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Only some are locals!post-47216-0-32177100-1444008419_thumb.jpgpost-47216-0-01032200-1444008434_thumb.jpg

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@@KaliCA, you are not selling me on the benefits of self-driving, but I am loving the adventure. My hand blew up like a balloon from a couple of tsetse bites, couldn't stop scratching you see, my husband, much more disciplined, had no problems. Looking forward to the next chapter/drama.

I hope it is clear that I'm not trying to sell self-drive anything here?

Simply recounting our unique experience/ drama and if someone can learn from it... All the better.

I know what you mean with the tsetse bites. It's almost enough not to make me want to go back. Almost, but not quite.

Glad to have you along on our ride, if bumpy and dusty and at times with tsetses to boot.

On to the promised land....the Serengeti!

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Lobo area pics


Filling washing water at Lobo Public CS and camping there.



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Lobo 1 special CS by day and night, about 3 km from Lobo Public CSpost-47216-0-19005300-1444020154_thumb.jpgpost-47216-0-08189500-1444020168_thumb.jpg

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Some Lobo locals



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And some more...



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Fantastic report - I am very much enjoying the commentary and pictures. Thank you for the detailed and candid commentary on the ups and downs of the trip. This will serve as a good real-world guide for others wanting to self drive in Northern TZ. Did I read correctly that you were allowed to drive your own vehicles in to the Crater? Those are some mighty steep roads in and out! Looking forward to reading more.


Cheers from the East Cost

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The 'pee container' caught my interest! Anyone tried a 'she-vee' from the roof rack? That sounds like an accident waiting to happen in the dark but its a plan if there are animals are around.


A camper once told us the best plan is an empty fabric softener bottle - with the wide mouth, apparently works well.

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Fantastic report - I am very much enjoying the commentary and pictures. Thank you for the detailed and candid commentary on the ups and downs of the trip. This will serve as a good real-world guide for others wanting to self drive in Northern TZ. Did I read correctly that you were allowed to drive your own vehicles in to the Crater? Those are some mighty steep roads in and out! Looking forward to reading more.


Cheers from the East Cost


Hi from the West Coast, thanks for riding along. Yes, you can drive your own car inside the crater. More about that in the crater section. On to the Mara....
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August 10, Lobo to Mara Rivef


Today's plan is to visit the Mara river area and we knew it would be a long drive of about 80 km, then spending time there, before making it back to Lobo before dark. My original plan was to camp at Bologonja special CS, but this was booked out for the season by a mobile operator. So today's plan was to call there anyway, late in the day, and see if they would let us stay. This campsite is in the middle between Lobo and Mara.

We get an early start and are heading north at first light, while our companions are still in bed.

Soon, we stop behind a game drive vehicle and easily spot the lioness in the early morning light. This might be the same animal we saw yesterday. We watch her and then ....BUMP....the game driver is backing up and gently hits our car with his vehicle. Oops! No harm done, though. He comes over and apologizes then offers us to follow him as he is also going to the Mara area. "We go together" he says, "I know the short-cut!"

All right with us, especially the shot-cut part. So we follow Emanuel and his guests and game drive all along the way, stopping when he is stopping. Hey, this makes it easy. He (we) spot two hyena, a herd of eland and Impala, a huge herd of buffalo, and a small herd of ellies, and giraffe browsing in the green along a river. We get a glimpse of a male lion, followed by a male and female later on sitting erect and facing a river valley.

The road is surprisingly good, red, and sandy in places and there is quite a bit of game vehicle traffic. This is a good sign, as we were not sure if the migration had already passed or not.

The closer we get to the Mara river, the bigger the herds of wildebeest and zebra become. It's hard to capture in a picture how the animals are spread out over the hills and valleys; there are also many carcasses and skeletons around, as well as many vultures, and the smell....

At one point Emanuel veers off and drives along a green river, I'm sure in hopes of lion, we follow once, but not the second time as we are afraid of not finding our way back later. That is a good decision, as shortly after, we meet a nice self-drive couple from SA in a land cruiser. We have lots to chat and share and they tell us a piece of information that will change our overnight plans for the better.

On the way along the river, we stop at a termite bush and see a beautiful cheetah resting in the shade. Wonderful sighting. First cheetah this trip, including Kruger!

Then, at a bend in the river close to a mobil tent camp, we see many vehicles waiting a little distance from the river. On the Kenyan side, there are many wildebeest milling around. So our new buddies tell us how all about the crossing behavior of wildebeest and game vehicles. Here is the crossing etiquette you have to follow: You are not allowed to wait at river's edge while the animals are "thinking" about crossing as your presence may deter them from crossing. So you need to go and hide behind bushes! (No, seriously!) Then, as soon as the first animal is in the water, you are allowed to go close to the river, as there will be no stopping them and they don't care about perceived obstacles anymore! Makes sense?!!

After a while, it looks as though a crossing might happen, but further east, so we cross a deep rocky river, no problem for the Landy, and just catch the back end of this crossing with the last animals leaving the river. Then they gallop and jump from the lower river up a higher bank as one moving stream of bodies. Fascinating to see. I decide I would be happy even if this were the only crossing we would see. The geography is a little confusing: why would the animals cross from the Kenyan to the TZ side with plenty of grass in both places?

In the excitement, we lose track of our SA friends, so we go further up river and come across crocs and hippos, one a mother with the teensiest baby, a newborn, we guess.

And then.... A lot of vehicles at the river's edge at a different spot. Off we drive and park at the river's bank, but then it seems the animals are changing their minds and keep turning back from the river. So game drivers motion for us to go back and "hide" and we do as we are told. No sooner have we parked behind bushes(!!)does the first animal step into the water and many follow. Now, it's "who will give their guests the best possible vantage point?"

So maybe 20 vehicles all converge as one towards the edge of the river and my DH right there with them. He gets us in a prime spot and then the spectacle that is a crossing begins.

Wildebeest funnel from a grassy area on the Kenyan side, gallop to the high bank on the river, jump off it, kicking up a lot of dust in the process. When they enter the river all those feet create tremendous spraying and splashing.

They gallop and swim and gallop and swim facing us five or six wide, then reach the TZ side and scamper up the river bank, all the while making short mooing sounds.

This is a very clean crossing as not one animal seems hurt and there are no crocs around. All I can say is "OMG, and look at that." It's very impressive to see so many animals be singularly determined and moving as one unit. Talk about herding instinct. This goes on and on for about 12 minutes.

When the last one has crossed, I look at our neighbor vehicle and it is Emanuel, our guide from this morning! He grins widely and when asked how many animals crossed, he guesses 10'000. Wow, that many?(Later, we met a guide who said that a few years ago, he watched a continuous crossing that took 9 hours when thousands of animals crossed). He gives us his business card and we thank him for guiding us up here. We say good-bye as he has to drive all the way to Seronera by tonight.

That reminds us, where will we be sleeping tonight? But first we find a nice quiet spot and have lunch, discussing our stroke of luck of having found two crossings. We eat lunch among, what else? wildebeest and impala along a green river.

Then we make our way to Kogatende airstrip where we find my sister and BIL talking to the ranger. They announce that they are going to a lodge for the night, because they don't want to drive back to Lobo, but came here to pay an extra $100 park fee for staying the night in a lodge. How much is the lodge? A cool $840 per night. They hurry off to make the most out of their stay.

Through a wonderful set of circumstances, we are able to legally camp at the Mara river front for tow nights and we are ecstatic to be a few feet away from hippo grunting and giraffe browsing on the other side.

Off we go for our evening game drive. According to some information we received, we should not drive more than 5km or we would be in Kenya. This is wide-open grasslands with a few lone acacia trees dotted here and there. We find hyena, wildebeest, hartebeest, Thomson gazelles ( "thommies" from now on), and ellies. Before Tabletop mountain, we turn back and then enjoy a marvelous sunset with hyena glowing in the evening light.

We set up camp, grill pork chops in the fire pit and eat dinner using our make-shift table. Snorting hippos and water rushing in the nearby river lull us to sleep. What a day we have had. Red Letter Day for sure.

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Mara River area continued....


August 11, Mara River area


As usual, we are up before sunrise and can't believe where we are. Wow, what a spot. We quickly go to the river's edge to take pics of the sunrise. This is when I spot a commotion upriver. Looking through the binos, I spot about eight hyena, a few hippo as well as vultures and marabous. One hippo seems to be mad at the hyena because its mouth is wide open. Did the hyena kill a hippo?

No, as I zoom in on the carcass, I notice it's a dead wildebeest and the hyena are ripping meat off it, running through the river with chunks of meat in their mouths.

We pack up quickly and drive closer. To our shock, there are at least 20 wildebeest carcasses in the water, and the hyena are feasting on one of them, surrounded by many vultures and marabous. It is quite a gruesome scene especially with all those wildebeest carcasses floating among the hippos, many with legs sticking up. Poorest ones. We are guessing that there was a crossing further up that did not go well for some of these animals and now the clean-up crew was hard at work. Although it is tough to see the killing fields, it brings home the idea of how frail life is out here in the bush. A lesson to us humans too, to be careful.

The rest of the day is spent up and down the river and lucky us... at crossing point number 6, (Yes, we learn that the crossing spots are numbered, I guess to make communication between game drivers easier) we encounter a third crossing about to happen! This time, we have to earn our way to reach it, by crossing the worst ever gully and wet riverbed, yet. Watching carefully how game drivers in front of us do it, we follow and with a lot of shaking and swaying, we make our "crossing". The reward is well worth it.

This time the animals are crossing from the Tanzanian to the Kenyan side. Again, a mystery why some leave and others arrive even though grass seems to be plentiful on both sides.

The animals swim across the deep river, pop up onto a high island, before jumping off and swim-galloping in a wide arch across the rest of the river. Some animals are clearly getting exhausted from this difficult path and have a hard time jumping out of the river and climbing up the steep bank. A few flounder around and fall between the rocks. But as far we can tell, eventually all of them make it, and again, no crocs in sight. A "vegetarian" crossing, as one clever forum member calls it.

There were clearly fewer animals crossing this time, but it was nevertheless a wonderful sighting. Wow, three crossings in about 24 hours. We are so happy!

The rest of the day we spend watching hippo and ellies, and towards evening, go back across the bridge to look for cats, alas, it was not to be, just more hyena by the river and a croc nibbling on a wildebeest carcass. We are a little stumped as to where all the predators are hiding with all those herbivores around?In the evening we are back at our most extra special campsite and enjoy the sunset and giraffe lit up nicely across the river.


August 12 Mara River to Seronera


We are sad to leave this lovely spot by the Mara river. First, we head downriver as we hear reports of many wildebeest bunching up. We find them easily and they just keep coming from the valleys and the hills and indeed bunch up at the river. We are hopeful.... but lose patience as the wildebeest leadership decides that this is not a sweet crossing spot and they turn away from the river.

So do we. We decide to head to Seronera via Lobo, on the same road we came, because we really love the landscape whereas the other way is a big unknown. (Although this was the route we had plotted into the Garmin)

Along the river, we spot another "crossing"... This time it's a breeding herd of about 25 ellies crossing from the Kenyan side over to where we are parked. Some of the babies have a hard time swimming and it's difficult for me to see them struggling. But they all make it and we back away. Always great

to see ellies in a river as their love of water is evident in their body language.

Further east, away from the river, we come upon... finally... a pride of lions. It looks like there are 7 fur balls, doing what lions do best, namely "lion" around. Some are half-grown and looking too cute.

A few minutes later, there is a cheetah in iconic pose, sitting on a termite mound. Yes, we are really enjoying this ride back to Lobo and, of course, thousands of wildebeest, zebra, and more eland and ellies in the mix. We drive by Bologonja camp and are so happy we did not have to use plan B and stay there.

We decide to stop at Lobo Public CS because we need water and there is a funky smell coming from the cool box. Hmmmm. Turns out I have to clean out the cool box, because there is a pool of blood despite double bagging the meat! And... yuck and double yuck, most of the meat is foul and stinks to high heaven. Not really a surprise as Nathan's cool box never shuts off, never freezes and just barely cools.

Well, no details about this clean up... I almost vomited, though. There is no garbage collection in all of Serengeti and driving with stinky meat in the car is not an option...so...we find a way to dispose of it.

Ok, all cleaned up, water is filled, and now the darn Defender won't start and it's beginning to rain. DH is guessing that we are low on fuel and that because we are parked on a slope, the Diesel is not reaching the fuel line. Funnel anyone?

A game driver's helper has done this before. He cuts a plastic bottle at an angle and, behold, a functional funnel is born. I had to beg Nathan to give us a canister for gas, and, thankfully, he did, so DH fills those 20 liters into the tank and his shoes and pants get a nice soaking in the process. Another smell, besides rotten meat, I can't stand is the smell of Diesel. So we decide to go take cold showers after all, and change into clean clothes.

We are clean and the extra gas does the trick, so we are off to find Sero 6 special campsite.

Well, as you can tell, camping is not all fun and games! But...when the going gets tough, we are tougher!

After driving the horribly corrugated road for about 70 km south, we find the junction to Sero 6 as it is well marked. ( This spot used to be named Kubu Kubu on some old maps, thanks B&B) We turn off the road and my heart sinks.....there is a veritable tent city erected in front of us. First squatters, now a double booking! C'mon TANAPA, get your act together.

We talk to a nice attendant and he reports that my sister and BIL have already come by, that they called Nathan and it turns out we should have been on Sero 4, their mistake. Ok. It's already 6 PM and none of the people present can tell us where to find Sero 4. Can you drive us there? No they don't have a car, but it's "not far". Have heard that one before.

After some polite back and forth, I insist that we are staying here tonight as it is getting dark and too late in the day to go look for Sero 4 and where would you like us to park? No one can make a decision. So my DH is asking if we could park along the road that has been blocked off by some branches. They agree as it is most important to them that the other guests will not see us. How many guests do you have? Two, is the answer!! Really? a tent city for two? They actually apologize for not letting us stay in one of their tents, but they fear the wrath of their guide! Wow, how nice is that?

We set up camp between the two road blocks between very tall grass all around and the river below us. Not a very comforting setting.

Just as we start to cook, there is a short downpour and we sit in the car for dinner. I'm quite sure that my sister will worry about us not showing up at Sero 4, but my phone shows No Service.

We go to sleep and lions are roaring and hyena are calling through the wet night. Will we have visitors tonight?

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Mara River Day 2 pics










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A third crossing!!! Could not believe our excellent timing. Pure luck of newbies.post-47216-0-16757100-1444085030_thumb.jpgpost-47216-0-68639600-1444085046_thumb.jpgpost-47216-0-04096900-1444085072_thumb.jpgpost-47216-0-52370000-1444085111_thumb.jpgpost-47216-0-40080400-1444085125_thumb.jpgpost-47216-0-30419600-1444085152_thumb.jpgpost-47216-0-36145800-1444085180_thumb.jpg

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Evening at the river



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Last Day at Mara River and back to Lobo



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Next to Sero 6 because of a double booking.



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Wow this thread expanded quickly!


Having also recently gotten a yellow fever vaccine that proved to be entirely unnecessary as it was never checked, I feel your pain. ;) At least we'll have them for next time!


Re: the hyena calls lulling you to sleep in Tarangire - is there anything better than that? Such a fantastic sound. Well, now that I am onto post #39, I see you have lions and hyenas in the same night. I guess that might be better!


Excellent photos throughout. You've captured some incredible vistas (esp. on page 3) and of course wonderful wildlife. Love the classic baobab shot. The hyena in post #65 is perfectly lit, and the hyenas on the rocks in the water in post #67 make for a cool and unique sighting.

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I am very much enjoying your lovely trip report and beautiful pictures. Hardly managed not to laugh out loud in the office while reading the part about the non-functional fridge (yuch and double yuck...).

Your experience with Serengeti Select Safari sure reminds me of our experience with them at the beginning of the year...


Looking very much forward for more.

With best regards,


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