Category Archives: Safari

Tanzania Safari: The Serengeti

We drove straight from the otherworldly Ngorogoro Crater to the neighboring plains of the Serengeti, a name derived from a Massai word meaning “Endless Place.”

The whole drive was spectacular. Leaving the crater takes you into an adjacent valley, which is equally lush and green with Massai villages lining the inside, and young Massai herders weaving their livestock through a few zebras and wildebeests that share the valley. We even saw a handful of giraffes there just snacking in the trees.

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Once we got into the Serengeti, Alex took a surprising sharp left turn off the road and headed out into the plains. There were no roads, no end in sight, no other vehicles, and plenty of wildebeests, gazelles and hyenas to keep us entertained. Pretty unexpected and very cool.

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In the Serengeti, we stayed at one of the semi-permanent Halisi Camps (ours was called NunguNungu), which consists of a dining area and about a dozen large private tents. There is no electricity or running water — they use a pulley system to lift one bucket of warm water per person per day above your tent, which then flows through a shower head inside.

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The Halisi Camp was an amazing experience. You are living right in the middle of the Serengeti. You are not allowed to walk around at night unescorted, and spend little time doing so during the day either. Elephants, lions and buffalo are known to wander through. We had several buffalo grazing behind our tent one night, and the host insisted that we not step outside — buffalo can be the most aggressive, often more dangerous than lions or elephants because they are more likely to charge.

One of the coolest parts of the camp was the “white noise” at night. You have never heard such a cacophony of different creatures’ sounds quite like the Serengeti at night. We slept like absolute babies/stones/logs. Sitting outside early the next morning to have a fresh cup of coffee (for me) or tea (for Jill) was heaven.

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After an early breakfast we got into the car and took off into the plains again for a dawn game drive. There are well over a million wildebeest there, which is hard to comprehend. You can see a few thousand right up close and what looks like hundreds of thousands more just dotting the horizon as far as you can see. Then you drive to another part of the plains, and see an entirely different group of equal size.

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We saw a bunch more giraffes, a few lions, tens of thousands of zebras, gazelles, hyenas and even a rare feat of a mother cheetah teaching her cubs how to hunt a gazelle (she was unsuccessful).

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All in all, the safari was a really unique experience and Tanzania was an incredible place to do it.

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Tanzania Safari: Ngorogoro Crater

Following Kilimanjaro, we had our detox night at Mbahe Farm then took off at dawn the next morning to begin our safari.

Our guide, Alex, needed to make a quick stop at his home en route to our first game drive. So after successfully thwarting Jill’s kidnapping attempt of his one-year-old son Caleb, we were on our way.

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The first game drive was through Lake Manyara, which I hate to say was not all that exciting. Even leaving at 6am from the farm at Kili, we arrived in the heat of the day at noon when most of the animals had retreated to cover in the shade. We saw a bunch of zebras and flamingos in the distance, a few blue monkeys and tons of baboons. But it was a pretty uneventful first day.

The next morning we went out into Ngorogoro Crater, which was absolutely stunning. It’s a massive 100-square mile caldera, which is effectively a sunken crater from a volcano that has descended into the earth over the past few million years. Ngorogoro is believed to have been a larger volcano than Kilimanjaro.

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You start by driving up to the rim, where you get a view of the crater. It looks like a massive coliseum… and functions like one down below: over 30,000 animals live there, with buffalo, zebra, hyenas, lions, wildebeest, rhinos, elephants and more all inhabiting the same playing field. It’s about as close to the Land Before Time as you can get… except for the dozens of Land Rovers, but you get over that. It wasn’t as crowded as I thought it was going to be.

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Driving into and around the basin is an amazing feeling. Even with all the vehicles around, the animals seem relatively relaxed and just go about their business — which consists of eating grass, sleeping, and steering clear of lions.

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The lions were definitely the most impressive part. Amazing creatures, clearly running the show in the Crater — seemingly docile but with a power and ferocity you knew they could unleash at any moment if they wanted to. Much like Pete Sampras in his prime.

The lions are completely unfazed by the cars and seem to have an implicit agreement with the vehicles: you can take all the photos of me you want if I can sleep in your shade. They only hunt and eat once a week, so the vast majority of their time is spent resting and conserving energy.

While we certainly got a little stir crazy being in a car all day after being so active the previous seven days, the Ngorogoro Crater was an amazingly beautiful and unique experience.

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