What an amazing surprise
03.11.2018 - 03.11.2018
Last night Malisa asked us if we wanted to eat our lunch today as a picnic in the crater or go back to Ang'Ata camp for it. We chose the former. As it turns out, the timing means we end up going to back to Ang'Ata, to have our picnic lunch under a tree near the lounge. It works out well as we have to go back to collect something we forgot anyway, and thankfully the camp is not far out of the way.
It looks very different in the daylight
When we arrive a number of zebra are roaming around the grounds of the camp.
Ngorongoro Headquarters Tourism Office
After lunch we continue to the Park HQ to pick up our permit for the next chapter in our adventure: Serengeti National park. Modern technology has simplified this process, and Malisa just pops into the office and comes back almost immediately with the all-important paperwork.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
We make our way from the crater to the entrance gate to Serengeti National Park, through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Greater Spotted Eagle
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area does not have the same protected status as national parks do, which means wildlife share the space with Maasai tribesmen and their cattle, goats and sheep. There are no boundaries around the parks, so the wild (and sometimes domestic) animals wander between them freely, at times causing conflict between man and beast.
We are on a much faster main road, which means vehicles kick up a great deal more fine particles of sand and grit. Large trucks are sent out with water to dampen down the roads to try and control the amount of dust in the air. Unfortunately, in this heat the effect doesn't last long.
Black Breasted Snake Eagle
It's unusual to see one so close to the road and so bold even when we stop the car to photograph it.
Also known as kongoni, the hartebeest is a sociable animal often found in small herds. Despite its clumsy-looking appearance, it is one of the fastest antelopes and most enduring runners, which is just as well as it is a popular animal among hunters. Hartebeest means 'tough ox'.
Seronera Hippo Pool
We stop at a small pond filled with hippos and a plethora of bird life.
Yellow Billed Stork
Terek's Sandpiper, Greenshanks, Common Sandpiper
Black Winged Stilt
Black Headed Heron
There are even a couple of Nile Crocodiles lurking in one corner.
A mother hippo with a young baby also discovers the crocs and immediately pushes her baby out of harms way and chases off the crocodiles.
Time is moving on, it is now just after 18:00 and the light is fading fast. According to the park rules, driving is not permitted after dark and as we still have some distance to go to our camp for the night, we have to get a move-on.
Cape Buffalo in the very insipid sunset
The sunset does get better, however.
When we arrive at the sign for the Ole Serai Luxury Camp, I can finally share the information that I had been sworn to secrecy about a few weeks ago: Tillya has yet again upgraded our accommodation.
We see a sprinkling of lights in the distance and can just about make out the outline of the tents.
We receive a very warm welcome when we pull up in the car, with drinks and wet flannels meeting us while the porters unload the car, and, like in Ang'Ata Nyeti, staff introduce themselves one by one and use our names thereafter. The atmosphere is upmarket but relaxed as we are given the customary security briefing, and while the reception area is very comfortable, all I want to do is get to my tent and have a shower.
As the askari (security escort) walks us to our home for the next three nights, we see lightning on the horizon and hear the roar of a lion, appearing to come from somewhere rather too close for comfort.
And then we arrive at the 'tent'. There is only one word to describe this accommodation made from canvas (tent is glaringly inadequate): "WOW". Wide steps lead on to a concrete platform where we find a couple of normal seats and an egg-shaped hanging wicker chair. As it is almost pitch black by now, photography outside is too challenging for me to want to contemplate (it would mean either setting up a tripod for a long exposure or using a flashgun; but both options would involve calling for the askari to return as venturing outside the tent after dark on your own can be dangerous with wild animals around - especially as we can still hear that lion!)
Larger flaps are opened up to reveal the interior, and it is like stepping into an opulent city flat. Wow again. Immediately inside the 'door' is a seating area consisting of two large comfortable armchairs and a coffee table, behind which is the enormous double bed. While technically made of canvas, every single wall has 'curtains' that pull aside revealing insect-proof netting, allowing a 360° view during daylight hours. Tonight, however, the staff come along and make sure everything is geared to privacy.
To the right as we enter is the toilet and dressing area, with antique mirrors, modern basin and a good selection of teas and coffees.
On the opposite side is the shower, fronted by an area with a writing desk, hanging space and a trouser press.
The room, however, is dominated by a huge double bed, while lighting is provided by a number of lamps, including a safari-inspired chandelier. Obviously.
Feeling suitably refreshed after removing a thick layer of Tanzanian dust from our bodies, we head for what turns out to be a fabulous dinner with incredible service. Ole Serai is only a small place, and tonight there is just one other couple staying. Once I get a glass or two of the local wine inside me, I forget all about taking any more photos of the evening. Sorry. All I can say is that the food is superb!
When we return to the room after dinner, we find the staff have been in to perform a turn-back-service, leaving a chocolate on each pillow.
I cannot thank Calabash Adventures enough for everything they have arranged for us on this trip and on others, including all the little details that make for such and unforgettable adventure.