For three days of Daniel’s visit, we went on a safari to Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater. For the entire week before he arrived, I worried that the safari would be a disaster. A successful safari depends largely on luck, since you are generally driving around a huge area (Serengeti covers 5,700 square miles in Tanzania plus another 580 square miles in Kenya (the Masai Mara); the Ngorongoro Crater is relatively small but still covers over 100 square miles) looking for a limited number of animals, many of whom behave unpredictably, are nomadic, and depend on camouflage for survival. Luck can be especially hard to come by in the rainy season (which includes April and May in East Africa), when high grass and full trees provide easy places for animals to hide and the wide availability of water allows animals to spread out rather than clustering around permanent water sources.
A safari without many animals is still an amazing experience — you learn a lot about nature, the parks are almost always breathtaking, and you really appreciate whatever animals you do see, even if it’s mostly birds and antelopes (no idea if that’s the correct plural but I’m going with it). But a safari with a lot of animals is amazing on a whole other level. And no matter how reasonable your expectations, it’s disappointing to come all the way to Africa and leave without seeing a lion.
As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about, because Daniel brought lots of luck with him and we saw as much or more in our three days than I’ve seen in all of the safaris that I’ve ever been on combined. We saw elephants, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, a leopard, jackals, hyenas, all kinds of birds, monkeys, baboons, hippos, a rhino, at least five species of antelope, buffalos, and lions galore. Plus, we saw action: hyenas eating a dead wildebeest, lions trying to take down a buffalo and other members of the buffalo herd fighting back, a cheetah thinking about hunting something (trust me, it felt like action), and part of the famous wildebeest migration.
Between the two of us, we took something like five thousand photographs over the three days, which I managed to cull down to a few hundred — but I think that’s still way too many for one or two or even three blog posts, so I’m going to break it up by category of animal. I think it’s all going to be very nature-special. I hope you enjoy 🙂
For now, just a little info about the safari generally:
We spent the first two days in Serengeti National Park, which is a protected area of 5,700 square miles in northeastern Tanzania. It has no fences and animals can move freely back and forth to Kenya and other parts of Tanzania. The Maasai are the original inhabitants of the area, and the name Serengeti comes from the Maasai name for it, Siringitu, which translates loosely to “endless plain” or “the place where the land moves on forever.” The landscape of Serengeti is diverse, encompassing hills, forest, woodlands, savannah, and more, but in many areas it really does look like an endless plain.
During the day, we went on game drives in a pop-top 4×4:
And for two nights, we camped inside of the park, which is a really cool experience that I would recommend to everyone, but especially people who are capable of not peeing between sunrise and sunset. Why? Because there are no fences around the campsite, and you can and sometimes do see animals around the camp, including dangerous ones lions, elephants, and buffalo. Walking to the bathroom when it’s dark, with just a flashlight to look around with to see whether you are accidentally crossing something that is capable of killing you if it’s in the wrong mood, is terrifying. But other than nighttime trips to the bathroom, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s really cool to see an impala running by when you go to brush your teeth in the morning or a buffalo grazing (at a safe distance) before dinner, and to hear the lions and hippos and hyenas at night.
Our campsite at Serengeti:
We had beautiful weather during the day, but it rained a bit in the afternoon and a lot at night. Luckily, our safari vehicle had no problem swimming through puddles.
We forgot to bring ponchos, but we picked up some garbage bags on the way, and I think I proved to be very effective at fashioning my own raingear.
And of course, I’m incapable of writing about any place without including photos of sunrise and sunset.
After Serengeti, we drove back towards Arusha and stopped for one night and one day at the Ngorongoro Crater. The Crater is about 2,000 feet deep and the area of its floor is about 100 square miles. It was formed millions of years ago by a volcanic explosion. The climate inside the Crater is very pleasant and stays pretty constant all year long, but it gets very cold on the rim, so we spent the night at a hotel, where we had an amazing view of the Crater from our room and could fearlessly travel to and from the bathroom in the dark.
Sunset over the Crater, from the hotel bar:
Inside the Crater early the next morning:
Exploring our lunchtime picnic spot:
And with Martin and Damien, our excellent guides:
Stay tuned for more photos of animals than you ever, ever wanted to see 🙂