To reach the Serengeti by road, you pass the Ngorongoro Crater. That day it was extremely cloudy and if it wasn’t for the amazing day we had the day prior (see previous post) we would never have known the paradise that exists below those clouds
The long flat drive to the Serengeti was broken up by spotting a family of giraffes and then visiting a Masai Village. Visiting the village was an amazing experience providing knowledge and a first-hand look into their culture. They are a nomadic people who move their camp roughly every 3 months, primarily herding sheep, goats and cows.
After finally getting through the front gate (ticketing is still paper and pen and so is a little slow & inefficient) we headed into the National park. Serengeti in the Masai language means ‘Endless plain’ and that is exactly what it is. The place is never-ending plains with the occasional rock formation, bunch of trees or small river appearing.
However, despite the lack of flora, there is no lacking of fauna. 10 minutes into the drive we had already come across 2 male lions relaxing under a tree, several elephants, multiple species of deer, ostriches, giraffes, dazzles of zebras and wildebeest.
After a successful afternoon safari, we arrived at our accommodation for the night just before sunset. Camping in tents in the middle of the world famous Serengeti. Woooo Now that is exciting!!! Our tent was a bit glam having features including solar powered lights, a chemical toilet and a shower where the water was warmed up each morning and then poured into a large container placed above the shower. But the best thing was there were no gates, fences or barriers so if Mr Elephant or Mistress Lion chose to, they could happily wander through the campsite.
Dinner was served in a separate tent. Beautifully prepared semi-traditional Tanzanian food. A mixture of corn maize, fried potato chips and minced vegetable mix.
We were warned at dinner time that at night time, do not wander more than 10-15m away from our tent for we were in lion territory and a pride of lions had been seen that afternoon several hundred metres from the campsite. Eeeeek!!!!
I was pretty keen to do some star shots at night, but after hearing that talk, I was a little on edge. I therefore took my star shots never wandering more than 10m from the tent and hyper vigilant at all times. Hahaha. Fortunately I think they worked out quite well which was nice.
That night we heard many animal noises. Grunts, shrieks, groans. Which animals did we actually hear and which sound belonged to which animal??? No idea. We were told the next morning that we had heard hyenas, hippos and lions. The grunts were the lions, you apparently don’t hear the traditional roar at night.
Our first all day game drive in the Serengeti. Woooooo. The best thing about staying in the middle of the park is that it isn’t long to you reach the action. We came across dazzles of zebras, herds of impala, towers of giraffes, flocks of ostriches and memories of elephants. The vastness of the Serengeti is difficult to describe. You could drive for kilometres without seeing a single tree or rock, before coming across a group of rocks and trees, then going several kilometres again without anything. As the morning began to heat up, we started to head to a spot shaded by some large rocks to have lunch. This was however pleasantly interrupted by a pride of lions who had the same idea. This pride included a very impressive alpha male who was following a lioness around eagerly clearly in full swing of the mating season. He had a very dark mane which means he is a very mature and strong male.
The evening safari was amazing. We spotted our first cheetah, resting under the tree snacking on a recent kill, several lions relaxing in a tree with a carcass hanging off the tree as if it were a trophy, and a beautiful leopard high up in a tree that despite our patience, didn’t come down and play. We also spotted a large pride of at least 7 lions all relaxing in the one tree which was exciting in itself, until our guide pointed out that our campsite was only several hundred metres away. Wowza! They were not kidding on our campsite being in lion territory. Needless to say the star shots I took that night were well within 5 metres of our tent ;)
Surely nothing could top that day. I was wrong. We got up early for a safari drive and came across a pride of 17 lions!!! Yes 17!!! They were having a drink from a stream before heading off in search of prey. We followed them for about 1km, they didn’t seem the least bit phased by our presence, often walking within 2-3metres of the trucks… We decided it was best to shut our windows at that stage and enjoy them from behind the glass. The pride then wandered off the road into the long grass then as if by magic they all lay down and pooof they all disappeared.
The migration of zebras and wildebeest are prime targets not only for the big cat predators who loiter around the waterholes, but also for the crocodiles that live in the water. They are very timid and extremely on edge, but at the same time their thirst for water drives them into the waterhole. We witness the process of dozens of them wandering into the waterhole to drink and bathe. One of them would then get spooked (by absolutely nothing at all) and would start bolting out of the waterhole and full speed, the others would then blindly follow and all of a sudden chaos in the waterhole. Once everyone is out, and it is established there was no danger, they all slowly wander back into the waterhole, just for the same thing to happen again 2-3 minutes later. This went on on constant repeat and we enjoyed it for a good hour before going in search of the infamous hippo pool.
I had already seen more hippos than I ever expected but the hippo pool at the Serengeti was just something else. There was more hippos in that pool than I could count!! Hundreds!!! Insane. All competing for the best spots in the water to stay cool, often tensions boiled over and there were exciting hippo fights. Now you can visualise from the picture the number of hippos that were there, but you can only imagine the smell that came along with a hundred gaseous mammals who eat 40kg of grass a day with minimal hygienic skills haha.
The next morning we found a hippo wandering back from his all night feeding session. We learnt that you don’t get in the way of a hippo heading back to water. He won’t wander around you, he will charge straight for you. Fortunately our driver was on to it and swiftly moved out of the way.
We came across part of the pride of lions we found yesterday. After climbing a tree for a better view of surrounding food, a Thompson’s gazelle started strolling in their direction. Without as much as a noise, three lions headed in different directions creating essentially a triangle of danger, with the gazelle heading directly into the centre. Alas lucky for the gazelle who spotted one of lionesses and veered off in the other direction with quite a reasonable pace. The lions did not give chase and retreated back to the tree to search for another unsuspecting victim.
Another lone leopard was spotted in a tree far away. How did we spot it? A poor monkey had managed to trap himself higher up in the tree than the leopard and was screaming his lungs out with a distress call. The leopard was fast asleep and not the least bit interested, but that monkey was hell bent on everyone in the Serengeti hearing him scream and knowing not to come near that tree.
What a brilliant 3 days of Safari.