It’s supposed to be the dry season, but it rained last night in Serengeti. The weather, like the world all over, has been strange here, confusing the animals and vegetation. However, it’s the perfect time of year to watch the great migration, as hundreds of thousands of wildebeest make their way from Tanzania to Kenya for greener pastures. I was lucky enough to see a herd a few thousand strong, headed slowly from Serengeti to Masai Mara.
Getting to the Serengeti was quite a mission, since it tailors poorly to backpackers who rock up and think there’s a cheap alternative to visiting the park. The better prepared tourists have planned their safari tour before they even arrived in Tanzania, and hiring a car for a day from outside the park gates will cost you a cool $450, payable only in US cash.
I was in Mwanza, a sort of gateway town to the Serengeti since its only 2 hours away, and also touristy since it sits on the shores of Lake Victoria. I took a local bus to the west gate, and stopped at a campsite there called Serengeti Stopover. The receptionist there quickly shone light on my ill-preparedness, but tried everything he could to help me. After two hours of discussing, making some important phone calls, and talking to another safari car already at Stopover, we had succeeded in the luckiest plan.
I would go with the 7 passenger range rover, claiming the last seat, for free because the other passengers had already paid for the car and the driver couldn’t ask me to pay more. Im not sure why they agreed; maybe they felt sorry for me, maybe they were curious to see what I’d do once inside the park, or perhaps they’d never met anyone from Iceland and wanted to seize the opportunity.
We took a leisurely 4 hour game-drive into the park, spotting huge herds of zebra, wildebeest, elephants and hippopotamuses. It was 145km to central rest camp, where I would meet Paolo, the park ranger Stopover arranged my park permit and accommodation with. All the camps and guesthouses were full, so I would stay at Seronera, the staff village. I did not even have to camp there, since they had running water and electricity to all the houses, and I stayed in one of the nicest rooms I had seen in East Africa, complete with a hot shower. The next morning I went out into the village to wait for my bus back out of the park, the staff bus which costs $12 per person, payable only in Tanzanian shillings.
A bird managed to poop on my computer screen as I typed under a shady tree waiting. People lazed around the unfenced camp, and others waiting for the bus sat on their suitcases. Chickens waiting to be slaughtered gobbled in the heat, tied up an unable to move. I was sitting watching a bunch of vervet monkeys play a few metres from me, migrating between the ground, the trees and the roof of the restaurant. I saw an adult steal two tomatoes thru the tiniest crack in the door of the kitchen, and he managed to run back up the tree with one hand full back to the roof without anyone but me noticing. Unfortunately, he got a little clumsy as he greedily started eating the first, so the second tomato slowly rolled down the slanted roof to drop on the floor infront of the shopkeeper. This caused the three women of the house to start waving sticks, brooms and chucking rocks at the monkey on the roof as they taunted him with the lost tomato in a fist shaking hand.
It was hard to believe I was still in Serengeti park, as routine life carried on in Seronera exactly as it does in all the other villages I had seen.