A hair-raising experience in the plains of Serengeti - The Citizen

A hair-raising experience in the plains of Serengeti

Saturday March 16 2019


By Danford Mpumilwa mpumilwa@gmail.com

I have to admit that I am one of those few Bongolanders who have had the rare priviledge to frequently patronise, gratis, the unique global heritage of our national parks and wildlife reserves that we proudly have.

The priviledge was, among others, on account of I having worked as an active scribe, and also having been at one time an employee of the-then Tanzania Tourist Corporation.

It is with this backgroung that I am eagerly looking forward to undertake a sojourn in one of the major wildlife reserves in the near future. And this is none other than the famous and exotic wildlife reserve, the Seouls Game Reserve.

This is a reserve famous for its plentiful herds of elephants, or as the experts call these giant mamals, ‘Loxodanta Africanus’.

However, this eagerness brings to mind my very own previous very close and somehow hair-raising encounters I had in the wild.

One of those, which easily comes to my mind is the one I had in the plains of Serengeti.

It occured in the early 80s when I was escorting a group of American travel writers in the northern tourist circuit -Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and the mighty Serengeti.

It was while in the Serengeti, as we were some 10 or so kilometers approaching the archtectural marvel, that is Lobo Wildlife Lodge, from the other gem lodge, the Seronera, that our dilapidated VW Combie spulttered to a halt.

Remember those were extremely mean times. The country was experiencing an acute shortage of everything and more so vehicle spare parts. And the State Travel Service (STS) combie, which obviously had seen better days, was a true representative of this.

The time our contraption collapsed was around 4 pm in the afternoon. Naturally by then there were no mobile phones. We therefore had only two options; to either wait for some miracle in the form of some rare good samaritans to give us a lift; or one of us to hoof through the Serengeti plains to the lodge to seek assistance.

Not being comfortable with the first choice we chose the latter option. And, as fate would have it, the messenger to hoof all the way to the lodge was your dear sojourner. The tour driver would remain behind with the visitors. And off I went.

After about a kilometer or so of walking, with obviously what I would call false bravado, I met two guys driving a Suzuki Double - Cabin pickup. They were going in the opposite direction

Wandering alone

After admonishing me as to how stupid I was wandering in the dangerous wild alone, they casually told me to be extremeky careful as there was a pride of lions just beyond the next ridge. Then they drove off.

To say that a some generous amount of cold sweat streamed down my sticky backbone is an understatement of the century.

Suddenly my survival instincts took charge. I would relax in any area swarming with herbivorous animals - wildbeest, zebras, antelopes and the like. And I would be very very careful and nervous when passing through areas where these animals were absent or scarce because these were the likely hangouts of lions, cheetas and leopards, whom as we all know consider human beings as exotic palates.

Suddenly, a few kilometers before reaching the Lobo Lodge a tour landrover emerged fron the wild bush whose white men and women had been enjoying a tour drive.

They were, to say the least, shocked to see me hoofing on that lonely and very dangerous road. After explaining my predicament they generously offered to give me a lift to the lodge.

And shockingly, a few hundred meters fron the lodge, we came across a pride of ten or so lions lazing around on both sides of the road.

The mere thought that I might have ended up inside their tummies as their well deserved afternoon snack literally shook ny insides.

No wonder, on safely reaching the lodge, I quickly guzzled down in succession four mortuary-cold Safari beer lagers before settling down.

I vividly remember my travel writers, when they eventually arrived, telling me that I was ‘tired and emotional ‘ on account of ny adventure and boozy spirit.