The 5th day of our African adventure had started with a very early game drive in Manyara. After breakfast, we jumped into our jeep ready for a 4-5 hr drive to Seronera Camp, at the heart of Serengeti. The beginning of the road was really good and we made it to Karatu in ~45 min. Our guides deposited the National Parks entry fees and topped up their electronic safari cards. After Karatu, the road goes around the Ngorongoro crater (which we would descent into on our way back two days later) and turns into an uneven track. Suddenly, we saw a big herd of giraffes on our left, reminding us that in Africa, wildlife is all around. Since this was a safe area with no predators, we were allowed to step out of the jeep and walk close to the animals… one of my favorite moments of the trip!
Once we left Ngorongoro behind, the landscape turned much drier. We drove by several Maasai villages, and saw shepherds walking the cattle and small groups of boys with black clothes and white painted faces – Maasai’s tradition mandates that men are circumcised when they reach puberty and wear those clothes for a few months, sometimes even being forced to survive outside the village, before they’re accepted as warriors of the tribe. The road was very bumpy, dust was filling the vehicle and it was getting hot… a couple times we had to stop to help a car that had overheated. I couldn’t help but wonder how people could live in that paramo.
After what felt like a very long time, we arrived at Naabi Hill Gate, the main entrance to Serengeti National Park. While our driver Mike went to the rangers booth, we climbed to an outlook to stretch our legs. The first view of the golden plains is breathtaking. And then the chaos began. Mike couldn’t find his topped up card and was looking all over the jeep and trying to call all the places we had stopped at. Driving back was definitely not an option and the rangers wouldn’t let us in, even after we escalated it to some kind of deputy Minister of National Parks. We were a bit suspicious after the previous night they try to put us in tents, even though we had agreed on a hotel, so didn’t want to advance them money. As it was getting dark and after dozens of calls and talking to the owner of the safari company in Nairobi, we agreed to advance the entrance fees for one day, and have another of their vehicles bring money the next morning.
We got back in the jeep and enjoyed an improvised game drive, running into hyenas, jackals and a gorgeous cheetah, while the sun set. By the time we got to the camp, it was pitch dark. We unloaded the jeep, set up the tents quickly, devoured a filling dinner and passed out.