Feel Good Inc

Closing Shot – Not sure which creature Ale is happier to be pictured with. Again, not too many captions for the gorillas we spent an hour with

OVER the past decade or so, I have been lucky enough to see some amazing things on my travels – the sights and experiences which move from prominent places on my mental bucket list to lodge at the forefront of my memory.

The moments which answer the question: “Why do you travel?”.

317On my last major overland adventure from London to New York, we had a phrase for them – Wow Moments. Everybody will have them, we were told, everybody’s will be different and could be something you don’t feel the same way about. Don’t mock or criticise them, just let them enjoy them.

Sitting on a rock on Olkhon Island in Siberia, watching the sun set over the frozen Lake Baikal was my main one on that trip (although wow was not the word used when the sun set and the full extent of how cold it was became apparent), with more dotted throughout the that trip and others.

And the Wow Moments have popped up along the road through Africa, from sharing an evening with the villagers of Yodibikro to digging a lorry out of a pothole in the Congo (more exciting than it sounds) and from meeting the lion cubs of Antelope Park to visiting an orphanage in Accra and our afternoon with the children of Lake Bunyonyi.

But think all of them are going to have to play second fiddle to meeting the gorillas of Rwanda.

IMG_0641Wow doesn’t go far enough.

Spotting the first gorilla up a tree was special. Just spending time that close to them was something to cherish. Watching a giant silverback run down the path we had very quickly jumped to the side of was a treat. Even hearing the silverback break wind (long and loudly) from the top of a tree was an experience.

But when you add in one younger male inquisitively grabbing my collar and trying to pull off my jacket as he wandered past, it moves to another level.

And that’s before another one charged down the path and bowled me over into the Rwandan mud.

Something truly special. Certainly the most expensive hour of my life, but worth every penny and right up there among the greatest experiences.

Back in my brief time working for an overland company – which saw the first seeds of heading out on this adventure planted in my mind – the two of us who shared the office would spend a lot of time chatting about places we had been and seen.

240Well, to be honest, my contributions were fairly short compared to Stephen, who had spent a lot of time in Africa and had plenty of tales to tell – notably about people returning from their treks to visit the gorillas in tears, so moved were they by the experience.

His words stuck with me (as did his advice to wear gloves, which came in very handy, even if they were dispatched into the bin after bearing the brunt of the mud which accompanied us up and down the mountain) and when it came time to book this trip, there was no hesitation in pre-booking one of the limited daily permits.

There was more hesitation in doing something about being in shape to cope with the trek up to see these magnificent beasts – one issue with mountain gorillas is they tend to live up mountains or, in this case, on a range of volcanoes – so excitement was mixed with some trepidation as we rolled into Rwanda and our base for a couple of nights in a Catholic pastoral centre in Musanze.

Did not quite resort to praying the night before, opting instead to pack a backpack with essential supplies and find some comfort in the bar.

IMG_0664Not too much comfort, mind you, given the early start as the dozen of us who had signed up grabbed breakfast and packed some lunch before being carried off to the registration point and split into two groups.

Having grabbed one of the spots on the easier trek – which, we were told, should take between an hour and hour and a half to reach the gorillas – we piled back in the van to be driven up to the trail head, from where our guides Francois and Bernice, plus our team of trackers, would lead us into the Parc National des Volcans in search of the Umubano group of gorillas.

Thankfully, Francois was more than keen to stop and point out things of interest as we hit the lower slopes, giving plenty of time to catch our breath, and just as things began to ramp up – including my breathing rate – he sat on a rock alongside the entrance to the park and ran through a few rules about how to behave when we found the gorillas.

What with trying to digest them and cope with the slippery mud that kept flinging us into bushes and stinging nettles – only fell the once, just straight into a combination of the two – there was little time to get too tired before our accompanying tracker started cutting a patch through the vegetation and we caught our first glimpse of a gorilla up a tree about 50 yards away.

IMG_0686Having dropped off our gear under a tree, we headed up a steep, narrow pathway which had me wondering exactly how to get up it without sliding all the way back down when we heard a few branches snap just before us and the silverback (evidently weighing about 210kg and 26 years old) came running down exactly the same path.

There was not enough room for all of us and, wisely, we took the unspoken decision to let the silverback have right of way and clambered the best we could off the slippery slope into the vegetation as he thundered past and up a nearby tree.

We were still untangling ourselves from the trees when a younger male followed down the path, stopping to investigate Ale and Emily sheltering just above me and then heading down and grabbing me by the collar of my jacket – Bernice finally coaxing him away with a few well-rehearsed gorillas noises.

Gradually we were surrounded by gorillas who headed up the trees, gambolled around on the floor or set about stripping trees of bark to get at the sap beneath, which is why my attention was elsewhere when a, thankfully, smaller male charged down the path straight into my leg and sent me sprawling.

One of those moments that brought rather more than ‘Wow’ to my lips – amid the laughter – and just one of a number as we spent the best part of an hour up close (very close at times) and sharing the forest with these magnificent beasts, among them a mother clutching her young baby protectively.

There is something special about them. We have seen the Big Five over the last few months and had any number of unforgettable animal encounters, but this took it to another level – the torrential rain which fell almost throughout almost ignored (until we had to start going down again, at least).

171They knew we were there and, when they did bother to look our way and our eyes met, there was a connection. They just weren’t that fussed about us, knowing full well that this was their turf and we were merely visitors.

The silverback also appears to be a good timekeeper as, with our allotted hour almost up, he led the gorillas back up the path.

Expecting to be steered back down, we were instead guided back up the path to find him sat holding court in a clearing that enabled us all to shuffle in front of him for the most amazing picture opportunity.

With huge smiles on our faces, it was finally time to negotiate the downhill journey which brought more slipping, sliding and, frankly, falling over. Again, only went once, but enough to render my later efforts to remove the mud from my trousers as utterly pointless.

Dirty Work – Trekking to see the gorillas left its mark

Reunited with our fellow trekkers back at camp – after they had taken a longer route to find their group – everyone was talking at a fast pace, anxious to get their tales of the gorillas out. Always a sign something special has happened.

It was, at well in excess of £500, an expensive hour. Expensive enough to put some people off and have others questioning the wisdom of paying so much.

But it was worth it. Worth it to share a privileged hour with these marvellous creatures. And, above all, worth it to contribute in some small way to the efforts to conserve them as their numbers fall to dangerously low levels.

It was even worth all that effort slogging through the mud.


All The Young Dudes

WHEN the time comes to sit back and reflect on this Trans Africa adventure, the few days we spent either side of the Uganda-Rwanda border are likely to take prominence.

Any feeling of lethargy which may have crept in was washed away as the upper reaches of the list of my favourite moments on the trip were completely rewritten.

Pictures Tell… – No more captions for these. Just us, the teachers, the children and Ale falling over a chair

Over the course of four days, we laughed, danced (well, sort of), sang, climbed, descended, slipped, fell, sank into mud, got soaked and went through a range of emotions from delight to horror, mixing the life-affirming and downright hilarious with the chilling, awe-inspiring and difficult to process.

To say nothing of trekking up some serious slopes to share these memorable experiences with the inhabitants of the upper reaches.

Yep, no room for lethargy.

IMG_0593The trek up into the mountains to spend an hour with gorillas, had long been tagged as a highlight – even if the prospect of walking up the slope with my current state of fitness (or lack of it) had a few alarm bells ringing – since booking it at the same time as the whole trip.

And, for very different reasons, the trip to the Genocide Memorial in the Rwandan capital Kigali was also chalked up on the must-do list before leaving home.

IMG_0598Neither disappointed, but we’ll get there in later posts – when you can discover just how my feet were taken out from under me by a passing gorilla.

But the events of Lake Bunyonyi came as a pleasant surprise for all of us who shared an enchanting, exhausting, inspiring and thought-provoking few hours among the children and community of the hillside overlooking the picturesque lake and the rather more luxurious lodges and resorts on the opposite bank.

IMG_0583Our destination, via a boat ride across the lake and a short, steep trek up the hill – thankfully just under half of the hour Joe had predicted it would take and, more remarkably, with me right up the front of the line all the way, albeit blowing hard by the end – was the school which has been created for the local children.

Many of those children, who were torn between paying attention to their lessons and watching us as we breathlessly arrived outside their classrooms, have lost one or both parents to HIV (a sign as we passed through Kampala spelled out the stark statistic that 375 people contract the virus each day in Uganda).

076The community, spearheaded by our host and guide Edison, has rallied together to build the school, support the orphaned youngsters and work on creating a destination for volunteers – hopefully some time in the near future – to live and work at the heart of village life.

As long as volunteers do not expect too many luxuries (well, any to be honest) and are pretty good at walking up and down the hill to collect anything they may need, as the villagers and children do constantly.

070Joe has been bringing his Oasis groups here over the last couple of years and had arranged for us to break new ground, becoming the first party to spend the night at the school – much to the excitement of Edison, who gave us a quick tour (it’s not a big place, so it was always going to be quick) and explanation of the project as the children finished their lessons.

Once they had cleared the classrooms, we moved in, setting up our beds for the night on the mud floors under the mosquito nets we had brought with us to leave behind so future groups can follow suit.

122We emerged back into the light to the sound of singing from the adjoining grassy area and gradually assembled outside the ring of children as they went through their repertoire of songs – each with its own dance moves, which they had pretty much down to perfection, and accompanied by a single drum which kept time throughout, whoever happened to be playing it.

Gradually, we joined (or were coerced into) the circle to join in the singing and dancing (well, clapping at the very least) and over the course of the next three hours, we fed off the infectious energy of the children through a series of seemingly more complicated and energetic dance routines and games, which at least gave us the chance to sit down and rest in between.

IMG_0591At least until your team won one of the series of games, which instantly sparked a bout of jumping up and down, singing “We are the winners” in celebration. Any reluctance to join in was met by a group of small children attempting to pull you to your feet (they may have struggled with me) and share in their joy.

All a very different approach to us, who mocked whichever one of us lost a game rather than celebrating who won. Thankfully, they did not take our lead – except when they waited for us to laugh first (as we did, hysterically) when Ale’s turn at the blindfold running race ended with her heading sideways into a chair.

Each of us developed our own little team of children, who steered us through the dance routines, held our hands, donned our sunglasses (which became pretty difficult to keep track of), played with our armfuls of bracelets (and nearly choked me by pulling at my necklace) and crowded round to check out the pictures they fought to get in.

IMG_0592A couple even became obsessed with watches – one young girl attempting to push the second hand round on mine – while one of the smallest, William, whiled away the afternoon undoing my shoelaces until the prospect of a hug from Karla proved more enticing as he came to the verge of tears after losing his blindfold race (still, unlike Reto, he did not claim a win over a small child who had actually finished first).

It was all utterly joyous and one of those experiences with the African people which will live in the memory, but it was also dotted with reminders of exactly why we were there – and why so many of these children need the help of places like this.

LakeBunyonyi2Taking a breather from the non-stop action, one of the teachers steered the children through a series of poems they had been learning.

Starting with the charming, if vital, message of Milk (which proclaimed a crucial friendship with cows), the poems soon took on a darker edge, particularly one about AIDS.

“AIDS, you took away our parents, AIDS, you made us orphans…”

LkBnyMMIt was truly heartbreaking and as the children continued through their poetic repertoire – moving on to one about praying for a friend who was at the hospital with his sick mother – a quick look around the group showed a few faces struggling to process what they were hearing (as confirmed by our chat around the campfire on the same spot as darkness fell).

Whether it is 20-odd years as a journalist or my natural disposition, a certain (hopefully healthy in most cases) cynicism tends to run through my veins. When faced with televised LakeBunyonyicharitable extravaganzas, the sight of a celebrity emoting to camera about the plight of starving children usually has me reaching for the remote control rather than the telephone to donate.

But if this trip has done anything, it has diluted that cynicism – how can it not when people who have so little are so willing to share whatever they have got, even if it is only time or a place to sleep?

Down The Hill – The view of Lake Bunyonyi from the school

Edison exemplified that – once the children had gone home, still full of energy while we were all flagging – with a sublime meal of chicken, crayfish, rice, potatoes and vegetables cooked at his house and then heading down the hill to fetch us beers to drink around the fire before we headed to bed exhausted but happy.

He was at it again in the morning, sending us on our way with tea and chapatis to fuel a final climb to the top of the hill, along the ridge for some spectacular views of the lake and the 29 islands which dot it and back down to catch the boat back across the lake and back to Nala for the short trip to Rwanda.

And that’s a whole other story…

  • For more details of the Lake Bunyonyi Community project, check out their Facebook page (Lake Bunyonyi Community) and their website at www.lakebunyonyi.org

Up The Hill And Down The Slope

THERE is a building, now a hotel, as you swing around the corner to start journeying along the banks of the picturesque Lake Bunyonyi which used to belong to the Dean of Kampala University.

Right up to the point it caught the eye of Idi Amin.

One of the big bad bogeymen on the news during my childhood, the then Ugandan president (dictator, despot, butcher who oversaw the deaths of around 300,000 of his people during the 1970s… take your pick what you call him) set his sights on the property.

The Dean was never seen again.

Making A Splash – Paisley takes a leap of faith into Lake Bunyonyi. Reto shaking the ladder not shown

Just one of the many stories about Amin’s years in charge and one which is hard to tally with the welcome and comforts we have received since arriving in Uganda.

Certainly it is a far cry from the idyllic, almost Alpine, scene as the lake sweeps off to my left under the watchful eye of the surrounding hills and our temporary base, just around the lake from Amin’s much-coveted spot.

As well as soaking up the surroundings, we are steeling ourselves for the first of two uphill treks which dominate our thoughts – particularly those of us nursing the odd injury (my knee has chosen the last 48 hours to start playing up) and distinct lack of fitness – and the days ahead.

The first is relatively short and sharp up the hillside over the lake to spend the afternoon and night at a school set up by the local village for children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

Regular Event – One of our fairly frequent crossings of the equator

The second, after the relatively short trip over the Rwandan border, has been looming large for much of the trip for those who booked it before the off – the trek through the mountains to spend an hour with gorillas.

A former colleague recounted tales of people returning in tears after their experience with the gorillas, which put it top of my to-do list, despite his tales of how tough the trek to see them can be.

It is the last part which has taken precedence in my thoughts over the last week.

As the next few days promise to be one of the most physically demanding of the trip, the last week (the 32nd of the trip) has been one of the toughest in other ways.

Not that we (well, me anyway) have done that much, with a fair amount of sitting around the campsite – particularly the bars – and some long days on the bus dominating the last few days, with the odd equator crossing and daily downpour to break up the ennui.

Loud Goodbyes – Taking a break from saying goodbye and attacking the alcohol stash on our last drive before losing a few members in Nairobi

Nothing in particular set it off (other than perhaps a bit of a come down after the big-ticket items in Zanzibar and the Serengeti on the back of Zimbabwe and Malawi, while marking time ahead of the gorillas and final push north), but for the first time, the sheer length of this trip has started to take its toll.

There have been no thoughts of cutting the trip short, but for the first time, the count has been on the days left (approximately 52) rather than days gone (225) and the little things which drive you nuts have been increasingly hard to ignore.

Maybe all this kicked off as we headed out of Tanzania – via a final few hours of charitable giving at the Snake Park bar – and to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, where we waved farewell to four of our number.

Massed Ranks – The final group shot before the goodbyes in Nairobi

Hisako and Helena joined in Accra and were always due to end their trips in Nairobi, but Linda and Jiro were among the bleary-eyed strangers who first came together at Gatwick Airport all those months ago.

Jiro decided some time ago it was time to call it quits in Nairobi and head back to Japan, having left his own individual stamp on the last seven months (topped by him managing to procure two night’s free accommodation in Botswana when all he actually wanted was a late-night drink), while Linda was scheduled to end her trip early to return to work in the Netherlands.

Restaging History – Recreating the first group shot at Gatwick (with a few gaps)

Their departures sparked much reminiscing and the odd tear and it is hard to fathom Linda is already back in the real world of work (the nascent search for which looms large at the front of my mind and is possibly contributing to my mood), while we remain in our sheltered cocoon of life on the truck.

While we waved farewell to four of the truck family, we welcomed three more (plus Martyn, back from a few extra days of relaxation in Zanzibar) – Paisley and Saskia finally joining us officially after travelling on the other truck as far as Cape Town and being part of the extended Nala family with Vicky becoming the latest fresh meat passenger.

Neighbours – The hippos who shared our campsite at Lake Naivasha

Their first port of call on the truck was the banks of Lake Naivasha, where we shared our campsite with grazing hippos – thankfully happy to stay on their side of the electric fence – and vervet monkeys, who were less willing to keep their distance and did their best to hoover up any scraps of food we had dumped in the bin.

Opting out of the bike ride through Hell’s Gate National Park, my less energetic excursion took us down the lake to Elsamere, the former home of Joy Adamson, conservationist, author of the book Born Free and an echo of a world long gone.

Afternoon Tea – Being very British (regardless of nationality) at Elsamere

Born Free – the tale of Elsa the lioness, who was raised and finally released into the wild by Joy and her husband George, both of whom met violent ends – was one of those movies which always seemed to be on every Bank Holiday or wet Sunday growing up. Sort of The Great Escape with fur.

So it was fascinating to watch the dated film on her life and peruse the rather limited museum on the couple before retiring to the lawn overlooking the lake for a rather splendid high tea. All very colonial.

Our stay in Naivasha was also notable for the first of the almost daily, short-lived storms which have cropped up as we have bounced back and forwards across the equator in the last few days.

Tent Decoration – One of the resident monkeys on Karla’s tent at Lake Naivasha

This downpour was notable for the fact it arrived with me still in the shower and forced to don a towel and dirty clothes to race back to throw my mosquito tent and its contents into the rather more waterproof surrounds of the tent which is my back-up when the rain comes down.

The next day’s rainfall sparked another retreat on arrival at our overnight halt in Turbo, this time to the safety of a room. More accurately, a cell which, even at just $5 a night (which Michael owed me anyway) was probably a little bit overpriced.

It at least made surfacing for an early start on the road to Kampala rather easier, the long day crossing the border and clocking up the miles broken up by the first sighting of a Ugandan speciality – roadside stalls and vendors fighting over the chance to sell us meat on a stick and chapatis.

Taxation – Ale again fails to heed a warning and lets us near her camera

A new experience we have embraced to the full more than once and have already pencilled in a stop when we return down the same route post gorillas.

By contrast, our base in Kampala was up there among the most salubrious we have had – hot water in the showers (sometimes), a pool, wi-fi, a bar serving cold beer and decent food and oodles of televised football.

It was rather harder to tear ourselves away even earlier to beat the notorious Kampala rush hour traffic, but our reward was our current base on the banks of Lake Bunyonyi.

Things are looking up…


On A Plain

BACK in my youth, each passing year was marked by the purchase of the latest season’s football sticker album, making the words Figurini Panini part of the vocabulary for a generation of schoolboys.

Each trip to the village shop for weeks was incomplete without a packet or two of stickers as we raced to fill our collection and swapped our doubles – making Irving Nattrass a name that will never be forgotten, even if nobody can remember anything about his playing career.

So Adorable – A lioness watches us from up on a pile of rocks on our final Serengeti game drive

While others completed every album – celebrating at the point where they could send off for the remaining stickers, the ones which everybody hoped would lurk in their latest packet, only for another Nattrass to appear from under the silver paper – my attention span meant only one of my albums reached completion (the one for the 1980 European Championship, when Wilfred van Moer was the most sought-after prize).

And, for great chunks of this trip, it appeared as if the pursuit of spotting all of Africa’s Big Five would also come up short.

We spotted heaps of elephants and a smattering of rhinos in Etosha, while a fair few lions and buffalo had also roamed across our path. We got up close to cheetahs in Namibia (too close for one of my flip-flops, which has finally been consigned to history after a terminal blow out for its partner that required an improvised strap from my little-used bandana to hold together for two days) and saw plenty of hippos, zebra and giraffe to mop up the new marketing ploy, the Big Nine.

Lesser Spotted – One of the two leopards

But there was no sign of a leopard, traditionally the most difficult of the five to spot.

Right up until deep into our afternoon in the Serengeti when, with the light fading and the rain falling, Gabriel our guide pulled up behind a couple of vehicles whose occupants were staring at a distant tree.

It took some spotting, but lounging on a branch was the silhouette of a leopard, which promptly stood up and began to climb, seemingly out of reach of prying eyes.

Right up to the point when a second, smaller silhouette emerged from behind some leaves and the two of them started, with a brief squeal, to do what comes naturally – making the silhouette with two backs. Very briefly, but just in case we were in any doubt about what was going on, they started doing it again. And then again.

Full Set – One of the leopards completes our Big Five in a day in the Serengeti

On the heels of a wild cheetah sat 30 yards from the road with a cub, it was not a bad way to complete our Big Five in one day – even the Big Nine – after the wide open spaces of the Serengeti, the spectacular concentration of wildlife and natural beauty in the Ngorongoro Crater and, the day before, the lesser known, but elephant-filled Lake Manyara.

Our threeday excursion into the adjoining national parks – complete with the luxuries of people cooking and putting our tents up for us, to say nothing of lions providing the evening soundtrack around camp – provided a pretty good way to mark my birthday.

Five years ago, my 40th birthday was spent crossing three US states down the west coast from Washington to California. Moving nearer to 50 from 40 was marked by getting up pretty close to some spectacular wildlife (although it also saw the demise of my third camera of the trip).

Darts Interrupted – Breaking off from a tussle on the oche to cut my birthday cake

Our journey north through Tanzania took us up the coast via Bagamoyo (notable mainly for us spending most of the evening waiting for pasta to boil as we got the rare chance to cook on a gas stove) and Marangu, base for expeditions up Mount Kilimanjaro – which refused to emerge from behind the clouds – or, in my case, base to catch up on some sleep.

And then we rolled into Snake Park, home for those not heading out on the Serengeti expedition and something of an institution among the overland community.

Road Block – Elephants stroll across our path at Lake Manyara

Started in 1993 by a South African couple – known to legions of travellers and crew as BJ and Ma – on what used to be a patch of scrub at Meserani, not far from the city of Arusha, it has been turned into an oasis over the years.

And drinking in its legendary bar, decorated with years of signed tour T-shirts (our contribution managing to misspell Africa), trip pictures and memorabilia (including a welcome amount of rugby shirts) is all in the name of charity, with bar takings going towards the on-site clinic which tends to the locals and snake bite victims.

Struck by a sudden rush of philanthropy, we did our bit for charity and my sporting experiment proved over exposure to the shots which came as the early celebrations of  my birthday kicked into gear have a detrimental impact on my ability to play darts. Especially when playing the only person not drinking.

My birthday itself arrived with a remarkably clear head, given the shots and drinks which followed, and our seven-strong group’s departure on our safari expedition.

Who is doing the Serengeti, by far the most expensive excursion bookable on the trip, has been a topic of conversation since the off, partly because the price comes down as more people sign up.

Tall Tales – We got a bit blase about giraffes, which was a bit tough on a wonderful creature

It was always on my list of must-do activities – along with the pre-booked trek to see the gorillas in Rwanda, which is looming large on the horizon amid mounting horror at the potential physical test of tramping uphill through a rain forest – and, even with a fairly substantial cost, it was well worth it.

While the Serengeti steals the headlines, the vast plains which constitute the national park were actually outshone by the other two sections of the expedition, one of which fulfilled a long-standing ambition.

We kicked off at the less-heralded Lake Manyara National Park in the Great Rift Valley, which has carved out such remarkable wildlife watching territory down the east of Africa.

Taking A Break – A family of lions hang out in the long grass of the Ngorongoro Crater

We instantly found ourselves face to face with a sizeable family of elephants on the roadside who also crossed our path – literally at times – as we rolled out of the park hours later. Sandwiched in between was a catalogue of animal spotting, from the giant hippos lurking in and around a lake, giraffe, zebras, vervet monkeys (complete with their blue balls) and a distant lion to a turtle and its baby basking on the edge of a pond, plus any number of other animals in between.

Early to bed – certainly far earlier than a normal birthday – and early to rise for our next destination, the remarkable Ngorongoro Crater.

Bucket List – The view from the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater

The crater has been high on my must-visit list for many years and it did not disappoint, even if the early-morning mist obscured the views from the rim as we entered.

There was no problem with vision when we hit the crater floor, two large prides of lions lounging around garnering much of the attention with rhinos, giraffe and the normal coterie of antelopes, zebras et al – and the odd cheeky monkey attempting to get his hands on our packed lunches – studded across the most amazing landscape.

Rolling the relatively short distance from the crater to the Serengeti – past endless zebra and wildebeest yet to set off on their great migration after the arrival of late young – we headed out on the plains as the gathering storm and big cats took our attention.

While the crater has legions of animals squeezed into a relatively small area, the vastness of the Serengeti – Endless Plain in Swahili – means there are large expanses with nothing to spot.

On The Prowl – The lioness we followed for ages in the Serengeti

But every so often in our afternoon and morning game drives, up would pop one of the big cats – the amorous leopards, cheetah and various lions, most lounging around on rocks just waiting for cameras to arrive, but one lioness walked alongside our vehicle for a considerable distance as she headed out for an early-evening hunt.

And by the time we headed back past the crater – via a brief stop to replace a blown tyre with giraffe wandering around us – the view had cleared for one final, memorable photo stop.

Not a bad birthday weekend and certainly enough to spark another bout of charitable donations throughout the evening.


  • Ngoron
  • Thanks to Ale for some of the big cat pictures – her camera was a lot better than my iPhone. She also had a good eye for an ‘adorable’ creature, but also kept trusting me to hold her camera for some reason.

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