|Dirt road on the western corridor of Serengeti National Park|
"Oh, wildebeest!", Nickie, a Kiwi member of our group exclaimed. Spotting the first wild animal right after entering Serengeti National Park may not exactly win an award. But it's a promising sign of what she's capable of in the next few days while we scan the "endless plains" - or Serengit as the native Maasai tribe call this land - for its famed megafauna.
It also showed the advantage of traveling on a truck. Being on an elevated platform gave us a better viewpoint than those on typical safari vehicles. The wild world of Serengeti is truly a great stage and our balcony seats couldn't be better than these ones on our Intrepid truck.
|The long road to Serengeti|
Earlier in the day, before leaving the lakeside town of Musoma, we passed by the market to stock up on fresh supplies. While Babu did all the shopping (for veggies and other food stuff), I checked e-mail at a rundown Internet cafe nearby. It was cheap at 500 TZS (or about 30 cents per half hour) although in hindsight I should have worried about online security in such a location.
After another stop at a convenience store to top up on Pringles, Coke and Kilimanjaro beer, our truck rumbled away from this dusty town, passing by rolling hills and bucolic scenes of Tanzanian countryside. Kids we passed by kept screaming "mzungu". Cattle herders, mostly belonging to the Maasai tribe, couldn't possibly care less about our presence - most likely more worried about a cow getting lost. In this part of the world, one's fortune is measured by the number of livestock on hand.
Some 100 kms later, we made it to Serengeti's Ndabaka Gate - a remote entrance on the park's western corridor. As Tanzania's crown jewel, the Serengeti National Park is massive at a staggering 14,763 square kms in size. Like any other safari in Africa, the privilege of visiting this UNESCO World Heritage-listed park comes with a steep price: $50 per adult per day, $40 per vehicle per day, and for use of camp sites, $30 per adult per day (fees which are already included if booked with a tour operator).
It was time for lunch. Babu, the two drivers and those assigned from our group sprang into action preparing lunch. The rest of us helped set up folding chairs, tables and utensils. Clearly marked jugs of water meant for drinking and washing are also brought down from the truck.
As always, we followed Babu's hygienic reminder before meals given the lack of running water: by washing our hands using a 3-bowl system. One bowl is for washing, second bowl is for rinsing, while the third bowl is for disinfection. Once done with eating, all utensils get the same treatment with the 3-bowl system by those assigned with the task. The rest of us help with drying up everything by "flapping" - a fun group effort!
It is 136 kms of grueling dirt road from Ndabaka Gate to our designated camp site at Seronera. This ass-kicking journey got all the more exciting as we "game drive" on our way, making numerous stops, in the process seeing and knowing more about wild animals right in their natural habitat.
Of all things the park is famous for, nothing beats the great migration of more than a million wildebeest alongside thousands of zebras. What we were seeing, here at the park's western corridor, are only pocket groups that have lingered, waiting until another group comes along before they move en masse.
|Our camp site in Seronera right in the heart of Serengeti|
|While hyenas and lions prowl, we gather around a bonfire on our first long night in the African bush|
These peaceful plain grazers have instinctively been moving as a herd since time immemorial, following their noses where the literal greener pastures are. Their constant search for food however becomes anticlimactic as many of them become part of a predator's meal. Such is their cycle of life, both rewarding and vicious. Survival of the fittest indeed.
Later in the afternoon, after a great wildlife encounter on this game drive, we arrive at Ngiri camp site in Seronera with just enough energy to pitch our tents. The night was creeping in. As Babu was fixing us dinner, we all thought about the wild world surrounding us. No fence to separate us from wildlife. No armed guards. And right at this very hour, the predators are already beginning their hunt. For dinner.