Serengeti National Park, Northern Region
We left the heart of the Serengeti migration to visit another region of the Serengeti, north of where we had been. The landscape was more what I had envisioned the Serengeti to be, with vast open grasslands, occasional lone acacia trees and rock kopjes. On our drive north we were still in the migration, but on our way back the migration had mostly moved on. While these few days of the trip were perhaps not as exciting as some of our other destinations, there was plenty to see. The feel of the open grasslands has also stuck with me more than any other landscape we experienced.
For most of the few days we were there, lions were very hard to find. For my friend and I this was not an issue, as we had seen plenty of lions already and wanted to see other things instead. However, our guide explained to us that this was causing problems for some of the other guides, as their clients were on shorter safaris and the guides had to deliver lions for them.
On our last day, as we were driving south, we found a pride of lions and a collared mother with two larger cubs. We stopped for some time to watch them with few other vehicles around. In the distance, though, we saw a lot of dust rising above the road as a caravan of vehicles quickly headed our way. I took a couple photos of the dust then continued to watch the lions right in front of us. One of the vehicles stopped right next to us and imagine my surprise when our guide told us that the President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, was in that vehicle! Wow, I was watching lions next to the President! I asked the guide if I could take a photo (he had a rule I had to ask before taking photos of people) and he said yes. I gestured to my camera when I caught the eye of what I assumed was a security guard with the President, and he nodded yes, so I quickly took a couple photos. Once again we had an amazing experience due to our unhurried approach to wildlife.
At the main Serengeti Visitor Center in Seronera we could actually get out and walk on the kopje without a guide, so my friend and I explored for a while. While there was little view due to the haze it was fun to see the surrounding area from a height. We could also see little creatures such as lizards and mice which we could never see or photograph from the vehicle. We had a nice tour of the main display areas with a local student; I wish I had given him a larger tip!
One day our guide asked if we wanted to see hippos, and of course we said yes! He promised us one hundred hippos, but we weren’t entirely sure to believe him or not. As usual, he delivered. The hippo pool was amazing, and it was also nice that we could get out to watch the animals. During the day they are in their pool but at night they come out and we could see their tracks. I wouldn’t want to face a hippo as they are quite deadly. Other groups came but only spent about 15 minutes while we were there for an hour or two.
Video below: A black-bellied bustard surveys its surroundings from atop a termite mound before heading off to the tall grass.
The northern Serengeti region was another confusing area to navigate but not as bad as the lower Serengeti. However, one evening as we were eating dinner in the dining tent, we could see headlights far away on the low rolling hills. The guides decided that it was a lost vehicle so one or two of them went out to find the vehicle and bring them into camp.
Mishaps can happen, and one day we had some vehicle issues but the guide managed to fix it in the middle of nowhere. On our drive out of the Serengeti, however, we came upon a less-fortunate vehicle. There were several police cars around it so our guide drove over and slowly past it. The vehicle was off the road and there was blood coming out of several windows. Our guide said that we had seen this vehicle just a few days before; we never did find out what happened to the occupants. Be sure to wear your seat belt!
Possibly our most exciting encounters were with leopards. Our guide convinced some other guides to all band together to go look for a leopard in a region where, as our guide put it, if you got stuck you might be there for days. We found the large leopard snoozing in a tree and took a few photos of it obscured in the branches. Once it opened its eyes and really started looking at us, our guide told us we had to go. He later explained that if the leopard had decided to go after us (we had the roof raised) we would all be dead in seconds. Other big cats are not a threat if we are in the vehicle, as lions will not go inside a vehicle. He once had a cheetah jump inside that he ended up petting to reassure his clients who had all scrambled into the back luggage area! Our second leopard in this region was on our last day headed south. I heard an alarm call (I think it was from a mongoose) and we stopped the vehicle, and only seconds later a leopard walked past in the grass, very close by. I barely had time to get the window open and my camera pointed. She was shorter than the grass, making her very hard to see. She finally jumped onto a log where we could get a better look and she could assess the prospect of bringing down a nearby gazelle.
Some Favorite Photos from Serengeti National Park
Click on any photo in the gallery below to enter a manual slideshow containing full images and descriptions and social sharing links. All photos by Barbara Swanson.