evil minions of tse tse flies following our vehicle in hot pursuit when we happened to drive through an area popular with the critters, the scaredy warthogs, elusive lions, resting pachyderms, lounging hippos, horridly audacious simians, the golden grasses, the insects, the crisp dried acacias.
We pulled over, frequently; just to take it all in, to let the savanna seep into the psyche, to allow the breeze caress us, to watch it wade through the trees, to listen to the strange sounds of the wild and to wait. Yes, wait…….. for something to happen. And that was our safari experience.
Watching the Sun set upon Mikumi over austerely gold grasses, like Midas himself had lent the final finishing touch to a wonderful experience.