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Published: October 24th 2013
Wildebeest were harmed in the making of this photo. Big Five Bingo #1
OK people, this is the big game one, if you think it is time consuming for you to go through all the photos on this blog, think about me having to go through over a thousand or so, if anyone ever needs a picture of lions/elephants/zebras/giraffes/wildebeest/antelopes....
So the story continues, after a good night's camping at Snake Park (luckily the Black Mamba decided to stay in its cage) we awoke nice and early for some breakfast before meeting our new drivers for a tour to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. The two day camping trip involved taking a smaller 4x4 and our own driver and cook, Ibrahim and Sebastian. We departed from Snake Park about 9am and set off on a long drive,first to the Serengeti for a night and then camping on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater for the second night.
Taking a right in the town of Makuyuni, we headed west towards the lake and the verdant town of Mto Wa Mbu, which translates as ‘River of Mosquitoes’. If you could imagine a perfect African town, I think this could be it, with the multitudes of banana plantations, colourful shops and people eager to sell you
Yes, we have no bananas
Mosquito river banana plantations, it was a very cool looking town
any tourist trinkets you could possibly want. We stopped for a break and the hawkers surrounded our truck rather like a swarm of mosquitoes themselves, I resisted the many opportunities to purchase a necklace but our fellow tourist, Emma, became the proud owner of an elephant necklace. We thought nothing of it at the time, but it turned out to be a most useful purchase in our quest for the Big Five.
After leaving the town the road snaked up the side of the Ngorongoro crater, the road was lined with the spectacular Baobab trees which look a bit upside down and then the dry savannah turned in to lush forest. We reached the gate to the crater and stopped for an extremely tasty packed lunch, oh the samosas, delicious and then we were warned that as soon as we go through the gate we will be starting on the ‘African Massage’.
No, it isn’t what you think but a friendly term for the fact that the roads run out at the gate to the crater and it is bumpy going from then on, so two days off roading, a nice long massage then. It was still a
Boabab trees overlooking Mosquito River
Please excuse the wonky horizons on a few of these photos, it was quite bouncy and I can't be bothered to crank up the photoshop
long drive to the Serengeti and first we had to pass the crater, we stopped briefly at a view point to have our first look at the caldera below, being about 18km or so across, it was a spectacular view and you could just about spot the odd elephant way below on the crater floor. Still, we had a long way still to drive before we could make camp so back in the car for some more African Massage and we carried on driving round the rim of the crater.
As we circumnavigated the crater rim, the scenery changed once more from lush forest to what we all decided was rather a Scottish looking environment, well Scottish up to a point, the Zebra and giraffes made it feel all a bit strange but the Maasai are rather fond of red tartan style blankets so at least they looked at home. Coming down from the rim, the beautiful umbrella trees started to appear and changed the scenery from Scottish to African once again. Finally we came down and hit the flat lands and big sky (Lincolnshire with lions?) and drove the edge of the Serengeti Park.
The most amazing
NGNGNGNGNGNOORORORO crater gate
Yeah, you don't know how to say it either
thing about the park seems to be that you can be completely alone on the road, no one else in sight but if you stop your car, within five minutes at least one Masaai boy will turn up at your car in this tartan blanket and brandishing a stick which they are so fond of, it is quite amazing, I don’t know where they come from, some form of JuJu I’m sure..
After a bit of ‘Pole Pole’ administration as we stopped to pay the park fees, we were a little delayed and the sun was starting to set, our initial frustration at potentially missing some time in the park soon dissipated as we drove along and came across two lionesses and four lion cubs having a little rest on the road. So here it began, Safari Bingo and compulsive photo taking. You try not to take so many, but some strange force takes over you and it is just ‘click, click, click’, you just can’t help it…
It was an excellent start to our hunting, the lions are just not phased by the cars and sat there helpfully posing and looking amazing, the cubs were beautiful and
were playing very sweetly, if only they could stay that cute, come on geneticists, fix it so they stay little. Our drivers finally decided we’d taken enough pictures and as night was falling thought it might be an idea that we head to camp and get some dinner before we ourselves were on the menu. We did see some other people with a flat tire though, so I guess if anyone was fodder for the animals that day, it was going to be them.
By the time we arrived at camp it was most definitely night time. The camp was slap bang in the middle of the Serengeti and we’d been told how to use our torches as animal spotters when we go to the bathroom, comforting. We seemed to be the last group to arrive as everyone was already tucking into their dinner, this was going to be the trend for the next few days, ah well, pole pole. We set up our tents and then went off to the dining area to await our dinner which was being rustled up in the outdoor kitchen by Sebastian. As we waited for the main courses, we were served a
View over the crater
gosh, it must have been a big bang when this went up!
starter of pop corn and Oreos, I’m not sure if this was one of Nigella’s or Delia’s but it set the dinner expectations a bit low. We didn’t need to worry though, as Sebastian served up some amazing food, an amazing cucumber soup, and I don’t even like cucumbers and a delicious main course all enjoyed in the company of mice and rats (tip- to rid yourself of a rat, shine your torch at it), can’t beat a bit of outdoor living. Then it was time to retire for the night after a bit of star gazing and then up at dawn for our first game drive.
After a peaceful night’s sleep it was up early and time for safari, with our bingo cards to hand, we’d already got one of the ‘Big Five’ and were eager to get the full set. It seems the Safari Gods were smiling on us that day as within five minutes of leaving camp we came across a lion just happily drinking from a puddle in the morning sunshine. Cameras out and five minutes of click, click, the lion decided enough is enough and nonchalantly strolled off into the grass ready for a
The Beautiful Zebra
They are so pretty and look so neatly painted, I'm really not sure they can be real
hard days lounging under a tree no doubt. This was pretty much going to be the order of the day, driving around the park and spotting animals, we came across so many, hippos wallowing, bewildered wildebeest, leopards lounging, cheetahs, well, cheating, elephants trumping, giraffes being unnecessarily tall and of course zebras just being fantastic as always. Even our drivers commented about how lucky we were, but we realised that it was all down to the magic elephant necklace purchased the day before in Mosquito River. Each time we required an animal to appear, Emma would rub the necklace and say the name of the animal we wanted, and lo and behold, within five minutes it would appear before us. If you ever go on safari, get an elephant necklace.
Mid morning we stopped for at the new coffee area in the middle of the park, it was nice to actually get out of the car and have a stroll around for a change. The Zebra refreshment van had a good selection and apparently the guy hadn’t left the park for three months, I guess his van was lion proof. We drove around some more and found a troop of
Not sure what was being eaten, just glad it wasn't me
baboons, it is quite scary how human like they can be and they look a bit aggressive, but then they have an almost dog like face, I just don’t know what to make of them. Our driver was excellent at spotting the animals, often we would have missed them but at least when you see a line of vans you know something of interest has been spotted so you head off over to see what’s what.
Early afternoon and it was time to head out of the Serengeti and back towards Ngorongoro, we’d certainly had good hunting and bagged all the big game we could possibly want apart from the elusive Rhino. If you were to turn the animals of the Serengeti into a Top Trumps game, Rhinos would be at the top and the poor old antelopes would be bottom of the heap. You almost feel sorry for them as they get very little attention from the tourists; there are never any lines of cars around an antelope, the commoners of the animal kingdom.
As we drove out of the park we came across the same lionesses we had seen the night before, nice of them to
I think we have previously established I like a bit of African dust
pop out to say goodbye to us. It was quite a drive to the camp on the side of the crater and of course we seemed to be the last ones to arrive at the camp yet and had to put up our tents in the dark again. The crater camp is at about 2000m, so the air was a little cold compared to the Serengeti and it was time to put on the thermals for the night.
We awoke to a misty morning and ‘broke camp’ (I know all the jargon now), packed up the car and headed down into the Ngorongoro crater for day two of our safari. Having been highly successful the day before the atmosphere was much more relaxed but there was some frantic rubbing of the elephant necklace with us all chanting ‘Rhino!’ furiously.
Entering the Ngorongoro was like entering some prehistoric lost world; the clouds capped the crater and gave an eerie light in the early morning. As the line of safari cars dissipated we first drove over to the area where the rhinos are know to hang out. Sadly we didn’t spot one and so decided it was time to stop
The gates of the Serengeti
From here on in, you're potentially someone's lunch
at a picnic site for some breakfast. We were amused by the monkeys at first but then one sneaked in to the car and stole a banana, cheeky monkey! Then while we were all having a good laugh at this another nipped in and stole a packet of cup cakes, right from under our noses. Running up a nearby tree, another monkey attacked it and he dropped them whereby another picked up the packed and open them and preceded to tuck into a nice cake for breakfast. Lesson learned, close the windows when monkeys abound.
Post breakfast we found a couple of lions fresh from the kill and enjoying a nice breakfast of wildebeest. It was amazing to watch them tear it apart and reminds you they may look cuddly but they have a nasty bite to them. Our driver also told us about why wildebeest always hang round with zebras, it seems the poor wildebeest aren’t the brightest animals in the crater and have a tendency to forget where they are. Whereas the clever zebras know where they are and so the wildebeest follow them around the plains, let’s just say there was a wildebeest in our car,
The first bit is rather flat
you know who you are ;-)
Again we had amazing luck and saw so much more game driving around, but yet the rhino eluded us, we were close to giving up, maybe it wasn’t going to be our day after all, had the elephant luck run dry? We were given the option of one more hour in the park or leaving, after a quick discussion, we thought we may as well stay for one more hour so we set off on a last drive around the crater. As we drove back towards the picnic area we saw a long line of cars on the horizon, excitement grew, could it be???
House! We’d done it; we’d bagged the rhino at the last minute and completed our Big Five Bingo, happy days. One solitary rhino stood there minding his own business eating a bit of grass, completely unfazed by the long line of safari trucks on the road, I dread to think how many photos were taken that morning. Even though the rhino looked at peace, the park ranger was on hand with a tranquiliser gun just in case it decided to charge.
Well, that was it, good hunting
All by my self..
Big Five Bingo #2
all round and we were all happy to start the trip back to Snake Park, a very successful safari and time for a beer or two to celebrate. We stopped again at Mosquito River on the way home, needless to say, I purchased a magic zebra necklace…
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