Covering Grounds: Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park

“I hope you have an experience that alters the course of your life, because after Africa, nothing has ever been the same.” ~ Suzanne Evans

   Over this Easter break, my family and I decided to travel to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park, in Tanzania. I truly find it so enthralling to be able to be a spectator of the African wildlife; and that’s exactly what you are! As I said in my article about traveling to Malawi, “when you go scuba diving, you’re in the world of the underwater. When you go on a safari drive? You’re in the world of the boundless African wildlife; watching the wonders of their natural life in their territory.”

   The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is within the limits of the Ngorongoro Crater, which is the repercussion of a collapse of a volcano as high as Mount Kilimanjaro about 2.5 million years ago, resulting in this gorgeous expansive land that is the crater. And Serengeti National Park has its meaning in itself – endless plains; and when you visit the place you can truly see why, with a sweeping savannah landscape with the horizon as far as the eye can see.

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~ View from the top of a viewpoint of these endless plains ~ 

Things to do at Ngorongoro Conservation Area:

  • You can visit the Masai Village and encounter their traditions and cultures. They live a very simple life in all manners of speaking, and were openly friendly and curious about our visit to their village.
  • Bird-watching is a popular activity at this location, with approximately over 250 bird species that can be viewed within the crater – and the birds are oh-so beautiful in all their forms! Did you know that male birds are almost always more beautiful than female ones?
  • The Oldupadi Gorge Museum is on the drive from Ngorongoro to Serengeti, and traces back fossils and bones all the way back to the time of human evolution – with proof. Personally, this was such a fascinating experience, and for those who are interested they will truly find it a diverse encounter.
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Look at that crown crane pose! 

Things to do at Serengeti National Park:

  • Walking safaris are such a thrilling experience! You have a guide, and they take you out on walks within the national park or conservation area – in this case Serengeti National Park – wherein you’re literally out in the wild! The guide knows exactly where to take you, and the experience is more than worth it.
  • Balloon safaris also allow you to view the wildlife, but from an aerial perspective! Imagine being in a hot air balloon, just before the sun begins to rise (considering wind conditions) and being able to see the landscapes and natural wildlife beneath you as you soar across the sky – its truly a visual delight!
  • And similarly to Ngorongoro, you can go bird-watching here too, or even make a trip to a nearby Masai village.

   Safari Drives are naturally the most popular and known activities that tourists predominantly may choose to travel for, in which you’d go on the drives for practically the whole day. Typically, a game drive will start early in the morning around 7:30am, and end by approximately 5:30pm. These timings can vary by about a half hour, and depends on what you as a traveller would like too of course. With regards to food, in some places you have breakfast before you leave, and in others you can have breakfast freshly prepared for you out in the middle of the savannah! It’s a real treat, I can tell you that. Lunch is also usually packed, according to previously informed dietary preferences. Furthermore, although this isn’t there in Tanzania, there are several national parks in Africa that allow night drives, which provide the travellers with an experience to view the nocturnal animals truly in their element!

Highlights of my Trip

   On the first day, the first viewpoint of Ngorongoro crater greeted us in the golden hour, an hour before dusk with just this panoramic perspective of the magnificent crater. Given the rains, exuberant green landscapes were beholding to us, and the cameras were clicking away! There was no limit to the type of cameras, from all the mobile phones to the professional cameras. Imagine just breathing in the fresh air and this view lain below us.  

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~ Lush green ~

   About 30 minutes into our game drive on the second day, we ended up seeing 1 male lion and 3 lionesses trying to find shade from the heat of the sun, and that ended up being right by the cars! So imagine our thrill (and fear!) when we turned the engine off and had these powerful animals come to our car and just lie by the tyres. Mind you, despite their presumed laziness as they laid in the shade, the minute a jeep engine was turned on their ears would prick and in fact one of them in split seconds was up on her feet at the sudden sound.

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Cropped lion photo © JayKrishnan Nedunghat

   On the third day, in Serengeti National Park, we were fortunate enough to gain a full view of a leopard! A whole set of jeeps were waiting in the middle of the road, apparently having seen this cat species. So we waited too, and 15 minutes into this wait, the graceful leopard made its appearance between the grass. Tail first, and then out he/she came – not just an appearance mind you, we got a full catwalk from this elegant animal, and it was a hair-raising experience. 

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Total poser! 

Fascinating Facts from the Trip

   At the Masai village, the chief had explained their culture thoroughly to us, from their welcome dance to their food, to how their households work. Firstly, the Masai people survive on food in three forms; meat, goat milk and blood that’s taken from cows. Also, did you know that the Masai men are polygamous? They marry more than once – for example, the chief of the village would have 10 or 15 wives, and consequently about 50 or 60 children. And in that, their tribe is formed.  Also, inside their small huts, made from cow dung and grass, I asked the Chief why their ears were so heavily pierced (see below for picture) – and he told me that during the German colonisation periods apparently they used to take back the locals as slaves in Germany. They didn’t like any marks or scars on these people though, and in order to avoid being entrapped, they started piercing their ears. I don’t know how true or false this is, but I couldn’t help but find this quite intriguing.

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Masai Ladies © JayKrishnan Nedunghat

   And finally when visiting the Oldupai Gorge Museum, it came to my captivation to discover that there was an individual by the name of Doctor Yoshiharu Sekino, a Japanese surgeon, anthropologist, and adventure enthusiast. He wanted to travel from Chile around to Tanzania, only on a cycle – no fossil fuels used. The purpose of his travel was to trace back the experiences during the time of human evolution and their travel around 6 million years ago, commencing from Tanzania to Chile. It took Dr. Sekino 9 years, starting in December 1993 until February 2002 to complete this 53,000km journey on a cycle.

   There were so many wild animals that we were able to encounter throughout; from wildebeest to various forms of antelope, to the mighty elephants within their herds, to even just different species of birds and chameleons too! – it was such a thrilling experience, although exhausting mind you; early morning drives and back in the evening can be quite tiring. If you’d like to see photographs of more animals and my experiences, feel free to check out my Instagram account – link on the side.

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Elephants walking across the jungles – look at that baby elephant!

    Hence you can understand there’s plenty to see and do in Northern Tanzania. Do make a visit sometime soon! The ideal time to visit is during the dry season, and migration period during July-early September. Believe me, its a wondrous experience. 🙂 If you’ve already been here, what did you enjoy the most? Do share your thoughts!

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