When you live on the doorstep of paradise you get the opportunity from time to time to slip away from the bustle of Arusha and get into the bush and enjoy it without the pressure of delivering great animal sightings for your clients. Ethan Kinsey a friend and fellow guide organized a weekend away to some of the less travelled areas of the Serengeti ecosystem.
Besides heading out into to the bush to have a great time, it is important to explore new areas that are off the beaten track to get an idea of what is on offer out there. We left Arusha on Friday morning and set off for Piyaya camp in Loliondo, a game controlled area bordering the Serengeti National Park and forming part of the greater Serengeti ecosystem. It is quite a drive and we took it slowly enjoying every aspect of it. We stopped frequently to photograph game, birds or simply the view. The first great sighting was a hanang hornless chameleon. This chameleon is endemic to Ngorongoro Highlands.

Leaving the highlands we dropped down onto the plains and stopped for lunch in the world famous Oldevai Gorge the so called cradle of mankind where the Leakey’s spent years uncovering fossils of man’s descendents.
From the gorge we continued heading north and onto the plains which at this time of year are green and inhabited by thousands upon thousands of wildebeest. We made another short stop at an impressive landmark, Nasera Rock, a huge monolith that rises a hundred meters from the edge of the plain. This site was an important refuge for early hunter gathers, evidence in the way of bones and stone tools have been found here. We found evidence of recent leopard activity coming across a wildebeest calf hoisted into an Acacia. We didn’t see the leopard which was no doubt nearby concealed in the long grass
On one of our frequent stops we were observed by a pair of Verreaux’s eagle owls perched in a Ficus, one of the very few trees for miles around. On another we spotted a barn owl resting in a small cave.
Our final stop was unscheduled; the heavy land cruiser slumped into a hole as we crossed a small stream taking a short cut to the camp. We dug and pushed, trying every trick in the book before finally we were able to winch ourselves out by using a spare tire and the jack as an anchor with which to winch ourselves out on. Our joy was short lived, Ethan made every effort to gun it through the wet ground but we bogged down again. A recovery team was sent out from camp, only to get stuck themselves. We packed it in and went in to camp deciding to come out first thing in the morning to recover both vehicles.

We had some great game viewing over the course of the next two days including twenty two aardwolves, which is incredible. This eclipsed the total number of this shy hyena specie that I have seen in my life. We also had a great sighting of a male cheetah which entertained us by chasing after a wildebeest calf and then attempting a Thompson’s gazelle lamb. He was unfortunately unsuccessful in both attempts.

We were really well looked after at Piyaya which is a small mobile camp, rustic and uncomplicated capturing the real essence of being out on safari. On departure we took a packed lunch and set off unhurriedly for Ndutu planning to get there in the late afternoon. We meandered through empty plains; empty of other vehicles that is, it was truly a pleasure to be out in this wilderness alone.

We visited a fossil bed in the shadow of the Gol Mountain Range that Ethan knew of. Walking around the dry river bed it didn’t take a trained eye or much searching to find fossilized bone fragments littering the ground. It felt really special to hold a piece of pre-history in ones hand.
On several occasions we came across Maasai going about their business. If one wasn’t sitting in a comfortable land cruiser you would think that you had stepped back in time.

We arrived at Ndutu and Olakira mobile camp in the late afternoon. We washed down the dust with a cold beer and headed out again for a game drive. Lake Ndutu was looking as beautiful as ever and hundreds of white and Abdim’s storks lined the banks. We had a brief sighting of a small pride of lions including three small cubs just before it got dark and we had to head back to camp.
On our day of departure we took a packed breakfast and lunch with us so we could maximize our time out in the bush before returning to Arusha. Just before lunch we had an absolutely incredible sighting of thousands of wildebeests and a handful of zebras galloping through the shallow waters of Lake Ndutu. It was truly a rare and memorable sighting and the perfect ending to a wonderful weekend.

Thanks to Ethan Kinsey for organizing a great trip.
Nick Bester


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