Day 8 – Safari 3 – Serengeti – Ngorongoro – Karatu

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Today would be our last day on the Serengeti and the last day of our Safari. For me though, the day began at 3am when I got up to relieve myself. It was dark of course, I noticed a small pair of glowing eyes nearby in my head lamp as I walk to the bathrooms some 150 feet away from camp. No problem is seemed to be a small animal. What I did notice was that the night noises here were different than I’m used to at home in the woods. As I exited the bathroom, a strange high pitched loud whoop, sounded behind me. Not close enough to see but to definitely hear. I bit of a chill went up my spine as once again I reminded myself that the camp is on the open Serengeti and critters were here first. I felt a sudden need to GET BACK to my tent – oh yeah that’s stop ‘em…which I did. Whatever it was, then came through the camp knocking over a few things. I suspected it was a baboon but thought that it might be a hyena as well. Of course, I had to report it on Facebook right then. In talking with the guides in the morning, the felt it was a hyena that was passing through camp. Personally, I think it was laughing at me. Took a while to get back to sleep at that point.

Once again, got up around 5:30am to finish packing and have breakfast. Most of us were ready early and spent the time chatting over a second cup of tea or coffee. Everything packed into the Land Cruisers we hit the road again for our second set of sunrise shots. Same tree, similar results. Still can’t decide which was the better sunrise of the two.

After sunrise, we began to move again. The now familiar clusters of giselle, hart beasts, warthog, etc. were already not of great interest. Daniel pointed out that this happens, you get burned out on these animals, really? In only a couple of days? Apparently so. Soon we (and a number of others) encountered a pride of lions keeping an eye on a heard of giselle, who of course, were keeping an eye on the lions as well. As many groups of lions as we’d already seen, each one sparked great interest in their behaviors. Also there pale yellow fur blends so well with the grasses on the Serengeti. Very cool.

Each day I was struck how we seems to drive around and around looking for animals. Occasionally, we’d see a low road sign like this.

I’ve come to understand that the guides have to get training for what they do and are licensed as well by the government. Regardless, even with radios, training, etc., knowing where you are on the Serengeti is not easy and I’m glad that Godlove has been doing this for 10 years or more.

From our lion encounter we began a long drive with a lot of open empty dusty terrain. We saw less and less animals and few trees. At one intersection, I remembered if from two days before as the turn off from the main road. Getting back on the main road we passed through the entrance gate to the Serengeti National Park and headed towards the hills to the south. We soon came to the hill at the tourist control point. A brief stop for paper work, coffee, pictures and then back to the dusty, dusty road to Ngorongoro Crater, up to the rim, a look behind, then DOWN more than 1000 feet into the crater on a serious 4WD road.

Immediately saw our first wildebeests – Julie was so happy as these were one of the critters she wanted to see.

We hoped to see a rhino (we didn’t know that no TGL group had ever seen one) then we heard on the radio that there was a sighting. Godlove took off with urgency to the southern part of the crater where while distant (1/4 to ½ mile away) was a single black rhino! Daniel pointed out that while we had already seen the Ugly 5 (the baboon, marabou stork, hyena, wort hog, and the wildebeest). With our sighting the black rhino, we had also seen the Big 5 (elephant, rhino, lion, hippo, giraffe), all in all very cool. The rhino was far away and most of us were really trying hard with our long lenses to get decent images, the lack of my long lens was telling here. Still though, you could make it out.

We spent a lot of time there, then moved on to the west side of the crater floor where we passed through heards of buffalo and wildebeest.

Soon the terrain got very lush and a small lake was sighted, and so too were hippo. We stopped here for a lunch break and photos.

Back in the vehicles again, we continued north around the crater floor. We ran into a troop of baboons.

At this point Godlove was getting concerned that we needed to wrap it up as we had to be out of the Crater park before 6pm. Taking one of the crater access roads out (the first sort of paved roads we’d been on in 3 days), we climbed quickly out of the crater with a stop for one last look into it at an overlook we had passed by two days ago as it was in cloud.

Getting back on paved roads for the 14 km run back to Karatu. We were kind of silent in my vehicle as it was clearly dawning on us that the Safari was over.

Back at our Lodge in Karatu, the laptops came out and pictures were shared. Dinner was at 8 after which, Daniel and Michael spoke to the group thanking us for participating in TGL and generally summing up the week. The group was still joking with each but again the slow, sad realization that the TGL experience was nearly over as well. While we had 4 hour drive tomorrow, we weren’t in as much of a hurry to get back to Moshi, so other than socializing and packing, there wasn’t much left to do before bed.

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