. Our driver took the roof off of the jeep at this gate, and we were ready to start our first game drive. The first thing we saw was an augui buzzard. It was black and white and sitting on a dead branch. The we saw a couple ostriches, then our first pride of lions. We saw 8 lions, two of which were juvenile males. They don't get a mane until they are about 5 and it is best from the age of 9-12. One of the females walked over and sat down right in front of a vehicle. It was using the shade of the jeep. Then just down the road another lioness had done the same thing and the driver actually needed help to make sure not to run over the lions feet. Throughout the morning we saw more lions for a total of 14 lions in the crater. We saw a huge herd of buffalo off in the distance. Then we saw wildebeests, zebra, elephants with mammoth tushs which is the only place in the world for this because of using the tusks to get salt. We also saw thousands of flamingos in the lake making the lake look pink from a distance. We saw a bird called a kori bustard which can be as much as 30 pounds making them a very heavy bird. Then we saw hyenas at first only one, then three, then some more and by the end of the day we got very close to one that was just being lazy. We had a lunch break and there were hippos in the water at the lunch spot. We had almost one hour to eat and watch the animals. Then we continued towards an exit of the crater. We saw our first jackel, actually two of them. We did not see giraffes here because there aren't scrubby things for them to eat
. There also weren't impala but I don't remember the reason. We saw eland, Thompson Gazelle, the crowned crane, grants gazelle, 2 black rhinos from a distance, and a bird called the blacksmith plover. It was a very steep incline up the crater then we saw the tail end of the extremely poisonous puff adder snake going across the road. We went around the rim of the crater and saw many Maasai villages some with grass roofs and others with mud roofs. Basically there are two groups of Maasai: The Samburu in the north and the plains Maasai in the south. They have a belief that their God Ankai gave them all the cattle in the world. They landed in the north and built a bridge to get across. A heavy rain came and washed out the bridge. We stopped along the road and Victor showed us the whistler thorn. Ants basically create galls in the plant, then the hole in the gall makes a whistling sound.
Finally we reached the Serengeti entrance gate, then it was quite a way to go to the check in station. There was a trail you could go on to an overlook. We climbed up but Miles realized that he left his water bottle in the bathroom so he ran down and got it. We saw mice and an interesting red and blue lizard called an Agama lizard. Apparently there are 37 species of this lizard in Africa! There were a couple gift shops and I bought an " I visited Ngorongoro Crater" sticker for $1. Victor showed us a map of the Serengeti and showed us that we would be going 58 kilometers to an area in central Serengeti
. We did a game drive into our campsite. On the way, we saw a giraffe out in the plains by itself, lots of impala, and more of the animals like we saw in the crater. There was a hippo in a watering hole and then our driver talked to another driver and apparently there was something good up ahead. There were several jeeps and we realized they had spotted a leopard. What that meant was that in only our first day of game drives we had already spotted the Big 5 which includes the buffalo, elephant, rhino, lion and leopard. We sat there for quite some time taking pictures and watching the leopard wash itself, and at one point lay on its back looking fake. We turned and headed for our camping area. I thought it would only take an hour but it took more like 2 hours. We did spot several giraffes along the way. When we got to camp our tents were already set up for us which was very nice of Kioko and Godfrey, our cook and cook in training. Then we had close to 45 minutes into dinner. We had tomato soup, bread, fish, vegetables, and french fries. After that Victor talked quite a while about the history of Tanzania and the Maasai people. Then we had to do dishes. By that time it was 9:15 and time to get to bed. We had to prepare for a 6:20 departure the next morning.
Got up at 6:00, but as it turns out I should have gotten up earlier. Folded the mats and sleeping bags, tore down the tent, packed our lunch, ate breakfast and were off by 7:00. We drove past a Maasai market where you can trade items. Then we passed the gate for Lake Manyara National Park and stopped at an overlook for the lake. It is here that we saw our first elephants off in the distance. We passed a lot of little shops including a place called Shirt Shack where we are going to stop on the way back to Mto wa Mbu. We stopped at Kudu lodge to get permits for Ngorongoro Crater. It was very nice and they have rooms for $200 per night. We drove further to the gates and had to wait about 30 minutes to be allowed in. There was a diagram of the crater so we can get the idea of what we will be seeing. The crater is a 14 mile in diameter fully intact volcanic caldera making it the largest in the world. Within that space there are 25000 animals including 4 prides of lions. It took is about an hour to go up one side of the crater, then we had to stop at a gate before we went down in the crater