Friday, May 24, 2013

Test Flights in the Mighty Serengeti

It’s been an adventurous four weeks touring the Serengeti National Park.  My safari (journey in Kiswahili) started out as we made our way from Tarangire National park, passed by Lake Manyara National Park and headed towards the amazing Ngorongoro Crater.  This was my first visit to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, I was very excited to be crossing this one off the ole bucket list. 

The entire drive through the Conservation Area was breathtaking.  We passed through the lush green forest, climbing our way to the top of the crater - a whopping 7700 feet above sea level.  The anticipation kept growing as I wondered what was around each bend. Finally we reach the lookout point and I hopped out of the safari vehicle.  The area is being re-built and we weren’t supposed to walk on it but I could not help it, I wanted to get as close as I could to edge of the crater.  After a few Kodak moments we drove along to the other look out point where I sat for a bit and marveled at my view.  The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest caldera in the world and is a must see if coming to Tanzania. The animals and the Massai live all along the crater rim and surrounding hills and valleys, in peace.

We continued onwards to Central Serengeti where Mada Hotels is building their new lodge and balloon operation.  Adventures Aloft is now offering hot air balloon rides in two new locations in the Serengeti.  Togoro Plains is located in the Central part of the Serengeti near Lobo area. The second base will be situated in Kogatende which is right on the Mara River, both locations are great for viewing the Great Migration, a once and a life time experience to view from a balloon.

Moses started his test flights as soon as we arrived, it was exciting being the first to be in a balloon over this part of the park.  It was great to be waking up with the sun again every morning.  We had a lot of fun and quite a few adventures, checking out new sites for launching,  doing the flight to see how the site worked out and hoping that the crew would find us!  After a few tries  Moses found the perfect launching site but the search continues as he works on making new roads through the thick bush, so the chase crew can get to the balloon once it lands.  A few more adventures and we’ll be moving on to the next balloon site to start test flights over the Mara River! I’m really looking forward to seeing more hippos and crocs!

The Serengeti National park is famous for the annual Great Migration of Wildebeest and Zebra, as they roam the land searching for greener grasses.  Currently the hoofed friends are making their way from the south portion of the Serengeti where they had been hanging out while their calves were born. The wildebeest head north towards Kenya and typically reach the Mara River near mid or the end of July. Over 2 million wildebeest migrate annually, this is an amazing site to see!

Of course with all of the gnu on the move the cats are right behind them.  I’ve seen many lions living in Tarangire and the Masai Mara  but in the Serengeti they seem to be everywhere I look.  We have one pride of lions that live fairly close to the camp. Just the other day they decided that they wanted to hang out with us and spent the night at camp. One of these small cubs spent the night just 15 feet from our deck.

Having spent a considerable amount of time living in the African woods  I’m quite adjusted to the adventures that go along with bush life.  It’s been neat to watch the camp as it’s being built, so much hard work and co-ordination goes into making sure the camp gets built on time. Just think of the  many miles in which all the supplies and materials travel to reach Togoro Plains. I’m thankful for the shipment of water which is delivered every two days so I can enjoy a nice hot shower everyday! 

I hope you enjoy a few more of my favorite photos from the Sergengeti National Park. There will be many more great photos to come as we will spend the majority of our time this year in the Mighty Serengeti!

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