Here is the continuation of the previous post written by my SIL on their African Safari:y
Our next destination was the western corridor of the Serengeti National Park, a journey of approximately 6 hours from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, all the while staying within the park. The Ngorongoro Conservation area transitions at some point into Serengeti and is really one vast sea of plants and animals. Located in north western Tanzania and bordering Kenya’s Masai Mara, the Serengeti National Park is one of Africas most famous game parks and measures over 14,500 sq km. Together with Ngorongoro, the 23000 sq km is larger than a few countries. The Serengeti hosts vast savannah plains, wildlife in awe inspiring numbers and of course, the annual Great Wildebeest Migration which takes place from the end of October to mid July, depending on the rains. When we arrived at the Serengeti, we were simply awestruck. Husband and I looked at each other wondering whether this place is for real. It is an endless sea of grass & 360 degree view is just flat green land touching the horizon. If I didnt go to school & lived in Serengiti, I would vouch that the earth is flat! Moreover the name Serengeti is derived from Masai word “Serengit” meaning “Endless Plains”. Volcanic soil a few feet under the ground does not allow tree roots to survive and penetrate. This has resulted in endless grassland with occasional trees. However, vegetation alters to dense tree canopied forest on hills and there is a transition zone. Each type of vegetation harbours a different set of animals, birds and reptiles.
Few minutes inside the park & we saw a sizable number of wildebeests (called gnu in Swahili). Of course, we wanted to experience wildebeest migration & we were expecting it. But few more minutes passed & we breathed slowly at what we saw. They were in huge numbers yes. But how many you ask, I would say probably 200,000. I dont know what that number would look like. But as far as our eyes could see, we could see wildebeest all around us. They looked like black ants queueing up at a distance & this view stretched for a few kilometers. Then we spotted the zebras & they were more than 50000 in number. I smiled remembering how I counted the 72 zebras just a day ago! Steven told us that zebras & wildebeest migrate every year from Masai Mara in Kenya southwards to Serengeti in Tanzania. This is mainly in search of food which is available in plenty in Serengeti. The wildebeest have good sense of sound & zebras have powerful sight. This combination makes then great partners during the migration. We also spotted many gazelles, few hyenas, impalas in the park enroute to our lodge. At one instant, herd of 7-10 gazelles were running next to our vehicle at the same speed as our car – 60km/hr! It was a sight to remember 🙂
We visited the Seronera region in the Serengeti Park the coming day. This is famous for the ‘cat’ population & we were not disappointed at all. We spotted many lions, lion cubs, leopards in the park. One of the leopards was sleeping on the branch of a tree 20ft above the ground & had its prey, a dead impala on another branch. We were told leopards normally don’t like sharing their food or being disturbed while they are eating, even by a fly. Hence, they climb on the tree with their prey & eat for 2-3 days! On our way back, our hearts stopped for a few seconds when we saw 3 lioness walking towards us from a distance of 30 feet to just under 7 feet, then walking away casually looking extremely disinterested in us – clearly husband and I would probably amount to less than half a snack!
Last of our stops was the Lake Manyara National Park. Located between Arusha and the Ngorongoro Crater and stretching 50km across the edge of the Great East African Rift Valley, Lake Manyara National Park is famous for the elusive tree-climbing lions & pink flamingos. The forest here reminded us of the forests in India – very dense unlike the other National Parks we visited here. But the lions here eluded us and the pink flamingos were small in number & very far away when compared to what we saw in Ngorongoro.
For those wanting to visit Tanzania, I would suggest pre-book on one of the safari tours. There are many & you will be surprised that three of the major operators have Indian owners. Also, Tanzania is an expensive place, mainly because of tourism. The US Dollar has become normally used currency apart from the Tanzanian Shillings. Tipping culture is big. From the person who brings your luggage to your hotel room, to the one who serves you at breakfast, to the one who comes to spray mosquito repellant sprays. And people normally give anything between 2$-10$ for each service. The lodges we stayed were part of a group called Sopa lodges. I would recommend these as they were situated inside the park with great views of the parks. Those who are vegetarians needn’t worry at all. Rice, Chapatis & Sabzis are very common here.
Overall, Tanzania is a wonderful place for African Safari. If you want to catch the wildebeest migration, it might be prefered if you visit in the month of November as you can see these crossing the river from Masai Mara in Kenya to Serenegeti while the crocs wait on both banks for the annual feast as a million wildebeest brave the odds and lunge into the water. In all, highly recommend it – one of the best holidays I have had.