Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Tuesday, November 7th

Day 2 - Ngorongoro Crater to Serengeti

The next morning we got a much earlier start due to the long day ahead of us. We had to visit the Ngorongoro Crater, cross to the other side, drive to the Serengeti, cross it and arrive at our lodging just out of the park on the northwest side. It would be a full day. Our standard lunch boxes were packed and off we went.

The crater is very close to Lake Manyara and as we slowly climbed up on the rim, we were soon enveloped in mist. The country’s best roads are the ones that lead to the Northern Circuit. On behalf of the wazungu, I should say that I appreciate it.

However, once you get past Manyara, things go to hell in a hurry. They’re not much worse than most of the country, including some right in the middle of Dar near our apartment, it’s just the contrast to the roads we left behind. The mist stayed with us until we’d worked our way clear to the crater floor, preventing us from taking advantage of the views from the rim.

As we headed across the crater floor we soon began to see animals. They were isolated in the beginning – an ostrich here and there, a wildebeest, etc. – but they gradually become more plentiful. Naimen turned on the radio as we cruised around spotting animals here and there.

The temptation to focus on seeking cats and black rhinos must be great for a guide. He said the guides from the various companies use the radio to communicate their whereabouts to each other. Most often though, the do it by sight and knowledge of where they like to hang out.

One clear sign of good viewing is the collection of safari vehicles. We were fortunate in that there were not an overabundance of vehicles during the entire safari. Occasionally, however, they did build up around the better animal sightings.

In mid-morning we saw our first lions. We saw two young males about 40
meters from the road. It was great to finally see them after several safaris in other parts of the country with no cat sightings. We watched for some time and finally moved on.

After the hippo pool we worked our way to the other side of the crater to a small lake where we had lunch. It was nice to get out of the vehicle a bit but we didn’t stay long and then headed out for more. With the exception of a distant rhino sighting and a nice drive through a wildebeest/zebra herd, we were pretty much done with the crater. We hit the rest rooms and then worked our way slowly up the steep grade out of the crater.

The drive from the Ngorongoro Crater to the Serengeti is long and arduous. We were bouncing around like marbles in a shoebox. I think it’s beautiful country but the road sucks. We eventually made it to the entrance to the Serengeti. The scenery gradually changes. The plains of tall grass become spotted with rock outcroppings. We hadn’t been in the park long before we saw a lion – a beautiful female sitting up alone in the grass. The lighting was good for viewing and picture taking and it set our eyes in motion for the increasing frequency of wildlife.

We worked our way across the park spotting animals along the way. We didn’t spend much time since it was late afternoon and we still had to get to our lodging outside the northwestern gate of the park. Besides, the plan was to spend the entire following day in the park and then return to the same lodging. So off we went towards the Ikoma Bush Camp.

To be honest, we weren’t impressed with the lodging to begin with. The safari company had pulled a fast one on us for reasons I won’t go into here. The place seemed primitive, certainly compared to what we’d become accustomed to, but I think it just took some getting used to. We settled in to our framed tent lodgings and then met up for a beer in the cafĂ© thing where our meals would be.

It turned out that the meals were good, there was a migration trail visible about a quarter mile away and it was a fun, very Serengeti-esque setting. In addition, the bed was the most comfortable I had the whole trip, more so than the one that was in the luxurious Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge. Overall it turned out to be a good place to stay.

They also had a fire pit and we took our drinks there until well after dark. The camp had a true Maasai warrior as a waiter and he sat down with us to chat.

It ended up being a very interesting conversation as he discussed life as a Maasai and how one becomes a warrior. I’d heard a lot of this before but it was fun to hear him discuss it with my family, a bit strange to be honest.

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