BLOG Pt4 : Trekking north through the Serengeti.

15/09/2013.

17/07/2013 – Day 5.

After yet another early breakfast we entered our cleaned cruisers. The night’s rest worked wonders and the group was in good spirits. We were on our way to the Grumeti river , but first we had a 2 hour drive in the vicinity of Ndutu. It was well worth it as we spotted an abundance of wildlife, including a variety of birds of prey.

Ndutu cubs

Quite soon we stumbled onto a pride of lions, obviously still very groggy and super lazy. There were two sets of cubs, who were cousins but of different age. It was the first time I’ve seen a pride with cubs in the wild, and to see them so exposed was a real treat. I wouldn’t have minded to hang out with them the whole day, but we had to move on. A few hundred metres on in a dry lake we encountered a hunting cheetah. Once again, out in the open and beautiful to see. Then we came across the pride’s two impressive male lions as well as two more lionesses. They were languidly making their way across the lake to a waterhole. One male’s tassel was missing and he had the look of a cat that’s seen and fought it all. Their massive front paws dragged through the lake’s dust. At times they were right up against the vehicle and to see them stand taller than the bonnet was a stark reminder of just how big and powerful these felines are.

Hunting cheetah.

They ignored us completely and then quenched their thirst at the water hole. The lionesses were briefly interested in a warthog, probably 200 metres from them, but he was well ahead of their plans and made a spiteful retreat towards cover.

Reflection.

We then made our way back towards the main road. We entered the Serengeti Plains; flat as a pancake and completely devoid of trees. It’s here where the Serengeti Park officially starts. The entrance gate is a beehive of activity, as every vehicle that enters has to sign in. There’s an exceptional view from the koppie at the gate…a 360 degree panorama of the Serengeti Plains. I’m sure if you look carefully the earth’s curvature is visible from here.

Serengeti Plains.

While waiting around we dived into our picnic boxes. The Safari picnic box consists of 1 piece of chicken, 1 slice of banana bread, 1 tiny, miniature banana, 1 apple, a small packet of roasted nuts, a small yoghurt and a small juice. This menu is remarkably consistent each day, and it was a hot topic of speculation as to when these picnic boxes were packed. Some suggested Arusha, now already 3 days before, others were more optimistic and swore they saw them being made up at Ndutu that very same morning. I think what swayed the group’s attitude more favourably towards the picnic boxes was the fact that all the other tour operators’ guests were also enjoying their very similar ones at the entrance.

Shade huddle.

While waiting around I also had a chance to find out how our charter plane’s planning was coming along. I was informed that two planes could pick us up at Grumeti, but at the cost of US$300 per person. If the price seems exorbitant for a 1 hour flight, please keep in mind that these planes would fly empty towards us, so we were basically paying for a return ticket. In either case, would everyone still be so enthusiastic about flying out of the Serengeti in style instead of taking on the road from hell?

Mid-day snooze.

I broke the news. Hoping for a yay from either 12 or 24, and nothing else. At first about 18 said yes. This had the possibility of MESSY written all over it, because you didn’t book seats, you booked a plane.  $3600 per plane to be exact, thus 12 seats (full capacity) taken = $300 per ticket. If say 8 seats are taken it equals $450 per ticket which suddenly makes it unviable.

Now this is also if you split the aircraft equally. But some people already insisted the night before they’d be on the first plane, come hell or high water. If 18 boarded, they’d surely argue to fill the first plane, meaning the second plane only having 6 passengers… You can see where this is going and how quickly something with good intentions can turn ugly. L U C K I LY, group pressure took its toll and everyone was on board. Disaster avoided. Lesson learned…establish ground rules beforehand.

Threesome.

With full tummies and the prospect of not having to return with this vile road, spirits lifted and we entered Serengeti National Park. Seronera was about two hours’ drive away, but our guides’ main agenda was to find us a leopard, as we hadn’t seen one up until then. Everywhere small herds of wildebeest, zebra and even elephants were taking shelter underneath lone acacias. Closer to Seronera the game increased dramatically and then we got call that a leopard was spotted. It was having its mid-day nap, probably 10 meters up in an acacia, spread out over a branch as only leopards are capable of. I really wanted to be a bit closer, but in the Serengeti all vehicles MUST stay on the roads. A 1000mm lens would have been VERY useful at that moment. Then, incredibly and with great difficulty, we also saw another leopard in a tree a bit further away.

At Seronera we had a quick bathroom stop and then a bit further down the road, to no one’s surprise, a puncture. Given the brutal punishment those tyres are put through, it’s a wonder it lasted that long. The afternoon’s drive into the setting sun was most enjoyable and we saw big herds of wildebeest and zebra. We then turned off towards our luxury mobile tented camp site. Another long day’s driving was rewarded with a warm shower and beautifully made up tents. These tents are much better accommodation than any hotel room, as they are more spacious, have fantastic beds and are situated under large acacias. They’re definitely a real privilege and treat to stay in.

Luxury mobile tented camp.

That evening the group was jovial at dinner and we were even treated to a few classic jokes. I attempted a star trail picture, but again the visibility was poor and a full moon didn’t help much either. After dinner it was off to bed as we had to be up early for our balloon flight the next day.


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