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Serengeti National Park

Two days of driving ensued on our way from Masai Mara to the Serengeti. They abut each other, but lie in different countries and that border crossing was not open. On the way we passed green hills of the Kenyan countryside, saw soap stone being carved into intricate animal figurines, and camped on the edge of Lake Victoria. On the lakeshore we celebrated our guide’s fortieth birthday and ate a great fish dinner of Tilapia, which had been recently pulled from that very lake.

Sunset over the Serengeti

When we finally arrived in the Serengeti, baboons immediately met us at the entrance as we had lunch. After a couple days of traveling, seeing animals again was great. The culture and countryside has been interesting, but I really came to Africa to see animals. The buffalo herds were large and numerous, although apparently nothing compared to during the Great Migration. Loads of zebras, giraffes, impalas, warthogs, ostriches (including a bunch of baby chicks), waterbucks, dik-diks, and vultures also inhabited the land. We saw a pair of lions in the distance near a herd of buffalo, but they were not interested in hunting. Hyenas and jackals were also visible from the road. A hippo waddled over land between dips in the water. The game drive was a great success.

We camped in the middle of the Serengeti, with a beautiful sunset gracing our campsite. After dinner and a visit from the mobile Zebra Refreshment bar, we went animal hunting at night. We tried to remain quite in the dark at camp, and then occasionally turned on a flashlight to see what was around. A buffalo (which greatly scared our tour guide), hyena, and small feline all graced our campsite. The group was not great at staying quiet in between the light, so I stayed up a little later on my own. I enjoyed the calm, star-filled night while also seeing some critters at very close range, including a hyena only five meters away. Thankfully it fled when I turned on the light.

Atop Naabi Hill in the Serengeti

The next day we had an early morning to enjoy the rest of our time in the Serengeti. In a stream we saw a huge pod of hippos — over fifty. Then we spotted a leopard, which completed finding the Big Five for us — nothing like a checklist to motivate tourists, even if the Big Five predates modern tourism and originates in hunting. The leopard did not just lounge in a tree either, but leapt down, stalked a warthog and then attacked. It struck the other animal, but the warthog still got away. Still hungry, the cat climbed back up a tree and waited for the next opportunity for a meal. The cat’s performance was awesome and rare to see. Another leopard was further along the road, but was stationary in a tree, which at least afforded a better picture.

Up next was a herd of elephants that harassed some lions. The cats were sleeping under a tree when the elephants approached. The lions ran away as the elephants neared. Although supposedly king of the jungle, lions are little match for an angry adult elephant so the cats wisely avoided annoying the large animals.

“I just can’t wait to be king”

“I just can’t wait to be king”

Next was something just as cool, as after tailing a couple jeeps we rediscovered a large pride of lions. They lounged in a rock formation for shelter. At first we saw only a couple adults, which we would have been pleased with. But the show was just starting as cubs then took center stage. Initially only a few emerged, but the litter continued to leave the rocks one by one. The line never seemed to end, as it resembled the scene from 101 Dalmatians when the puppies were being born. Although not quite as numerous as the cartoon canines, around twenty five lion cubs passed in front of our truck. They clamored all over each other and nestled with their moms. Our guide had never seen so many babies at one time.

This day’s four highlights were on top of the almost routine gazelles, impalas, zebras, giraffes, and warthogs. A few hyenas were seen too for good measure.

Heading towards Naabi Hill, the plants thinned and the Serengeti’s famous endless plains emerged. (“Serengeti” literally translated means “endless plains.”) We had an excellent view of the never ending countryside from atop Naabi Hill before we crossed into Ngorongoro Conservation Area. We continued through plains over very rough roads, passing numerous Maasai villages, before reaching mountains and climbing to the rim of Ngorongoro Crater for the night.

Animals in the Serengeti

Hippos hanging out in the river
Leopard sleeping in a tree