Listening to an interesting story of the fig tree with spiritual powers. Building our Swahili vocabulary with words such as jambo, karibu, and asante sana. Falling asleep to the voice and sounds of Africa, the roar of a lion, and the whooping of hyena; most distinctive noises of the African bush. This and much more lay ahead of us on our eye opening safari to the peaceful and friendly country of Tanzania.
After landing at Kilimanjaro Airport situated outside of Arusha, and catching up on some shut eye at the Machweo Wellness Retreat in Arusha, we met up with our private guide, Jabshir Rashidi. Armed with many years of experience and knowledge on the Africa Adventure Company guiding team, he drove us to Ndarakwai Ranch where we would begin our safari. Skilled at driving he navigated through the buzzing traffic and interesting towns in our super comfortable customized safari vehicle (4x4 Land Cruiser).
Ndarakwai, what a lovely place to begin in the foothills of Mt. Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro! After receiving smiles, a moist facecloth and a welcome drink from the staff that greeted us we were briefed on the camp and shown to our tents. Wow! These tents were great. Clean, comfortable with a great viewing deck, from which later that day we would observe mischievous baboons up to their antics.
We also got to meet the owner of Ndarakwai, Peter Jones
who has committed himself to a bold experiment in self-sustaining conservation and restoring the Ranch’s health to support wildlife populations and creating a compatible balance between the needs of man and the environment. Thomas the resident guide joined us as we enjoyed sundowners in the treehouse observation deck and then after dinner and hand feeding a bush baby with banana, we were treated to a night drive under the African blanket ceiling of millions of stars while viewing nocturnal animals such as the civet and spring hares.
Next on the agenda was a visit to Tarangire National Park which has a long river running through it, being the only source of water for wildlife during the dry season. En route we stopped at the magical Tarangire Treetops Lodge for a delicious lunch at the central dining area which is built around a large Baobab tree that is more than 800 years old. Zebra came to drink from the waterhole in front of the main area.
We entered the national park and along the Tarangire River we saw a high concentration of wildlife such as wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, warthog, ostrich, baboons and plenty of elephant for which this park is famous for. We went a little off the beaten track and stopped at Little Oliver’s which is an intimate camp located in an area with a high concentration of wildlife. The main area and the 5 en-suite tents have great views over the river bed.
That evening we stayed at the Tarangire Safari Lodge which has spectacular views over the river with its plentiful wildlife and birds among the many acacia tress. After waking up to the sounds of baboon playing in the tree and dik-dik eating between the tents we watched the procession of elephants moving away from the river which could all be seen from our tent. After a large breakfast we continued our exciting adventure.
Ngorongoro – where you have several choices for loges in the area. We stopped at Gibbs Farm, Exploreans and Escarpment Lodge along the way – each offering something a bit different in terms of style and experience. We arrived for our overnight stay at Ngorongoro Sopa.
After breakfast with views, and breathing in the crisp air we jumped into our vehicle and descended the winding road down the side of the rim and then onto the floor of the crater. What a spectacular scene, abundant wildlife and a pristine environment that took our breath away. One stand out experience was watching the lioness who could not find her cub. She walked back and forth in desperation calling and looking. Along with her sister and another cub she walked past our vehicle down the road searching. Small sounds came from some vegetation nearby and the cub came running out to meet her mother - a touching reunion between mother and child.
After a picnic lunch at the hippo pool we ascended the crater, drove through the highlands and across the open plains to our first camp – Namiri Plains. The Serengeti is everything we imagined and more! Two lions greeted us on arrival at camp – this was a great sign of amazing sightings to come. We had a very interesting conversation with Pako at Namiri Plains who is currently working on the habituation of the chimpanzees on Rubondo Island in the south-western corner of Lake Victoria.
From falling to sleep listening to the unforgettable sounds of lions and hyena at Namiri Plains, following hunting cheetah on your journey to the next camp, lions walking right through our season mobile camp sight and an attempted migration crossing at the Grumeti River – the Serengeti lived up to its reputation.
The following morning we were off to our next camp in the Serengeti taking time to follow a hunting cheetah along the way.
We visited several properties in the Serengeti including lunch at Mbuze Mawi, Pioneer Camp, Migration Camp, Sayari Camp and Lemala Mara – now that’s a whirlwind trip!
One of our favorites was the Serengeti Shared Camp which is a traditional mobile tented camp nicely located between a rocky hill on one side and a large flat topped rock on the other which the local lion frequently lie on and simply watch the people moving around camp. That evening three lions walked past the camp and once again early in the morning (that we were aware off). Hyena outside the tent woke us up a couple of times in the night. This is a camp where many of our AAC clients stay!
Our last night Africa we were so close to the migration we could watch the wildebeest and feel the ground rumbling as they ran past heading south.
The next morning after breakfast and a short game drive we headed to the Kogatenda airstrip for our scheduled Air Excell charter flight back to Arusha and the Mt Meru Hotel for lunch, rest, dinner and a freshen up before leaving on our flights back home.
This being our first time to East Africa - Tanzania did not disappoint. We had the highest expectations, and we were constantly surprised by the high level of accommodation, food, and most of all service. We have done much international and domestic U.S. travel and the level of service was highest in Tanzania. In hind sight this adventure allowed us to visit a large and diverse group of camps and lodges, as well as get a first-hand view of the logistics involved in traversing Tanzania. We will now be extremely effective in presenting the best and most customized routing of itinerary for our travelers, by calling upon our experiences from this adventure.
Although the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Tarangire Parks surpassed expectations with their game viewing and their sustainable camp requirements – it is the memory and impact of the people of Tanzania that we will cherish most…and the Lions… definitely the Lions too!
The next morning after breakfast and a short game drive we headed to the Kogatende airstrip where we bid farewell to Jabishir. A final departure for our scheduled Air Excel charter flight back to Arusha and the dayroom at Mt Meru Hotel for lunch, rest, dinner and a freshen up before leaving on our flights back home.