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Up Close: Gorilla Trekking at Rwanda's Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge

What does it feel like to track gorillas in Rwanda's incredible Volcanoes National Park? Here’s a very special look at AAC client Kathy Paraking’s notes from her Gorilla Safari journal written from the spectacular lodge location:   


“Felecia arrived at 0515 with our coffee and hot chocolate and cookies; Sammie drove us to the park HQ where we were assigned the Hirwa gorilla family and we met our fellow trackers who seemed older and less fit than ourselves except for a lovely couple from Ireland. Our guide discussed the Hirwa family and what to expect on our visit. We then got back in our vehicles and went to the starting point. It was a 3-minute drive from the Sabyinyo. We all arrived and hired our porters who carried our packs and assisted us on the slippery trail.




As we headed up the trail we went through eucalyptus trees and field after field of potato plants in various stages of growth from just being put in the ground to flowering. There were cattle grazing and goats and sheep. People working the fields. We arrived at the park wall and were informed that the family was just 10 minutes ahead. We all needed assistance from the porters getting over as there was a 6 foot crevice that was 3 feet wide to traverse. The porters were great.


The four trackers, I think they should be called caretakers, were great at getting us all in good spots to see the gorillas and they frequently made low grunting sounds to communicate with them. We saw many juveniles, babies (those under 4) and females as well as the Silverback nicknamed Lucky. In the last few minutes of our hour, one of the females came over to sit by Lucky and several juveniles and babies with her own 2 week old. The baby was completely adorable. All the while there were gorillas walking around us getting within inches. One female climbed a bamboo tree and came crashing down. One of the babies tried to climb on Lucky but was unceremoniously pushed off. Lucky was initially lying down with a bundle of babies and juveniles and I did not recognize that he was there. When he lifted his massive arm to scratch himself I was shocked at its size. He did eventually sit up and he is a very big boy. I never at any time felt fear, only admiration and joy with several chuckles at the various behaviors like accidentally rolling down the hill.

Like everyone had told us, the hour was up all too quickly.”


Join in a gorilla safari adventure on one of our  Primate Safaris to Rwanda and Uganda.


6 Secret Highlights of a Tanzania Safari

Tanzania is one of the top wildlife viewing destinations in Africa, known, of course, for the migration of millions of wildebeest and zebras (and the predators who follow them) across the vast Serengeti. But beyond the justifiably famous migration, the country is also a place of unique landscapes, wondrous wildlife, and incredible people that are often only witnessed by those in the safari know. 

Now you can get in on all the secret highlights of our Under Tanzania Skies Safari safari for yourself: Available departures Jun 13: Jul 11: Jul 25: Aug 08: Aug 22: Sep 12: Oct 10; Dec 19:

1. Spotting Elephants by the Thousands in Tarangire – If it’s Elephant you’re after, Tarangire National Park is a must visit. Herds here reach numbers up to 6,000 strong! Sylvia Hegyi, a senior consultant at AAC, calls this little known park her favorite spot in East Africa for its “immense herds of elephants, huge number of baobab, incredibly beautiful landscape, and vast open spaces.”


2. Tree Climbing Lions!  What’s that you say, lions don’t climb trees? Maybe the ones in southern Africa haven’t taken to the treetops, but in Manyara Lake National Park, the lions not only climb Acacia trees, but also sleep in the branches (perhaps, it’s thought, to escape the tsetse flies that bother them on the ground). It’s a unique site, and this corner of the Great Rift Valley is one of the only places to witness it.                                                                                                                                                                                         

3. Descending into a Volcanic Crater – Some of the best wildlife viewing in Africa is in a 2 million year old crater filled with lush, green, prehistoric-looking vegetation. Ngorngoro Crater is known for its fabulous wildlife sightings, but it’s also the largest intact, inactive, unfilled volcanic crater in the world (it’s estimated that if this volcano hadn’t imploded, it would have grown as big as Kilimanjaro). Covering more than 100-square-miles, the crater acts as a natural safety barrier to the 30,000 mammals who call it home, including a large group of Black Rhino.

4. Crowd Free Serengeti – What’s the secret to beating the crowds and having the most intimate wildlife experience in the popular Serengeti National Park? Safari camps that move when the animals do! Serengeti Seasonal Camp moves three or four times a year to maximize wildlife viewing for its guest. With just 8 (very comfortable) tents, and a separate safari guide and jeep for each, there’s no better way to view the sensational Serengeti migration and seasons.

5. Philanthropy in Every Stay – At intimate Ndarakwai Ranch, at the foot of magnificent Kilimanjaro, guests have the opportunity to visit local Maasai villages and a portion of every guest’s stay is donated to The Kilimanjaro Conservancy which works in the local communities, often where staff at the ranch is from. The local non-profit organization undertakes community anti-poaching activities on and around Ndarakwai, supports local schools, and promotes initiatives to reduce human/wildlife conflict. AAC clients Liz and Mike Lang add that, at Ndarakwai “the opportunity to visit the Maasai, with their beautiful, innocent children, was special, particularly since our guide from the ranch knew this particular village."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

6. Multiple Life-Changing Experiences in One Trip – Astounding elephant herds, tree climbing lions, a volcanic crater filled with wildlife, cultural outreach. For other places in the world, an itinerary with this many unique elements would be impossible in one trip, but on the Under Tanzanian Skies, it can all comprise one unforgettable trip.  14 Day - Group Safari Under Tanzanian Skies

Photographic Safaris

Get those cameras ready to photograph some stunning landscapes and once in a lifetime viewing of African wildlife on these five departures.

We feature four “Signature Safaris” to Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Rwanda & Uganda, and Botswana. Top quality guides lead these trips to Africa’s Top Wildlife Countries!


15-Day Zimbabwe “Eyes on Elephant”

Priced - $10,995.00
This safari highlights the extraordinary guides in Zimbabwe who will lead you on this signature trip. Experience Northern and Southeastern  Hwange with Dave Carson and Nic Polenakis, and in Mana Pools you will take walking and canoeing safaris with Nick Murray.

2015 Departures: Jun 07, Jul 12, Aug 02, Aug 15, Aug 28*, Sep 20


14-Day Under Tanzanian Skies

Priced - $6,995.00
An Africa Adventure Company Signature Safari that highlights one of the top wildlife destinations in Africa! With only 8-10 guests traveling in a small exclusive departure; the areas you visit include the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. Big cat and migration photography!

2015 Departures: Jan 17, Feb 07, Mar 07*, Jun 13, Jul 11, Jul 25, Aug 08, Aug 22, Sep 12, Oct 10, Dec 19


14-Day Primate and Plains Safari to Uganda and Rwanda

Priced - $9,595.00
We designed our Primate and Plains Group Safari to include two gorilla treks, one in each country, anticipating that guests would like to visit both!

2015 Departures: Feb 03, Jul 04 & Sep 06

Priced - $10,995.00
Visit the prime areas of Linyanti, Okavango Delta and Moremi periphery. Accommodations are in classic permanent tented camps.

2015 Departures: May 29, Jun 09, Jun 27, Jul 12, Jul 29, Aug 15, Aug 29, Sep 16

Priced - $6,595.00
Your itinerary focuses on a luxury getaway to South Africa. Enjoy a best of Africa wildlife experience on a Private Game Reserve.

2015 Departures: Oct 17

Beyond the Migration - Tanzania Year Round at Singita

Giraffes under a huge tree
Visiting Tanzania is about much more than the annual wildebeest migration that traverses the Serengeti. At any time of year, the region offers travellers diverse game viewing, from big predators to prolific prey, on its vast open plains and along its river banks.

Be captured by the awe of the many seasons this area has to offe

Herds of zebras on the field

January to March

Warm and fairly dry, this is a great time to visit the region with large herds of topi, zebra, eland, giraffe and Thompson’s gazelle starting to gather on the open plains. It is also the calving season. Read more »

Large elephants

April to May

Known as the season of the long rains, this period transforms the landscape as lush, longer grasses grow and rivers, lakes and pans start to fill up with water again. Large herds of elephant are common  sightings. Read more »
A pleasant warm day for game viewing

June to October

The dry season commences in June and continues until the end of October. Considered high season in Tanzania, it is characterised by pleasantly warm, sunny days and easy game viewing. Read more » 

 Lodge with a great view of the park

November to December

Short rains and brief, spectacular thunderstorms give way to clear skies and amazing colour contrasts for photography. Awesome cheetah and lion sightings are common, there are a large number of babies, and migratory birds return. Read more »

Be captured by the awe of the many seasons this area has to offe r - watch this short video »

Ol Donyo Lodge

Guide James and Lion Tracker Lenka discussing the route through the  Chyulu Hills to the collared lion Nemasi
Guide James and Lion Tracker Lenka discussing the route 
through the  Chyulu Hills to the collared lion Nemasi

April’s word has to be lions! The sightings have been amazing with so much Lion activity……… Nemesi has been consistently seen with her 3 cubs who are growing rapidly and seem to be doing extremely well and absolutely loving their home in the Chyulus. We are able to track the prides movements using our Maasai tracker Lenka and a special tracking antenna which responds to Nemasi’s collar when she is near. The guests get to experience tracking in the vehicle but also on foot and see first-hand what is involved with protecting and observing these magnificent creatures.

A unique look at Nemasi’s collar on a lion use for tracking the pride
A unique look at Nemasi’s collar.  This is how we are able to track this pride and are able to share this incredibly raw and unique experience with our guests.  

Easter was fantastic, and what could be a better way to spend the morning then to spoil our guests with a Bush Breaksfast.  Now a bush breakfast is already an amazing experience under the umbrella of an acacia tree with Kilimanjaro as a back drop but just as one of our guests was riding in after a morning horse ride, Annie, the stables manager spotted 2 cheetahs just lazily lounging under a tree within viewing distance of the breakfast table! They were so relaxed and were seemingly just as interested in the horse riders as the horse riders were in them. It was a great start to Bush Breakfast.

Breakfast on the bush

Our waiters Douglas and Isaac waiting patiently to surprise the guests with Mimosa’s ….. little did they know as the picture was being taken there were 2 cheetah just a stone’s throw away wanting to be a part of the celebration, too.

Finally towards the end of April we had some heavy and well needed rains across the plains which is not only a spectacular sight from the lodge but also a huge help to the animals that roam the plains. The rains allow the animals to traverse the area without worry of going thirsty, many of our animals can be seen in large groupings slowly making their way to Tsavo or Amboseli national parks in order to breed or graze in green pastures.

An elephant enjoys one of lush lakes and green pastures of Amboseli over the rainy season.
An elephant enjoys one of lush lakes and green pastures of Amboseli over the rainy season.

This for us is an excellent time for our guests to explore a little further afield as well and we can treat our guests to longer game drives into the areas where the animals are enjoying themselves. One of the most beautiful areas this time of year is Amboseli and it is under a 2 hour game drive from the lodge to the main gate.

Although the park covers only 392 sq km, despite its small size and its fragile ecosystem the park supports a wide range of mammals, well over 50 of the larger species and over 400 species of birds.

 A beautiful Grey Crown Crain
 A beautiful Grey Crown Crain can be one of the many species of birds found in this area.

Amboseli National Park is one of the best areas near the lodge for photography thanks to the abundant wildlife all under the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro and at this time of year it has a decent dusting of snow, and the mountain is consistently clear making any photo with an animal in the foreground that much more dramatic. Amboseli has a large number of elephants and some of the biggest breeding herds around, it is breath-taking to watch the elephants, water buffalo and hippos just go about their day as if you didn’t exist, wallowing in the mug or lazily wandering through one of the many swamps. These swamps and springs are fed by underground rivers which are fed by the melting snows of Kilimanjaro and they form permanent watering places for the wildlife through times of drought. The park’s best game drives are around these swamps and there is a fantastic lookout on Observation Hill which offers views over the whole of the park and beyond, one of our favourite spots to serve up a delicious picnic lunch consisting of ever changing items, this month we had items such as individual fennel and butternut squash quiche, grilled brie and eggplant chutney sandwiches, Tikka chicken skewers with Harissa yogurt dip and for dessert spiced Jamaican Banana bread with dark rum buttercream!

Hippos on the plains
Imagine, picnicking whilst watching the hippos on the plains! 

Amboseli and the Imbirikani group ranch on which the lodge is situated conjur up images from the words written by Ernest Hemingway and Robert Ruark Manyatta, rolling hills which at this time of year are a lush emerald green, easing out onto golden savannahs of waving grass and wildlife.

Bride Veronica with our ol Donyo staff members
Bride Veronica with our ol Donyo staff members (left) Mwangi and (right) Jackson to help celebrate their special day.

Once again we were privileged enough to be invited to a traditional Maasai wedding this past month by one of our staff members, Veronica.  All of us at ol Donyo would like to end our April newsletter by congratulating her and her new husband Dan- who just happens to be a guide at our sister camp, Mara Plains in the Masai Mara.  …..What a perfect match, indeed!

Traditional Maasai wedding held on Ol Donyo
Congratulations Veronica and Dan!

Renovate good times come on!!! Doopy Doopy Doop - It’s a RENOVATION Share

Hello Lamai friends!!
Don't panic but we're back in the bush and we're frantically knocking stuff down and building stuff up again

Knocking stuffs down for renovation

There is gratuitous use of tractors and I've taken the opportunity to finally squeeze some tractor photographs into the blog - who doesn't love tractors?

Exactly - nobody!!

Tractor with woods to be used.

We are planning on removing this before you all arrive this season.

Huge tractor

Check below for the resulting shiny new pool deck, whooop!

Lamai's new pool deck

Mzee Apaeli - sweeping said pool deck with a big smile.

Mzee Apaeli - sweeping said pool deck with a big smile.

Doing his best Dick Van Dyke impression - What can I say... he just digs Mary Poppins!

One of the staff cleaning the deck.

The star of the off season show below - introducing Mr Kennedy HEAD OF MAINTENANCE (red T-shirt)!

He's currently extending the dining deck at the front of our "mess" (that is more an accurate description than a military expression at the moment!).

The extension will allow the waiter team to spend the season dancing around the tables with out falling off the edge.... and here they all are below, just look at how happy they are about it.

****Note to the upper management types, you'll notice they are NOT sloshing wood finish all over their shiny new uniforms, we have this thing overalled and covered, taped up and corked!****

Happy team doing the renovation.

Here I am below, playing hang man with myself so as not to get under the six very busy feet of Jana, Yahaya and Kennedy. 

Ha Ha, only Joking....... I'm playing Naughts and Crosses.

*****Note to my boss - I promise to be once again clean shaven with a tucked in shirt when our guests arrive****

Perfect viewing spot in the Serenegti

Roof repairs - in terms of the view this is the best job in the Serengeti.

****Note to those involved, you know who you are, please don't tell Jo (beloved interiors lady and the creative mind behind Lamai) that we climbed on the roof like this - she said it was a bad idea.****

Staffs is repairing roof.

****Note to Jo, if your reading this firstly, wow thanks for reading the blog that's really cool, and secondly we're sorry we climbed on the roof like this - but it turned out great and nobody fell through or destroyed anything!!****

Staffs is repairing roof.

......and finally for those of you about to un - subscribe due to the outragous beginning of season maintenance blog with it's lack of fuzzzy, furry, wet noseyness ......Drum Roll Please....

Our mongooses had babies!!! Again!!!

Mongooses on the Camp had babies.

I found them scurrying around underneath the office this morning - Ahhhhhh sweeeeeeet!

Mongoose on the Camp had babies.

June 2014

Magnificent thunder and lightning shows have returned to Odzala with blue skies and misty mornings in tow: the short rainy season is upon us and is making up for lost time with almost 100 mm falling in one day, of which almost half fell one hour. Needless to say we were looking forward to drying out but Mother Nature was having none of it! With a further 60 mm the next day, the rivers are now swollen and Lango Bai resembles a lake; the view from the camp changes dramatically as the stream carries the rainwater into the bai.

The small streams drain quickly, but the Lekoli and Mambili rivers are full to the brim. The rainy season also brings changes to the forest. Whereas trees can survive the dry season by adapting so as not to lose too much moisture, the sudden onset of downpours and strong winds can catch many of them unawares. Leaves, fruit and branches are shaken loose and fall to the forest floor, continuing the circle of life as they add to the leaf litter layer. The force of the wind can also uproot or simply snap entire trees.

Ngaga Camp
The expansive Ndzehi forests are home to a high density of western lowland gorillas, which works in our favour of course – but also sometimes to our detriment. The interaction between the wild groups, solitary males and the habituated groups makes for very interesting behaviour observations but can make gorilla tracking more difficult. It is only with the skills of expert trackers that we are able to locate and view the two habituated groups; gorilla tracking has been both very rewarding and very challenging this month.

Neptuno continues to enjoy utilising the southern tip of his home range, which has meant long walks to enjoy the rewards of seeing this gorilla group. The rainy season is often a time when gorillas dig for roots. Each individual in the group has his or her own personality and it is wonderful to see some of the younger individuals becoming more confident and more curious as they grow older and more used to the presence of our researchers and guests.

Jupiter’s group on the other hand has been monopolising the area behind Ngaga Camp. This is a more open canopy forest meaning that more light reaches the forest floor, allowing an incredibly thick understorey of marantaceae to develop. Time spent with this group in the marantaceae has required patience and trust in the tracker, but in each case we have been rewarded with sightings of many of the gorillas feeding up in the fruiting trees. Jupiter, the silverback, is curiously shy for such a large, powerful creature but we have had better sightings of him recently too.

One very special encounter with Jupiter’s group recently involved a youngster digging for and eating ants. Our tracker, David, managed to get us into just the right position, close enough to observe but not too close that we risked disturbing her; this allowed the young gorilla to continue as if we were not there. Digging for ants is no easy task: this little one would dig for a few minutes, then quickly raise her arm to her mouth and try to lick off all the ants off before they reached more sensitive parts of her body and started to bite. Periodically she would leave her digging site only to return from a different angle so as to catch the ants unawares. Watching this behaviour was very special indeed and a real testament to David’s skill and anticipation.

Besides gorillas, these forests are home to a plethora of other creatures: this month we have been lucky enough to get good sightings of putty-nosed monkeys, a small bush viper and several species of bats, which have been difficult to identify. We have also been finding evidence of the anomalure (“flying squirrel”) in camp, but so far we have not managed to get a good sighting, while night walks in the forest have revealed pottos and two different galagos (bushbabies), namely the Demidorf’s and Thomas’.

Ngaga has also welcomed a new staff member to its kitchen contingent and we all look forward to many more delicious meals from chef Rea.

Lango Camp
We have been very impressed with the elephant activity around Lango this month. The rains seem to bring elephants more often and we are now seeing bulls regularly visit areas along the river or out in the savannah. They are also getting more used to encountering us and are becoming more tolerant of our presence, allowing us to get some great sightings. Forest elephant bulls only rarely form “bachelor groups” and a typical forest elephant matriarchal herd size is just three or four individuals, which can surprise people who might be expecting to see much larger herds. 

The bai areas – and Lango Bai in particular – play a very important role in elephant social interaction; it has been found that elephants will spend 50% longer in bais if other elephants are present. This results in magical nocturnal congregations which can be best appreciated by the silvery light of a full moon. On one special night this month we saw 22 elephants congregating by moonlight. Two of the bulls were testing each other’s strength, and the sound of clashing tusks rang out across the bai and echoed back from the surrounding trees.

Lango Bai was also visited by two sitatunga bulls, one at the far end of the bai and the other right next to the main deck; both these animals provided excellent sightings, being available for viewing for about 20 minutes.

The primate viewing along the Lekoli River has been good too, with four different monkey species being seen in one afternoon. The riverine forests have consistently proven to be the preferred habitat for most species of monkey, from the quick mangabeys to the less agile colobus. Some monkeys are actually competent swimmers, such as de Brazza’s monkey with his red-crested head and white beard, and so will always choose a habitat near water.

With primates, the balance between fear and curiosity worked in our favour, as each species – grey-cheeked mangabey, agile mangabey, guereza colobus and de Brazza’s monkeys – stuck around to get a better look at what was going on in the boat – while we were all having a better look at what was going on in the trees! Even chimps are known to visit the river, but typically we hear them more often than we see them. The combination of elusive animals, a swift-flowing river and tangled vegetation means that it can be very tough to locate the source of the noise.

The rains also seem to have brought out the amphibians and reptiles, with a sighting of the much-sought-after slender-snouted crocodile on a palm tree overhanging the Lekoli River and a dwarf crocodile spotted crossing the road in the middle of the savannah the day after heavy rains. Spotted bush snakes continue to amaze us with their bright green colours and this month we were lucky enough to come across a small female Blanding’s tree snake curled up in the fronds of a palm tree. The chorus of frogs is facing some competition with the noise from the elephants but they continue to do their vocal best to drown out the much larger animals.

We have three new additions to Lango Camp this month. Firstly, we are very happy to welcome Ashley and Tara to the Lango Camp management team and secondly we have been very excited about the presence of a grey-cheeked mangabey that now seems to be calling Lango home. It is unusual for this species to be alone, but it is possible that this young male has left his natal group and is now waiting to form his own family. We hope he continues to visit us regularly, as the guereza colobus do.

April has been especially productive for birding and there seem to be many fledglings learning the ropes at the moment. The most noticeable of these are the red-necked spurfowl running down the road with three or four little chicks in tow but the tree-nesting birds have also undergone a “baby boom” with eastern-bearded greenbuls and blue-billed malimbes also feeding their young.

Kingfishers are always a colourful highlight and this month we have seen pygmy kingfisher, chocolate-backed kingfisher, woodland kingfisher and shining-blue kingfisher while the blue-breasted kingfisher continues to call from all parts of the forest – but keeps us on our toes when it comes to actually trying to catch a glimpse of him. In the bai this month we managed to see a juvenile African harrier-hawk, which is quite uncommon for the region and a juvenile black-casqued-wattled hornbill, recognisable by his small casque, brown cheeks and lack of colour on his wattle. A collared sunbird was another special sighting on a flowering liana while blue-headed crested flycatcher, blue malkoha and guinea turacos are our (albeit somewhat shy) camp residents.

Guests walking beside buffalos. Guests walking beside buffalos. Guests walking beside buffalos. Beautiful sundowner.

Trekking to see the Golden Monkeys

We left Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge at 7am and drove to the National Park HQ. At the office we paid our fees (US$ 100.00 for non-residents) and were introduced to the Guide who would be escorting us to the Monkeys.

The Golden Monkey, Cercopithecus mitis kandti is a local subspecies of the better known Blue Monkey and is only found in the high altitude forests in this area. There are two habituated groups of Golden Monkeys both consisting of between 80 and 100 individuals. The group of Golden Monkeys we were due to visit live in the forests at the foot of Mt Sabyinyo, very close to the Lodge. After a briefing from our Guide, we drove back to where our trek would start, which is very close to the Lodge. The trek starts in the potato fields and after a 30 minute up-hill walk we eventually arrived at the National Park boundary. The boundary consists of a stone wall which was built to keep Buffalo and Elephants inside the Park and stop them raiding the potato fields. Just before entering the forest we were lucky with a sighting of a Regal Sunbird, Cinnyris regia. This Sunbird is endemic (only occurs) to the highland forests in the Virunga’s. Crossing the wall we entered the bamboo zone of the forest. Shortly after entering the bamboo we had good sightings of an Archer’s Robin-Chat, Cossypha archeri and a brief sighting of an Abyssinian Ground-Thrush, Zoothera piaggiae. Both of these birds, although common, are difficult to see in the forest undergrowth.

Rare bird sighting.

After a 35 minute climb in the bamboo zone we came across a group of Golden Monkeys. Although Golden Monkeys eat a variety of plant species (20–30) they prefer bamboo and this is what they were enjoying. At first, the only Golden Monkeys we could see were high up in the bamboo eating the fresh new leaves but the tracker soon found some which were feeding lower down and we were able to get good views and photographs of them.

Golden Monkeys are continually jumping from one area to another.

Unlike the Mountain Gorillas, the Golden Monkeys are continually jumping from one area to another, which does make photography a little difficult. Luckily, visitors are allowed to use the flash on their cameras (not allowed with Gorillas). Fill-in flash usually works better than full auto flash. As with Gorillas, visitors are only allowed 1 hour with the Monkeys. All too soon our time was up but everyone was excited with the close personal experience with such a rare Monkey. Our trek down the mountain through the forest only took 20 minutes and, after crossing the boundary wall, we all chatted about what we had just experienced. The trek back to our safari vehicle did not take long and we were soon at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge for a well earned welcome drink.

- by: Dave Richards
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. 

AAC Guide Sightings June 2014

George was with Wilberg Family and reported amazing sightings during their adventures.
Wilberg Party George on arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport where they had short briefing and started drive to Coffee lodge for lunch. After lunch we headed towards Ngorongoro Exploreans Lodge and enjoyed our scenic drive as we climbed the Great Rift Valley escarpment.

After a good night’s rest we headed off to explore the Ngorongoro for our first game drive which we all were really looking forward to.  We spotted lions and this was a great experience. The Wilberg were expressing to me that at home their favorite program on Nat Geo was the big cat diary! Seeing the lions close by was great to see and we spent time watching their behaviour as they interacted with one another. Our crater game drive was very successful as we continued to sight baboons, buffalo, elephants, hyenas, rhinos, male lions, wildebeest, zebras, and hippos. Our highlight was a baby being born and the jackals and Hyenas taking the baby, what a spectacle to see as the drama unfolded in front of us. After our game drive we had visit to the Maasai village then we went to the lodge for dinner and overnight.

The following morning we opted for a morning game drive in Lake Manayara National Park and had a late lunch at Manyara Serena. In the park we saw lots of baboons, blue monkeys, giraffe, monitor lizard, flamingoes. Our highlight in Manyara Park was the lions we saw with cubs and on top of that they were hunting a porcupine, we all watched as the cubs practiced their hunting skills until they disappeared in the bush. After a successful game drive we headed to the lodge for lunch.

 Lions with cubs and on top of a tree branch hunting a porcupine on Manyara Park

The following morning we continued our journey towards Tarangire National Park. On our way we saw the Maasai bomas en route and traditional markets where all would gather. We entered Tarangire National Park and our first sighting was a cheetah followed by banded mongoose, waterbuck, and elephants. We then stopped for lunch at Tarangire safari lodge enjoying the fantastic views. After lunch we continued with our game drive heading to Oliver’s camp and we saw More Elephants, Giraffe, Impalas . We continued to explore an area where we had heard Lions who had hunted earlier but did not manage to spot them.  The highlight of the day was a Leopard perched on a tree.  We were very lucky with the spotting  as we observed the magnificent creature as he posed for us!  We were the only ones there and this made it a very unique moment for us.  We all were extremely happy with the days finds and head back towards camp.

Leopard perched on a tree Leopard perched on a tree

The following morning Wilberg had the opportunity to go for a bush walk and Susanne had asked me to check on the lions who we had missed out on our evening game drive yesterday.  After their walk we set out and drove to the site and found seven lions as they were playing with the cubs and the cubs nursing from their mother. That was the highlight of the day!

Lions playing with their cubs on the road Lions playing with their cubs on the road

Our last day and we left early in the morning at six as the Wilbergs had to catch a flight from Kilimanjaro airport. We were lucky in the morning as we had good unique sighting of giraffe sitting down, we also saw dik diks but the icing on the cake was a male lion sitting on the side of the road! A Great Farewell!

Elibariki was with the Bornhoeft and reported
We began our safari adventure and departed to Lake Manyara National Park for morning game drive, on our game drive we saw troop of blue monkey, troop of baboons, troop of vervet monkey, harem of impala, superb starling one male hippo outside of the pool trying to enter the little pool where water was too shallow. We saw four giraffes almost together, big family of warthogs, elephants and more troops of baboons. After a successful game drive we head off to Lake Manyara Serena Lodge, which is perched on the escarpment and overlooks the lake . After lunch late afternoon we departed to Gibb’s Farm for dinner and overnight.

Three zebras on the field. View of the Serengeti plains Elephant in the field

The following day we had an early morning as we departed at 0530 hrs with picnic breakfast to explore the great Ngorongoro Crater. As we drove thru the morning mist and began to descend to the crater floor.  On our game drive we spotted African hare, big herd of buffalos on the rim crossing the road on our game drive in the crater we saw big bachelor herd of buffalos spotted hyena walking in the middle of the road, zebras, Thompson and grants gazelles.  We spotted plenty of Birds species from the big flock of abdim’s storks, grey crowned cranes, white storks, black bellied bustard, male kori bustard displaying himself with a puffed out chest,  As we continued we spotted lioness with two cubs of about two months old. We also saw big herd of wildebeest, warthogs family. We had a magnificent pink background as the lake was almost full with  greater and lesser Flamingos everywhere. We were very lucky and saw about ten rhinos in different areas, some far away and some near the road, two of them were lying down and stood up for short time and laid down again.

Relaxing afternoon in the tranquil environment of Gibbs farm enjoying the wonderful views Huge Rhino with many Flamingos on the background

We managed to spot plenty of elephants bulls around the plain and a family herd in the Lerai forest.  we saw hippos, one Male lion far away from the road, two rhinos showing fighting behavior but didn’t witness any action. With a successful time game viewing we decided it was time to head back to Gibbs farm for our lunch and spend a relaxing afternoon in the tranquil environment of Gibbs farm enjoying the wonderful views

The next morning after an early breakfast it was time to bid farewell as we drove to lake Manyara airstrip, they had a flight to catch to Serengeti.

Mkenda and Wilfred were with Santora family and reported some exciting game viewing
Mrs. Santora had been on a Tanzania Safari before, and was looking forward to a private safari Experience. Manyara Ranch was a perfect start for them.

Lion on Manyara National Park Kudu on Manyara National Park The Gerenuk part of antelope family

Overall we had a wonderful safari experience which exceeded their expectation and also managed to spot some great sightings.

We started our safari adventure by driving straight to Manyara Ranch where we had lunch and then went for an afternoon game drive and visited Maasai Open Market. They loved the market experience.  We headed back to camp to relax as they had planned for a night game drive later on. The Night game drive was quite interesting as they managed to spot various nocturnal animals including a very rare striped hyena.

The following morning we had an early start with an early morning walking safari at 0600hrs we saw elephant and zebra,, After breakfast we then drove to Manyara National Park for game drive where we saw another rare animal known as Kudu that was a great sighting. In the afternoon we saw cheetahs and another rare animal, the Gerenuk part of antelope family.

The Gerenuk part of antelope family The Gerenuk part of antelope family

The next day we continued our journey and drove to Gibbs farm and on the way we stopped at the town of Mtowabu “ Mosquito creek Town” . Having a magnificent view of the Rift Valley Escarpment I talked about the formation of the Great Rift Valley, which caused the formation of the Ngorongoro highlands and in turn resulted the flat plains of the Southern Serengeti. However the Ngorongoro Highland is in itself a very important area with its biodiversity, as it collects and absorbs rain water like a sponge and percolates under the rocks and released down at the foot of rift Valley wall of the escarpment. The water is very clear as the rocks underneath rich in lime stone. The creeks created from these springs used by local people for irrigation purposes, where they produce lots of vegetables, banana and rice, the town has grown from a village and continues to attract various tribes to have benefits of selling their produce and now we have over 120 different tribes in the area.

We headed to Gibbs Farm for lunch which was great and after lunch we had a walk to the waterfalls and elephants’ cave. At the elephant cave I had an opportunity to talk about the importance of minerals.  Elephants take mineral for two reasons; firstly due to the facts that their tusks contents made out of phosphorous and calcium so they need minerals for such requirements; secondly they need iron supplement as the iron in the body become depleted as it used to get rid of harmful chemicals.  We returned back to Gibbs Farm for dinner and overnight.

Male lions above the tree at Ngorongoro Male lions above the tree at Ngorongoro

The next day we left early in the morning at 0600hrs driving towards the Ngorongoro crater, we enjoyed a picnic breakfast in the crater entertained by hippopotamus. Then we saw rhino, hyena and lions and other general game before we went to Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge for lunch, on the way we saw a coalition of male lions on the tree. This was interest sighting as normally female lions tend to be sighted on trees and are the ones that climb trees.

The next day we continued our journey as we drove to the Serengeti via Olduvai Gorge and shifting sand. We talked about the importance of visiting the Gorge as it was the first place to excavate the skull of human kind scientifically known as Australopithecus Boise. In July 17, 1959 and that shifted the origin of human kind from Asia to Africa as it was dated to 1.75 million.

Then we drove to the shifting sand area where I demonstrated by using a magnet that the black sands are small Iron fillings that can be attracted by a magnet. Iron lava pushed out by a powerful volcano nearby in 1966. This volcano is known by Maasai as Oldonyo Lengai ( mountain of God).

The next day we had the opportunity to explore the Serengeti Plains,  we started by an amazing sight of a leopard just close by right in front of our vehicle and a lion on the tree. Then we went to the Moru Kopjes (rock outcrops) where we saw Maasai Paintings and Gong Rock where Maasai used to knock the rock. We also saw migration coming to Moru.

Leopard on the Serengeti Plains Leopard on the Serengeti Plains Leopard on the Serengeti Plains

The next morning was an early start as they had a Balloon Flight in the early morning. After the balloon and celebratory champagne breakfast we continued with a game drive and then lunch at the camp. In the afternoon we went to Moru Kopjes and saw three rhinoceros.

We continued exploring the Serengeti Plains and went towards Gol Kopjes where we saw cheetah hunting in tall grass and lions on the kopjes, what a brilliant sight, truly magnificent.

Cheetah hunting in tall grass Lions on the kopjes

Then as we were driving back we saw a big male leopard walking along the road that was the finale to our amazing trip.

Big male leopard walking along the road Big male leopard walking along the road

We had a wonderful safari filled with unique and interesting sightings

Elibariki was with the Williams and reported:
Arriving into Kilimanjaro Airport after introductions and short safari briefing, we departed and started our journey towards Tarangire and stopped at Maromboi tented Lodge for lunch. After lunch we headed out on an afternoon game drive.  On our game drive, we saw, several territorial male impalas, Zebras, lilac breasted roller, superb starling, warthogs, ostrich, black backed jackal, different families of elephants, herd of waterbuck, about seven giraffe  in the river some walking along the river and some feeding on the acacia tree bushes, pride  of three lioness  with one cub of about  three months on the river bank. Back to Maramboi tented camp for dinner and overnight.

Lioness on the field Lilac breasted roller resting on a tree branch

The next day we had an early start after early breakfast at 0600 hrs we departed with picnic lunch at 0630hrs for full day game drive. On our game drive we saw a lot of giraffes, zebras, different troops of baboons, vervet monkey, different bachelor herd of impalas, Pair of black backed jackal caring half of baby impala carcass each, big herd of different elephant families, some wallowing in the river, big several herum of  impalas, buffalos herd different warthogs families, ostrich, lilac breasted roller Tawny eagle, African fish eagle, southern ground hornbill, African grey hornbill. We had Lunch under the tree along the river whilst watching the elephants. What an amazing sight!  After lunch afternoon game drive where we saw two almost grown up leopard juveniles in one tree, red and yellow barbet, more elephants and warthogs almost everywhere common water bucks very big flock of about eighty ostrich chicks Including adults walking towards and eventually crossed the road in front of our car, With a successful day we headed back to Maromboi for dinner and overnight.

Herd of elephants with young ones on the plains

After early breakfast we departed with picnic lunch for full day game drive. On our  game drive we saw different warthogs families, ostrich, three brothers of cheetahs on the little termite mound, herd  of zebra, several wildebeest, lonely hartebeest troops of baboons, vervet monkey, pair of black backed jackals etc. picnic lunch. After our picnic lunch we continued exploring the park with an afternoon game drive where we saw a lot of elephant families wallowing in the mud, drinking and crossing the river. After a successful day we headed back the lodge early to spend the evening at leisure admiring the African sunset.

The following day we drove back to Arusha and had to bid farewell. We had a great adventure and were lucky with the incredible sightings we saw.

Mkenda was with Trippie and Baldwin party  and reported
Melinda and Richard had visited before and I was lucky to have the opportunity to be their guide once again on their safari adventure. The expectation would certainly be much more as they brought their friends with them this time around. Having a big challenge ahead of me to promise and deliver we set out on our journey. We set out on the hunt for game looking forward to catching some unique and memorable sightings.

Cheetah with a kill Cheetah with a kill Lioness on a tree
Big snake on the tree Walking on the safari with guide Mkenda Two cubs on the road.

We started our safari adventure and we drove to Tarangire National Park with picnic lunch. This gave me an ideal opportunity to give a brief of the Tarangire Park, having a river meandering in the Park which is the only source of water during dry season. This means that most of the animals are attracted inside the park during the dry season. Research has shown that over 6000 elephant are congregated in the park and large numbers of wildebeests and zebras. As opposed to wet season where animals are scattered around the park and on the outskirts the park as many water sources are easily accessible.  As we entered the park we were welcomed by giraffe as we continued our game drive we spotted plenty of elephant and giraffe and baobab trees scattered across the horizon.  We continued to our lodge for some rest.

The following day we left early at 0600hrs and enjoyed the morning golden light. We departed with a picnic breakfast and had our breakfast overlooking the view of the swamp, after breakfast we saw a python on the tree, then we saw a leopard from a distance and was a great sighting as it was the first leopard.

We continued our journey the next morning as we drove to Ngorongoro via Mtowambu “Mosquito Creek” Town where we enjoyed a walk, a nice chance to stretch our legs. We then continued our scenic drive climbing the rift valley escarpment and circled the crater rim as we went to Ngorongoro Lemala camp for lunch. After we visited the Maasai village and this was  an awesome experience to see local tribesman and given the chance to interact with them and learning their way of life, we also had the chance to see a few in action as they were taking cattle back to their village.

Big snake on the tree Rhinos on the plains. Rhinos on the plains.

As we woke up early this morning and all very excited as we descended down into the majestic crater floor for a full day game drive with our picnic lunches. We enjoyed sighting rhino with the morning light and having breakfast with hippopotamus at the picnic site. As we continued on game drive we spotted a pride of 9 lions with very young cubs who were feeding from their mother. We watched on as the family interacted with one another. This very unique sight and certainly turned out to be the highlight of the day.

We continued our journey towards the Serengeti plains. We drove to the Ndutu area via Olduvai Gorge and shifting sand.  This was a welcomed experience and they got a chance to learn and gather interesting facts on our early hominids. The shifting sands were an enjoyable and learning experience. I demonstrated what the sand contain by using a magnet as it is formed by Nitro-Carbonic Iron fillings can be attracted by a magnet perhaps the reason of being pulled together and moving in such form.

Guests passed by the shifting sand. Guests passed by the shifting sand. Flamingo on the water.

As we headed towards the Ndutu area , we continued exploring and spotted a pride of 13 lions and a cheetah. Also a colorful sight of flamingo in Lake Ndutu.

Our next day turned out very interesting. We spotted a lioness with very tiny cubs during morning light which was awesome. We continued on exploring and spotted Cheetah. We spent time tracking and following the cheetah as she perused to hunt. A very dramatic experience as we saw the cheetah hunt and catch a two months wildebeest!

Cheetah stretching its long legs. Lioness with its cub. Two cubs sitting on the road.

The following day our luck spotting Cheetah continued as we saw a mother cheetah with two very little cubs who had just killed a gazelle, it was a fascinating sight to watch as the little cubs shared the meal with their mother.

Cheetah hiding on the bush. Cheetah with a kill. Cheetah with a kill along with its cubs.

As we continued to explore the plains we saw a hyena chasing a mother wildebeest with her young calf. We watched on as eventually the Hyena managed to catch the young wildebeest. According to research findings made in Serengeti and Ngorongoro about 30% to 50% of newly born wildebeest under two months are taken by predators.

Cheetah with a kill along with its cubs. Cheetah with a kill along with its cubs. Hyena with a kill.

The following day we headed off exploring on game drive and we spotted many lions on trees. A unique sight to see tree climbing lions, perhaps they were climbing as the grasses were very long and needed better visibility. Cats either go up the tree or kopjes. We spotted a beautiful sighting of a leopard on a tree, very close sighting and this allowed us to get some great photos!

Beautiful sighting of a leopard on a tree Beautiful sighting of a leopard on a tree Beautiful sighting of a leopard on a tree

Our great luck with the Cheetah continued as we saw three coalition male cheetah marking their territory on the kopjes.

Male cheetah marking their territory on the kopjes. Male cheetah marking their territory on the kopjes. Two lioness on the tree.
Two lioness on the tree. Lioness jump down from the tree. Leopard looking lazy on a tree.

That was an amazing trip! We saw 9 leopards, many cheetahs and so many lions. The clients were very happy and they promised to be back.  We had  big farewell as we drove to the airstrip!

We had a thrilling Experience and surely exceeded their high expectations.  Melinda and Richard had visited before and they said this trip was even better than their first trip, they are planning to be back and will visit during a different part of the year to continue to explore the Northern circuit and perhaps to see the wildebeest river crossings in northern Serengeti. Actually we saw exceptional sightings that including a cheetah kill, lots of rhino, tree climbing lions, cheetah with tiny cubs and lions with their cubs too.

Lion Kids Camp at Samburu – Concern for Mother Nature

Samburu children in northern Kenya know a lot about wildlife because they live in a wild country amongst wild animals while herding livestock like goats, sheep and cows. They have to learn as much as possible about the reptiles, birds and mammals in order to survive – or keep safe.
As they grow older, these children avoid big game and grow up hating – or being wary of lions, leopards, buffalo, elephant and cheetah.
Some children are so afraid of wild animals that they have never seen predators up –close and alive. The only ones they have seen are those killed for killing livestock.
Now, Lion Kids Camp and Kenyan Kids on Safari are working together to change these children’s perception of wild animals.
Lion Kids Camp is another project by Dr Shivani Bhalla, founder and director of Ewaso Lions to engage local communities in conservation. Kenya’s lion population has crashed from 20,000 two decades ago to 2,000 today – mostly due to increasing human populations and a growing demand for space – which brings lions in direct conflict with pastoral communities when their livestock is killed. 

Kenyan Kids on Safari was founded by Todd Cromwell from the UK when he realized that not many local children have the opportunity to visit wildlife parks despite living close to them.
Ewaso Lions strongly believes that these children are future wildlife custodians and teaching them the problems of the dwindling wildlife may help change their perception and come up with solutions to save Kenya’s wild heritage.

Ewaso Lions Projects
a) Ewaso lion guides
b) Lion Kids Camp
c) Mama Simba
d) Warrior watch

Lion Kids Camp
In April, Ewaso Lions organized the second Lion Kids Camp at Westgate Conservancy bordering Samburu National Reserve. 35 local children from the area spent four days camping in the conservancy, learning about wildlife conservation and enjoying exciting game drives.
This was a life changing experience for the children. ‘Our evaluation shows that the children’s views on wildlife improve significantly after the Camp. At the end of the four-day program, all the children responded that they would be very sad if there were no lions in Samburu.”
Shivani Bhalla is inspiration to all Kenyan kids to conserve wildlife.
Heritage Hotels Supports Kids Safaris
Lion Kids Camp and Kenya Kids on Safari collaborate with Heritage Hotels, supported by our guests. Ewaso Lions and Samburu Intrepids Camp (Heritage Hotels) have to date taken more than 220 children on game drives in Samburu National Reserve. For many children, it is their first time in Samburu National Reserve.
Shivani has announced a marathon for the lions on 3rd May 2014 in Samburu to create awareness on the importance of lions to nomadic people.

Lion Kids Camp at Samburu
Lion Kids Camp at Samburu
Lion Kids Camp at Samburu
Lion Kids Camp at Samburu
Lion Kids Camp at Samburu
Lion Kids Camp at Samburu
Lion Kids Camp at Samburu
Lion Kids Camp at Samburu
Lion Kids Camp at Samburu
Lion Kids Camp at Samburu

- by: Steve Tilas Lekango 
Naturalist at Samburu Intrepids Camp

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