After a first great day in Africa (we had visited a coffee plantation and waterfalls in Moshi) it was finally time to start the adventure safari. But first we had to pick up the car for our road trip. We had received the info that the briefing would take about 3 hours. After that we wanted to do some quick shopping and then drive to the first park, Lake Manyara. But how is it always… you make a plan and then everything comes quite differently.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
Self-Drive Ngorongoro: Pick up of the Landrover
The meeting point for pickup was at 8:30 am in the morning at Serengeti Select Safaris in Arusha. Serengeti Select Safaris works together with Tanzanian Pioneers, where we had rented the car again (more about that here). When we arrived, we had to fill out some paperwork and then the briefing started. For this we got a list with the equipment that should be in the car.
Going through the list including the demonstration of how to set up the tent, how to use the big jack etc. took much longer than expected. Also some things were missing in our car, so someone from Serengeti Select Safaris still had to go to town to get the missing things. After the introductory part was done, it was time to discuss the route.
The briefing was very helpful for us as Nathan from SSS knows the parks well and could give us some tips. He was also able to tell us where to go shopping in Arusha. When we were finally done with the introduction and briefing, not 3 hours but almost 5 hours had passed… now we had to hurry. The shopping was done in about an hour. Here we noticed that the prices in Tanzania are actually very high.
We paid about 80 $ for groceries… and that although we had brought along some things from home and had bought mainly fresh things and water. After shopping, we drove by SSS again briefly, threw our last things quickly somehow in the car and could finally go.
Arrival Panorama View Campsite
Since it was afternoon by now and way too late to go to Lake Manyara, it was spontaneously crossed off the list. Instead we went to Panorama View Campsite, which is located a bit away from Ngorongoro and outside the national parks. On the way there we were stopped and checked by the police several times.
However, these encounters were always friendly and sometimes it seemed that the policemen just wanted to chat a bit. Shortly before we reached our destination, however, we were forced to take a major break. We had to stop at the side of the road because a former president was on his way… and that meant that no one else was allowed to use the road.
About 30 minutes later, however, we were allowed to continue, only to be stopped again at the entrance to Lake Manyara. But now the former president was really supposed to come by. Well, there were at least monkeys at the entrance, which one could photograph to the pastime. Again 20 minutes later suddenly a motorcade with a monkey speed rushed past. That was it finally. So now we were also allowed to continue to our campsite.
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When we arrived it was already shortly before 6 pm and thus shortly before nightfall (and this comes in East Africa very abruptly). So we just frantically set up the tent and picked out the stuff for cooking. The tent was built up still in the twilight, but we had to cook in the light of the flashlight and eat just quickly from the pot.
Instead of a cozy evening with a great view, everything was quite stressful. Tired and broken, after our first day with the Landrover it went now into our roof tent. I’m actually not a particularly big friend of camping, but the roof tent was equipped with a thick mattress, very comfortable and we have mostly slept well here.
The First Morning
Our first morning started with unloading the car and putting it away again. It can’t hurt to have an overview of what is where and the most important things are within reach…..and still the most asked question of the safari tour was: Do you know where …. is?
We also had to enjoy our last shower again for the next 2 days, as we had scheduled one night at Nasera Rock Special Campsite and one night at Noorkisaruni Special Campsite. A Special or Private Campsite is an assigned spot in the wild that you have all to yourself. However, this has the disadvantage that there are no washrooms and toilets.
Arrival and Registration at Ngorongoro National Park
But first we drove from Panoramaview Campsite to the entrance of Ngorongoro National Park. The drive took about 1 hour. Shortly before we reached our destination we saw the first zebras. The procedure at the entrance of the Ngorongoro I had imagined more complicated than it was in the end. We had to fill out a form and hand it in together with the vouchers for the special campsites. We had received the vouchers from Nathan.
He had taken care of the complete reservation. The data of the voucher and the form were entered into the computer, the admission certificate was printed out and then only the payment had to be done. At this point we had to be quite brave. The 2 days Ngorongoro on 2 special campsites for 2 persons and a car cost 566 $. If you want to drive into the crater you have to pay another 300 $ per car. Since that was really too expensive for us, we didn’t go there.
Now the safari could finally start. After the entrance, it went for some time on the bumpy road until you come to the first junction, where we turned off the main road and thus also had peace from the other cars. Especially the first part after the entrance was very crowded.
If you drive by without handing out sweets or money, stones or sticks are partly thrown!
After the turnoff, we continued west along the rim of the crater, passing through many, many Maasai villages. The reactions of the Massai were very different. From friendly to dismissive everything was there. Some stood waving at the roadside. If we wanted to take a picture, we gave the children something candy, the adults wanted money.
Often we saw children at the roadside begging and waving their hands. If you drove by without handing out candy or money, some threw stones or sticks. The drive through the Maasai villages stretched over 2-3 hours. So we saw mainly goats, sheep and cows instead of elephants and lions. The landscape along the road was nevertheless very beautiful and you could already prepare a little for the bumping and jolting of the next days.
As Nathan had suggested we did not follow the main road for a long time, but took the turnoff towards Endulen. Here we continued on a main road for a bit until shortly after Endulen. After that we more or less just followed the ruts and tried to orient ourselves by map and cell phone. We were especially helped by the app maps.me, on which a large part of the routes is recorded. The way towards Lake Masek led us mainly through sand and dust… this should also play an unfortunately very large role in the coming days.
On the way to Lake Masek we saw zebras, giraffes and antelopes again and again. From Lake Masek we continued over a very flat plain towards the main road. Here we had a great and very wide view and could discover more animals, such as ostriches, wildebeest, etc.. After the first part of the route, which led us back to the main road, we continued to our first Special Campsite Nasera Rock… but time was running out.
One should not underestimate the distances. Google maps partly calculated times that would only be feasible at normal speed. However, depending on the road, one could only drive at walking speed. On the main road you could drive about 60 km/h….but the main road was also the route on which you were mostly shaken and everything in the car rattled. So avoid the main roads as much as possible!!!!
Special Campsite Nasera Rock
However, we could not avoid a few meters on the main road. After that we went again off the main road to the north and thus towards Nasera Rock. It was early afternoon by now and we didn’t realize that the route would be so long. From the main road we needed again about 3 hours to the campsite.
We also had to realize that we were not on the right “road”. In the hope of a turnoff we drove on anyway. But at some point we reached the point where we could not go on like this. So we ignored the signs at the entrance to the Ngorongoro National Park and drove offroad.
Oh dear, the car is about to break apart!
At the foot of the mountain we could see a road in the far distance. This was now headed cross-country. However, one should be careful here, since one does not recognize all potholes in time. This was to happen during the safari and not only once it has so loudly rattled that we thought: “Oh dear, soon the car breaks apart”.
After about 45 minutes we were finally on the right road and could quickly continue to Nasera Rock. Once we arrived there, we didn’t have much time left. So we quickly parked the car at a nice spot and put everything out to cook dinner. When we opened the trunk we saw the traces of the trip through sand and dust. Everything was covered by a thick layer of dirt.
But there was no time for that now. It was already dawn and we were hungry. Suddenly we heard a mixture of barking and yelping. What were those strange sounds? Hyenas? Or other dangerous animals? I quickly hopped back into the car while Andreas stood on the roof and prepared the tent.
Quickly the culprits were found. On the Nasera Rock monkeys lived. Since monkeys like to steal food and other things, everything was quickly cleared back into the car and parked a few meters away as a precaution. While it continued to dawn, we quickly prepared the food and wanted to set up the tent came already the next visitor.
Campsite Registration in the Middle of Nowhere
A Massai stood by us and watched us for minutes. Afterwards he reached for his cell phone, made a short call and continued to watch us. A short time later another Maasai came and told us that he had to register us for the campsite. So we had to show our entrance permit for the Ngorongoro, as well as the reservation for the Nasera Rock. Then a form was filled out and our passport information was entered.
We didn’t expect that for a stay in the middle of nature in Africa. But after a few minutes we could finally devote ourselves to our food again. After the meal we prepared ourselves for the night in the tent. So we quickly went behind the bush, brushed our teeth and climbed up the ladder into the roof tent. Since it stormed strongly in the night, however, there was not much of much sleep.
It rattled and the car swayed in the strong gusts of wind. Not only once I thought that the car is about to tip over. But it withstood the wind and after a few restless hours the beautiful sunrise greeted us for our second safari day.
Noorkisaruni Special Campsite
The second day started with a quick muesli and a cup of coffee before heading out. For today we had planned to be earlier at our next special campsite Noorkisaruni. But where should it be? The research on the Internet before the vacation brought hardly any results and the Maasai could only tell us approximately where the campsite is. Our original route was supposed to lead us through the mountains at Nasera Rock and then a bit further north to visit the Gorge Olkarien and then towards the main road and to Noorkisaruni Campsite.
Honey, we have to stop for Gas!
But the night before we had already noticed our big mistake at the entrance to Ngorongoro. We hadn’t refueled again. With only a quarter of a full tank left, we would not be able to make the distance.
There is only one gas station in the Ngorongoro park!
So we had to refuel short… short meant on the fastest way to the main road and then again in the direction of the entrance. There was the only gas station in the whole Ngorongoro National Park. From Nasera Rock the drive took about 2.5 hours. We used the drive through the Oldupai Gorge on the way. The gorge is very beautiful and should definitely be visited.
After refueling, it is not possible to drive back and visit the Olkairen Gorge. Therefore we drove from the gas station back towards Endulen and shortly after that up the road to Noorkisaruni. The way there was partly hardly passable or we had to drive a whole piece in step speed over stick and stone. But who has fun on such an adventurous route should take the way via Endulen to Noorkisaruni.
After some hours over stone, sand and again and again past shining white animal bones we finally arrived at 14 o’clock at our special Campsite. We wanted to enjoy the peace and quiet in nature and have plenty of time to set up everything and take pictures. We parked the car in the shade of a large acacia and explored the rocks, from which we had a magnificent view over the area.
Again, the Maasai came by later for registration. The rest of the evening we could just relax and look for animals. Among others, we received a visit from a hyena and the next morning from a few zebras. Also we could watch the sunrise in the morning directly from the roof tent.
For us the stay at Noorkisaruni Campsite was the most beautiful of the whole safari. The feeling of being completely alone in the vast Serengeti is unforgettable. The next day we left for the legendary Serengeti. Read this in the second part of our travel report.