AFRICA DAY 12 - THE SERENGETI
Wednesday, July 6
 
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I slept pretty well last night, despite another battle with an incessantly buzzing mosquito inside the net. The plan for the day was to drive into the Serengeti and to the Seronera Wildlife Lodge. We would pass through a portion of Serengeti National Park in the afternoon on the way to the lodge. After getting dressed and grabbing some breakfast (egg/cheese/peppers omelet, pancakes with honey, toast, and juice) we all brought our luggage down to load into the Land Cruisers. We took off just before 9:00am.

We drove out of the lodge and through Karatu - the town we drove through the previous day on the way to the orphanage and clinic. We drove through some open fields of maize that could have easily passed for any farm in Nebraska or Kansas - except for the occasional African walking around. We continued on nicely paved roads until pulling into the parking lot of the Ngorongoro Crater entrance. Our driver Amani needed to register with the authorities to enter the park, even though we were just driving through and not stopping inside or entering the crater. The only way to get to the Serengeti is to drive through the crater area along the rim road.

We started into the conservation area after a 45 minute wait, entering the rainforest on bumpy dirt roads (no more pavement) under cloudy skies. We drove along, slowly climbing in elevation up the road until we broke through the clouds. We stopped briefly at an overlook point - but the view was quite hazy so we didn't stay long. The road soon flattened out as we drove away from the crater and entered Masai land. Tanzania does not allow people to live in their national parks, but does allow them to live in conservation areas, such as the Ngorongoro Crater. When Tanzania established Serengeti National Park the Masai were no longer allowed to live there, but as a concession were given the right to live in the crater area. It does include some very good agricultural and grazing land (for their cattle), so it wasn't an entirely bad deal (though does seem in principle similar to the devastating Native American relocations done previously here in the US). As we drove across the valley we saw Masai herdsmen and their cattle and goats interspersed with zebra and gazelle.

The road we were driving along was in pretty bad shape. Imagine a poorly maintained, dusty, rocky, washboarded and uneven dirt road, then make it worse and ride over it in a truck for 2+ hours - not exactly a fun time. When we stopped later for lunch I got out of the truck feeling shaken and rattled all over. We had stopped for lunch in the Oldupai Gorge (or "Olduvai" as it was corrupted by the Germans) - made famous by the Archaeological discoveries made by Mary Leaky and Louis Leaky. A local guide gave a brief talk about the area and the five geological layers of rock visible in the gorge before we ate our boxed lunches. We left after eating and continued on our way.

Since leaving the Ngorongoro Crater area we had slowly been progressing from the lush and green rainforests through the fertile open valleys of the Masai, eventually to the entrance of Serengeti National Park. We were now surrounded by endless views of tall yellow grasses, broken only by the occasional spindly tree far off along the horizon. A couple miles into the park we stopped at the visitor's center so the drivers could once again register with the rangers and take care of the appropriate paperwork and fees. While everyone sat around for a while I picked up a Serengeti magnet, followed by us continuing on around 3:00pm.

I'd always thought of the Serengeti as a large flat expanse of dead grasses and occasional trees, but that really wasn't what it was like. While it is mostly flat, there are large hills visible on the horizon and the land is dotted with rocky outcrops complete with trees and green plants. Where there is water there are also a large number of very green plants - including those that look like palm trees - that make these oasis-like sections look very tropical.

The plan was to drive to our lodge for the night located in the middle of the park, looking for animals along the way. We encountered zebras, giraffes, many birds, gazelle, and even saw a lioness lying high on a rock in one of the aforementioned outcroppings. We also saw a leopard lounging in a tree in another outcropping very nearby, though we didn't have great views of either. On our way to the lodge we also came across a small herd of elephants at a watering hole, so we stopped to watch them for a while.

We got to the Seronera Wildlife Lodge right around 5:45pm. The lodge is built right over and into a rock outcropping in the middle of the Serengeti, and has its own onsite generator to provide power. After checking in we went to our room and looked out the back window. We had views of a hippo pond with zebra and wildebeest all around. Closer by there was a bunch of mongooses going crazy on and in a termite mound, the resident monkey playing in the tree, and the resident hyrax on the ground.

After showering we went down to eat dinner. Dinner was a buffet, complete with a four-piece African percussion ensemble (cymbals, drums, and a xylophone or something similar). I had roast lamb, potatoes, carrots, and green beans. After dinner I headed up to the room and went straight to bed. Mike had mentioned there would be a 6:00am (sunrise) game drive the next day for those who were interested. We would return to the lodge for breakfast and to pack before taking off for the day. I was really tired anyway, and was in bed by 8:30pm. Randy came back to the room shortly later and was soon in bed as well.


>> View all pictures from today <<      

 
masai
Masai Land


oldupai
Oldupai Gorge


plains
Open Plains of the Serengeti


rocky
Rocky Outcrop (Serengeti National Park)


leopard
Leopard (Serengeti National Park)


elephant
Elephant (Serengeti National Park)


elephant2
Elephant and Saddle-billed Stork (Serengeti National Park)

     More pictures from today:

masai
Masai Village
lioness
Lioness (Serengeti National Park)

starling
Superb Starling
(Serengeti National Park)
bird
Saddle-billed Stork
(Serengeti National Park)
elephant
Elephant
(Serengeti National Park)

vultures
Vultures (Serengeti National Park)
zebra
Zebra (Serengeti National Park)

mongooses
Mongooses and Termite Mound (Seronera Wildlife Lodge)
view
View from our Room (Seronera Wildlife Lodge)

lodge
Seronera Wildlife Lodge (Serengeti National Park)
lodge2
Seronera Wildlife Lodge (Serengeti National Park)

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