England to Savanna Trip Story

Dear friends - Your travelling artist Moish Sokal has just returned from his painting adventure safari trips to the wild life parks of Tanzania and Kenya. His newly inspired watercolours will go on show in the Malthouse Gallery of East Lambrook Manor Gardens on 3rd June – 22nd July

On my last trip to Kenya’s Maasai Mara and Amboseli wild life parks in early 2020, the wildlife parks of the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro, just on the other side of the border in Tanzania, were so close, yet so far. There and then I have made a promise “I will be back – See you next year!” though little did we know what was coming. The pandemic years came and went, and the long awaited moment has arrived were I (and my dear assistant Prue) checked in on the flight to Nairobi. “You cannot fly; you need an E Visa. The rules have changed!” we were told by sympathetic airline official. However, after a nightmarish experience involving some frantic activity applying for a visa on a smart phone in the busy terminal, I was on my way. Only when sitting on the crowded shuttle bus to Arusha, the safari capital of northern Tanzania, I felt that I have picked up where I left 3 years ago. Checking in a safari travellers’ inn, packed with excited people setting off to the unknown or coming back with tall tales of the African bush I felt the real adventure had started.

The next early morning saw the start of a most memorable safari trip. As the heavy safari vehicle roared past the gateway to Tarangire National park, I was greeted by herds of elephants making their way up the hill. After all this park boasts the second highest concentration of wildlife in the country, and reportedly the largest concentration of elephants in the world. Whilst watching a big group of impalas, zebras and giraffes a streak of cheetah lightning flew from about 500 m away finally catching an impala. “I could not believe what I just saw! – After so many years of safari trips when one is lucky enough just to get a glimpse of a cheetah…How lucky I was”. Godfrey the guide/driver then drove across the tufty grass he stopped just a few metres from the cheetah, its jaws still on the impala’s neck.

The next encounter was just as much a rarity; suddenly there was a mad dash of vehicles to an interesting looking tree and there in its branches was a dozing male leopard again, our skilled driver got to a wonderful view of this elusive predator. l was right under it taking a reference shot when all of a sudden the leopard got up and started moving down towards the open roof. “I was terrified! The animal was just a pounce away from my head!” I slammed the hatch at speed, much to everyone’s laughter.

The nights in the Serengeti were magical, I slept in a tent with the stars for a roof and the savanna grass for a floor. The sounds were all around me, a hyena calling, curious buffalos rustling nearby, even a distant roar of a lion was heard”. If stepping out in the middle of the night was essential it was only with a torch, I was warned. And just as well, as on the dawn drive, a leopard was crossing the road only a short distance from the campsite. As the African sun climbed higher a hurried message came over the radio; an active lion pride had just been spotted. There was a dash to a group of vans and in the midst of them was a knot of lions feasting on a zebra. Later on I found out that this pride, of 12 lions, had killed 3 zebras.

Next stop at dawn was the huge crater of Ngorongoro an extinct volcano, now a grassy plain rising up to the rim of the caldera. There in the magical misty morning the world of wildlife was awake and full with energy – It was calving season. Herds of wildebeest, zebras and elephants were making their way to drink from the water pools, a group of 4 lion cubs made its way past under the watchful eye of mum, even a lone rhinoceros could be seen in the distance.

Back on the dusty road southwards we stopped briefly at a coffee plantation in the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro where he participated in local coffee making process of picking the ripe beans, peeling, roasting and grinding a ceremony to much song and dance and then drinking a most delicious cup of coffee “The best cup of coffee I had in years – It definitely puts all those trendy coffee shops in the high street to shame.” After a crazy dash on a ‘motorbike taxi, I arrived at the Kenyan border in Horohoro. And after an overnight stay in Old Mombasa I was picked up by this 2-meter-tall man called Brian who was the designated safari guide/driver on the next adventure in Tsavo wildlife parks. Luckily the accommodation was in this wonderful safari lodge perched on the hillside offering wonderful vistas of the endless plains. The pale blue waterholes below were in sharp contrast to the parched red earth, herds of elephants could be seen, making their way at sunrise for a drink. The game drives Were so full of surreal images; Huge elephants covered in red earth gathered by the water holes, a group of lion cubs feasting on a buffalo under mum’s watchful eye, herds of zebras and giraffes grazing by the river where the grass is green, another pride of lions resting under a shady tree, “We must have seen 35 lions on that day!”

The next morning a bushwalk with a ranger/guide just put the completing touch to the journey. It was so good to walk on this dusty ground and being taught to spot the various animals by the footprints and droppings, the marks on the tree trunks, the various plants – what a contrast to sitting long hours in the safari vehicle only.

Alongside these wildlife paintings which I painted upon my return from Africa there is a significant cache of paintings which I painted during last years’ Autumn season – After endless days of going through my vast collection of the old negatives of photos taken during the 30+ years of living in England and travels abroad.

I was so compelled to re paint some in my new style. “A most refreshing experience of seeing the old with a new mind set”.

I look forward to being in the beautiful surroundings of East Lambrook Manor Gardens once again”.

Exhibition of New watercolours by Moish Sokal

Malthouse Gallery, East Lambrook Manor Gardens, Silver Street, East Lambrook, Somerset. TA13 5HH Saturday 3rd June – Saturday 22nd July, Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. (Closed Sundays & Mondays)

Entry to the exhibition is free and you can visit without paying to see the gardens.

www.moishsokal.co.uk phone: 01935 881350