Down from Kilimanjaro, Barbara and I returned to Moshi for showers, a real bed, and laundry.
Luckily, two gals, Claire and Sarah from England, walked into the tour company that we had chosen for our climb and our safari, and wanted to join in on the fun . This dropped the cost substantially and meant that we had some great company for the next four days.
Our Itinerary looked like this:
Day One: Tarangire
Day Two: Serengeti
Day Three: Serengeti
Day Four: Ngorogoro Crater
The trip involved a fair amount of driving around in our legit Land Cruiser. Boarding this beast of a machine bright and early the morning of Day 1, we new we were in for an awesome and totally unforgettable experience.
We spent the morning driving through the African countryside spotted with lots of Maasai villages. The Maasai are a people who still dress in traditional costume and observe a very traditional lifestyle including everything from residing in thatched roof huts and hunting with spears. It goes without saying that we were too enthralled in our passing surroundings to notice the bumpy ride…much. It did not take us long to realize that the pillows on our seat cushions served a very practical purpose, namely to protect the rump from excessive bruising.
After a ‘smooth’ morning drive, we pulled up to the Tarangire National Park gate. From what we can tell, the Tanzanian National Park System must keep the animals on retainer or something because it seemed that as soon as we entered the boundaries of any of the parks animals were absolutely coming out of the woodwork. Right off the bat we encountered throngs of elephants, zebras, and wildebeast! It was not too long before we added giraffes and lions to the list as well. There was even a somewhat rare male lion lurking in the bush. Safari guides must be born with superhuman eyesight because there is no way we could have spotted this on our own. (This was a common theme throughout the whole trip.)
The big highlight of Tarangire however was the lion we observed as she protected her recently won dinner of cape buffalo. (Fun fact: The cape buffalo is the most dangerous of the “Big Five.” This so-called Big Five are made up of the most dangerous animals to hunt including the lion, cape buffalo, rhino, elephant, and leopard.) It was quite the spectacle! For a park that had been briefed to us as the most uneventful of the three parks we were going to be visiting on our safari, we were more than impressed. In fact, we were flabbergasted!
It was time to bid Tarangire farewell as we headed north towards the world famous Serengeti. This park has actually been named as one of the wonders of the world! An afternoon of giraffe, lion, elephant, warthog and hippo sightings just to name a few distracted us from the fading sunlight. Time to set up camp before we set out on a sunset game drive which we begged our fantastic guide, Keffa, for all day. Pretty quickly we found ourselves upon a leopard lounging in a tree! Leopard sightings are very rare, so we were thrilled! We gawked as he stretched his legs and began to wake up for his evening hunt. We returned to our spotted friend just before heading back to camp for the night to discover the unthinkable! The leopard was down on the ground prowling around! It was jaw dropping to witness his sleek and muscular physique strut about through the tall grass. Simply priceless!
That night as we fell asleep we were serenaded by lion roars and hyena laughs. Despite the noise level, we were shockingly refreshed when morning rolled around. I’m sure it had nothing to do with our excitement at our much anticipated sunrise game drive. Over the course of our trip thus far we have been lucky enough to witness some absolutely spectacular sunrises. Sunrise in the Serengeti was definitely a fierce competitor for best sunrise! We were left speechless as the sun crept up the horizon setting the endless plain on fire. Amazing!
Between the multitudes of exotic animals, the sunrise drive, and a really neat viewing of a jackal preying on a gazelle, our trip to the Serengeti was nothing short of spectacular! But alas, all good things must come to an end. The good news is that the end of the Serengeti only meant that we were on the Ngorogoro Crater! On the way to the crater we finally got what we considered to be a safari right of passage; a flat tire. We all piled out of the car thinking that we had a good hour to wait by the dusty roadside. Little did we know that in addition to superior eyesight and a wealth of wildlife knowledge, our guide and chef were also expert mechanics. We looked on as they worked with minimal tools and changed the flat in under seven minutes flat. For all you mechanics out there, did you know that you can use rocks to help jack your car up?! It was like they had done this before or something. Weird.
At Simba Camp that evening we reminisced about the last three phenomenal days and made our wish list for the last day. We were so busy chit chatting that at first we did not notice as our chef left his cooking and frantically ran out to us. Thinking dinner was ready, we began to pick up our chairs and move them to the table. We were still clearly not understanding his urgency. He told us to leave the chairs and follow him. Thoroughly confused, we did as we were told. It was not until we were standing ten feet in front of a massive elephant in the middle of camp that we understood. It is one thing to see an elephant from a safari truck but it is a whole different call game when you are standing mere feet away from this behemoth of a creature. They are gigantic! After this little show, the zebras that casually strolled through camp later on were nothing in comparison. Who’da thunk those words would ever come out of our mouth?!
As our final safari day got underway, we all had our fingers crossed with hopes of seeing the one animal in the Big Five we were still missing; the rhino. It was not until that morning that Keffa broke the news to us that there are only 19 rhinos in all of the Ngorogoro Crater! Nineteen! These are incredibly endangered animals he told us. Just as we were beginning to process this information Keffa slammed the pedal to the ground and we flew off in the direction of a large gathering of other safari trucks. There they were! Three rhinos! Just sauntering along and about to cross the road right fairly close to our truck! After that unbelievable sighting, I’m not sure if our truck was bouncing down the road in conjunction with the potholes or simply with our excitement!
All in all, our safari was everything and more! Lions and leopards and elephants! Oh my!
Full, Massive Gallery Here: