Mountains and Beaches

After our Serengeti adventure we had one night in Mto Wa Mbu before heading off for the mountains.  The next night we were camping in a village called Musanga, the campsite was in a lush green garden and bonus we didn’t have to put up our tents as they were provided.

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Our campsite – lush greenery!

We got in reasonably late that night so we didn’t do much before dinner, just relaxed. Dinner of course was delicious, a selection of local dishes cooked up by the owner’s wife.  After dinner the owner of the campsite came out and was telling us stories about the area, something about an English lawyer who came to the village and wanted to make a difference in the schools so she decided she wanted to teach English and for years she struggled to try and get approval from education minister to be a teacher. I’d love to tell you the end of the story but I might of uhh… fallen asleep.  It was actually a really interesting story and I feel terrible, but I was so wrecked and well when I’m tired as most people know there is no stopping my body from shutting down, oopsie! He wrapped up his story, I woke up when people started clapping and I hurried off to bed for the night!

Woke up after a 10 hour sleep – beauty!  We had breakfast and then separated into 3 groups for our village walk. Our guide Calvin was from the village and was of the Chaga People, the walk was uphill for the first half but wasn’t too strenuous. We saw the local pub which was about 3 metres by 3 metres in size where the locals drink banana beer.

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Kids in the village

We got to the top of the hill which was meant to be our viewpoint for Mt Kilimanjaro but unfortunately it was foggy so we didn’t get to see it! Ah well!We then headed back down the hill, walked past a huge fancy mansion which looked way out of place with all the other wooden and clay houses around it.

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Dentist Mansion

Turns out it belongs to a man who grew up in the village but is now a dentist and lives in the city, he stays in the house for a month each year over Christmas and New Years and otherwise it is empty all year round! We continued on, while we were walking out of the corner of my eye I saw something, quickly stopped and realised it was a chameleon! Master of disguise can’t fool me!! He was a light brown colour, our guide put him up next to his yellow shirt and we slowly watched him change to a pale yellow colour. We had him sitting on a stick and we then watched him change to a dark brown colour.  So cool!

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Chameleon

Exciting seeing a chameleon, made even better when you are the one to spot it! We kept on walking and headed down to the waterfall, quite nice, not too big.

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Too cold to swim!

After that we headed back to our campsite for lunch, we finished lunch and then walked the 2.5km down the hill back on to our truck. We drove away from Musanga and back on the main highway, we had a second chance to glimpse Mt Kilimanjaro but again no luck because of bad weather.

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Baobab trees along the road

Reasonably short travel day with the last 30 minutes of the drive winding up the roads to the Usambara Mountains. Beautiful scenic drive but for the first time in my trip we had some unfriendly kids throwing rocks down on the truck, bit rude!

Got into camp and Kate and I decided to upgrade to a room because we had heard they were nice at this spot, not to mention it was bloody freezing and a room sounded amazing. Rooms did not disappoint, very nice stone buildings and with a hot shower!

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Our hot water system – fire heated!

Uneventful night, went to the bar before dinner and had our meal a bit later at 8:30. Went to bed just before 11!

Got up at 7 and had an amazing hot shower, didn’t want to get out! Went up to breakfast before our village walk at 8:30. Another great walk! Lots of steep windy paths, red dirt all muddy and lots of happy kids running around wanting high fives. We walked through rice fields farms and saw the local primary and secondary schools. We even saw two more chameleon!

We walked all the way up to a viewpoint, sat out on a big rock that had a sheer drop. The outlook was misty but occasionally a gust of wind would push the clouds away and we would get a glimpse down in the valley, breathtaking!

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From there we walked on to our lunch stop, cooked up by local women, delicious! After lunch there was singing and dancing. The dancing was essentially the women walking around the drummers while twerking! Then there was a dance where you had to bend over while twerking and pick up money in your mouth haha, they dragged a few of us in to join which was hilarious!

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Young girl

We then started to head back to our campsite, the rain was starting and we had about a 40 minute walk. We did the walk a lot faster because of that! We got back at 2:30, the walk was 11.7km in total, really good!

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The walk back

 

That afternoon went up to the restaurant, waited 40 minutes for a lava cake to arrive which was 100% worth the wait! The internet was actually working so I got to watch an episode of Game of Thrones yay (bit sad really, I’m in an amazing country but still desperate to watch Game of Thrones, oh well!).

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DELICIOUS LAVA CAKE!

Before dinner I packed up my bag for Zanzibar, we would be leaving the truck behind for a few days so were just taking small bags and leaving the rest with the truck. This was also the second crossover of trips so we were going to lose most of the people on our trip and gain a few newbies!

 

Woke up at 5am (yikes), showered and had brekky. We left at 7am for our big driving day, about 3 hours into the drive we were pulled over by the cops. Fined for someone not wearing a seat belt.. not going to name names but far out, our guide has told us soo many times to wear the seat belts, felt sorry for him and the driver! We carried on driving, fortunately uneventful all the way to Dar es Salaam. We then spent 2 hours crawling through the traffic, at times we didn’t move for 15-20 minutes.

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Leaving the mountains behind

We got into our campsite at 6pm, right on the beach yay! Lots of other overland trucks were there, we could see tents being cleaned and trucks having work done on them, obviously a main pit stop! We went to the bar before dinner, and straight to bed once we were fed!

Got up at 630am, didn’t have to put down tents so it was a quick morning (yay for not putting tents down!). we piled onto the truck, it was raining a bit not ideal whether for the beach!

We drove an hour to the ferry station, said goodbye to our driver John and cook Emmanuel. We would be seeing them again in a few days when we came back. Tight security at the ferry station, can’t enter without a ticket, bags were x-rayed, went through metal detector. Had to show our passport and ticket about 4 times! We sat in the waiting area until boarding at 9:30, got seats right up the front and we headed off at 10am.

The TV started playing a Bollywood film, I rolled my eyes to begin with but oh my god I was hooked! I was devastated I didn’t get to see the end of it, figured out it was called Bahubali and its part of a movie series. I need to look up online somewhere to watch it because that was amazing, the 2 hour trip went so fast!

By the time we got to Zanzibar the sun had come out strong. Even though we were still in Tanzania we had to fill in arrival cards for Zanzibar, I didn’t quite catch the reason for this… We had a short walk to our hotel, had a briefing on available activities, in the end a few of us went down to a restaurant on the water to have lunch and spend the afternoon relaxing and drinking. Beauty!

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We wandered back to the hotel, looked in some shops and got some yummy gelato. We had also been advised by our guide to stock up on USD before we got to Zimbabwe, because of their currency crisis a lot of the ATMs don’t actually spit out money and the best thing to do is to take USD with you. As we were spending 9 days in Zimbabwe I wanted to get enough USD, went to post office to change and I took all they had which was $340USD! Hopefully that plus what I already had is enough!

We freshened up and then went to the Africa House Hotel to watch the sunset over the ocean. Average sunset because of the clouds but it was nice sitting out with a drink. For dinner we tried the local market but nothing looked appealing so we ended up in a restaurant, had a good meal with a woman singing to us the whole time (that got a bit old after the first song). Headed back to the hotel together, Zanzibar gets a bit dodgy after dark. We were in bed by 11!

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Sunset

Woke up and had a terrible breakfast, the eggs were rank! I’ve never seen egg so pale in colour before! Ate enough to take my malaria tablet then scooted downstairs for our 9am departure. We put all our bags into one van that would go ahead to the accommodation and then we got into a separate van for our day tour.

We drove past the ruins of a palace that had belonged to a king. The palace was built for his concubines, he had 99 concubines and he would visit them on the weekend sleeping with 6-8 a day.  If one of the women got pregnant he would pay her a lot of money to leave so there could be no challenge to the throne. Each concubine was called number 1-99 and if number 47 got pregnant he would replace her and that woman would be the new 47.

Our guide said that his father had 11 children and 3 wives which is normal because he is Muslim. We asked how many wives he had and he said only 1 and 3 children but later in his 50s he might get more wives because its expensive to educate children.

We drove a further half hour and arrived at the spice farm. It was a good tour but I hate to say it I’ve done so many spice tours they get to be a bit the same. Near the end of the tour it started to piss down raining, we raced for cover under one of the shelters. We were given flower crowns and bracelets to wear for a group photo then we watched a man climb up a coconut tree and get us fresh coconut. I really wish I liked fresh coconut because I like the idea of it but god I hate the taste. Everyone passed around the coconuts and I stood back. We then headed to another shelter where we had the most delicious meal cooked up for us! Wowza! We had pilaf, spinach dish, coconut curry, plus other dishes I don’t even remember so good! After lunch they showed us how to make the spinach dish which was amazing! We then were given lots of tropical fruit freshly cut before we headed back to our van.

Drove an hour to our bungalows at a real nice resort in Nungwi. I think Kate and I got the pick of the rooms, overlooking the pool and the ocean right behind it!

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View from our room, pool, then ocean!

Got into swimmers asap and hopped in the pool. After our swim I had a shower and then met the others for happy hour while we watched the sunset, amazing!

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Sunset from our hotel bar

It was the final dinner for this leg of the trip so we all sat down at the restaurant. After dinner a few of us decided we wanted to go out for a bit. It was a Wednesday so we weren’t sure how we would go. Just around the corner was a place called Cholos, it was pretty dead apparently party nights are Thursday and Saturday. We had a couple of drinks then decided to try find the reggae party that we had heard about. In the end there was only 5 of us that went in search of the party. We were told to not go on the beach at night because it is dangerous but we were standing on the edge of the beach near a hotel and saw 3 Masai warriors. Not sure if I’ve previously mentioned but Masai are employed as security in a lot of places, and Zanzibar was packed with them!  We went and asked them if they knew where the party was and they said yes they would take us there, in hindsight it was probably stupid following 3 Masai down the beach but I think because we had a group of us we felt safe! We turned off the beach and walked past a dozen or so more Masai warriors, all traditionally dressed holding their clubs and spears. We could hear the music further up so we hurried along, the Masai I was talking to was telling me he was a rapper and he just finished recording his first music video and he was going to be famous. We got to the club and the three Masai walking with us threw their spears on the ground and came in with us.  I wish I had a camera or phone on me to take a photo of the club. I cannot explain how surreal it was walking into the club and there being reggae music and seeing dozens of Masai on the dance floor bobbing away to the music. We were there a couple of hours dancing with them, I had to stop every now and then just to take in the scene.  The rapper Masai was clinging to me and kept wanting to dance, his dancing was bloody intense, so erratic! He started getting defensive whenever anyone else wanted to dance near me. He pulled me aside at one stage, conversation went like this;

“Why is your hair white?”

“My hair what?”

“Your hair, it is white, what do you do to it?”

“It’s blonde, this is what my hair is naturally”

His mouth dropped open “Wow! It is so beautiful!”

He then kind of grabbed a handful of it and looked amazed by it. Haha ok!

Masai

Didn’t take this photo (from google images) But for context this was what Masai warriors generally wear. Was unable to get any decent photos of them during the trip, they don’t like photos.

Kept on dancing, love African music, so much rhythm! I went to the bathroom and when I came out my lover boy was there and he asked to speak with me. He then asked me to marry him, I laughed when he said it. He was a bit upset and asked why I was laughing. I said I didn’t know him and it was a bad idea. He then told me he liked me very much and then for the next 15 minutes was telling me why it was a good idea that we get married. I listened on completely bewildered, fortunately my friends appeared and we went back to the dancefloor.

My future hubby was being super clingy now so I was half running away from him on the dance floor. Had a few other Masai want to dance with me, holy moly some of them had the most intense body odour ever.

Everyone was keen to head back so we bailed, piled into a taxi and got back to the resort just after 1. Collapsed into bed!

Woke up feeling not too crash hot, mucho drinks! We went to breakfast and then couple of us went to the markets to have a quick wander around, it wasn’t even 9 but the day was heating up! Didn’t end up buying anything but thought I might come back a bit later when I had the energy to barter with them. We went back to the hotel to be picked up at 10am to go to a turtle sanctuary.

When we got there I was so damn excited! The sanctuary was set up because there were a lot of fishermen finding injured turtles. They stayed in the lagoon area that was connected to the ocean so the water goes up and down with the tide each day and fresh water comes in and out. They hang around I’d say because they are getting fed. I reckon there was about 30 of them. Ranging in size from 30cm up to over a metre!

I jumped in the cool water and it was the best thing ever! I kept trying to keep my distance from them but they just did not give a crap, they kept pushing past me with their flippers. One of the girls got a flipper smacked in the face haha! Could’ve spent hours in there just watching them!  I pulled out my GoPro and found that the battery was dead, devastated! I then spent the next 10 minutes googling how waterproof my Samsung phone actually was. Decided to risk it and thank goodness, can confirm Samsung Galaxy S7 is waterproof! Got a few videos and photos of them under water which made me happy because I didn’t want to forget that moment.

While at the turtle sanctuary I had forgotten about my hangover, but as soon as we got back to the resort I was not feeling well at all! Spent a couple hours sitting in the restaurant trying to keep cool, ate a pizza which helped!

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That afternoon we went back down to the markets, I bought a couple of things but was keen to get out of the sun. Went back to the hotel and laid next to the pool, ended up falling asleep, luckily I didn’t wake up sunburnt!

Went to the room, showered and got dressed, came outside and saw the last bit of the sunset. A few of us went to the hotel next door and had dinner in their restaurant, had delicious calamari and fish of the day!

I was pretty wrecked but a few people said they were going to go out, I didn’t want to miss out so I joined them! We went back to Cholos, it was all sectioned off and had a cover charge. Masai warriors were on the door as security. We went inside, got a drink and sat and watched a few people outside on the beach dancing to the music coming from the bar. Three guys were doing choreographed dance moves and eventually a guy on the inside paid for them to come into the bar.

We got up on the dance floor, next minute my damn husband from night before shows up.  He told me he hadn’t slept all night because he thought I was angry at him and that he had been at the Masai market all day looking for me because his friend said he saw me. Ok buddy.

I was wearing a Masai bracelet that I had bought at the market that day he said he wanted to bring me two bracelets to wear and could he meet me tomorrow to give them to me. Hell no, I bet its some damn engagement bracelet or something! I told him we were leaving at 6am and he looked devastated. Slowly edged away from him and kept dancing, had a lot of people from night before coming up saying they recognised me and wanted to dance.

I had a Masai come and ask if I was Swiss, I said no Australian, but you look Swiss, Ok well I’m Australian. But you look Swiss. That conversation went nowhere!

My husband came back to show me pictures on his phone, I think I was meant to be impressed… Pictures of him and his friends night before, picture of him standing on beach looking in distance, picture of him holding a guitar. I was getting a bit tired of it and our group ended up leaving the club shortly afterwards.

The tide had come in so we had to walk through the ocean to get back to the hotel, went to bed just after midnight.

The following morning we left the beach behind with our new smaller group to start our way out of Tanzania. Tanzania had really impressed with the different landscapes, the dry Serengeti, lush mountains and then the turquoise waters of the beach. Another country on my list to come back to!

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Sunrise in Zanzibar

Into the Serengeti

From Rwanda we travelled back across Uganda into Kenya. My tour group changed at this point, lost most of the people but picked up some newbies. We had a new tour leader as well, Victor, and a new cook and driver! The following day we left Kenya and crossed the border into Tanzania.

Our first stop was Mto Wa Mbu which was our pit stop before the Serengeti. After the Serengeti we would return to the same camp for a night stay.  Some people from our previous group who had done this leg told us it was a must to upgrade to a room after the Serengeti because you would be filthy. So once our tent was put up my tent mate Kate and I raced to reception to book our upgrade for our return.

The following day we split into 4 jeeps, I was with Pasci, Celine, John, Ruth, Hellen and Aurelia.  We left at 7am and headed up the mountain to the entrance gate to the Ngorongoro Crater National Park.

Arrived 8am at the gate, and while our driver did paperwork we had a look in the information centre. Ngorongoro Crater is 310sqkm, approx. 21km wide and 18km long, with a depth of up to 760m.  There are 32000 animals in the crater, including 12000 wildebeest and 5 pride of lion.  The crater is the only place where hyenas hunt to kill. Reason being there are more hyena than lion and the hyena cannot rely on scavenging for food.

Once all paperwork was done we got back in the jeep and the paved road turns to gravel (a.k.a African Massage) The roads were misty so we didn’t have much of a view as we worked our way around the rim of the crater.  Windy narrow roads that you aren’t allowed to drive on between 6pm and 6am because animals (especially elephants) wander along them. We stopped at a “viewpoint” I’m sure it’s wonderful when it isn’t misty but we just saw grey and from there we drove down into the crater.

 

As soon as we got into the crater we had animals all around us – wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, impala, warthog, ostrich, jackals.

Everywhere we looked there were more animals. Our lunch stop was at a small lake filled with hippos, while eating our prepacked lunch we had kites swooping around looking for someone’s food to snatch up.

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Lunch stop

At 1:30pm we left the lunch spot and started to head out of the crater. Lots more animals on the way out, buffalo, elephants and we saw a male lion in the grass!

We drove back up the crater towards the rim, this time the mist had cleared so we were able to see the incredible view looking down into the crater.

When we got to the top of the crater we had to close up the roof and the windows because we were about to enter the Serengeti and be covered in dust for the next couple of days! Driving down and away from the crater we saw Masai settlements and Masai herding their goat and cattle. Getting pictures was not easy with the combination of dust and bumpy roads. It was stinking hot inside the jeep but if we had the window open we would get covered in dust.  We would have the window open for a little while then close it up quickly as a car passed us on the other side.

After a couple hours driving we arrived at the entrance gate for the Serengeti, there were a few Masai there wanting money for pictures. They were young males with white paint on their face, the white paint means that they have been circumcised and have started their training to become warriors. We took some pictures of the gate then headed into the park.

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Entry to Serengeti

The jeep I was in and another one drove to the information centre which was also the hot air balloon registration.  Most of us had pre-booked but there was a group of 6 of us (myself included) that was on the waiting list.  By the time we had got to the park I had decided I didn’t want to do the hot air balloon ride anymore as I couldn’t justify the $700AUD for an hour long ride.

Turns out the waiting list isn’t my definition of a waiting list. I was under the impression that if someone else cancelled we would take their place on the balloon, but it was actually if we had enough people on the waiting list then they would take another balloon up. There was a moment where everyone was a bit worried they wouldn’t be able to go up because I had backed out, but fortunately there had been a stuff up with Kate’s booking so she made up the numbers on the extra balloon. Phew!

While the others had their safety briefing I wandered around the information centre taking pictures of the cute rock hyrax and mongoose.

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Rock Hyrax

We then headed to camp and our tents had already been put up for us (yay). As we were camping in the national park without fences we were given a safety briefing.  If you needed to get up in the middle of the night you had to take someone with you and when leaving the tent you first had to listen for animal noises and then scan with the torch and make sure no animals were around.  If animals are around you need to wait in your tent until they pass

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First night in Serengeti

The camp was packed, lots of other groups there and in the large kitchens the cooks were all working away at their stations.  Once we were all set up we had our dinner and then went to bed shortly afterwards.  I fell asleep listening to the sound of hyena!

Up nice and early for breakfast at 7am. While eating we had lots of hornbills and superb starlings hopping around the campsite eating the scraps, obviously a pest because I saw a few cooks chasing them away.

The people doing the hot air balloon had left at 5am so I changed jeeps and hopped in with Meghan, Ebony, Francine and Javier. We set off on our morning game drive, a bit chilly to start with but we knew it would warm up quickly!

After just 10 minutes we saw a cheetah! I was so excited, I love big cats but the cheetah I think is the nicest looking, such pretty facial markings. We watched it for a while, there was a jackal that was nipping at its feet, obviously hanging around in case there was a kill. The cheetah was getting peeved off and a few times the cheetah chased after the jackal! I was dying to see a cheetah run at full speed, but this was pretty amazing anyway watching the movement of its slender body.

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Our first cheetah!

We looked behind us to the other side of the road and saw 2 male lions walking straight towards us! They ended up walking right in front of our jeep, not bothered by us at all. We carried on and about 5 minutes later we saw a second cheetah! This one was a bit further away but we still had a great view of it. Amazing start to our morning game drive!  We saw a huge variety of animals hyena, warthog, impala, Thomson’s Gazelle, dik dik, baboons, crocodile, hippo plus more.

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After a few hours we headed towards the information centre and saw another cheetah on the way there! Got to the information centre and read through the information about the Serengeti and some of the animals that are there. We then headed back to our camp for lunch, saw a herd of elephants right next to our campsite!

After lunch we had some time to kill before our afternoon drive at 3pm. I tried to brush my hair but it was already covered in dust and matted. Felt sticky when I tried to put the brush through it so decided to deal with it once we left the Serengeti.

I got back in the jeep with Meghan, Ebony, Francine and Javier for the afternoon drive. Saw waterbuck, common eland, zebra, impala, hyena, we spent about half an hour sitting at a tree that had a dead impala up it waiting for the leopard to appear. Apparently it was sitting in the bush below the tree but after 30 minutes of no sighting we gave up and left.

We followed a lioness along the road to her pride, at times I thought we were going to hit her she was so close to the jeep! The pride had a few females AND FOURTEEN CUBS! They were sooo cute, I wish I could have gotten more photos of them. Drove a bit further up and there was a huge herd of water buffalo, they were heading in the direction of the lions so we waited to see what would happen. Nothing. They veered off as they got closer but the lions were very alert watching them as they passed.

We drove off again and saw jackals, hyenas and about 30 elephants. Tiny newborns and massive matriarchs, got so close to them as they were crossing the road.

The time was up for the day so our driver headed back, we were flying along the road when Meghan yelled out stop! Slammed on the brakes and skidded along, thought I was going to go flying out the top of the jeep! She thought she’d seen something in the bush, we reversed back and sitting there all pretty was a serval! So cute! Right on the edge of the road just staring at us, it was happily sitting there but another jeep came up and it got spooked and ran away.

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SERVAL!

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So gorgeous

We got back to the camp and then our driver got a call from the other driver saying that the leopard from the morning we had been waiting to see had appeared, unfortunately we were too far away to go back to it. I was so happy about seeing the serval I did not even care!

That night after dinner Victor told us stories around the campfire. The history of Africans and where they come from, why some of them are short and fat, some are tall and skinny, some store fat on their tummy and others on their bum. I’m kicking myself I didn’t take notes because thinking back on it I can’t remember details.

He told us a story about how when he first became a guide he was at the camp, and in his group was a woman who always overexaggerated everything. One night at the campfire she suddenly said there was a lion right near them, the group ignored her but then they heard the growl. They jumped up to run away from it and were trying to get into a cage that kept the food but couldn’t. while they were panicking they didn’t realise the lion walked right past and towards a herd nearby. Obviously more interested in the herd than the humans!

Another story was about one of the drivers in the camp had been unwell and while on a game drive he had to go running out of the jeep because he had diarrhoea. He ran out of view of the tourists and pulled down his pants and went. Heard a noise behind him and turned around and there was a pride of lions right next to him.  He literally shat right next to a bunch of lions. He went sprinting back to the jeep with his pants around his legs and all the tourists were snapping photos of him.

Good stories! We were all pretty buggered so we headed to bed straight after that.

Up the next morning we heard lions and elephants during the night! We packed up our tents, loaded into the jeep and headed off at 8am.  We were doing a game drive in the morning before heading out of the park. Shortly after leaving camp we saw three lioness just off the road, we then saw giraffes, elephants, hyena, impala.

We started to head out of the Serengeti, driving past all the unusual rock formations. Ahead we saw a group of jeeps – always a sign there is something good there. We drove up and perched up on a rock was a cheetah! Posing perfectly for a few good snaps.

We continued on and a few minutes later we spied 2 more cheetahs! We got right up close to them lying in the shade, they looked a bit younger than the other ones. Gorgeous! Six cheetahs in two days! How lucky is that?!

We left the Serengeti and went back past through the gate, Masai still hanging around wanting pictures.

Drove 1-2 hours to the rim of Ngorongoro Crater, that was the dustiest it had been I reckon! We stopped at the top of the crater for lunch, had our prepacked sandwiches with two maribou storks for company.

Drove back down the mountain from the first day, was great to get back on a paved road!

Got into camp at Mto Wa Mbu at 2pm, so glad we upgraded! I shampoo’d and conditioned my hair twice, had massive chunks of hair come out and it still felt a bit ratty after that!

Serengeti was incredible, I can’t wait to come back!