Tanzania 2016 – Serengeti

After covering the dreadful access road, we reached the Naabi Hill entrance gate at around 3 pm. It was very crowded there, lots and lots of tour operators and their clients in safari vehicles, waiting to enter the park. It took us more than an hour to sort all of the registration papers and payments for our 7 day stay in the park.

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Our time was slowly running out, I was beginning to be worried if we will reach our campsite Sero6 in time, especially as I was not sure where exactly Sero6 is. I have found different locations for this special campsites on different maps.

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Seronera area

We reached Seronera information center at around 6 PM, and when I asked about the exact location of Sero6 special campsite, we were told we need to return south and after passing the airstrip we will find a signpost pointing to left, for all the Sero special campsites, numbered from 1 to 6. We indeed found the signpost, but what was written on it was: “Sero 1-5”. Hmm… Well, they probably must have added sixth campsite later and didn’t change the signpost. The track to the campsites was quite rough and longer than we have anticipated. When we finally reached one of the campsites and ask one of the staff there about the location of Sero6, he explained the situation to us: In this area, there are indeed only 5 campsites, numbered 1 to 5. Sero 6 is located about 15 km further north, in the direction toward the Lobo area.

So we have lost more than half an hour due to wrong info from park information center! Back we went, passed the info center and after crossing the double bridge (a new bridge was built across Seronera river, parallel to the abandoned old one), we have found a signpost to Sero6 campsite to the left. We have reached it in the last minutes of the daylight, just early enough to set up camp before the night.

Sero 6 is not among the best special campsites in Seronera area. The view from camp was nothing to write home about, particularly with the very tall grass at this time. Also, during our two night there, we’ve got the impression that the area around the camp is not particularly rich with animals. But we were alone in the bush and that’s what we have came for here. Well, not quite! When we arrived back to our campsite in the evening for the second night, there was another camp set out by a tour operator not far away, on the other side of a narrow strip of some trees and bushes. I wasn’t in the mood for arguing about our exclusive reservation of the campsite with them, as we could barely see them through the bush from our spot and they were actually very quiet, but evidently there is a problem with double bookings of special campsites in Serengeti.

In the mornings and late afternoons we have driven many of the loops around Banagi hills, Retima hippo pool, Masai Kopjes and Seronera river. During the heat in the middle of the days, we have spent our time in the shade of Information center or Tumbili public campsite. Grass in Seronera region is very tall during this time, so the large cat sightings were not as frequent as I have expected, but nevertheless we saw a lot. I have a feeling that we’ve have seen more animals in March during our 24 hour stay in the park than we did this time in three days. However, Serengeti simply can’t disappoint. Whether it is for the the animals or the landscapes, it simply takes ones breath away.

Couple of days later, after returning from Lobo area, we spent one more night in Seronera region, in Tumbili public campsite. It certainly wasn’t crowded at all (as I was afraid it will be) and the night there was very peaceful and quiet and the toilets were in perfectly acceptable condition.

 

Lobo area

Road from Seronera toward Lobo is much better than the one from Naabi Hill to Seronera. It is very obvious that wast majority of operators short-time safaris to Serengeti are limited to Seronera area. After the turnoff toward Lobo and Klein’s gate, we had the park all for ourselves. In next two days in Lobo area we barely met any other vehicle.

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We have booked to stay in Lobo public campsite. The campsite is in fantastic location under very high kopje klifs and overlooking magnificent valley. However, the access track from the road to the campsite (and to the nearby Lobo Lodge) is very steep in places and quite demanding, particularly in wet. We have had the campsite all to ourselves on both days during daytime, but on each evening an operator safari groups (in both cases with Italian clients) arrived to spend the night. In both cases they were well behaved and didn’t disturb us at all.

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Lobo area is quite different to Seronera. While in Seronera there are endless level plains, dotted with rocky kopjes, in Lobo area the rolling hills prevail. We covered most of the tracks east of the main road. The tracks are very enjoyable, however in wet, some of them might be quite challenging, as was evident from deep roots in some places. On one occasion we nearly got stuck in one of the softer sections, where track was crossing a small muddy pool. When I inspected it, I got the impression that in the middle of the shallow pool there might be some very soft mud where we could become stuck. So, we decided not to cross it. When we already decided that we will turn around and return the same way as we came, I noticed some tire tracks to the right of the pool, where the ground was more firm. The only problematic part on this detour was where it need to cross quite dip ditch before returning to the original track. We decided to try this detour. Ditch was rather narrow with quite steep entry and exit, so after we descended very slowly into it, there was no space to get some momentum before tackling the steep and slippery exit. We got stuck just before the end of the exit out of the ditch. Whatever I tried, wheels started to spin in slippery ground and car wouldn’t move any further. Luckily there was a strong tree not far away, exactly in our direction, so I started making plans how to winch us out. But before that, I decided to give it one last try, this time with diff lock engaged. Bingo! After some steering wheel turning for the front wheels to grasp some firm ground, Defender managed to pull us out with the very last power. Another excitement was over, but our hart rate remained on the upper limit for quite some time! If we weren’t able to come out of that ditch, we would have been forced to spend the night there, as it was late afternoon and I’m sure no other vehicle past that track until the next day.

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Game viewing in the Lobo was nice, but we didn’t see any cats. However, on our morning return toward Seronera, we noticed fresh lion tracks on the road. And indeed, not a kilometer along the road, we spotted two magnificent males coming toward us in tall grass. They crossed the road immediately behind our car and vanished in the tall grass on the other side. If we had come a minute earlier or later, we wouldn’t have any idea lions are so close nearby.

We noticed that the elephants around Lobo were generally a lot more nervous than in Seronera area. And we were very excited to finally see the klipspringer – the first one for us.

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Our first day in Lobo was New Year’s Eve. My wife can not enter into New Year without a Christmas tree, so we brought a very small plastic one with us into Africa, together with some decorations. So, we have had very proper Christmas atmosphere in the Lobo campsite, even so far from home.

 

Moru area

Moru area lies south of Seronera, across the Mbalgeti river. It is the only area in Serengeti where you are able to see rhinos. But as much as we tried, we weren’t that lucky during our two days stay there. We were told by some tour operator driver that his clients did actually see three of them couple of days before around, around Gong Rocks.

Lions were abundant, we saw even more of them as in Seronera area. It’s funny that Ishasa (QENP in Uganda) and Lake Manyara are famous for their tree climbing lions, yet we have had no luck with them in either of those two parks. However, here in Moru area of Serengeti we saw a pride of 8 or 9 lions resting on a tree on two consecutive days (on two different trees).

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Scenery in Moru area is again fascinating. Open plains, incredible rock formations in kopjes, lake Magadi, more trees than in Seronera…. We could have spent a whole week in Moru without being bored. And again, it is so off the beaten tracks of operator’s day trips that you can really enjoy solitude in the unspoiled wilderness. On both days we have met only a few other vehicles.

Moru 6 special campsite has excellent position. Situated slightly elevated above the open plains, under an impressive kopje, with plenty of shade and with a wonderful views, it is a campsite that you could only wish to spend few nights at. We have initially missed the signpost to the left when we were driving toward Moru ranger post, but the rangers gave us the right directions and we found it without problems.

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When we arrived at the campsite, we were unpleasantly surprised to find a group of workers there, building a large camp, obviously for mobile operator. They explained that they were instructed to build the camp in next few days, but the clients will actually arrive only next week. And the camp will then be in operation for at least two weeks.

As there is plenty of space there, we positioned our camp slightly away from their working area, hidden behind some bush, so we were not bothered. We didn’t see them while they were working, nor did we hear them while we were in our camp. Actually, they were all very nice and friendly, they even came to invite us to join them at their evening fire.

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I believe this is what is happening regarding those double bookings: operator books special campsite for a specific period for their guests. But as constructing such large camp (4 large luxurious tents for the guests, kitchen tent, large dining tent, toilets, generator, water supplies,…) takes quite some time, they send their building crew few days in advance, ignoring the fact that someone else might have booked that campsite during that time. And it seems to me that this doesn’t bother park authorities at all.

On our last day in Serengeti, we were at the Naabi Hill exit gate quite early, at around 10 am. We didn’t want to enter Ngorongo Conservation Area too soon, in order to be able to spend as much time as possible the next day in the Ngorongoro crater. So, we decided to make a short trip from Naabi Hill to Lake Ndutu, where we were hoping to maybe find the leading wilderbeests and zebras of the great migration. The road toward lake Ndutu was very smooth and there were many hyenas and lions in that area, but also some large herds of wilderbeests and zebras there. I guess those were only the head or the tail of the migration masses. In any case, it was very enjoyable detour.

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One comment

  1. Hi there, it’s Katrin. I think I told you that we have rented the same Land Rover from Nathan as you did, twice now. Once in 2015 and again in June 2018. I’m trying to send you a pic of how Nathan has improved the Landy. No more AC but two hatches. So great for photography. And steering wheel is on right side, correct for TZ traffic.
    How can I send you a picture of this?
    Katrin

    Like

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