Friday, July 8
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I headed down to breakfast around 7:30am, skipping the eggs this morning as my stomach was bothering me a little bit. I ended up having some French toast (forgetting at the time that they include eggs - oops), waffles, and juice. We took our luggage out to the courtyard which was completely filled with Land Cruisers; the parking area seemed way too small given the number of vehicles. After getting all the luggage and people loaded into the trucks we headed out.

The plan for the day was to do an all-morning game drive on the way to the Seronera area - basically the opposite of what we did the previous afternoon - then head over to the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge on the edge of the crater rim where we would be staying. We left before 8:30am, encountering a number of animals just outside the lodge, including a cliff springer, vultures, guinea fowl, buffalo, topi, hartebeest, gazelle, and impala. We continued on after stopping a few times, including once to observe a pair of crown-crested cranes. We then came across several zebra and a group of six giraffes - all very calm even with three other trucks nearby (previously giraffes in this park have been a bit more skittish around our trucks). We passed by some sizable groups of wildebeest and gazelle before spotting a strange bird that turned out to be a secretary bird. Looking in the other direction from our stopped truck, Lynn spotted a head barely popping up above the tall grasses. It was a cheetah lying in the grass, visible only as a small area of spots until it occasionally lifted its head up to look around. There was actually another cheetah in the grass as well, but that one barely moved and was very difficult to see. We hung around for a while hoping they would get up, but it was windy (our guide explained they like to wait out the wind) so we moved on. We then came across a big herd of giraffes (at least 18 by my count) spread out in an open field munching on the trees.

Soon thereafter we saw a hyena run across the road - right behind the other truck and in front of ours. He spent a bit of time by the side of road, giving us ample opportunity to observe and photograph him before he ran off into some trees. Hyenas are generally nocturnal, so it was a bit unusual to see one out in the middle of the day. We were even able to see a second one a bit further down the road - this one with his head sticking out from a drainage pipe running under the road, looking quite pleased and happy with himself.

We then came across a herd of elephants dispersed among other giraffes, zebras, and wildebeests. I was even lucky enough to get a few pictures with elephant, giraffe, and zebra all in the same shot (though it's not a great picture in and of itself). It was an incredible collection of life, all in a very green and lush area of the Serengeti. The herd of elephants had to be at least 50 strong, including a number of very young and cute baby elephants our guide estimated to be no more than a few days old.

After driving a little further, dodging zebra and wildebeest running across the roads, we hit the Seronera Visitor's Center for lunch. We had only a short break to eat before continuing on. Lunch was a boxed lunch and I had some chicken, bread, an apple, apple juice, and a couple of cookies. We left around 1:30pm.

We had a fairly lengthy (and very uncomfortable) drive ahead of us along bumpy and dusty roads to get to Ngorongoro. Not long after leaving, the scenery changed dramatically - from the lush green landscape filled with all kinds of animals to a dry and endlessly yellow-brown vista broken only by the occasional acacia or sausage tree. We still saw a few animals - mostly gazelle and impala - though we did see a lone giraffe as well. We reached the park gate after an hour or so and stopped to allow the guides to complete their paperwork before leaving.

At the official park boundary a few miles later, Amani made a phone call and found out that we didn't have a visit to the Masai "village" scheduled - someone on the tour company end dropped the ball. For $10/person we could still have gone, but the truck collectively decided not to. In recent years the Masai have fully embraced the tourism industry, and have setup a number of these "villages" to cater to visitors. They will perform dances and show you their way of life, but it seems to have mostly become a sales pitch of sorts to get you to buy more stuff. All of the Masai kids along the roads have also become beggars, something unseen only a few years ago, and will come running to the trucks with their hands out opening and closing their palms. This is despite the Masai generally being fairly well off - especially due to the tourism trend now.

We saw this in action as we drove to the crater, passing by kids running towards us and along with the truck. We drove through the same Masai country as we did going to the Serengeti, seeing the cattle and their herders amongst zebras and other wildlife. We even saw a handful of giraffes as we climbed up the slope.

Somewhere along the way the truck was no longer able to enter 2nd gear. Shifting (or attempting to) from 1st to 2nd gear generated that awful grinding noise familiar to manual-transmission drivers (like when you forget to put in the clutch). Fortunately we weren't too far from our destination, and we were able to make it using 1st gear for the uphill portions and 3rd gear when we were able to jump there from 1st with enough speed. Although it made for a slightly longer drive, we were pretty happy it was just one gear and not the entire transmission.

We got to the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge just before 5:30pm and got checked in. The room was the same as all the others from the safari portion of the trip (all of the lodges are owned by the same parent company). The view from our window, and from the lobby and dining area, looks over and into Ngorongoro Crater. It was very hazy again today, but apparently on clear days you can often see herds of animals moving down below. After a shower (water this time oscillated between lukewarm and uncomfortably hot - not great but better than at the last lodge) it was time for dinner. It was a buffet again - I had Masai lamb with broccoli, rice, and potatoes with a glass of the house Cabernet and chocolate pie for dessert. Dinner was early tonight - we ate at 6:30pm instead of the usual 7:30pm. After eating, I returned to the room to write before going to bed early.

>> View all pictures from today <<      

Hartebeest (Serengeti National Park)

Giraffe (Serengeti National Park)

Cheetah(Serengeti National Park)

Hyena (Serengeti National Park)

Baby Elephant(Serengeti National Park)

Elephants, Zebra and Giraffe (Serengeti National Park)

Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge

     More pictures from today:

Topi (Serengeti National Park)
Secretary Bird (Serengeti National Park)

Elephant Tusks (Black & White)
(Serengeti National Park)
Elephant (Black & White)
(Serengeti National Park)

Lone Giraffe (Serengeti National Park)
Zebra and Giraffe (Serengeti National Park)
Baboon (Serengeti National Park)

Giraffe and Zebra (Serengeti National Park)

Mom and Baby Elephants (Serengeti National Park)
View From Our Room (Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge)

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