Africa has a been a top destination on our wish list for a long time. We're not getting any younger, so we thought that we should get to it before we get too old to carry the big lenses! But Africa is a big place, and the question became where to go and what did we want to see. The first question could best be answered by answering the second question. The simple answer was that we wanted to see "Everything!" Then we had to get real. There are so many things to see in Africa that we have never seen: wildlife, birds, and landscapes. We decided that seeing the southern part of the great migration would give us many opportunities - there would be lots of babies and young animals (both predator and prey). It would be rainy season so we hoped it would be green with lots of herds of wildebeest and zebra. That being decided, Tanzania was the logical destination. The research then began for a guide and the areas of Tanzania we wanted to see. Plus we would need a visa and immunizations. We were a little worried about mosquito born disease, but we actually saw very few mosquitoes while we were there. We did encounter some tsetse flies (mostly in in Tarangire) but that wasn't too bad. Travel tip: get your visa ahead of time because there can be a long line at the Kilimanjaro airport visa desk.
We had really good flights (and flight crews)! We flew Delta from Boston to Amsterdam and then KLM to Kilimanjaro. We then stayed at the KIA Lodge for a bit while others began arriving. Next we drove through Tarangire National Park and spent a night in the Ndovu Camp there (one of many camp sites run by Nasikia). Then we drove to the amazing Ngorongoro Crater and spent a couple of nights at the Sopa Lodge on the crater rim. After leaving the crater we spent 5 nights in the Nasikia Mobile Migration Camp in the Ndutu area of Ngorongoro (amazing staff there). From there we drove to the Serengeti, were we spent 4 nights in the Elhane Plains Camp (also a Nasikia camp). Then we drove over to Seronera, where we caught a tiny little plane to fly us back to Kilamanjaro. Because of the timing of the flights, we stayed in a room in the KIA lodge to rest up for the journey home that night. KLM from Kilamanjaro to Amsterdam and then Delta back to Boston. Whew!
We arrived a day before the safari started which gave us time to adjust to the 8 hour time difference and the 17 hours of flight time. The Kia lodge was a great stop for that - it was just 5 minutes from the airport yet very isolated and quiet. The room was nice, with a great bed and, of course, mosquito netting around the bed. The extra day gave us a chance to walk around between naps and take a few pictures. We saw plenty of birds and geckos even a monkey and an owl, not all of which we got pictures of. Early in the day we walked up to the viewing point for Mount Kilimanjaro...
The phone video above is just a little look around the dining area at the KIA Lodge. This was our first (but definitely not last) taste of the delicious local Kilimanjaro beer. Having dinner with us is Janet on the right (who was also taking the photo safari), and Johan (one of our two guides). The others had not yet arrived at this point.
Note: You can click on any image to see a larger version, but this feature does not work well on mobile devices (blame Adobe).
The start of the photo safari proper...
Tarangire National Park
"Tarangire National Park is a national park in Tanzania's Manyara Region. The name of the park originates from the Tarangire River that crosses the park. The Tarangire River is the primary source of fresh water for wild animals in the Tarangire Ecosystem during the annual dry season. The Tarangire Ecosystem is defined by the long-distance migration of wildebeest and zebras. During the dry season thousands of animals concentrate in Tarangire National Park from the surrounding wet-season dispersal and calving areas." (wikipedia)
Below is a little phone video that Mike took in the Tarangire welcome center.
Tarangire is not a big park by Africa standards -- although it is roughly the size of Rhode Island. However, it is famous for having many elephants. It also has a good number of tse-tse flies, so it's a tough place to linger! We spent about a day (total) driving through this park -- which seems pretty brief in hind sight.
Driving out of Tarangire the next day...
We came upon three lionesses and a cub near a small herd of East African oryx (fringe-eared oryx). I can't recall exactly, but I think there were maybe 2 dozen oryx. We watched as the lionesses walked around the herd -- maybe attempting to isolate and ambush. The oryx would run and then face the closest lioness...
And then we were on the road to the Ngorongoro Crater. While driving there, we past many Masai villages and Masai people walking along the road.
We made it to the crater with enough time to drive down and look around for a bit before we had to drive out (everyone has to be out by sunset). While the conservation area is rather large (almost three times the size of Rhode Island), the crater itself is "only" about 100 square miles. Even so, we feel that it is one of the must-see locations in Tanzania. There is so much diversity -- so many different animals (and birds) to see in one place.
Below is a video that Hali took with her phone while we were waiting for things to get rolling.
Below is a phone video Mike shot on the road leading down into the crater. Overnight a tree had fallen across the road. Our drivers speculated that it may have been pushed over by an elephant (they said they get ornery this time of year).
Below is another of Mike's phone videos. This one just showing a little light morning traffic during our commute.
Below is a camera video from Mike's D850. The buffalo roll in the mud to stay cool, but the moisture in the mud attracts insects by the hundreds.
Below is a humorous video Hali took with her Canon EOS R of an ostrich having a bit of a dirt bath. I think I recall hearing something about them getting salt from eating small amounts of the dirt as well.
The first image below is a hamerkop (it's a duck). The shape of its head with a long bill and crest at the back is reminiscent of a hammer, which has given this species its name after the Afrikaans word for hammerhead. It is a medium-sized waterbird with brown plumage. It is found in Africa, Madagascar and Arabia, living in a wide variety of wetlands, including estuaries, lakesides, fish ponds, riverbanks, and rocky coasts. The hamerkop takes a wide range of prey, mostly fish and amphibians, but shrimps, insects and rodents are taken too. Prey is usually hunted in shallow water, either by sight or touch, but the species is adaptable and will take any prey it can. The species is renowned for its enormous nests, several of which are built during the breeding season. Unusually for a wading bird the nest has an internal nesting chamber where the eggs are laid. Both parents incubate the eggs, and raise the chicks. From Wikipedia.
Below is a video that Mike shot (using the Nikon D810) of our friend the elephant walking past our vehicle.
A video from Mike's D850 is below. The hippo has the amazing ability to splash the entire length of it's body with water using only its tail. I wish I could do that!
After the sun starting getting higher in the sky, we decided to take lunch (on the hood of the jeep) at the Ngoitokitok Springs in the south-eastern section of the park (along with a bunch of other visiting tourists). It's a convenient location and it has a restroom!
Below is a video from Mike's camera showing two male lions just resting in the heat of mid day (there isn't any shade around).