Travelling Through the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area

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A Lucky Sighting

Again, we drove for some time until we came to a place where we saw cars lined up in the distance, obviously watching something.

Since we were in the Serengeti, we knew it had to be an animal.

We debated for a while about whether or not to join them, but in the end our curiosity won over.

As soon as we got there, we realized what they were looking at: a leopard walking in the grass.

To understand how rare it is too see leopards in the wild, one of my travel companions, a wildlife biologist with over 20 years experience working in the African wild, said that this was the first time she was seeing one.

We couldn’t believe our luck!

Forgetting temporarily that we were just passing through, we threw all restraint to the wind and became full-fledged travelers on safari.

A leopard in the wild

We raised the roof of the car, stood on our car seats, got out our binoculars and cameras, and watched in captivation.

At first the leopard was far away and we hoped it would come nearer, but as it got nearer, we hoped it wouldn’t do anything terrifying like jump on our car or, even worse, try to get inside.

Luckily, it didn’t.

Rather, it walked casually in front of the cars and crossed the road to the other side, where it abruptly stopped.

Not knowing much about the animal kingdom, I thought it had stopped simply because it felt like it.

The experts in the car, however, suspected it had stopped because it had spotted something.

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It had. Hidden under a nearby bush was a rasp of guinea fowls.

Leopard in Serengeti

The leopard stood at attention for a while, as though debating whether or not to attack the guinea fowls.

Obviously, it must have decided against it because as suddenly as the leopard had stopped, it turned around, crossed the road, and returned from whence it came.

The spectacle over, we resumed our journey.

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Seronera & The Wildebeest Migration

The woodlands faded away as we entered the Seronera Valley, the Serengeti National Park’s central valley.

With fewer trees, the Serengeti’s “endless plains” became more apparent.

In Seronera, we saw all manner of antelopes: hartebeest, Thomson’s gazelles, Grant’s gazelles, and bachelor herds of impala.

And then, we came upon zebras—zebras in an unending line both to our left and to our right.

Simultaneously, the driver and one of my travel companions cried out: “The migration!”

Zebra in the Wildebeest Migration, Serengeti, Tanzania

The Serengeti is host to the largest mammal migration in the world, known simply as the wildebeest migration.

Every year, year after year, more than 1.5 million mammals—wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle—cycle through the Serengeti ecosystem; including the Serengeti National Park (in Tanzania), the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (also in Tanzania), and the Maasai Mara National Reserve (in Kenya); in search of water and greener pastures.

Being one of the top 10 natural travel wonders in the world, I had heard of the Serengeti wildebeest migration before but had no hopes of seeing it on this trip, given that we were just driving through and it was October, the driest month in the Serengeti, when most migratory animals are not expected to be on Tanzania’s side of the Serengeti ecosystem but rather in the Maasai Mara, in Kenya.

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To be honest, the wildebeest migration I saw only involved a hundred or so zebra and wildebeest—these were the procrastinator animals (commonly referred to as the tail-end of the wildebeest migration).

Zebra in the wild

Still, it was a wonder to behold.

How did these animals know to start moving?

Who led the wildebeest migration?

How did they know what direction to travel in?

What kept them in line?

I made a mental note to see the Serengeti wildebeest migration, in its full glory, as soon as possible!

Wildebeest Migration Stampede in Serengeti

We continued through the Seronera Valley almost uneventfully, stopping only once to look at a cheetah, perched on top of a water tank, preventing a water truck from drawing water.

We watched the standoff for a few minutes, but seeing no impending resolution, we left and made our way to Naabi Hill, where we stopped for a bathroom break, visited the Visitor’s Information Centre, and took care of the formalities necessary to exit the Serengeti and enter the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area

As we entered the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, I noticed it looked much like the Serengeti except it was a bit hillier.

The most notable difference was that people lived in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, whereas we hadn’t seen any living in the Serengeti.

Here, we saw Maasai tending to their livestock—sheep, goats, and camels—and generally going about their everyday existence, while we also continued to see wild animals like ostriches and baboons.

Maasai man, Eastern Serengeti, October 2006

We drove through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area for about two hours before we finally reached the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.

We had not planned to visit the floor of the crater, but still we stopped at the rim to take a look, wonder at the grandeur of nature, and of course, take pictures.

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The Ngorongoro Crater (or more accurately, caldera) looked as majestic as I remembered it when I last visited three years earlier.

After the short stop, we got back into our cars, drove directly to the main gates of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and exited the Ngorongoro-Serengeti ecosystem.

The End of My Serengeti Trip: Getting to Arusha, Tanzania

Needless to say, the three-hour journey to Arusha, via Mto wa Mbu was anticlimactic, considering all we had seen earlier in the day.

Luckily for me, I had something to look forward to: I would be visiting Arusha, a town I love, for the  first time in three years.

I could harldly wait!

Clock Tower, Arusha, Tanzania

We finally arrived in Arusha, much to my delight, eight hours after our departure from Mugumu Serengeti.

And thus ends the story of my road trip from Mugumu Serengeti to Arusha.

What I thought of Arusha when I finally got there is a story for another day! 😉

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Although I completed this trip from Mugumu Serengeti to Arusha in a day, if I were to do it all over again, I’d spread it out over several days spending at least one night in the Serengeti and dedicating a full day to discovering all that the Ngorongoro Conservation Area had to offer.

For more information about these magnificent nature reserves, please visit their official websites.

That’s if from me. If you’ve gone on a similar road trip before and would like to share your experiences, I’d love to hear all about it in the comment section below.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Until the next time,

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