Skip to content

Joining the great migration in the Serengeti

Day: 190

KLMS: 28,995

The Serengeti is a place i’ve dreamed of going, ever since I first saw David Attenborough’s documentaries when I was a little girl. To say I was excited about going is an understatement! We’d heard about the extortionate fees and bad roads, but nothing was going to stop us from going –how bad could it be? To access the Serengeti, you first need to go through the Ngorongoro crater Conservation Area – either $140 for the privilege of driving round the crater rim, or an additional $200 to go down into it. Facing a further fee of $220 per day to get into the Serengeti, we decided to just transit through and begrudgingly handed over the fee to just drive through. Having been completely spoilt with the parks further south, which are a fraction of the price, have great facilities, plenty of wildlife and fewer tourists the Ngorongoro experience was a far cry from this. We drove up to the lookout point, which although offering spectacular views of the crater, was completely mobbed with tourists and gave us very little for our $140!! We didn’t hang around for long and instead drove onto a picnic site, which although only showed a glimpse of the crater, we had the place to ourselves and had unspoilt visits from elephants, zebras and a huge black stork. Not to mention the thieving eagle which swooped down and stole my sandwich right of my hand. I didn’t even see him until the force of him knocked me backwards, scaring the living daylights out of me! I was left wing slapped and sandwich-less!

The view over the Ngorongoro crater

The view over the Ngorongoro crater

Black stork - they are huge!!

Black stork – they are huge!!

The drive onwards towards the Serengeti was one of the most spectacular sights we’ve ever seen. The dramatic mountains of the Nogorongoro opening up to the vast expanses of the Serengeti plains – it was just how I imagined it to be – the vast grassy plains stretching as far as the eye could see all underneath a bright blue sky filled with big white fluffy clouds. It was a vision. We also passed the many Masai who are allowed to graze their cattle here, their beautiful bright red cloaks stood out against the golden colour of the grasses. We pulled over at one point, to take a break from the road and as we cooled off under the shade of a nearby tree, a young Masai wondered over to also seek some respite from the burning sun. We all sat together under the tree, neither of us could speak the others language but we still managed to communicate, both just as intrigued with each other. Before we headed off, I asked if I could photograph him, which he agreed to very enthusiastically. As I showed him his photo on the screen, his face lit up and he asked me take more pictures. As a thank you, we offered him an apple, which he accepted but stood holding it a distance not sure what to do with it. He’d never seen an apple before. We gestured to him to just bite into it, which he did very cautiously, but as the sweetness hit his palette, he was soon munching into with gusto. It was a really special moment.

The view down onto the Serengeti

The view down onto the Serengeti

 

 

Our friendly Masai Warrior

Our friendly Masai Warrior

One thing they don’t mention on all those wonderful wildlife documentaries is how bad the roads are. The corrugations were the worst we’ve encountered and as we drove on into the Serengeti the vibrations were unbearable and the car began to shake itself to pieces. Having just paid the princely sum of $580 for the privilege of 2 days in the park, it was a very bitter pill to swallow and we tried hard not to let it ruin the experience, but unfortunately it did take the shine off things. Sure enough, a few hours later, both rear shocks had gone and we limped into Seronera area where a lovely guy from the hot air balloon company took us to their workshop. Whilst I was on look-out duty for lions Rich set to work re-installing the old shocks which fortunately we’d kept as emergency spares. We left the workshop later that night and enjoyed a rare opportunity to do our own night safari up towards our campsite – driving slowly with the full beams on and me hanging out the window scanning the Maglite into the bush to find lots of pairs of red glowing eyes. We got to camp late, which was probably a good thing as the facilities are pretty poor and its best to spend the least amount of time possible there. Considering camping fees are $60 a night, you’d at least expect clean ablutions with hot water, but of course that would require some of the millions of dollars the park makes every year actually being invested properly rather than I suspect being siphoned off for personal holidays, fast jets and cars!

Hart Beast on his look out post

Hart Beast on his look out post

Running zebras across the plains

Running zebras across the plains

We spent the next 2 days driving around the park, taking in the wonderful vistas. The plains were full of zebras, elephants, antelopes of all kinds, lots of hyenas and birds of every shape and size. We also saw plenty of kitty-kat action (literally) as the lions seemed to be far too focused on their intense mating schedule to even notice the line of cars parked next to them. After watching a huge male lion pin down his lucky lady for the fourth time, we decided to leave them to it and continued our journey only to find a leopard sleeping in the tree just round the corner. Our closest view of a leopard yet, it was stunning. We then headed onto the ‘western corridor’ where the zebras and wilderbeast were beginning to return from the Mara on their great migration south.

Big male lion

Big male lion

Getting down to it..again and again and again!

Getting down to it..again and again and again!

Beautiful leopard makes sleeping in a tree look so comfortable!

Beautiful leopard makes sleeping in a tree look so comfortable!

 

Gradually the numbers out on the plains began to grow and grow until the  plains were completely covered with them. Taking a side road to the Grumeti river, which when in full flood in June is one of the huge iconic wilderbeast river crossings, but even now with the water running low the wilderbeast still had to navigate past many huge crocodiles waiting for them in the shallows. As we drove along by the river, suddenly 1,000s of wilderbeast came charging past us – so we decided to  join them – driving slowly at the rear of the heard we became part of the great migration! It was wonderful!

Following the migration!

Following the migration!

The experience we had in the Serengeti, was definitely something we’ll never forget, it really is a magical place but the price of the park and the horrendous roads really did take the shine off things. It wasn’t just our complaint either, the road was littered with broken Landrovers and Toyotas – we even had to rescue one! (Yes, a Mitsubishi towing a Toyota!) and everyone we met in the campsites were having to spend time fixing things on their cars. We would definitely recommend taking a tour or leaving your car outside the park!

But here we are now, just outside Mwanza on Lake Victoria, in a fabulous place called Tunza beach lodge, where we are recovering from the Serengeti and getting the car fixed. The first day we were here, it was a public holiday (Muslim festival) so the lodge was extremely busy but It was amazing to see such a mixture of religions and races, all playing and celebrating together, regardless of whether they were Muslim or not. We met a lot of lovely people and with our camp right on the edge of the volleyball court we became a key attraction – everyone slightly bemused by our mobile house. That night we turned our roof lights on and played football and handball with the kids on the beach, finishing up with a disco at the car. The children were really keen to hear western music and so we put the ipod blaring out over the car speakers so everyone could dance. The next day the owner Jan, sorted us out with his mechanic and he showed us that the vibrations from the corrugations had caused one of the pipes in the engines to wear a hole through the radiator! The radiator had to be removed and taken away to be re-patched, but the whole thing was completed in a day! So fully fixed once more, it’s now time to head onto Rwanda!

 

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Robert Perrin #

    My wife and I did a 3-month road trip in 1972 from Luanda to the Cape and up to
    Nairobi where we sold our VW Camper. Hate to tell you that
    the entrance fee to the Serengeti was about 60 cents US…and
    no charge to look down at Ngorongoro Crater where you are standing
    in the photo. The roads were slippery and sandy going down
    to the Serengeti, but really were quite good. The fee to take a
    jeep down to the bottom of the Crater was $40, so we passed on that, too.
    love following your great adventure. Travel safely.
    bob

    10/19/2013
    • Bob, glad you are enjoying the Blog. How things have changed hey with regard to the Serengeti it’s a real earner for the Tanzanians!!!

      10/19/2013
      • Robert Perrin #

        Knowing me, I would have skipped the Serengeti especially after spending so
        much time at Etosha Pan, Kruger, etc etc. One day I will write what actually
        happened to me at the Serengeti.
        Love your blog. Brings back so many old memories.

        10/19/2013
      • Intrigued? Sounds like you had some adventures in the Serengeti too?

        10/21/2013
  2. Robert Perrin #

    The night before we free camped opposite Kiliminjaro and woke up to a fabulous sunrise and clear view of the great mountain. After breakfast we drove into Arusha, looked around a bit, probably changed some dollars with some Indian merchant (was 9 for 1 at that time which made things very very cheap in Tanzania and Zambia and Rhodesia for that matter) and drove on to Ngorongoro Crater. On the way down to the Serengeti as you wrote, we, too, we super excited….so excited that I was going too fast on that sandy and winding road down that I hit the stone barriers on the left, swung severely to the right but fortunately did not tip over. Easily could have. But I definitely had a car problem and had no idea what to do. So I drove down a bit to a small clearing off the side of the track. My steering was gone. That was the kind of thing I was afraid of when contemplating this trip…I know nothing about cars.
    God bless the missionaries. An American priest came by and stopped to see why I had stopped. He got under the Camper and said my steering rod had broken. Did I have a metal clothes hanger. I said no but looked anyway. (I had nothing to hang up on this trip). But luckily there was one at the bottom of the cabinet. He went under the Camper again, tied up something with the hanger and suggested we drive very slowly from now on and until we could get it fixed in Nairobi which was a long long way away.
    By the time we got to the sign for The Serengeti National Park it was about 5 PM and about to get dark. We drove a few miles until we saw the small entrance hut and decided to turn round and free camp back towards the sign. It must be about 30 miles from there to the Camping at Seronera, and, hey, we saved a buck as well.
    We woke up surrounded by animals….thousands of them. Made a coffee and went to the entrance gate again. The attendant asked where we had slept last night, and I said outside the boundary of the Park. He told me that I was lying because an employee had driven past me and reported me. I kept denying the fact. He called someone on the phone and then told/ordered me to go to the Police Chief of Serengeti inside the Seronera compound.
    The Police Chief was not happy with me at all. He ordered me to leave Serengeti by nightfall,
    so we did so by driving straight up the road and crossed into Kenya. That crossing is another story I won’t bore you with. At any rate, along the way, we did see many many animals. and had a long drive through an area with tee-tse flies…Now that was horrendous, as we swatted the flies as they flew into the Camper but could never kill them…they had a second, third and fourth life. Because I went to college with a lady with African Sleeping Sickness, I was darned scared of these flies.
    So we never saw what we could have seen at Serengeti, but we did have an adventure anyway. Just different.
    Drive safely. Hope your trip through Egypt will be OK. Looks pretty dangerous there and through the Sinai.

    10/21/2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: