Self Drive Safari Part II
After 3 nights camped in Manyara it was time to move on.
We followed the climbing road into the Ngorogoro Crater region. As no camping is allowed in the Crater NP we spent two nights as the only guests at a tented camp adjacent to a Massai village 10 kilometres or so from the crater rim. We were the guests of Oledorup Massai chief.
We met his wives & greeted the children as they returned with the herds for the night. All were fascinated to see the video playback of themselves on the camcorder screen.
Oledorup took us into one of his houses, kept dark so that flies wouldn’t enter, he indicated that I could take a picture…What a surprise! Unbeknown to us one of his wives was also there, illuminated by the flash!
The following morning saw us up early & with a superb packed lunch our permits were checked & we took the long twisty track down the walls of the crater to the crater floor.
Even the name Ngorogoro rolls of the tongue as a mythical land…. It is!
As soon as we got our bearings we were in the middle of a lion kill, the rewards of the nights hunt, a zebra, was close to the track & with patience were able to command a good view with the other vehicles. As we were the only shade we soon drew a number of lions under & around our Landrover making it difficult to move out to allow other vehicle a clear view I had a male lion asleep beneath the drivers window with his head resting on the running board, he intern had a female with her head on him! Cubs as if by magic disappeared under us only to pop up minutes later from another direction..
Later in the day we were the first vehicle as lions set an unsuccessful ambush, the herds went the wrong way. Vehicles homed in on us all in all about 12 4x4’s what I could not understand was the general noisy chatter coming from the occupants hanging out the roof hatches. Not talk of lions & Africa but of home décor & the such!
We even watched Cheetah hunting gazelle luckily the vehicles with us were more dedicated with little noise. All this in about a five hour visit to the crater with reluctance it was time to take the twisting track climbing out of the Crater.
On our return to the Massai we were taken to a ”Special place” for the training of the boys & to meet the warriors, we had paid for a goat to be slaughtered for the warriors to feast. We also ate, I kept well clear of Kath as I knew the goat broth was not to her taste & she would have me finish it so that she could give back an empty bowl.
After the feasting we witnessed the training of the boys in spear & bowmanship. We were entertained by the warriors & maidens with traditional dancing again much to their amusement & enjoyment of the video of themselves!
The following morning we took our leave of our new friends heading for the Serengeti.
We had decided to travel to the Serengeti overland thus giving the main tourist route a miss.
Oh for a good map!
We really had got the hang of getting lost by now & were very good at it. At one stage the track we were following as it wound into the hills slowly became a deep gully & if we had met one of the numerous Massai at this point he could have led his herd under us with out ducking his head our wheels were on either bank with the floor of the gully far below us. Finally we got onto the right track and although lost no more turn arounds we headed for Lake Ndutu on the southern border of the Serengeti meeting giraffe & zebra.
All through our trip we had been met with warmth & kindness guides & rangers had advised & guided us & gone out of their way to help but alas not in the Serengeti. Our first meeting was with two rangers, one from the Serengeti NP & one from the Crater Area NP. We had not yet purchased our Serengeti passes but luckily we were still in the Crater area. The rangers jobs were to check passes - if you had a Serengeti pass & were found in the Crater area then you had to pay for a crater permit. If you had a crater pass & were in the Serengeti out came your wallet!
Not the best introduction to the Serengeti!
Our camp site was deep in the scrub around lake Ndutu as soon as we started to prepare camp we were visited by bees, they were every where we tried to make coffee & had a buzzing froth of dying bees they covered everything no matter what we did they got there first. Food & drink were out of the question also by this time I had gathered a number of bee stings.
The following morning we drove onto the plains of the Serengeti heading for Naabi Hill gate, checking out our next site to pitch our tent it was empty our request at the ranger post to move there two days early was turned down even though the site had no bookings but us.
That evening as we sealed ourselves in the tent against the onslaught of bees we discussed buying crater passes & moving back into the Crater Area National Park.
Our two encounters with Serengeti rangers had been very negative & now the bees! This was a low point for us.
We stuck it out & at last moved to our site at Naabi Gate but alas there was little improvement, no bees but the majority of the southern Serengeti was closed off with for research. Each day we had to travel for a couple of hours along the corrugated dusty main road before we could game drive. The road was very busy with commercial traffic & safari vehicles at one point we were hit by a racing minibus who was trying to overtake a truck he was hidden in the dust cloud. Luckily we were already travelling in the gully to avoid the truck, I am sure he knew nothing of us until the collision. We sustained minor damage to the side of the Landrover.
This & the unhelpful & even hostile attitude of the rangers made the Serengeti a miserable experience. We knew we would miss the herds at this time of year but because of the long drive each morning & afternoon back to camp we missed the best times of day to game drive.
Our two high points of the Serengeti was finding the most beautiful lioness on her own, She just sat there for a couple of hour never moving, strange! Two days later in the same area we came across a lioness with two very young cubs, was this her?
She also paid no attention to us as we (I mean I) changed the wheel, our third puncture!
There is a tyre repair facility & fuel at Serenora in the middle of the park.
We also had the highlight of a large male & later a female leopard.
When I say we. I really mean like vulture we homed in on a couple of 4x4’s parked at trees so we just casually drove by…….Getting some of our best leopard photo’s ever!! But alas we were glad to leave the Serengeti & head for home!
Our hired Landrover was driven back to Arusha As we flew out with good views of Ngorogoro as we passed. We had a short stay with Delores & Frank for a clean up & early dinner before flying out to Nairobi & our connection to Heathrow.
Would we do it again?
Yes! Definitely YES!
The trip was all we could ever have hoped for until we entered the Serengeti. Perhaps with better planning & if we had a guide our experience of the Serengeti may have been different.
It is very special to camp in the bush which comes alive at night. A sweep of the lamp reveals eyes watching you & when you retire to the tent your camp comes alive as the animals behind the eyes check everything out! We rigged an IR camera to the bull-bars & managed to get video of the night life out side. Unfortunately the IR camera failed & we did not get all of the action.
I think Hyena checked us out most nights possibly lion one night along with regular visits of smaller cats & other animals.
Every morning we had to right our table & chairs which had been knocked over & most nights we heard something at the Landrover.
I can think of no better place to wake up than to the sounds of the bush around you & the expectancy of a new day……Just so long as you don’t have the worlds population of bees waiting to say hello!
footnote:- We have no high cost photographic equipment, our photographs are taken with a £200 ($400US) point & shoot digital camera or with a video camera. Some are stills taken from our video film. I have cropped & some have been enhanced with Adobe Elements.