Serengetti & Ngorongoro Crater Safaris

Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
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Trip End Dec 17, 2008


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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We left Nairobi at 8am heading south. This would be the first day for all 20 people on board our truck called Pangani after an African river.  It was interesting to see how it would pan out with the 15 people integrating with the 5 that had already been on the truck for 2 weeks. It very quickly became apparent that we had an awesome group of people and everyone became comfortable very quickly. Obviously last nights alcohol consumption and nudity had greatly helped the team bonding! Some very different characters that all in all made the group dynamics very entertaining and enjoyable. We continued our journey towards the 'Meserani Snake Park' in Arusha which included crossing the border to Tanzania.
 
Having thankfully discovered that all the snakes although massive were safely behind glass we set up tents and headed off for the lamb bbq put on by the campsite owners.  Not the happiest pair we have ever met and Ed suggested that the woman might even be 115 years old.  After an excellent meal the group decided the best thing to do would be to put our heads together and think of something to do....after throwing up a few ideas it seemed somewhat rude not to take advantage of the awesome bar even after last nights tom foolery...surely it would be a quieter night?

Enter Stalker and the devil within..... "SHOTS" came the cry from the possesd Stalker as shot after shot of multiple coloured sambuca came down upon us! It was an epic display of immaturity as we went about writing ourselves off in record time....this would be LARGE! All was made more entertaining as 2 other safari trucks had arrived and so a packed bar was on hand to watch us tear the place up!

Again the entire group got stuck in for nonstop fun and games with the nights highlight surely being the 'Lunge Off'... This included Stalker the event organiser drawing a line on the sand floor as everyone went about stretching out the longest classic lunge possible. This became a serious event in which much focus, stretching and preparation was needed. Again and again Stalker cried out "Lunge" as people tried to progress to the latter stages of the comp as a dumbfounded bar looked on in utter amazement (and fits of laughter!!!!) Finally the event came to a dramatic final as Mincer and Tom competed for all the glory...
Bets were made, faults in technique were looked for.....BUT Tom brushed these all aside as he lunged his way into the Acacia record books with a devastating win....Excellent entertainment.
 
However don't be fooled into thinking other fun was had......Other shenanigans included 'Backwards darts' which amazingly didn't bring any injuries....However an unlikely injury did occur when Ed decided to be involved in another safari members 'star jump pictures'...
His first attempt was missed by the young lady on her camera from ATC (another safari group) and so he decided a bigger jump was needed with more hang time...unfortunately the REAL crocodile attached to the ceiling was a little lower than expected and he conveniently smashed his head on its rock hard nose much to the amusement of everyone in the bar...that's where drunken showing off gets you.....
 
More laughter came with 'Ma' the 115 year old pub owner losing her temper at people for bringing their own drinks to the bar....also Mincer decided to tell certain people their new nick names without breaking it gently...this led to one group member being somewhat put out, lucky our good friend alcohol was there to smooth the problem....no harm done. (well not much anyway!).
 
The night eventually finished with everyone staggering back towards their tents....but the night hadn't finished yet! One of the other groups had decided it would be funny to do some tent moving and so around 15 people drunkenly stumbled around the campsite looking for their tents. This was made more interesting as cries of 'Shut the f*ck up' and other cursing came from the disgruntled neighboring tents... Krys and Trudy both took this on board as they continued to unsuccessfully rugby tackle people generally ending up with a face full of dirt...!
 
Another memorable night that was enjoyed by all.....
 
The next day it was an early start to get to Serengeti National Park (another World Heritage Sight) for an overnight camp and then onwards for a visit to Ngorogoro Crater.  Once again we were divided into smaller groups to travel in the safari jeeps - this time Toyota Landcruisers.  As there were a  few hangovers between us some thought that the 2 hour journey might be a good opportunity to catch up on their sleep.  However as a few people had spotted the cheap plastic water pistols in the supermarket the previous day this wasn't the case - as soon as you nodded off you got a face full of cold water - much to everyone else's amusement.
 
On our way we stopped in a small town to pick up the steaks, coals and a few other supplies for dinner that night and that is where Alex and I picked up our nicknames that would stick for the remainder of the trip.  As usual when a vehicle obviously full of tourists stops you're surrounded by people wanting to sell you things.  This time it was beaded wrist bands and Alex ended up bargaining for the whole van.  His purchase was for wristbands that said Jambo on them which is Swahili for hello and from then on was called Jambo.  I on the other hand (not wanting to part with my precious stash of Haribo sweets) used the appallingly bad excuse that we shouldn't give the children jelly bears as they would rot their teeth.  Tom then suggested that I had more of a sweet fetish than Willy Wonka and so the name Wonka stuck with me for the remainder of the trip...
 
As we headed onward towards the park entrance the water pistols were refilled ready to ambush the other vehicles when we next stopped.  This isn't easy on a bumpy road.  Alex had refilled his and was testing that it was ready to fire and manage to squirt a poor Tanzanian guy cycling along the side of the road.  Not sure he really knew what had happened as we sped by him !
 
Once we entered the conservation area we began to climb up the side of the valley to get to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.  We stopped for a lunch break on the crater rim and all ended up sitting in a huddle.  Our guide Sammy had warned us about the vicious Black Kites that inhabited the area and had been known to sweep down and steal food out of your hands.  We did see a few circling high above but we were a bit disappointed not to have one come even close...
 
After a brief stop further along the rim for some pictures down into the Ngorongoro Crater we headed for the Serengeti National Park. As we descended it soon became apparent that this place was immense.  Overcome by the sight before him Tom decided to turn green, get our driver to stop and jump out of the truck to throw up at the side of the road....nothing to do with the numerous sambucas the night before of course....  Mildy amused Hammer (our driver) said that this happens a lot with tour groups and the birds would be along soon enough to clean up his mess!  
The rest of the day was spent game driving.  The rules in the Serengeti were much stricter than the Masai Mara and there trucks had to stick to the marked tracks and there was to be no getting out.  Always one to try and bend the rules Mincer made his driver stop so that he could get out and have his photo taken atop a nice cluster of rocks.  Hammer immediately spotted this and as the head guide yelled at him to get back in the truck and gave their driver a roastin (all in Swahili but we got the general meaning). Looking back even Mincer agreed that he had no idea what was on top or behind the rocks and there could well have been a pride of hungry lions for all he knew....
 
The rest of the afternoon we chased an invisible leopard from tree to tree and giving up on that in the end satisfies ourselves with a lovely sunset and headed to the campsite so that we could pitch our tents before it was completely dark. Once our tents were pitched we then had a talk from the guides about the site.  There were no fences and so nothing to keep out any wildlife.  So we weren't allowed to have food of any sorts in our tents and if we needed the loo in the middle of the night we were to stick our head out of the tent door, shine our torches around and if we saw any eyes in the grass we were to go back in again and try again in 5 minutes.  We then had dinner and as no-one wanted to try a midnight run to the loo all decided that we'd go to bed rather than take in any more fluids.
 
The next morning we were up at 5am and after breakfast and a lovely sunrise we headed off on another game drive.  This time we spotted a leopards head in the grass but it was too far away to get any decent pictures. As we were starting to get a bit disillusioned with the whole leopard thing a shout for lions came over the radio and we headed off.  When we arrived at the spot there were a group of lions basking in the morning sun and (risking a fine and loss of his licence) Hammer headed off road to take us right past a big male lion that was lying in an area of burnt grass - superb.  
Carrying on around the park Hammer somehow spotted a puff adder swimming in a small water hole, then we went on to see the usual array of things - giraffes, gazelles, hippos, wildebeest, buffalo etc.  We stopped at the visitor centre for a drink and found that they had some very odd but cute little furry creatures living in the walls (an now can't remember what they are called).  
In the afternoon we left the park at headed back up to the crater rim where we were to camp that night.  Even before we started dinner it was already getting pretty cold and by the time our dishes were being collected to be washed I was heading back to the tent for a few more layers.  We sat around the fire with the guides teaching us Masai songs and in the end I had 6 layers on and was still cold.  I didn't sleep too well that night as it was freezing - although I did have a better night then Krys.  As usual a few tents had moved around but hers was quite a way away and someone had thrown a bag of marshmallows through the door.  Having been warned about food in the tents attracting wild pigs and baboons she hardly slept a wink as she couldn't find all the sweets that had been chucked in her door.  The next morning she wasn't amused.....(before you think it  - we weren't involved in that one!)
 
The next mronign it was another 5 am start - this time heading down into the Ngorongoro Crater.  The roof was up on the truck and it was absolutely freezing. I was really regretting sending my woolies back home in a box from Oz.  What had looked like trees from the crater rim turned out to be hundreds of animals, and the place was teeming with wildlife.  From big herds of wildebeest and zebras to another very close encounter with some lions.   This time it was  a whole family with about 6 cubs.  They had recently taken down a buffalo and were finishing off the last morsels of meat from the carcass.  We were that close that we could see that one of the lionesses had some quite bad cuts on her nose.  The cubs were quite merrily playing in the grass and around the vans and then the male got up and had a prowl around to see what was going on. It was amazing that they weren't really bothered by out presence but I guess they must be used to it by now...
 
Having taken more than enough pictures we headed off to see what else there was to see.  There were several different breeds of gazelle and a pool that was full of hippos all sleeping.  We eventually made it to the lake itself and to what I had come to see - the millions of flamingoes that live in the lake.  It was amazing to see so many of these bright pink birds.  I was very tempted to make a big noise so that they would all take off (I am sure that's what the BBC wildlife people do to get their shots) but Alex said I couldn't !  

After seeing a lot of elephants we finally saw a black rhino.   With there being so few left we wondered whether we would actually see one and even though it was quite a distance away it clearly was a rhino.  So we left the crater having seen 4 out of the Big 5 with only the elusive leopard not ticked off. Once we'd packed the tents it was back on the road and back to the Snake Park for another night in the bar.  With the free afternoon we had a bit of a kip and picked up our washing from the local Masai ladies who had done our laundry while we were away (thanks Masai ladies) then went to check out the snakes that the campground was famous for.
 
For a campsite they certainly had a lot of dangerous snakes around, more than you would find at a zoo to be honest and the thought of someone opening up the hatches and letting them slither around the campsite at night was more than a little disturbing, especially as I am sure security wasn't one of their highest of priorities.
 
They had some huge boa constrictors, a lot of mambas, both black and green and also some vipers. All of these could be found in the local region and quite a lot where deadly poisonous, food for thought then.
 
After checking out the snakes it was back to the bar and the 115 year old bar maid for a few less pints than the previous visit, but all the same a good drinking session. It was this night I perchanced on the photo of another truck who had done a naked evolution of man on top of their vehicle. It was decided there and then that this Acacia group would also have to partake in these type of antics but position would have to be decided via a series of man tests, something to keep us amused over the course of the rest of the trip then.
 
The next morning before leaving the snake park we had the opportunity to visit a Masai cultural centre outside the campsite. After finally gathering the group together with a few sore heads from the previous night we set of to see our second Masai village. This operation was a lot more touristy than the previous village we had been to in the Masai Mara. It was basically a big warehouse (still made of cow dung and branches) with different rooms each depicting various scenes of Masai life.  From how they build their houses and farm the cattle to the most interesting scene, the male circumcision. This coming of age ritual described by our guide was definitely not for the faint hearted.  Basically when a Masai boy comes of age he must be circumcised but the procedure is done with a large (probably blunt)knife, takes up to two minutes and the boy must decided whether to keep his eyes open or closed during the process. If his eyes are open he cannot blink for the two minutes (try doing this just normally), he cannot flinch whatsoever or cry or he will be outcast from the tribe as being weak and not a man.  Needless to say this had more than a few of the lads crossing their legs in sympathy for these poor Masai boys. We also broached the subject of female circumcision, which although outlawed it still practiced in most tribes, though hopefully a little more humanely than it used to be.  It didn't seem to bother them that it was against the law, some females even see it as right of passage to have this done, showing it's a lot more difficult to change local culture than just passing some laws.
 
After the interesting walk around the centre, there was the opportunity to buy some local crafts. Although we didn't find anything we really liked, Stalker purchased a lovely pair of shorts and there were more than a few Masai blankets and jewelry bought for the up and coming African themed Birthday bash in Zanzibar for Mincer.
 
We then took a walk through the village itself, which seemed to be a little wealthier and more organized that the previous one we had been to, perhaps due to the takings at the cultural centre? With the free afternoon we had a bit of a kip and picked up our washing from the local Masai ladies who had done our laundry while we were away (thanks Masai ladies) then went to check out the snakes that the campground was famous for.
 
For a campsite they certainly had a lot of dangerous snakes around, more than you would find at a zoo to be honest and the thought of someone opening up the hatches and letting them slither around the campsite at night was more than a little disturbing, especially as I am sure security wasn't one of their highest of priorities.
 
They had some huge boa constrictors, a lot of mambas, both black and green and also some vipers. All of these could be found in the local region and quite a lot where deadly poisonous, food for thought then.
 
After checking out the snakes it was back to the bar and the 115 year old bar maid for a few less pints than the previous visit, but all the same a good drinking session. It was this night I perchanced on the photo of another truck who had done a naked evolution of man on top of their vehicle. It was decided there and then that this Acacia group would also have to partake in these type of antics but position would have to be decided via a series of man tests, something to keep us amused over the course of the rest of the trip then.
 
The next morning before leaving the snake park we had the opportunity to visit a Masai cultural centre outside the campsite. After finally gathering the group together with a few sore heads from the previous night we set of to see our second Masai village. This operation was a lot more touristy than the previous village we had been to in the Masai Mara. It was basically a big warehouse (still made of cow dung and branches) with different rooms each depicting various scenes of Masai life.  From how they build their houses and farm the cattle to the most interesting scene, the male circumcision. This coming of age ritual described by our guide was definitely not for the faint hearted.  Basically when a Masai boy comes of age he must be circumcised but the procedure is done with a large (probably blunt)knife, takes up to two minutes and the boy must decided whether to keep his eyes open or closed during the process. If his eyes are open he cannot blink for the two minutes (try doing this just normally), he cannot flinch whatsoever or cry or he will be outcast from the tribe as being weak and not a man.  Needless to say this had more than a few of the lads crossing their legs in sympathy for these poor Masai boys. We also broached the subject of female circumcision, which although outlawed it still practiced in most tribes, though hopefully a little more humanely than it used to be.  It didn't seem to bother them that it was against the law, some females even see it as right of passage to have this done, showing it's a lot more difficult to change local culture than just passing some laws.
 
After the interesting walk around the centre, there was the opportunity to buy some local crafts. Although we didn't find anything we really liked, Stalker purchased a lovely pair of shorts and there were more than a few Masai blankets and jewelry bought for the up and coming African themed Birthday bash in Zanzibar for Mincer.
 
We then took a walk through the village itself, which seemed to be a little wealthier and more organized that the previous one we had been to, perhaps due to the takings at the cultural centre? We played with the kids throwing them up in the air and swinging them around, took a look in the guides hut (which again seemed a lot nicer and bigger than those of the last village) and then made our way to the local clinic. The clinic was sponsored by the owner of the snake park and provided general health care as well as antivenom for people bitten by snakes (not those in the park I hope). It seemed like a good project especially as the cost of antivenom can sometimes be more than a years salary for some of these people.  I guess then we thought the overpriced beer was worth paying for as at least something was going back to the community.
 
We got back to the truck for lunch and then packed up and had a long drive, down the rift valley, to our overnight stop in Tembo. It was dark and raining when we arrived, so Hel's and I decided to upgrade for the night as it was cheap and the thought of putting a tent up in the rain wasn't overly appealing. My team and I cooked a decent beef stew for the group that night, and most people retired to the bar for some drinking games. The most amusing moment being when I was trying to relieve the guard of his single barreled shotgun, to have a look, but he didn't seem to be too impressed.  His friend though was quite happy for me to take a look at his bow and arrow.
 
After an early breakfast in the morning, but a decent nights sleep in a room with mattress rather than in a tent, we set of for a long 10 hour drive to Dar Es Salam.
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