Jump to content


Recommended Posts

Well, before I forget how to upload pictures from Flickr again, I thought I would post the latest trip. A little bit different trip this time. One where I accompanied 5 veterinary students on a short faculty-led study abroad trip. This is the second such trip, the first being in 2011. Prior to the trip, students spend time in the classroom reviewing various topics ranging from the culture of Tanzania, wildlife conservation, and animal and zoonotic diseases of the region. This was followed by a two week tour in Tanzania over their Christmas break.


We left the US on December 31st, flying Delta to Amsterdam and on to Kilimanjaro. No surprises along the way and everyone’s luggage arrived. Yay!! We were picked up at the airport by a driver from Mvuli Hotel and taken to Mvuli Hotel in Arusha. This is a lovely, small hotel that was well within the budget of a student tour and has some of the best service I have ever experienced. Nothing was too difficult and the transport to the hotel was only $40, which is less than the usual fare charged for transport from the airport to Arusha. The rooms are very clean and the air conditioning works great. WiFi in certain parts of the hotel. I may have even had it in my room, but I can’t remember for sure. We are up early the next morning as we will be flying to Seronera (central Serengeti) with Coastal Aviation shortly after 7 am. We have breakfast and are taken to the Arusha airport for a fee of $20. We get checked in at the airport. Fortunately I had remembered to print off all of the tickets. Not sure what would have happened if I hadn’t. Luggage was weighed. The students were all extremely good about limiting what they had brought, but we did have some extra things that we would need later that Mvuli stored for us as we would be returning to the hotel. Although all of the students have traveled internationally, some to under developed countries, none of them had ever been to Africa or flown on a small plane. And they loved it!! We were the only people on the plane out of Arusha, then picked up a couple at Manyara.

Before taking off from Manyara, the pilot asks the students if someone would like to be the co-pilot. One immediately jumped at the chance. Next stop Kuro airstrip (for those going to or coming from Tarangire). Then onto Seronera. The excitement grows as the students see many giraffe lined up along the airstip in Seronera. We land and the pilot announces, “your co-pilot welcomes you to Seronera”. The student co-pilot said “that was the best thing ever and that she could go home right now and her trip would have been a success”. We are met at the airstrip by George Mbwambo, the guide I have used for the previous trips, including the one with students. We load into a very nice land cruiser that George has leased for us. Normally we go in George’s land cruiser, but since there are six of us, we needed the 7-seater version. George has it well-stocked with water, snacks, and coffee for me, as he knows it is never too hot or too late in the day for my coffee break. We spend a full day game driving, eating box lunches that George has brought from Osupuko Serengeti camp where we will be spending the next 2 nights. Seronera does not to disappoint, but how could it when you are in a car full of people who have never been on an African safari. Nothing compares to the first time.




Young giraffe practicing their sparring skills










That evening we check into Osupuko Serengeti, which is in the Rongai Hills area. The camp is a basic mobile camp but very will set up, with really nice tents and a beautiful location. The service and food are exceptional. I have stayed at several mobile camps in the Serengeti and I think this might be one of my favorites, and it is very reasonably priced. The students really hit it off with the camp staff and a good time was had by all. Plus that added experience of the bucket shower for the uninitiated. On the second night here the students introduced George to roasting marsh mellows. This was something mentioned on a previous trip with students and George had no idea what a marsh mellow was, so we told him we would bring some. So George and the camp staff tried them, but were not impressed. Too sweet for their liking. But it was fun none the less.



Tents at Osupuko Serengeti Camp



Dining and Lounge Tent


Day 3 arrives and we are on our way to Ndutu, taking it slow and doing a game drive on the way.



George getting the car ready


Leopard sightings this trip were, sadly, all quite distant







A stop at the hippo pool proved especially entertaining this time. They were very active, with lots of young ones, and we were the only people there.









That's it for now. Much more to come in the next few days.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

You just slipped in the images of the lions in the tree! How did your students respond to that? Did they realise that is not an overly common occurrence. It must be delightful to escort a group of new safari goers and relive that first time excitement.


Looking forward to hearing more

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi @@wilddog. Only a single lion in the tree this time so not quite as spectacular.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Absolutely @@kilopascal ; the group in the tree in your other TR was seriously spectacular.



You mentioned the students excitement at seeing the giraffe so I was curious how they responded to seeing the lions...... and in tree.



If I have interpreted the two reports correctly they were not with you on the May 2015 trip?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That is correct @@wilddog this was their first trip. I don't think they realized it was not just normal lion behavior.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So this is the Jan trip. How exciting for you to see Tanzania through first timer's eyes as well. Of course the lion sees you and immediately hops into the tree!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Those hippo shots are really something, from the seemingly placid to the action-packed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wonderful to see Africa through wide-eyed first-timers!


thanks for sharing!

Edited by Kitsafari
Link to comment
Share on other sites

We head out at Naabi gate, have lunch then off to Ndutu. This is always so much fun since you don’t have to stick to the road in Ndutu. The students are comfortable enough with George now that a considerable amount of teasing and questioning goes on, both from the students and George. When I had told George that all of the students were young women in their mid twenties his response was “I will die.”


Student 1: “So George, we were wondering why you have one son who is 15 and then you don’t have any more children for 11 years, then 2 more?”

George: “Ehh, I was away and well, you know”

Student 2: “Were you in prison?”

George (who is laughing and giving me a look): “Did you hear what they ask me? They ask me if I was in prison”

Student 2: “Well you said you were away and why else would you be away for 11 years”

George: “I meant I was gone a lot on safari”


Later that day after talking about George’s oldest son Mike who is boarding at a secondary school:

Student: “Did you go to boarding school?”

George: “Only for 2 weeks, then my dad had to come get me because I was homesick and cried all the time”

Student 2: “You would not have survived prison”


And so it goes. It was either constant awe at what they were seeing, or constant laughter.


Some bat eared foxes as we enter Ndutu, hyena, zebra, wildebeest, etc. As the day is drawing near, George drives down to one of the marshes (Small marsh? Big marsh? Who knows. I never keep track). There we find some lions lazing about and as we are watching we see a herd of elephant coming down to drink, so George drives over and positions the car. There is just us and one other vehicle that soon leaves. We spend close to an hour here. There are a couple of young (and randy) elephants who look like they are about to get into it, but ultimately are made to behave by the matriarch. As we are watching the elephants, I happen to turn around and notice the romance between a couple of zebras.














We stay at Flycatcher Camp in Ndutu. It is the same camp staff that are in Katavi, but move to Ndutu in December. I had stayed with them in Katavi and they are excellent. A basic camp but excellent service and value for money. The camp in Ndutu is beautifully positioned and the first morning there, a stream of wildebeest is running about 50 years from the tents as we are outside brushing teeth and getting ready to go. One of the students pronounces this as one of the top ten places she has brushed her teeth. Another student looks at her quizzically and says “really? How can this not be number 1?” I have to agree. We eat breakfast and leave at sunrise each day. We are the only people in the camp the two nights we are there. It will be another week before they start to be fully booked with clients. Consequently, it was all about us and it was a fantastic stay. It was cooler here than in Seronera, and the sleep I got in these tents after a long days game drive was glorious.


Flycatcher's Lagarja Camp


Dining Tent

The next morning George wants to go back down to the marsh to see what the lions are up to. They are out, but shortly after we get there, they take the cubs off into the tall grass and you can no longer see them or the adults. If it were just myself and George, I suspect we would have hung out here most of the day to see what might happen, but we only have today and the next morning in Ndutu and there are cheetah to be found.





We stop off first at the well-known bat eared fox den and they are having a good time this morning. This is followed shortly by a very brief jackal sighting and then a student spots a lion in the distance. Then we see two more. We drive toward them and they settle down into some bushes. As we are watching George spots a cheetah far away. We move toward it and soon there are three, then a 4th. They are moving with a purpose, and appear to be hunting. We follow at a distance eventually George says we have to stop, as they have moved out of Ndutu to the park and we cannot follow. Curses!! You can see George is tempted, but we ultimately turn around and head off to Hidden Valley for some zebra and wildebeest viewing.













It’s an all-day game drive with several more cheetah and then a recheck on the lions who are still where we left them.


As we return, we head back to the marsh, and the lions are feeding on a zebra. We watch until nearly dark and head back to camp, passing more elephants and zebra that have come to drink.








More fun at camp and at one point George is laughing so hard that he gets up from the table, unzips the tent door, goes outside, and tries to get control.


Student: “We broke George”


We leave the next day and I have to say, I was very sorry to go. I suspect I will be back in Ndutu next year and spend a week or so at this camp. One last check of the marsh and we game drive on the way out of Ndutu. Stay tuned for Olmoti Crater and Tarangire National Park.









Link to comment
Share on other sites

Really enjoying your report @@kilopascal - thanks.


I noticed you mention George tempted to follow the cheetahs into the Serengeti but not doing so, then you mention you went to Hidden Valley. So I guess from your report that at least part of hidden valley is accessible from NCA. Let me know if I have that wrong.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yep @@xelas, there was a promise made by all that what happens in African stays in Africa. :rolleyes: So those pictures no included!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


@@kilopascal Really interesting trip report. Your photos are really nice and sharp and the stories that accompany them make for nice framing. I've toyed with the idea of taking junior and senior undergraduates on a biology and geology trip to northern Tanzania and this trip report is making me think about it again. How difficult was the organizing?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi @@anthracosaur. How difficult is hard to say. I think for me it has become relatively easy because I have been there so often now. I do not use a tour operator, but if you are not real familiar with Tanzania, you may want to. That may or may not add to the cost. Tour operators often get good deals with various camps. I usually contact the camps myself and explain that this is a student group and I have done fairly well, but I have also received quotes from places that are still quite high, and I think a tour operator helps with that. It also depends on the university and their regulations on setting things up. Are they willing to send international wires or will they require credit card payment for everything. Do they provide the travel medical insurance, how students pay etc. My first dealings with the study abroad office here were a little daunting the first time I took students, but I've got the hang of it now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

~ @@kilopascal


Your final spotted hyena image is magnificent.

That's surely one of the most attractive hyena photographs I've seen.

Thank you for posting it.

Your trip report was a joy to read, in addition to overflowing with lovely photographs.

I hope that your next safari will be as much fun as this one was!

Tom K.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



I am not sure if you are / were really interested in this answer but the lions you saw were the Marsh Pride and most likely you met them in the Big Marsh, not the Small Marsh

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"We broke George." That is the quote of the trip!


The bat eared foxes in the air are down right comical!


Another Ndutu green season fan, I see. I met those Marsh Pride lions too and can tell the cubs have grown a bit.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

on a sidenote:


The Marsh Pride had been dominated by two big males named Katavi and Selous. Those two were then in December 2014 kicked out by two new males which presumably had migrated over from the Serengeti. They were later named Romus and Remulus. At the time the pride had ten young cubs. One of the big females (Cassandra) took all the babies (including those of her sister, cousins and aunts) and left the group to basically form her own pride. Nine out of these ten former cubs are now healthy subadults. Romus and Remulus have since fathered their own cubs. Today the Marsh Pride consists of five females and seven cubs.


Katavi and Selous left the Marsh Area but still dominated the Masek and the Thin Pride. Selous, however, killed a donkey in 2015 and was subsequently speared to death by its Masai owner. Katavi was still alive and well when I last saw him a month ago.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Today we are headed to Olmoti Crater in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area for a bit of a hike. It’s been my experience that after many days in a car on safari you need a bit of exercise. I am a little concerned about keeping up with the twenty somethings, but I guess that’s why I pay that person at home to make me work out. I’ve hiked up to the crater rim before, and it is not difficult, but you are at altitude, so it feels a bit tougher then you would expect. We stop at a main office area, not sure the exact position of this, but there is a petrol station here as well. George takes me into the office to pay for the hike. As usual here, it involves a bit more paperwork than one would think. I pay the $20 fee for the group and then we go to put diesel in the car. We stop at a ranger station and pick up Gideon and his gun, who will accompany us on the hike. We drive to Nainokanoka village and start from there. George stays with the car. We initially pass an area with water pumps where a bit of washing by the local Maasai is being done and then on up the hill. Gideon points out many lion tracks on the trail and I warn the ladies about not touching the stinging nettle that is alongside the trail. Gideon tells them, as I have been told before, that the biggest danger for hikers are cape buffalo. We see none however, only numerous birds that would get names if George were with us, and many flowers that I can’t name either. It takes a little less than an hour to get to the rim and then we hike down to a small water fall. It’s sunny and very warm and great to be out doing something.



View from the Rim of Olmoti Crater



Ranger Gideon

We return and take Gideon back to the ranger station and tip him. Outside of the little building they have, there are some guys sitting with 2 liter bottles of something. We ask George about it and he says it is honey. We find a shady place to eat our lunch and give the leftovers, of which there is always plenty, to the guys sitting around the Ranger Station. We drive on and our next stop is one of the Maasai villages. There are several and this one is one of my favorites because of its location. Now, a bit about these cultural experiences. They initially sing and dance to welcome you, then show you into a home and tell you how it is made and a bit about how they live. They welcome all questions and you can take pictures of everything and everyone. The price was $15 per person, but when George told them I was their mwalimu (teacher) they said no charge for me. Lots of people on various forums really hate these, claiming they are staged and they want to see a real boma. Well, here’s my opinion for what it’s worth. First, yes a bit of staging, but it’s not as if the village is set up just for tourists to look. It is where these people live. And yes, they will work hard to sell you things. But isn’t the point of cultural tourism is to provide some means of income by showing people about your way of life, although this is admittedly a very small window. If you don’t want to buy anything, no problem. But if you have 5 twenty something women with you, I can guarantee that shopping is the fun part, provided you have honed your bargaining skills. You can use US dollars or Tanzania shillings but I had George exchange a fairly large amount of US dollars into shillings before we got there. The Maasai asked if we had shillings or dollars and when I told them we could pay in shillings they were pleased. The students picked out a number of things they wanted, and the bargaining began. So, student number one: the Maasai announced a price of $120. That was serious sticker shock for the items, even more so than I have experienced in the past. She said no and with a bit of help from me, a price of 60,000 shillings was eventually agreed upon (a little less than $30). And so it went, with me feigning a heart attack at one point. All good fun and in the end everyone seemed very happy. I think we left them with the equivalent of a little over $200. It was getting late in the day, and we really needed to move on. The Maasai insisted they see the kindergarten (because they will ask you for a donation). The students went to see and left them a $5 donation. I stayed back with George and watched some of the women in a small area that we had not seen, actually making many of the beaded items that they sell. Then one of the Maasai men said something to George and he said you need to go with him, the women want to give you something. So I did and several women came over a placed a bracelet they had selected from the things they sell on my wrist. I was quite touched. We left with all our bounty and students chatting about their bargaining skills and an offer of marriage that one had received.






On to our lodging for the evening. We are staying at Osupuko Tarangire, which is a lodge just outside of the park. Camps within the park were out of our budget, but I don’t regret our choice at all. This place is beautiful with excellent service, great food, and a nice pool. This is not a tented camp, but individual chalets or duplex type chalets with both indoor and outdoor showers. Electricity is available until about 10 pm and then starts again in the morning. Hot water for showers readily available. Each room has a little patio out back and you can sit and watch resident wildlife, which sometimes includes an elephant or two. The only drawback was the heat. Not only is this the hottest time of year here, it was unusually hot. The rooms have windows with screens that will open, but adequate ventilation through them just doesn’t happen. There is a big floor fan in each room but it just seems to blow around the hot air no matter where you put it, and of course, it stops at night when the electricity goes off. So sleep in my big, lovely bed with a nice mosquito net wasn’t great. But I can imagine that during Tarangire high season, July-October or so, that this place would be perfect. Unfortunately I once again forgot to take pictures of the room and the only pictures I have of the dining area have students in them. But it’s easy enough to find pictures online. The dining area is a covered open air place that looks out over the pool and the surrounding landscape.


The road out to the park goes past a small village with kids always waving. At one point there is a group of men working on a small bridge and they tell George to stop because they want to meet all the women inside. George laughs and says maybe later. It is just a 10 minute drive and you are to the park. Many of you will know this is not the best time of year to visit Tarangire Park, as the animals disperse after the rains, even the short rains. Dry season is much better. But we decided to go to Tarangire this time instead of Ngorongoro Crater, just to see how it worked out. It was a bit devoid of animals (at least visible animals) compared to what I have seen in the dry season. We spend the entire day, going the length of the park with a morning coffee break in the picnic area overlooking the river. There were dozens of vervet monkeys here that tried desperately to access what was in the car, which was quite fun to watch. We lunched near the swamp and had an afternoon drink at Tarangire Safari Lodge, taking in their excellent views of the park.



Dwarf mongoose along the road to our lodge



Pied Kingfisher







Goliath Heron



What I wouldn't give to have this be in focus

The highlight of the park is of course, the elephants and they did not disappoint. Especially at the end of the day. George drove down near the river and a student spotted the only lion we would see on the opposite side. But George’s purpose had been to see if the elephants would come down in the evening. And they did. Right in front of us. Many of the students list this as the best thing they saw on safari, so I guess Tarangire wasn’t a complete bust. The elephants came down into the river first, and then much to our delight, proceeded to the other side where we were parked. George moved the car a bit to make sure we were not in their path and to get a better angle for pictures. It’s gets quite muddy and very slippery where they are exiting the river, and it was really fun to watch the older elephants aiding the small ones up the river bank.









We head back to the lodge and stop for a brief chat with the “bridge builders” and give them the remainder of our box lunches. The students make plans for a late afternoon swim.


Students/George conversation:

“Are you coming swimming with us George?”

“No, I will watch.”

“That’s creepy George.”



View from the pool and dining area of Osupuko Tarangire

I went to shower and was lying down for a bit and kept hearing a banging outside of the bathroom. I went to investigate and found this hornbill pecking at the metal side of the outdoor shower. This went on for quite a while and he did me the honor of returning very early the next morning, along with a friend, for more of the same.




We said our goodbyes the next morning and get ready to head back to Arusha. We stop in Mto wa Mbu to each our lunch, change some more money, and shop at the Maasai Market and some of the other markets along the road. The currency exchange place is closed, but we are told by someone waiting that they will be back in 20 minutes. So we wait. As we are waiting, there are many people trying to sell stuff and the students take this in stride. They strike up conversations with many of them, buying nothing, until the Tanzania team T-shirt seller arrives. Well, everyone has to have one in the national Tanzanian colors, but they also want a black one for George as he will be “the coach”. They bargain and get the price down to $5, but the guy doesn’t have enough of the right size. So he says he will be back and will find us. I change money, and as we start down to the market he comes back on his bike with more shirts. Everyone is happy. George parks outside the market and I tell the students they are on their own and can stay as long as they want. I go in and buy a couple of pictures and carvings. I love coming to this place and, although some people do not enjoy the constant bombardment of “come to my store next”, the students had a great time.


Packing up my purchases at the Maasai Market in Mto wa Mbu


Guides hanging out at the market, enjoying the break from their clients, I'm sure.

We finish up and head back to Mvuli Hotel in Arusha where we receive the welcome back as if we were long lost friends. Anticipating our return they have thoughtfully turned on all the individual electric water heaters in our rooms so we don’t have to wait to shower. George waits and we get cleaned up to go out to dinner. We go downtown and have pizza and perform a blinded taste test of Serengeti, Kilimanjaro, Safari, and Tusker beers. Then back to Mvuli to collapse in our lovely air conditioned rooms.


So this is where the traditional ‘safari’ ends. Up next: Maasai cattle and dog vaccination in Longido

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Love the picture of the ostriches poking their heads above the grass.

Sounds like you had a great time with cultural experiences, too.

Dog vaccination? Color me interested. Used to work in animal sheltering, so I'm curious about this!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

~ @@kilopascal


Everything you've shown in the latest set of images rings so true.

While I've never been there, it's so familiar.

The first photo, of he view into Olmoti Crater, is especially evocative.

It emphasizes the great difference between Earth and other planets.

Thank you for posting these.

Tom K.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What a great trip and always lovely to accompany people who are enthusiastic about their first safari. Hopefully they will return one day.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@kilopascal what a thoroughly enjoyable trip you and the students had. your stories of the exchanges between the students and George were hilarious!


those dwarf mongooses look familiar. they put out a welcoming party on that mound as well when I and my husband were on our first ever safari 3 years ago!


looking forward to more fun adventures.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy