Sunday, 18 September 2016

Serengeti NP Day 1: life’s a journey, enjoy the ride? Not when you’re doing the ride from NCA to Serengeti…

Side-striped jackal
There has been some confusion about the procedure of paying for the NCA, including an increase in fees.  We’d luckily been able to sort out our TANAPA cards for the Serengeti in Dar es Salaam, but the Ngorongoro Conservation Area has managed to make things a bit more complicated.  

Last time, Makasa (the tour operators we use when going with family) had been kind enough to sort out the payments for us for NCA, but we had still needed to stop in Karatu (the village just outside the NCA gate) to get the temporary cards, which last time they’d then given us the wrong ones. 

White-backed vulture
We had expected the same type of drama again, but this time the woman at the Karatu branch just gave us a piece of paper with a quote after filling out a few forms.  It turned out to have been needless, as at the gate the same paperwork needed to be filled out and this time cards weren’t issued.  So the process had changed again ;) We just hoped we wouldn’t have any issues when we got to the other side of the NCA and had to check out there before checking in to the Serengeti.

And then it was the road from hell…

This is a 100km HIGHLY corrugated road that plays hell on the car.  And the whole road hadn’t been graded in a while, so Kili – and us – felt every single bump going through.  We are very wary of going fast on this road, so were reduced to going 20km /h while the tour guides flew past us.  They’re very used to traveling this road and can go faster, but for us in our 20 year old car – we try to take it as easy as possible and hope like crazy the car won’t break down, especially since the local Maasai herdsmen are looking more and more aggressive with every trip.

White-bellied bustard in the dry grass
Finally at around 3pm – 4 hours after setting off – we finally made it to the Naabi Hill gate.  Happy to have made it in one piece, the payments were sorted out for the Serengeti, and surprisingly with no issues checking out of the NCA.

It was still another 40km of corrugated road to Seronera, the central Serengeti, and where we would be camping for the 5 days, but there is a back road about 10km from the gate which we gratefully took, if nothing else but just to be able get some respite from the bumping around.

A view of the Ngorongoro Crater before we started the "hell road"
As expected, the plains were pretty devoid of wildlife, as it’s the height of the dry season, but we did get a very nice view of a relaxed side-striped jackal, a much more uncommon sighting than its cousin, black-backed jackal.

It was getting close to sunset by the time we got to Hippo Pools via Maasai Koppies, so headed straight to the campsite, stopping only to catch a cheetah in the veld a bit too far away for photographs.

Finally back in the campsite, with the clouds gathering
We got into Dik-dik campground – our preferred site – at around 6pm, which was relatively quiet, as it usually is, with only a couple of other campers with tour guides.  We were pretty worried about the storm clouds that had been gathering the whole afternoon, and sure enough, the heavens opened up shortly after we arrived, and bucketed down!!

We’re not well equipped for heavy rain, but we do have what we call a “temporary shelter” – essentially a waterproof sheet which we attach to the side of the car.  But that is really for drizzle, not for heavy downpours, and it poured.  Scrambling around, we had the temporary shelter up, but spent most of the time trying to get rid of the pools of water that were gathering on the sheet.  In the end we had to abandon it all and get into the car and wait out the storm. 
These chaps are all around the Naabi Hill gate
Luckily it didn’t last too long and soon we were getting dinner sorted out and having showers.  Thanks to the rain, we were able to use our Wellington boots for the first time (after carrying them around for years) because the ground had became a muddy mess.  Planning to have an easy meal of chicken wraps, we were shocked to find that our wraps had already gone mouldy!  

We hadn’t been able to find our normal choice of wraps in Dar, so we’d bought some others at the last minute, but they hadn’t survived.  Luckily we’d had a backup plan, and ended up having chicken rolls instead, but that meant working out our next evening’s meal as well, as that would also be wraps.  But this is why we carry so much food with us – in case something goes wrong ;)

In contrast to previous trips where we’ve commented on how quiet the Serengeti is at night, tonight there was an orchestra of sounds.  Lions were roaring close to the campsite making us a bit nervous, while the spotted hyenas were doing their whooping calls and we even heard the grumbling of a lone elephant, indicating he was pretty close.  Needless to say, we finished dinner and were up in the roof tent as soon as possible.

<<The long drive from Dar es Salaam

Day 2: All about the lions >>

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