7th Jun 2009 - 10th Jun 2009
Terrific Tanzania Â– Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti
Sunday 7th June 2009
Met the new group this morning, very different to the previous group! There was also many of them! A group total of 28, full tuck…boo I thought! Was also very surprising as to how young the group was, majority was 18-24 year olds! Can you believe it, I was actually the 2nd oldest on the trip!! HAHA! We got a couple Americans, 2 kiwis, 3 other Aussies, a few Irish and the rest English.
We set off for the grueling 11 hour truck ride to Arusha in Tanzania, crossing the boarder and traveling on some of the worst roads in Africa! We didn’t arrive into our camp until about 8pm so was a very late dinner and early night to bed!!
After being driven into the city center of Arusha on the 8th June, we immediately noticed the difference from Kenya. Got bombarded with guys selling stuff as soon as we parked the truck and disembarked, they were quite in your face, so most of us took the time to get on the Internet. I did buy a Masi Mara blanket though!! On the way back to camp we stopped at a local Cultural Centre to have a look around.
After a nice long shower, at 3:30pm we took our day packs, said goodbye to our big truck and got loaded into 4x4’s for our 3 day excursion to the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti. Was a nice drive to the town of Karatu which took about 2 hours, driving through Mosquito River which is near Lake Manyara. Set up our tents, had some tea and looked at some spiders which were everywhere and then got a show from some local dancers and singers.
9th June 2009, Tuesday
Extremely early start of about 4:30am, pitch black putting down the tents and eating brekkie. Had a short drive to the Ngorongoro Conservation area. It was pretty darn cold and quite foggy to start, but as we got to the rim of the crater, we put the roof of the 4x4 up and made our way down the 600 odd meters into the crater which looked amazing already from where we were. We straight away spotted a bull elephant from a distance. The crater has got a big salt lake also filled with flamingos. Within minutes we had hundreds of Zebras, buffalo and water bucks on either side of the car. Then spotting 2 hyenas and then the best part…in the far distance a Black Rhino (one of the big 5). I was quite far away so we made a bee line for it but only to be stopped when a cheetah crossed our path! What a start to the day! Watching this beautiful majestic animal prowl through the grass, it actually came quite close to us, so close that my big lens could not take the picture as it was just too close to the subject!! After a while watching him, we tried to get closer to the Rhino but it remained on the move and we could only get within about 200 meters of it…BUT WE STILL SAW IT!!
As we drove on we came across a male lion and 2 females just hanging on the side of the track. It was beautiful as the lion was standing in some longish grass and the wind was blowing so its mane and the grass were blowing the same direction and were almost the same colour. We saw more hyenas and loads of ostriches, wart hogs and then a couple more lioness. Had an almost magic lunch stop next to a lake with dozens of hippos in the lake playing around. The reason I said almost magic stop was due to the amount of birds hanging around as we ate our box lunch! They were swarming us and even flying into the open trucks, so they had to shut one of the cars up and quite a lot of us sat inside to eat our lunch. Mat tried to do a therapy session with me but I was so freaked out by the sheer number of them flying around I don’t think anything would have helped!!
After lunch we saw more lions, that made 15 total for the day!!! At the end of our game drive making our way out of the crater we stopped suddenly as 2 big bull elephants came very close to us. I tell you I could watch elephants all day long! We got to the top of the crater and started our drive towards the Serengeti, along the way spotting some giraffe up close. Crossing through the official gate in the middle f no where into the Serengeti, we start ed seeing the difference. Amazing rock formations called Kopjes with baboons on top putting fingers up bottoms and playing foolishly on the side of the cliffs!
This drive was defiantly a highlight of the trip so far. As the sun started setting, we drove through literally thousands of wilder beasts and zebra lining the loads as far as the eye could see, sometimes abruptly stopping as they decided to cross the road in front of us. We came across more Lions, one that was actually eating a kill, but was a little far away. Saw a giant hippo out of water on the side of the road and more lions drinking from a pot hole in the road! It was dark quickly as we drove, which was also awesome as we still had our heads stuck up outside the car as we all marveled the beauty that is Africa (and avoiding acacia spikes on the trees).
Arriving at the ‘camp’ around 6:30pm, we were a little disappointed that there was a few other groups there so the chances of the animals coming into the camp at night were slim. I will tell you, the so-called camp is actually just a designated spot in the middle of the Serengeti with no fences or anything, so we were literally camping in the middle of reserve with all the wild animals, keeping in mind we had just seen a lion about 5 minutes before we got to the spot!! So toilet breaks in the middle of the night were advised against, if you had to there were rules:
1. Don’t zip the tent mesh part open, first shine your flash light outside the tent, if you see eyes, shut the inside and go back to sleep!
2. If no eyes, slowly un zip the mesh and stand up with feet still inside tent
3. Slowly turn around and shine light at the back of the tent, once again if you see eyes get back in your tent!!
4. If no eyes again step out of your tent, and double take again and then pee just outside the tent!!
10th June was another really early start, getting up at 4:45am and gone by 5:45am. I awoke feeling amazing, after hearing the hyenas that were SO very very close to our tents over night and also only a couple of us heard the distant roar of a lion! AWESOME!! Started the beautiful sunrise drive and the 6 of us in our car were determined to spot a leopard that day!! We had to stop not far in as there was a line of thousands of wilder beasts crossing the road migrating in herds in front of us. We had to wait about 10 minutes for them all to cross. Our driver then got a call on the radio for a spotting, and he would not tell us what it was, so we got a bit excited as we sped race through the reserve for about 10-15 minutes covering a lot of ground and taking over some other 4x4’s! We were going fast so we knew it was something good! We spotted 6 cars watching something and as we got closer we saw…a LEOPARD!! It was beautiful, and very special to see, as it was wandering around on the ground and not in a tree sleeping which is where they normally are during the day light! The are so muscular and blended in so well with the grass. After half an hour, it disappeared into the long grass. So that made it official. The BIG 5 in 24 hours!! WOOHOO!
The rest of the day we came across 3 cheetahs on top of a termite mound, a lion in a tree branch (also a rare sighting), Thomson Giselle’s, Zebra, Wilder beasts, loads elephants, and quite a few more lions.
Leaving the Serengeti about 1pm we stopped at Naaei Hill for amazing views and saw a heard of elephants with babies. After lunch we drive on for the long drive back to Arusha passing the crater again. We had a quick stop in Mosquito River to look at the local markets, and arrived at camp about 6pm, ate dinner and then had the most well deserved shower!! Went on a snake walk with Mat as the camp site has a lot of them (camp site is called Snake Park) and I got attacked by a vulture in a cage!!