15 July 2013 – Day 22
It was an early start for us all again as this time we were heading off to the Ngorongoro Crater, a national park situated at the centre of a huge crater. By about 8am we had reached the crater lip, a few hours after we had left Lake Manyara, We all bundled together at the viewpoint to take a few photos and get a feel for how huge the crater was. All kinds of animals and birds all lived together inside the bowl of the crater, providing both fantastic game viewing opportunities as well as a beautiful backdrop.
We had an excellent day for game viewing. We saw managed to see the Big Five again, this time with the special addition of a black rhino in the distance. We also got to see a porcupine, which was larger than I expected. Our safari guide told us it was the first one he’d seen in 9 years. Porcupines are nocturnal and so you don’t usually get to see them when you do game drives.
We stopped for lunch at the side of a large lake filled with hippos. It was sunny and hot, but we were advised to keep our eyes on our lunches at all times. It became apparent why when eagles kept swooping down to try and take our sandwiches. Baboons too were present yet again but we had learnt from our previous encounters and managed to fend them off.
Sometime during the late afternoon we crossed from the crater park into Serengeti National Park, perhaps one of the most famous game parks in the world. A few of the local Masai were waiting at the gate. I say local, when in fact they had to walk for miles to get there. They await the tourists and will pose for photos in exchange for coins. We were told that the dry season is the best time for game viewing because the animals have little choice of food and water and so often are found at the same watering holes or nearby. In fact, just as the sun was setting we were lucky enough to spot a cheetah in the grass and lots of plains game.
When we made it to the bush camp, we were delighted to find that our safari guides had set our tents up for us – the best treat of the trip so far! After tucking into a pre-cooked meal (another treat! We were truly being spoilt), we were advised not to venture outside in the dark alone or without a light, as we were camping in the middle of the game park and there were no fences between us and whatever animals were roaming about in the dark. Indeed, Caz and Brendan swore the next morning that they heard a lion outside of their tent during the night.
16 July 2013 – Day 23
Finally, the day I’d been waiting for the entire trip – the Serengeti! Up early as normal, tents packed away and we were off again into the park. Our luck was in almost straight away. Our safari guide got wind of a cheetah sighting so we sped down the dusty tracks to find them. We were more than lucky – we found two cheetahs. We watched them for a while before we set off again, only to swing by later and find that something more exciting was happening. A jackal had arrived, along with a young impala and they were giving chase. Our guide said that apparently cheetahs don’t like to eat young impala or something, but I wasn’t sure how much I believed in this so-called conscience on the cheetah’s part. The jackal managed to slip through the cheetah’s barrier and snatch the impala. It ran off, the cheetahs at full speed chasing after it. Although the cheetah’s are far faster than jackals, they’re not strong at all and so didn’t manage to win this fight. We were all fairly gutted when the cheetahs gave up and the jackal ate the baby impala. Such is the circle of life.
We had another good day of game viewing, though by now we were dusty and tired. Dirt from the dry tracks outside poured in through the windows we kept open to cool ourselves down. We eventually made it back to Snake Park, Arusha, where our truck, tour leader and a few of the others who had stayed behind were. The Numpty for that trip went to Jenni, who bravely asked “are there penguins in the Serengeti?”
That night we stayed in the camp bar late into the night, relaying our adventures and getting to know the new members of our team who had joined us in Nairobi. Another tour company’s driver let us try some biltong (dried meat, beef in this instance). Emma showed us her incredible moves, doing the worm for us on the dusty floor and she ended up gauging holes in her feet and banging her chin, but she was awesome all the same. It was very late indeed when we got a scolding from a teacher staying in the campsite and after that it was time to call it a night.