Serengeti National Park & Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Serengeti National Park & Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania
October 15-17, 2014
Serengeti National Park with G Adventures
I will never forget the initial descent down into the Serengeti after paying our park entrance fees. All you could see for hundreds of miles was what looked like dry grass that hadn’t seen water in months until it met the dark, greenish-grey clouds of the horizon; and although you couldn’t see them with the naked eye, thousands upon thousands of different species of wildlife, some of which wouldn’t hesitate for a second to have you for dinner.
We spent a full 24 full hours in Serengeti National Park. This is one full day of our collective lives that we will never forget, including the four or five hours we spent sleeping. This is definitely a high we’ll never be able to reach again.
Jess and I are not really animal lovers; cats, dogs, and the moose in Newfoundland are ‘not so much a time’ for us. Africa and the Serengeti may have converted us. We now love cats, ‘huge’ cats, and all of the amazing wildlife scattered across this vast, mysterious land. Having said that, I vividly remember how impressive it was seeing a grizzly bear for the first time in its natural habitat in Kananaskis, Alberta. He stared and you could almost hear him saying get the f*%k out of my way. I think we’ve become animal lovers, but not the animals you’d want at the foot of your bed.
We were in the park for about 30 minutes before spotted our first lions. A male and female who were getting to know each other and they could’ve cared less that they had an audience of 20 watching in awe, snapping picture after picture. I’m guessing we saw about 15-20 lions while in the park and their impressiveness never once diminished.
Safaris in Africa always pose the challenge of spotting the ‘big 5’ which are the lion, leopard, cheetah, rhino and buffalo. We learned that they are the big five because they are the most dangerous to hunt, meaning you better kill them with the first shot or they will most definitely find a way to hunt you back. Better yet, don’t hunt them in the first place.
We spotted the leopard next but it was difficult to get pictures as it was laying in the tall grass, but did stand and walk away from us with its white-bottom tail in the air!
We arrived at our campground around 7 PM but not before passing a pride of about 6 lions just 100 metres from where we would be sleeping! There was no fence, gate or guards around the camp, it was just us being smart and not leaving food around that would keep the animals away while we slept.
In the morning, we boarded our pop-top truck for a 6 AM game drive where we saw our first buffalo sighting. We actually saw our first herd of buffalo, there were probably about 30, as well as an equal number of zebras. We had no idea that the African buffalo was so vicious. They will kill you in a second, but luckily for us they don’t bother the trucks.
Next, we saw a small watering hole that was almost completely filled up with hippos, another vicious creature that you don’t shake hands with. Hippos are responsible for more deaths in Africa than any other large animal.
Hippos really fascinating. They even secrete their own natural red sunscreen which forms on their skin before turning brown. Oh and they can’t jump. The mosquito is actually the most dangerous creature in Africa as they spread malaria, dengue fever, etc. so pack your malaria pills. Sadly, most Africans cannot afford anti-malaria medication, hence the large number of deaths every year.
Rasheed, our driver and guide piled on the brakes and swung a u-turn and before we knew it, we were staring right in the eyes of a female cheetah and her cub. We are still amazed at how the safari guides can spot these animals, given how vast the Serengeti is at almost 15,000 square kms. We watched these amazing animals for about 20 minutes, taking about 20,000 pictures. You could just see how protective the mother was of her young. You could see her talking to her baby. This was Jessica’s favourite moment.
At this point we’d seen 4 of the big 5 and all that was left was the Rhinoceros, which we would have to find in the Ngorongoro Crater because our 24 hours in the Serengeti were about to end.
The drive out of the park was incredible with grey-black storm clouds, thunder, lightning and a wall of rain, and even some dust funnel clouds off int he distance. Luckily this storm stayed in the background for our viewing hundreds of zebra and wildebeest, some hyenas, buffalo, impalas, etc. Some members of our group even spotted the famous honey badger!
Ngorongoro Crater with G Adventures
Once we left the Serengeti, we were headed straight to camp, which that night, would be perched right on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater.
The crater is massive, at about 8,200 square km with walls that are about 2,000 feet high.
It is like a giant natural pen for the wildlife that call it home.
We did an early morning game drive through the crater in our pop-top truck where we finally saw, albeit with binoculars, our final of the big five, the rhinoceros. Given how close we were to the other four, I don’t even like to say we saw the rhino as we weren’t even close enough to get a picture. Needless to say, this is motivation for a return visit.
The highlight of the drive through the crater was when we saw a lion chase off a hyena from a recent kill.
No blood was shed, but it was cool to see the king of the jungle in action.
After our ascent out of the crater, it was back on the road toward Dar Es Salaam and a mini-vacation on Zanzibar!
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jess + trickett