October 25, 2014 (3 lions + 13 lions + 15 lions = 31 lions) Serengeti National Park
We woke up to African Mourning Doves. We took a photo of a beautiful sunrise and some of our tent and surroundings. We packed and ate a nice breakfast. We said goodbye to Tarangire Safari Lodge and to the spider that was half dead behind the toilet. We really liked this place… I could even deal with a spider, now and then, for this place. We headed north out of Tarangire National Park on Tarangire Road to Highway A104 at Kibaoni (Kwa Kuchinja). We turned west onto Highway B144 at Makuyuni. Mark took some photos of people out the window. We passed through the town of Mto wa Mbu and drove past Lake Manyara, but didn’t stop. The next town was the agricultural town of Koratu. On our way to the crater, we saw Marabou Storks and olive baboons. We stopped and looked at a couple of souvenir shops. We priced a three-legged stool called a kigoda. In Maasai culture, only the elder gets to sit on it and it is passed on as an inheritance. Other tribes have three-legged milking stools that are similar. The couple that we looked at were decorated with painted dots. They were asking $150, but we imagine that they might have been willing to take $75. For fun, we also looked at tanzanite gems. One was 3 carats and $875. It was lavender in color which is a lower quality, but I like the lavender color better than the higher quality deep purple that was 2.1 carats for $1500. We weren’t planning on buying one as it doesn’t make sense to spend that kind of money, but it’s always fun to look. We walked around the store, but were a little overwhelmed with all the things there and really wanted to get back on the road. We knew we would be back in a week and take another walk through the store to see if there was anything we really wanted to buy. Then we headed to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). Michael registered at the southeast ranger station at Naabi Hill for our transit through the park as we’re only passing through on our way to Chaka Camp. We were on a twisted winding road going up, up, up. It was dirt and very bumpy. There were a lot of olive baboons. We stopped for lunch at the crater picnic area. There were people feeding the yellow-billed kites. The same birds, twice attacked the people. There was also a marabou stork that was begging. I got a couple of cool photos of it. A young Maasai warrior was tending his cattle. His village was at the edge of the picnic area. I took a photo of him holding a spear when he wasn’t watching. It turned out really good. We ate in the Land Cruiser to avoid the diving birds. Driving down from the crater, we saw a couple of Maasai villages from the road. About 200 years ago the Maasai arrived and have since colonized the Area and carry on their traditional way of life, living in harmony with the wildlife and the environment. Today there are some 42,200 Maasai pastoralists living in the NCA with their cattle, donkeys, goats and sheep. During the rains they move out on to the open plains; in the dry season they move into the adjacent woodlands and mountain slopes. The Maasai are allowed to take their animals into the Crater for water and grazing, but not to live or cultivate there. Elsewhere in the NCA they have the right to roam freely. Click on this link to learn about the history of the Maasai people. It’s very interesting!
After lunch, we drove the highway between the crater and the Serengeti. As we drove down the highway we would pass Maasai people of all ages. Children were waving and smiling. Boys and men were tending their cattle or goats. There were round, mud homes (bomas) and people walking in the fields and also by the highway. Some of the women were highly decorated with beads and jewelry and we passed a couple of teenaged boys, dressed in black with white face paint. Michael said it was part of rite of passage that includes a circumcision ceremony, where they will elevate their status to junior warrior. We saw a couple of young boys, who could not be more than five, completely alone, in the middle of nowhere, by the highway, tending to small herds of goats. Boys that were a few years older were tending small herds of cattle. We saw young girls too, running, waving, and smiling at us as we drove by. When we got to the gateway to the Serengeti National Park we stopped and got out and Michael explained how the boundary has changed when the Ngorongoro Conservation Area was created. There were a couple of young girls there were wearing beaded jewelry. They had a dog with them. They seemed out-of-place, but maybe this is a good place to meet tourists that aren’t whizzing by. While Michael was explaining the history, the girls were motioning to me that they liked my pink watch. I wish I could have given it to them, but I needed it for the rest of the trip. We headed into the park and while Michael registered at the ranger station at Naabi Hill. Mark and I walked up around the gift shop and up on the rocks. We took photos of an agama lizard and an African grass rat. As we started to drive through the park, we saw a journey of giraffes, herds of wildebeest, dazzles of zebras, and herds of Thomson’s gazelles and Grant’s gazelles, and a sounder of warthogs. It’s interesting what the collective nouns are for groups of animals! Michael took us to the simba rocks. We saw two incredible lions and a lioness. It started to rain and cats don’t like to get wet so they started moving off of the rocks. We drove around to the other side of the rocks and saw 13 more lions. Some were lionesses and some were cubs of varying ages. They were playing and cuddling and we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. They were in the grass, and we kept seeing more become visible in the grass. Wow. It was raining more, so we moved around back to the first set of rocks and got some more photos of the big lions. The road was now slick, but Michael was careful as we headed out. The rain stopped, and we saw some Cokes’s Hartebeests and more gazelles too. And then we saw a crossing of wildebeest. There must have been 10,000 or more. One term for a herd of wildebeest is an implausibility. I now understand why they’re called that…wow. They kept coming and coming and coming. Some were so playful. I saw one chasing his tail like a dog for about six revolutions. They frolic just like the baby bison we saw in Yellowstone. We start to drive again, and saw another pride of lions next to the road. We watched three wrestling and grooming each other, licking the rain off of each other’s coats. All of a sudden, more lions cross the road to join the others and eventually started walking right by our vehicle. They stopped in the middle of the road and played some more before they headed off. By our count we saw 15 lions. We started heading towards Chaka Camp and saw a spotted hyena and more wildebeest. As the sun started setting, it kept getting more and more beautiful. We really should have stopped to take a photo, but we were trying to get there before dark.
We made it to Chaka Camp and were greeted by Hubert the camp manager and Lorenza and the others. We were given a moist cloth for our faces and a glass of sweet iced tea. We got settled into our tent. They only have nine tents here, so there’s a lot of care given to everyone. Our tent is very nice with a king bed and a bathroom with a flush toilet. We set out the night camera again and our Gopro camera on the kitchen timer for our 360 degree video. We headed to dinner (a fantastic pumpkin soup, pork stew, rice, vegetables, etc.) We celebrated with a glass of red wine and chatted with the other guests – a couple from Austria and a group of eight from the UK. After dinner, we were escorted back to our tent, for our safety, and listened to hyenas, while drifting off to sleep. Hot water bottles to keep us warm. What a great day. ~~~~~ Mary & Mark
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