26.06.2008 - 30.06.2008
The Serengeti is arguably the most famous national park in the world. Along with the adjacent Ngorogoro Crater, it offers unrivalled game viewing. To access it we travelled across the lip of the misty crater, before descending into the vast plains of the Serengeti. As the sun rose, the roof of the jeep was opened, and I stood and sunbathed, watching for wildlife.
I have been very fortunate to see a wide variety of animals in other national parks on my trip. However, the Serengeti was the first quintessentially African safari like the ones seen on television, where the indescribably open expanses have only a solitary acacia tree in sight. My guide's superhuman ability to spot wildlife allowed us to see giraffes, elephants, a serval cat, and for the first time, cheetahs lining up their next gazelle for dinner. Although giraffes remain my favourite, its the baby hippos that I would most like to take home with me!
Camping on the crater lip, the temperature fell dramatically, so we were pleased to head down into the shelter of the crater the next day. The crater was formed by a volcanic explosion that led to the volcano caving in on itself - leaving a hole 22km in diameter and over 600m deep. The crater has a tropical rim, created from all the mist that clings to the edge. In the crater itself, the relatively lush foliage supports a high density of animals.
Arriving in the crater, we immediately witnessed a pride of lions finishing their breakfast of zebra and, with their apetites sated for another few days, allowed a pack of hyenas to strip what little meat remained on the carcass. As we travelled towards the lake, pink in the distance from the thousands of flamengos, we passed countless wildebest. Before starting the journey back to the crater's rim, we were able to see, one final time, hippos and lions.
Leaving the national park behind, we returned to our base in Arusha for 1 final night in tents. The morning after, I passed through my final foreign border crossing (hooray!) as I travelled into Kenya during an unexpectedly long and winding drive to Nairobi. After saying goodbye to the group, most of whom I have travelled with since Cape Town, I arrived at my basic accommodation for the next 2 nights. Having settled in, I watched the European Championship final with a fat Kenyan priest who spoke almost no English. Our only shared language was a mutual desire for Spain to defeat Germany.
I am sharing the accommodation with another group member, Andy, and together we ventured into Nairobi - worryingly nicknamed 'Nairobbery' by the locals. We were offered a free lift into the city and within a couple of minutes had seen a large crash as 1 car ploughed into the side of another. The drivers of the damaged cars looked unperturbed.
Nairobi city centre is an unexciting hub of shops (the majority selling mobile phones). Indeed, the most interesting part of my trip into the centre was watching a taxi driver desperately trying to find the handle to open the window of his car which, of course, had long since fallen off.
That evening, Andy and I dined at 1 of the top 50 restaurants in the world - 'Carnivore'. Here each table has a flag and, after eating the soup, bread and salad, waiters will continue to bring succulent pieces of meat to your table until you surrender and put your flag down. I failed my stated aim to eat 33 (the table number) pieces of meat - managing 'only' 24. Completely full, I have not eaten much since!