Tanzania - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 65

Seronera Lodge, Serengeti

Friday 16th May

Last night was probably the most uncomfortable night we’ve spent here in Africa so far. The manager of the camp-site was good enough to provide us with a very nice tent that was very similar to those we used on the overland tour. We were very pleased with this and were all set with our own sleeping bags but, alas, no mattresses to soften the extremely hard camp-site floor. To make matters worse, the tent was on a bit on an incline and it the ground was rather uneven with some small stones jutting out into the tent floor. It felt like sleeping on a pile of gravel and we both woke up with aching backs. We were even deprived of a full night’s sleep as the ‘cheerful’ birds were up and singing in full force by six o’clock. Their rapturous chorus was complemented by the harsh clucking sound of a couple of dozen Guinea Fowl roaming around the camp-site. Naturally, the grass immediately around our tent was the tastiest this morning. I wasn’t too angry at the birds or Guinea Fowl, as it wasn’t them that woke me up; it was the damn resident dog that barked indecently at someone or something half the night through. If this is getting back to nature, nature can stick itself where the sun doesn’t shine. But I’m not bitter.

Since we were awake (conscious would be more accurate) and the camp-site was flooded with sunlight, we got up and packed our things away. I walked around the camp-site a bit to try to photograph some of the brilliantly colourful birds that were flying about. Some of them were as colourful as parrots.

Our Serengeti guide, Martini, arrived shortly before eight o’clock and he seemed like a nice enough man. His English was not quite as perfect as Mr. Fish had suggested last night but we are, by now, well versed in body language and deciphering the gist of what is meant from all sorts of broken English so it wasn’t a problem. We polished off a rather uninspiring and tasteless breakfast and were soon in the four by four and on our way.

The drive to the Serengeti took several hours and was actually quite eventful. We drove through Maasai country and saw dozens of these nomadic people wandering around, clad in their customary full-length plaid gowns and carrying their sticks that they used to herd their cattle and goats with. Even the children were wearing the same traditional clothing, although they were clearly not untouched by tourism, as they would all quickly try to run up to the vehicle with their hands out asking for money or pens of whatever – particularly once they see a photo camera. Many tourists that pass through Africa have a sense of compassion (or sometimes guilt) when they see children (particularly poor ones) and feel that they are doing the locals a favour by handing out gifts or money indiscriminately. In actual fact, this is an extremely negative and destructive thing to do – contrary to popular belief. Firstly, it makes beggars out of the children and they quickly learn that they can score a quick buck by begging rather than working for a living. Children that are converted into beggars in this way rarely grow up to be productive members of their societies and usually remain beggars. More often than not, the pens and other trinkets handed out by tourists are quickly sold, perhaps so that the kids can then go and sniff glue or whatever. When a child earns more money in a quick handout than his father can earn in a month, it’s hardly a wonder that they then become full-time beggars and it is very destructive to the local economy in the long-term.

We drove through a couple of small towns before reaching one spot where there must have been a dozen or more huge trees all supporting the weight of literally hundreds of Yellow Billed Storks. Our guide explained that this was the Storks regular breading ground and that now was breading time. Most of the huge birds were busy collecting straw and other bits and pieces to construct their nests with.

Shortly thereafter, we started to climb up a hillside in dense forest vegetation. I thought we were just going to pass through the mountain range, as we’ve done numerous times before here in Africa, but then we stopped at a vantage point and the driver explained that we were now on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. The view was spectacular and we could see the entire crater floor encompassed by a huge, circular rim. The crater looks rather like an enormous asteroid has collided with the earth but in actual fact it’s the result of previous volcanic eruptions. The crater is a national heritage site and is quite unique in that the animals that roam around within it (pretty much the full complement of African wild game) don’t ever leave – presumably due to the nature of the encompassing rim which rises to several hundred meters all the way around. Since our itinerary dictated that we explore the treasures of the crater at the end of the safari, we got back into the Jeep and continued on in the direction of the Serengeti.

Another bonus was in store for us this morning as this is also the time of year for the Wildebeest migration. Before we had even reached the entrance to the Serengeti, we passed through the migration, which was in full progress. There must have been upwards of a million Wildebeest, Zebra and various Antelope species (Thompson Gazelle, Hartebeest, Impala, Ground Gazelle, etc.) roaming around in all directions as far as the eye could see. We had never hoped for, or planned on, seeing the migration and it was a real treat to witness it first hand and so up close and personal. We stopped several times during the hour or so that it took us to pass through the bulk of it all and we must have taken well over three hundred photos of this spectacle alone. The migration takes place every year as the animals travel north, through the Serengeti plains, towards the Mara River. They cross over into the Maasai Mara in search of water. By July, they will have reached the Mara River and will cross over, but for now, the herds are just south of the Serengeti and were directly in our path – luckily for us.

Although we did not spot any Leopards or Cheetahs, today was a very successful day in that we saw a lot more than we bargained for. The birdlife alone was worth the several hours it took to get us here today. In addition to the birds, we saw the Wildebeest migration (again more than worth the cost of admission itself) as well as a Hyena and a Silvercat (a small feline predator that I had not previously heard of). To top it all off, we even saw Lions a couple of times. The first was a lone Lioness that was sleeping on top of a rocky outcropping. The second was a pair of Lionesses that were lying on the limb of a tree about twenty-five feet above the ground. It seems that Lions do climb trees when they want to after all.

At the end of our game drive, we were brought here to our lodge for a slap up meal and a comfortable bed with on-suite bathroom. We keep jumping from one extreme to the other. A bit of a difference of opinion developed this evening between our guide and us. We are under the impression that we will have two full days in the Ngorongoro Crater but he seems to think that our second day in the crater will finish immediately after just a three hour game drive between six and nine o’clock in the morning of the second day. Since we paid an extra $120 per person for the second day, I will be very annoyed if we do not get at least a good day of game driving on that second day. Hopefully, everything will be straightened out when we talk to Mr. Fish on the phone the day after tomorrow.

Time, then, to take full advantage of this lovely, large, comfortable bed. Hopefully, it will be a full night’s sleep and we will be well rested for another full day in the truck tomorrow.