Serengetti 

November 2011: As part of a larger trip involving Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, I visited Tanzania for a week to see the migration of wildebeest across the Serengeti. To keep the cost down, I organized a budget tour of the Serengeti through a local Tanzanian operator, and I tent camped every night instead of staying in lodges. In addition to the Serengeti National Park, I also visited Ngorongoro Crater Reserve. This part of Africa definitely lives up to its hype as one the world’s greatest wildlife treasures…

 

 

About the Serengeti

Map of my route to the Serengeti

The Serengeti, Massai word for endless plains is one of the most spectacular displays of wildlife in the world and is home to the largest land migration of animals in the world. Ever year millions of wildebeest and zebras migrate hundreds of miles from southern Kenya and into the Southern Serengeti. In a 4WD jeep, with a driver/guide and cook, I spent two days exploring the Serengeti and camping inside the park in a wild campground with open access to the animals. I also asked to visit some of the Massai villages that are not regular tourist stops to observe the Massai way of life. The Massai is the warrior tribe of the Serengeti. They are tall, and proud and have a legacy of courage. The men up until recently would become warriors by hunting a lion by themself but these days hunting of lions are no longer allowed but men are still required to go into the bush alone in order to prove their courage as a warrior. The villages are in protected circular thickets of thorn bushes to protect the livestock and people from predators such as lions and leopards at night. The Massai despite exposure to tourism for decades now still maintain many of their traditional ways and beliefs.

In this village, only one man spoke English because of his schooling in the city. He spent some time explaining the culture to me and the modern changes taking place. He explained that Massai men traditionally when being initiated into manhood had to wander off into the wilderness alone and kill a male lion. These days however as a result of education and in the interests of conservation killing lions is rare and instead men are initiated into manhood by living in the wilderness with a proven warrior and learning the ways of life in the bush.

me with some village kids

Massai Village-I saw this Massaii village outside of Ngorongoro Crater. The Massaii are the predominant culture that lives in the northwest of Tanzania in the Serengeti and surrounding plains. The Massaii are a tall and proud people. Villages like the one above are surrounded by branches to protect the dwellings and livestock inside from lions, hyenas, leopards and countless other African predators. 

Massai woman-The majority of Massaii women and men wear abundant necklaces and piercings of colorful beads. Women typically shave all of their hair off and when married wear the white cap like the one above. 

Massai man-

 

Massai women with shaved hair are married 

For two days I explored the Massai and saw countless lions, perched on top of rocky outcroppings, massive herds of wildebeest mixed with zebra that can appear one moment filling the horizon in mass only to disappear from the area within just a few hours. I had my own vehicle, and my guide was good about driving to the parts of the park where there were no other tourist vehicles and on the most part we would be alone driving in the park.

 

The great migration-Every year over a million wildebeest and zebras migrate across the African plains in pursuit of greener pastors. It was one of the most amazing sights of my life. I didn’t appreciate the tetse flies that traveled with them.

Acacia tree

Nile Crocodile waiting for animals to cross the river-Every body of water no matter how small usually has some of these guys.

Safari vehicle watching a giraffe

lions perched on rocks

The leopard mother and her cubs were hiding under the safari vehicle on the run from a troop of baboons that were trying to attack and eat the cubs. The mother carried her cubs from the tree and under the vehicle until the baboons departed.

Mother leopard

Mother leoaprd hid her cubs in oiur wheel well for an hour to protect them from baboons

Pod of hippos

A pride of lions watched patiently over the herds of prey close by waiting for the cloak of darkness to set in before setting off for the hunt.

Chamelion 

Thirsty giraffe

Elephant with baby

Migrating zebra

Lone elephant

Camping with Elephants

My guide was shocked when I asked to camp alone in the most remote part of the campground. I realized why later on. During the night, outside my tent I was visited by hyenas, buffalo, and a herd of elephant and a giraffe. Also, not too far away I could hear a lion howling. I love camping in wild places and besides the cost of compared to staying in a lodge was far cheaper. The downside is that wild animals can come and go freely into the campground including hyenas which I would watch at night skulking around the tents with their red eyes reflecting my my flashlight, the occasional lion which I didn’t see but could hear. But what I did see and up close was elephants. I was told by the rangers that once the sun sets to stay in my tent and to not leave under any circumstances which included going to the toilet. I realized why. In the middle of the night, I heard a chewing sound outside my tent. The moon was out and wind calm. I decided to unzip the tent fly just an inch to look out the tent and when I did there was an elephant standing above my tent and the moonlight illuminated the glint of its giant eyes looking down on me. I didn’t move to avoid spooking it and being crushed. The elephant was eating fruits from a tree 30 feet away from my tent and seemed unbothered by me. I stayed in the same position doe 20 minutes waiting for the elephant to go away and one by one the herd walked silently passed by tents like giant night shadows. A huge T-Rex sounds echoed in the distance and sounded like Godzilla was approaching. I stayed in my tent and hoped for the best. The sound never came too close to my tent but in the morning, I discovered the sound was a giant male elephant in must stalking the herd of females. Male elephants in must are very aggressive, dangerous and view anything that gets in between them and mating as the enemy. The big elephant, with an erection as long as its legs, was extremely vocal when we passed him in the morning and charged our vehicle.

 

My tent in the Serengetti-Seronera Public Campsite

From my tent I heard what sounded like a bunch of dinosaurs roaring and fighting during the night and later on just outside my tent. It turns out an aggressive bull elephant was stalking a herd of female trying to mate with them only to be fought of every time. Judging by the photo above I can understand why they would want nothing to do with this beast.

Ngorongoro Crater

it is hard to imagine going to the Serengeti without visiting the largest volcanic crater in the world, no longer active but full of rich wildlife occupied grasslands. Ngorongoro is also one of the last strongholds of the black Rhino in Tanzania. I camped in a tent on top of the sloped of the crater at Simba Public Campsite and ventured inside by vehicle in the day observing the wildlife.

 

Inside of the crater=The largest crater in the world with one of the highest densities of wildlife as well.

Cape Buffalo- This big beast frothing with sweat and saliva, also known as the second most dangerous animal in Africa, was one of many visitors outside of my tent my first night in the Serengeti. I was pretty sure to stay very quite.

Hyena

Hyena

Black Rhino

Elephants

Cheetah

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