Zanzibar to Serengeti National Park

Trip Start Aug 27, 2009
Trip End May 30, 2010

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Tumbali Campsite

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Zanzibar and Serengeti

Yay!!! Well not exactly YAY but YAY for me because for once I wasn't the one who got sick!!  Poor Kris (along with most the rest of our group) landed some tummy bug in Zanzibar and couldn’t venture too far from the toilet – poor things.  It cleared up on its own after a few days so no hospital trips for Kris – thank goodness.  We left the truck in Dar es Salaam and felt like we were truly backpacking again by lugging our bags on public transport, smashed into a local ferry, and crossed onto Zanzibar Island for 4 days.  Someone said it’s listed as one of the top 10 most beautiful islands, and it really is gorgeous however we weren’t in the mindset to chill out on the beach since we spent so long in Thailand, but we headed down for a day and soaked in the sun on the white sand and swam in the crystal clear water.  So amazing!!  The other days we spent in Stonetown (old slave market capital and well known for spices).  On the city tour we learned about the slave history in Tanzania and saw how all different spices are grown and produced.  The rest of the time we relaxed in the air conditioned room with TV (first we’ve seen since January!), caught up on the news, and checked internet.

Now on to my most favorite part of the entire trip  - not just the overland trip, or even the Africa part of the trip, but my most favorite thing we’ve done since we left Australia in August… the Serengeti National Park and Ngorogoro Crater.  Kristian has wanted to go since he was a boy but I really had no idea what to expect, therefore had little expectations and wow was I absolutely amazed – the only way I can describe it is honestly the most magical place I’ve ever experienced.  It’s not just a place to visit, the Serengeti is it’s own living and breathing organism – everything works together and lives and breathes in sync.  It’s like something out of a fairytale.

The first day was a long drive in our Safari vehicle through the crater (created 5 million years ago by volcanoes) and to the Serengeti.  Once inside the park we drove for a few hours before setting up camp at sunset.  The constantly changing scenery and vast landscape of picture-perfect plains and mountains was enough to look at – when you throw in wild elephants, herds of thousands of wildebeest, African buffalo, and zebras grazing in the grassy plains, hyenas, the rarely spotted leopard in a tree (which we’ve now seen 3!), a majestic male lion looking after his pride, giraffes munching on the tallest trees, my very favorite animal – warthogs (they’re not quite perfect and just so darling), feeling the breeze and sun on your face, and listening to all the foreign sounds of the savannah – it’s the greatest experience anyone could ever have.  We came across a herd of elephants and spotted the bull (which was absolutely massive!) and he spotted us, walked straight over to us, stood directly in front of the truck and was eye-to-eye staring us down (we were standing out the sunroof) with his 1,000lb trunk resting on the hood of the truck.  I think we all stopped breathing until he made his point and walked away.  No one moved a muscle!

That night we camped in the middle of the bush (the sky was a massive blanket of stars stretching as far as the eye could see) and I had to put my earplugs in to keep myself from freaking out – we heard lions roar throughout the night, hyenas howling, all sorts of things munching around our tent – it was awesome!  Kristian stayed up most the night just listening.  

The second day we game drove until lunch then packed up camp and headed back to the Ngorogoro Crater where we camped right on the rim of the crater.  The altitude was shocking and we were absolutely freezing in our tents, but I love it and sleep so much better when it is cold… Kris not so much!  After dinner I had the scare of a lifetime.  It was a pitch-black night with no moon so the only light guiding me was my headlamp.  I walked to our tent, grabbed toilet paper, went to the bathroom, then back to the tent to put away the paper and heard this funny munch munch munch noise that I’d never heard before. I thought it was just someone else setting up their tent so I shined my headlamp to the left and holy crap a huge bull buffalo shot his head straight up in surprise and I was eye-to-eye with him close enough to reach out and touch him.  These actually kill more humans than any other African mammal and my heart sank.  I thought about running but we were told no sudden movements so I shined my light around him and I was literally in the middle of a huge herd of buffalo moving through the camp – there were hundreds!!  Trying SO hard to keep my cool I actually couldn’t keep my legs from running and I ran into the dinning area to tell everyone what just happened, hoping nothing was chasing after me!  The guards were trying to move them out, but there were just too many so the entire night we had buffalo munching grass all around our tents – sometimes even reaching under and pulling grass from under our mats!!  The massive shadows on the side of the tent made me freeze in my sleeping bag on more than one occasion.  It was ridiculously cool!!!

Our last day was spent game driving inside the crater – and again, such a gorgeous and magical place.   The colors and landscape were so pretty against the blue sky and the air smelled so fresh and sweet. We saw everything, including a cheetah and a black rhino, which are extremely rare to find.  We also saw a pride of 8 lions (3 massive males as well) sleeping after a night of hunting and feeding.  I think we were both sad to leave and definitely want to come back during the wildebeest migration and dry season – we would love to spend a lot longer here.  But I think it made the trip for both of us – we just loved it. 

Finally wrapping up our 4th week overlanding (a month already!?) we changed trucks and ventured down the bumpiest road ever, crossing the border into Kenya and on to Nairobi.  We were hitting hidden bumps so quickly we were literally getting launched out of our seats!  I’ve got a huge bruise on my bum from landing on a metal bar between the seats and I think Kris’s leg has pinch marks from me trying to grab onto him.  Everyone else was finishing up their trip so we had a few farewell drinks and prepared ourselves for the next leg of the trip into Uganda.  Cannot wait to trek to the mountain gorillas!!  Just to wrap up this novel of an entry – if you ever get the chance to come to Africa, you must take it.  It’s the place where earth’s creation started and everything lives and breaths together in sync – the people, the animals, the seasons, the winds blowing the long rains in and out – it just seems to work and what a blessing to experience where life originated millions of years ago.  It’s magic.

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