Day 8: Ngorongoro Serena Lodge

Kaleidoscope of Tanzania, East Africa (October/November 2006) : a safari holiday through the Serengeti, Ngorongoro highlands, Tarangire and Ruaha

Day 08: Ngorongoro Serena Lodge (Friday 03 November 2006)

 

We were up early again this morning and were at reception just before 6.00 to meet Protty – he was delayed at the kitchen because the kitchen staff hadn’t made our breakfast boxes. Protty came to tell us and was really disappointed with the kitchen staff. Eventually our breakfast boxes came and we set off for the crater gate. It was just after 6.30 when we got there but we were still the first car to go in.

We had to descend 600 metres to the crater floor and overtook two maasai walking on the way down. Heiko saw some lions on the left – there was a pride feeding although it was difficult to see them in the long grass. But when the maasai got closer they left their kill and moved away. I had learned that they were scared of the maasai warriors but it’s one thing to know it, quite another to see it! There looked to be two large males, one with a black mane had a very bloody mouth. They were with four females and all of them moved away. We saw hyena and jackals nearby and suspected they were coming to claim the kill. Once the hyenas get there the lions won’t return.

IMG: Early morning in the Ngorongoro Crater

Further into the crater we saw a large group of wildebeest crossing the road in single file, they don’t see very well – if one turns out of the line the rest follow – even if that first one turned straight into the path of a lion. There were lots of zebra, Thomson’s and grants gazelle, buffalo with lots of young, many ostriches and we saw lots of single elephants.

In the forest we saw a large elephant and we kept moving slowly closer and got to within ten metres from him because he was so relaxed. I was too lazy to take out my smaller lens though! That especially annoyed me later as the elephant was so close and had huge tusks so I could have got some good photos if I’d used my SLR, instead I’d taken extreme close-ups with my large lens and also used my little compact camera.

IMG: A “large-tusker” in the forest area of the Ngorongoro Crater

We saw lots of hippos and pelicans and we saw the grey-crowned cranes (strange to see them in the wild after mostly photographing them in zoos, they are beautiful birds, Heiko referred to them as “zoobirds” since that’s where we normally see them, so much nicer to see them flying free here, though they have never been caged in in the zoo’s we’ve visited). We also saw a secretary bird and jackals crossing the road. We saw a pride of lions sat on both sides of the road to us; we saw the large black-maned lion mate with his chosen female.

We stopped by the “hippo pool” for breakfast. Heiko thought the hippos were rocks – it did look like it especially with all the cattle egrets sat on top of them! We had lots of weavers join us for breakfast – they were perched on the roof of the car, on the bonnet and also surrounded our feet. One of the ruffles-tailed weavers flew up to my hand and tried to take my biscuit. I wasn’t expecting that because Protty had said they are ok to have around for breakfast, its lunch time you worry about since that’s when the kites arrive – they smell meat! And soon after saying that, two kites flew by and were very interested in the car that had pulled up next to us; I wonder what they were having for breakfast – meat?!

IMG: At the picnic site for breakfast – the weavers and the “hippo pool”
Ngorongoro Crater

We spotted a large male lion with a back mane on top of the hill near where we were eating breakfast. Breakfast was quickly abandoned and everything packed away quickly so that we could follow this huge male lion. Several other jeeps did the same! The lion walked a long way along the road and more and more jeeps gathered. All the zebra were moving out of the lion’s way. He stopped by the road to drink from a puddle and then walked down into a shallow ditch and followed that for some way – we could only just see the mane so we decided to move on. There were five hyenas not far away. We saw more lions further ahead and eventually the big male joined them. There were ten female lions and two males including the one we had followed from the picnic site. There were two mating pairs, we think we’ve already seen one of the couples mating earlier this morning.

We moved further down the road and around a bend saw where the male had joined the females and we saw him mate with his female while the others looked on – they were quite close to the road and facing our direction so we got some excellent photos of the male biting the female just before he finished. When he got up the female (who was lying) flopped over onto her side then lay on her back with all four paws in the air while the male watched over her. It was very special to see.

We moved on and saw lots of ostrich, some golden jackals (our first sighting) and then we were off on a rhino hunt. We wanted to see one up close. We drove past a warthog lying in the mud on the road – he barely twitched as we stopped and passed by. We also saw a hyena lazing in the middle of the road. Then Protty saw two specks in the distance and through his binoculars could see they were two rhinos but they disappeared into a ditch as we tried to get closer.

Not to worry since soon after we saw a female rhino far in the distance walking towards the road we were on. We stopped and waited hoping she would come close. Walking at a slow steady pace she soon reached us and crossed the road in front of us. So that was all of the Big Five we have seen up close now, and also the cheetah, we are very happy and are lucky to have such great guide – Protty has taught us a lot about the wildlife.

We finished our game drive at a picnic site where we also took the opportunity to fasten down the roof. Heiko and I were out taking photos of the vervet monkeys and then noticed one was in the window of the jeep. We all ran over to chase him away and realised there was a smaller one actually inside. I opened and slammed the car door furthest from them to try and scare them back outside but it was the second slam that got rid of them – the little one stole a handful of ginger biscuits, we could see him up in the tree with them all clutched in his hand! Naughty!! Well I suppose we should be thankful that he stole biscuits and not our camera equipment!

IMG: The rains in the distance (Ngorongoro Crater)

Back at the lodge we had a late lunch and visited the gift shop; when back in the room we both enjoyed an afternoon snooze. We woke just before our laundry was delivered and then showered and got ready for dinner. We went to the bar first, hoping that Protty would be able to join us for a drink. There was a band playing and singing swahali songs.

* * * *

Protty joined us and soon after the maasai arrived to sing and perform their welcome dance. There was quite a big crowd since there were a lot of guests in the hotel today.

Protty was telling us about his sons, his first born is named Tom (after Protty’s father Thomas) and is six, almost seven, and he is a “naughty boy” – when they go out for a game drive Tom gets excited and shouts when there is an elephant and Protty tells him to “sshh” as he doesn’t want the elephant to come into the car! I can imagine it must be exciting to grow up with so much knowledge and experience of nature and I bet Tom enjoys Protty’s safari stories! Protty has a second son, Theo who is one and a half years old; soon he will also be recognising the animals. Tom can tell the difference between a cheetah and a leopard – he knows the cheetah has black tear marks.

Protty is staying in the drivers’ accommodations and their evening meal finishes earlier than ours since the staff there also prepare the breakfast boxes after serving dinner, so Protty had to leave so that he had time left to eat. We headed off for dinner then too.

chakula = food

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