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Tanzania, Serengeti National Park, Ngare Nanyuki Special Campsite no 1. Saturday 18 July. Week 12, Day 97.



"It's really beautiful. It feels like God visits everywhere else but lives in Africa"


Well here we are at last after about a 3 week delay, but believe me it has been worth it. After all the heartache and frustration we are at last in the Serengeti and for 6 days as well! We really feel most fortunate to be here and I hope to share some of our joy with you as best I can. The only sad thing is the large number of family and friends we would love to be sharing this experience with. What I can’t get over is the absolute peace and quiet after some time in busy camps and the hustle bustle of African cities.

As I have said before Anne has been an absolute stalwart. First patiently seeing me through my low grade but persistent illness. When ill I react by becoming withdrawn and self-centered as I lick my wounds. I could not have been all that pleasant to be with. Even with all our delays and my incompetence when it comes to motor vehicles, not a word of frustration was heard from her.

Our last night on the crater rim in Simba Camp was bitterly cold again with a biting wind. It was not easy to get our backsides out of bed that morning but we managed to hit the road by 7H15. We only needed to be out of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area by 12H45 so did not have to rush. In our instance we officially checked out of the NCA at the entrance gate we used for Serengeti, the Naabi Hill Gate. We comfortably made it with 45min to spare. I feel our plan of 2 nights within the NCA (with attendant high costs) worked out well for us as at no stage did we feel rushed and were able to visit areas like Empakai. However most will only spend 24hr in the NCA and this will work just as well. What I would suggest in this instance is that you check in at the Lodoare Gate near Karatu at about 17H00. This will give you enough time to explore the crater the next day for about 6hr, which is enough and then drive to the Serengeti’s Naabi Hill Gate to check out of the NCA and also drive to Seronera before 17H00. During the early months of the year, when the animals and calving are in the south of the ecosystem, consider an extra day in the NCA, staying in the Lake Ndutu ans Naabi Hills area. I suspect you would have to book well in advance. There are many ways to skin a cat. Our choice has worked well for us.

Driving towards Serengeti not far from Simba Camp, but still within the NCA, we received a most unexpected treat. We were only some minutes past the turnoff to the Senato descent road to the Crater, when up on the hillside very nearby, there was a mother cheetah and her 2 grown cubs. Their coloring shone like burnished gold in the early morning sun as they played with each other. This was still in and amongst the area of Masai huts and herds of cattle. This is how the Masai have lived amongst the wild animals for centuries. In this region we also saw scattered groups of Grants and Thomsons gazelles, side-striped jackals, a clan of 5 hyena, zebra, wildebeest and even a few giraffe.

Our original intention when leaving this morning was to visit the museum and the archeological site at Olduvai Gorge and also a Masai cultural village. We set Olduvai on our GPS but could not believe the obscure, seemingly seldom-used track T4A indicated as the route to Olduvai and decided to push on looking for a more formal route. There was not one that we could find and there were absolutely no signposts for either of these 2 destinations along the route. I can live with missing out on these. It did enable us to take our time on the appallingly rutted road to Naabi Hill Gate. We had ample warning about the corrugations but this is a case of pure neglect and we think inexcusable from the Tanzanian authorities.

You enter Serengeti at an unmanned gate (see photo) and then travel to the check-in at Naabi Hill Gate 18km further on. We were enjoying the short-grassed, flat southern Serengeti plains when suddenly yet another special treat. A triumvirate of male lions lying and looking about, very close to the road. Initially we were the only vehicle. I suspect that the game drive vehicles in their very high speed chases to get to Naabi Hill had driven right past them all morning. We spent some time with them taking some photos. This was just as well as we only wanted to check in at about 12 midday to give us time to leave Ndabaka Gate in the west on our final day, without being penalized by having to pay an extra day if arriving after the check-in time. The check-out of the NCA and the check-in for Serengeti at Naabi Hill went smoothly. We paid for our very indulgent 6 days in Serengeti by credit card, the detailed costs in the geek section. Once again we are able to dispel any rumours that a guard is needed for the special campsites. This section of road all the way from the Crater to Seronera is really an absolute disgrace. The corrugations are unbelievably bad, probably the worst within the 40,000km we were to cover. It is difficult to decide if more damage is done to the vehicle if driving ulta-slowly or at the close to 100 km/hr that most of the game viewing vehicles travel. These game guides were later to tell us that high speeds are mandatory to lessen the damage to a vehicle's suspension. Absolute rubbish as the high speeds are what causes the corrugations in the first place. This is probably the highest profile tourist road in Africa and its condition is inexcusable. At the high speeds travelled the game vehicles skitter across the road with very little steering control. The Tanzanian authorities need to put some work into this road and then enforce the 40km/hr speed limit. Unfortunately as elsewhere with tourist facilities in Africa there is more harvesting than sowing.

On arriving at Seronera, we first filled up with diesel before going to the tourist center to obtain help with the route to the rather obscure Ngare Nanyuki Special Campsite no 1 which is not on Veronica Roodt’s very detailed map of the Serengeti. The Ngare Nanyuki River is indicated on her map lying some distance east and slightly north of the Turners Springs and the Sera Special Campsites. The directions were detailed and good and we easily found the no 2 campsite which is an operator site with a large number of tents etc. We took the turnoff as they directed and eventually this track petered out towards the small river. There were no signposts so we backtracked a little until we found some vehicle tracks, some vague evidence of a previous camp with ashes from a campfire and set up camp under some wonderfully shady Acacia torticollis trees. Isolated we were. For those really interested the co-ordinates of our camp are S02 29,316 E35 00,286. We feel as if we are many miles from another living soul which is great food for our recently fairly troubled souls. By road it lies 26km almost due east of Seronera, apparently the very popular game drive area is south and a little east of where we were. This camp is beautifully isolated but within easy reach of the best game drives in the area. With an earlt start one could be out and about in these best areas, with a head start before the crowds arrived. I must say that my aversion to game viewing in a congested situation was never really tested in Serengeti. I had feared that my experience here would be spoilt but let me assure you that for the most part the crowds are really far less than feared even in this area close to busy Seronera.

Serengeti absolutely fulfills all the dreams, fantasies and preconceived images I had of it. The short grass plains in the south and the Gol Hills area are not at their best during the dry season plus the rains here had been sparse. Nonetheless the flat open savannah, with barely a tree, stretching  to the distance, was really a splendid vista. There were still groups of Grants and Tommies around and the 3 male lions were a real bonus. We saw our first topi and also some eland. Elephant, hyena and a few stray zebra completed the sightings for this section. Around the Gol and Naabi Hills the grass is a little longer. The drive east of our camp produced large numbers of gazelle and topi. Near our campsite we came upon a beaut of a black mamba sunning itself but it slithered into its hole before I could get a photo. Sitting in camp right now in view are Tommies, Grants, topi, a few elephant and even some buffalo. The small river has some water in it judging by the elephant and buffalo going down seemingly to drink. We will explore this area to the east of Seronera thoroughly on the morrow. Apparently it is well known for its big cats. All of the wildebeest and most of the zebra have migrated north and west where we hope to catch up with them soon. Then of course there is also Masai Mara to come, how exciting! I am close to heaven.