Day 10 SAROI in the SERENGETI to the NGORONGORO CRATER

A bright ball of light greets us in the morning.

7_ball_of_sun

Breakfast is a spectacular view of the Serengeti below.

7_breakfast

They only put place settings on one side of the table for a reason.  What a view.

7_table

Driving through the Serengeti, we come across two amorous Maasai ostrich.  Sally Rand would have done well to study the female’s moves…almost a contortionist, she slings her great feathered wings around and dips her neck so she practically turns herself inside out. 

8_female_ostrich

The male, with a bright pink neck, goes through complimentary gyrations.  When they move off, we move on.

8_2_ostrich

Our next stop is to examine a unique tree in this area—the whistling thorn acacia.  (Be sure you clearly say all three words.)  This is a specific acacia species that protects itself with three-inch thorns. 

9_acacia_long_shot

However, this must not have provided enough safety, because it made another adaptation.  It has other thorns that form a bulbous swelling at the branch.  The trick is cocktail ants make these swollen thorns their home by burrowing holes to the inside.  (So when the wind blows, the trees whistle.) 

9_thorn_acacia

The cool thing is the ants provide the tree a second layer of defense.  If there is the slightest movement, like an animal eating the leaves (or us shaking the tree to see the little critters), the ants swarm stinging the intruder with formic acid.  Animals learn this is a tree to avoid.

As we leave the Mara we look back and see how the area got its name…this is the Maasai’s ancestral home and when they looked over the plains they called the area “Mara.”  In their language this means spotted.  This is a fitting description of the collective composition of trees, scrub, savanna, and animals we see when we take a wide view of the landscape.

10_mara

Back in the wide-branched trees, we catch a glimpse of another leopard keeping watch in the crook of a tree.  He’s not close to the road, but we can see this one’s eyes.

11_leopard

We reach another beautiful kopje where we’ll have lunch. 

12_lunch_kopje

This is Ngong Rock.  At the top of the kopje is the special rock. The rock is made of completely different material from the others in the area.  Standing beside it we have a wide-open view of the Mara.  

12_ngong_rock

Is it a meteorite?  The Maasai have used it as a musical instrument for generations.  When we hit it with a stone, it sounds hollow and the indentations give off a metallic tone, like a gong.  The Maasai made the indentations by making music over the centuries. 

12_ngong_and_other_rocks

On a rock wall at the back of the kopje we also find Maasai pictographs.  Some are hundreds of years old,

13_old_picturegraph

but others are obviously quite new.

13_new_picturegraph

Leaving Ngong Rock, we have a really dusty drive out of the Mara.

15_dusty_drive

We stop at at Naabi Hill and walk to the top of the kopje at the edge of the Serengeti.  A sign explains the Maasai called the great plain the siringet and the name of the park was born.    We can see the dust as cars head out on the road to the edge of the park.

15_naabi_hill

On the way to the Serengeti Sopa Lodge we pass another Maasai manyatta. 

16_manyatta

The Maasai have moved from their warrior ways to Nomadic cattle herders.  They believe their rain god, “Enkai,” made them sole owners of cattle.  Cattle are their form of currency and are vital to their lives, providing wealth, milk and blood for nourishment, dung to build their houses.  They are also a part of their spiritual rituals.

16_manyatta2_1

At Sopa Lodge we’re spending the night on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater.  This evening we are treated to Maasai dancing.  The women wear their traditional beaded collars and move so the collars dance around their necks. 

17_maasai_girls

The men perform their traditional jumping, each trying to outdo the other.

17_men_juimping

Tomorrow, we’ll spend the day on the crater floor!

 

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