After leaving Zanzibar the safari continued north along Africa’s Great Rift Valley. We passed through Tanzanian bushland making our way through Arusha and a five-day camping adventure in Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater.
A whopping one-third of the land in Tanzania has national parks that are home to Africa’s densest animal population. Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater form the heart of the area’s game and forest reserves.
….one-third of Tanzania’s land has national parks…
The Ngorongoro region is part of Serengeti’s ecosystem. The southern half of the region, the protected Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), is the only one of its kind in Tanzania. Humans live in the NCAA but land use, including cultivation and livestock grazing, is restricted. Inside the Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, human habitation and livestock grazing are forbidden.
…inside the crater the temperature suddenly dropped to 50 degrees.
Our African guide, Godlove, took us to some incredible game viewing areas. We fully experienced the Crater and saw animals and birds I had never heard of before, like the Kori Bustard, the world’s largest flying bird, and the Bat-Earred Fox.
The Ngorongoro’s northwest border is next to the southern plains of Serengeti National Park. The Serengeti Plains spread north into the Maasai Loliondo division and are open to all wildlife. Rugged volcanic highlands to the southwest along the rim of the Great Rift Valley prohibit animals from migrating there.
Our first stop was Olduvai Gorge which holds the earliest evidence of human ancestors. “Paleoanthropologists have found hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools in the Gorge. Some date back millions of years leading experts to conclude that humans evolved in Africa.”
A baby wildebeest got confused and left the herd to chase our safari jeep.
We changed from the safari truck to smaller open-topped 4 x 4 vehicles for navigating Park roads and headed for the Crater. The interesting route bypassed several Tanzanian landmarks:
- Majestic Mt. Meru Tanzania’s second highest mountain (after Kilimanjaro)
- Rolling Sisal plantations the longest surviving agricultural industry in Tanzania
- The beautiful clean city of Moshi situated on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, a major coffee-growing region
- Lake Manyara National Park known for the thousands of pink flamingos that inhabit the lake during wet season
- The Karatu District one of six districts in the Arusha Region known for coffee plantations, colorful markets, and the Iraqw People who live there
- Samburu National Reserve an arid, sandy home to animals typically not found further south – ostrich, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, leopard, and cheetah
The Serengeti is world-famous for hosting the “biggest and longest overland migration on earth”. The migration was declared a “natural travel wonder of the world” and the “number one wonder of Africa“.
“During October through December 2 million herbivores journey from northern Tanzanian hills south to the plains of the Masai Mara, crossing over the Mara River in search of food and water. In April these hearty animals return north crossing the Mara again traveling to the west. This spectacle is often called the Circular Migration.”
Many wildebeest die during their migration from Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara Reserve. The perilous journey covers 500 miles of rugged territory. Death comes from wounds, exhaustion, and being hunted by predators that follow behind the herds.
Olduvai Gorge holds the earliest evidence of our human ancestors.
Around 70 bigger mammals and 500 bird species join the annual migration. The precise timing depends on the rainfall patterns each year. The variety of species in the migration is due to the wide range of habitats including river forests, swamps, kopjes, grasslands, and woodlands. Some of the most common mammals are blue wildebeest, gazelle, eland, impala, and zebra.
I visited in March. During a morning game drive herds of wildebeest surrounded our vehicle. A baby wildebeest got confused and left the herd to chase our jeep. We sped up to lose the baby but it was fast and strong and furiously ran after us – something to see! After about 10 minutes, we finally lost the baby and hopefully it returned to the safety of the wildebeest herd. It was likely separated from its mother and got confused.
We fully experienced the Crater and saw animals I had never heard of before…
The time spent in Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro region was indescribable – an incredible lifetime experience. There were many highlights including observing a cheetah hunting expedition, watching a pride of lions botch a zebra kill, and seeing large exotic hartebeest and other antelope species like Roan, Topi, Lichtenstein’s, and Kopi.
We spotted a rhino in the distance and followed for some time hoping to get closer. uninterested in a human encounter the wary rhino headed into the bush further away.
The only negative was the nagging tsetse flies that nearly drove everyone crazy. Tsetse flies are present where there are large herds of grazing animals. There was no escaping them. They delighted in torturing us and appeared undaunted by insect repellent.
Adequately expressing the beauty and magnitude of nature in these areas (via writing or photographs) is challenging. Many aspects of a safari are difficult to share and must be experienced firsthand. I strongly recommend that anyone thinking about going on safari do it! The rich adventure will have a positive impact on your life and be well worth the cost, effort, and any discomfort!
Our next stop is Kenya – Nairobi and the Maasai Mara National Reserve.