The plane took off from Grumeti and we turned north towards Kogatende airstrip. I had not seen Serengeti under Canvas yet as I had left Tanzania before it opened, but knew from my guests that it offered a wonderful experience. What was even more exciting was that it was camped up at Kogatende in the northwest Serengeti. I had never been to this area when living in the Serengeti and was eager to get a firsthand experience of both camp and location. Even more exciting was that I was going to see my old friend Mussa again.
We touched down at Kogatende and I walked off to meet the safari vehicles. The night before, when dining with some of the staff at Grumeti, we had, of course, all talked about the famous story of the day I had to pull a snake out of the loo. The person that had assisted me with this was Robert. I had not seen Robert for many years as he has left Grumeti shortly after helping me catch the snake – maybe it was too much for him! I had last seen him when we had attended the funeral of one of our mutual friends. Imagine my amazement when on landing there was Robert, waiting for some other guests and working for a company that was based in the area. It was a joyful reunion and we laughed that I had been talking about him only a few hours ago!
Airstrips in Africa are often a meeting point for friends. Lodge managers see each other when they go through to collect supplies, pilots meet up with guests that they have flown on previous safaris, rangers meet staff that have moved to the camp next door and so on. The strangest meeting I have ever had on an airstrip is when I met the man who saved my life.
I had contracted malaria, and due to a misdiagnosis, I became very ill. There was a doctor in camp, a guest, who came and gave me lifesaving medication to lower my temperature which had reached 42! The next morning I was airlifted to Nairobi where I recovered quickly. I had however, never met the doctor that saved my life as I was delirious at the time. One day, I was on the Grumeti airstrip to meet my new guests arriving that day and to say goodbye to those leaving us when a man strode up to me and said ‘hello – you do not know who I am do you?’
I replied ’No, I am afraid that I do not” to which he said ‘the last time I saw you, you looked a lot worse than now….’
I hugged him and thanked him for saving my life – what an opportunity to be able to thank someone in person! It was just sad that he was not staying with us – we were fully booked and so he had gone to the camp next door.
After catching up with Robert, I moved on to the &Beyond vehicles. There was much laughing and meeting of old friends again. Also guiding at under Canvas, was Medson – a carpenter and maintenance worker when I was at Grumeti. &Beyond offers its staff such great chances to get ahead and we spoke about how much he was enjoying being a ranger.
Mussa had arranged for me to go out in a private vehicle with Mohammed, another top &Beyond guide, for the whole day. We went down to the Mara River and in one day, I managed to see two major river crossings. Thousands of wildebeest swam the raging currents. The crocodiles did not even bother to move, they were so full from the feast they had already had! Then it was a picnic out in the bush listening to a herd of elephant not far off which we went to see after lunch. En route to the camp, we saw lion, leopard and animals that are not seen very often in the Serengeti – huge herds of eland and some oribi. Kogatende is a beautiful part of the Serengeti – it is really different from the rest of the park and well worth a visit when Serengeti under Canvas is there from late July until early November. Then came the perfect ending to a beautiful drive – Mussa and Adonius waiting on a hill for me with snacks and some champagne. Adonius has been a butler at Grumeti so it was lovely to see him again.
That evening Mussa and I had dinner together and spoke of family and friends. It was so good to just sit and speak with someone that had shared three years of my life. His family had grown and I had brought him a camera, so that he could take photos for me and keep me up to date.
I said goodbye again the next morning- I was off to Arusha to meet my guests and the next day, I would be at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge again for the first time in over three years!