CENTRAL SERENGETI


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Africa » Tanzania » North » Serengeti National Park
November 23rd 2016
Published: December 10th 2016
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CENTRAL SERENGETI

We had become used to our safari vehicle now it was really comfortable with plenty of space for the four of us - charging our equipment was no problem as on the side of the vehicle were two UK 3 pin plugs so we could 'charge' as we travelled. We had a small fridge on board where we stored water and Rammy always had a plentiful supply of cookies or biscuits, 'Nice' being the favourite. There was no air conditioning but with the windows open it was cool enough, although one had to close them quickly on some of the dusty roads when other vehicles sped past - but apart from a few safari vehicles that was not much traffic ... ....





We left Nsya Campsite in Manyara and travelled on to our next destination, stopping for fruit and vegetables in the town. It was buzzing with people as it was market day and the stallholders were busy. Smart children in their school uniforms were walking to school, colourful ladies were heading for the market with bunches of bananas stacked high on their heads. Wobbling cyclist were laden down with bundles of sugar cane or stacks of wood and ox-carts full of goods that were too heavy to carry by hand. Amongst all of this three wheel taxis (tut tuts) and motorbikes dodged about ferrying people around the hectic streets - the noise was deafening but the atmosphere was buzzing and it was great to sit and watch this fascinating African town so full of life.







We had not realised but to get to the Serengeti National Park one had to first travel through Ngorongoro Conservation area. We did the usual stop for passes etc and drove through the entrance gates of the park and the dirt track started climbing getting higher and higher - we had left the paved roads behind us and would not be back on them until our return through these gates in about a week’s time.





We were so glad that it was not raining as the road was just baked dark red soil - graded, slippery, bouncy and very bumpy … … … After a while we hit the cloud line and it was difficult to see in front of you - but luckily we had an expert driver with us and felt quite safe in his hands.





We finally reached the top and stopped at a view point where we could see the Ngorongoro Crater spread out far below us. Sifuni pointed out a track that led down to the crater and another that brought you back up, these being the only access roads to the crater itself. We would be returning here later to travel down and up these roads, I just hoped the weather improved as the tracks looked rather daunting … … …





It was wet and windy so we were soon back in the vehicle and continued along the crater rim for quite a while before we started to descend into a hilly landscape dotted with Maasai homesteads. Large herds of cattle and goats roamed the grasslands with Maasai herders tending them. You could see them from quite distance as they stood out with their colourful bright wraps (shuka), cow hide sandals and large wooden club (o-rinka), which they usually carried on the back of their necks. Some waved as we passed but most were busy tending their herds.
Olduvai GorgeOlduvai GorgeOlduvai Gorge

The Cradle of Mankind





Giraffes were foraging in the bleak landscape but we did not see much other wildlife apart from a few Ostriches but it was raining hard now.







OLDUVAI GORGE





The hilly landscape eventually flatten out on to a massive plain, stretching ever outward for as far as the eyes could see as we passed the entrance to Olduvai Gorge where early man flourished. The gorge which is part of the ’Rift Valley’ was formed by an active fault line stretching from East to West of Central Africa.



This area is thought to be 2 million years old and is known as the cradle of human civilisation. Olduvai Gorge is where in 1959 Louis and Mary Leakey discovered a 1.75 million year old Homo habilis which was nicknamed 'The Handyman' for his tool making skills and represents mans first step on the ladder of human evolution. This evidence of early humanoids together with antiquities which documented the evolutionary history of our stone tool-using ancestors is one of the most important paleoanthropology sites in the world.



These finds in the area
First Entrance GateFirst Entrance GateFirst Entrance Gate

Serengeti National Park
has provided scientific information indicating that this part of Africa is the birthplace of our species. I would have liked to spent some more time here and visit a small on-site museum but we had to move on to get to our campsite and the weather was still pretty horrid so not good for traipsing around looking at ‘old bones’… …









SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK



So we continued on our journey and stopped at the southern entrance to Serengeti National Park but we had to drive a little further to get through the main entrance gate as all that was here was a gateway spanning the road. The rain had stopped and it had started to warm up but the wind was still blowing sand everywhere and as we got out to take some photos a lone Maasai lady came over to see if we wanted to take her photo but we declined. Goodness knows where she had come from as there was no one but us and her for miles, but it was obviously the gateway to the park and a place that us tourist would stop to take photos!





A short while later we arrived at Naabi Hill which is actually the official check-in point for Serengeti National Park, just over 4 miles inside the southern entrance. Sifuni got out to pay the entrance fees which can take a while so Rammy handed us lunch boxes and we wandered through to a nearby shaded picnic area. The good news was that there were good restrooms as well as a small gift shop, the first shop we had seen in a long while but it was mostly cheap souvenirs!





As we ate our packed lunch we were bombarded with colourful birds, most notable being the Hildebrandt & Superb Starlings. The latter is one of East Africa’s best known birds with iridescent blue green upper parts with a rich orange chestnut belly and pale yellow eye. The Hildebrandt is equally colourful but with striking red eyes. These and lots of little mice scurrying under peoples legs waited patiently for someone to drop some crumbs was great entertainment for us as we waited for Sifuni to obtained our passes … … … Both birds and mice obviously survived here together due to us tourist arriving daily with our lunch boxes! Other residents were the bright Agama Lizards and several large Marabou Storks as well as a few other birds nesting in the trees.





Naabi Hill is a small but fairly steep rocky hill called a Kopje, many of which are scattered throughout the Serengeti. After lunch we climbed up the hill, which did not take long but did require a bit of effort due to the steepness and the hot African sun beating down. Once at the top though it was worth the effort as there were stunning views of the plains all around and the dusty track leading to the hill and disappearing into the distance, giving a real insight to just how huge the park actually was and we were only seeing a tiny part.





Passes all obtained we passed through the gate and into the Serengeti National Park and within minutes we were looking down on a group of lions feeding off of a kill - what a great introduction to our safari. Sifuni had raised the roof so we could get close to the animals but be completely safe.







The Serengeti is very hard to describe - it is really huge, nearly 6000 square miles and Tanzania’s oldest national park. It is a world heritage site and was recently proclaimed the most voted Natural Wonder of Africa - you could see why.





Of course it is famed for its annual Migration, when some ‘six million hooves’ pound the open plains, as thousands of Zebra and more thousands of Thomson’s Gazelle join a million Wildebeest’s trekking for fresh grazing … … … We were hoping that we may see a part of this migration on our visit but timing is crucial and this can vary each year depending on the weather but we were keeping our fingers crossed.







Even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers superb game-viewing, great herds of Buffalos and Zebra, smaller groups of Elephants and Giraffes, and thousands upon thousands of antelope; Waterbuck, Elands, Topis, Impalas, Hartebeests, Bushbuck and Gazelles roam the open plains but there is much more to the Serengeti than large mammals.





Shady Acacia trees dot the landscape giving welcome shade to the animals and as you travelled across these parched lands you were suddenly shadowed by wooded hills with towering red termite mounds. If you waited by these red mounds all of a sudden out would pop a Dwarf Mongoose followed closely by lots of others - these cute little critters were a real favourite of ours as well as their larger cousins the Banded Mongoose. Bright red and blue Agama lizards and cute Rock Hyraxes scuffle around the surfaces of the park’s isolated granite koppies, sunbathing in the heat of the day. It was quite hard to believe but approximately 100 varieties of dung beetle have been recorded, as well as over 500 plus bird species, ranging from the outsized Ostrich and bizarre but notable Secretary Bird of the open grassland, to the many Eagles that soar effortlessly above the Lobo Hills not forgetting the smaller birds - we just loved the Red-Cheeked Cordon-Bleu and the colourful Sunbirds. The reptiles, birds and smaller mammals often get overlooked in this land of giants.









As well as amazing game viewing there was a huge expanse of
Such a Golden ManeSuch a Golden ManeSuch a Golden Mane

Just sleepy ... ...
land that sometimes seemed devoid of life but once you look closely you always saw something. Stretching across dry sunburnt savannah to a shimmering golden horizon - as far as the eye could see you would suddenly get a glimpse of green where water had help spring new growth.





Sadly though Tanzania’s rich wildlife national parks have become a target for poachers. Conservationists have warned that the entire elephant population could die out by the end of the decade if they continue to be killed for their ivory at the current rate and we have just heard that the elegant Giraffe is becoming endangered as well. Its a sad fact but our children's children may not get the chance to see so many of these animals.





We drove deeper into the park and saw the magnificent Kori Bustard bigger than the gazelles and large herds of Thompson Gazelles, Hartebeest & Zebra and before long Sifuni stopped and said he had spotted a Cheetah. How he spotted this one I do not know it must have been nearly a mile away but a Cheetah it was laying down in the middle of the savannah fast asleep. We watched it through binoculars and I did manage to get a photo with my zoom lens but we were just happy we had seen one at last.









Our main reason to visit this park was to see a Cheetah as we had never seen one in the wild before. We thought it was fate that the word ‘Duma’ (the name of our safari company) is Swahili for Cheetah, this lightening fast and agile predator inspired Duma Explorer founder, Hezron Mbise. While the lion is regarded as the king of the African savannah, this graceful, fleet-footed cheetah is the fastest land animal and it can be spotted year-round in Tanzania so we had been really hopeful and now we had actually seen one for ourselves - so lucky.





A short while later we arrived at our new campsite where there were a couple of tents already pitched so we would at least have some company - our last two campsites we had spent alone. Tumbili Public campsite is a government run site and was in quite a poor condition compared to
Tumbili CampsiteTumbili CampsiteTumbili Campsite

Our first camping spot ....
the campsites we had visited in Southern Africa. The campsite consisted of a parched short brown grassed area surrounded by slightly longer grass leading out into the bush - and a notice advised that the longer so called 'grass border' was not to be crossed as wild animals could be ‘deadly to humans’ - there was no fence between you and them and it was hard to see any border at all. In any event the animals would not have a clue where the border was !!!!





There was no electricity even in communal areas but there were toilets and cold showers - very cold showers. The water flow however was really slow and in the end we cut off water bottles and filled these and just poured it over our head and bodies, a shower of sorts! There was a large communal kitchen building and a communal dining hut - both in disrepair. They had open windows with bars to stop animals getting in but birds could just fly through the gaps and did of course ... The kitchen did have several deep sinks and a cold water tap for the cooks to use.
Rammy with our coffee ..Rammy with our coffee ..Rammy with our coffee ..

with the Dining Hut behind
Rammy had portable lights for cooking dinner at night, and we had our head torches to see to eat so we were fine! What I did not like was that the kitchen waste bin was just tied to a tree outside which I was sure would attract unwanted visitors during the night - and of course it did…..





Rammy had a lovely singing voice and he loved to sing as he cooked, when you entered the kitchen you could hear him singing or chatting along to the other cooks in Swahili. He told us he belonged to a Lutheran choir and his 82 year old mother still sang too. He was a very happy person always smiling and he was very kind to us - he often made us pots of coffee and carried them down to our tent where we would sit and watch the sun go down - it was quite magical even with the basic facilities at the campsite as we sat and watched antelopes grazing nearby. We always tried to help with some of the chores like putting up our tent or helping with the washing up but noticed that a lot of other guests did not help their guides or cooks and Rammy and Sifuni often didn't need or indeed want our help!





At night you were surrounded by raw nature - we had pitched out tent away from the long grass but that first night we had several Hyenas prowling around outside and the noise they made was quite scary. We were told not to go outside at night if you heard animals. As we heard them all night I was really scared to go to the loo but needs must and had to go … … … We unzipped the tent which makes a really loud noise so we hoped it would scare the Hyenas off. However on shining our torch around we found ‘eyes’ looking back at us so quickly darted back into our tent. The guides had told us that we were safe in the tent but I definitely did not feel safe that night … …





In the morning the rubbish bin had been strewn all over the campsite, why they did not keep this in an enclosed space was beyond me. We had early
Mean BuffaloMean BuffaloMean Buffalo

You do not want to argue with these ... ...
coffee and biscuits and set off at 6 am for a game drive. We saw so many early birds and animals including Lions, Antelope, Wilderbeest, Zebra, Silverbacked Jackel, Elephant, Leopard and yes two more Cheetahs - really close up this time. The two young males were laying under a small bush and took no notice of us as we approached them, what magnificent creatures they are. We also saw large herds of Buffalo wandering the plains.





AFRICAN OR CAPE BUFFALO





The Buffalo is a large African bovine and is not closely related to the slightly larger wild water buffalo of Asia and its ancestry remains unclear. Buffalo are reported to kill more hunters in Africa than any other animal. What is amazing is that they are known to ambush hunters that have wounded or injured them! The adage an elephant never forgets would be matched by a buffalo never forgives. They have been known to attack people that have harmed them even years after the event. They are capable swimmers and often cross deep water in search of better grazing. The hide on a bull buffalo's neck is as thick
Our second camping spotOur second camping spotOur second camping spot

The Buffalo just missed it ... ...
as two inches in places, which protects it during battles with other bulls for dominance. A buffalo has four times the strength of an ox and are able to tip a motorcar. They are known to kill lions and seek out and kill lion cubs but lions also kill them!





That evening Rammy cooked us yet another delicious dinner and as most of the other campers had left we thought we would move our tent closer to the centre of the campsite where I thought it would be safer!





That night was just as noisy as the night before and we both awoke to a huge commotion just outside our tent as a buffalo charged right past us. All we could hear was this loud snorting and growling and the ground was shaking quite scary. All night long we could hear Hyena and Baboons prowling and the crunching of bones just outside our tent but we were not sure what was going on and stayed inside all night. I kept waking Paul up to ask what the noise was but it was really hard to tell what was going on just outside our tent.





In the morning Paul went off to the gents and chatted to a fellow German camper - just outside the toilet block a huge male buffalo was lying down and they though it was dead. When they came out they could see it was still breathing so went back to tell the guides. Rammy and another cook went over and just as they did so it got up - it had a bad leg but managed to get up and started chewing the grass nearby - Rammy and the cook ran pretty sharply it was quite comical really ..… It was obviously the Buffalo that had just missed our tent in the night but we did not know what had injured it - if it had been lions they would probably have finished it off. Sifuni thought it could have been fighting with another male Buffalo and that could have explained the crunching noise as they use their heads to fight by crashing into one another or use their horns. Not a pleasant thing to have two mad Buffalo fighting for dominance right in the middle of our campground. Outside our tent we could see huge cavities where hoof marks had dug into the ground and signs that the buffalo had indeed been close to our tent, we were lucky that they did not charge right through it - not sure where I was going to sleep that night but definitely not inside the tent again.…









MIGRATION



The next day Buffalo forgotten we had a full day in the park and we headed west to where Sifuni said we may encounter the Migration. We travelled for hours before we started to see the odd Wildebeest and before long larger and larger groups.



During the migration the survival of the fittest is key as 25 mile long columns of animals walk one by one and plunge through crocodile-infested waters on their annual exodus, replenishing their species in a brief population explosion that produces more than 8,000 young daily along the way. The spectacle of predator versus prey dominates Tanzania’s Serengeti Park. Huge packs of Lions feast on the abundant plain grazers whilst solitary Leopards drag their prey into the nearby acacia trees lining the rivers and our favourite cat, the Cheetah prowls the southeastern plains working hard for their prey. Its not so easy for them as they usually work alone, stalking their prey in the day time whilst Leopards can hunt day and night and most Lions work in packs.





We saw thousands of Wildebeest and Zebra heading to greener pastures in large groups but when they came to a river they crossed one by one - little did they know but we had spotted a Cheetah sitting on the edge of the river a little further up stream to where they were crossing but he was obviously well fed as he took no notice of them crossing. Luckily for them the waters were low so they were able to cross quite easily and not many of them had young to protect yet. We left the Cheetah by the river bank and crossed over ourselves to the other side and luckily did not get stuck in the mud - Sifuni was an expert driver.





We were so glad that we had seen a part of the Migration and followed the herds for a while before
Cheetah on riverbankCheetah on riverbankCheetah on riverbank

Waiting for the Wildebeest to cross
taking the long journey back to the campsite. On the way back we stopped and watched a large group of Hippos wallowing in the same pool as giant Nile Crocodiles. We walked across a narrow bridge and could see these mighty animals just below our feet. The pools were really smelly as the waters were gradually seeping away - they needed rain desperately to fill the pools.





That night I was really concerned about our sleeping arrangements as I noticed that the Buffalo with the bad leg was still wandering close by camp and I was scared that lions and hyenas would be around the campsite to finish it off or indeed another Buffalo … … I spoke to Sifuni and said I needed to get some sleep as I had not slept for two nights and suggested that we move our tent into the ‘Dining Hut’ which had bars at the windows to stop the Baboons getting in. The Hut was just an empty, partly thatched and barred building where campers could eat their lunch if it rained but it was not used much as most ate in the kitchen which was nearer and easier for the cooks. Sifuni said campers were not supposed to sleep in it but he and Rammy lifted our tent and squeezed it through the doors so I was really grateful. They told us not to shine a light whilst in the room and we just hoped we were not joined by campers wanting to use the room as we had to tie the door to keep it closed with string.





A couple of other campers arrived in the evening but luckily did not try and get into the room, if they knew about the buffalo still roaming near by with a bad leg we probably would have had a lot of company that night!!!! In the end I slept like a baby and woke to a bright new day - We moved the tent out quickly in the morning and put it back into its original space … ….







We set off on another excellent early morning game drive and spent ages watching yet another Cheetah stalking, creeping from its advantage point of a termite mound to the next one but as it neared its prize it was spotted and it missed out as the Gazelles moved off pretty quickly. A little further on we watched a Cheetah mother and cub do the same before hiding under a bush waiting for its meal to wander nearby - we moved off and never did see whether they were lucky or not. We had now seen at least 10 Cheetah in the park and many more Lions but only a couple of sleeping Leopards.







That night we moved our tent inside the dining hut again and had another good nights sleep. In the morning the rubbish bin had yet again been ransacked and a lone Baboon was stalking the campsite but no sign of the Buffalo.





On another game drive we quickly came across a large Lion and two Lionesses feeding on the carcass of a very large Buffalo which they had killed the night before. They were right on the track so we were in touching distance as we watched them devour the huge beast. Several cubs were sleeping off a very heavy meal and were obviously very well fed. As we watched the male started fighting and saw off one of the females but was quite content to let one of the little cubs edge in for some more food. In the bush just behind them a group of Hyena were waiting patiently for whatever was leftover. We stayed and watched for a while before moving on. We later met someone who had arrived later and all they saw was a pack of Hyenas chewing on the bones.





That morning we saw many herds of Elephants as well as packs of Lions and a large family group with at least 12 cubs resting and playing under the shaded acacia trees. The Alpha male and female were sleeping by themselves a little way off which was usual. We watched a couple of elegant Giraffe feeding near a rocky Kopje and resting just above them in a cave was a Leopard which was really camouflaged. We got a few glimpses but he did not want to come out and show his face so we continued on to watch a nearby Cheetah stalking its prey - it was just amazing we had seen three different cats all within 30 minutes the wildlife
Watering HoleWatering HoleWatering Hole

Zebras leave double quick when the Elephants arrive
was certainly plentiful around Central Serengeti. We had seen so much it was like being in the middle of a wildlife zoo.





At a nearby watering hole we watched a large herd of Zebra splashing and drinking but all of a sudden they started to run as a large group of Elephants came down to have a drink - you could tell who was in charge here. Once the Elephants had settled in the water the Zebra slowly started to return keeping well away from the herd. Much later we stopped at a scenic viewpoint with brilliant 360 degree views out over the Serengeti what an awesome place this is - there were even clean loos with soap and water in the middle of nowhere.









We headed back for brunch before packing up camp and moving on - I must say I was not sorry to leave the campsite. Our journey would take us further north to Lobo Campsite which was near the Kenyan border - cannot say that we will miss Timbali Campsite but little did we know that the next one would not be
Hippopotamus returning from grazingHippopotamus returning from grazingHippopotamus returning from grazing

We watched him waddle back to his pool
much better, and we would get our third encounter with a not so friendly Buffalo - see you there !!!!!


Additional photos below
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Lion WatchLion Watch
Lion Watch

Watching his lioness hunting
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Baboon

Looking in on us ... ...


10th December 2016

A wonderful wake up call!
Hi, your blog was waiting when I awoke and I spent a lovely 15 minutes sharing your African adventures - Thank you. The wildlife seems amazingly prolific, even more than Southern Africa? Looking forward to the next installment, keep them coming please. Stay safe, love S & J
11th December 2016

So much wildlife ..
Yes indeed there was much more than in Southern Africa everywhere you looked in fact - Looking forward to seeing you both on 5th January in Lanzarote - have booked our flights now. x
11th December 2016
Such a Golden Mane

Fierce...
Or as you say, maybe time for a nap.
12th December 2016
Such a Golden Mane

Golden Mane
Yes definitely time for a nap ... ...
12th December 2016

Successor to David Attenborough!
I think you are the natural to take over when David Attenborough stops broadcasting!! So sad to hear of the rapid decline of elephants & giraffe, our grandchildren will have to rely on zoos & photos I guess. Don't get entangled in any future animal fights, we would like to see you next month. xx
12th December 2016

David Attenborough - oh yes
I am about the right age and what a lovely job that would be - will definitely be seeing you on 30th xx
17th December 2016
Zebra's time to drink

We still don't think zebras are real
Nice photos. Although we are convinced that Zebras aren't real. A horse with stripes? It's GOT to be some kind of joke. Ake
17th December 2016
Zebra's time to drink

We still don't think zebras are real
- they are we saw them - although I suppose it could have been a trick of the sun ...

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