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On our final day in the Serengeti we had an early start and returned for breakfast at 8:45. This was the morning that we saw the large group of Lions fighting. After having breakfast back at the camp, we were on the road before 10 to meander our way to the gate of Serengeti for before 1. There was another very long process exit. After the gate we saw two groups of Lions next to the road.
We were heading back to the crater. We stopped at a view point on the rim to take in a spectacular view. The scenery is really amazing and so very different from the endless dry earth we had been seeing in the Serengeti. We arrived at our final camp at just before 5, so had plenty of time to just relax on our final night. The dinner at our new camp was once again excellent.
We were up early for a hot breakfast at 6 before heading into the crater for or game drive (we had to actually quickly head back to ensure we had filled out yet more paper work). It was really cold so we all had about 5 layers on! The crater was not what I was expecting and probably was a little disappointing as II had been told it was amazing by so many people. I think we had seen so much over the past few week that this was almost inevitable. The crater is a World Heritage site and is easily protected as there are only two roads into to the crater.
We saw a small pride of adult Lion’s next to the road, something we had not seen before as there were no juveniles there. There was a large herd of Wildebeest, nearly 100, very close to them and we hoped they were going to make a kill but unfortunately not… As we drove to the small forest we saw several HUGE herds of Wildebeest and Buffalo, many over 100 and one closer to 300! We also saw some Golden Jackals, another thing we had not seen before.
The forrest is home to some huge bull Elephants, the gene for these large Elephants is almost extinct due to poaching in the rest of Tanzania. We managed to see one large bull in the trees. One of the main attractions of the crater is the Black Rhino. There are just over 40 in the crater & the Serengeti combined! Rangers are constantly watching them to protect them and they don’t come out in the wind. So we were unlucky and didn’t see them to complete our Big 5. This was a shame but we had seen so much on our safari that it was only a tiny disappointment.
We had to be out of the crater area at the same time we left the Serengeti so after another looped we headed along the rim to the gate. There are many Masi farmers that herd their cattle and goats along this road.
After exiting Frank recommended a low-key roadside tourist shop to stop at. Dad and I had to negotiate furiously to get a half decent price for some Masi blankets and a drum for Ewan. Our lunch stop was just along the road at a fancy shop, that was inevitably ran by Indians. It also had an incredible amount stuffed into its 4 walls, but in a far more organised fashion than the local shop.
The journey back took another 4 hours. Poor Frank was stopped twice by the police and had to give them a small ‘token’ for us to move on quickly. This really wound him up, which was totally against his character. Apart from that the journey back passed quickly.
It was nice to have another amazing meal that Sandra cooked and a final proper hot shower. I took various things that Ewan, Mum and Dad didn’t need at home. It was sad to say goodbye to them but I was looking forward to getting back to the kids. I tried to not build up the welcome I would receive in my head. I quickly dropped by bags at the house and headed over. As the gate was open I was mobbed by nearly 15 of the kids. This was exactly what I needed and it felt great to be back.
I had a fantastic time on Safari with my family. I wouldn’t have been on such a long and fancy safari without them. But sharing it with them was more important than this.
I’m not going to write a blog for everyday but just include some of our highlights. We did two drives a day, sometimes leaving at 6 and coming back for breakfast or leaving later and taking a packed breakfast. The sun rises at 6:30/7 but there is a fair bit of light from 6. The big cats are the main highlights of every drive as we had seen so many Elephants at Tarangire and the cats are so difficult to see.
During one drive we saw 3 Leopards; 1 which was within 10 meters of the road and sleeping up a tree. The other was a mother and her cub up a tree about 25 meters from the road. They had dragged a Gazelle up the tree and were eating it as we looked through our binoculars. Leopards are nocturnal so in the day they are only really in a tree sleeping. They can also drag up to 3/4 of their body weight up a tree! We saw Leopards one two other occasions but both were quite far away.
Unfortunately we only saw Cheetahs on two occasions. However on one of these occasions we saw a kill. Three young Cheetahs were under a tree. We had watched them for about twenty minutes before they suddenly got up in a line and headed towards a small group of Thomson Gazelles. In under a minute they had chased one down and killed it using their incredible speed and agility – This is probably my highlight of the Serengeti.
The final big cat is the Lion. We saw Lions on numerous occasions on every drive. Highlights from the Lions would be the seven or eight times when a Lion would be within three or four meters of our car. We saw a pride of around twelve with all different ages, including some small cubs.
But the highlight of the Lions would be when we saw a group of ten early one morning. There were Lions of all ages, lying down, sleeping and play fighting. I was looking to the right and saw a new Lion appear with a small Gazelle. All hell broke loose. Lions appeared from know-where to swell there numbers to nearer twenty. Around fourteen of the adult Lions started to roar and fight over this one Gazelle.
The size of the Serengeti (which in Masi means “endless grass plains”) and the variation of the wildlife was greater than I could have imagined. Every drive we would see something different or a sight we had previously seen but it was just as amazing as the first time.
We took a while to properly identify animals as its so easy to mistake a rock, tree or lump of grass as an animal, especially when you are so desperate to see them. I think 30% of what I thought were animals turned out to be a rock, tree or lump of grass. An another 50% would be a Thomson Gazelle! The animals are really camouflaged so well and the grass can hide everybody but a Giraffe and large Elephants. We once spent 15 minutes looking for an animal, that we presumed to be a big cat, with 20 other cars and Dad eventually found it and thought it was a Leopard. He showed Frank and he thought so too. I couldn’t see it and when we drove away it was a tree stump and we still couldn’t see what everybody was looking at!
We didn’t have an early start from the crater, which was great as we could enjoy the amazing beds. During the night I heard Zebra next to our tent and at one point was abruptly awoken when one started to bray (the noise it makes is somewhere between a dog an a donkey, its really strange!) We had to crawl through some really dense fog on the crater rim. It was strange as the vegetation is very green and the fog so thick, it was like being at home. Enroute to the Serengeti stopped at Olduvai Gorge. Which is where Mary & Louis Leakey discovered foot prints of man which are 3.5 million years old! I found it surprisingly interesting and it was nice to do something different.
After a few more hours on some really bumpy dirt roads we arrived at the Serengeti gate. However the drive took at least an hour longer as our radiator was once again dying a slow death. We had to make a stop every km as we approached the gate to put in a few more litres of water. Poor Frank tried several more fixes, but nothing worked.
After lunch and a very long process to enter the park, we set off on a drive to our camp. By some miracle, a lot more tea leaves stop the multiple leaks that had reappeared. We were once again spoilt with loads of different animals and birds. Plenty of variations of Gazelles and Antelopes. Highlights were two groups of Lions; one with 4 next to a river and another a large male who was next to the road eating a Wildebeest. We saw Hippos for the first time and a few groups of Elephants close to the road.
We were staying four nights in the Serengeti from the 7th- 11th, staying two nights at two different camps. The first camp was called Kanga camp. It was more basic with a simpler set-up but it had everything we needed and we had a 11 tent section all to ourselves for the two nights! The view was amazing as our tents and the mess tent looked out on the grass planes. We mainly saw Thomson Gazelles, but there were also Zebra, Giraffes and Warthogs during our stay. At night we heard Lions, Hyenas and more Zebra’s.
Half way through the second day of our safari we changed drivers. Frank the second was steering the car towards Lake Eyasi. We had a few hours of tarmac before hitting a very very dusty and bumpy road. A truck was stuck on a particularly step and rugged bit of road and had rocks put under its wheels and left…
Just over an hour into our journey on the dirt road, I was asking Frank about break downs he had had. A couple of minutes later we had stopped as the engine temperature had risen… We stopped on the edge of a Masi village and produced great entertainment for the locals. Children quickly gathered around our car and wanted a photo whilst an elderly man, under the effects of a few banana beers, ranted in Swahili and English at poor Frank plus to other Tanzanian guides who stopped to help. After a box and a half of tea leaves, two eggs and lots of water we were on our way with a less leaky radiator.
The rest of the journey went smoothly and we arrived in our very windy camp. This was a slightly less up market camp, but still a very upmarket ‘tent’. Dinner was brilliant again. We sat after dinner in a lowered camp fire area which was protected from the wind and enjoyed the stars.
We had a very early start as we were to pick a local guide up at six as we were going to a local village of a nomadic tribe to join them on their morning hunt. We were told they still lived their nomadic life and hunted twice daily for small animals. We set out for a few hours with three of the men, who were all armed with bow and arrows, to find some food. Comically Ewan and I were also given a bow. They attempted to make some impossible shots at tiny birds and we headed back empty handed. I am unsure how much was real and stage and to what I felt about our visit. However the project gives each group some maze, oil and beans plus help to take the kids to school by taking.
Heading back for a lovely breakfast at our camp before we departed to have a quick look at the lake before heading towards the Ngorongoro Crater. The lake was huge yet very depleted in the wet. On the way to the crater we stopped in Karatu for a quick weld of the radiator by a group of guys at the side of the road. As the 5 of them set to work we walked round town to the amusement of many locals.
The radiator was fixed and we set off up to the crater, which is a world heritage site. We weren’t doing a safari in the crater but just staying on the rim. The camp site was incredible. It overlooked the crater, we had it all to ourselves and the ‘tents’ were like a 4* hotel, nothing like we normal stay in! The food was as good as everything else. It was a brilliant way to cap of an eventful day.
Reflecting on the hunt in the morning I am glad I went but I wouldn’t go again. The land was so bare, volcanic rock and dust everywhere. There was vegetation but it was colourless and nearly every tree/bush had thorns. It was a harsh place to live and must be even more difficult when your way of life is constantly compromised.
We set off just after 8:30 to start our 9 day safari. We had a 4/5 hour drive to Tarangire National Park. We arrived at 1 and ate our packed lunches before having a long game drive. As soon as we entered the park we saw Zebra, Wildebeest and a herd of Elephants The herd were amazing, containing elephants of all ages and sizes. As we stared to move away we noticed a Giraffe across the road and the Elephants started to cross the road towards it. I got probably my favourite shot of the day at this point, with one of he Elephants walking towards the Giraffe and a flat top acacia tree in between them.
The continued to go well as we tried to see ore of the big 5 (Elephant, Rhino, Leopard, Lion and Buffalo) and others. We saw Impala, Grant and Thomson Gazelles, lots of small birds, Vultures, Ostrich, Banded Mongoose, Wart Hogs and plenty of Zebra, Wildebeest and Elephants.
Our car was fitted with a radio with which the guides share information on. Our guide, Florid, heard there was a lion around so we headed in that direction. Sure enough there were three lions all close together; two female and one male. They were magnificent to watch. A jackal strolled past very close to one of the females and the other two were constantly watching two large groups of vultures in trees behind them.
We headed off to see what else we could fine after around 20 mins. We came on a other big cat quite soon after in the form of a Cheetah. We were very lucky as in this park our guide said he go could 6 months without seeing one! We even to see it run as it darted over the road.
The day was coming to an end and we had to be out by 6. We managed to see a large bull Elephant, which charged at us, and a Sea Eagle as we headed out as well as another large herd of Elephants.
Our camp was a thirty min drive from the park. As we turned up there were ‘Masi Warriors’ there to carry our bags and guide us on the paths in the dark. The tented camp was far nicer than I thought. The food that night was also amazing. I look through my pictures for the day before heading back to my ‘tent’ with assistance of a Masi Warrior.
We were up and at the car for 6 for an early morning drive. We headed into a different part of the park. After seeing a few Gazelles, Zebra, Wildebeest and Elephants (the Elephants were amazing but we started to see so many of them. The park may have the larges concentration of Elephants in the world.) we came across another of the big 5, a Buffalo. What began with looking like only 20 turned into nearer 200 as more and Buffalo came out of the river. They were quite far away but still great to see.
We continued to drive around and see nothing else new so we decided to stop for our breakfast, which had been packed by the lodge. The picnic site was amazing as it was on a ridge top over looking a river and a large herd of Elephants came down for a drink as we ate. We had some fearless squirrels and spectacular Starlings also trying to share our breakfast!
We had the radio on again and after a long time of seeing nothing it came over the radio a Leopard had been spotted! One had climbed a Baobab tree and was 40/50 meters from the road. It was sleeping and oblivious to the 10 or so cars watching it. It was great to see 4 of the big 5 as Leopards are even rarer than Cheaters in this park and there aren’t any Rhinos.
As we left the Leopard we stumbled across a group of 7 Giraffes in a dry river bed, which was one of the only things we haven’t see at this park. Fittingly we saw one more herd of Elephants before leaving and heading back the camp for a hot lunch.
We had our lunch and set off on a thankfully Tarmac road back to a junction on the highway. We were swooping our guides to Frank, not the owner of the company but another guide as there had been a complication in our first guide so this was the second arrangement.
We had a brilliant start to our Safari and seen so much in such a short space of time. I’m up loading some pictures onto the blog of the Safari over the next few days.