This is one of my favorite days on safari, as we spend most of our time off-roading in the far southeastern corner of the Serengeti positioning ourselves to find the great herds in the next few days.
We left the crater just after breakfast, and there was heavy mist on the rim as we drove around the northwest side past the down road which has been closed for reconstruction. The road then swings around to the west for about 4 kilometers of beautiful driving on the north side of the giant alter-crater.
Like so much of the veld today, it was lush and green, but I saw only a smattering of zebra and wildebeest. The road then rises briefly over the lip of the alter-crater before dropping onto the north side of the crater towards the Serengeti.
Whistling thorn acacia reappear, so therefore do giraffe! Lots of zebra suddenly, and as we descended, more and more giraffe. As we approached the road to Olduvai Gorge, large numbers of wilde and zebra mixed in with Thomson’s Gazelle covered the veld.
I hesitated thinking this was part of a large hunk of the migration, but sure was tempting to think so. Fortunately I said nothing and it ended before we actually drove into Olduvai Gorge.
After our fascinating tour of the visitors center and museum and special visit to the site where Mary Leakey found Australopithecus bosei, we continued off-road onto the grassland plains towards Shifting Sands.
We passed several Maasai herders, and I noticed they were now ranching sheep as well as goats. Saw lots more wild animals and right around shifting sands the wilde population seemed pretty dense.
We continued overland towards Loliondo, stopping at a kopjes near Lemuta for lunch. On that hour or so drive from Shifting Sand, we stopped several times to photograph kills covered with birds, golden jackal, and several baby wilde that couldn’t have been more than a couple days old judging from the length of their umbilical chord.
Lunch on a Lemuta Kopjes is always a highlight of the trip. The views are astounding, and the entire veld was peppered with animals. This was an important clue, by the way, that would help us tomorrow in locating the largest hunk of the migration.
But it was getting on, and we had a ways to go to Ndutu Lodge, one of my favorite. So we changed direction and began heading southwest to the lakes area of the Serengeti. Passed numerous eland that ran before we were within a mile of them!
Photographed lots of hyaena just waiting on the outskirts of water holes for some thirsty beast to drink. And we ran into four brother lion who had killed a day before perhaps, with giant bellies so large they could hardly walk.
We reached the main road and took a breather so people could photograph themselves under the “Welcome to the Serengeti” sign, and the drivers who had been working so tirelessly since early this morning could rest a little.
Then we started the last 25k to our lodge following Olduvai Gorge to Lake Ndutu. Halfway there it started to rain, and then thunder and lightning, then hail and then the rain became so heavy and the wind so dangerous we had to stop for a short time.
We literally couldn’t see because the sheaves of water falling from the sky were so severe.
I’ve lived through countless East African rainy seasons. I remember one of my camps blown away, of lodges and tented camps flooded. And perhaps it’s just the emotions of the moment, but it sure seems like the rain is harder, more and longer than in previous years.
We reached the Ndutu Forest just as the rain abated and got to our lodge around 7 p.m. It had been an 11-hour day, filled with tons of animals, extraordinary scenery and (lots of) rain. Until we had reached the main road to the Serengeti, about 40 minutes from our lodge, we hadn’t seen a single other vehicle other than our own four.
This is the Africa I love the best, and today reached all my expectations.