Kenya & Tanzania
It took 4 days from Australia to get there but we were finally on our first African Safari! We were looked after by “The African Safari Company” out of Sydney and were on a private tour, Carolyn and I with our guide and driver George. The roads in Kenya can be very challenging outside the city and it is nice to have someone who knows how to drive the conditions and where they are going. George’s friendly manner, English, cultural and wildlife knowledge is excellent and helped pass the time on the longer travelling days.
Masai Mara – Kenya
Our first park was a truly beautiful place and a great way to spend Christmas. The Cheetah photo in the slide show was taken on our way to check in to the lodge in the park! We stayed at the Mara Serena Lodge (one of the only places inside the park) and it exceeded all expectations. Perched on top of a high bluff overlooking the plains with herds of Elephant, Giraffe and Gazelle… magic! It would be amazing during the migration in July/August. This is the place in the wildlife documentaries where the migration runs the gauntlet of the massive Crocodiles and the Croc’s try to keep out of the way of the Hippos.
Lake Nakuru – Kenya
The dry savannah and bright red clothes of the Masai herders with their cylindrical Mud hut villages gave way to more hilly agricultural areas of the farmers. The lake is famous for its flamingos which frequent the shoreline for a period each year due to the alkaline water in the lake. The flamingos were beautiful pink hues depending upon their time at the lake (the longer there the pinker they are) and numbered in their thousands. Within the park we saw black and white rhino, olive baboons, lion, zebra and monkeys, however, the leopard remained elusive (the last of the big 5 for us to see).
Amboseli – Kenya
Based at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.Amboseli was so different to the other parks we have visited – the word ”Amboseli” in Masai means whirl wind and that is what you have a lot of – the ground is generally flat and dry except for a few swamp areas, favourite spots of the elephants and hippos within the park. Unlike the Mara you also need to stay on the tracks which means that you may see some things but can’t always get as close as you would like. We also visited a Masai village here – something that we felt we needed to do given that we have seen so many of them on the road. It was interesting to see how they utilise the land to exist. They are very keen to sell you souvenirs and are masters of the sales craft so be prepared.
Serengeti – Tanzania
We crossed over to Tanzania and our new driver/guide KeSanda, a knowledgeable person with a little less English but friendly. The roads are a definite improvement on Kenya. We trusted him in his suggestions to do more even when we were feeling like a rest. It paid off with some long but wonderful Safari days in the Serengeti. Leopards, cheetahs, lions, gazelle, hippos, giraffe, elephants along with the massive numbers of wildebeest and zebra were incredible. You see the migration on documentaries but to see it for real is just amazing – there are thousands of them all moving in the same direction. Another excellent Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge makes the stay even more special.
In all the places that we have been Serengeti is a highlight and pick of the Safari parks – the amount of wildlife is just so huge and you can pretty much see everything there. It is also right in the heart of the Rift Valley so to get to it you descend from the mountains. The entrance is flat and dry so you don’t expect to see much but the grassland opens up and animals appear from all directions. In the trees we found the elusive Leopards but also Lions!
Ngorongoro Crater – Tanzania
For our last Safari location on this trip we were based at Ngorongoro Serena Lodge overlooking the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater. Descending the steep 3000 meter crater wall was a skilful display of four wheel driving by our guide. The crater is massive and contains gazelles, zebras, wildebeest, lions, buffaloes, hippos and elephants just to name a few. The hippos were entertaining rolling on their back with their stomachs in the air in an effort to coat their back with mud to prevent sun burn. The elephants are also huge as only the bulls can make it down and up the crater wall. A majestic ancient male with massive tusks slowly lumbered within a few meters of us dwarfing our Range-rover… an experience you don’t forget.
There were some very long travelling days and whilst these days make you wish you had chosen air travel between parks as the best option (or at least had the additional funds to consider it), you do get to learn a lot from the drivers and also see more of the real country rather than just the national parks that pervade all the travel brochures and documentaries (These places are pretty cool!). In doing so, we have come to realise that there are some other things about Kenya and Tanzania that Aussies would really like. The resourcefulness of the people…they throw out nothing! Plastic bags, tubs, old pieces of metal, tree branches, straw even cow dung… all put to extremely good use. It’s amazing how you see these tin roofed shacks no bigger than a bathroom with signs above the doorway (no door) indicating that they are furniture makers or sheet metal workers and from these tiny and seemingly unstable fixtures come the most remarkable 3 piece lounge suits and wrought irons beds. It really is hard to believe. Everything made is then put outside with people sitting on them and one wonders how they manage to keep them in such pristine condition given the amount of dust everywhere. Grass is not common anywhere apart from the parks.
So while we came here for the dream safari wildlife experience and had our expectations exceeded, we also take away a small insight of the people and culture of Kenya a Tanzania.
- Go on a reputable guided tour for safety and convenience.
- Research your Tour Company and accommodation on sites like TripAdvisor. Some accommodation is outside the parks and a long way from the animals.
- Decent accommodation can be expensive but the amenities are excellent and food is usually safe and well prepared.
- If you can afford it private tours are a lot more flexible and provide much better photo opportunities.
- If you have the money you may want to consider flying between parks. You will spend a lot more time looking at wildlife and not have some very long days travelling very dusty and bad roads.
- Take decent digital camera gear. Long zoom lenses are the most flexible.
- Take a Netbook or ultra portable Laptop for photos and Internet is available at better accommodation
- US$ can be used everywhere. You won’t find many ATM’s. Keep your security in mind… particularly when in the cities. You don’t want to present as walking ATM in Nairobi.
- Be prepared for dust and hot conditions during the day. Nights can get cold.
- Take a decent African based medical kit (just in case) and get your inoculations. You will need the certificates for some travel.
Serena travel Lodges