Monday, November 14, 2005. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. As we were breaking camp on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater, an elephant entered our campsite and proceeded to help itself to the camp's water supply. There are probably very few other places outside Africa where elephants wander freely into public campsites. By the way, camping safaris are not for everyone. The accommodations are a tent, foam pad, and sleeping bag. Restroom facilities are the squat variety and invariably quite filthy (Most of the men use the facilities the African way—they find a nice, convenient bush.). Camping safaris are, however, the best budget option as park lodges cost at least US$100/night, pushing the daily cost of such a safari to over US$200 (versus about US$80-100 per day for a good budget safari).
Serengeti means "endless plain" in Swahili. As we drove down from Ngorongoro Crater, we could clearly see that this was an apt description. It was a short drive to the park entrance. While David went to pay for Naozumi and my park entrance fees, I proceeded up a path to a scenic lookout near the parking lot. Within one hundred meters, I encountered two elephants just off the path. I startled the nearest one (Actually, we startled each other.) and he promptly stepped toward me, simultaneously flaring his ears and tooting his truck. As I did not want to challenge a three-plus ton animal with tusks, I turned and quickly proceeded back down the path. Only in Africa! (Regrettably, I was not carrying either my camera or camcorder, otherwise I may have stood my ground and taken a photo and some video.)
We did a short game drive where we first came across a lone lion patiently stalking some prey and, nearby, a pride of lions (around a dozen) lazing about. After eating our lunch at one of the park's upscale lodges, we did an afternoon game drive. The highlights included seeing hundreds (perhaps thousands) of zebras and wildebeests across the flat open plains of the Serengeti, and a leopard crouched out on a tree limb. The leopard completed our sighting of the "Big Five" game. After our game drive, we proceeded to our camp where Mburi had prepared our tents and dinner.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. After breakfast and breaking camp, we proceeded on an early morning game drive. The highlight was encountering a leopard in a tree with its catch, a red buck. David informed us that it was rare to see the leopard and even rarer to have two sighting during a safari. To top it off, we were the only vehicle to witness this second leopard. Usually such a sighting attracts upwards of a dozen vehicles, all jockeying for position.
Our final drive took us off-road across the vast expanse of the Serengeti, where we intermittently encountered mostly zebras and impalas. As we ascended back up toward Ngorongoro Crater, our vehicle's fan belt broke. Several other safari vehicles stopped with their respective drivers offering us repair assistance. Within a short time our vehicle was repaired and we were off again for the long drive back to Arusha. We arrived back in Arusha just after dark.
As it turned out, visiting the Serengeti after Ngorongoro Crater was the better choice. During our safari, the animal encounters were a lot closer and numerous in Serengeti compared to Ngorongoro Crater. Also, the Serengeti was a lot more interesting in terms of the landscape, vegetation, and weather. For me, a four day safari is just the right amount of time (My Masai Mara safari was also four days). Some opt for longer safaris, but I was ready to return after the fourth day having seen and photographed an enormous variety of animals, including each of the "Big Five".