Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater

Trip Start Oct 09, 2006
Trip End Oct 17, 2007

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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

After an amazing 3 days in Zanzibar we reluctantly rejoined our tour group back to Dar Es Salaam and drove a full day to Arusha, Tanzania.  We stayed at a campsite outside Arusha maybe 20 miles called Snake Park.  The next morning we left for the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. 
The Serengeti is exactly what you would imagine when you think of Africa...over 30,000 square miles of savanna, scattered flat-topped acacia trees, some of the most brilliant sunsets in Africa and millions of animals.  The Serengeti is considered one of the seven tourist travel wonders of the world, mainly because it is home to the largest migration of animals in the world.  Twice a year nearly 2 million animals migrate over 500 miles to follow the rains from the Maasai Mara region of Kenya through the Mara River south to the plains of Serengeti in Tanzania.  Over 250,000 wildebeest die every year on the migration due to the grueling conditions and predators along the way.  Within the Serengeti is the Ngorongoro Crater -  the largest unbroken volcanic caldera in the world.  It's home to over 25,000 animals itself and it holds nearly every species within East Africa.
We spent a night camping along the way before entering the Serengeti and left early the following morning in Land Rover safari vehicles.  The roofs of the trucks came off so that we could view the animals more easily.  After a few hours drive we were surrounded by an amazing variety of animals...hundreds of wildebeest, zebras, a few hyenas, herds of buffalo and the highlight, a few cheetah eating a freshly killed wildebeest.  I could have sat and watched the cheetah for hours.  They look incredible just walking along the ground. 
After a long day in the Serengeti we spent the night on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater in the only public campsite in the park.  We were told that this campsite was unique because there were no fences keeping animals out of the camp.  Despite these warnings I figured there was no way we'd really actually see a wild animal wandering through our campsite. 
As soon as we got out of the truck in camp we looked behind us and 2 enormous elephants were eating grass maybe 30 feet from us.  It was a little strange realizing that there was nothing between us.  Then, later in the night after most of the group had gone to bed, Dave and I were sitting around the campfire with some of the cooks.  We were sitting in a circle talking when all of a sudden one of the cooks jumped out of his seat and spun around facing the brush behind him.  He frantically asked us to shine our lights toward the trees.  When we did we saw 2 sets of eyes staring directly at us.  Two huge buffalo were grazing 20 to 30 feet from us.  So, despite my doubts about seeing any animals, we actually saw 2 of the Big 5 African animals in our CAMPSITE in one night...pretty ridiculous.
We woke up early the next morning to catch the sunrise over the Ngorongoro Crater around 6am.  The sight was spectacular.  The crater is huge and immediately we began seeing more animals...elephants, hippos, zebra, hyena, cheetah and about 5 lions.  Our truck pulled within 20 feet of the lions and we noticed there were 2 males in the group with huge manes...definitely the highlight of the day even though they were just sleeping in the grass.
Our trip to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater was the last leg of our overland journey with the tour group.  It was a great way to end a nice trip but we were very eager to be out traveling on our own again after the long guided tour.  We drove back to Arusha and spent the night before leaving for our trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. 
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Where I stayed
Snake Park Campground
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