You know that saying – “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”? Well… on days like the second day of my East Africa tour with Nomad Adventure Tours, I could completely disagree with it. I could not get to our destination quick enough! We were going to the freakin’ Serengeti, baby!
I woke up before my alarm – in the darkness of the morning hours. After two weeks of being on the Masai Mara and Gorillas Tour, I seemed to now lack the ability to stay asleep later than 6:30am. I took the opportunity to have a cold shower, and double check my ‘daypack’ – which carried a change of clothes, a few pairs of underwear, toiletries, and my camera gear – basically enough to see me through the next 4 days till we would be reunited with Junior and the rest of our personal belongings. Nyika and Sandile would be staying back with the truck, while this new Nomad Adventure Tours family of mine would be heading into the Serengeti to explore the best of Africa’s crown jewel of national parks.
Breakfast was served around 7:30 – breakfast sausages, scrambled eggs, toast, and hot tea and coffee. Once we finished eating, we packed up our daypacks into the 3 separate safari vehicles (Toyota LandCruisers with more km’s clocked than all the cars I’ve ever owned, combined). Before long, we set off to start our 350km journey into the Serengeti.
We made a quick stop at the Maasai Cultural Museum – essentially a museum that we were guided through by a man named Jonathan – clad in his best Masai robes. He explained to the group all the things that I learned about during my visit with the Kenyan Masai Tribe on the first day of my Masai Mara & Gorillas Tour the previous month. Most of the travellers on this tour didn’t have the same insights that I did and found the information fascinating – and at times horrifying (ie. the fact that both male and female circumcision are considered cultural rites of passage).
It was sobering for everyone, to say the least.
We spent the next half hour looking in the snake park that lay adjacent to the Masai Village Cultural Center – black mambas, green mambas, puff adders and black spitting cobras (amongst others) slithered lazily around their enclosures. A yellow baboon captured our hearts as she came up to the fence, stuck her small hand through and shook our hands as we watched at her with big smiles upon our faces.
Eventually it was time for us on the East Africa Tour to leave and make our way to the Serengeti. It was to be a long, long drive. Not 5km down the road, however, the LandCruiser I was in suddenly got a flat tire. It was my first flat in Africa! We all got out, and a few of the boys tried to help Abraham put the spare tire on. As we sat there on the side of the roadside, the other two LandCruisers pulled over to try to see if they could also be of any assistance – and also to make sure our groups stayed together during our long drive. This was when we noticed diesel leaking from one of the other vehicles. Not a good start. The driver tried to ensure us that it was only leaking because it was overfilled. None of us bought it.
We continued along the only road we saw for hours. There was nothing but wide-open green fields and the odd small village with its townspeople milling about. I spent the time chatting with Michel (the Belgian) and Marije (the Dutch girl) about pretty much everything under the sun.
The three vehicles made 2 stops before we reached the large entry gates to the Ngorongoro Crater area– one stop was for lunch, the other was at a lookout point overlooking Lake Manyara (a place known for its rich diversity of animal and bird species). Our next important stop was at the Ngorongoro Crater lookout. The moment I reached the edge and looked at the vast expanse below – I understood where Disney’s animators got their inspiration for The Lion King! It was surreal.
However, in the time we were able to get a few snapshots (which was about 8minutes flat), an enormous cloud came barreling in – creating white-out conditions! We couldn’t see 3 feet in front of us! Our drivers insisted that we get back in the vehicles and continue on our way to the Serengeti. I had overwhelming flashbacks to the drive to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to go gorilla trekking – so just as I had then- I squeezed my eyes shut (in terror) and let the uneven ground rock me to sleep.
The rest of the afternoon was basically a combination of me drifting in and out of consciousness, chatting with the others, and staring out the window at the incredible terrain.
“Hey… uh… Abraham… can we stop for a bathroom break?” I asked after about 2hours.
“Yeah! I need one too!” Marije squeaked in her Dutch accent.
Abraham stopped the vehicle and I could not open the door fast enough. Marije and I ran together about 100m from the LandCruiser, looking for any shrub that may give us enough coverage from any potential peeping Toms (cause there are so many of those en route to the Serengeti!). As you learn to do, while on any African overland tour, you become very friendly with your tourmates, and as Marije and I squatted next to each other behind a tiny shrub, relieving our overfilled bladders – I knew this was going to be the beginning of a hilarious and wonderful “pee-mate friendship.”
We ran back to the LandCruiser, and once again were back on the road. A half hour later we had finally made it to the official entry gate to Serengeti National Park! However, now we had a new challenge on our hands – it was growing close to sunset and we still had to get to the Nyani Campsite. It was also at this point that we met up with the other two LandCruisers so together we would navigate our way to our campsite.
As we drove down the dirt path, darkness took over and it was a race to try to get to the campsite. As the LandCruiser motored along, I gasped in horror as two giraffes appeared out of nowhere, and seemed to run-in-slow-motion mere inches from the front of our vehicle (which was moving fairly fast). Luckily, the giraffes escaped unscathed.
Thankfully, it wasn’t too long of a wait until our dinner was ready. We convened in the campsite’s mess hall and enjoyed a beef stew and salad with avocado. Now that we were actually there – the excitement was definitely building amongst my Nomad Adventure Tours group. After our bellies were full, and the Serengeti Experience staff had come to collect our dishes and let us know that the following morning we wouldn’t have an obscenely early wake up time.
I eventually made my way to the tent that I was sharing with my high school friend, Giancarlo, tucked myself into my sleeping bag and quickly fell asleep – excited for all that tomorrow was going to bring!
Start reading about my experience on the East Africa tour from the beginning! Click HERE for Day 1
**DISCLAIMER: While Nomad Adventure Tours asked me to partake in this tour and did provide me with a discounted tour price, all expressed thoughts, opinions and experiences remain my own.**
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