We left at the crack of dawn today after surviving a cool African evening. We had to break out the jackets as we braved the breezy Ngorongoro Crater. The acrobats performing before dinner last night warmed us up but we had to pay extra for our wine (and our water – making Denise a little bitter) so it was an early night.
Our first stop today was the Olduvai Gorge. We almost missed it when our guide didn’t have it on his sheet for a stop. We happened to see the signpost at the side of the road as we drove by the turnoff and happened to query – aren’t we stopping? Our guide called it in and figured out how to get a last-minute permit and we had our stop at the Leakey station. The Tanzanian government had established a museum there. We were greeted by an Anthropology/tourism graduate student who gave us a fabulous explanation of all the excavations that have happened in the Gorge. He was great and set us up for the tour of the museum. The displays were fabulous and very informative. I took pictures of every exhibit – a total geek out! Everyone enjoyed the museum.
We then took off for the Serengeti. We experienced more African massage as we raced for the park border. What we had not understood was the fact that the park permits we needed to be in the Crater had fairly rigid expiry times. We made it to the park border 10 minutes into the “compassion phase” and just missed the fine that could have happened because of our agenda rejig. Once we were back into “safari drive” mode, our guide slowed down and we started to see amazing sights.
The first part of incredible happened when we spotted a cheetah! Look closely to see this amazing creature.
We continued on our way and saw an amazing assortment of animals as we drove through the endless plains. The word came through on the radio that a leopard had been spotted. Our guide led us to the last of the “big five” animals we were looking for.
The “big five” designation is a goal for many – they include lion. leopard, rhinos, elephants and Cape buffalo. These are the big five because this is what hunters were looking for and were hard to find/kill. We just took cameras and had a great bit of luck to see all five in 24 hours. We are also happy to announce we have also seen the “Ugly five” too: the spotted hyena, the marabou stork, the white-bearded wildebeest, vultures and warthogs.
After arriving at our next lodge we set off for an afternoon game drive and saw more new species, including a tortoise, bat-eared fox and a Topi family. Then we also saw a hippo watering hole that kept our attention for a long while.
We came back for a relaxing meal in our comfortable “tent”. OK, it has an en-suite bathroom, a fan and a king sized bed. We are being treated well so far. As a north american traveler, I have many biases. One of them is bathrooms. I prefer a commode to a squat toilet. I prefer modern hygiene. Tanzania delivers!
Tomorrow we continue our exploration of the Serengeti! I will hopefully have more time to upload pictures.