I just completed my first ever safari in Tanzania. We spent one day on a game drive in the Ngorogoro Crater and three days driving in the Serengeti. Along the way I saw more animals than I could have ever hoped to see and had cooler encounters than I could have ever dreamed of. I kept a running tally of all the animals I saw each day so I’m going to start with that, and then i’ll go into more details about the actual interactions we were lucky enough to experience.
-Eagle (two types)
-Black Face Monkey
I’ll start with day 1:
The Ngorogoro Crater was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. You start at the top of it and descend inside and the whole drive was gorgeous. As you descend you can visibly see the vegetation change, from a practical rain forest at the top, to plains in the crater. Part way into the crater we stopped to open the tops of our Land Rovers and we were all so excited to be on Safari we ended up standing for a while while we rode the rest of the way into the crater. I took hundreds of pictures of all of the animals above but we had some unforgettable experiences that I must share. It is the craziest phenomenon to be in the middle of a huge expansive plane and yet be just feet away from wild animals.
We were watching a huge group of zebra, probably close to 50 of them and we were so engulfed in their beauty we ended up watching them for about half an hour. But just as we were about the leave, this seems like how it always happens, something amazing happened. We were watching a group of about 6 that were right near the road when a larger group from across the street began to run, which of course took our focus. Then the running group crossed the road right in front of us and joined in with the smaller group. Then they ran a circle around our Land Rover, all extremely close to us and continued on running. Except for one who stopped dead right behind our vehicle and looked at us as if to say “take my picture”. It was such a cool experience. Zebras ended up being my favorite animal to just sit and watch, I could watch them for hours.
That same day we had an absolutely insane experience with an elephant. We saw one near to the road up ahead of us a lithe ways so our drive, Tiger, started heading toward it. When we pulled up it was in the process of crossing the road. We drove up passed other vehicles so we were very close. Then, the elephant turned toward us and starting walking at us. Tiger promptly put the car in reverse and tapped us to sit down and signaled for us to be quiet. This was the first, and not the last, time an elephant made me nervous. We reversed away from it and it continued on its original path. Then it started running and crossed the road behind us at a pretty fast pace. Then we realized it was unhappy with another elephant that was a hundred or so yards from us. It ran after it and the other started running as well. When the chaser was far enough away the pursuer gave up and went back to eating. It was incredible.
The Serena Crater lodge was beautiful. We watched a group of Masaii dance and sing before dinner and ate an amazing dinner. Not that I can say I fully enjoyed it because I was fairly delirious from being more exhausted than I knew possible. We all slept well tonight that is for sure. We woke up in the morning and watched the sunrise from our deck and it was a beautiful sight. To make it even better we could hear Masaii walking their cattle and whistling as well as the cow bells. It was an amazing start to the day two.
We drove from the Crater to the Serengeti and saw many things along the way. The whole day was amazing of course but there were a couple particular highlights. We saw a group of about 30 elephants cooling off in a mud hole. They were not more than 50 feet from us and not more than 50 feet from the elephants were two napping lions. Luckily the lions were full so we didn’t have to worry about getting in their way. There were also multiple babies in the mud hole and they were just way too cute to even describe, we all wanted to take one home with us. While we were watching this whole scene we noticed a lost baby wildebeest, which of course caught the attention of the lions. We were hoping to witness our biggest wish, a kill. But like I mentioned earlier the lions stomach’s were huge and they didn’t need to eat for a couple of days so they let the wildebeest roam. When we started driving the wildebeest ran in line with our trucks and zig zagged back and forth across the road for a very long time. Our drivers explained that it had no idea what to do so it followed the only thing around.
We also had an awesome view of two lions. One in a tree and one laying underneath it. Again, we were about to leave when the one on the ground got up and grossed the road in front of us. Then it parked itself right on the edge of the road about 6 feet from our car. To say we were in awe would be an understatement. Amazing pictures were taken.
We arrived at the Serena Serengeti that evening and were so thankful for the warm damp towel to remove the super thick layer of dirt that was caked on our faces and hands. The lodge was gorgeous, as expected and the dinner was delicious.
This day started out with an elephant spotting, and a baby elephant trumpeting which was adorable. We left early on day 3, at 6:30 am and attempted to track down the great migration. And we did! We didn’t see millions of wildebeest but we did see thousands. Our first view was different then we expected but no less amazing. We saw thousands of wildebeest running in a straight line. They rarely strayed from the path and stopped and began walking at the same points seamlessly. We learned from our driver, Moses, that they can keep up a catering pace for 70 km! We also learned how males have to work hard to defend their tribes during this time because there are so many bachelors around. We watched one male fight off bachelors from its group of females multiple times. At lunch we ate near enough to hippos that we could hear them the whole time, couldn’t see them but we could sure hear them. We also spotted crocodiles for the first time…while on a swing bridge about the river they were occupying. The bridge was slightly terrifying but awesome nonetheless.
Today we were headed home and weren’t seeing anything too exciting or new until we happened upon a leopard in a tree and two male lions sleeping just feet from the road. We were so excited to be so close to lions with such large miens!
That means we managed to see every member of the big 5! So it was a very successful safari. The weekend was the experience of a lifetime and I could do it over and over again and never get sick of it. Along the way we saw so many beautiful Masaii people and had more breath-taking experiences than I could have ever thought possible. Everyone in our group is so exhausted after coming down from such an adrenaline induced high, but if I had the opportunity I would do it all over again…after a long long nights sleep.