Ok….so I am going to backtrack a little bit.  I totally forgot some of the major highlights of the Serengeti in my last post!  I can’t believe that in my haste to get the post out, I forgot two important things…

The race is on, the chase is on, and trying to jockey for the best seat in the house. Nico is a pro….so we had pretty awesome seats today…

 

First of all, on our way out of Osopuko, we saw a female lion creeping over the horizon and it was acting a bit strange according to Nico….strange in the way that a lion that is on the hunt is acting.  There were a bunch of waterbok grazing in the short grass, that quickly got wind of the lions behaviour and they took off to somewhere a bit safer.
However, undeterred, the lion changed its course and started to look for a new target.
Interestingly, it used the trucks that were watching this whole procedure as a buffer and as part of its hiding spot.  So much so that it came right by our truck, and my window.  Never passing up the opportunity to take a photo, I was (stupidly looking in hindsight) leaning out the window as the lion walked literally right underneath me.  I am glad that I wasn’t the target.

The approach through the long grass. The wind was blowing in his face, so his scent went undetected by the gazelle.

Ready…

Set…

Go…

The lion crept through the long grass, always keeping a visual buffer to where the gazelle was so it wouldn’t see it coming.  It ran through some short grass parts to quickly get to the next patch of long grass, and then it got down and waited.  It crept forward.  It waited.  It crept forward, and then with a turn of the gazelles head the looking at the waterbok that moved out of the way, the lion full on sprinted 10m or so and wrapped its jaws around the gazelles neck.
Holy crap!  It was over in a second, and the lion took the gazelle into the long grass for its daily meal.
There were about a dozen or so trucks that were just gobsmacked at what happened.  On these safaris, you rarely see a finished kill, let alone a kill in action.  That was incredible.
We all sat back in a bit of a daze after what we just saw, and continued on our way out of the Serengeti.
Not to be outdone, we had two more surprises on the way out of the park.  As we drove down from the northern part of the Serengeti where the migration was taking place, I made a prediction that we would see a pride of lions that day.  But, alas, we didn’t.  However, on the way out of the park we saw not one, but two prides of lions which certainly made up for it.
The first pride was nothing short of perfect as there were some teenagers, some females, and two male lions.

The pride of lions that I was looking for the whole trip in the Serengeti was right there beside the road on our way out of the park. Better late than never.

One of the males was just going through puberty as it didn’t have a full mane of hair yet.  Just some peach fuzz around its neck.
This pride was less than 10m away from the road, lounging under an acacia tree, which was pretty cool having them so close.
Then we drove down the road another 500m and there was a second pride of lions!  How cool was that!  (Pretty cool!) . Here there were three female lions lounging around in the shade of a low bush acacia tree to escape the mid day heat.  At that point, I would say that our game drive was near complete…the only thing that we needed to see was the rhino to round out the Big Five (elephant, rhino, leopard, buffalo, and lion).
 
Ok, back to regular scheduled programming….
We initially passed by the Ngorogoro Crater on the way into the Serengeti, and we were able to stop at the crater rim to have a look at the vast crater that measures 18km by 21km at the upper rim. It is about 2km deep and was made when the volcano that once stood here imploded and collapsed.  Since then, this UNESCO world heritage site has been the home to a diverse range of animals and plants that are obviously confined to a limited space of 330sqkm.  Somehow they are able to live harmoniously, whilthe normal day to day predator and prey relationship goes on from time to time.

The Ngorogoro Crater has never seen the likes of the Craigholms

It reminds me of the Sheepdog and Wille. E Coyote relationship on Looney Tunes cartoon.  They check in in the morning and say hello. Then they are mortal enemies until lunch time and the end of the working day.  Haha.
On the way back from the Serengeti, we stopped at Lake Masek Tented Lodge, which was crazy luxurious and beautiful.  Short of one other couple that didn’t seem to talk to each other the whole time they were there, the Craigholms had the place to ourselves.  This also meant that the entire staff that were there waited on us hand and foot.  This was probably one of the best places we stayed on the safari with Warrior Trails.

Having a sippa wine and a mitful of gin while overlooking the beautiful Lake Masek Reserve

Our luxurious room for the night!

We had private tented rooms that were set apart from the main lodge and they beat out places the likes of the Royal York by a long shot.   If it wasn’t so far, and there was a theatre district nearby, I would come here for the weekend.  Hands down.  However, they don’t.  That being said, I will take the view and the natural theatre that surrounds Lake Masek anytime.

The stars were un-freakin-believable!

After our sleep under the stars, we got up early to have a quick breakfast, and packed our boxed lunches (which included Dairy Milk chocolate bars!!), and headed off to the Ngorgoro Crater as the sun rose around us.  Nico expertly navigated what seemed to be a river of dry fine sand that would have otherwise been very difficult for anyone else to drive in as the sun blinded the pilot and co-pilot.

Drag racing with a giraffe. He gave us a good run for our money.

We got to the crater rim and walked around  while Nico got the park pass, and then we made the 2km decent into the crater.

Auntie Karen and the kids having a last stroll before we send her back to reality…

We saw lions as we went down into the crater, and then spent the majority of the day driving around the ring roads seeing a variety of animals and in search of the elusive black rhino.  We did see a number of animals in the crater, but it was sort of anti-climactic compared to the Serengeti.

The long and winding road down to the crater floor

This was one of the places that Deb and I loved during our first Tour de Monde 15 years ago, but for some reason it didn’t seem the same.  It wasn’t as lush as it was, and we remembered being able to drive pretty much anywhere to get close to the animals, and we weren’t confined to the roads.  Obviously, you need to stick to the roads to preserve the land and the vegetation, but it just felt different.

Duking it out…sibling rivalry.

It is kind of hard to hide in the long grass when you have a neck like this.

Flamingos…interesting fact that they get most of their pink from algae, not from eating shrimp!

Maybe it was the fact that we had just emerged from the Serengeti where the animal searching was challenging…looking over cliffs, up into trees, in crevices in large gatherings of boulders, and in the shade of the umbrella trees.  In the crater it was more of an open plain that you could see clear across the whole way to see if there was an animal there or not.  Oh well, we can’t complain.  We got to see a natural wonder of the world that was still a pretty incredible geologic phenomenon.

You lookin’ at me? Ya, you…the guy with the camera

Two teenage male lions just doing what human teenage boys do. All they needed was some pants on so that they could put their paw down the from waist band…

Hippos trying to keep each other warm. It was funny watching these…there was a rotating series of bubbles emanating from the rear ends of all of the hippos… a new kind of symphony

The zebra crossing guards in action again.

Don’t get me wrong, it was super nice to see again, and we did get to see the last of the Big 5 here, as well as eat lunch at the edge of a lake where there were some hippos giving us the stink eye, but it wasn’t the same.

Lulu was super happy to see this animal…PROOF that unicorns do exist!!!

The warthog stare down is never a nice one.

Wildebeest mini-migration….they still don’t really know which way to go!

So, at the end of the day, we drove up out of the crater and headed out of the national park and headed and said goodbye to the Ngorogoro Crater.  The drive up was a lot better than the drive down as they had laid interlocking brick the whole way up the road that switchbacked back and forth to the main road.

Goodbye Ngorogoro…we will see you again sometime…

We headed out of the park and made our way to the Farmhouse Lodge which was going to be our accommodations for the night.  We were pretty excited to get there as it had a pool that we could lounge in, and it was situated on a coffee plantation.
 
Once we arrived at the Farmhouse, we unloaded our things in our massive “house” and headed to the pool for a quick dip before we got to go on a tour of the farm and the coffee plantation.
You have to remember that this is still spring time in Africa, so the pools have just been opened for the season, which, like home, means that they are still pretty cold.  So there is a bit of a discord between what we Canadians call summer, and what Africans call summer.   We didn’t really care that much, and after the cold water made it past the privates, the bellybutton, and then the nipples, it was fine to swim in.

A sunset stroll through the farm

After we cooled off, we met up with Phillipe who took us on a tour of the coffee plantation and the vegetable gardens.  It was pretty neat that to see that they grew 60% of the fruits and vegetables that they used at the lodge, and that all of the coffee used at the lodge was exclusively grown and roasted on the premises.  You couldn’t even buy the coffee at the gift shop!  That was too bad, as it was probably the best coffee I have ever had.
Phillipe taught us a lot about the history of coffee and the process of turning a coffee berry into a coffee bean.  I won’t repeat the whole story  here as Wilson did a great presentation on coffee in Africa as a post, but it was pretty impressive to see the farm in general.
In their gardens, they grew broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, carrots, leeks, potatoes, avacados, bananas, papaya, and tomatoes.  Interesting tidbit that we picked up was that their gardens had a lot of dill planted in amongst the plants, and Phillipe told us that it was a natural insect repellant.  Interesting, and you might want to try it at home judging by the lack of insects eating the plants.  I don’t know if it works for groundhogs though…

The best cup of coffee that I have had in a looong time…

Oh well, we were headed towards Nairobi for a hard travel day the next day, as we were leaving a very special place in the world, and a very special friend who joined us on this leg of our adventure.