Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lake Manyara, Serengeti N.P., and Ngorogoro Crater

Laura and I organized our safari with Sunny Safaris. We organized a 5-day, 4-night camping safari. The first day would be spent at Lake Manyara, about 2 hours drive from Tengeru where we were volunteering. The second day would be a long drive to the Serengeti in the morning and a Serengeti game drive in the afternoon. The third day was spent entirely in the Serengeti with morning and afternoon game drives. The fourth day we had a morning game drive in the Serengeti and an afternoon drive to the Ngorogoro Crater rim (which, by the way, is freezing this time of year!). The fifth day started with a Crater game drive and then the return back to Arusha.

The price included a Toyota Land Cruiser, a driver-guide, a cook, tents, and plenty of food. The cook made up three fantastic meals a day. After eating beans and rice most of the volunteer time, it was great to be spoiled with some amazing meals. I don't know how the guy made what he did in those conditions but I enjoyed his results. We had a mother-daughter pair that joined us for the entire safari. They volunteered with the same organization as we did and were a great couple to go along with.

The first day, we were picked up at our volunteer house and taken to the Lake Manyara camp site. Along the way, we passed the area where the large dala-dala accident was about a month before. Now, a large memorial comemorates the loss of so many people. I still can't believe we were there that sad day. Upon arrival at the campsite, we took all the equipment from the truck and lifted up the hood for our Lake Manyara game drive. What a way to start a safari.

Lake Manyara National Park is 127 square miles, the lake's alkaline waters cover approximately 89 square miles. It is well known for the many pink flamingos that frequent the waters. All kinds of wildlife surround it.

We were greeted by hundreds of baboons.

Saw lots of acacia trees with all kinds of wildlife.

The highlight was 2 elephants tangling for a good 10 minutes.

After a great sleep at the campsite, we started a 4 hour drive to the Serengeti. We drove through the Ngorogoro Conservation Area and just by the crater we would visit in a few days. We saw many Maasai people, homesteads, and cattle along the way. Wildlife along the way was abundant, many types of impala, wildebeest, etc. Along the rough roads, we got 2 flat tires. They were a pain to change due to the horrible jack that we had with the vehicle. Luckily, other drivers lended us some equipment to get our change done reasonably quick. The anxiety was killer because it was delaying our entry into one of the most famous parks in the world, the Seregeti. Upon entering, it was like the wildlife just doubled. Every direction you looked, there were gazelles, impalas, etc. running around. Eventually, we encountered a lion from a distance and viewed her with our binoculars... but then, our guide spotted another lioness just on the side of the road. We took off to see her and basically, had a lioness 1 meter from the vehicle for about 5 minutes. Little did we realize this was a normal occurence in the Serengeti.

The Serengeti is a 60,000 square kilometer savanna and everywhere that you look, there is wildlife. It's impossible to get a view without wildlife in it (so it seems). It's really incredible. Here are some of the sites of the Serengeti.

A lioness we saw from about 20 meters.

We only saw 1 leopard during our 5 days but he had a bite to eat in his tree while we were there.

A wildebeest-zebra watering hole.

A cheetah at sunrise.

An elephant with her calf.

A giraffe eating from an acacia bush.

Sunrise in the Serengeti.

The first morning in the Serengeti, the hyenas were out. Wildebeest were charging across the plains as the hyenas ran around and gathered themselves. Even gazelles were ensuring they were out of the way. It was amazing the adrenaline you get watching all of this live.

The most spectacular site had to be a lioness and her lion cubs. In the evening, the cubs were really active and put on quite a show for us.

During our final morning in the Serengeti, we re-visited the area where the lioness and her cubs were. There were a number of trucks there watching them. The cubs were playing around the vehicles so mama came by to check things out. As she was doing so, one of the tourists in another car got out of the vehicle to sit on the roof. He leaned over the side of the vehicle so his friend could get a picture of him and the lioness below. As he did this, the lioness hunched down and nearly jumped to swipe his body out of the vehicle. For some reason, she decided not to but talk about a rush of adrenaline. The guy seemed like a sure goner but I guess it wasn't his day to go. The lioness really could have improved the human gene pool though.

Our last day was spent in Ngorogoro crater. We stayed the night at the rim which was brutally cold considering we had nothing but fleeces to break the wind. We woke up really early to beat the crown and head into the caldera. The caldera, which formed as a giant volcano exploded and collapsed on itself, is 610m deep and the floor is 260 square km. It holds an amazing concentration of wildlife. If you wanted to see animals in just one single day, this is the place to go.

Upon arriving in the caldera, I immediately spotted a hyena in the distance with some kind of grazing animal by its side. This didn't make much sense so I moved to the binoculars. Sure enough, the hyena had a head full of blood and right beside it was a struggling wildebeest. The hyena was sticking his head into an open wound of the wildebeest and eating away. The wildebeest was desperately attempting to get up as it was getting eaten alive. We saw this from quite a distance but here's the result of the most disgusting site we saw all safari.

We wondered where the other hyenas were so that they would kill this wildebeest and put it to rest. We ended up finding a bunch of them futher down the road as they fought over the remains of another carcass. Not sure what they were dining on but most likely, another wildebeest.

Further down the road, about 1 meter from the road was a male and female lion. There's only one reason these two get together and I guess this couple likes to make it public.

We spent a long time watching a lion pride fend off about 20 hyenas who were trying to scavenge the lion kill. First, two lionesses killed something. Twenty hyenas showed up to try to steal the catch. The two lionesses fended off the hyenas and eventually one of them took off to call the pride. The pride of 12 hurried down and started eating the carcass. The male finished first and once he came out to fight the hyenas, the hyenas were gone. The male was impressive as the rest of the pride feasted on their catch. After seeing the earlier hyena sites, it was nice to see them lose a battle. Unfortunately, this was so far away, we couldn't get pictures of everything going on.

The caldera is also home to the extremely endangered black rhino. Unfortunately, the morning was quite cold and the rhinos don't like to exit under those conditions.

An elephant on the plains of the caldera. Noone is going to mess with him.

Zanzibar post coming soon!!!


Anonymous said...

AMAZING pictures.
It seems like a national geoghafic documentary!!
I can't believe you've been so close to all this. You are lucky!!

Greg said...

Sure glad you have and practiced with that moocho camera of yours. These photo's beat the heck out of the ones you sent us from Colorado.... not that I don't enjoy photos of guys and cats in the snow mind you and eagles in trees. But bull elephants, lionesses, etc as Billy c would say "absooo-lutely maa-ve-lus". So enjoying. Thanks.
Do have a problem enlarging them to save them. The little white hand comes up when cursor is over the photos but can't enlarge. What the heck. Please share some of these beauties when you return.

Yup ..... truly a time to remember.

Greg 1-25-07 1547 USA EDST

Anonymous said...

we thought your other safari was great but this one really was the cat's meoooooow. those hyenas were mean, squirrly little bastards--but I guess that is reality in the jungle. Glad your Mom wasn't with you to try and get a closer picture as she did with buffalo a few years ago. the cats are jealous of you two seeing all those distant cousins of theirsin Africa.

Anonymous said...

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