5 Years Ago: Bologonja, Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park was the final stop on our 2016 African adventure. Our guide Rick, who had been with us since we arrived in Tanzania, drove the Land Cruiser from Ngorongoro while we flew from the Lake Mayara airport to the Lobo airstrip.

The drive from Lobo to the Bologonja tent camp was a safari in itself, being entirely on dirt tracks through Serengeti. The landscape is more variable than I had imagined, and we climbed up series of low hills that were studded with huge stone blocks, boulders the size of houses, and larger.

  • Hilly Boulder Lion Habitat
  • There he is.
  • The ranger station at the hill top.
  • Rangers seem to like Land Rover Defenders.

It is interesting to go back and try to figure out more information about where we were than my photos can describe. Google Maps is useful, but Google Earth can be priceless. Its hard to believe that these tech innovations are all relatively new, Google Earth was just 20 years old in 2021. Can’t even buy it a drink yet.

We were instructed to set our cameras to not record location data back at the start of the trip in Thornybush. Poachers have taken advantage of modern tech to look at pictures’ metadata on Instagram and Facebook to track elephants and rhinos. So trying to put names to the places that my pictures show has me searching satellite imagery on Google to try and pin down a spot based on landscape features.

For example, I was trying to find the name of the airport we flew out of after Ngorongoro. Google Maps showed a couple of possibilities, but I couldn’t place the landmarks. So I used Google Earth and right away was able to locate the runway based on a photo I had showing Lake Manyara in the distance and a unique set of buildings near the end of the runway.

  • Liftoff From Manyara Airport
  • Google Maps Screenshot
  • Google Maps Screenshot

The location where we drove into the Serengeti hills was harder to pinpoint. We had driven by what seemed like a ranger station, a series of cinder-block buildings with a big radio antenna. I think we parked for a few minutes while Rick went inside to register us as new visitors. And though it isn’t marked on the map, I did track it down.

In the short drive from the airstrip to the ranger station, we saw three lions (one with cubs), a herd of wildebeest, giraffe and miscellaneous little critters like rock hyrax and colorful lizards. The lions were laying about in the shade, making it difficult to get good pictures. But there was a lioness guiding her cubs into a cave amongst the giant boulders. It was a scene straight out of “Clan of the Cave Bear”, a novel that I last read at least 35 years ago.

Lioness With Cubs
Lioness With Cubs

The only major African predator that we had not yet seen was the cheetah; Rick knew that and was making every effort to give us the best chance of finding one. As we were driving from the ranger station to camp, I spotted a crouching feline shape in the grass not far away. “A cheetah!”, I exclaimed. “Where?”, Rick asked me. I was happy that I had sighted it first, but it turned out to be a serval, a large cat for sure, but not one of the “big cats”… not a cheetah.

  • Crouching Serval Cat
  • Serval Cat Watching Us
  • Serval Cat Trots Off

After lunch and a siesta at camp, we went back out for a few hours to explore the area around the camp. There was a thunderstorm brewing and it was raining heavily off in the distance, but it didn’t drop any on us. In any case, the Land Cruiser we’d been riding in since Arusha had a hardtop that could be propped open or dropped down to keep out the rain. I spent most of my time standing to watch the scenery through the open roof.

Serengeti Thunderstorm
It was the beginning of rainy season and a thunderstorm was brewing.

I’m going to split our visit to Serengeti National Park into multiple posts, as there are too many pictures to try and describe in one shot. Next up: the Mara River and the beginnings of the big migration.

(Click any image for larger versions and captions…)

2 thoughts on “5 Years Ago: Bologonja, Serengeti National Park

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