The Circle of Life

Trip Start Jul 05, 2010
Trip End Dec 16, 2010

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Where I stayed
Simba B Campsite

Flag of Tanzania  ,
Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 111
Today: 219 km
Total: 20,085

 We woke up early morning with the discovery that my plakkies (flip-flops) were missing from their usual spot at the bottom of the ladder – the rest of the team’s were still there. (Must’ve been a jackal not able to resist the lovely smell.)

 Wanting to make the most of our time in the Serengeti (and to take a bit of a detour from the main road) we departed 6:00 sharp – we had until 8:45 to exit the park or pay for another 24 hours. We drove through endless grass fields – normally jam-packed with thousands of wildebeest – this was not the case to be! Timing is very important for both the Serengeti and the Masaai Mara and it seemed like the beasts were still vacating in Kenya (I would also have – taking into consideration the deadly toll fees coming back through the Mara River!)

 Very disappointed about our Serengeti hopes and imaginations being shattered (by both the absence of the wildebeest and the bumpy road) we continued at quite a fast pace to the park border – time were running out quickly. We did, however, manage to spot a couple of lions and a hyena waiting for better days, tending to stay safely (and mainly sleeping) on the several isolated kopjes in the area.

 The Serengeti shares a border with the Ngorogoro conservation area and as we reached the interchange gate at Naabi Hill, we were quite relieved that the end of a terrible main road was in sight. Like so many African countries, the national park roads are way more corrugated than even the worst of the national roads. We paid our entrance fee for Ngorogoro and departed, little knowing that an even worse road laid ahead.

 It was 72km of pure hell. And the only way to manage (a) The bad road, (b) an ageing Mzee, (c) a clock ticking off our precious time in the park, and (d) 5 people sweating in the back… speed! That’s right: the faster you go, the less you shake. Don’t get me wrong – you still shake like crazy, but at least you’re shaking whilst making good progress.

 With the higher level of concentration requiring more breaks, I gave the stick to Bennett and joined Wouter in the back. We were still amazed by one of the biggest talent discoveries of our trip: Tanya’s sleeping abilities. Seems like the more we shook, the more she slept! (Check the video!)

 After clocking our 20,000th kilometer of the trip (whoop whoop!), we finally reached the entrance to the Ngorogoro crater, with a certain tour member shedding some tears at the mere sight of one of the world’s most spectacular ecosystems. It truly was the sight of a lifetime and one of our most memorable of all. Down below lay the animal infested bottom of the crater, with an area of no more than 20km x 20km. After convincing the park officials to let us in without taking a guide, we descended at quite a steep rate. After a quick lunch at one of the picnic spots, we continued our way around the only lake, spotting an array of beautiful animals and birds.

 Pushing our time to maximum (it costs a hefty $200 per vehicle – just to enter the crater!) we finally had to take the steep ascend back up to our campsite before the clock ticked 18:00. There are no campsites or lodges in the crater itself, but all of them are located on the crater rim with views over the crater below. If you are camping independently, you’ll probably end up at the only campsite for these purposes: Simba B.

 There was, however, another hour to spend before Simba B’s gate closed, so we decided to see how the rich and famous live it out: teatime at Serena Safari lodge! With spectacular views over the crater, sitting comfortably in the restaurant buzzing with the elderly camouflaged in their safari outfits, we enjoyed a nice cup of local brewed coffee (one of the cheaper items on the menu… can anyone say “budget”!).

 After being entertained by local singers and drummers (which might well have been drama students flown in from Dar es Salaam) we had to go back to the harsh reality of camping between the wild animals under the stars and a splendid moon… personally, I would’ve had it no other way!

 PS: Admitted, the crater is an overpriced detour and I don’t think I’ll pay that kind of money again in the near future, but it still remains something you simply HAVE to go see and experience!

 PSS: The following joke came up the next morning, but is unfortunately only in Afrikaans: Wat sÍ die een krater vir die ander krater? Jou gat man! 

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