I know I haven’t posted in a long time…I was out with an awful sunburn for a week and then finals happened…but after 5 days in the Serengeti I am back on my game and ready to type!
But first! On our drive to the Serengeti we had to travel through Ngorongoro Crater again…oh darn…did I even talk about this place? The 8th natural wonder of the world? Sorry ‘bout that…anyways…we stopped after the Crater at Oldupai (Olduvai..) Gorge, the place where the oldest human remains were found! Some guy started mispronouncing it (Olduvai) and the name has stuck..but it’s really called Oldupai! We got a great lecture there about anthropology and paleontology, and they had a mini museum with tons of bones from long extinct species!
Driving into the park was our first game drive…THROUGH THE GREAT MIGRATION. Thousands and thousands of wildebeest were on both sides of the road as far as the eye could see. The horizon was just a black line of wildebeest. Also making appearances were Thompson’s gazelles, Grant’s gazelles, and zebras…but nowhere near as many as the wildebeest. These crazy things were running all over the place, even across the road right in front of our car, and it was just awesome.
We set up camp and had our first night around the fire afterwards. All through the night I could hear hyenas “hoooowoooop”ing around our camp. But I’ll get to the near death experiences later.
Monday (we left Sunday, sorry) we started the day at 6:30 with another game drive. There are SO many Impala in the woodlands of the Serengeti. Also commonly seen are giraffes (saw two fighting!), cape buffalo, warthogs, topi (only found in the Serengeti!), even some leopards, and tons of colorful birds. Breaking into the grasslands you can see lions, more leopards, cheetahs (rarely), topi, hartebeest, wildebeest, zebra, jackals, bat-eared foxes, warthogs, cape buffalo, giraffes, both gazelles, and probably a lot more that I’m forgetting. After lunch we visited the Lion Research Center of the Serengeti and got a lecture from the two resident researchers about what they do there. They basically just drive around in a land rover through the Serengeti all day looking for lions and conducting random studies about behavior. I mean, not the coolest job or anything. We ended the day with another game drive (first leopard sighting!) and then headed to bed.
Tuesday we had a birding exercise in the morning that was really great! It made everyone, even those who weren’t interested in birds, focus on them and really get to appreciate and identify them! The birds here are phenomenal and so colorful. We then got a lecture from one of the park wardens of the whole Serengeti about its history and management techniques. The lecture actually wasn’t that great…it was pretty broad and covered a lot that we already knew, BUT it was at the visitor’s center. Let me just tell you, the squirrels of America are nothing compared to what run around here. Rock hyraxes and dwarf mongooses EVERYWHERE. THEY ARE SO CUTE. Hyraxes are basically massive gopher guinea pig things that are just adorable. I had to attach a picture so you could see for yourselves. Afterwards we did yet another game drive, and I haven’t been mentioning lions because I have seen so many that I just consider them normal..but every game drive includes lions!!!! Dinner and bed happened after that.
WEDNESDAY WAS THE BEST. The game drive in the morning started off with…you guessed it…A CHEETAH. We watched her for a half hour just walking through the grassland and she was so beautiful! Of course we saw tons more lions and a couple leopards and everything else too…but the cheetah was really great. For lunch…ahhhh. Lunch was conveniently at the Serena lodge…basically rated the best lodge in all of Africa. We had a delicious BUFFET of salad (there’s no lettuce ANYWERE here), cheeses galore (brie, camembert, gouda, garlic roulade…oh my god), fresh baked baguettes (for spreading the fantastic cheese on, naturally..), and LAMB and PORKCHOPS with delectable dipping sauces such as ORANGE GINGER GLAZE. And all unlimited. Also a dessert was included so I casually stuffed an apple pie in on top of my four heaping plate fulls of pre-dessert. And then we swam in a beautiful pool overlooking (sorta) the woodlands, and there was BREWED A.K.A. NOT INSTANT coffee!!!! It was all just so great. There were even real freaking toilets with DOORS for privacy!! Who would have thought! And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, the game drive included FOUR leopards and TWO more cheetahs and the most GORGEOUS sunset I have ever seen in my life. Wednesday…you were pretty swell. Except….I almost died.
I have been neglecting to mention the near death experiences. Monday night as I was getting into my tent I looked up and my headlamp hit two hyenas about 20m from me. Like…right there. Like about to come eat me. Cowardice was the answer and I jumped in my tent. Tuesday there was a casual HERD OF CAPE BUFFALO 10m from the bathrooms that we had to stare down while waiting to relieve ourselves. Buffalo are aggressive and will charge without warning, so that was a really nice thing to think about while using the door-less restroom facilities. But then Wednesday…Wednesday a male lion decided to invade the camp. Which was actually terrifying if you could believe that. We were all sitting around the fire when we heard the territorial grunts of the lion…in the pitch darkness…and then the growl. Our guard Bura immediately just started yelling for everyone to run into their tents. It was a chaotic mad dash for safety. But with the help of the vehicle engines and lots of shouting the guards managed to scare them away and they didn’t come back!
The drive home Thursday was fairly uneventful, other than seeing two leopards not a minute after starting! We also got to drive through the migration again which was just fantastic. Overall the Serengeti was an unbelievable experience. I try to cover all the bases here but if you have any questions about anything or want me to talk about anything, send me a message on Facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Talk to y’all soon!