Family Joosten - The Netherlands
The alarm is waking us up early. Certainly for holiday concepts. Quickly we get into our the clothes and we make a sandwich. Punctually 6:00 am we walk out. There we find Adam and Pjoew (I write the name phonetically, his level of English prevented me from asking him to spell his name). Adam is our driver and guide, Pjoew is the cook (with Oo Ka-Ka). We get into the roaring Toyota Landcruiser, which appears to contain surprisingly luxurious chairs. 4 rows of two seats; Everyone sits at the window and the backpacks are in the aisle.
We expect to arrive after a ride of six hours at the 'main gate' of the Serengeti. The journey of 6 hours really flies by. Along the way Adam regularly explains the place that we pass at that time. After an hour or two drive looms a mountain for us. It is the Great Rift Valley, a mountain ridge that runs from Syria to Mozambique. It is an elongated system of rifts over a total length of 6,400 km. The slenk varies in width from 30 to 100 km, and in depth from a few hundreds or even thousands of meters. Whem it has been climbed, we arrive at the 'main gate of the Nogorongoro Conservation Area.
This area, where also the famous crater is located, we must traverse to reach the Serengeti. Here also ends the paved road. As of now, 48 hours of 500 KM dirt track only! After the completion of necessary formalities by Adam, we may pass. The area that we enter is actively inhabited by the Masai, the only tribe in Tanzania who still lives according to ancient traditions. And the only people you who you find here on foot. We pass numerous villages. Villages, no more than a collection of sod huts, bordered by a fence in the ground crossed poles. And countless herds of goats and donkeys, all with one or two shepherds not older than ten years. Then an even higher bump emerges. This is the volcano which is the crater. This we also need to descend over the edge at the back towards the Serengeti. Once we are at the top the rim truly gives a magnificent view of the crater which we will visit tomorrow. After the descent we reach the Serengeti.
After half an hour's drive we understand the meaning of the word Serengeti. The name is derived from the Maasai language (Siringet) and literally means 'endless plains'. It is truly majestic to look around and really see just savanna! The entire area (which includes forest landscapes alongside savannas) has a total area of approximately 30,000 km². Eighty percent is in Tanzania. We drive a few hours crisscrossing around to 'hunt' for wild life to arrive just before sunset at the campsite 18:30.
After a surprisingly good sleep in a tent with air mattress in the middle of the savannah, we wake up early again.It's still dark outside. At six o'clock Pjoew has prepared a small breakfast and Adam explains what the plan for today is. After breakfast we go into Serengeti. Pjoew stays behind to clean up the tents and prepare brunch. Brunch that we will eat around 11:30. With full stomachs we start driving. The first thing we see when entering the headlights, a herd of buffalo. These turned out to be all night at the campsite. As well as hyenas, who some of us already had heard crying at night. Very special. Adam soon finds a suitable place to enjoy the sunrise, wow! And then the 'hunt' begins again. Crisscrossing the savannah in search of (of course) The Big Five. Soon the first lions, elephants and buffalo are spotted again. But also other animals such as giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, gazelles, jackals, hyenas, cranes, ostriches, wild boars, monkeys and zebras. And a cheetah, according to Adam very special.
For us it is a great trip, seeing so many animals, but also driving the Jeep, is quite an experience. The roof is opened up and, as it were turned into a sunshade, you can stand to look around freely. Promptly at 11:30 we are back at the campsite. Cook Pjoew surprised us last night with a remarkable good dinner (the resources are limited, everything from table to chairs and cutlery must be brought with the jeep). Today we have vegetarian pizza bread, baked potatoes, omelets, sausages, delicious! After the meal, everything is loaded on the jeep and we leave again zigzagging across the Serengeti on the way to the Ngorongoro crater. After having seen more animals, we leave the Serengeti and drive back in the Nogorongoro Conservation Area midafternoon. Immediately we see the first Masai's. Often adult singletons with herds, but occasionally small groups of children with white painted faces. Adam explains that these guys are about 13 years old. Traditionally they are armed only with spear and shield sent out to learn what it means to be a man. Formerly a boy was recognized as mature as he returned with a dead lion, now he needs a few weeks to survive independently. Loek, himself 13, frowns. Just like yesterday we just reach the campsite before sunset. A fantastic spot on the edge of the crater. Together with Adam we prepare our tents while Pjoew along with other chefs (each +/- 20 jeeps present has its own cook with him) is underway in the communal kitchen. Well, kitchen. There are actually three structures; a kitchen, a shower and toilet facility, a building which is the 'dining room' where each party brings furniture itself and in the last building' the chefs cooking, singing and laughing, there is a great atmosphere of. At the table we're offered a stunning culinary sensation. Pjoew for president!
We were already warned for the night temperatures prevailing there, so we crawl dressed warmly extra deep into our sleeping bags. At night it's windy, the temperature of 8 degrees instinctively feels even colder. But that does not bother anyone, we all sleep blissful.
Today we load the jeep early in the morning and we go down into the crater, where we will wander until 11:30. As we descend into the crater, it is very foggy. Adam reassures us when we are down 600 meters, the view will be optimal again. Be it in the jeep remains quite cold, especially if the roof is open. But what a unique area is the crater. This is one of the most densely populated wildlife areas in the world. Almost all the large African animals are found in the crater: zebras, wildebeest, black rhinos, elephants, lions, cheetahs and hippos. A notable absentee is the giraffe: with their long necks and long legs they can not make the steep descent to the bottom of the crater
During the morning trip through the crater we see really all over. At the yesterday spotted Big Five animals (which we all see now again) is added a rhino today. Unfortunately for us it remains that. 5th in row, the leopard, we haven't seen. Should we ever come back ... Moreover, it is also quite unique to see the rhino. All the guides communicate over the radio with each other, so the news is spreading rapidly fast, leading to a true line up of jeeps. Anyway, after an adventurous morning it's time to open the lunch box and then we leave the crater and make the journey home. From here it is 160 km back to Arusha. After one hour Adam points to the bushes to the right side of the road. To our surprise we see two giraffes. We get out and walk cautiously in that direction, but the sight of Loek's orange shirt is making the giraffes turn around and disappear. We get back in and at 17:15 pm we arrive 'home' again. These three days we will never forget! And certainly not those fantastic sunsets........