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November 1, 2001
Seronera Wildlife Lodge: Cameron's Birthday  (Russell)

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Opening birthday presents

Today, November 1st, Cameron celebrated his eleventh birthday.  We tried to arrange many small and continuous celebrations throughout the day, despite our distance from anything resembling civilization.  Joss had worked for days to make Cameron a homemade birthday card, as well as a hand-decorated pen holder made out of paper.

After breakfast, Tom surprised Cameron with some presents that he and Sandi had prepared back in Arusha.  These included an English-language birthday card (!), a leopard bookmark, and a t-shirt imprinted with "Subai" (a Maasai greeting).

We bid farewell to the Lobo Wildlife Lodge and the northern Serengeti, and headed back south towards the center of the Serengeti.  We saw lots of rain, as well as more long trains of wildebeests and zebras following the storms on their Great Migration.  (The wildebeests eat the new tall grass, while the zebras eat the new short grass.  Even so, the zebras seem to be leading -- and almost herding -- the wildebeests aalong.)

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A wall of rain descending on the Serengeti

We made our way back to Seronera, where we had previously stayed at the Nyani Tent Camp.  This time, we had reservations at the nearby Seronera Wildlife Lodge in honor of Cameron's birthday (and our last lodge on safari).  We were put into a single room with three beds and a promise of another mattress.  Unfortunately, because we had arrived so early, the room wasn't ready and they didn't want us in it yet.  On the other hand, they didn't want us eating our box lunches in the bar or restaurant either.  Gail the amazing wonder woman located the manager and explained our dilemma.  The next thing we knew, he had moved us into a new set of rooms -- a double and two twins joined by a connnecting door.

(We were again warned not to leave our windows open under any circumstances, or we would be invaded by animals.  No sooner had we entered our room than a warthog ran out from under the crawlspace and into the woods.  That was the closest we had come to a warthog; they are among the most shy animals here.)

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Our neighbor at Seronera

We went on another short game drive, and were amazed at how much the central Serengeti had been transformed already by just a little bit of rain.  When we were here a few days ago, the fields of grass were all dry brown; now they were green and flowering.  On the other hand, the dirt roads were now very muddy and marshy; Tom had to use his four-wheel-drive for the first time.  We had to cut our drive short due to the rain, but we still made many new discoveries today, including: 

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Hippos coming out of the water

Back at the lodge, Tom joined us for dinner (a rare event -- usually the guides eat separately) in honor of Cameron's birthday.  After our meal, the lights suddenly dimmed.  The restaurant staff came out with a candle-lit cake, singing "Happy Birthday."  As Cameron sat beaming with his piece of cake in front of him, he declared, "This is a very nice birthday!"

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A birthday present from the Serengeti: Cameron's favorite African animals


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