Tanzania - Serengeti & Ngorongoro crater to Dar

Trip Start Aug 28, 2008
Trip End Nov 06, 2008

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

It cost me $100 to get into Tanzania!!!  Our tour guide reliably informed me the Irish got in free while the English had to pay $50 only to come out of immigration and request $100 off me.... Serves me right for being smug and laughing at the others I guess....

The scenery changed pretty much as soon as we crossed.  It was so dry but then as we travelled into the country it got really lush undergrowth on the mountain sides.  We got into the campsite after dark because our truck had broken down on the side of the road just short of the Tanzanian border.  I don't know how people cope over here.  We were sat there for two hours and only got going again because another Acacia truck happened along and had a part that we needed.  We all made the most of it though and I updated my diary while some of the others played cricket.  We must have been such a spectacle for some of the locals as they passed by.  The other thing you should know, just so that you are aware of what dedication I'm putting into this trip is that there is no such thing as a service station on these roads.  Or very few anyhow.  We have a rule for the bush toilets - men go one side of the truck and women the other.  It is quite hard at times to find sufficient cover on the side of the road.  We were also a little bit worried about snakes and spiders to start with but that soon is forgotten.  Anyhow, we arrived after dark and pretty much ate and went to bed.  The next morning we were up at dawn - a regular occurance on this trip.  My tent mate is an early riser and woke at 5.30 for no reason.  Sarah will tell you I don't appreciate my beauty sleep being disturbed but I'm just having to bite my lip for the time being!  Being up that bit earlier meant we could have a leisurely breakfast tho.  We headed off to the Serengeti and got there in time for an afternoon drive.  We'd stopped on the way down for lunch and were attacked by kites ( a bit like eagles).  The actually sat up in the trees above us and swooped down and grabbed bits of sandwich out of peoples hands if they weren't watching.  We saw what is now considered the usual for us as we drive through the countryside - ostriches, warthogs, Topu (a kind of antelope) and also a new creature - a hyrax - its basically a guinea pig sized rat like thing.  Kinda cute though.  That night there was no fences (again) around our campsite and my tent faced out onto a meadow like area.  We sat around the bonfire that night (there's not much else to do after dark over here) and when I turned to face the tent I found that a water buffalo was inspecting it in between mouthfuls, about ten feet away.  I've heard scary stories about buffalo so I waited till he was gone before going to bed.

Overnight apparently there were hyenas sniffing around the tents but I was out for the count - still catching up on my beauty sleep.  We had a full day safari then.  Was was really good was that we were seeing animals that we'd only seen at a distance in the Masai.  We got close up to hyena cubs, giraffe, lions and then another matatu spotted leopard cubs on a rocky outcrop.  They were barely visible at the very top but with the help of Sarah's fantastic zoom I got some pics of them.  They were pretty shy and we didn't get a great view but it was nice to tick off another one of the big five.  We were heading back to the airport for two of the girls that had opted for a balloon ride instead of the morning safari when Hamadi, our driver stopped pretty suddenly and got on his CB talking excited swahili.  He pointed off to our right and we all caught our breaths when we saw a fully fledged female leopard asleep in the tree not ten feet away from us.  She was the most beautiful animal you have ever seen.  Our driver was soooooo excited.  He said he'd never seen a leopard this close before and he'd been doing the job for 7 years.  He kept passing around high 5's with a big grin on his face.  We stayed there for a good while and again, thanks to Sarahs camera I have got some amazing close ups of her face.  She eventually got a bit annoyed at all the interest and went for a wander and we took the opportunity to go pick the girls up.  Hamadi then dashed back to the same spot to make sure that they got a chance to see her too. 

We later saw lionesses with baby cubs, again so cute and I've got some amazing photos. 

The next day we headed for Ngorongoro crater.  It literally feels like you're descending into the lost world or something - you can see all sides of the crater as you go down and it feels like it's completely removed from the outside world.  You nearly wouldn't be surprised to see a dinosaur come out of the undergrowth.  There was a soda lake there, although it was nearly dry, but there was still a good few pink flamingos.  There were also buffalo, hippos (we finally got to see them out of the water) warthogs, wildebeest and bustards (big birds).  We stopped to watch a big male lion stalking three buffalo as they came down to the river to drink.  They were obviously nervous but were upwind and didn't have a clue he was there.  His plans went a bit astray when a lioness sauntered along in front of them and put them on high alert, she hadn't realised the male was there until the buffalo charged her and forced her onto our side of the river.  She was very highly strung and when the lion paid no attention to her advances she went for a sulk, walking all the way around our Matatu and then lying down in front of our front wheel.  Our Matatu was the single girls one and there was panic at having a lioness a foot away - lots of frantic whispering about closing all the windows quick.  Meanwhile, me and one of the other girls were dangling out trying to get a really good close up shot of her.  On our way back to camp we spotted a rhino but it was a spec on the horizon - they are so difficult to see unfortunately.  But we could technically say we had seen the big five now and went back with smiles on our faces.  The smiles got bigger when we got into our new campside on the top lip of Ngorongoro to find a solitary bull elephant taking it easy where we were supposed to be camping.  The constant photos must have annoyed him eventually cos he disappeared after a while. 

That night we had another bonfire and it wasn't until we started looking out across the plains that we noticed dozens of eyes looking back at us when you caught them in torchlight.  We were pretty much surrounded by hyenas who kept running across the campside twenty feet away just checking us out.  That was probably the most unnerved I'd been the whole trip but they're pretty well fed and too scared to cause a problem really.  We were at about 2,000 ft above sea level and we really felt it that night.  I was so cold and didn't really sleep that well.  It didn't really help that the showers were cold too.  Despite this myself and Amy managed to oversleep and miss breakfast. 

That was our last day proper in the African safari though and we were so happy with everything we'd seen and also so happy to hopefully be going places that we could actually stay clean for more than five minutes - I've never felt so dirty in all my life as I have that first week or so.  There was just no escaping the dust. 

We travelled down to Dar over a couple of days and were so excited to reach our beach front campsite there.  We all rushed into the water as soon as possible.  I even upgraded out of tents into one of the cabins just to be able unpack my rucksack, find clean clothes and be a bit more comfortable for a bit.  The fact that we had to be up and leaving for five am to catch the ferry to Zanzibar the next morning also featured in my decision.  Once we got to Zanzibar though we would have two mornings left to our own devices for the first time, so I was looking forward to a lie in!!!
We have travelled through some towns up to this point - Arusha, Dar Es Salaam etc but we've never stayed there for more than an hour or two and it's usually been a mad dash from ATM's to Bureau de change to internet, so I'm afraid I can't tell you much about that....
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