It’s 4 a.m. and I am laying under my down comfortable in the pitch black, wide awake. Sure, jet lag probably contributed to my lack of slumber, but the real reason I can’t sleep is because of the racket outside my tent. Countless wildebeest moo like cows on a cattle drive, pushed forward by cackling hyenas, filling the night with an eerie mix of whoops, yips, and giggles. Lions roar their disapproval and the occasional zebra’s hee haw punctuates the air. Not to be outdone, the frogs pull together in a rising cacophony, as if to croak that their small size can be compensated for by large numbers. There’s one sound – closer to a scream than a call – which I can’t identify. I will have to ask my guide, Arnold, at breakfast if the sun ever comes up. I am at Sabora Tented Camp in the private Singita Grumeti Reserve, just outside Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and this is why I come to Africa.
My trip started a few days ago from Denver with back-to-back red-eyes via London Heathrow. United Airlines managed to make trans Atlantic travel less glamorous than a Greyhound bus trip to Amarillo, and even charged $7 for drinks in economy class. With just 7 hours in London before my connecting flight I opted to skip a trip into town (I would be coming back through in a week anyway) and try the Yotel cubicle hotel in Terminal 4. These spartan but comfortable rooms can be rented by the hour with a four hour minimum. They squeeze a bed, TV, desk, folding stool, sink, toilet, and shower into a space about the size of a walk-in closet. It’s not pretty but it is functional and the price is right at roughly $10 per hour. My Kenya Airways flight from London to Nairobi was a bit better with a newer (777) plane featuring more entertainment choices and free drinks. Upon landing in Nairobi’s dumpy but expanding Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (now on CNN’s ‘Top 10 worst airports’ list!), I caught a connection to Kilimanjaro International in Tanzania and started my safari.
My first stop was Arusha, which has grown quite a bit since I lived there 10 years ago. After visiting the newish Lake Diluti Safari Lodge (nice!) and Bayleaf Hotel (delicious lunch…thanks) I took my small plane flight to over the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and across the plains to Singita Grumeti Reserves (SGR). I’ll share all the details of my visit in the next blog. Stay tuned!