Serengeti is Masai for Endless Plains. Boy howdy they ain’t kidding.
To start, it’s not like Tanzania has an extensive highway system, so to drive from Tarangire we passed through Ngorongoro Crater (which we would visit in a few days) on the way to Serengeti, a few hours drive total. First, you have to climb up and up and up for Ngorongoro such that your ears pop and the temperature drops by about 20 degrees. You could see your breath in the air, and I pulled out my warm jacket (THE single best purchase I made for the trip thus far — not counting pants and malaria meds, I suppose). We didn’t linger too long, and then began down what we thought at the time was the most nauseating road (it had a close competitor later) and we dropped into depths where it was suddenly in the mid-90s and you could see to the ends of the earth, it felt like.
We ate lunch at the Serengeti gate, and there was a huge log-jam there. It was like the United Nations full of people, it seemed like 40+ vehicles parked there for lunch.
We did a short game drive but didn’t see as much as in Tarangire. The landscape was really stark though. Then we drove to our lodge, the Serengeti Serena (see review).
Unfortunately, that night the ‘worst’ part of the trip began to take form. I started to get sick. All my safari surfing the first couple of days, in the sun and wind, plus not sleeping well at night led me to get a pretty fierce cold.
I took a Nyquil and slept well, and we started the day’s drive a little later (9:30) because N had decided to do a balloon ride that morning, but I was still miserable all day. My throat was completely constricted and we’d determined “no blah-blah” for me that day, but I just got worse as the day went on. During lunch I slept on the floor of the van, and we went back a little early. I felt badly for N and M, but they were good sports.
We saw a bunch of animals, but it took a lot longer between sightings to see them, much moreso than Tarangire. But, the “big game” animals were often more close to the track. We got up alongside lions numerous times, as well as giraffe and elephants. The landscape was less varied, though we did spend some time in the “seronera” part which has more trees. Here we saw a lion that had recently(ish) killed a wildebeast and had half its body inside the carcass eating, when we approached. It was right on the road so we had to actually drive off the road a tad not to disturb her.
In fact, we saw more animals super-up-close in Serengeti than anywhere else. We saw about a half dozen lions at various points all within 10 feet of the road we were on. At one point we could have reached out of the car and smacked a pregnant zebra on the back (we didn’t!). There were giraffe and elephants within feet of the car. That was really cool!
That night I realized with glee I had packed benedryl and took that around 8:30 before going to bed. At 9 I realized, oops, that was DAYTIME benedryl, so while I felt much better, I was up until around 4 in the morning.
The next day we were scheduled to go to the Western Corridor of the Serengeti which had great viewing, but I just couldn’t do it. The others went on and I stayed in and slept. Though sorry to miss the drive, I was really glad I did it. Believe me, this hotel was no bad place to spend a day! I slept all morning and then hanged out on the chaise lounges by the pool in the afternoon. The overlook is nice, but you couldn’t see any critters the way you could at Tarangire (except a few baboons I later saw in my binocs).
At one point the tse-tse flies were finding my hair a little too enjoyable (they are attracted to dark colors) and so I decided to use a little deet for hairspray. Unfortunately, I misfired a bit but fortunately, my eyes and mouth were closed at the time!
That night we also saw a fire in the brush not very far (maybe a mile?) from the hotel. Being from SoCal, I was definitely worried because believe me, there ain’t no water towers or helicopters to drop water here!). But they said it was a controlled burn. Apparently, there are no forest fires in the Serengeti. Lightening only happens in the wet season, and they don’t have camping or arson the way we do. Good Luck said they never have any fires except controlled ones.
M and N had a great time that day, but M said there was a lot of long, hot driving to get there, so I think staying in was the right thing to do because the next morning (after taking Nyquil again) I was in SO much better shape and I have recovered quite quickly, all things considered. The only negative that night was the 4am wake-up call the front desk insisted was for our room!! (they called back a second time. grrrr)
We did another morning drive in the Serengeti including stopping at a vile-smelling hippo pool (some advantages to being congested!) and then left to go back to Ngorongoro Crater.