If I listed all of the things I dreamed of when I wanted to visit Africa – lions, leopards, elephants, unforgettable sunsets, hot weather, and something as far from England as humanly possible – I would essentially be describing the things we experienced during just three days in the Serengeti. Your almost impossibly real image of Africa? It’s real. It’s in Tanzania.
I understand that there is, of course, a huge degree of luck involved in any safari experience. And I feel like I should in some way make a disclaimer that we got really fucking lucky. We met people from other groups and tours that hadn’t seen half of the things we had seen in a day, during half a week out there.
It also, however, comes down to your attitude. All seven of us entered our jeep excited to see anything. And I think that truly is the best way to go. We also had a pretty excellent driver, Jimmy, who seemed to have an instinctual knowledge of the national park like it was his own back yard.
Before we had even entered the park however, we were welcomed by something I hadn’t even imagined we would see, let alone see right in front of us, on the road and holding up traffic.
Right before us, were two lions mating. And they were going for it. Apparently it was lion mating season in the Serengeti and – fun fact: they fuck every five minutes for two whole weeks.
As if just to prove this fact, once they had finished, they wandered around to the back of us, where they gave it another go before disappearing into the brush. 10/10 for stamina.
Despite this incredible start to the three-day adventure, this did not quench our excitement for a glimpse at impala grazing between the trees, or giraffes scooping up leaves with their endless tongues, or a real life zebra crossing as we continued towards the park.
We were supposed to go on a game drive around the Serengeti NP that afternoon, but our ‘game drive’ quickly became a mild near death experience as we got caught up in an African storm.
I don’t really know how to explain the storm other than to say the sky looked genuinely apocalyptic as it charged towards us. Even in our jeep, we couldn’t outrun it and very soon, the clouds were charcoal and the ground had become a sloshy muddy death trap.
As our jeep slipped and slid over the road, its very loose suspension throwing the eight of us around, we could hardly stop laughing. I flew straight into Olivia in front of me and Wally swung on the ‘holy shit’ handle, seeming to be holding on for dear life. It was basically an African rollercoaster; a shit tonne of fun right up until the entire jeep span, tipped onto two wheels and – with some expert driving from Jimmy – skidded off of the path.
Relieved to have all four wheels back on the ground, we all cheered Jimmy on for not letting us die and we laughed endlessly about the whole thing – right up until, suddenly, peering through the slanting rain John asks “where did the road go..?” and we realise we are pretty much completely lost in the middle of the Serengeti.
Jimmy went very quiet at this point.
Then, we’re not only skidding across one of the most famous national parks in Africa, we’re skidding through it completely off road with very little idea of where the hell we were. Everyone went quiet until Ella squeaked, “Guys, I think I’m gonna bushy bushy in my pants.”
After about half an hour of half shitting ourselves, half having the time of our lives, Jimmy relocated the road and we made it to the campsite with the rest of the group.
The next morning we got up early for a game drive, with a lot less rain and a lot more animal spotting. It was just me, Em, Wally, John and Jimmy as the three other girls took the amazing opportunity to ride a hot air balloon over the park.
That whole day was spent driving was around the Serengeti, with an interval trip to a Maasai village in the afternoon, before another early start the next day to take a game drive in the Ngorongoro Crater, which was absolutely beautiful. There really is no better feeling than standing in a jeep, flying past breathtaking scenery spotting wild animals with friends you’ve only known three days and you feel like you’ve known forever.
We saw so many things that day, I’m still trying to convince myself it was all real and not just from a video in biology class, narrated by David Attenborough. After the lions the day before, we saw several other couples putting the ‘every five minutes’ theory to the test – if it wasn’t every five minutes, it was pretty damn close. We were so fortunate with lions that day, even watching a pride of female lions hunting, and one lone lioness attempt to attack a hippo – didn’t work out for the lion so well.
In the Serengeti National Park, a leopard strolled right past us, entirely unbothered by the people hanging out of the roofs of their jeeps. The leopards are my favourite animals we’ve seen – their beauty and elegance commands respect from everyone around them, and their coats glimmer in the sun like they’re dusted with gold. Much better than watching it in bio class.
The park and conservation area were so good to us, and I can’t recommend that you visit enough, there isn’t much better than seeing a family of elephants in the wild, or understanding your own fragility as you look into the face of a lion, or the realisation that mother nature is so much more powerful than you could ever hope to be.
Good to know:
- The Jeeps you go through the park and conservation area in are bumpy as fuck. Personally, I think this just made the whole thing even more fun, but people with boobs – you will want a good quality sports bra, FYI.
- Definitely take a hat and sunglasses with you – chances are you will be spending a lot of time with your head and face in direct sunlight, plus the sunglasses double up as protection from the dust assaulting you as you hang out of the window on the look-out.
- Obviously, me and Em did this with an organised group as part of a trip that was predominantly camping – you don’t have to do it that way, though I do genuinely believe it enhances the authenticity of the experience enormously. However, in comparison to a lot of the other campsites we used, the ones in the National Park were very basic. A freezing cold shower at 4 in the morning is just part of the adventure though, right?
- Don’t go in with too many expectations. You’re in Africa. Maybe you wont see a dramatic chase or a big kill, but I promise just being there is wonderful in itself.
- Know your seasons – we obviously just got lucky with lion mating season, and October is the beginning of rainy season there so the storm was not a surprise, but if you research the time of year you go out you’re obviously going to be a lot more prepared for what to expect.
Please do let us know in the comments if you’ve been to the Serengeti and what you saw, I would love to hear all about it! And I have had a couple of people messaging with questions, so please do feel free to ask away – I’m more than happy to offer whatever advice we have!
K & M