Almost there!

Tomorrow I drive to Serengeti. Finally.

It’s been a long wait – I left Minnesota on December 28th and have been itching to get into the park ever since. As usual, nothing went as expected – mostly annual research clearance renewal obstacles – and so here I am, sitting in Arusha, the “Gateway to Serengeti” chomping at the bit to get inside.

Don’t get me wrong – Arusha has its perks:

  • Running water. Hot, running water.
  • Food*. Restaurant food. Chinese food. Indian food. Chicken club sandwiches. Fancy salads. Garcinia cambogia coffee. [You will discover that 90% of my mental energy while in the field goes to dreaming about food. Now that Lion House has a proper fridge, this might change. Look for details in an upcoming post: “The Refrigerator.”]
  • Indoor toilets.
  • Cappuccinos. Espresso. Drip coffee.
  • Internet. Wi-fi internet! Reasonably fast wi-fi internet!
  • …and other things that I’m sure I’m forgetting in the excitement of prepping for the field.

To be fair, there are always a million and ten things to be done in town, and everything takes ten times longer to do than it does back home, so it’s not like I’ve just been sitting around Arusha languorously waiting to leave. Repairing the grass cutter (I cannot express how crucial this piece of equipment is), for example, takes five visits to various hardware stores, then an eventual half-day of trying to find some hole-in-the wall “engineering” shop on the outskirts of town armed only with an illegible but well-intentioned hand-drawn map provided by the last shopkeeper I’d visited.  It’s always an adventure.

Nonetheless, as nice as running water, restaurant food, and to-do-list-checking-off is, I’m excited to get to the park. I miss having elephants pop by the front yard during morning coffee, and the hyenas whooping uncomfortably closely while visiting the choo at night.  Alright, back to packing up my trusty Landrover (Arnold, below)  — updates to come!

arnie low res

Me with “Arnold”


About ali swanson

I'm an ecologist studying how large carnivores coexist. I spend way too much of my time trying to stop hyenas and elephants from munching my camera traps!

4 responses to “Almost there!”

  1. chris stuart says :

    You need to add common, bush, duiker Sylvicapra grimmia to your list as it clearly appeared in one of the images. I am a field biologist having operated in Africa most of my life and know this species well.

    • Margaret Kosmala says :

      We’ve come to realize that we are, in fact, missing a few species on our list that are rarely caught by the cameras. We built our list based on what we’d seen in camera traps in the first couple seasons, so if we didn’t see one then, it didn’t make our list. Do you by any chance have a link to your duiker? If you classified it recently, you can go to your profile at and then click “Recents” (and click on the + at the bottom if you need to see more recently seen images). Then if you click on the duiker image and grab the URL, we can make sure it gets properly tagged.

  2. Gwen Christensen says :

    I’m going through withdrawals what am I suppose to do in the wee hours of the morning when I can’t sleep?

  3. Sonja Willner says :

    Odd – a colleague alerted me to Snapshot Serengeti in November because he knew I was going there, and I spent all of Christmas with my entire family classifying. Now looking at the blog I realize that I was actually there at the same time as you, Ali. While I’m really just another tourist in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, I still think it’s awesome that even though this was just another funky website to me in the beginning, I may even have bumped into you in Arusha and not even noticed. Who’d have thought? Looking forward to more pics and fingers crossed for the Grant!

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