Better late than never...
- ****Hey guys so we had such sporadic and iffy wifi in Africa that we were not able to keep up with our blog but we are home now with pictures and notes from Thom's hand written journal along the way so over the next few days and weeks we wanted to update our blog to keep the stories and memories all in one place. For those of you who are subscribed ...If you are not interested or get too many e-mails back to back from the new posts we apologize as typically we keep up with this in the moment and on the road but like I said we found that particularly challenging on this trip. However, we have many friends and family not on Facebook or far away that might appreciate hearing about this type of trip. Also the fact that is this blog is more of a personal diary of travel for Thom and I when all said and done. So much love and thanks to all either way!******
PS ---- We are going to Mexico City for 5 days over Halloween and Day of the Dead in Oct/Nov and we are super excited to share about this festival style trip as well so I need to get Africa done and posted soon! :-)
This post was actually written on the road just never published...
Ngoragora Crater and Serengeti
I am typing this on our moving truck trying to recall the last three days.....
Thom and I waited in the lobby of the Impala Hotel for the arrival of our intrepid group and truck. While we were waiting we met a Canadian named Sava who had just finished climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and was also waiting for Intrepid although he would actually be part of a different group. Finally our truck pulled in and we met Rose our group leader.
It is awesome to have a woman as a leader on this trip as they have only been men in the past. Along with Rose we have a cook and a driver. Our first night camping was in a closed campground with hot showers and a bar and pool. It was in the small village of Mto Wa Mbu. We would be returning here for one final night after two nights in a bush camp to tour the Ngoragora Crater and Serengeti. This type of Overland Adventure is set up where everyone pitches in and has jobs or duties to do. From chopping vegetables to sweeping and mopping the truck to washing dishes. There is a schedule and groups get rotated throughout the journey. It is great because it really makes you feel like you are part of a community or family.
After we pitched our tents we met more of our group. There are 18 of us all together. There is one other couple from Florida who are retired teachers and Nicolas is originally from Malaysia but lives in Chicago now. Then there are two teachers who just got married from Ireland, a couple from Canada, a doctor from New Zealand and others from Australia.
After we pitched our tents we gathered for dinner. They feed you so well and it is amazing what our cook can make on the road and with limited pots and fire. Every night there is always soup as a first course and then a second course of a little of everything meat, veg, starch. All from scratch.
The next morning we woke early to break down our tents, make our own lunch from sandwich toppings and bananas, eat breakfast and finally pack overnight bags for our bush camp. We split into 3 smaller safari jeeps each with their own guide.
Thom and I were with Nancy, Alana, Nicolas and John and we had the best time together. Our guide/driver was Herri and he was really great!
So to begin we headed out to the Ngoragora Crater. First we drove up to the top rim where you can look out over it.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a park in the Northwest Tanzania. It contains an old volcano that has collapsed and formed a crater (caldera). The steep sides of the crater have become a natural enclosure for a wide variety of wildlife.
Once we drove down to the center we saw so many animals. Here we get out of the truck for a brief moment
The Ngorongoro Crater includes most of the animal species found in East Africa but no elephants and giraffes.
The most thrilling and exciting moments of the trip so far happened here. A family of lions were spotted so of course everyone drove near to see them. It was a male, 2 females and three cubs.
They were pretty close to the road.
On the other side of the road were hundreds of African buffalo, known as one of the most aggressive animal in Tanzinia.
So our jeep actually was situated between the lions and the buffalo. The buffalo were all facing the lions on the other side of the road and you could tell they were getting agitated.
All of a sudden two buffalo appeared on the other side by the lions and stated charging at them. The lions including the babies all scattered.
Then the female pawed at the male for not protecting them and he ran right into the road next to our car.
They finally gathered back together in the grass but were missing one of the three babies. We waited around but never saw if he got back to his parents or where he ran off to.
Later we stopped near a beautiful watering hole filled with hippos to have lunch! It is all so surreal.
After many hours of spotting animals we headed two hours to the Serengeti National reserve where we would be camping in an open bush camp.
The drive there was very bumpy so locals say you get an "African massage" ha!
The park is but one of several conservation areas within the Serengeti region of East Africa, though a vitally important one. As well as conserving wildlife, flora and iconic landscapes, Serengeti National Park has emerged as a major traveller and tourist destination, many making the journey there to engage in safari. The name Serengeti comes from the Maasai language, meaning 'endless plains'.
We were spoiled in that our tents were already set up for us when we got to camp that first night.
Now there is no enclosure at this camp so technically the animals can come visit you at night. So we were told that if you have to use the restroom at night to first shine your light out your tent and look for eyes. Then just go right outside your tent. I came prepared with a "she wee" (let's you pee standing) just in case but luckily I didn't need to use it. You could hear hyenas the first night and something did brush up against Thom's side of the tent the second night. But honestly it wasn't as scary as I thought it was going to be and I actually slept pretty well. We did hear animals at night and Thom said something brushed him through the tent one night so because it was him and not me sleep actually happened...ha ha ha!
As well as the migration of ungulates, the park is well known for its healthy stock of other resident wildlife, particularly the "Big Five", named for the five most prized trophies taken by hunters although now just pictures. We saw all except for the rhino. 1.)Black Rhinoceros: mainly found around the kopjes in the centre of the park, very few individuals remain due to rampant poaching.
2.) Lion: the Serengeti is believed to hold the largest population of lions in Africa due in part to the abundance of prey species. More than 3,000 lions live in this ecosystem.
3.) African Leopard: these reclusive predators are commonly seen in the Seronera region but are present throughout the national park with the population at around 1,000. We got really lucky to catch this guy on our last day. Didn't think we were going to see one.
4.)African Elephant: the herds are recovering from population lows in the 1980s caused by poaching and are largely located in the northern regions of the park. We saw so many though!! And they were amazing the one day coming so close to us! I could have touched one that is how close they were!!!
5.)African Buffalo: saw hundreds of these at the crater.
The park also supports many other species, including cheetah, Thomson's and Grant's gazelle, topi, eland, waterbuck, hyena, baboon, impala, African wild dog, and giraffe. The park also boasts about 500 bird species, including ostrich, secretary bird, Kori bustard, crowned crane, marabou stork, martial eagle, lovebirds, and many species of vultures.
We saw two cheetah eating prey and then when they left we watched the vultures swoop in to eat the remains. Amazing circle of life moment :-)
Amazing sunsets too! Shhhhh don't tell that our super cool driver let us sneak a few pics outside the truck.
So I want to talk about the tribal people of the area called the Maasai but I don't have too many pictures of them mostly out of respect.
Some believe you will take it to a witch doctor so they don't like their pictures being taken. Others will charge you money to take a picture and I don't feel that sends the right message to the villages and community and is not supported by our tour. However I found this blog that explains and shares a lot if you are interested.
More to come soon!