Despite my worst fears, I did actually wake up the next morning in a little tent in the Serengeti National Park - unscathed and totally alive.
I had heard some weird animal noises during the night, and I had slightly freaked out the few times I had to get up and go to the outhouse in the blackest night I've ever seen, but I made it. I wasn't mauled by hyenas, I wasn't spirited away in the middle of the night by hungry and opportunistic lions.
It was another early morning, rising at 6am and gathering my stuff. Today's order of business was to be a game drive through the Serengeti, making our way to Ngorongoro Crater where I was to make camp again that night.
I was popped off to another group entirely today - a bunch of young and friendly Dutch people. At first I think they thought I was a bit rude because I spent the first hour of the journey getting a bit more sleep, ignoring the start of the game drive. It was their first day on safari, and they were marveling at zebras and gazelles and couldn't quite understand why I was so nonchalant about it in comparison. Once I woke up a bit more I explained it was my tenth day on safari - I was dead tired from being on the go every day from early in the morning, hence the sleepiness, and I had seen hundreds of zebras and gazelles at this point. It seemed to make sense to them, and we spent the next while chatting about the places I had been and the animals I had seen. They were envious that I had seen Mt Kilimanjaro and had gotten to cycle through Hell's Gate, but were a little wary after I told them about how my previous group unknowingly peed in a bush not far from a roaming male lion. They were also a little jealous of my luxurious stay in Amboseli - a far cry from our tents and sleeping bags.
Our chatting ground to an abrupt halt, however, when we came upon a huge rock, said to be the inspiration for the famous Pride Rock featured in Disney movie The Lion King.
Sure enough, we found lions there - and lots of them. The rock was positively teaming with stealthy lionesses and their young cubs, some bathing in the morning light, some playing and roughhousing with each other. It was an amazing sight.
Driving cautiously around the back of Pride Rock, we caught an even more majestic sight - an enormous male lion, bulging with muscles, lay quietly in the shade, seemingly enjoying the solitude (he's the lion in the first photo of this post). Our presence was tolerated by him, though he watched us carefully and attentively every second we were there.
Thinking it best to leave him undisturbed, we drove slowly and quietly around the front of Pride Rock again, watching the playful cubs, before continuing our journey.
From that point onwards, it was a veritable feast of lions. I saw more lions that day than I had in all the previous days combined. The feast didn't wane once we got to Ngorongoro Crater, either. We saw just as many lions there, including a particularly majestic male.
Even had it been totally devoid of wildlife, Ngorongoro Crater would have been well worth the visit. The landscape there is amazing. The crater itself is the world's largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera. The crater, which formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself two to three million years ago, is 2,000 feet deep and its floor covers 260 square kilometres. Estimates of the height of the original volcano range from 14,800 to 19,000 feet high, which I found incredible.
Now the crater is home to all kinds of flora and fauna, and is popular with safari groups. We approached on the rim of the crater and descended to the bottom for a game drive, which is where we saw that majestic male lion, and then returned before dark to the rim of the crater to set up our camp.
As we entered the camp, we found a large herd of elephants there, milling around our tents. As with last night in the Serengeti, the camp was not surrounded by any sort of fence or wire. The animals were in charge here, and they could come and go as they pleased.
We set up more tents, threw our stuff inside, then gathered wood to make camp fires later.
By the time we finished it was dark, and we made our way to the only building in the area, a stone walled structure with a few folding chairs set up in the bare interior.
We ate rice and mystery meat and drank some Safari-brand beer and then migrated out to the now roaring campfire where we sang songs and told jokes and drank some more.
The astute reader will remember my situation from last night, where I was scared going to the bathroom at night - walking across the predator-filled Serengeti in the darkness to go pee in an outhouse. Would that situation repeat itself?
No, it would not.
I won't go into too much detail, but I essentially tracked down the right items that day to construct a makeshift she-wee for myself.
Now I could pee in the comfort of my own tent, and empty the bottle discreetly in the morning. No more outhouses for me!
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