Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Safari - Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzânia

After our first experience on a safari in Uganda, our plan was to head towards the Serengeti in Tanzania.

Serengeti is the biggest park in the world. Though, Serengeti is well known for the huge amount of wild animals, it is also the only place in the world where a tribe is free to live on their own and with their own rules, the Massais! We all are used to watch beautiful documentaries on National Geographic channel that are recorded in Serengeti, so if there is a place to do a Safari that place is Serengeti!!

Serengeti in Tanzania and Massai Mara in Kenya share the most spectacular nature show in the world, the Great Migration, where millions of animals migrate from Serengeti to Massai Mara and vice versa.
The chance to witness this spectacular nature show depends on the time of the year. By this time the animals are in Serengeti in the middle of their migration to Massai Mara, so it was the perfect time for us to be in the famous Serengeti to watch this spectacular show!

On our last post we were in Kasese in the west side of Uganda, so to reach the Serengeti in Tanzania we had to take buses to cross to the East side of Uganda, take another bus from Uganda to Nairobi in Kenya and from Kenya we had to take another bus to Tanzania with a stop over at the border to get our visa to be able to travel in Tanzania. It took us 5 or 6 days to do all this trip, but we did it!!! Of course we could have taken an airplane from Uganda to Tanzania, but it would be too easy and with no awkward moments, not adventurous at all and much more expensive.

Our first bus took us from Kasese (west Uganda) to Jinja (East Uganda). It was the most dangerous bus that we have been so far. The bus was most of the times in full speed, overcrowded and not comfortable at all, it took 10 hours to reach Jinja with a stop over of one day in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. In Jinja we decided to stay 3 days to rest a little bit and also to be able to see the source of the Nile river, the biggest river in the world that starts in Uganda. From Jinja we took another bus to Nairobi, capital of Kenya, with a two hours stop over at the border the total hours travelled was 12 hours. In Nairobi we slept one night and early in the morning we took our last bus to Arusha, with a stop at the border of 40 minutes to get our entrance visas.
It was an amazing trip, where we were able to cross Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania by bus, and always with locals.

We have decided to come to Arusha, due to its proximity to the Serengeti National Park. A Safari in Africa is always seen as something really expensive to do, on Internet it is easy to find safaris well organized but unfortunately really pricy. During this trip through India, Thailand, Laos and Uganda we have learned that "Never book anything online" as it will always be over rated. Arusha has plenty of tour offices offering different budget safaris. For those who have their own car it is also possible to negotiate with a private guide. Basically, before getting in The Serengeti everything starts in Arusha. Even for those who book safaris online, they will start their journey in Arusha, it is the main gate to start a safari and we were there.

As we arrived in Arusha, our "biggest fear" became true, as we got out of the bus we were attacked by locals trying to sell us safaris or to take us to the hotels where they get commissions from. We tried to run away from them but this time they really followed us thinking that we were not seeing them. We were also introduced to the famous quotes from lion king. "Hakuna Matata" and "Asante Sana" were sentences that those guys were always using. We used to love those quotes as they reminded us of our childhood but soon we started to get tired of constant "Hakuna matatas". 

We found our hotel, Raha Leo, with the help of our guidebook from Lonely Planet but even so we had locals with us at the door trying to get commissions from our stay. Pedro got so pissed that he got into the hotel yelling to the manager making sure that our room rate wouldn't be higher for the commissions.
The hotel was really nice, clean with a confortable pateo and with TV, wifi and hot shower in the rooms. A little bit above our budget but we stayed anyway. 

We were hopping to meet other travelers that would help us to find a Safari and exactly as we planned, it happened. The following morning, by breakfast, we met Alexander from Ukraine that was arranging his safari with Meru treks, a budget company close to our hotel. We also met Adrien, Caroline and Arthur from France. They are travelling in Africa with their own car (a great adventure for sure). After a long conversation with the four of them we ended up going with Joseph, from Meru treks, to his office and we closed the deal. A 2 day/3 night safari in the Serengeti/Seronera and the Ngorongoro crater for $450 each. Really expensive for us but cheap compared to other agencies. As recommended in Lonely Planet, we negotiated every single detail of the Safari so that there were no surprises. By the end of the day we were exhausted but we went for dinner with Adrien, Caroline and Arthur anyway. The dinner was at "George Tavern", a great restaurant, a bit pricy for our budget but with excellent food. As we arrived at the hotel we packed our backpacks and tried to sleep but it wasn't easy as we were super excited with the Safari that was starting in a few hours.

In the morning at 8am our guide, called Isaac, picked us up at the hotel on our open roof Land Cruiser, with him was the cook and also two girls from Holland that would also share this adventure with us.

The plan for the three days safari was to drive from Arusha to Seronera, the heart of the Serengeti, on our first day. After a night sleeping under the sky of the Serengeti, we would start a safari at 6am in the Seronera. By the end of the second day we would drive to Ngorongoro Crater where we would sleep the second night to explore the Crater in a safari on our third day.
The Great Migration in Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater are on the top of the ten wonders of Africa, so we were all super excited!!!

On the safari we were able to spot all the big 5, which are lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffaloes. Besides the big 5 we were also able to spot lots of giraffes, cheetahs, wilder beasts, zebras, gazelles, impalas, wild hogs, flamingos, monkeys, baboons, foxes, jackals, vultures devouring a young wilder beast, ostriches, hyenas, hippos, all kind of lizards and birds.
We saw lions laid down on the top of trees, lions roaring, a huge male lion eating a wilder beast, a group of lions resting and also a lioness trying to hunt a zebra.
The great migration was on its full swing so watching millions of zebras and wilder beasts migrating together is something that we will never forget.
The road between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti is the most scenic road that we have ever been. The landscape is impossible to describe, it makes every human being drop a tear of happiness, it is breathtaking!! The Massai tribe that lives inside the Park on their own, facing the dangerous animals but living in peace and harmony with the wilds is just incredible.
The endless plains of the Serengeti and the breathtaking landscape in Ngorongoro Crater makes all the money paid worth one hundred times.

Because it was a budget safari, the places where we slept and the food were not luxurious at all. In our first night the place where we slept in the Serengeti, was a campsite neither fenced nor guarded. It was just our tent in the middle of Seronera. During the night we had an hyena very close to our tent. Besides hearing the hyena all night we also heard lions roaring. We were freighted about it, but we believe it is the real African Safari experience, we do not regret it at all, it was AMAZING. The second night we slept in a tent on the top of the Ngorongoro Crater in a guarded camp site but not fenced.

During this safari we felt the purest happiness. Watching all this wildlife that has been preserved on its pure essence is the biggest experience we have ever had.

We could write trillions of words describing the experience that we just had on this three days safari, but no one would ever understand it. It is the perfect time to apply the quote "A picture is worth a thousand words" - check out our pictures :)

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