Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater Safari
Have you ever wanted to see big, wild animals, like the ones you see on National Geographic: Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Zebras, Hyenas, Cheetahs, Monkeys, Baboons, and more….? The famous Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater offer you this in abundance. From Nairobi to Arusha by shuttle, we even saw gazelles, zebras, cows, goats and a lot of interesting people, land and homes, but while these animals are wild, roaming free and can or could be found in these same surroundings, they are no longer common. Be aware, however, that there is always the possibility of running into one or more of them if you are out adventuring.
That is how I would describe my taste of Africa, as well. A beautiful, varied, seemingly harmless, but a little like the wild animals I saw in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. The environment is harsh, but just like the animals, the people have adapted to their surroundings. As we traveled from the south to the northern Serengeti, we witnessed many people of varying ages: men, women and children so young that I was astonished to see them alone in the streets, streams or fields. Everyone was going about their daily lives and I got to see a little of what life was like for them. I kept thinking of the animals I had been witnessing for days as I pondered these people’s lives. They journey long distances to get the things they need, including water. They wash their clothes and bodies in the same streams that probably see a fair bit of waste that I can safely assume is not treated by anything up river. I watched people in the middle of nowhere, going somewhere that I hadn’t identified existed. Distance and travel appeared to be just another part to their daily rhythm. And in all of this, many dressed like middle class business workers or at the very least like they were going to church, which looked odd to someone like myself, especially since as an engineer I am typically surrounded by jeans and t-shirts. 🙂
The animals I saw were not unlike this. Their beautiful coats did not reflect the dust and desert-scape of their environment. They also migrate over long distances following the rain or grass growth for food and water. Thousands of animals sometimes moving as one herd—a seemingly endless stream of beasts like an endless waterfall, traveling vast expanses of land and going somewhere but seemingly in the middle of nowhere from wherever it was they came. They, too, rely on their surroundings for food, water, and bathing. For instance, there was a body of water with wildebeests in varying stages of rot and upstream a family of hippos lounged.
I saw a lot of baby animals were seen in the wild, too. Watching baby baboons, monkeys, elephants, lions, and cheetahs was humorous as their coordination was not unlike that of a human infant. Each adorable and cute for their small and childlike nature. Click the photo to watch a 20″ clip of these two thanks to Luke Humphrey.
Everything in the wild is about basic needs and somehow they all manage to exist in the same space, sometimes prey sometimes preying. Observing this made me ponder the technology we have and the technology this region lacked. How primitive and difficult life was compared to what I knew it could be. I wondered what a lion would do if they somehow could learn to track their food with the use of technology. I mean, someone was already tracking them with collars and it wouldn’t be too hard to think they could learn how to read a signal if trained. Far-fetched, I know, but it was a strange consideration from my seat in the Range Rover as I marveled at how easy food is to come by for westerners.
Fascinating to watch was a pride of lions teaming up to attack a buffalo. The buffalo managed to keep them off and then proceeded to chase one of them for a long distance before everything calmed down again. Cubs learning how to hunt, lions chasing off hyenas from recent kills, lionesses hunting…wow.
Along with all of this life activity in the wild, there was also a lot of death to observe…death that was made a part of the life of the wild. We saw everything from an exciting lion kill to animal bones, skulls, things like that in the surrounding terrain. One day, driving into the Serengeti, there was a dead hyena lying in the middle of the road with a wildebeest head nearby. Another day, we watched a group of hyenas attempt to get food from a recent pride kill. One snagged a Zebras leg quarter and raced off because it was now being chased by another hyena. Clearly, these animals have rules or no rules about sharing. I came to understand through these observations that there is a hierarchy to life in the wild. They talk often of the Big 5: Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Rhino, and Buffalo. These are the untouchables, the animals that are most difficult to kill.
Even with birds there seems to be some order. During one of our drives, we encountered a gazelle being devoured by a group of vultures. Actually, there was an alpha vulture who was feasting on the carcass and every other buzzard, vulture and creature that wanted a part had to wait until this alpha bird was done. The alpha bird ate the ‘good’ stuff like the innards and left the rest for everyone else to fight over.
Essentially, the safari exceeded my expectations of what I would experience and witness even though it was a lot of time in a vehicle. Climb Kili arranged everything for us as well as the Kilimanjaro trip. We stayed in a tent that had one of the comfiest beds I have ever slept in. The tents were like hotel rooms and the service was exceptional. We even had our own guide to walk us at night between the fire pit, lounge and dinner. He walked with a bow and arrow in case stray animals found their way inside the area.
Back to Arusha for a few days to visit some villages and learn more about the people…stay tuned…
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