Our small group trip in Tanzania continues. In my last blog about my Wild Side Camping Safari Tour, I shared my personal experiences on our stopovers in Arusha, Tarangire National Park and Lake Natron. Today we continue across the Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Crater and from there to Mto wa Mbu.
After a hearty breakfast we leave Lake Natron, its flamingos and the Masai village on one of the dusty gravel roads. Small group trips have the advantage of driving routes that you would not dare to travel with a larger coach. I am still a bit tired and instead of joining the conversations of my fellow travelers, I get lost in the wide and vast open landscape. Again, the mountain Ol Doinyo Lengai attracts my eyes. Translated from the Masai language, this means something like “God’s mountain”. The Masai believe that their god Engai inhabits this mountain. As a rule, he maintains a peaceful and harmonious life here. But when he’s upset, the mountain smokes and spits lava. It is understandable that even a deity oozes over when he is boiling with anger. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen too often – the last time in 2020. The steam that can be seen over the mountain this morning, on the other hand, seems to rise up more from the heating coffee water.
Trip report camping safari – Serengeti, we’re coming
A good 3.5 hours later we are pleasantly massaged the African way and treat ourselves to a short lunch break in a restaurant in a small village. I stretch my legs a little before I sit down with the others. We use the time to fill the parts of our stomachs the bumpy roads freed up, first removing the dust from our throats with cool drinks and finally exchanging our impressions of the day thus far, supplemented by one or two pieces of information from our guide Enock. Then we will continue on our small group trip. It is not far now to the Serengeti, and you can literally feel the anticipation in all of us. We are talking about the famous Great Migration of the animals, with its millions of wildebeest as well as hundreds of thousands of zebras, Grant’s and Thomson gazelles, eland antelopes and impalas. We’re talking about THE Serengeti and that of course it mustn’t die. We are looking forward to the first large pride of lions and are already thinking in awe of our first overnight camp without any protective fences around us.
Then the time has finally come, and we reach Klein’s Gate in the northeast of the Serengeti National Park. Crowned cranes peck for seeds and insects in the grass in front of the entrance. A steel-blue rock agama lies flat on a boulder in the most beautiful mating season glory. In a rather unimaginative gray-brown dress, a female lies across him. It doesn’t take long before the first wildebeest stare at us, followed by eland antelopes, Thomson’s gazelles and topis. The lions mean well with us too. Halfway to our campsite in the Lobo region, a whole pack rests under an acacia tree. Fifteen family members relax under the shady tree in every sleeping position imaginable. It is difficult to say whether there are still more slumbering in the little trench behind them. But the wildebeest lying by their side cannot be overlooked. Or at least what’s left of it. And as if the wildcats knew what we want to see, two of them soon sneak over to the dismantled antelope, keep pulling at it and cracking it hard. A pungent odor of carrion reaches us with the wind. But what repels me, attracts the vultures. They lurk from above, sitting patiently on the branches.
We are reluctant to leave. But it’s getting late. And since the camp is located within the national park and unfenced, there is still a chance to experience sightings while at the campsite. Above all, however, it is good if you can see the location and walkways of the camp during the day. This helps a lot with orientation and reduces fears at night.
Do you want to experience a camping safari in the Serengeti? Just have a look at our website and let’s start planning: Tanzania – The Wild Side.
Wild nights in the Serengeti
When darkness comes, the feeling of relative security gives way to an increasing mood of being at nature’s mercy. The special thrill of a camping safari sets in – highly adrenaline-filled. I kind of love it. The only place where you feel somewhat safe is around the campfire in the company of others, in the closed tent and in the shower and toilet block. But are you really? Especially when the guide starts sharing one or two Serengeti horror anecdotes during dinner.
Bedtime stories around the campfire making you shiver and look over your shoulder – that’s the stuff that makes a camping safari in Tanzania such a special experience. For example the story of the lions which, in the midst of a long dry season, were lured into the ablution block by the seductive sound of dripping taps. At this moment, of all times, a camping guest marches in, a little too carefree, half sleepy and perhaps suffering from too much urinary pressure. Unfortunately, the expression on his face when he and the lions suddenly face each other is not recorded. The very thought of it seals my bladder. There you are and you have to do something. But what? It’s been reported the man was lucky. He could lock himself in one of the toilet cubicles and call out for help from there. In the meantime, the lions fled.
Dinner stories like these feel even more authentic when the laughter of the hyenas and the call of the lions actually fill the cold night air of the wilderness around you. First it resonates in your ears, then your eardrum vibrates. And from there it shakes your whole body. Intimidated by the voices of the night, we concentrate on attempting to translate every sound into movement and distance: Do the animals come closer to our tents or do they move away from them? Perhaps they have been observing us up close for a long time, attracted by the seductive smell of the delicious steaks on the grill. In any case, now is the right time to think of the words of my dear colleague AK, who would say: “Don’t worry, everything is wild, but not that wild!” …
A very special moment for me during nights like these is when I snuggle deep into my sleeping bag. Here, the tingling tension is mixed with a cozy feeling of security. What a touching experience such wilderness can be. It crackles and cracks around my tent. The howling of the jackals can be heard far on a clear night. Wild buffalo snuffling signals the greatest unrest in the herd. I know the lions are close. And suddenly it sounds panicky out there. Fingers crossed the buffalo won’t flee in the direction of the camp and trample everything down. But the herd quickly calms down again. Just like me, they are now listening to the agony of a single buffalo, whose desperate screams go deep into the core. The hissing and growling of the lions, however, sounds determined and overpowering. Escape seems impossible. And so, the cry for help dries up to the same extent as life expires. Silence follows. Time for me to take a deep breath, shake off the tension and sleep.
Just another day on camping safari in the Serengeti
The next morning, the night’s events are of course the main topic. From our couple I learn that a night like this out here is a true bonding experience, because not only the romantic starry sky, but also the roughness of the wilderness leads to closer proximity.
Our first route of the day only takes us a few hundred meters to where the lions feast on their nocturnal prey. We didn’t see the hunt, but we were ear-witnesses. It’s just a shame that not much can be seen this morning. There is too much bush in front of it. But the day has only just begun. And what we get to see in the next few hours all compensates for the initial sight restrictions: leopards, buffaloes, lions, giant ground hornbills, colorful lilac-breasted rollers, wildebeest, hyrax, white-backed vultures, giraffes, impalas, zebras, a wildebeest calf hanging in the tree branches, topis, Thomson’s gazelles and many more. And that was only in the morning.
With the Land Cruiser we are so close to the action that it feels like sitting in the front row of a cinema. But here it not only feels real, it is real. A Land Cruiser like this is the coolest vehicle I could ask for as a safari traveler. First and foremost, their adjustable roof, which allows 360°-panoramic views. No coach has that. It creates even closer proximity to the animals, and it is no longer “just good” for taking photos, but “perfect”. There are also sockets for charging batteries and a refrigerator that you can help yourself to. And so you stand in the Land Cruiser with your drink in hand like at a bar with a fabulous view. Understandably, this is only possible on a small group trip, because you can negotiate much better with fewer people. This is usually very good for the vibe within the group. There can be ricochets anywhere, but there are none on my safari tour. Everyone is very nice and everyone from time to time takes the right to get actively involved in the group and to sometimes withdraw completely. Less privacy than on a private trip, yes. But didn’t we have enough of that during the pandemic?
After another culinary lunch break, we are all looking forward to the upcoming afternoon game drive. A group of baboons wishes us farewell. We are quickly out of sight and already on the way to the Retina Hippo Pool. It is one of the few places in the Serengeti where we can leave the jeep and admire hippos up close. There is hardly a trace of water. It’s dry season. But there are all the more hippos to be seen. As if drawn on a pearl necklace, they lie close to one another in the mud and shallow water. There is an unpleasant smell of naturally fertilized mud. This fecal-contaminated silt-water hole does not compare to a waterhole worthy of a hippo. Submerging and moving beneath the surface of the water – as hippos like to do – is impossible. They remain rigid in their hard-won or assigned places. It may be enough for the important cooling down and the necessary protection from the scorching sun. But enjoying life looks different.
We continue, deeply impressed by the hippopotamus impressions. The wildlife here is just amazing. And what finally tops everything else is the moment we see lions resting in a tree. To put it more accurately, it is the mother lion who is taking a siesta there. Her offspring, on the other hand, playfully do gymnastics on the branches – still a bit insecure and always exposed to the risk of falling off after a careless movement. There are not many places in the safari world where you can spot such ‘tree lions‘. It is quite normal to look out for good hunting grounds from an elevated position. But basically, for most of the African lions, life takes place on the ground.
A great day in the park. We all have a lot of fun … and enough exercise. Because an open roof often means changing positions in order to take the ideal photo. The flexibility and maneuverability of the Land Cruiser compared to a touring coach also allow for a number of changes in perspective and position on such a small group trip. So this afternoon is in every way a demonstration of the uniqueness of the Serengeti. Even after arriving at our campsite for the night, we rave about our great encounters with the animals. Enock smiles benevolently to himself, as if to say: “Yes, yes, children, I know that and understand very well what you’re going through. Everything will be fine!”
Tanzania camping safari trip report: continuing to Ngorongoro
The next morning it’s time to say goodbye to the Serengeti National Park. We’re heading to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. After the Serengeti, one might think that nothing can compare or even top this experience. But that would be a mistake. Ngorongoro really knows how to show off. The nature reserve is another world-class wildlife viewing spot. In addition, it offers spectacular landscape scenery outside, but especially inside the extinct crater. As we stand at the top of the crater rim looking down onto the crater floor, I still have no idea what to expect when entering this large arena. Only when we reach the huge crater floor does the beauty of this Garden of Eden become more and more haunting. Lakes and swamps form decorative islands in the midst of tall and short grasslands. The hippos are at home here. Buffalos, rhinos, and elephants like to drop by unannounced at a pool party. And for a sip at the bar, leopards, hyenas, and wild dogs also show up. A pair of lions is busy switching on their reproduction machinery every 20 minutes. What stress for both of them, but what fun for us. The density of wildlife is incredible. It almost seems to me like an animal park that has turned out to be too small. But its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site raises it beyond all doubt.
We spend one last night on top of the crater rim under the watchful eyes of a few Masais. Then the suction of civilization pulls us back into the presence of asphalt roads with its many cars, the stone buildings along the way and the hustle and bustle in crowded places like Karatu and Mto wa Mbu. The Big Five can only be found here as souvenir figures in gift shops. It almost seems a bit brutal to tear myself out of my currently intimate relationship with nature. But what a gift to be able to dive deep into the wild at least for a few days. Together with a group that I will miss in the coming days as well as our guide Enock. Thank you for these days. “Asante Sana” and “Kwaheri”.
Camping safaris in Tanzania are some of the most exciting trips to encounter wilderness and wildlife. A visit here is definitely worthwhile. We are happy to answer any questions you may have and support you in planning your Tanzania trip. Here on site, we are always well informed about the current situation. So get in touch with us! Your dream, our expertise – your very own Tanzania experience.