This safari was rather last minute it would be fair to say. But sometimes that’s the best way to do it. Amani and Neil had a good idea of what they were looking for, a long list of places to go, and not much time to do it. We managed to put something together that they liked, with some reasonable logistics, but to make matters worse they even asked me to come along for the ride!
We began on the manicured lawns of the characterful Ngare Sero, and even caught a glimpse of Kilimanjaro through the clouds. Amani and Neil had already enjoyed a few days by the ocean at Ras Kutani, where they had seen a whole host of new birds and beasties, which I successfully pretended to know. This was just the beginning of an intensive inventory of Tanzanian fauna. I think Amani is still drawing up her bird list, one month later.
So off to Tarangire we went, in our own private shiny safari wagon, in the capable hands of Phillip and Nomad. This year’s rain has been good and Tarangire was beautiful and green. Birds everywhere. With two first timers in the car, after an hour we were still only half a mile into the park, with some frantic bird list scribbling going on. The main gate can be busy being so close to Arusha but it doesn’t take long to disappear into the park. Baobab trees, huge herds of elephants and lots of birds, I was a happy chappy. We even managed to include three cheetahs on the way to Kuro, one of Nomad’s newest properties and a real gem at that. In the more remote south of the park, the camp perfectly combines wilderness, design and luxury. Over the next couple of days we enjoyed all the big cats, in trees, wonderful elephants and close encounters with two brother lions in the early morning and late at night right by camp. Not to mention cuckoos, larks, lovebirds, the list goes on.
On the way up to the Ngorongoro highlands we made a quick pit stop at Lake Manyara for lunch and bagged a few more birds. After some good baboon observation time at the Ngorongoro Conservation Area gate, including watching one delicately steal a tray of eggs and a loaf of bread from some unsuspecting campers, it was time to see the crater itself. Some spectacular scenery that is really stunning. We even managed to spot a black rhino from the first viewpoint, my first for a long while. Around the crater rim we went to Entamanu, in time for a incredible sunset, if it wasn’t raining and cold at well over 2000 meters! Entamanu feels more like a Scandinavian wood cabin than a safari camp, but it’s not long before you are really glad of the warming fires and comfy sofas.
Up again in the dark for the spectacular descent into the crater itself. The game viewing is great right from the start but for me it’s really about the scenery. We enjoyed a long breakfast overlooking some huge bull elephants in a swamp, with a curious kori bustard wondering past. We were doing a good job of dodging the crowds, who had largely dispersed by the early afternoon. We were sat by a fallen log with what we thought may be harbouring two or three lions when it started to rain. Before long 4 females and 6 cubs were frolicking around, up and under, on and off the log, and we had the whole thing to ourselves. Just goes to show all that talk about the crater being ‘like a zoo’, ‘too crowded’ is a load of old…
Onto the Serengeti we went, and the original Ndutu Safari Lodge, one of those classic lodges that are few and far between these days. It was dry and the wildebeest herds were still fairly thin but that didn’t stop Ndutu living up to it’s reputation as a big cat lover’s dream; lions and cheetah everywhere. Ndutu can be busy around the lakes at this time of year, with a lot of camps in a relatively small area, so the same applies; it really pays to be with people who know the area well and can show you the right balance of great sightings and empty wild landscapes that you don’t have to share. On our final day we ventured up into the Serengeti proper where we found the new grass and some vast herds of wildebeest, not to mention elephant and buffalo. We even threw in a serval on the way home for good measure!
I had to head back to the real world but Amani and Neil continued on their way to Pemba Island and Manta Resort where they stayed a night in the underwater room. Initially I was willing to bet they wouldn’t last the night but after a week on safari I realised they would easily pass the time checking off all the different fish swimming past, which is exactly what happened. Thanks to Amani and Neil for a cracking safari and we look forward to seeing them again in Tanzania!
- every time we were right among the elephants in Tarangire, which was a lot
- straw tailed, pin tailed and steel blue whydahs drinking together from the puddle next to the car while we waited for the plane at Ndutu
- water thickkkknees seeing off a monitor lizard with a clever distraction display
- Canadians know nothing about football
Footnote: if the authors of Birds of East Africa are reading this then Amani would like to have a word with you about some of your drawings
Click on the properties to find out more and click here to see what our guests had to say for themselves (heavily edited and blacked out).