After our last visit, I made a promised to myself to return to Serengeti the soonest possible. In Maasai language, Serengit means “endless plains” and this is indeed what it is. A landscape dominated by flat grass land, also known as cheetah-land with a few scattered trees and the greatest concentration of ungulates and predators anywhere. Simply put, this is the greatest place on earth for a wildlife safari. Central to the unique ecosystem that spans some 30,000 km2 is the great migration, an endless journey of 1.2 million wildbeast and 750,000 zebras around the Serengeti. The journey stops in Ndutu in February, when 500,000 wildebeest calves are born within 2-3 weeks. Then it continues north, through the west corridor, crossing the Mara river, reaches the Maasai Mara in Kenya and then continues south through the eastern corridor, back to Ndutu. Besides the great migration, the rich grass land support hundreds of thousands of herbivores like elephants, antelopes and gazelles which present excellent feeding opportunities to local populations of predators and scavengers, like big cats, hyenas and vultures.
This time we planned to spend 6 nights and did not regret it. The first three nights we stayed in Serena Lodge, in central Serengeti and the rest in Ndutu Lodge. The experience in permanent lodges is not as unique as in luxury tented lodges but it is certainly cheaper, with hot water on demand and most importantly, if you are a photographer, with a ton of gadgets to charge every night, there is a constant electricity supply.
On our first day, Ole and Simon took us on 10 hours drive around the central Serengeti area and we were rewarded with intimate sightings of big cats. We started with a leopard on a tree, a herd of lions having lunch, then moved to the kopjes area, seeing two more herds with several cubs. Total of about 30 lions in the first half of the day!
Lunch in the Serengeti means stopping in an open area, checking for predators, setting up the pickinick tables and chairs and consuming the lunch boxes consisting of grilled chicken, boiled eggs, a cheese sandwich, a fruit and some juice. It is not very tasty but it is definitely welcome after 5 hours game driving. On the way back we noticed a jeep off the road, which we promptly followed to find a mother cheetah with three cubs. We were really worried that we might not have the chance to see cheetahs, as there are not so many and we were really exited with this sighting. Later we spend time with one more leopard having her lunch on a tree, about 70 meters away.
Just before sunset, we came face to face with a huge male hippo grazing close to a river bank. His totally unexpected pink face was terrifying. We returned tired but totally satisfied and excited.
We spent the next couple of days in Serengeti and then went for three more days to Ndutu. I consider ourselves very lucky, as we saw a great variety of game (lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, elephants, giraffes, elands, impalas, zebras, wildebeest, various birds and more), the great migration, hunts and kills, mothers and cubs.
Next: Death in the savanna