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Tanzania, Serengeti National Park, Ngare Nanyuki Special Campsite no 1. Sunday 19 July. Week 13, Day 98.



“The wild places are where we began. When they end, so do we.” ― David Brower.


What a wonderful day we have had today. As far as we are concerned Serengeti is all it is cracked out to be. I will be very surprised if any of the many other wonders we still have to see will be true competition for the highlight of our whole trip. Even without the widebeest migration in attendance in the Seronera area, the sheer biomass and animal concentrations were unequalled anywhere else. I feel that the wildlife experiences in Southern Africa need not stand back for those in East Africa, except for that of the amazing, unequalled Serengeti ecosystem. Until one has experienced it personally it is impossible to try and pass on a perspective.

The area to the east of Seronera is well known for its predators and we were ideally placed at our campsite to explore this area. This is still the area of the short grass plains and provided the classic vistas of East African savannah I have always pictured. Flat plains dotted with the occasional flat topped acacias. The plains were inundated with huge numbers of Thompsons gazelles and Grants gazelles, in places as far as the eye could see. The carrying capacity of this savannah is mind boggling. It must be remembered that the herds of wildebeest and zebra had largely migrated to the north. Also seen were plenty of topi, Cokes hartebeest, eland, buffalo, elephant, hyena, jackals and the like. In all we covered 129km in our day long game drive and the only thing we really missed out on was a leopard sighting. The obvious highlights were firstly 2 lionesses skulking in some thick vegetation only about a km from camp. This was not our last encounter with them. There are myriads of tracks, far more than on our GPS or Veronica Roodt’s map of the Serengeti. These game viewing tracks are a pleasure to drive on compared to the main roads. We began to follow a group of game viewing vehicles heading determinedly in a specific direction and were rewarded with a wonderful sighting. A single lioness was being tormented by a mother cheetah and her 2 nearly fully grown cubs. The general feeling was that she had small cubs in the vicinity but these were never sighted as she later moved off into some long grass. The mother cheetah then spent a prolonged time stalking the plentiful Tommies but the wind was not in her favour and she abandoned these attempts and lay up in some long grass. There were at least 10 other vehicles at this sighting but they were very well behaved and it really did not feel too much of a zoo. The Seronera area is by far the busiest in Serengeti. We later had a great close-by sighting of 2 male lions. We headed further to the southeast to the Seronera River area but had no luck with a leopard sighting but did see 2 elephant bulls sparring in the most affectionate manner. It was obvious that they were well acquainted, perhaps even brothers. I hope the photos explain what I am getting at.

What followed was rather a distasteful incident but which I hope was resolved satisfactorily. As we were driving along the Seronera River looking for leopards an official vehicle drew up and the official remarked that they were looking for us as we had been reported as camping illegally. I think the assumption was that we had bush camped whilst booked in at a public campsite. Our official booking slip sorted this out. I then recalled a Wazungu driving past us in our camp at Ngare Nanyuki and giving us some strange looks. Incidentally his 2 kids were sitting on the roof of his Toyota bakkie which is against park rules. We explained to the officials that there was no formal sign for our campsite which the officials admitted was seldom used. We explained how we had obtained directions both from the Seronera Visitor’s Center and from the operator’s campsite at No 2. We asked the officials if they could send a vehicle to show us where the official site was but they insisted all was fine. If only Mr Busybody had stopped and spoken to us all misunderstandings would have been sorted out. I am pretty sure he was associated with the operator's campsite at no 2.

We had the most wonderful, peaceful night in the splendid isolation of our camp. A good campfire, a few drinks, a good supper cooked on the coals and we were in heaven. There were plenty of bush sounds to keep us entertained. At about 4H30 I awoke to hear lions snarling and squabbling not all that far away and realized that there had probably been a kill.