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19/03/14, Safari, Arusha to Serengeti

Arusha marks the halfway point of the original route between Cairo and Capetown. Next to that, Arusha is also considered to be the Safari capital of the world. For both those reasons, we will now have three restdays; to recover from cycling 4300 kilometer over the last two months and to get the opportunity to go on safari. And I’m using this opportunity. Together with Alex, Loraine, Pete and Richard we’re going on a three day safari to Serengeti national park and the Ngorongoro conservation area.

This morning at 630 we were picked up by our driver and our cook and their specially equipped landcruiser. The driver drives and the cook sits next to him. Behind them is place for six and each of us has a window seat. Once we loaded our bags and camping gear, we hit the road at around 0700. We left Arusha over the mainroad and slowly the built up area made place for coffee plantations. And after a while the coffee plantations became bushland, mixed with agricultural land.
After an hour we had a stop to buy water (6 liter for each person) and after that we turned from the mainroad onto the road towards the gate of the Ngorongoro conservation area. The road was still paved, but in lesser condition. We had another hour long drive towards the town Mto wa Mbu, which lies next to lake Manyana and it’s surrounding national park. In front of us we saw the huge rift valley ridge looming, the place where the African continent is rifting appart. We had another stop to get some more provisions and after that started the climb of the forrest covered ridge. Once at the top, we had an amazing view over both the ridge and the lake and the surrounding forrest!
It took another hour to get to the gate of the Ngorongoro conservation area. Once there our driver arranged the permits and payments for entry and after that we started our ascend onto the Ngorongoro crater rim. Ngorongoro is an ancient volcano that formed due to the African continent rifting appart. Because two continental plates drift appart, the earths crust becomes very thin, allowing volcanos to form. Ngorongoro is one of these volcanos and is believed to have been just as high as mt Kilimanjaro. However, after an eruption the magma chamber underneath the volcano emptied, after which Ngorongoro imploded into this empty magma chamber, leaving what is called a caldera, which is today’s Ngorongoro crater, which is filled with wildlife.
Once we made it to the top of the crater rim we had a great view over the crater, which is about 19 kilometer in diameter. With the help of binoculars we could see all sorts of animals, some 600 meters below us. We saw elephants, rhinos, buffalos, but all very small, even with the binoculars!
Once we had taken in the spectacular view we continued our way along the crater rim to make our descend on the other side of the volcano, onto the Serengeti, the endless plains. Once we started descending we started to see our first wildlife closer to us. A big herd of giraffes on the slopes of the mountain. Zebras. Wildebeest. Gazelles. And as we continued our way onto the grassy plains of the Serengetti, we saw many more of these! And it’s currently the time of the big migration, so we saw big herds of Wildebeest move over the plains and over the roads, leaving a big dust cloud hanging above them.
At some point our driver hit his brakes. We though to stop for wildebeest crossing the road, but he said he thought he saw something lying underneath the tree on the side of the road. So he backed up the landcruiser and indeed, some 5 meters from the road, lying underneath the tree, were two young male lions. Peacefully sleeping, not carring about us staring at them! Wild lions…. wow…
We continued our drive and later on saw some more lions that had been spotted by another landcruiser. These were females, lazing around in the high grass. Again, not carring about our pressence. The next highlight was a giraffe near the road. We were able to get even closer to it than I was yesterday!
We rode untill it got dark and made it to the campsite. Tonight I’ll be camping on the Serengeti! How feral is that 🙂 Especially now I know that lions and hyenas and leopards are not far off!
Today was perfect. Many beautifull sighths and many animals: Zebras, wildebeest, hartebeest, all sorts and sizes of gazelles, warthogs, mongoose, giraffes, lions, a hyena… It’s an experience that can’t be described in words and pictures don’t do it any justice either…
Tomorrow we’ll have another day on the Serengeti. Lets see what that will bring us 🙂

The clocktower in Arusha, marking the midpoint of the route between Cairo and Cape Town…

Our view from the top of the rift valley ridge, with lake Manyara a the background…

The gate to Ngoronoro conservation area.

Our view over the crater! Many animals down below!

Zebras!

Local Masai, living in the conservation area…

Descending onto the endless plains!

Wildebeest!

Ostriches

The gate to Serengetti

The endless road…

Lorraine in awe of the view…

Gazelles!

Overlooking the grass…

And then lions!

More wildebeest!

And more lions!  Very lazy… that’s how i know cats…

And a hyena…

And a giraffe 🙂 I like giraffes!

Ending the day with a great sunset!

And a campfire 🙂

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