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The Infamous Serengeti and Ngorogoro Crater

View 11 months around the world on geldere's travel map.

We really need to learn how to rest more. We arrived back from our six day trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro in the afternoon and left the very next morning for our last safari. Alexandra and Oscar met us in Moshi after they spent a few extra days on Zanzibar and in Dar Es Salaam while we were climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. This time, they brought along a friend, Alexander, another Frenchman, who came to Tanzania for a short vacation before starting his residency. We were glad to get back in the trusty old Swiss Army Knife Car and hit the road.
Our first park, Tarangire National Park, is a small park between Moshi and the Serengeti which has year-round water. As a result, animals congregate here in large numbers during the dry season. We did two half-day drives in the park and in the process saw two cheetahs relaxing with full bellies post kill, droves of elephants, zebras, water buffaloes, impalas, vultures, and even a few lions. We kept waiting for the lions to hunt, but they weren’t hungry apparently. Also, Jeff took the opportunity to learn how to drive a stick shift car while in the park. Oscar and Alexander were kind enough to oblige Jeff and give him a lesson. It turned out to be a hilarious experience and now Jeff knows just enough to be dangerous :)
IMG_7266.jpg A view of Tarangire Park
IMG_7258.jpg A dik-dik, and yes, that is actually their name
IMG_7350.jpg The happily fed Cheetah
IMG_7354.jpg An elephant parade
IMG_7398.jpg Jeff learning stick-shift
As an aside, we have renamed Tanzania the “National Republic of Extortion” because some of the national park fees here are outrageous. To get to the Serengeti National Park you have to drive through and, therefore, pay for the Ngorogoro Conservation Area ($58 per person, per day, including the car fee). Then, if you want to drive down into the Ngorogoro Crater, you have to pay an additional $200 per car. Once you get to the Serengeti, you have to pay another $58 per person, per day (including the car fee) for the Serengeti National Park. Finally, the cheapest sleeping option in the Serengeti is camping and camping costs $30 per person, per night. So, in short, the National Park fees per person for one day and camping one night in the Serengeti National Park (without going into the Ngorogoro Crater) is $146. Outrageous!
We left Tarangire in the early afternoon and stopped along the way in the small town of Karatu for the night. After a good night’s rest, we set out for the Ngorogoro Crater, but, about fifteen kilometers into the Ngorogoro Conservation Area, the dashboard in the Swiss Army Knife Car started smoking…not a good sign. Oscar can seemingly fix just about anything, but none of us could figure out how to restart the car after we turned it off because of the smoke. We waited for about five hours on the side of a dirt road until someone came along who was able to restart the car. Apparently, the electric system shorted so the fuel pump wasn’t working. The Good Samaritan was able to restart the car by bypassing the fuel pump and electrical system. I’ve learned a lot on this trip!
IMG_7449.jpg Broken down
After returning to Karatu and having a mechanic fix the car, we set out again the very next morning. Problem was, the entrance fee for the Ngorogoro Conservation Area was good for just only one day. The park officials wanted us to pay again to reenter the park even though we did not get to see anything the day before. With some serious begging and negotiating, they finally agreed to allow us to drive through the Ngorogoro Conservation Area without paying again if we could get to the Serengeti National Park by 10:55 am (the time we bought our entrance the day before). So, we set out like a bat out of hell on dirt roads to get to the Serengeti before the deadline. We made it, but just barely.
The Serengeti National Park is 14,763 sq km of endless plains - it’s the stuff African dreams are made of. The vastness is incredible and the herds of animals enormous! We headed to the north end of the park (Lobo) to view literally thousands and thousands of wildebeests. They congregate near water sources during the dry season, which are more abundant in the north, and then head south when the rains come. You can check out their migration on the Planet Earth series if you have any interest. On day two, we also saw several lions which was a great treat. They are so much bigger in person and seeing them really lets you appreciate why they are king of the jungle. And if the animals in the Serengeti were not impressive enough, the landscape itself is also so beautiful. It is hard to describe and pictures do not do it justice. Interspersed among the animals and landscape are natives, the Maasai people. They are the Serengeti’s original inhabitants and continue to raise and guard cattle and goats in the park. They are pretty legit looking people with shaved heads, bright red plaid sarongs, huge holes in their ears, and face paint.
IMG_7500.jpg Giraffe's grazing
IMG_7558.jpg Our camp for the night- told you, it has everything
IMG_7600.jpg Amazing landscape
IMG_7615.jpg The massive herds and movement of the wildebeests
IMG_7651.jpg Two lions relaxing under a tree (that's all we saw them doing...uninterested in zebra steak apparently)
We had an amusing incident on the drive to camp the first night. We scared a water buffalo (a cow on steroids with horns) eating grass on the side of the road so it started to charge the car. In a panic, Alexander (who was driving), accidentally stalled the car and we just sat there bug eyed thinking this thing was going to do some serious damage to the car. Thankfully, the charge was just a bluff and the buffalo stopped short of denting the car. The incident had us laughing for a good ten minutes afterwards: “You were scared!!! No, I wasn’t…you freaked out! I can’t believe you stalled”.
IMG_7538.jpg The infamous water buffalo- I mean, they just look angry, right?
IMG_7676.jpg Baby hyenas- they were actually cute
IMG_7689.jpg Sunset on the Serengeti, followed by a massive downpour
IMG_7712.jpg With Alex and Oscar- and yes, Jeff is wearing flip-flops, amazing changes have happened in Africa :)
IMG_7722.jpg A Maasai man with his herd of camels
IMG_7724.jpg A Maasai village in the Serengeti
After two days in the Serengeti, we headed to the Ngorogoro Crater (what we missed on the first day because of the car breakdown). The crater is actually a collapsed volcano (also known as a caldera). The crater is incredibly unique and one of the largest calderas in the world at over 20 kms across. It has very steep side, but animals move in and out regardless because of the permanent water sources on the crater floor. We saw all of the normal animals in one small space, plus two rhinos at a distance (although Jeff doesn’t count them since they were not in picture range). We also happened upon a dead lion. The one ranger thought it died trying to bring down a water buffalo (really more dangerous than I thought initially). It was a unique place and a memorable last safari!
IMG_7442.jpg A photo of the crater from the rim
IMG_7742.jpg A lioness totally unconcerned with our presence
IMG_7760.jpg An ostrich wandering around the crater
IMG_7750.jpg They were so beautiful I had to put in two photos
After leaving the crater, we drove several hours to Arusha and had a big Chinese food dinner for our last night together. We parted ways with Alex, Alex, and Oscar, who were heading back to Dar Es Salaam and eventually home to France. The following morning, we caught a bus to Nairobi, Kenya, our last stop in Africa. We will write more soon. Much love from Africa!

Posted by geldere 08:41 Archived in Tanzania

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