“The Wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask.” ― Nancy Wynne Newhall.
This was again a very special and also very lucky day.
I had noticed a rather disconcerting knock from my front shock absorbers and inspection showed that both lower shock absorber bushes had disintegrated courtesy of the entrance road. One of the rear bushes was also a little tatty. We left our campsite at just after 7H00 after I had cleared up including burying the ash. We were heading to Lobo Hills Public Campsite via Seronera. I had read that Seronera had some sort of vehicle workshop and we really could not continue with the metal upon metal sound from my front shocks.
The first special event was coming upon a pride of 17 lions on a fresh buffalo kill where we had spotted the 2 lionesses the previous day, less than a km from our camp and certainly what had been heard by me at 5am. Strangely enough that evening we had seen this same solitary buffalo bull during our late afternoon game drive and wondered what had become of the 2 lionesses seen there earlier. Here today, gone tomorrow, life is tough for the animals of Africa. The pride were ripping into the buffalo carcass not 10m from the road and we had this completely to ourselves for as long as we liked. There was no pride male present, but a young male just beginning to sprout a mane, 7 females and 8 cubs of 3 different ages, none very small. Later we were able to direct a delighted lodge game viewing vehicle to this fantastic sighting.
At game viewing pace and with a long stop for the lions we covered the 28km to Seronera in about 2hr. Here we went to the fuel station who directed us to the nearby workshop. This was our second slice of luck for the day. This workshop’s main function is to maintain the park vehicles which are mainly Land Rovers. At present it is being refurbished and run by the Frankfort Zoological Society. The German gentleman in charge could not have been more helpful and we were sorted out within an hour. Fortunately they had some Toyota front shock absorber bushes in stock, but not for the rear which was not as bad. All this was done for the princely sum of TSh 40,000 (R200). For those ever in need the GPS co-ordinates for this workshop are S02 26,200 E34 49,202. I doubt if my shocks would have lasted very much longer with the condition of the roads we still had to cover, but thank goodness the worst of the Serengeti roads was behind us. As we drove further north on the main road to Seronera the condition of the road steadily improved, probably because of less traffic.
Initial scattered herds of wildebeest and to a lesser extent, zebra became more and more widespread with huge numbers within view but not yet with the density we were to experience later. The open grasslands around Seronera changed to rolling hills and grasslands with acacia woodlands of varying density. The Lobo Hills themselves are impressive with lovely granite outcrops. Don’t forget to look out for the klipspringers and Vereauxs eagles at Lobo Campsite.
It took us 2hr 20min to cover the 72km the distance between Seronera and Lobo Hills. Lobo Hills Public Campsite is fine and I agree that a special campsite is probably not worth the extra expense. There is one proviso though, if you are there when the migration has reached the north (usually early July but varies) and you want to see river crossings, it would be worth booking a special campsite further north, perhaps in the vicinity of the broad Kleins Gate area, or more westwards. On our first night there were initially only 1 French couple and their camp staff on a mobile operator safari, but later joined by a similar group of about 12 people. This was not quite as quiet as we had hoped but we had some friendly conversations. As was to occur throughout the trip, people were fascinated by our rig and astounded and envious of the fact that we had the ability to do this totally independently. The next night there were even more people, probably 30 in number, somewhat overcrowding this small campsite. Conditions were however far more pleasant than at the frankly unpleasant Simba A Campsite. These were not overland trucks and there was no noise at night.
When we first arrived the ranger directed us to the campsite and showed us where we could park on a level area and set up camp as vehicles are actually not supposed to park on the grass. There are 2 buildings here, the first is a kitchen working area for the mobile safari cooks and the second is a dining area where tables and chairs are set up. The whole emphasis is on mobile tented safaris and not self-drivers. The ablutions were not too bad with cold showers (fine in the heat of the day) and flush toilets. However on the second night they had run out of water which is tankered in. This was simply unacceptably slack as they know how many people are booked. I don’t know how most people managed with using toilets that did not flush, but with our self-sufficiency we had the answers. The campsite is on the side of one of the hills with a good view but was rather exposed and cold when a nippy breeze sprang up. We enjoyed watching the few solitary buffalo bulls wandering around this area close to the camp. Anne built up a very friendly relationship with the safari company chiefs as they all prepared meals together.
We were up and on the road early the next morning heading for a day trip to the north and the migrating herds we had heard were massing on the Serengeti side of the Mara River. We were headed west of Kleins Gate and towards the Balogonja and Mara Rivers where others had reported the herds were massing. This is quite a long drive and will take a whole day. If it is the time of the herds massing in this area it is worth doing but I gather that out of migration season it is not the most interesting area of Serengeti. The shorter grasslands north of Lobo Hills were dotted with huge numbers of wildebeest and to a lesser extent, zebra. These were still in a loose formation but all were heading north. I am not sure if this was the reported late migration or these were just the tail-enders, but the sheer numbers were beyond any previous experience of mine. There are myriads of unmapped roads leading to this section of the Mara River and we had been advised by the guides we met at Lobo to head west once we had crossed over the bridge over the Balogonja River and deviate westwards from the main route to Kleins Gate.
We spotted 2 lions and whilst viewing these were joined by a game viewing vehicle. This guide was heading for the exact area we wanted to go to and agreed that I follow him for the quickest route on the best roads. We reached the Mara River 2hr 30min and 76km from Lobo. We were viewing in an area between the Mara Bridge in the east and Kogatende, west of where the Bolongonja joins the Mara River. Here all my expectations and preconceived ideas were met. Tightly packed herds of wildebeest were milling around in confusion as they were confronted by the fairly substantial Mara River and its huge crocodiles. It is impossible for me to estimate numbers but we are talking of herds in tens of thousands and a large number of different herds. In areas there were wildebeest from horizon to horizon and their grunting was deafening and the dust they raised as they milled around at the river banks in about 6 locations was impressive. There are about 4 regularly used crossing points in this area, but it was not our fate to witness any crossing. On this day the herds jibbed at the final obstacle as they often do and no crossings took place. Probably visitors over the next day or two would have seen the impasse broken. I must say that I was surprised at the proportionately low numbers of zebra. Nonetheless we had seen the true wonder of the massed herds and it was without any disappointment that we had to head back. Once again I was able to witness a wonder of nature and fulfilled one of my lifelong wishes and expectations. We are very fortunate indeed! If you ever get the chance grab it with both hands if at all possible do. For those that would love this experience but for a variety of reasons know that they will never do it, I hope our sharing and photos will be of interest.
We took a route a lot further west, back to Lobo. This was not a great idea as the roads were not as good or direct and it took us all of 4hr and 180km through areas without any astounding game viewing. Close to Lobo we saw 2 more lionesses and (unusual for the area) a cheetah lying on a boulder. A long, rewarding and unforgettable day. We were disappointed that we had been unlucky enough to miss an actual crossing but knew that we would be in the Kenyan Masai Mara at the correct time to have a second bite at the cherry.