Travel Journal

Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti

(Tuesday 25 January 2011) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 151-2 1-2 to 1-3-11

We walked along the main road through Karatu getting some money from an ATM and stopping at a lodge when we saw a bus load of tourists. They were going into the crater but the driver told us this tour was organized state side and suggested we go to Arusha to join a safari. I don’t think that’s going to happen. As we neared the end of town, Julie spied a western couple exiting an ATM near a land rover and we ambled over to find out where they had booked their tour. They were a young German couple who likewise had tried to find someone to split the cost but they were leaving immediately for the crater and then onto Serengeti camping one night in each area. They were willing to wait while we checked out and have us join them. We drove back to our hostel, quickly packed, paid the bill and were off!
Picking up supplies proved amusing as they insisted we would drink 3 liters of water a day so we picked up 24 – 1 � liter bottles and we must have cucumbers so we bought 10 of those, and so on. We ended up with supplies I thought would last 5 days instead of the 2 � days we planned.
The crater is about 20 kilometers out of town and, after paying the fees, we entered and stopped at a scenic lookout over the crater. It doesn’t look real from this vantage point, like something made of clay in an art class. Ngorongoro is a conservation area rather than a national park which means that people can live in the area, a concession to the local Masai tribes but it also serves to allow high end lodges to operate on the rim. We headed down the crater, through lightly wooded areas but soon entered the flat, grassy plains where the soil would not support trees. The area is crossed with many roads and there were a few other jeeps traveling through but not so many to spoil the view.
In both the crater and Serengeti we saw the big five: Elephant, water buffalo, rhino, leopard and lion. We saw some of the ugly five as our guide referred to them: Hyena, Warthog, Vulture and Wildebeest. The fifth is the ugly stork I mentioned at Lake Ziway in Ethiopia. Because of the frequency of visitors, I think a lot of the animals have gotten used to our presence so we were ignored for the most part. The crater isn’t that big, perhaps 20 kilometers in diameter so the vast number each animal and the variation of wildlife found there is staggering.
We drove up to the rim since all cars have to be out of the crater by 5 PM, and we ate at a kitchen used by the drivers before driving to the campsite. It was a comedy of errors setting up the tent rented by the driver as he had never used it before and I was of little use as my Boy Scout training was years ago. It did end up standing through the night so at least we did something right. We had no sleeping bags but Peter, our driver/guide, lent us a ground cloth and blanket. There were bathroom/showers nearby and returning from it in the dark I noticed a large shadow silently moving just in the bush. Shinning my light over, I saw a line of elephants about twenty meters away slowly walking at the outskirts of the campground. It was a very eerie encounter. Returning to the tent the others told me one elephant brushed against our car, paused, and then carried on with its march. It got very cold during the night so I sucked out as much heat from Julie as I could during the night.
Phillip and Adriana, the German couple, wanted to see the sunrise over the crater so we got up early, earlier than I would wish, for that. We did get some good photos though. We continued on to the border between Ngorongoro and the Serengeti and paid the entrance and camping fee for that park. The Serengeti stretches for miles and, in fact, the name means “land without end.” We delayed our entrance in so we could spend some time the following morning in the park since the fee covers 24 hours.
There was much more driving involved here than the crater but the sizes of the herds were much larger. The campsite for that night was smaller and crowded and we had to search to found a decent spot. There were many more mosquitoes here than at the crater but we kept them out of the tent and the night was warmer than the crater so we slept better here. Our dawn-lovers again wanted to see the sunrise so it was an early start for us the next day although again we got some good photos. When we did leave, we had to enter Ngorongoro again which cost us another $50 which I didn’t expect. Also the rate of the land rover had increased to $200 instead of $150 a day since there was four of us which wasn’t discussed with us. All told, it cost us $915 for this safari which I thought was reasonable but Julie thought it was too much. I really wanted to see the wildebeest which were in both places, so perhaps doing just the crater without camping the night would have been best. We would have missed a few of the critters that we only saw at Serengeti but would have saved some cash and our backs from camping. Julie kept a list of wildlife which I will add at the bottom.
Back at Karatu, we said our goodbyes and reserved a ticket for a bus the next morning to Dar Es Salaam. We got a room at a place Phillip and Adriana suggested which was cheap. A new record which I don’t think we will be able to beat. 5,000 Tsh which is 3.33 USD. It was just a small room with a bed and shared shower but it helped heal our budget.
Animal list: Dwarf Mongoose, Leopard, Rock Hyrax, Hippo, Coke’s Hartebeest, Impala, Agama Lizard, Crocodile’s snout, Common Elland, Olive Baboons, Golden Jackel, Spotted Hyenas, Wildebeest, Zebra, Lion, Elephant, Black Rhino, Warthog, Giraffe, Grant’s Gazelle, Thomson Gazelle, Water Buffalo, Kirk’s Dik-dik, flamingos, Ostrich, and many types of birds.


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