Day 317 to 319 (17th – 19th July) – Serengeti National Park & Ngorongoro Crater

25 07 2011

We were picked up at 8am to begin our drive to the world renowned Serengeti National Park. Soon we were driving across the impressively fertile Great Rift Valley. Stretching from Lebanon to Mozambique, this is essentially where the African tectonic plate is being torn in two to form the Nubian and Somali Plates. This green oasis will in a few million years be the site of a great ocean.

Before entering Serengeti National Park we drove along the western rim of the breathtaking Ngorongoro Crater. The Crater is technically actually a caldera and the 6th largest in the world at about 20km wide. It was formed when a giant volcano exploded then collapsed two million years ago and now lies completely dormant, making the perfect home for a plethora of wildlife in very high density.

The open plains at the entrance to the Serengeti National Park had to have some of the dustiest and most bone rattling roads since Bolivia; with every 4×4 we passed kicking up huge plumes of dust. The moderate breeze seemed to easily form mini tornados and a good half dozen could be seen out on the dry open plains.

The lengthy drive in saw us pass scores of Masai settlements with their goats and cattle grazing the bare brown open plains amongst the game and occasional big cat! We game drove to the campsite spotting the usual zebra, giraffe and elephant; plus the new like the spotted hyena, thompson and grant gazelle and even the very rare and elusive Leopard and serval cat.

The following morning we were up and out for sunrise to explore the heart of the national park. It soon became clear why the Serengeti National Park is regarded as the best game park in the world. If walking around Manhattan is like being in a Hollywood movie or TV program, then gazing at the Serengeti plains is like being in a BBC wildlife documentary. Just about the only thing we didn’t see was a rhino. We saw two lovely cheetahs shading themselves from the sun under an acacia tree, dozens of lions and got within two metres of a lioness.

That evening we drove on to a perfectly situated campsite on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater, boasting stunning views of the whole crater. Our last day had us rising to thick fog – I thought this a little strange, but we are at 2,100 metres above sea level. The fog soon cleared as our 4×4 descended into Ngorongoro Crater. This was a spectacular place; with all this wildlife in such a confined space we were never out of sight of some type of game animal, or sadly other 4×4 jeeps. We have seen several white rhino’s but here we saw our first black rhino, herds of buffalo, more lions, the very rare and nocturnal serval cat, but no kill… Just about the only thing missing were giraffe’s as they can’t negotiate their way down the steep crater sides.

In three days the superb Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater played host to many of the planets finest animals and left us wishing for more time on the African plains.

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