For at least ten years, since I first moved overseas, I dreamed of going on a Serengeti safari in Africa. Somewhere in the last ten years, I started dreaming of climbing Kilimanjaro. Zanzibar meant recovery time on the beach before returning to work. I turned these dreams into reality with one trip to Tanzania.
My trip consisted of three legs – Serengeti safari, Kilimanjaro climb, and Zanzibar beaches. January is one of the best months to visit Tanzania for a safari, so I consider myself very fortunate that I teach at a university in an Islamic country because our semester break actually falls in January, not at Christmas. I booked my safari and the rest of my trip to Tanzania through Africa Travel Resource. This was the first time I used this company and I was very happy with them. Anytime you book a tour, especially a tour involving adventure activities, you’ll have to have insurance. I booked my insurance through World Nomads. I think their coverage is great and their price is definitely right. They also have excellent customer service.
January is such a great – and inexpensive – time of year to travel! I flew Ethiopian Airlines from Kuwait to Kilimanjaro and arrived around 1:00PM. I was pretty tired because my flight departed at 2:00AM, so I opted to go directly to Bashay Rift Lodge rather than begin the safari in Manyara National Park, which was an option included in my itinerary, but I would have had to pay the park fees upon entry.
The ride from Kilimajaro Airport to Bashay was about two hours. What a welcome with juice and cold towels! Bashay Rift Lodge is located in the Rift Valley in a farming community called Karatu. It’s just stunning. The gardens alone, including the coffee trees, were just beautiful. The coffee here at Bashay was the best of the trip, maybe because it’s grown on their property and they sell it, and if I hadn’t been at my 15kg weight limit already, I would have bought some. Our room was luxurious by my budget travel standards and the service was 5 Star, including dinner, even though this isn’t rated as a 5 Star lodge. Justin, our driver, said goodbye and after drinks, relaxation, and a 3 course dinner, it was time for a shower and bed.
The next morning I had a great breakfast and more great coffee and then Justin arrived for the first day of our Serengeti safari! I didn’t realize that some people go on safari for seven days and still don’t see everything, so the fact that I saw it all in two days is just amazing to me. I think the time of year has a lot to do with it. We started at an outlook where we could see the Ngorongoro Crater in all its glory. This is where binoculars might come in handy and Justin had a pair! He explained that all the animals except the giraffes could be seen in the crater because there is water in the crater year round. Giraffes can’t climb up and down the steep descent into the crater. Speaking of descent, it was time to head into the crater.
In the crater the first thing I saw was five vultures eating a carcass of some sort. They were huge! Next we saw several Cape buffalo, one of the big five. It just got better and better. Warthogs, pregnant zebras, loads of birds, ostrich, and lions that plopped down right in front of our jeep for some shade. Lions? Big five. They were so close and didn’t seem at all bothered by all the vehicles. We noticed they were stalking a family of warthogs with about six babies. The chase was on and one of the babies got separated and that was that.
I felt bad for that baby warthog. He must have been terrified, but, survival of the fittest and all that. I saw the whole thing. Snacktime. Exciting and unique opportunity to see them hunt, but seeing that poor baby warthog being chased right in front of me made me feel so sorry for the poor thing.
For the second half of today Justin drove out of the crater and to Serengeti National Park. When we first entered SNP, all I saw was grass. Tall grass. Justin explained that this isn’t the time of year for the animals to be in this section of the park, so he just drove through, which took a while, and we entered a section of the park with shorter grass called Seronera, sort of in the middle of SNP. First thing I saw? Rhinoceros. Yep. Number three of the big five and this was my first day! Hyenas, giraffes, more lions, more birds, and elephants. Four of the big five in one day. Only the elusive leopard had yet to make an appearance.
At the end of the day Justin drove me to Seronera Camp Serengeti Seronera Camp where I would sleep for the next two nights. First thing we saw after we parked? An elephant. In the camp. On the way to my tent, I saw where that same elephant slept the night before because the grass was still flat. It was right next to my tent. The camp was beautiful and I had never seen a luxury tent like this one. I even had a hot shower and once again, 3 course dinners with 5 star service. They also have a great lounge area where you can charge your devices.
The next day in SNP was even better than the first. I won’t bore you with a list of everything I saw today, but I have to tell you about the last animal I saw. The last of the big five, the elusive leopard, was lounging in a tree, deciding whether or not he wanted to chase the two impala behind our jeep. We watched this guy for about 30 minutes. I’d seen a leopard before, many times in zoos. I’d seen almost all of these animals before, but not like this. When they are in their natural habitat and there is nothing between you and them except the door of a jeep, it is exhilarating, exciting, and rest assured, it will take your breath away.