We had a fabulous trip, saw many wonderful things and loved our guide. I will share our days for anyone else interested in going on the northern circuit.
Day 1- Feb 14-picked up at 7:30 by Mollel in Arusha and drove to Tarangire National Park. There were elephants galore, many babies and juveniles. We also saw gazelle and a wide variety of birds, monkeys in the trees and a few giraffe. Except for the Tsetse flies, this is a very lovely small park . We stayed at the Maramboi Tented Lodge that night. We were greeted with a cold towel and a cold beer. The room was super, with Zebras grazing in the field in front of our tent and a show after dinner, which was excellent.
Day 2-Feb 15-after a great buffet breakfast we headed to Manyara Lake National park. Baboons greet you on the road in abundance. We also encountered zebra, giraffes and warthogs. We saw a hippo asleep in a pool and about 15 giraffe down by the lake resting in the sun. The prize for that day was watching a lioness just sitting in the river cooling off. We stayed at Kisima Ngeda Tented Camp on Lake Eaysi that night. It is run by a German and his Argentinean wife. The tent was lovely and the steak we had for dinner, as well as the vegetables and dairy products are all grown on the farm. I could have stayed right here for a few days.
Day 3-Feb 16-We arose at 4:30 and were greeted with a warm breakfast, after which we went in search of the Hadzabe people. We found them just awakening and joined them for their morning hunt. We only got two doves, but walking through the bush as sun rose was lovely. The rest of the day was spent making the drive to the central Serengeti. We were able to see a part of the gathering migrating herds along the way, as well as a few giraffe out for an afternoon munch. We stayed at the Serengeti Medium Camp that night. This was another nice place, not as luxurious as the other two nights, but right in the bush with nature all around. Meals are served at one big table, so every has a chance to talk about the days adventures. The food was good and plentiful. They heated water for our gravity fed shower as soon as we reached the camp, and brought cold drinks to our tent.
Day 4-Feb 17-We slept in to 7am this morning, and after a good breakfast we were off to explore the central Serengeti. The herds of migrating beasts had not made it this far yet, so we went in search of leopards and lions. We found both! The leopard was in a tree and did not do much but wag her tail, but the lions were great to watch. There was a male and a female, full from the buffalo they had eaten, which was still in evidence nearby. They lazed in the sun right next to our jeep. We were the only people in sight so it was a very person experience. She would get up to move to a shadier spot, he would look up sigh and slowly follow her. It was comical. Later in the day we watched a Cheetah looking for something; she crossed the road right in front of us. That night we stayed at the Nasikia Luxury Tented Camp on Naabi Hill, right outside the park entrance. We were the only ones in the camp that first night. In the middle of the night an elephant came to visit, the shaking of the tent woke us, then we just watched him eat right outside our tent. The food was extremely good in this camp. Once again they heated water for our gravity fed shower and brought us cold drinks as soon as we return to the camp, hot and dusty from a day on the plains.
Day 5-Feb18-We arose early and went in search of the great migrating herds. We headed into the Ndutu area. Each time we passed another jeep the guides would stop to chat. It seemed no one was having luck finding the herds. Our guide, Mollel, said he had an idea, so we headed off in the opposite direction of the other jeeps. After about 45 minutes, we found what we were looking for, thousands of wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, and their attended birds. We wandered around watching the herds from different locations. We parked under a tree for our picnic lunch while surrounded by grazing animals. On the way back we came across a pride of lion, well fed, sleeping in the sun; except, of course, the younger members of the pride were busy wrestling. We returned to Nasikia Camp, well satisfied with the day’s adventures, to a warm shower, a glass of wine and a bonfire.
Day 6-Feb 19-Todays agenda was to explore the kopjes and see what we could find. The herds had moved into the area. We had fun watching several Gazelle chasing a jackal. We found several lionesses and a few young males sleeping in the rocks. We were far afield when we stopped to admire the beauty of the sky, the plains and the endless sea of grazing animals when suddenly a small group start to run like their life depended on it. Which it turned out it did. From a nearby kopje two cheetahs emerged, quickly accelerating to full speed. We watched as they brought down a Wildebeest and ate their fill. By the time they were full, the cheetahs were covered in blood and their stomachs bloated. We waited awhile for the vultures now circling overhead to land. We had been alone to witness the entire event, but other jeeps, noticing we had been sitting way off on a little used track, were beginning to come investigate, so we went on our way. We soon discovered a mother cheetah and four cubs so young that their eyes were still closed and they couldn’t walk. We worried that it would be too stressful on the new mom and her brand new babies to stay long, or have a bunch of other jeeps show up, so we quickly took a few snaps and left her in peace. After a hot lunch back at Nasikia, we headed toward the Ngorongoro Crater and the Sopa lodge. I have written a review of this lodge elsewhere. I was not impressed with the segregated feeling of the place.
Day 7-Feb 20- We descended into the crater at 6:30 and had the place pretty much to ourselves for about an hour. We shared a close encounter with a black rhino, he crossed the road directly in front of our jeep, with two other groups. Of course we saw everything there was to see in the crater, but by 9am it is so crowded it feels more like a theme park. We drove on to the Farm House for the night’s stay after feeling we had seen all we could in the crater. The Ngorongoro Farm House is true quiet luxury. It is the perfect ending to a perfect safari.
Day 8-Feb 21- We headed back to Arusha and the end of the safari part of our journey. A word of warning about the souvenir shops on the road, they are WAY OVERPRICED. I got the same exact bookends at the airport for $15 that two of those shops wanted $85 for. One shop said he would come down to $50. Even the ‘walk away’ method of bargaining did not work with these shop keepers. And I noticed most of them were not native Tanzanians.