Africa

Serengeti Day 2: Olduvai Gorge and Seronera

Monday – August 30, 2010 –

This morning, we all met up for breakfast in the restaurant. We slept well and the continental breakfast was superb. Then we packed up and left for the Serengeti.

Leaving Lake Manyara Lodge, drove through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to Serengeti National Park. Along the way, we witnessed the vastness of this territory and we stunned by the multitude of animal and bird life while cruising through the acacia-spotted savannah. En route we make a quick stop at Shifting Sands, a remarkable geological rarity which is sacred to the Masai. Known as a Barchan Dune, this interesting phenomenon is constantly on the move across the dry savannah plains. Just to the southeast of here, Emil pointed out the area where we will be staying and game viewing for the first few days in the central Serengeti called the Seronera area.

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The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Masai Mara Game reserve are the two most popular game-viewing parks in Africa. The Serengeti, with an area of 5,678 sq miles, is actually over more than seven times larger than the Masai Mara. It is the crown jewel of Tanzania’s national park system. The word Serengeti, mean “endless plain” in the Masai language. Combined with the Masai Mara and the Ngorongoro Conservation area, the three park protect the most varied and greatest collection of wildlife on earth. With the Big Five, the Small Five and extensive amounts of wildlife, the region offers what is considered the best wildlife-viewing on the planet. Aside from wildlife watching, we found the scenery to be just as breathtaking.

Jeff wanted to come to the Serengeti in August to see the Great Migration. We will be going to the northern part of the park later in the safari to hopefully catch the tail end of it near the border with Kenya. Each season offers different opportunities to see them on their journey from different locations. Changing seasons and light patterns form the most beautiful backdrop to view Africa’s majestic wildlife. In October more than one million herbivores travel toward the southern plains in a circular clockwise journey, crossing the Mara River from the hills to the north. They continue west across the Serengeti, and then north once again, crossing the Mara River, after the rains around April. Approximately 250,000 wildebeest alone will die along the journey from Tanzania to Masai Mara reserve in Kenya. Some of the most common on the migration are wildebeests, gazelles, zebra and water buffalo. Incredibly, more than 1.6 million herbivores and thousands of predators are located in the Serengeti.

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In the morning, we stopped at the Olduvai Gorge archeological site. A professional guide from the Olduvai center gave us a 1.5 hour walking tour along the floor of the gorge. The gorge is commonly referred to as The Cradle of Mankind. It is a deep ravine that is roughly 30 miles long. It is most famous for the discovery of the 3.5 million year-old fossil fragments of an early human civilization. We heard the story behind the first human ancestor discovered called Lucy. The important discoveries make the Olduvai Gorge one of the most important pre-historic sites in the world for increasing scientific theories of early human evolution.

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Throughout the day, we saw more giraffes, elephants, zebra and gazelles. We also saw our first lions, lionesses, hyenas, buffalos and leopards! Our Toyota Land Cruiser makes a great platform for viewing with its raised roof.

We had another boxed lunch when we stopped at the Serengeti visitor center. The visitor center offered great exhibits on the Serengeti’s geology, wildlife and ecology. We also saw some huge stuffed animals inside. Then we explored for more animals, seeing some warthogs in the afternoon.

Throughout the six-hour journey during the day, we traveled about 135 miles (compared to about 80 miles the previous day). After arriving at the Seronera Lodge that evening, we were greeting with a wet washcloth and juice. What hospitality! After checking into our rooms we went to the supper buffet, which included Lake Victoria perch, chicken, glazed carrots other vegetables, salads, and Mont Blanc cake.

The Seronera Wildlife Lodge is located in the heart of the park, located on the migratory route, and provides front seat viewing of this extraordinary natural phenomenon. With 75 rooms, the lodge is artfully constructed around a rocky outcrop with glass and wood elements, perfectly blending into its surrounding. I felt a little like I was at the huge Alvin’s Island store in Panama City, without the tacky souvenir shop! Next to the lodge lie several waterholes attracting animals and providing a unique opportunity for a close encounter with the Big Five.

After another great day on safari, we went to bed excited about what the next day had in store.

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