Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Endless Serengeti Plains

The grasslands of Serengeti have been on my to-visit list for decades, since my high school days. The Masai Mara was also on my list, which Junior and I experienced in April 2013. And now it was Serengeti time! Serengeti, from the map and from traveler discussions, appeared many times larger, and travel had a reputation of being far rougher. The drive from Tarangire would last close to six hours, about a third of it on fairly good roads, up to the Ngorongoro Crater, and the remaining on tracks that only 4x4s can endure. 

Long drives are a good time to recharge batteries. Very few Public Campsites are equipped with charging points. Only the Simba Campsite at Ngorongoro was equipped with a bunch of charging points.


On the way, we stopped for a few seconds to pay our respects to the rich Maasai gentleman whose family is reputed to include thousands of cattle (some of which were crossing the highway), 25 wives and hundreds of children, because of which he has a school of his own. 

We crossed the lovely Ngorongoro Conservation area, skirting the famous 'Crater'. The first lookout point was completely covered with fog. It was a sea of white. We drove on, going clockwise around the Crater. A heavy blanket of fog had settled around the Crater rim. We managed to occasionally discern Massais grazing their cattle on the hillsides. 

It started to get clearer as we drove on. 

Domestic cattle grazed peacefully with Zebra and Wilderbeest right next to Maasai villages that dotted the hillsides and valleys. Further down,we noticed that Giraffes had joined the party. Sunlight starting appearing from behind cracks in the clouds, revealing plains in the distance. 

The second lookout point was fog free, but a bitterly cold wind was blowing as we peered into the crater.

More of the plains became visible. It was a feeling of expectations with patches of cloud and sunlight covering the plains far away. 

The track got rougher. Bump, bump, bump, over the dirt track. Our bone jarring journey to the Serengeti began. This was going to be our life for the next few days. This was what we were waiting for. This experience is also known as the 'African Massage'.  

After a little over an hour, we were welcomed into the Serengeti National Park!

The track across much of the route was very straight and very dusty. Looking back from the arch of Serengeti Park, we could see the mountains of the Ngorongoro area in the distance.  

The kopje at Naabi Hill, almost 20 km from the welcome arch, is the point where you pay the fees and get a good glimpse of what is ahead. The plains stretched on and on. We were reminded of the landscapes we had experienced in the Mara a year ago. It felt really good to be back! 

May the game drives begin! More often than not, our 4x4 left a long trail of dust behind us.

This post is a small collection of views of landscapes, trees, birds and 'non-big-cat' wildlife that we spotted in Central Serengeti over 4D/3N.    

Zebras rest their chins on each other and keep a watch for predators. Teamwork!

A large Secretary Bird perched on top of a tree.

For the perspective, this is where we spotted the Secretary Bird.  

Vast plains and with an occasional tree are a very common sight, almost seem to represent the Serengeti. The trees must be getting lonely, I thought. 

Is that an African Fish Eagle? In the plains of Central Serengeti? I was under the impression that these eagles live near large bodies of water.

A Marabou Stork up a tree. That was the first time I have seen this giant bird up a tree. Had no idea they could fly high!

Up until then I had seen Marabou Storks on the ground. I understand they are scavengers. 

Landscapes that you can gaze at, all day. This is an evening view. 

A Saddle-billed Stork surveys the grasslands.

It's not easy identifying a bird that is staring straight at you! A Northern White-crowned Shrike.

An Acacia tree with birds.

Blacksmith Lapwing Plover. Many of the bird species have been identified via 'crowd-sourcing' from experts in the TripAdvisor forum. I was too busy admiring the views and forgot to take notes.

Eastern Chanting Goshawk. Atop a kopje.

A Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse.

Not too far away, a Yellow-throated Sandgrouse. Sort of similar looking.

Ahhhhh, those landscapes again! Junior adds to his Plains, Sun and Cloud collection. 

A large group of Hippos in the evening, noisily snorting and splashing away.

A Black-backed Jackal looks suspiciously at us. One of the smaller carnivores. 

Black-backed Jackals appear to be quite active earlier in the day.

A Black-backed jackal runs away with the head of a rabbit early in the morning.

A spotted Hyena crosses the track. We came across several groups, laughing away eerily in the grass. 

Part of the Plains, Sun, Cloud and Rain collection. 

Hello, down there! 

This picture is from the Plains and Solitary Tree collection.

Worried Hartebeest make sure we are not invading their territory, beyond a point. 

A Monitor Lizard basks in the early morning light.

While an Agama Lizard gets a tan.

Another one from the Plains collection, as the sun prepares to go down, and we prepare to race back to the Campsite. 

Well, this was a quick look at the plains and some of the wildlife of Central Serengeti. I think it would be right to say that we traveled to admire and experience the landscapes, the atmosphere and wildlife, the sunrise and sunset, to just be there, to camp out in Public Campsites and take it a moment at a time. Pause to admire the large predatory birds perched high up on Acacia trees during sunset. At least a couple of Marabou Storks there.

We did not have any specific expectations about wildlife sightings. It was as if being there was wonderful enough, we felt blessed to be among the privileged few who get an opportunity to experience the magic of being a mere speck wandering around in the 'Endless Plains'... leaving a momentary dust trail behind. 

Enduring memories... the vast, seemingly endless plains of the Serengeti. 


Please click below for posts in this series:

Namanga Border Crossing

The Gentle Giants of Tarangire

Tarangire revisited

Endless Serengeti Plains

Migrating herds, Crocodiles and Vultures at Kirawira

Big Cats of Central Serengeti

Camping under African skies

Flamingos at Empakai Crater Lake

Ngorongoro Crater - Wildlife, Maasais and Flowers

Campsite food and Nyama Choma in Mto Wa Mbu

From green to gray, the stark beauty of Lake Natron

Videos - Tarangire, Central Serengeti

Videos - Central Serengeti, Western Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Natron

Two nights in Arusha



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