African Overland Tour: Safari-ing The Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater


Welcome to our exclusive ongoing review of Absolute Africa’s The Big Six African Overland Tour, if you like reading about us looking at animals, joking around on a truck, and drinking interesting local spirits of East Africa, then you will find additional chapters of our 52-day journey at the end of this post. If you like THOSE posts, then maybe you want to read some stories about our adventures in Europe (or if you’re reading this in the future - Asia, India, and South America), and you can find those all throughout the site. And if you like THOSE posts (And you’re either a relative of mine or a huge fan), then maybe you should share them on some social media sites. If you don’t like this, and you hate social media, and you also hate the Carolina Panthers, then I’m surprised you’ve gotten to the end of even this introductory paragraph. Bounce rates aside, let’s get on with this thing, because we’ve got some animals to see!

After leaving Kigali, we crossed the border into Tanzania, and after a couple of extremely long driving days (when I say long driving days, I mean leaving at 6 AM and arriving at 6 PM for two straight days), we reached a beautiful camp on the shores of Lake Victoria in a town called Mwanza and had a spectacular dinner. These days were some of our least favorite on the entire trip, as we were literally leaving camp in the dark and arriving in the dark. They were long days filled with naps, podcasts, and conversations about what constitutes the difference between a sweeping brush and a broom. These were the days when you really cemented friendships (or rivalries) with others on the truck, and the reality is that when you want to do the amount of things we were able to do for the cost that we’d paid, the long travel days and early wakeup calls are the price you have to pay.  

Being on a truck for twelve-thirteen hours for a few days and paying thousands of dollars less whilst having some of the best experiences of your lives that many people will never get to do and forging lifelong friendships > Paying thousands more and always being air conditioned and entertained all the god damn time. Free wifi on your truck is not worth double the price. Shots fired, GAdventures.

I’ll summarize those days with some pictures:

After a lovely stay on the shores of Lake Victoria, we forged ahead to Grumeti Camp, on the edge of the Serengeti, where we had the opportunity to do a night safari ($50/pp), which is not available in most of Africa due to safety issues. Obviously, most of the truckies chose to indulge, and we piled into Jeeps at 9PM, where we rode into the wilderness with a spotlight and a dream to see lions eating something. SPOILER ALERT: We did not see lions, but we did see giraffes (running!), aardvarks (which are apparently hard to spot), chameleons (one of which our guide pulled out of the tree and passed around to us), hyenas, bushbabys, and zebras. Just the feeling of driving through the darkness, peering out for glints of faraway eyes and wondering what animal they belonged to and worrying when the spotlight was shined away from our side of the Jeep, because lions and buffalo could have been directly beside us at anytime was truly another once-in-a-lifetime experience in a trip full of them.

When on safari game drives in Africa, other drivers will pull up to your truck and have a chat (usually in Swahili) with your driver to let them know what they’ve found throughout the park. When we first entered the Serengeti the next morning, one of these chats happened, and our driver Angelo tore down the road after hearing what was in the middle of the park. We had a buzzer that we would ring when we wanted to stop for pictures of wildlife, and on previous game drives, Angelo would wait until we buzzed again to move. This morning he didn’t wait for us to buzz again, speeding off after only a few moments of waiting, as if he was on a mission. And he certainly was. Because as we approached a tree next to the road, we saw multiple trucks examining what we would spend the next hour watching. Next to the road was an entire pride of lions less than ten feet from our truck, lounging in the sun and occasionally standing up to a chorus of oohs and ahhs. Making eye contact with lions from such a close distance was certainly a feeling none of us will ever forget.

Also, peeing in the middle of the Serengeti was pretty sweet too.

Oh, and if you were wondering how many days it took us to complete the Big Five on safari, cross it off the list on Day 23. Here’s my sweet pic of the leopard we saw. It was far away.

That night we camped in the middle of the Serengeti. When I mean the middle, I mean there were buffalo and zebra a stone’s throw from our tent. Another warning from Derek not to come out of our tent in the middle of the night unless we wanted to die, another beautiful sunset, and we were out. 

The next morning we woke up for a quick game drive in the Park on our way out, and OF COURSE we saw another pride of lions eating a huge buffalo carcass, intermittently catching some shade in between the trucks which had lined up to see the feeding. I’m honestly not sure if we were the luckiest group in the world, or if Africa is just that awesome. I’ll assume Africa is just that awesome. 

We drove that night to the edge of the Ngorongorogororgorogoro (spelling approximate) Crater, where we fell asleep in our tents to the sounds of zebras eating grass beside us.

Another early start (do you sense a theme? The days starts early and last longer when you’re trying to catch up with wildlife) and we headed down into the Ngorongroorororoor (spelling approximate) Crater, the largest intact volcanic caldera (a collapsed volcano) in the world. It’s almost 4,000 feet deep, and is filled with wildlife, when the between 14,000 and 19,000 foot volcano collapsed in on itself, it basically created Noah’s Ark in the middle of the Serengeti, trapping (kind of) hundreds of species of animals in a wide valley. While this was absolutely the most beautiful setting for a safari on our entire trip, it wasn’t our favorite. 

Maybe it was the fact that we had just seen lions eating the day before, or we had just been in the truck A LOT the last few days, but the sight of herds of zebras and wildebeest wasn’t doing it for us. If you check out our Facebook page, you can check out a live video we posted from there. And if you like safari pics and vids, there are plenty more where that came from on our Facebook page (PLUGS). Obviously, if you’re vacationing in Tanzania, Ngoronogogogogogoroorororoogogo (spelling approximate) Crater is can’t miss, and we loved our time there. For some of us, it was too much to handle. 

After three days of straight safari-ing, we climbed back onto the truck for two more long drives to Dar Es Salaam, where we were soon to board a ferry to Zanzibar AKA Paradise.