Friday, August 7, 2009

Safari to Selous Game Reserve

Part 2: The Boat Trip

We had already paid in advance and thus there was not much delay at the reception. We were shown our way to tents 7 and 8, me and brother in tent 8. I don't know whether you will call it a "tent". It was a cloth covered raised platform with facilities inside resembling any hotel room, definitely not a five star hotel in a city but certainly the best you can get in a jungle.

As we went inside the first thing I checked was the toilet. Toilet paper!!! Nothing even remotely resembling a mug! It felt like the universe was conspiring to toilet train me before my 4 year stint in the US. Anyways, Rufiji River was in my sight from inside the tent. A few hippos were visible too. While we were waiting in the tent for lunch to get ready, dad spotted a baby croc beside the Rufiji River. As I got there with the camera, it had well, vanished back into the river's depths. We had lunch at 1. Fried chicken and French Fries! 4 other foreigners were also there. Not English. In tents 5 and 6! There was no one else in this camp. After lunch, we spent our time in the tent till 4 waiting in anticipation for the boat ride.

In the boat we met the 4 foreigners again. They were Dutch. Couldn't get their names properly though. The young lady in the group has a name Figo or something but isn't that a guy's name? Anyways she's quite good looking and her partner very tall. The other 2 are a relatively elderly couple. The elderly guy seems to be a good photographer. He had a DSLR with zoom lens. Apparently he has also been on safaris in Zimbabwe and all of them have been here at least for 3 days now. Anyways, Kaseem, the boat guy and guide was extremely helpful. Actually if it weren't for him the boat ride wouldn't have been that interesting. He gave us a 2 and half hour ride and gave us details about the water birds and the flora we saw and even narrated interesting anecdotes about life beside the Rufiji River. But the best thing was that he was adept at taking the boat as close to the birds as possible without scaring them which was what created opportunities to get some great snaps. The sunset was beautiful and the only regret I have about the boat ride is that I was not able to capture a heron in flight though I got 2 chances.

Anyway, there are a few villages beside the Rufiji River some distance away from the Game Reserve but still within a forested area. We saw people swimming in the river, though it is highly dangerous with the Great Nile Crocodiles that call this river home being the most ferocious of all the 4 kinds of crocs you find in Africa. Kaseem time and again repeated that though the game reserve had a marked boundary as far as the humans are concerned, free animals don't necessarily have any boundaries.

During the final return, there was a bump below the boat. I thought it was a hippo but couldn't have been. Kaseem explained that the canoe the villagers use was once overturned by a hippo and a guy eaten by a croc. But hippos are scared of the motor boat. So well, a hippo bumping our boat is one of the things that just couldn't be true, irrespective of how much I would like it to be.

It was dark by the time we were back in the tent. The generator in the camp is operated only between 6 in the evening and 10 pm. So that is the only time when there would be electricity supply and only time when we could recharge our cam batteries. So we had to ration the charger for mine and Arun's cam batteries. Fortunately there was no untimely die-off during the entire trip.

Anyways we went for dinner at 8. The process of taking the 1st step out of a small gap in the tent with only torchlight to show the way had a magical feeling to it. Don't know why and also tried it out twice. The dinner was sumptuous. Great soup and beef curry. Ended with fruit salad! Finally as I drifted off to sleep at 9 with the Apple singing in my ears, I felt strangely sanguine that though this day alone had made my trip, the next one was going to better it still.

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