Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Southern Cross - Ngorogor Crater and the Majestic Serengeti

14th - 17th August - Ngorogoro Crater & Serengeti

Day 8- 13 13th - 17h Aug
Ngorogoro Crater & Serengeti
After a rather hot and sticky night in the tent, we awoke to the awful noise of those pesty crows that had killed a pigeon right next to our tent. We certainly did not miss these domestic scavengers! After a quick breakfast, we left for Ngorogoro Crater and Serengeti. We stopped at a local market on our way. Dave was keen on buying the Masai shoes, made out of motorcycle tyres, but the guy was asking a bit too much for them and he got a Tanzanian football t-shirt instead! We managed to find an almost perfect avocado for lunch. We stopped for lunch at the viewing point overlooking Lake Manyara, famous for the many many flamingos on its shorelines.
After a few hours of driving we reached the entrance for Ngorogoro Crater. At a very high altitude, we were all putting a warm jacket or fleece on when we stopped to view the crater.

 Ngorogoro Entrance!

 The crater measure 14miles in diameter and home to thousands of animals.

Driving on the ridge of the Ngorogoro crater was like driving through Mars, even the plants and trees had turned red from the dust that was spewed up as the trucks churned the dark red earth below. At one point Shev who was listening to music through earphones shouted I cant breathe I cant breathe, she soon realised that she had screamed this loud enough for her to hear through the earphones and we opened one of the trucks “tent material doors” We continued our bone shaking drive round the crater ridge to our camp-site.
It was a little chilly but we didn’t realise it was going to get colder. Thank goodness we both packed thermals! At least we were warm. After a long, slow and pretty much covered in red dust from the roads we arrived at our camp. Zebra were walking in amongst the tents and we were warned that the animals would walk around at night time, no lions ”apparently”! Hmmm I guess we will see. We lost our cook Goodluck in Arusha as his trip had ended with us. So after we had all set our tents up, most of us were rushing for the showers or chilling around the camp. Then Susan says to all of us, ”who is on cooking duty because you need to start before sun down”. Uh well lets just say that it was rather interesting to try and figure out how to cook for 26 people, 3 of them veggies! But we managed, dinner was late and at least it went down a treat.
During the night I woke up to feel something nudging my feet at the tent door. At first I was semi awake and thought it was Dave’s feet, so I promptly nudged back what I thought was Dave’s ”feet”. A few minutes later I got another harder nudge this time round. Now I was definitely wide awake. I watched Dave and he didn’t move at all when I had another nudge at my feet. I waited for another nudge and I soon realised it was something outside the tent, so I gave a quick hard nudge back with my feet hoping to scare whatever it was away and curled my knees right up to my chest. It didn’t work as I could still hear the ”thing” at the tent door sniffing and nudging around. I found out the next morning that it was the Zebra and someone else also had the sniffing/nudging at their tent door too! At least it wasn’t a hyena!!

 First dinner without Goodluck :( Everyone on deck to add their 10c to the cooking
Tents all up and chairs all set. When's dinner going to be ready?
 Zebra around the camp area.

We packed up camp before sunrise and waited for our 4x4 vehicles. While waiting we watched the sun rise over the ridge of the crater. A beautiful pink soon filled the sky and the clouds started rolling in from the ridge and were spilling over into the crater. It was one of those breath taking moments that mother nature knows how to do best. Our 4x4 Toyota Land Cruisers eventually arrived ”African” time to take us for a game drive in the crater. “Everything keeps going right” our driver Godfrey was in a hurry and there were about 7 of us in total in the 4x4.

Entering the crater was a spectacular site, the circumference stretching some 22km! It was massive! After our decent down into the crater we came across a mating pair of lions. Needless to say that it didn’t last very long, but the lioness just rolled over in ”satisfaction”. Total disappointment tut tuts came from us girls on the 4x4. Shame at least we are not in the animal kingdom. We drove around the crater for 4 hours. Not nearly as impressive as Masai Mara, but we did manage to see a lot of hyenas, and interestingly walking and lying so close to zebra and wildebeest. We parked off for lunch near a watering hole filled with hippos. As per usual the hippos were making their usual noises, sounds like laughing. We had to be careful eating lunch as we had hawks flying above us and every now and then would dive down towards us to grab some of our lunch. On our way out of Ngorogoro crater, we came across 3 lions lazing near a small watering hole. We needed to cross the watering hole too, but as we did we came very close to one of the lions lying on the edge of the water. I could have reached my had out the window and touched her if I could. But wanted to keep my hand! The one thing we found ineresting was the amount of hyenas in the crater, and just wondering around and the wildebeest were not fazed at all. Ulgy things if you ask me!

 The crater was extremely dry and the dust and heat were visible on the horizon.

 The watering hole lunch stop.
This was pure fluke, trying to get a pic of the starling.

Panorama of the watering hole oasis!

 Biggest herd of giraffes we've ever seen. We must have counted at least 19! Normally we are used to seeing just 5.

The Serengeti!
We started our long, dusty and incredibly bumpy journey to the Serengeti. Somehow we all managed to catch some shut eye but came to an abrupt halt in the middle of no where. We all woke up to Godfrey saying there was a flat tyre. Sure as hell, we looked out the rear window and heard the last bit of air wheezing out the tyre. The boys helped Godfrey with the jacking up of the 4x4 but it wasn’t a very good jack. As the boys went up 3 notches, so it slipped back down 5 notches. We tried to flag down some other 4x4s that went past and none stopped. We all cursed them and hoped they would have a flat tyre soon too! Eventually one 4x4 did stop and the guy was in a bit of a rush but helped us jack up the 4x4 and change the tyre. Luckily for us, we had the left overs from lunch so we all tucked into that while we waited. Soon we were back on our way and after an hour of more treacherous roads we arrived at the Serengeti gate. We started our drive up to the main meeting point where the the other 4xr4s and our big yellow truck were waiting for us. We were soon flagged down by someone passing us by telling us that we had lost a tyre a way back. So we turned around to go find it. At least it wasn’t too far back and soon we found it had bounced its way quite far into the bush. It was our other spare tyre too! We all thought everything happens in threes, two down only one more to go, what would it be this time round? Finally we arrived at the meeting point 30 mins late, but enough time to quickly have a toilet stop before heading further into the Serengeti and to our camp for the night.

Upon entering the park we came across a lion lying on a big boulder. It was quite funny actually as the lioness was lying on her back with her back legs elevated on a smaller ledge of a rock, pretty much pink pantha style. And just our luck as the other 4x4's started up their vans and moved on, Godfrey tried to start our 4x4 and nothing. Again - still nothing. So he gets out the 4x4 with the lion less than 10 meters away (fair enough on the top of a boulder) and he opens the bonnet and starts tapping loudly some part of the engine with a heavy spanner. After about 5 taps the lioness sits up and takes notice of us. Oh boy - we all tell Godfrey to get back into the 4x4 and he just laughs at us, taps a bit more, closes the bonnet and casually strolls back to the 4x4 and gets in. Thank God because the lioness by this point had stood up and was very very interested in us. Thing is there is not normally a lone lioness, there's always more around and with the grass being so tall who knows if there were any not relaxing on the boulder! Finally the 4x4 starts and we are back on our way to camp. En routee saw the ears and top of a leopard’s head (which didn’t really count as seeing a leopard!) as well as a big herd of elephants. We stopped to watch the elephants as there were 3 tiny babies in the herd. It must have been a good half hour till the elephants walked up to the road and crossed. One elephant stood guard, the ears flapping out at us, she was quite close at least 6 meters away. She was making sure the rest of the herd crossed the road in safety. We managed to get a glimpse of the tiny babies as they crossed the road, the grass was too long to see them properly. At that point, Godfrey tried to get the 4x4 started, nothing.Our luck - seriously AGAIN! Here we go this has to be the final incident. He got out our 4x4 opened the bonnet and stared bashing away with the spanner. This did not make the elephant standing guard too pleased either. Her ears started flapping more at us and she took a step or two closer to us and kicking up a bit of dirt to warn us. She was not a happy camper. ( I refer as she as the elephant matriarch is usually female). As you can imagine we were all aware of the situation and pleaded with Godfrey to get back into the 4x4. He did thank goodness, tried to start the engine, again nothing! Oh boy! Godfrey gets out again, bashes around, but thankfully the elephant had realised we were not a threat to the herd or babies and turned to join the rest of the herd. Close call! On the second attempt, the 4x4 finally started. Whoop whoop and sighs of relief came from everyone.

 Lion lying pink pantha style.

 All smiles and feeling a whole lot more relaxed!  No charging elephant.

We parked in the Serengeti nature reserve and were quite aware from the previous 4hrs of driving around wild animals that our new camp-site was as close as you would possibly dare to sleep next to a lion as could be! The camp-site had warm showers which was fantastic however as it was dusk and we scrambled to our showers, quickly pitched tents and stayed in the safety of the light from the fire that was now started. It had been a long day so even though we were a little worried about sleeping in the wild we went to sleep early with the tent close to the camp-site. We could hear a few others talking into the night, these guys being the ”Tusker team”, but we bailed on them. Both a little too scared to be up late at night in the middle of the Serengeti….We both woke up to sounds of wwwwwwwwwhooop awwwwwwwwwhooop and witches cackles “these are the noises a hyena makes!” They were all around us. Some in the distance, some a bit closer. This carried out throughout the night. At one point the hyenas must have been really close as it almost sounded like they were right around the camp. We heard the people that had stayed up talking by the fire go quiet, and soon our tour guide was standing behind our tent flashing her torch into the bushes. We had left our window open so we could check out anything around us in the night. Shev was asking Susan how close the hyenas were and she said they were very close to the camp but now the hyenas had moved on so don’t worry too much! Hakuna Matata! A few hours later I awoke to noises again but it was only in the morning that we were told how the Hyenas had chased a herd of Zebra by our camp-site and that it was only due to the fires and bright lights that they had not run straight into our tents.

 Morning sunrise in Serengeti.
 African sunrises remind me of a saying ''I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke that I was not happy''
Hot air ballon safari.

We did a morning’s game drive before heading back to Arusha. We managed to eventually see the leopard from the night before as well as 6 different prides of lions. We came across another herd of ellies and watched them for a while - at first we thought they were play fighting but we decided after much discussion and Godfrey's input that they were ''kissing'' elephants. We stopped at the Serengeti information point to get out and stretch our legs for a bit. They had a short walk way amongst rocks with some interesting facts on the Serengeti and the animals. There were rock dussie everywhere. We kept telling Godfrey that we wanted to see a lion kill and he had to full fill that for us. He just laughed! About 2 hours later we came across a lone lioness, walking on the plains. We stopped to watch her. After about 5 minutes we realised she was on the hunt. She was walking really low in the grass and occasionally lifted her head to sniff the air. We had passed a small watering hole not too far back and remembered there was a warthog and a couple of Giselle when we drove past. We asked Godfrey to turn the 4x4 around and follow her as she walked. As we were following her there was a small clearing in the grass and Godfrey realised the lioness had cubs as her teets were pulled down. Talk about an excited bunch of tourists after we heard that!! Suddenly the lioness began to run towards the watering hole, but both the warthog and the Giselle escaped unharmed. Darn! The lioness appeared a bit annoyed too! So would I to be honest. But she waited on top of an ant hill, constantly sniffing the air around her. It was only about 10 mins after she lost her meal that she picked up a scent, ears back, she wandered down from the ant hill,crossed the road and crouched down low in the grass. We lost her for all of about 2 mins, next thing she bolted up from the grass and we saw this Giselle jumping around. This time she managed to grab it and tail straight in the air like an antenna she killed it. We watched and followed her about half a kilometre as she took the prey to her cubs. Unfortunately, she had hidden them well into the thick bushes and we didn’t get a chance to see them. But at least Godfrey had fulfilled our wish of a lion kill!
We had a long and bumpy drive from Serengeti back to Arusha. We still needed to drive on the red dusty roads on the Ngorogoro crater edge. After 4 hours to get out of the Serengeti and Ngorogoro Crater reserve, we stopped to stretch our legs. Dave was laughing at me and asked me to take off my sunglasses. I had a red dust tan. My whole face was covered in red dust! It was in my ears, up my nose and I could feel and taste it in the back of my throat. I certainly was not the only one with a dust tan. I grabbed some baby wipes off someone and went to the bathroom to clean up. I needed a shower more than anything else!
I have always wanted to go to the Serengeti, being there and seeing it is a dream fulfilled. The plains were huge and impressive and we saw lots of lions. Dave and I both agreed that Masai Mara was by far the most impressive for us, however I guess it depends on the time of the year and where the migration is at the time. I am sure the Serengeti would have been on top of our list if the migration was in the Serengeti.

 Kissing elephants

 Very true - definitely no hurry in Africa and always on ''ish ish'' time.

Rock Dussie just chilling

The next load of clips are of the lion kill, starting in sequence. Enjoy the pics!

Warthog aka Pumba making a run for it.
Slightly frustrated lion.
 Picking up another scent

 Off she goes! Lucky to catch this shot with my zoom lense or we couldn't prove the lion kill!
 The tail in the air

One happy lion!

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