Tanzania is a beautiful country that is fortunate enough to be home to two of Africa’s most famous National Parks… The Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater. During our Tucan Tour, we had the opportunity to visit both of these parks for safari drives and boy were they impressive!
There are some things that never get old, and for us, that’s being in a safari vehicle looking for wildlife. There’s definitely no surprise that this is one of our favourite things to do worldwide. Every safari is unique because the scenery, the vehicle, the weather and most importantly, the animal sightings are always different.
Just when we think we’ve seen it all, we start our first drive into the Serengeti.
Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti National Park was established in 1952 and covers 14,750 square kilometres. It borders with the Masai Mara in Kenya but it dominates in size. The Serengeti is undoubtedly one of, if not the best-known wildlife sanctuary in the world, with the greatest concentration of game in Africa.
Apart from its sheer size and natural beauty, it is also well known for the large amounts of wildebeest, zebras and crocodiles during the great migration.
We didn’t see the great migration here in late July, however, we saw them migrating during our Kenyan Safaris instead.
Arriving into the Serengeti was an adventure in itself. The roads to get into this park were some of the worst roads we’ve ever driven on! If you were a lady on the back seat, without a sports bra… well, you’d know about it!
*wear a proper bra*
We drove along these bumpy roads to reach the park for 2-3 hours and had our brains shaken around! Forget sleeping, or reading, we were kept entertained by the various dust devils (shown below) as well as being on the lookout for anything that looked remotely like an animal to try and pass the time.
It wasn’t until we drove further into the park that the roads became somewhat bearable and it didn’t take long before the radios started up and we drove to find our first sighting. A beautiful lioness on top of the rock. Gosh, they are just so majestic!
We watched her until she crept off the rock and decided to walk directly by our car like we weren’t even there. Our hearts were racing and the photographs were, of course, in full swing.
They never seem phased by the vehicles, but you know deep down at any moment that could change (although very unlikely unless you are a complete moron and aggravate them, please don’t be that moron). For the remainder of our drive that afternoon we saw: a male lion chasing a lioness, another pride of lions including 2 beautiful males, a family of cheetahs, impalas, hyenas, warthogs and a tonne of birds.
Camping in the Wild
Our campsite in the Serengeti was in the National Park itself, no fences or locked doors. Just a two-person tent, in the wild. Seems safe right? Apparently so! There are only so many places in the world that you can camp alongside laughing hyenas and roaring lions.
If you have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night (I absolutely refused to leave my tent!), you must bring someone with you just in case you encounter a beady-eyed animal in your path. God knows what I’d do if that happened to me, so instead, I refused to drink even a SIP of water hours before bed. I felt it was safer to be dehydrated than eaten alive ;). We had dinner with our group and called it a night fairly early as our wake-up call was 5:30 am.
The second day that we spent in the Serengeti goes down as one of the most magnificent game drives yet (Phinda, you’re definitely still up there). The best time to game drive is early morning when the animals are usually the most active so we set off by 5:30 am and began our day.
The Serengeti is so unbelievably massive and we only covered such a small fraction of the park but what we saw in that section was mind-blowing. For as far as the eye could see, it was dry, open savannah which made spotting game relatively easy (except for leopards, those guys like to hide). We drove around and around keeping our eyes peeled.
Just as we started to doze off, we were awoken to the largest pride of lions we’ve ever seen. A pride that included 13 cubs! You know this is pretty special when your safari driver (who has been doing this for 20 years) starts taking videos… we’re in for a treat!
Without realising the actual number of cubs (they were camouflaged by the grasses!) one by one, they popped their heads up. This.is.awesome. We had a lion cub preschool right in front of our eyes – if only I could get out and start cuddling them! We stayed with them for over an hour as they played with each other, fed from their mother and walked directly in front of the vehicle. It doesn’t get any more natural than this!
On top of that, we saw 5 cheetahs, 2 leopards (one in a tree and one run directly in front of us), a male lion roaring, a heard of elephants with multiple babies, impalas, giraffes, hippos both lazy, fat and yawning, crocodiles, warthogs, wildebeest, zebras, gazelles, hyenas, mongoose (similar to a meerkat), foxes, buffalo, vultures etc. The list really goes on. It was incredible.
At the end of the day, we drove to the outskirts of the Ngorongoro Crater where we spent the night camping in the freeeeeezing cold. It was the coldest we’ve felt in our 2 years of travel, so much so we resulted in flip-flops and socks, which is an extremely unacceptable dress code. Hot chocolates and red wine filled the hands of our group and we sat around the campfire reflecting on the day we just had. The perfect way to end the day.
Bright and early the next morning we left for our game drive in the Ngorongoro Crater. The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest intact, unflooded caldera in the world, with a crater 259 square kilometres (100 square miles) in area and with a depth of 600 meters (1970 feet).
The crater was formed by a collapsed volcano some 3 million years ago and since then has become home to 40,000 different animals, including the largest density of lions in the world. The air was cold and the plains were dry but it was one of the most impressive, unique sites we’ve seen through our African travels.
Game driving in the crater was quite different to other drives we have done. Unlike the very open plains of the Maasai Mara or the Serengeti, The Ngorongoro Crater is shaped like a bowl, therefore the animals are in a relatively concentrated area with nowhere else to go. They’ve got everything they need in one place. Why leave?
The morning started off extremely cold with wind chills cold enough to freeze our face so we rugged up in all the layers we had (including our fashionable flip-flops and socks) and popped our heads out of the safari vehicle squinting back the tears from the breeze.
Shortly into our drive, we notice an abundance of cars gathered in one area. This usually means something fairly exciting so we pulled up alongside another vehicle and began waiting for one of the most unique (if you could describe it as that) experiences to unfold. Two lions mating. Boom! Something we hadn’t seen on any other game drive before. Is it weird to be slightly fascinated by this?
The mating process for lions takes place every 15-45 minutes over the course of multiple days and the lioness is in charge of when he can jump on. She’s the boss! She knows exactly how long it has been in between sessions and will not budge until it’s time. We watched the male lion try a little too early but she growled at him immediately and he backed right off. We continued to wait for the “magical moment” to happen but little did we know, it would last only 21 seconds! What an anti-climax that was (but you know, still kinda cool).
Did you know? A lioness mates up to 100 times per day with an average interval of 17 minutes. How exhausting!
Apart from some very sexual lions, we spotted our first rhino, a lion eating a carcass, hyenas, the largest group of hippos we’ve ever seen who greeted us with a very large fart and a big yawn. Elephants, zebras, our first serval cat, a family of cheetahs, a pride of lions, gazelles, wildebeest, buffalo, birds, an ostrich, flamingos and the all-too-good-looking warthogs with their punk rock hairstyles. Unfortunately, giraffes are not seen inside of the crater due to the steep descent.
After a few hours of game driving, we stopped in one of the designated picnic spots for lunch. These areas are the only areas inside of the park in which you can exit your vehicle. We pulled up for lunch and it just so happened at the exact time, a large elephant had the same idea. This idyllic scene is what Africa is all about and it was absolutely perfect to end our safari drive here. Just look how close everyone is!
Photos and words don’t do these experiences justice and whilst this video is just a small compilation of clips (shot on our iPhone), it’s just enough to give you an idea of just how magnificent African safaris really are!
Although we love safaris and the fabulous group of people we met, it was time to remove the winter clothes and soak up some sun for our last stop in Africa. Hello to the small island of Zanzibar!
Special thanks to Jess for sharing some of her awesome pics with us 🙂
Married Days Survived; 906