We were up really early the next morning for our 5 AM breakfast. Our luggage was loaded onto the safari land rovers and we were on the road by 5:45 AM. Our first destination of the day was Ngorongoro Crater National Park. I dosed most of the way as our driver made his way up the mountain roads in foggy and drizzly conditions. Upon entering the park, we were driven down a windy road to the crater floor.
Ngorongoro Crater is a 100-square mile wide caldera that was formed thousands of years ago from a collapsed volcano crater. Many species of animals make their home here except for giraffes (their preferred trees do not grow here). It is a unique place and thus is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Consequently, this allowed me to add another check mark to the world heritage sites I've visited. Ngorongoro Crater was one of three world heritage sites we checked off during our Tanzania trip
We were delayed briefly by a flat tire when we reached the crater floor. As our drivers, changed the flat, other safari vehicles formed a circle around us to protect our drivers from possible animal attacks while they worked. Soon we were on our way again. It was a chilly morning. Low-lying clouds obscured the view of the upper walls of the crater. This gave the place a mystical appearance. We spent the morning and early afternoon riding on the network of dirt roads viewing the abundance of wildlife. Our animal sightings were more frequent and closer than our sightings in Lake Manyara National Park. Wildebeests, jackals, antelope, flamingos, warthogs, zebras, hippos, lions, Cape buffalo, baboons, and birds were among some of the animals we saw. We saw the rare black rhino. Lion sightings would cause a paparazzi traffic jam as many safari vehicles jockeyed for position to give their passengers the best photo opportunities. One interesting thing I learned that day was that a herd of zebras tend to walk single-file.
rare black rhino
We stopped for lunch at a picnic area in the crater. This time, our box lunches had been prepared by the Crater Rim View Inn where we stayed the previous night. The food items were similar to the ones we had the previous day with the main item being fried chicken. We all ate inside of the land rover instead of eating at the picnic tables. This was to avoid those incredibly annoying black flies. They would land on my face. I would swat at them which would simply cause them to immediately fly to the other side of my face. It was like playing a nasty game of ping pong. These things would land on my lips, try to crawl up my nose, crawl on my scalp, or anywhere they could. The only way to found relief from these flies was to get in the land rover and close the windows.
After leaving Ngorongoro Crater, we had approximately a 1.5-hour drive before we reached the entrance of the famous Serengeti National Park. Even before we reached the park, it was not uncommon to see gazelles, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, and ostriches in the plains. We often saw the Maasai grazing their cattle in the plains. The interesting thing for me was to see wildebeests, zebras, and antelope grazing alongside the Maasai's livestock. These people truly live in harmony with nature.
Maasai have lived on the plains for thousands of years.
At some point during our drive from Ngorongoro Crater to Serengeti National Park, we transitioned from a paved road to a very dusty dirt road. We made a brief stop at the park entrance to take pictures of the Serengeti National Park sign. Out of nowhere, some Maasai women appeared with hopes of selling us jewelry.
I can't believe I am here!
A little further down the road, we encountered the park ranger station where our drivers were required to pay fees and obtain permits. While they took care of that business, we were given free time to do things such as visit the souvenir shop, climb up to Naabi Hill for an elevated view of the Serengeti plains, or buy a snack from the snack shop.
After our driver finished taking care of the administrative tasks for entering the park, we were on our way. The word “Serengeti” means “endless plains” in the Maasai language. As we traveled through the park, it was obvious how they came up with the name. There was flat land stretching to the horizon in all directions. I have enjoyed watching animal documentaries for most of my life. I had seen countless documentaries that were filmed on the Serengeti. I could hardly believe I was there. We saw many wildebeests, zebras, Cape buffalo and gazelles during our ride. In fact, we saw them so often that we barely gave them a glance after the first hour.
Although I was excited to be on the Serengeti, our ride was not nearly as exciting. We rode on the bumpy dirt road for what seemed like eternity. This part of East Africa heats up significantly for about 5 hours of the day. Therefore, we tended to keep the windows and the observation hatch roof open. The downside to doing this was that we had no protection from the clouds of dust being kicked up from the road – especially when another vehicle rode by. The reddish-brown dirt covered us and everything inside our land rover.
a very dusty ride through the Serengeti
We rode on the bumpy, dusty roads through the plains for more than 4 hours. It was already getting dark and the temperature was falling by the time we reached our lodging for the evening – Lobo Wildlife Lodge. It was a very nice lodge in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the plains of the Serengeti surrounding it. Just like when we arrived at the Crater Rim View Inn the previous day, we were greeted by the Lobo Wildlife Lodge staff with warm damp wash cloths and fruit juice. I was batting zero with the welcome fruit juices. I am not sure what kind this one was but I did not care for its taste. However, I appreciated the gesture. I used the white wash cloth I was handed to wipe my face. It was disturbing to see how brown the wash cloth was after one wipe of my dusty face.
Our group lined up at the reception desk and quickly received keys to our rooms. The bellman that showed Traci and me to our room warned us to always keep our door locked because the monkeys and baboons in the area are smart enough to turn door knobs for entry into your room. Yikes! Can you image that scene? Continue...
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