We woke up at 5:15 on Saturday and had a great breakfast at the hotel before heading to Lake Manyara, a national park near the edge of the Rift Valley, a little after sunrise. Lake Manyara is a wonderful park with freshwater lakes, forests, as well as open grassland.
Safari is what many regard as the quintessential African experience, and our day at Lake Manyara definitely lived up to our expectations. Regan was especially excited because of our first elephant sighting; later in the day, we were right in front of two elephants crossing the road, which was absolutely incredible. Though we did not get to see the lion or leopard we were hoping for, we saw other amazing animals, including the vervet monkey, lots of zebras, and some groups saw a dik-dik. We also saw a bunch of hippos peeking up from the lake.
Here is Regan’s reflection about the elephants:
Regan Murphy ’18
My goal for this entire trip was to see an elephant and to my excitement, we accomplished this goal. On the first day of our safari, I desperately looked out the window with my binoculars pressed up against my eyes hoping to see an elephant. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any (real) elephants on the first day, but I was hopeful we would see one on day two. The next day rolled around and I listened to Disney’s The Lion King through my headphones on the drive down to Lake Manyara. I was feeling really optimistic and told my car that I had good vibes about this park and was confident we would see an elephant today. About 15 minutes into our drive, our vehicle, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, came to a rolling stop as we approached a large rock. To my surprise, this rock turned out to be a real African Elephant. Mrs. Strobel shouted back to me and said “Regan, elephant, 8 o’clock!!!!” I sprung up from my seat and looked through my binoculars; I finally saw an elephant in its natural habitat and I was in shock. The elephant adjusted its body to a position where you could finally identify that it was an elephant. I wanted to make sure I captured the moment, so I took way more pictures than one person would ever need of an elephant. Thankfully, this was not the only time we spotted an elephant during this adventure. I kept track of all the elephants we saw today and I recorded 16 elephant spotting’s in Lake Manyara. My favorite ele experience occurred an hour into our drive. We were swerving around one of our cars because they were driving too slow, when we happened to see rocks rustling through the vegetation. Two GIANT elephants leisurely strolled passed our car. They were not even 5 meters from our car when they casually walked down the road and through the bushes in a majestic manner. I took an incredible video of the elephants and was so amazed at the calm nature of these creatures. Erin whispered to the elephants “Do you want a Pringle?” as they passed our car. I will never forget this moment and feel so blessed to have witnessed such a beautiful animal. In total, we saw 58 elephants during our three day safari.
Here is a list of the animals we saw today:
- olive baboons
- silvery cheeked hornbill
- african elephant
- yellow billed storks
- southern ground hornbills
- cape buffalo
- spurwing goose
- greycrown cranes
- egyptian geese
- blacksmith lapping
- african jacana
- glossy ivis
- crowned lapwing
- vervet monkeys
- maasai giraffe
After driving around the park, everyone participated in the tree top sky walk. Here’s Lily Thorgren’s reflection on the activity:
Lily Thorgren ’21:
“The highlight of my day today was the tree top sky walk. We climbed up stairs onto platforms and then onto shakey bridges. The bridges increasingly got higher and higher. Although I was timid, I went onto each one. It was really exciting to get a new view from new heights. My ultimate favorite time on the bridges was the facial expressions of comedian, Erin Postma.”
After the tree top walk, we returned to our hotel for a great lunch. Then, we headed towards Ngorongoro Crater, where we stayed for the night. On the way, we stopped at a couple stores to pick up souvenirs and snacks.
At a shop, Tom bought a spear, which was one of his goals for the trip. He bartered a lot on the spear. Later, when we arrived at the hotel, Tom decided to “sacrifice” Jason in order to see a rare black rhino on safari.
We had an early night to prepare to wake up extremely early the next morning, as the best sightings often happen very early.
Funny moments of the day:
Erin and Sierra played a practical on Evan. We had arrived at the Ngorongoro Crater and were admiring the view from the top the crater from a railing. Evan let Erin use her binoculars and quickly gave them to Sierra to hide them. “Evan, did you like your binoculars?” Erin asked Evan while looking over the banister. He quickly started to search for them over the railing before they told him they had taken them.
While taking pictures at the top of the crater, a party from Zimbabwe started taking pictures with the non-black members of our trip.