Camping in the Serengeti NP

As we arrive in Tanzania from Kenya the scenery changes becoming (in my opinion) more mountainous and less green. It also seems to have gotten hotter. We drive from Nairobi to Arusha crossing the Tanzanian border. As the drive days are getting a little longer we’ve all gotten quite good at playing Uno. I now also have a little truck routine which is roughly as follows:

  • plucking (Overlanding, in my opinion is no excuse for a beard, moustache or a mono brow)
  • check and take care of spots (its dusty, it happens)
  • apply sun screen to avoid looking wizened from the African sun
  • apply eyeliner, concealer and mascara (yes I am vain but my photos have come out quite nice).
  • Finally hair, I recommend braids as they look better than pony tails and when you take them out you look like Barbie! Also on a more practical note your hair doesn’t smell as sweaty and retains its shampoo smell.

So once I’ve done all that it’s usually about time for the first wee stop of the day, as noted previously this will more often than not, not involve an actual toilet. It will involve finding a bush, squatting behind it where possible (African bushes can be somewhat skinny) and trying not to wet your toes or clothes. Our system was that boys went in one direction and ladies in the other, locals as we discovered are not so fussy and just get on with their business in view of the road and don’t really see what the fuss is about. This was confirmed as one day, feeling very proud of my chosen spot I noticed that I was actually in full view of a pathway and a gentleman was heading to towards me. Unable to stop nor finish any quicker I sat helplessly in my bush and hoped he would pass by which he did after saying hello and also asking where I was from and telling me what football team he liked (Manchester United).

The second part of the morning was usually spent listening to my ipod or reading.  I also kept a diary which I updated daily and has been responsible for much of the detail included in this blog. This would usually occupy me until lunch, after which was mostly about a quick snooze and then playing cards with whomever wanted to join me. We would usually still be playing cards upon arrival into our destination.

Back to the business of the actual destinations, our first stop in Arusha is at Snake Park, aptly named due to its large collection of reptiles which visitors can view and sometimes hold the friendlier residents. Feeling brave I held a snake and baby croc. We then explore the bar which houses an impressive collection of Overlanding memorabilia, its walls and ceilings faming and shaming various legends on Africa’s circuit, signed trip shirts and of course the mandatory photos of trucks wedged in ditches, sinking in mud and navigating spindly bridges (when Overlanding really was Overlanding). The bar also appears to sell a deadly concoction named ‘Ma’s Revenge’, after the land lady. This somehow leads to an impromptu hair dressing session and the next day I am sporting a fetching ‘angular’ fringe. And I appear to have drunk so much beer that I got a free T-shirt.

The next morning we are picked up and we head into the Serengeti or Spaghetti if you are grammatically challenged and hungry as per my note pad. We stop for photos on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater (which we return to in a day or so). As you will no doubt have read the entire area came into being after a large volcanic eruption (which made the crater) and the following layers of volcanic ash (which created the wide and generally flat and fertile plains of the Serengeti).

The drive to camp is generally straight, very hot and more than a little dusty. The scenery is different to Kenya, seemingly more open with Masai villages dotted along the plains and loan Masai walking in the heat of the day to seemingly nowhere. I’m very taken with this majestic tall figure in his traditional red against the vast back drop but my photos sadly don’t do it justice. We have already told our guides what animals are on our lists to see and bambi type creatures are given fairly little time (as predicted). We instead are preoccupied with the photographic consumption of leopard, hyena and male lion and we see and snap them all. The leopard proves to be the most elusive resulting in us staring at seemingly empty trees squinting and looking for tails, making out dangling legs for what seems like hours. By the end of the day we leave satisfied, some with clearer leopard images than others… I seem to have accumulated a great deal of photos of the little mice/gerbil things at the lunch stop.

That evening we free camp, the meaning of which has been a great source of discussion throughout the day. On arrival at ‘camp’ we are requested to either leave food or snacks in the vehicles or in the kitchen area. No food must be kept in our tents. There are three main brick buildings, all of which are kept closed with wire mesh for windows. One is the kitchen where the guides prepare our meals, the other is the dining area and the third is the bathrooms. We are advised not to set up our tents near the buildings but not too far from each other in case we get visited. The camp is not fenced and as if to confirm this fact a group of elephants can be seen in the trees in the distance. At breakfast the following day everyone has made it through the night and the group are comparing noises, the guides having reassured us that the only visitors that would have come close were grazing animals, such as wildebeest and Zebra.

The plan for the day ahead is to leisurely return to the spectacular but slightly cold crater rim where we will free camp again. That evening I am told some were woken by visitors munching the grass around the tents, I managed to sleep through this. The following day is spent exploring the non-migratory eco system within the crater where we are introduced to various grinning hyena, quarrelling pumbas, lion cubs, an elephant graveyard and two adolescent male lions who unusually like to hang out together. Our lunch is spent sheltering in the vehicles from swooping birds that have learnt to prey on unsuspecting tourists and their sandwiches.

Musings

  • Avoid Ma’s revenge if you would like to utilise the next day.
  • Bring a scarf to wrap around your face to prevent the dust, unless you want interesting bogies.
  • The free camps have charging facilities but bring your spare batteries as everyone wants to use just one or two sockets
  • You will most likely need a both your sleeping bag and liner for the night on the crater rim. It gets chilly.
  • Try not to drink too much before bed, otherwise you will need to encounter the animals to get to the loo.
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