Olduvai to Serengeti

Trip Start May 25, 2003
Trip End Jun 07, 2003

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Sunday, June 1, 2003

6/1 Sunday
We slept in an extra half hour so as not to arrive at Olduvai too early. The weather was very wet and misty and cool. I start the day with 3 layers.

The trip around the rim was shrouded in mist and rain. As we again to descend into the valley below, the sun began to break through. We were in thick rain forest to start, but the vegetation lessened the further we moved away from the caldera. The ground became dry and covered with white dust.

We made it to the Leaky exhibit for Olduvai at about 10:30. We walked through the small museum which contained some very nice placards about the dig and the findings including the path of mankind showing the foot print fossilized for man and beast.

We paused at the official marker for the entrance to Serengeti for photos. The road is white dust with pock marks now. Warnings are called out when another vehicle approaches so we can quickly close the windows. Although, with the top now popped open, dust settles inside the van anyway. We lunch on Naabi Hill. This is a granite outcropping, called a kopje by the Dutch, exposed above the otherwise flat plain. This one has been expanded into a large lunch stop- truckers as well as tourists. We eat our box lunch then trek up to the top of the granite for a view of the plains. They seem to stretch on forever, only interrupted by the occasional kopje.

We began a game drive from Naabi, heading off on a 2-rut road/path across the plain. We came across our first large herd of wildebeest- they stretch to the same horizon as does the plain itself. This must be what the American Buffalo herds were once like. We move through the herd, accompanied by their constant "NU, NU, NU" chorus. Sounding much like the frog commercial for Budweiser.

Eventually, Lotelu heads off the beaten path (such as it is) and circles up to a rise where several other vehicles are parked. There we find a pride of 10 lions, including two full maned males. They're all pretty sleepy. One of the females appears to be wearing a tracking collar. The pride consists of "juniors" as well as who are as big as the females. The group in general seems to like cuddling for their naps. Four vultures wait nearby for a hoped for future meal to share with the lions- after the lions make the kill and have their fill, of course.

We circle through the plains for the remainder of the afternoon hoping to spot cheetahs, but with no luck. Over every rise, it's wildebeest, wildebeest, wildebeest, wildebeest. Maybe a few zebras and gazelles thrown in.

At the end of the afternoon, we head across the plain to the west toward the hills where our lodge perches on a mesa overlooking the landscape. As we move west, more trees appear until we spot giraffe. This is the central Serengeti where we'll spend the next two nights, including a long day drive tomorrow.

6/2 Monday

For the day-long game drive, we start at 7:30 and cover the central area first. We have a great time watching hippos- one group in a pond and another in a very muddy river. We see a new kinds of herbivore- a Bushbuck, several Topi and a Reedbuck. We also spot another lion with 2 juveniles hanging out in a tree. This is "tree lions" that we expected to see in the Lake Manyara area.

We stop for a break at the little airstrip we'll be using tomorrow- an international airport since flights go to Kenya. There we spot 2 hyraxes that almost appear tame. They're sacked out on the porch. This is the last toilet we'll see until the hotel this evening- opportunity not to be ignored.

We move out east onto the plains we were on yesterday. This seems to be the day for dead animals. We spot vultures devouring a young hartebeest and lions sleeping beside their recent kill- another hartebeest. The 2 lionesses have 3 cubs, the first we've seen. We spot lions several times - none of them active. We see two big males asleep on top of a kopje- one chooses to stand up and look with regal ownership over the vast plain. We spot another group sleeping at the edge of another kopje- some with diverse body parts hanging over the edge. The biggest sighting of the day is a cheetah. At first, she's very shy and lying in the grass, but then begins to stir. We have a great time along with several vans full of tourists- clicking away. She's very photogenic!

We have a box lunch at a kopje where us women directly commune with nature behind some conveniently located rocks.  Later in the afternoon we stop in the middle of the road to allow the guys a chance to "commune". But we women hold out for another kopje and a stroll into the high weeds. Welcome to Safari!

We return to the hotel exhausted and dusty after 10 hours out and about in the van. We have to wait until 6pm for hot water, so I join Chip and Lisa in the bar. After the Safari beer last night, I switch back to Kilimanjaro this time. AHHHH! Hits the dry spot!

Tomorrow we fly back to Kenya, pick up Lowela and a new driver, then on to the Mara.
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