Friday, July 27, 2012

Self Drive Safari Part I: Ngorongoro Crater

After a few days rest in Arusha, post Kilimanjaro, we set off to do some safari, first in the Ngorongoro Crater and then Serengeti National Park. We had high expectations of both and knew with these expectations we would be paying a high price to see them.

We received a lot of different bits of information on park entry, the process, cost, etc., and so I have provided these details to hopefully help others doing self-drive into both parks; we did encounter problems which I won’t go into here, but the problems did result in a return trip to Arusha and a day delay, so please read the information provided. At the time of writing I promise it to be 100% correct.
Looking down into the crater

We arrived quite late into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area as to ensure our 24 hour pass would be valid until late the following day, allowing us time to see the crater and then get to the Serengeti park gate.

At our camp site we were instructed to get written permission from the Head Park Ranger to enter the crater without a guide (a good tip) to avoid problems the next day. It was a bit of a hassle, but we were successful and I’m glad we were told to do it. It also meant that we were able to see our first lion; a male lion sitting calmly on the side of the road, approximately 300m before our campsite, Simba A.

We came across this guy on the road, around 300m from our camp; pretty cool right?
Although he did have us closely monitoring our surrounds while eating dinner 

Seeing the lion was very cool until we arrived in our campsite; told to camp in an area that was away from the overland groups and on our own we were left wondering what else was out there as it started to get dark. This was not helped when we were eating dinner and saw two glowing eyes watching us from afar; let’s just say we finished dinner fast to get into our roof tent.

The following morning we set the alarm for a 5:45am get up, only to both go back to sleep for another hour! Angry at ourselves we rushed to get on the road as quickly as possible, feeling better when we saw the fog going into the crater.

The descent into the crater was steep, but not that steep. Certainly no worries in any 4x4 vehicle.

Heading into the crater

Inside the crater we saw our first lions in around 15 minutes and there was certainly no shortage of lions for the entire time we were in there.

And cat success only 15 minutes in! Yay!!
Looking out across the crater; loving the rays of sun in this pic

The crater was pretty good for animal viewing and we saw lots of wildebeest, zebra and lions and a few elephant. However I’m still a little unsure if the viewing really equals the price they are charging. I would say not but it’s very much an individual thing.

Zebra and wildebeest everywhere!!
Wildebeest: Not really a pretty animal
Zebra enjoying a got head and body rub
They were really loving that rock!
One of Mike's photos....just beautiful!
Pink Flamingos as far as the eye can see
More Zebra.....
Spotted Hyena in the distance
Such a strange looking animal but I think that's why I like them so much
These lions were just taking it easy, for once minus the million cars
Certainly one of the biggest disappointments was the disregard for the rules by the various tour companies; while we were expected to follow them religiously, they did not, and often this was to the detriment of the animal’s well-being. At one kill there were approximately 20 vehicles and we struggled to get past them as we attempted to exit the crater.

The circus comes to Ngorongoro Crater! Do you think these tour companies are
following park rules (like we have to?)!

The circus: We were actually just trying to get out of the crater but as you can
see the road was a tad crowded. Hmmm, this looks a few more than five vehicles
And the cause of all of the commotion; poor lion :-(

After a morning of animal viewing we left the crater at around 12:30pm, stopping for a quick lunch on the crater rim before heading towards Serengeti on what was the worst road we’ve driven on.

Looking back onto the crater

The road from the crater to Serengeti is suspension breaking; as we were driving our own car and not someone else’s (insert sarcasm) so we went very slow, an average speed of around 30kmph. Often the rear of the vehicle would slide out on the very large corrugations, despite our slow speed, so I’d assume the tour company cars going twice our speed would have little control over the vehicles if they were to suddenly require it, but I digress…

We did eventually make it to the Serengeti gate after 3.5hours where the road began to improve and we could double our speed. But the damage was done (although we didn’t realise it) with three of the bolts on our right hand hub actually snapping from the vibrations. Another self-drive vehicle we later spoke to actually melted a shock. Not the road one would expect when they’ve just paid $400 for 24 hours in the conservation area.

Damaged hub
Anyway, we were just happy to finally be in Serengeti!


  1. Great blog, it would be great to add your site to OverlandSphere, just let us know or register directly on the site.

    Safe Travels

    Martin & Nicole

    1. Hi and thanks for the positive feedback. I have registered my blog directly on the OverlandSphere website. What a great source of information and stories!!