We were finally given an opportunity to sleep in. I fell asleep shortly after being escorted back to my room after dinner. Had a wake up call at 6:15. Breakfast was at seven and we are scheduled to leave Lamai Camp at 8 AM. I was so tired that I almost could not get up from the Masai knocking on my door with hot coffee. Let’s talk a little about the coffee. It is exceedingly strong and always made via a French press. I have cut down on my consumption due to the strong blend.
After breakfast we all boarded our vehicles for the fifty minute drive back to Kogatende Airstrip. The twelve passenger was waiting for us. Before we boarded our vehicles, Andy gave us some bad news. His wife has been sick with a blood disorder that has turned serious. She was admitted to the hospital last night and he will be leaving the group early to return to her. I am sad to seem him go but family always comes first. Of course, we all understand. To take his place, Kevin Pepper will be joining us in two days. I have been on three workshops with Kevin and he is awesome.
We boarded our little putt putt for a one hour flight to refuel and go to the bathroom. The pilot landed in a town by the name of “Tabora”. As soon as he landed, the gas truck pulled up and we all used the restrooms. The men’s restroom was very clean. Andy left us here. We all gave him big hugs and kisses and a few of the women shed some tears. The next leg of the flight was about forty five minutes.
The pilot landed at a very crude and dirt runway. We were entering “Katavi National Park”. The Park is located in western Tanzania and the terrain is very different. Lots of trees and shrubbery. No rocks and boulders. All of us first had to sign in. We had to write our names and passport information in a ledger book via hand. Sean told me that very few tourists come here since it is remote and not easy to get to.
Our drivers were waiting for us with their vehicles. They loaded our luggage and we all boarded. We had three open air land cruisers with canopies. The driver told us the drive would take around thirty minutes. We drove through a dry forest. The air was much hotter than at the previous Camp. We were lower in elevation so the temperature was higher.
We finally pulled into “Chada Katavi Camp”. Let me try to describe the Camp and let me begin by saying that this is probably what Safari was like twenty years ago. Our rooms are permanent zipper tents. The tent is open air most of the way around with a big platform bed in the middle. Attached is a small bathroom with a sit down toilet. There is no plumbing. The bathroom sink has a box of water next to it with a spout coming out. Next to the bathroom you unzip that part of the tent and there is a Bush shower. A barrel of water hangs outside the open air shower area and you pull a cord to have the water come down on you. The way you take a Bush shower is you first get wet, then shut the water off, then lather up and finally turn the water back on to rinse off. You also need to notify the staff thirty minutes before you want to take a hot or warm shower so they could get the water ready and the bucket full. I have previously used these showers in Botswana. Lunch was served after we arrived. The dining and sitting areas are also tents. I then walked back to my tent and took my first Bush shower this year. My last one was in 2018 in Botswana.
Julian, the Camp Manager, gave us a brief orientation. We cannot walk to our tents alone between sunset and sunrise. As I was eating, I saw lots of monkeys running by. He told us to always keep our tents zippered up to avoid having the monkeys get in. He also told us that a small herd of elephants roam the Camp during the evening since there are lots of Tamarind Trees around the Camp and they love the fruit that is currently in season. Further, the monkeys will jump on the roof of the tents. Of course, internet is sparse and could only be used for an emergency. I am starting to wonder what kind of wildlife and adventure this will be. Our adventure starts at 4:30 with our first drive.
We finally went out on our first game drive. The driver told us we were the last group of guests in the Camp for this season. After we leave, they will be breaking everything down and reopen in June. The rainy season starts any day and the rain is so intense that roads are almost wasted away. We immediately began to see wildlife. Lots of giraffes, impalas and buffalo as we drove towards a river. The wildlife is much closer here. You can almost touch some of them. It seems they have very little fear of humans. We finally reached the river and it was almost dry. Our driver spotted a male and female lion laying next to each other. The driver told us they were getting ready to mate. I saw two lions mating in the Kalahari two years ago. Lions mate for over three to five straight days at fifteen minute intervals. They do not eat during this time, but just constantly do their thing. We parked not far from them and decided to wait a while. They would constantly look up and then the female moved a little way away and the male lion followed her. Both then laid down next to each other and fell back to sleep. After a while and with no action, we decided to leave. We then drove along the dry riverbed until we came upon a group of hippos in a large pool of mud. There was a baby who eventually started to nurse. It was then back in the road. We found a whole pride of about ten lions all sleeping. The light was rapidly fading so we decided to head back to Camp. A great start to our adventure at Katavi.
Before dinner we all met for drinks. Sean had told us to always shake our shoes out before putting them on and he showed us why. He brought over a scorpion he found on the path. Sean also told us that Kevin could not make it, but Will Burrow Lucas would meet us for our last two Camps. Will is a world class wildlife photographer and I was with him in Botswana. He is a great teacher and I am looking forward to learn some more from him.
Dinner was excellent. Had some local beef served buffet style. The manager of the Camp is a Belgian man by the name of Julian. He is very friendly and joined us for dinner. He had some interesting stories about the Camp and living in Tanzania.
Wake up time is at five with coffee. We will leave the Camp at six and be back around eleven. After that we were told it is too hot to go around until our afternoon drive.
Hope an elephant shows up at my tent tonight