lionessesOur first taste of Tanzania was a drive to Lake Victoria. Along the way, we were surprised at how different a country that is right next door to Kenya could be. You literally cross the border and the houses are different, the people are different and even the roads are different! The houses are Masaai houses, we later found out.

We got in to Lake Victoria in the late afternoon and after putting up the tents, we went for a quick run before sitting on the beach to watch the last of the sun setting. A very mild night, we enjoyed the break and the late morning the next day.

Not leaving until 10am, we had a good chance to just relax and wander around the small beach we were camped at. Next stop – Serengeti!

We reached Serengeti at about 1pm and had lunch with the baboons and monkeys closely watching our every move. And we got our first taste of the Tsetse flies that have a nasty bite. The hatches on the roof of the truck went up and we were set for our first game drive through Serengeti. We were shocked to learn that it costs US$100 each for just 24 hours in the park.

Excited and also loving the fact we could stretch our legs, we were up on the seats and on the lookout for animals. It wasn’t long before we saw giraffes, all kinds of buck, zebra etc. But then we saw thousands of black specks in the distance. As we got closer we saw they were all huddled under trees in the shade, hiding from the early afternoon sun. Thousands upon thousands of wilderbeest and zebra were migrating north into Kenya… this was the last of the migration! We were amazed at how many there were and in some ways thankful that we only hit the end as if we got the middle, it would have taken hours to navigate through the traffic of animals! The wilderbeest have poor eyesight but a good sense of smell and the zebra have good eyesight which is why they team up to migrate together.

We saw elephants in the distance, one or two hippos in a pool (of which Will hurried us along telling us that tomorrow we would see many more hippos), so many giraffe up so close, buffalo… the park was just so big!

We eventually got to our campsite within Serengeti about an hour before sundown and quickly set up our tents. This was our first night at actually camping in a game park with no fences – ie. the lions can wander around your tent at night (along with the hyenas, buffalo, elephants etc). I was both excited and nervous, but there were 7 trucks at our camp, so the chances of anything interesting wandering by was pretty minimal. When brushing our teeth that night, I shone my torch out into the bush and saw some blue eyes staring back at me then moving around. I was hooked! I kept looking out for more but didn’t find any. We kept the windows open on the tent so all night I kept waking up to see if there were any animals wandering around – I was so excited! But unfortunately there weren’t any. Thankfully I didn’t need to pee half way through the night either – it is one thing to look for them through the tent and another thing to be out wandering amoungst them as they hunt for food.

When we woke up, there was a buffalo near by, but he kept to himself. Others had heard animals (as I had), but not seen them.

We saw the sunrise and were off on our second game drive through Serengeti. Not long after we set off, we saw a large herd of elephants – with 3 or 4 babies, they were gorgeous! Will also delivered on his promise of hippos – we came across a pool with loads of them in there! There were maybe 20 or more of them and they were all lying on top of each other!

After a bit of a drive (and a bit of a nap), we saw a whole heap of 4wd’s stopped at a clump of rocks on a plain. So we made our way over and to our delight, there were 3 lionesses perched on top of a rock. We were appreciative of our high vantage point at the top of the truck. It was late morning by that stage, so they were just sleeping and having a lazy look around. We moved on and found another 4 or so in the grass not far away. We moved on further to find a cheetah perched on top of a rock!

On our way out of the park, we saw another cheetah – who seemed to sit and walk as our truck stopped and moved. A great end to a great day.

We had lunch at the edge of the park before setting off for another long drive. We drove up through the extinct volcanoes to Ngorongoro Crater at 3099m above sea level. The view was stunning, but it was also quite cold! As we drove around the rim of the crater, it was amazing to see the flora and fauna change almost instantly from barren and brown to lush and green. We saw the odd elephant and giraffe on the way as well and the road was terrible – no reading or sleeping on this drive!

Got to our campsite in Karatu quite late and put our tents up in the very last of the light of the day. A late dinner, a lovely shower (the Serengeti and roads to/from were extremely dusty) and off to bed.

Next morning we were up for our game drive through the Ngorongoro crater. A 2 hour drive there and back, but worth it to sleep in warmth rather than the cold, windy crater rim. Once we drove through, we were spotting the regular animals we had gotten used to by this point. Then we stumbled on a male lion and a female lion – only to soon discover another couple and another single female. Once couple mated in front of us (lovely) and the other couple walked right past our trucks – only about 20 metres from where we were! We were told that on the first day of mating, they would mate every half hour and continue this (getting less and less frequent) for 4 days before the female would be off and hunting again.

We next came across an extremely large herd of wilderbeest. They walked single file to protect the bulk of the population and we were told that when they give birth (which only happens in February each year), the whole herd will crowd around the mother to protect her and the calf until the calf is able to walk – which takes about an hour after birth.

Then we drove on to find a whole heap of hyenas who had injured a zebra. The zebra had a large gash on its hind and the hyenas were pretty much just waiting until the zebra became too weak to fight back before they would pounce. They circled and circled and called upon their mates to come along to their dinner party. Unfortunately, our group got hungry too and we went off to eat lunch (at the edge of a hippo pool) and by the time we got back, it was all over and we couldn’t even count how many hyenas there were – but we think at least 30 of them who had come for their share.

We moved on and found a young male lion with a female nearby. It looked like they were waiting for some buck to come and drink at the waterhole so they could have some dinner of their own. At the edge of the park, we stopped for a toilet break to discover a beautiful old elephant who was just wandering by.

Making our way back up the crater wall, we were on the lookout for leopard – but unfortunately didn’t find any. Back at camp to a quick walk through the town, an awesome dinner and a local dance show which was pretty impressive. We were glad to find some internet to at least quickly download our email (we were having withdrawal symptoms by this point) and get in touch with the outside world.

Next we were off to Arusha and heading towards Zanzibar. We had a sleep in, but ended up getting up at 6.30am to go for a run, pushups and sit-ups – in desperate need of some exercise.

A nice slow and lazy day, we made our way to Arusha and on the way stopped at a viewpoint to spot an elephant grazing on the hill and 5 giraffes on the horizon. Back in the truck again, we didn’t make it too far before we pulled over again to discover the same pipe that had burst in the truck last time was worse and there was oil everywhere. I mean everywhere. But some trusty strong glue, a bit of drying time and a semi-cleanup and we were off again… Typically the Mercedes Benz stockist in Arusha didn’t have the part we were after…

We did eventually make it to Arusha for some lunch and a restock of groceries before heading to a good souvenir place and then to our camping spot which happened to be at a snake park. We went through a Maasai museum and learnt about their customs and way of life before visiting a Maasai village. When we were walking to visit the local school, a little boy was peeing off his verandah. He was excited to see us, so still had his hand… occupied as he approached us!

Now back to the snake park… the collection of snakes was impressive, included some adders and pythons, but the worrying thing was that the third last case was empty with lights on. When I questioned the owner about this at the bar, she was unsure about why and didn’t do much to comfort me at all.

While we were in one piece, our cook Ebron had done his ankle, so we paid him some tlc, carried him to bed and fed him some arnica.

Short night as we were up again for a 5.30am departure. We were heading to Dar es Salaam – our next stop before Zanzibar. Most of us tried to sleep on our 10 hour drive, but given the conditions of the roads, it was a bit difficult. We eventually made it to Dar where we caught a short 5 minute ferry across to an island where we would stay the night.

We setup camp right on the beach. Being ever optimistic, we thought we wouldn’t need the fly on the tent, only to be woken at about 5am to huge rain drops. We got fairly drenched while out putting the fly on, but all good because in a few hours we’d be in Zanzibar!

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