If safari is on your bucket list, move it up. I’m talking all the way to the very top. The sheer scope of animals you will see is incredible.
Safari in Swahili means trip. If someone is on safari, they could be taking a trip to the next town, to Zanzibar or to a neighbouring country. Luckily safari for us was in the traditional sense, and we got to visit the Tarangire, Ndutu, Serengeti, and Ngorongoro.
We started out in Tarangire and we were met with a painting straight from the Lion King. The umbrella acacia trees that dotted the landsape reminded us of the movie.
We were impressed to see that Disney had obviously done some research. Both the Swahili language and the illustrations we could see were taken from Tanzania.
They just got Pride Rock wrong. It looks nothing like the illustrations in the movie!
In Tarangire we saw elephants and giraffes walking straight past our vehicle. They were definitely used to human eyes peering at them from Toyota Landcruisers (pretty much the only vehicle used by safari companies).
We camped in tents, and a cook accompanied us to make gourmets meals over the eight days. I’m a little worried that the expectations have been raised for camping back home. Who makes fresh bread when camping?
Our guide explained the noises we would hear at night. He told us about the differences between zebras and buffalo (don’t leave the tent if it’s buffalo – they are more aggressive than lions). He told us what hyenas and lions sounded like (don’t leave the tent in either case).
The first night I was dead sure that I had heard a lion outside. There was a soft-footed creature moving stealthly about, and I decided to forgo my nightly trip to the bathroom.
In the morning I explained to Tom what I had heard. To his credit, he concealed his inside laughter as he told me that I had heard impala, an animal at the opposite end of the food chain from lions!
When we were in the Serengeti, however, I decided to ask again whether the sounds I heard were lions. This time there was no slightly mocking look in his eyes. Instead he answered matter-of-factly, yes.
The Serengeti was completely different from the other regions we saw, with tall grass that reminded me of Nose Hill Park in Calgary. Except City workers can maintain culverts in Nose Hill and not worry about lions taking shelter from the heat of the day!
At one point Sophie needed to heed the call of nature rather badly. Tom chuckled and said not here, wait til the grass becomes shorter. Sophie has never gone to the bathroom so quickly!
Ndutu was absolutely beautiful and a super highway of animals. The area is part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area but lies just outside the crater. We saw zebra, cheetahs, wildebeest, giraffes, jackals, all manner of birds, any number of antelopes species and so on just by looking straight ahead. Oh and that nursing lion and her two cubs.
The Ngorongoro Crater was stunning from above, and offered endless animal viewing from below. We were lucky to see everything from rhinos to a pride of juvenile lions and hundreds of wildebeest.
Our guide was absolutely fantastic. He knew everything from the origins of the landscape to the different kinds of animals and birds we were seeing. He could anticipate animal behaviour and knew when to pull the vehicle around so we could be in the middle of the action.
At one point, we were watching a mother cheetah and two cubs hanging out under a tree. Sudddenly Tom pulled the vehicle away from the “cheetah-jam” (15 safari vehicles crammed together), taking a wide arc away from the group.
Ten seconds later we saw the cheetah on the chase with her cubs in tow. The next thing we knew, we were watching her take down a baby wildebeest 20 feet away right in front of us.
Tom’s knowledge helped us again and again to get the best vantage points for animals. We saw lions make their way down a hillside towards us because he positioned us properly. We had two rhinos pop up out of a creek bed 50 metres away because he somehow knew they would be there.
Going on safari is definitely an experience I will never forgetl We just may have to come back…