|Saturday 18th August - Tanzania - Karatu
It took about 2 hours driving this morning to get to the Serengeti exit gate. The plains stretch as far as the eye can see in all directions - it is a very impressive sight. As we neared the gate, we drove past a number of rocky tors just the sort of thing that the Lion King would sit on. We saw the usual animals giraffes, gazelles, zebras, wildebeests and we also saw a couple of hyenas. It appeared to us that one of the hyenas had just given birth a little, slimy hyena struggled to get to his feet beside the road. In the ugly-stakes it is a close-call between warthog, hyena and wildebeest, even the babies arent cute! We had entered the park at 11.30am yesterday and so we had to leave by 11.30am today the price we paid was for 24 hours.
Leaving the Serengeti, our feeling was that it was overpriced. It is certainly an amazing place and at other times of year there would be many more animals around, but at this time of year there is a lot more to see in the Masai Mara. The sheer size of the Serengeti makes it very difficult to appreciate in a single day but, because it costs so much, many people (like us) try to squeeze it into as short a time as possible.
If you think the Serengeti is an expensive way to spend a day, wait till you hear how much Ngorongoro Crater costs. We knew it was expensive, but it actually cost even more than wed expected. $50 per person park entrance fee (for adults only), $40 park entrance fee for the vehicle and $200 crater entrance fee for the vehicle. In total that meant we spent a whopping $390!!
To be honest we felt it was a total rip-off. There is no doubt that the crater is an amazing geographic feature a soup-bowl of enormous proportions - and it is possible to see a lot of animals in a relatively small area in the crater, but we had a better time, saw much more and paid much less in the Masai Mara and Samburu.
One of the problems was to do with timing. Although we spent the whole day driving, we only spent a couple of hours in the crater itself. We arrived at the entrance gate to the Ngorongoro National Park at about 11am. We paid our fees, had an early picnic lunch and then drove into the park. The roads in the park are very bad and rough, much worse than on the Serengeti side. (The car suffered a similar electrical problem to the one wed had on the road to Isiolo in Kenya a dodgy wire in the ignition circuit. Unlike the previous episode Andrew decided not to turn the ignition off until we reached our evening camping spot.) It took a couple of hours of driving to get to the crater rim, where there is another gate. To our surprise, we were refused entry at this gate because we didnt have an official guide with us. We pointed out that there was no space in the car for anyone else, but the official insisted that we drove to the park headquarters to get permission to proceed. We did as instructed, got permission and returned to the crater entrance gate - this meant a round trip of an hour. It was now about 3pm and the exit gates from the park close at 6pm. We thought we should give ourselves an hour to get up to the exit gate from the crater so we were left with about 2 hours in the crater.
There is a big lake in the crater and it is very beautiful. We drove around the edge of the lake and saw flamingos, hippos, crowned cranes, wildebeest, warthogs, zebra and gazelles. In our last half hour in the crater we joined a dozen other vehicles full of people all straining to catch a glimpse of a distant rhino. We did see him. through the binoculars very far away obscured by trees.
It was then time to drive out of the crater, on the other side from where we had entered it. At one point on the road we realised that we were driving along a very narrow crater rim on our right a sheer drop down into the crater, on our left a sheer drop out to the rest of the world. We drove to the nearby town of Karatu and booked into the Ngorongoro Camp, a very good, clean place to spend the night. Andrew & Alasdair replaced the dodgy wire in the ignition circuit and everything appeared to be OK.
So our conclusions about the last couple of days? We dont regret going to Serengeti and Ngorongoro. I suppose it was worth doing since we were here, but the fees are ridiculous and these parks are really not worth that much more than other parks.