This week was incredible. I know it is going to be impossible to piece together the right words to express how moving my experience at Serengeti was. The views were breathtaking and the memories I made with my friends were unforgettable. So many laughs, bruises, photos, and lions. It was incredible. I left on Sunday and started the expedition in a beautiful crater known as Ngorongoro. The journey to drive to this park alone was worth the trip. Beautiful mountains with fluffy white clouds against the vivid blue skies; with cattle and zebra grazing alongside each other. The Maasai pastoralists dawned in their bright blue shukas stood out against the landscape. Ad we drove up the crater the environment changed from farmland to a lush rainforest feeling. The steep and winding one-way dirt roads reminded me of the road to Hana in Hawaii. But instead of cliffs dropping to the sea we had glimpses of the vast savanna. It was honestly indescribable. The crater was cooler than usual, which was actually very refreshing. Game drives are sooo fun because we get to stand on our seats with our heads out of the cars with an incredible panoramic view of the wildlife. The view from the top of the crater before we began our descent was amazing. We could see little dots in the savanna, which were wildebeest and zebra. Once in the crater, the wildlife was so abundant. There were animals everywhere. Driving in our topless rangerover with the wind whipping through my hair and the sweet scent of fresh rain cold and fresh as I breathed in the fresh air was a feeling of pure freedom. I felt limitless and in my element, it was a purely blissful day. I had so many laughs with my friends as we observed zebras, wildebeest, flamingos, hyenas, jackals, bunnies, lions, hartebeest, elephants, giraffes…just all the critters. I took a ridiculous number of photos and videos. The highlight of Ngorongoro was my experience with two rhino- a mother and offspring. Rhinos are extremely rare, due to the supposed aphrodisiac qualities of their horns, they are poached at an alarming rate. There are less than 100 rhinos in the entire country of Tanzania, so this sighting was unexpected and made my day. We also visited a hippo pool, I am obsessed with these goofy animals. I could watch them for days. Another highlight was a pride of 15ish lions lounging. They are so beautiful and fierce and incredible. The male was chillin in a tree and looked super majestic. It was awesome. After 3:00pm, we headed back up the crater and about an hour to Serengeti national park.
Serengeti is an extremely large park compared to the others I have visited, and I was astounded by the number of big cats (lions, leopards, cheetah) I saw! On our way to our campsite, we saw a caracal! OK I am going to be honest I don’t know what it called, I think caracal, idk it was some sort of rare cat, don’t worry, I took photographic evidence! The road to the camp was super muddy, and I somehow managed ot get sprayed head to toe with mud, it was hilarious. We even got in a little mud war with a nearby SFS car. The ride to the campsite was a few hours, and it was beautiful. There were beautiful rocks (kopjes) ok also don’t know how to spell that, but basically they wre these massive rock islands in the sea of grass. They looked like pride rock in lion king basically. The entire landscape is just so beautiful and so Africa. It is hard for me to form words that portray the beauty!
Camping was super interesting. Please picture about 10 tents set up in a circle in the middle of the Serengeti. That is exactly what it was. Right in the middle of the wildlife, it is absurd but so cool! I mean OK, it is a little freaky that I heard lions, leopards, hyena, zebra, and wild buffalo feet from my tent, but what an experience! One night I really had to pee, and of course I didn’t want to go because it is a little scary. But following the rules, I got the guard to walk me to the bathroom, and while I am walking he shines the light into the darkness so the eyes of some critters light up, and he just says “simba” (lion). I still don’t know if he was kidding or how he could be calm about that, but that was the quickest pee of my life and I practically ran back to my tent. All of the nights spent camping were filled with calls and noises I would try to identify. There was apparently even 3 lions that killed a zebra not far from our tents! The next few days were spent doing academic gam drives. The three assignments we had included bird identification, predator-prey interactions, and tourist preferences (what animals tourists seem to care about most). They were so fun to conduct, I didn’t even feel like I was doing work. On our first day, my car got a very close encounter with a female lion, she was literally feet away from our vehicle. So so so cool! We obviously saw soo many animals. I don’t even know which are worth my descriptions. One highlight was a mama leopard and her two little cubs! They aee precious, we watched them for hours. I took tons of photos! The game drives were hysterical and so fun and I just love my life. iI love animals and it makes me so sad that realistically, many of these animals aren’t going to be around much longer. The park is already seeing the effects of climate change, and it is dramatic. The rainy season was late this year, and the climate is unpredictable, which has influenced the famous wildebeest migration. These animals are so confused and traveling to the wrong places at the wrong time, which has resulted with the death of many calves. Furthermore, the wildebeest have a tremendous effect on the ecosystem. There are a ridiculous amount of these animals, and they sustain almost all the predators, so clearly the wrong migration patterns results with huge impacts on the animals who rely on them for food. It is just so depressing how much humans are screwing up the Earth. On Wednesday, we head non-academic game drives on our way to Serena Lodge. On our way we stopped at a hippo pool that had more than 200 hippos! It was epic!! We also passed a male lion nexted to a buffalo carcass with tons of vultures, it was a cool sight. The lodge was such a nice treat. After camping and being dirty and eating camp food, it was so good to eat at a nice buffet. Wow the food was unreal, and made me missed home a little. I had plates and plates of salad and fruit and fish and desserts. After, we hung out in the infinity pool that looked out to the Serengeti. It was a picture perfect day! As we drove home we saw an incredible sunset. It was amazing. Today, (Thursday) was our last day in the Serengeti. We went on a game drive this morning, and then headed to Oldupai Gorge, a super important archaeological site home to the famous “Lucy”. It was so cool to learn about the importance of the area, apparently they found 4 different species of humans in this one site! It is so cool, and I learned a ton. Human evolution is just such an intriguing topic, I love it. The rest of the day I was in the car and exhausted from this busy week. I got to think about how incredible my time was, and I just am having the time of my life. I hope these adventures never stop, I never want to slow down. I love adventures, exploring, and learning. I want to travel and really live my life. Life is way too short, and we only get one, I don’t want to waste it. I want to do what makes me happy and be surrounded by people who make me a better person. I am so excited for my future and so happy with my present and so proud of my past. Life is good.
Sidenote: One day, the car I was in was called on the radio to help another SFS car. They were stuck in the mud and we got out of our vehicle to push theirs. Picture about 13 students in the middle of the Serengeti on the muddiest road ever. We look out into the distance and see 5 freakin lions stalking a zebra! While we were just standing on the road! It was incredible!