Waking up in a tent to the sounds of zebra and antelope running nearby was a quick reminder that we were in the middle of the African bush, not to mention the sound of hyenas that continued most of the night. Opting out of the morning game walk (highlights being some ants, a few tracks and a lot of piles of poo) we spent the morning relaxing before it was back onto the truck and into the great Serengeti.
The Serengeti Most of the day was spent game driving through the park with pretty good results. Aside from the usual herds of zebra and impala, we passed a herd of elephants with several babies including one adult with a deformed stunted truck (probably caused by dietary deficiencies), a black backed jackal, and a group of lionesses sitting on a rock outcrop on the opposite river bank.
After a short rain shower we headed down to a river bank to watch wildebeest and zebra take turns to drink, freaking out at the slightest sound and bolting out of the water. Not long after we spotted a couple of male giraffe fighting across the river, with slow motion style windups followed by them smashing their necks loudly together (usually over a female, as always!) until one retires. Not long after this we were rewarded with the sight of a large pride of muddy lionesses, who then proceeded to walk right across the road. Counting fifteen in total from fully grown adults to cubs, they were cuddly and playful and had obviously had a blast rolling in the mud together.
The wildlife encounters continued when we passed by a herd of elephant right on the edge of the road. Parking the truck, we watched as one approached the truck, reaching out its trunk so close to the open window where Aussie Kim, who’d already snapped a load of pics, was reading a book, oblivious to the fact she could have reached out and touched it (or worse it could easily have reached in a dragged her out!).
Next up we hit a wildlife jam, where everybody was parked up watching a young leopard perched in a nearby tree. Eventually it half climbed, half jumped awkwardly down before heading towards us then disappearing in the long dry grass. Next up was what’s known as honeymooners, a male and female lion in the midst of a mating session. During heat, the female can get jiggy with it every 15 minutes for three days straight without any sleep (not always with the same male mind you). Having just missed the spectacle, it wasn’t a long wait until it was time to go again and we got to witness something not everybody gets to see in the wild.
Stopping briefly at the information centre in the middle of the park, we signed up for tomorrow’s hot air balloon flight as rock hyrax jumped and ran around everywhere. A short slippery drive saw us arrive at camp Seronera just before sunset, where we were again camping in the wild without fences and this time without any armed rangers. We were however visited by the Zebra Bar, a mobile bar selling cold drinks, including beer! A few campfire stories later we all called it a night, as the eyes of what we could only hope were topi and other antelope reflected back from our torchlight by the edges of the camp.
Our alarm woke us before dawn and we snuck out before the rest of the camp woke, picked up by 4WD and taken to our hot air balloon launch site. As a fiery sunset filled the horizon, we were stoked this activity (almost) coincided with our 1 year wedding anniversary (was Vegas that long ago??). We were introduced to our pilot Frank, from Toronto, who with typical Canadian humour talked us through the process before directing us to climb into the basket while it was still lying on it’s side. We were totally graceful.
After bumping off the ground once, we were in flight and sailing over the ‘endless plains’ which give the Serengeti it’s name. As the sun rose higher herds of impala and gazelle became clear wandering the hundreds of game paths which crisscross the plains, along with scattered giraffe and a herd of elephant who we passed over low enough to hear them trumpeting as they circled around to protect their young. Having taken off as a pair, we always had the second balloon in view, either above, below or beside us, giving a perspective of how high we actually were. Just before landing we spotted a hyena in hot pursuit of a young impala, chasing it round and round, heading off in the distance before circling round and passing back under us. As hyenas can hold their top speed for ages, the poor impala would soon tire out and be killed, and our last view was of both of them disappearing into the distance.
Upon landing we were treated to a champagne toast with the other balloon where we recognized several people from other trucks we’d been crossing paths with. Sitting down to more champagne and a full English breakfast beneath a lone acacia tree, we soaked up the atmosphere (and the champagne), and whilst checking out the ‘Loo with a view’ we spotted Shaggy in the distance, wondering how the other half enjoyed their breakfast back at camp. All in all a great experience and something we won’t quickly forget.
Meeting back up with the truck, we joined the others on a game drive to the border of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, our next destination. We pull over to watch three female lionesses nursing two tiny cubs beneath the shade of the only tree for miles, before stopping for lunch with a chance to climb a rocky outcrop, known as a kopje, for 360 degree views of the flat, seemingly endless plains. Dotted across the plain, these outcrops were formed when the rest of the ground eroded, and the tough granite was left behind. Leaving the park behind, we watched as dust whirlwinds blew alongside the road, before climbing our way up towards the Ngorongoro Crater.
For more photos of the Serengeti and Tanzania, check out our Flickr page.
Tips for the Serengeti
- The hot air balloon flight was great, but this time of year (August/September) you’re probably better to do it over the Masai Mara. Also their champagne breakfast was buffet, ours was not.