Out of everyone in our group, I was probably the most excited for our first game drive. Everyone else had been traveling through various parts of Africa for weeks and had already gone on several game drives. I think that is the reason why they were so much better at spotting the animals than I was at first. Everyone else was genuinely excited for me, the safari rookie. Any time there was a sighting, they would say, “Make sure Jennifer can see!” or “Jennifer, come over here so you can get a better look!”
On our game drive, we saw blue monkeys, baboons, warthogs, wildebeest, buffalos, zebras, giraffes, pelicans, and many other birds. Lake Manyara is famous for flamingos and lions that sleep in trees. We could see massive numbers of flamingoes on the lake through binoculars, but they were too far away to be able to get good photos of, and we didn’t see any lions sleeping in trees. Despite that, I was happy with my first game drive. It is truly awesome to see all of these animals up close in their natural habitat. Near the end of the game drive, close to sunset, we were able to get out of our vehicle (a Toyota Land Cruiser with a pop-top roof) and take some photos. It was a seemingly innocuous part of the park with only birds and zebras around, but I was still surprised we were allowed to do this. This park does have lions, after all!
Immediately after finishing our game drive, we drove to our hotel, the Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge. It is located atop the escarpment overlooking Lake Manyara, but we would have to wait until morning to enjoy the view, as it was dark when we arrived. The rooms are located in two-story conical thatched bungalows and are beautifully decorated. While I was closing the curtains, a gecko jumped out onto the wall next to me. It startled me so much that I jumped! I had read that it is common to see them in hotel rooms, but that didn’t make me feel any better! I was contemplating my options before coming to the realization that the only thing to do was to just let it be. I looked away for a minute, and then it was gone. Luckily, I never saw it again!
Our group had a lovely four-course dinner al fresco at the lodge. I told everyone about the gecko in my room, but apparently that is also a common occurrence in Australia, so nobody else thought anything of it. The next morning, we all had breakfast in the same spot before the long, bumpy drive to the Serengeti.