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Sept 2018 Tanzania Report


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well here is my first trip report from last Sept. visit to Tanzania. it's rather long. may not be up to par on grammar, spelling, etc. and it is written in a very conversational style, as if I was talking to a friend/relative (with more details than most would want). that's who was mean't really to read it, but i have posted it in another place. i'll break it up a bit so as not to bore. any photos will come after report as it has no pics actually in the file. please be kind.:( 

By the way, any advise on efficiently adding photos to this forum/my report would be greatly appreciated.


Tanzania Trip Report 9 days Sept 2018

Sept 18/19/20

 My wife and I recently completed an amazing 10 day trip to Tanzania, including Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti NP, and Tarangire NP. Prior to arrival into Tanzania, we spent two weeks in the UK (England/Wales/Ireland) so our path into TZ was: drive from Galway to Shannon Airport, fly Shannon to Heathrow Airport (Aer Lingus), 7 hour layover, Heathrow to Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines, 4 hour layover, onward to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania. This was very grueling, even with the ability to sleep in airports or on planes.  But it was what we could make work for us to combine the two destinations.

 I cannot recommend Ethiopian Airlines at all. Dirty, worn planes, little in the way of amenities, and poor food. Did have decent in-flight entertainment though. The airport in Addis Ababa is much too busy for the size and available services. But they are in the process of expanding so it may get better but the ongoing construction currently makes the situation worse than usual. There isn’t even any food/beverage availability after passing through security. You have to exit the gate area and return through screening to your gate.

  Upon arrival in Arusha, we were unable to see Mt. Kilimanjaro due to clouds-apparently a regular occurrence. Our trip was arranged for us by Lion World Travel using Leopard Tours for our in country transportation throughout. I cannot say enough good things about the service and professionalism of everyone we worked with for both companies. Our agent with Lion World, our airport “fixer” in Arusha, our Leopard Tours agent in Tanzania, and our incredibly talented guide in all three National Parks. More on him later. Highly recommend both companies.

 Our first night stay was in Arusha at the Arumeru River Lodge. A lovely place set in a garden area with 2 rooms per bungalow and a very welcome pool after our long journey. Within the first 5 minutes on the property we saw our first wildlife- a Dik Dik, which is the smallest type of antelope in Africa. Only about 12-15 inches tall. Very cute with big eyes and rabbit like noses. Turns out they have about two dozen that visit the property. After a nice dinner, we walked the property for a bit and were visited by a troop of Vervet Monkeys, including mother and small baby. Again, really cute as they roamed through the trees and across the roof of our bungalow.


 The next morning our guide Amani met us after breakfast to discuss the coming day, the 5 hour drive to the crater, and outline the particulars of the days to come. Because we had booked a private safari, the 3 of us would be the only people in our vehicle throughout the trip-game drives included. As we headed toward our first stop-Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area-we passed though Arusha town. A few large buildings here but mainly one story shops and homes along with a large amount of chaotic traffic. Many people drive motorcycles and they weave between trucks, busses, and safari vehicles like madmen.

 Once we left the city proper, we started to see farms and grazing land along with the local Maasai herding their animals. Interestingly, many of the herders were young boys between 6 and 12 years of age. Just using a stick and their voice to control cows, goats, and donkeys. As it turns out, the more cattle a Maasai owns, the richer he is considered and the more wives he can have. Many Maasai who live in Arusha are considered “modern Maasai” with jobs, vehicles, and cell phones. They are still considered part of the tribe none the less. The cell phones were a bit of a surprise to us, especially within the National Parks.

 Our first stop was at a nice jewelry/souvenir/snack stop that specialized in Tanzanite, the local gemstone. A lot of lovely jewelry locally produced and quite expensive. We later learned that bargaining was okay but we had no interest. Many other local crafts were available such as carvings, masks, beadwork, and weaving. Nice to see opportunity for locals to earn a living. There were also some very nice, very needed, restrooms here along with a small café.

 Continuing onward, we gained elevation and the vegetation started to change. Tropical forest and Baobab trees replaced dirt and scrub brush. We came across a large troop of Baboons alongside the road who were picking up rice that had spilled from a truck passing by. The large troop leading male was very impressive as he protected his females from other males attentions.


 After pausing at the entrance gate to the Conservation area to process forms and pay our entrance fee, the next stop was the viewpoint that provided us with the first sight of the immense Ngorongoro Crater. This is a place I have dreamed of experiencing since I was a very young man and the view I had waited to see for so long was right there in front of me. Pictures don’t come close to doing the breathtaking view justice. I will freely admit that I needed a couple of minutes to compose myself as the emotions flowed. You could see the lake, the forest, and river within the crater and with binoculars we saw wildebeest and our first rhino.

 We moved on from the viewpoint toward our accommodation for the next 3 nights, the Ngorongoro SOPA Lodge. Drove over some quite rutted dirt roads and received, according to our guide, “free African massage”. Upon arrival at SOPA lodge we were greeted with a nice warm cloth and a cool passionfruit punch.  The lodge is at 7800 feet elevation and you can feel it in temperature and the thin air. I had read many reviews prior to coming that denigrated the lodge for various reasons but I believe many of those were written by people who had unrealistic expectations. It’s not high luxury or the traditional tented safari experience, or filled with resort amenities but if you know that going in, this hotel is an excellent choice. It is very close to the access road for your early game drive start and the only lodge on the crater rim oriented toward the setting sun, which was gorgeous on our nights here.


 The lodge has a small pool with loungers around it along with a real nice patio area surrounding the main building for enjoying your sundowners before dinner. Our room was nicer than expected. And huge! Foyer area, 2 Queen beds, giant bathroom/shower, and small “patio” indoor area looking out through large plate glass windows providing an astonishing view toward the crater. After lunch and settling in somewhat, we headed back to the lobby to connect with the guide and ranger who were accompanying us for our scheduled East Crater Rim Walk. Amani introduced us to our ranger Peter and our Maasai guide whose name I have forgotten. We agreed on 90 minutes-based really on “how much do you want to tip?”” since the walk had been pre-paid through Lion World. Then we found out we would be walking one way and picked up by Amani for the return back to the lodge. So the 4 of us headed out through some scrub forest. We lost a good bit of altitude which made us look forward even more to the ride back.We arrived to a clear area with a bit of infrastructure and a stream. Peter told us it was a permanent source for SOPA water. Animals do come in to drink and security guards it at night. Onward from there to a viewpoint that was literally on the edge of the crater. Next step was a doozy. You could see more clearly some of the features at the bottom, including the animals. Able to take some fuzzy pics of buffalo and our first 2 elephants. As we continued walking we talked with Peter and the Maasai about wildlife, the Maasai cattle herding, and rangers duties. We were informed that buffalo and elephants occasionally visit the SOPA property at night-hence the need for escort back to your room after dark. Our Maasai guide was carrying a cell phone, which was a bit of a surprise but service in the area has done a lot of good for the locals and the game drives.

Our only animal contact during our walk was coming across a couple of “ant highways” along the trail. Endless lines of them all with their own jobs. Millions. Peter said we didn’t have enough time to watch until the end of the line appeared.  Ended our walk after connecting with Amani on a service road and proceeded back to the lodge for dinner. Buffet dinner much better than one would expect out here and there was a staff choir performance-very nice.

 Upon our return to our room, we were greeted with our curtains drawn, our laundry picked up, & hot water bottles in the sheets warming our bed. Fantastic. Tomorrow, our first trip into the Ngorongoro Crater.



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Sept 21-Ngorongoro Crater

Crater Drive #1-6am alarm for breakfast before departing into the crater to spend the day looking for the Big5! 30+/- minute drive down into the Crater. You lose 600 feet of elevation as you descend. Our guide informed us as we drove that Rhinos are hard to find in the Crater, very few Cheetah live here, and Leopard sightings are very rare. All this information was pretty disappointing to hear.

 Our first major sighting was 4 lone male Buffalo on the way down in the distance. Amani told us these were older males that separate themselves from the herd except to breed. And they are very aggressive. Then we saw a good looking male Ostrich. Big highlight of the day occurred early on-10/11 member Lion pride in the first hour. Many lionesses along with juvenile males and females lounging in the sun, then moving into shade as we watched.  Able to move very close in our vehicle. Got some great photos in beautiful early light but no real action. Still amazing.

As the drive continued we saw numerous other birds and wildlife including:

Two species of Gazelle

Many Buffalo, some quite large

Large herds of Zebra (including males fighting) and Wildebeest

Many Hippos in the water

Male Waterbuck, very regal

Baboons with babies & Vervet Monkeys

Spotted Hyena

Many Elephants from a good distance, a couple quite large

Golden and Black Backed Jackal

Lots of Warthogs

Male & Female Ostrich involved in courting ritual


Stopped midday for picnic lunch at a pond along with about 50 other vehicles. This was a bit surprising, as you really don’t notice so many except at major wildlife sightings. Somewhat unpleasant with the large quantity of dust stirred up and blown around. Later in the day we came across 2 large male Lions lying in some tall grass. They stayed down the whole time so no good photos. Also saw a blue (Agama) lizard and a green mamba. Alas, no Rhino, Cheetah, or Leopard. As we continued our drive, we learned that other vehicles, including some from our lodge, had observed a Serval, which is a small cat that is rarely seen. Beautiful spotted coat and very large ears. Sorry to miss that. Our last big sighting of the day made up for that though and came as a surprise even to Amani. As we headed out of the crater, we saw some other vehicles stopped ahead. When we drove up something was walking through the grass. At first I thought it was the Serval, but it turned out to be a Caracal! Beautiful cat with unique ear tufts and famous for its leaping ability-catches birds in flight. Obviously a female with kittens, Amani said she was out during the day to find food for her babies. Rare sighting. No other jeeps from SOPA saw her. Only us. Made up for the missed Serval. Long day (9.5 hours) in the vehicle but worth it IMO.


Sept 22-Ngorongoro Crater

 I should mention in this report a bit about the service and hospitality during our stay at SOPA Ngorongoro Lodge. The staff here goes above and beyond to assist in any way possible, especially the dining room staff. We had the same waiter each meal who remembered everyone’s names amazingly. The food has been much beyond our expectations for being this far into the bush and ranged from local dishes built around local ingredients (curries and such) to a great BBQ out on the patio with perfectly done beef, chicken, and lamb. Even a bruschetta bar one night. Breakfast buffet has had an excellent array of choices- fruits/cereals/salads/pastries and staff cooking eggs and pancakes/waffles. 

My DW woke up with stomach distress this morning so it’s me and Amani, the superguide, into the Crater this morning. I could really go on and on to the point of obnoxiousness regarding how I feel about Amani’s guiding skills, humor, and understanding. He could not have been more accommodating in regard to our needs and wants throughout the trip and always smiling, ready with answers to any question regarding the parks, the wildlife, and his country.  Along with preparing us throughout the trip about what to expect as we traveled between the parks we visited. Very personable and a pleasure to get to know, Amani became a friend. Our enjoyment of our time with him compelled me to do something I had never done, compose & send a letter of praise to Leopard Tours.

 Our first stop this trip into the Crater was a return to the area where we had seen the Lion pride yesterday morning. Sure enough they were resting in approximately the same spot but this time the females and juveniles had been joined by two large, very regal males. One of which turned out to the most magnificent we would see during our trip. The first thing I noticed as we began to observe the pride was three juveniles running and wrestling with each other. Two were really going after the third. It was then I noticed that the one being chased was basically playing keep away from the other two with a wad of foil or paper that I believe had probably blown from a vehicle. Possibly some type of food wrapping. Got some great pictures of the three toying with this object.

  As we continued to watch the pride, the largest, most impressive of the males approached one of the smaller females. Amani noticed this and let me know to observe her behavior. As he casually strolled up behind her, she turned, swiped at him, and loudly growled in his face to let him know she had no interest in his advances. As she walked away, you could distinctly recognize the familiar hurt look on his face of a male rebuffed by a female. He then meandered over and joined the other male like it never happened.

 Soon we noticed one of the Lionesses checking out a trio of Baboons a good distance away. Amani told me to keep an eye on her to see if she decided to attempt a hunt. So every couple of minutes I would turn in that direction to monitor her actions. Sure enough, she started in the Baboons direction in a sort of stealth mode. Slowly moving forward, low to the ground cat style slink and stopping every few paces to observe if they had taken any notice of her advance. She continued this for around 20 minutes at which time we noticed another Lioness who had been at the furthest from us edge of the pride begin to move in a large arc away from the group and start to mimic the other cat’s hunting behavior towards the Baboons. Now both cats were gradually making their way through the grass at different angles with designs on a meal. With slow progress they intently moved forward but after a total of about 45 tense minutes of this the Baboons either caught wind or sight of the Lions and bolted out into the savannah to a much safer distance. And that ended a potential National Geographic moment.

 Continuing on, we saw Vervet Monkeys, large Waterbuck and Bushbuck, and our first Hippos out of the water (which is quite a sight). Many tourists don’t realize that Hippo are extremely dangerous and kill more people per year in the bush than any other animal. We also observed more Ostriches engaged in mating dance, which I found quite comical and a lone lioness at a watering hole that was considered a rare thing by Amani-something must have happened within her pride to make her an outcast.  The other exceptional sighting of the day was my first up close sighting and encounter with a herd of elephants. 56 strong. I counted each as they passed though the frame of my video. It included all shapes and sizes of elephants from just a few months to 2-3 year olds to a large mature matriarch. Watching them eat and interact for a good 30 minutes as they approached the road we were on was just amazing. At this point, Amani announced he was sure he knew where they would cross the road and immediately left the other vehicles behind and proceeded to put us in exactly the right position to have the herd cross the road directly behind our vehicle.  As they approached, many of the smaller/younger pachyderms moved by us at a very short distance from where we sat. The smallest babies were very cute and very nervous, not straying far from their mothers. Eventually, the herd matriarch approached our position. When she came up to the roads edge, she paused with just a small bush between herself and our vehicle. As I am 6’3” and standing in the lifted vehicle with my head out the raised roof, I was very literally looking directly in her face at a distance of about 15 feet! I silently observed her as she ate from the bush and vigilantly watched over the herd stragglers. I was able to snap a good number of outstanding pictures in the minutes that she stood there and then she joined the herd on the other side of the road. An experience of a lifetime.

 I chose at this point to forgo lunch in the bush and any further drive to return to the lodge and rejoin my better half and make sure she was feeling better. Amani understood completely and raced us back. Enjoyed an afternoon on the patio, a magnificent sunset over the Crater, and a nice dinner. After we ate, suddenly the lights went down and the staff came from the kitchen with a large fire lit sword and a lovely decorated cake. Surprisingly to us, they came directly to our table and sang a traditional song. It was to wish us goodbye after our three nights at the SOPA Ngorongoro Lodge. Tomorrow-Serengeti!!

Post more tomorrow!!


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Great lodging in Arusha at Arumeru especially for all the dik diks. 

3 nights at Ngorongoro, Sopa, very nice!  Glad you noticed the small stuff like ant highways on your walk.   This was years ago but when I spent 3 nights at Sopa as one of a foursome of ladies, we too remarked at how festive the waitstaff was.  It was as if we had a party at our table for every meal.  We had a riot.  Glad you enjoyed it too.  But I don't recall any large fire lit sword and decorated cake.  They upped their game for you!

Exciting to see lions stalk baboons.  Hope your wife recovered quickly.

Edited by Atravelynn
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as we continue-

Sept 23-Ngorongoro to Serengeti

Our vehicle had been having some clutch difficulties yesterday afternoon but fortunately the Crater Conservation area has a full time, 24 hour auto shop to keep folks on the move. We had seen them working with different companies vehicles within the Crater and Amani informed us that they had replaced a piece of the transmission system overnight and we were good to go. We left the Crater under misty, low cloud weather and were unable to see much inside as we stopped briefly at the viewpoint we had visited on the way in.

 The drive today was through some small/medium sized villages, mostly on a sealed, smooth road. We saw a lake that had many Maasai women collecting water and transporting it with their “jeeps”-donkeys that do a lot of work for the Maasai. Not long after heading out and after leaving the Conservation Area, we spotted a group of Giraffe. I mentioned to Amani that I would love to try and get a closer look for photos and he said that was okay as we were now in open territory, not any park. He pulled over and I was able to move through the bush toward them. Not very far though before my presence was noticed and the Giraffe started to move away. Fun to do a brief bush walk, which we were unable to do in the Crater.

 Continuing on, we observed a Maasai tribesman handling a group of camels. He was looking to obtain money to allow photos of his small herd. Amani told us that they were not native to Tanzania and had probably been led here carrying loads then released when no longer necessary. We soon left the sealed road and transferred to rutted, dusty dirt roads as the temperature continued to climb. Very warm compared to the Crater area. Fortunate to have decent AC in our vehicle.  Shortly after entering the Serengeti NP, we spotted a herd 28 strong of elephants paralleling the road! The amazing Amani again was able to discern exactly where they would cross the road and placed us in fantastic position to get pictures as they passed by. A couple of perturbed but exciting trumpets came from the group but our encounter went without incident. After a bit more driving we arrived at SOPA Serengeti Lodge. Where were greeted again with a wet cloth and a cool drink.The lodge is situated on a hill overlooking the park. It has a restaurant, bar, tv room off the lobby, and gift shop. And some couches and chairs to access wi-fi. Staff assisted us with our bags and we were led to a large room with tall wide sliding door onto a small balcony and an expansive view of the savannah. A warning was passed on to keep the slider closed when we left to avoid baboons partying in our room while we were out. The room included a large alcove area, two beds with mosquito netting, and a large bathroom with an enormous shower stall. After dropping our bags, I chose to try out the large, unheated pool to rinse off the dust. Very refreshing. On to an enjoyable lunch and a short rest before departing for our afternoon game drive.

 Drive began as many do with sightings of many ungulates-Waterbuck, Gazelles, Impala, etc. Soon we were fortunate to come across a small pride of Lion lounging under some trees where they were working over a Buffalo they had killed the day before. One large male along with 4 females and an almost completely stripped carcass. Numerous Vulture were hopping around looking for opportunities to grab a bite. Shortly after, we had a large troop of Baboons cross the road in front of us with many females carrying babies on their backs.  Amani pointed out a large group of vehicles stationary which almost certainly meant that there was something to see. We joined the crowd and he pointed us towards brush and trees. After some searching, we finally spotted the head and horn of a Rhino! It was a loooong ways off and really only recognizable with the use of binoculars. My camera, at the furthest zoom, took some fuzzy pictures but you could tell what it was.

 The highlight of the drive, as it seems to happen regularly, came right at the end. With the full moon rising and the sun setting, we appeared to be the only vehicle left in the park. Amani suddenly got quite excited and pushed the speed of our vehicle. We shortly came to a tall sparse tree about 75 feet off the road that Amani told us to peer up into. Quickly an amazing sight came into focus. A large, beautiful Leopard! Something we hoped dearly we would have the opportunity to see on this trip. She was just lounging on a low branch and paying us no mind. While snapping off a ridiculous amount of pictures, we noticed our Leopard was missing an eye. Amani surmised she had probably been injured in a fight with a prey animal-probably a Buffalo. Our encounter with this cat, in the fantastic fading light, is really the highlight of our trip.

 Returned to the lodge after dark and joined some other travelers for dinner and sharing stories. A young couple we met from Ireland had a video from their drive that was of a world class wildlife experience. 5 males lions involved in what could only be classified as a brawl. This amazing activity went on for more than 12 full minutes and left one of the lions in such bad shape that he subsequently required medical attention from Park Rangers. Never heard the outcome for that lion. Another long day of exciting wildlife watching. Early start to an AM game drive tomorrow.

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Sept 24-Serengeti part one

  Early alarm this morning so as to get fed and on the road before 7am. Bright sunny morning as we proceeded on to the savannah. First sighting was a pair of Dik Dik, first we have seen since the lodge in Arusha. Shortly thereafter we noticed a large group of vehicles gathered together. Must be something. Upon arrival, everyone was peering towards some tall grass a short distance off the road. It was a Cheetah! Our first ever. She was working on a carcass stashed in the brush. Looked like she had been eating for a while based on her bloody muzzle and the huge, full stomach we saw as she moved out into the open.  Our Cheetah started a leisurely stroll from her hiding place toward a group of trees. It was then she spotted a troop of Baboons ahead. She paused and then went into hunter mode, slowing her progress and intently watching the movement of the Baboons. Unfortunately what we thought would turn into a full hunt became a half-hearted mini sprint as the Baboons went straight for the trees upon her move towards them.

The Cheetah continued towards the trees, walking slowly through beautiful sunshine-which made for some excellent photo/video opps- and then laid down in the shade of some acacia trees. There she nervously hung out, constantly aware of her surroundings and moving from lying down to sitting up and facing different directions. At one point during this time, as she was sitting up and facing our vehicle, a herd of about 20 or so elephants appeared on the short horizon behind her. She definitely noticed them but seem unperturbed.  The elephants moved in a line as they passed in the distance, many sizes and ages, probably headed to the water hole nearby. A large pair even paused to engage in some play/fight behavior as they passed behind our Cheetah. Just at this time she turned towards the vehicles gathered and gave the perfect pose, with the elephant herd in the background, allowing a series of fantastic photos of this amazing African moment.  Moving on, the usual assortment of Gazelle, Impala, Warthogs, and Giraffe came and went. Warthogs are not the most attractive animals in Africa but babies are definitely cute. Amani says when their tails are up ‘they are getting good wi-fi”. 

The number of different birds we are seeing is staggering. From mini bee eaters to huge storks and vultures it is quite an array. We soon had our first close encounter with a Spotted Hyena as he ran out on the road in front of us, paused in the middle to check us out, and continued across. Surprising how large they are when you see them close.

 The wife and I had wondered how the safari vehicles were able to refuel if needed when out on a game drive and found out this morning. Amani let us know he needed fuel and then proceeded to a visitor’s center, dropping us off as he took the vehicle to get fuel. At the center they had excellent bathrooms, a café for snacks and drinks and an office area where you could listen to the come ons of young men looking to make some money selling you an over-priced map of Tanzania that came with a game identification guide. As we sat at a table with an umbrella we heard a unique animal call, sounding like a cross between a donkey and a pig. We saw cute small rodent like animal scurrying about the table area and asked someone what it was. It was a Rock Hyrax, similar to a Marmot or Groundhog. We also saw some Tree Hyrax and their very cute babies here.

 As we continued our morning drive, Amani noticed a commotion in the grass a good distance off the road. We used the binoculars to look that direction and saw a group of small animals tussling on the ground. It was a family of Banded Mongoose. A fierce little weasel like creature famous for battling snakes. Looks a lot like a Meerkat. Far away and not easy to photograph but a cool sighting none the less. We then came across a pair of lionesses sprawled out under a tree doing nothing in our presence.

 After seeing many Hippo in the water, we came upon a large, lone Hippo sauntering through some tall grass. He seemed to be eating then stopping to survey his surroundings (including numerous vehicles), then continuing to mow through the greenery as he headed towards a pond with others of his kind present. His demeanor became more apprehensive as he got closer to the pond but he clearly wanted to get back there. Many pauses later he reached the edge of the pond but again seemed wary of entering. A lot of noisy pushing and shoving and reorganization ensued as he determinedly reentered the water.  Serengeti NP has some designated picnic areas set up for afternoon lunch stops. These are usually near a water hole and include tables with umbrellas, bathrooms, and some trees for additional shade. Also unfortunately a good number of Tsetse Flys. They can take an unpleasant nip out of any exposed flesh, but fortunately no sleeping sickness in this area. We stopped at one this trip to enjoy our box lunches provided by the lodge. After setting up at a table with a nice view, all of a sudden one of the many birds hanging around decided to dive-bomb my wife’s sandwich as she held it in her hand! He got a good chunk but also managed to knock the rest of the sandwich into the dirt. Amani says that is common at these stops. Then, as she started to enjoy a muffin, another bird landed quickly on her wrist and grabbed a piece of that. Time to hunker down and protect what’s ours! 

 The heat of the day brings us to time for a siesta back at the lodge before our pm game drive. Part two of this day’s activities to come.

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Sept 24th part two

 My LW decided after our break to stay back this afternoon. So just me and superguide Amani for pm game drive. We roamed the Serengeti, observing Gazelle, Giraffe, more Hippo, and some Vervet Monkeys. After an hour or so, we came to the edge of a river and on the hillside bank we spotted a large male Lion laying in the grass. The more we observed him, more lions started to come into focus in the area around him. Numerous lionesses of varying sizes resting in the grass. Soon the male rose and meandered toward the river bank. He disappeared into the undergrowth at water’s edge. Amani surmised that he would probably be going across and drove us down through the river vehicle crossing to wait for him to appear. We found a spot to wait on the opposite bank.

 Sure enough, he soon made his appearance and slowly moved our direction, looking to be planning to walk behind our vehicle. Well we had been told that another male was in the brush about 15 feet down the river, just past the crossing, on our current side. So again Amani deduced that if we moved down the slope towards the river crossing, as I stood in the vehicle, I should be about eye level with the ground where the hidden lion was supposed to be and where the one we were watching was probably heading. And it all went just that way. The first male crossed the road almost exactly where we had been, along the edge of the crossing slope, directly in front of me, and into the brush that hid the other male! This made for some amazing pictures.

 Soon we heard growls, rustling, and guttural noises from the two males. And some sounds like bones being crunched. Then we noticed a Lioness moving from her position near where we had originally spotted the first male. And she proceeded to cross the river, follow the males path appearing on the other side, and then directly in front of me and into the same brush. Much growling and roaring occurred as these three, we presume, fought over food and possibly partnership. After things got quiet, and a pretty lengthy wait, we were going to move on when Amani spied one of the males emerging from the brush a short distance downstream.

 The lion proceeded to find a raised rocky dry spot and chose to lay down there, looking our direction. He just held his position there as our vehicle, being the only one that there was room for at the crossing point, hung out for 6-7 minutes and I snapped off a ridiculous amount of photos. Soon other vehicles showed up and we had to make room for more folks to enjoy this very cool cat.

 Continuing on, we saw a small herd of Elephants quite close and huge male Warthog. We joined a road where we had seen the Rhino previously and Amani said to start scouring the brush at the tree line (which adjoined a small creek) and look for the signs-ears, back, horn-of Rhino. We actually made a couple of passes on this road before Amani stopped, grabbed the field glasses, and said there was one out there. Unfortunately, just as far away as the previous one but as we looked, another appeared from within the frame of the first one. Very cool to watch but only came away again with a few full zoom, quite fuzzy pictures.

 The sun was beginning to set beautifully as we began our route back to the lodge but I was informed we would be checking one other spot for something. What, I was not told. After a few minutes we came to a small group of large rocks not far off the road. Curving around from one side to another, into view came a female Hyena lolling on the rocks, with a cub! We stopped to watch them and soon two more cubs crept out from the den in the rocks. They slowly and gingerly walked around, wrestled a bit, and then hung with mom and sibling together in the fading light. Many good but not great pictures later, it was time to get back to the lodge.

  We have been noticing some controlled burns during our time here. Rangers will burn an area of brush and scrub to promote renewed growth in that area. We saw more of this tonight. Makes a bit of a scary sight as you drive along. Back at the lodge, we had a tasty, non buffet, dinner. We saw some other folks get a going away cake here. Retired to our room under a brilliant full moon to rest up for tomorrow’s full day.

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Sept 25-Serengeti-part one

 Bright and early start to our am game drive on what proved to be the hottest day in the savannah. The usual assortment of ungulates to start the day. Soon we had a couple of note-worthy bird sightings. Two large, beautiful African Fish Eagles in the same tree. These look similar to American Bald Eagles but larger. Only two we saw on the trip. A short time later we saw a White Headed Vulture sitting on a nest and were able to barely make out the heads of the chicks. Adult may have been feeding the babies. Hard to tell. Seemingly big excitement came next. Came upon a grouping of possibly 50 vehicles crammed along two roads on opposite sides of a pair of trees. Amani was informed that a Leopard was in one of them with a kill. The carcass was readily visible but the cat was apparently camouflaged too well among the branches because after about 20 minutes we had still not seen her. At that point we left the herd behind and continued onward, hoping for something to energize us. Soon we were treated to a large herd of Elephants. Numerous small babies and a pair of “teenagers” that were playing/fighting pretty intensely. Coming together with clashing heads, gnashing tusks, and thrashing trunks. Then coming apart to stare at one and other. They eventually moved through the tall grass, across the road behind our vehicle, with what looked to be the loser staying on that side. Just after this we went past and through the largest herd of Buffalo we saw on the trip. Humorous how they allow birds to ride them-while getting a meal-even lighting on their ears and poking up their noses.

 Treated soon thereafter to a small pride (8) of lions lounging directly next to the road. Not much movement with these felines but we were entertained with some harsh growling from the male when one of the females crossed the road to join him. After waiting to see if any of them might do anything exciting, we headed back to the lodge for our lunch and midday break prior to the pm game drive. During lunch, a Vervet Monkey came down from the roof and sat on top of a chair at our table. Seeing we had no food he then hopped to the next table and stole a roll before bounding out the window to the nearest tree.


Sept 25-part 2

 Very hot (90+) as we started the pm game drive but the day cooled as the sun sank. Really too hot for many sightings as we began the drive. But things got better fairly soon. Amani was informed that the tree we had seen the Leopard in earlier was now occupied by a Lion! So we made quick time over to that spot. When we arrived there were again many vehicles watching these trees. And sure enough, a large lioness was a short distance up in the tree holding the carcass, hoping to find a way to get to it. And her family-3/4 more lions-were lounging in the shade below waiting for a meal. She sort of paced back and forth through the V of the two main trunks and went up one and spun back down, not finding a suitable path.  After a few minutes of this and a few minutes of rest, she pointed herself downward and attempted to change position so we thought. Well it looked like she was moving quickly to possibly leave the tree, so I trained my camera on her and snapped my shutter as she leapt through the air to the ground! Made for a very cool picture.

 Amazingly, during this whole time, the Leopard that had been in the tree previously with the kill was observing all this in another tree about 50 yards away. We could see her quite well during the whole Lion episode and wondered what she would do depending on the outcome. The Lions remained at the base of “their” tree as the Leopard fretted what to do in hers. Soon the Leopard wound her way slowly down, seemingly preparing to take a chance and depart her perch. I chose to start using the video function on my camera as she inched down and was rewarded with an amazing piece of footage as she came from the back side of the tree to the front, leapt to the ground, and just bolted away from the trees as fast as possible, disappearing into the long grass in the direction of the safari vehicles watching from the road on the other side. She disappeared from our view as some of the other vehicles began to jockey for position to possibly view her more clearly from that side. We never saw when or where she may have reappeared but we had already witnessed something truly breathtaking.

Continuing on, knowing it was going to be tough to top or even come close to what we had just watched, Amani found a group of vehicles watching two beautiful Cheetah-possibly brothers- passing the late afternoon heat under a tree. We observed them for a bit until it became clear that the only things they planned on moving anytime soon was their necks and their eyelids. Still such a treat to see more of these amazing creatures. Our drive took us through the same river crossing where I had watched the Lion action yesterday afternoon and amazingly, in the exact spot where the Lion laid down on the rock in the river, there was a mother elephant and her bay drinking and munching on brush. The baby was just under her mother’s chin, really almost mimicking what her mother was doing. The babies are incredibly cute.

  Some sightings this afternoon of a couple of animals we had not seen yet, both large ungulates. Reed Buck and a group of Eland, the largest member of the antelope family. Very impressive.  Also saw a pair of vehicles with 6-7 children of varying ages bouncing all over one and all the adults traveling in the other. We felt for that driver carrying all those kids. My LW had not seen Rhino very well yet so Amani headed towards the same road where he and I had observed them from the previous day. Another safari vehicle drove towards us as we traveled that road, the driver stopping to chat with Amani. This is pretty common during drives as most of these gentlemen know each other. After a conversation in Swahili, we were informed that the other vehicle had spent many hours just driving this road and looking into the brush for Rhino. As they moved off, quick as a wink, our superguide spotted not one but two. He got on the radio and raised the other vehicle’s driver to tell him Rhino were here. When they returned Amani told everyone in English exactly where to look so they could see them too. It turned out to be a mother and her nearly adult calf, not the same two that had been seen the day prior.

 As the sun faded and we headed toward the lodge, Amani drove past the Hyena den he had shown me yesterday so my LW would hopefully have an opportunity to see the cubs and like clockwork the three young ones were catching the last rays of sun on the rocks in front of the den. And seeming to pose for even better photos than yesterday. Tomorrow we head for Tarangire National Park.

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Sept 26th-Serengeti to Tarangire NP

  Our last full day on safari today and a long day of driving ahead. 6-7 hours from the SOPA Serengeti to SOPA Tarangire. We moved out of our room early and loaded up to get a move on. The route this morning takes about 3 hours through Serengeti NP then onward. Within the first few minutes of departure, a male and female Ostrich were going through their elaborate courtship dance very near the road. During this, the male dances into her line of sight as he rolls his long neck in wide circles and fluffs and flaps his wings. The female will express interest by flapping her wings-sometimes right away, sometimes not. Once she has done this the male will saunter over to her, she will kneel down and the rest is over very quickly. Quite the sight.  This drive continued with the usual assortment of savannah game-elephants, giraffe, warthogs, etc. Nothing truly outstanding for most of it. Then as we were very close to our exit of the NP, Amani spotted a lone Cheetah a long ways out lying regally across the top of a boulder in the shade. Trusty camera could barely make out the cat at full zoom. Beautiful sight to end our time in the Serengeti.

 From this point, the driving alternated between rough dirt roads to smooth tar  as we made our way to Tarangire NP. We were informed about the high density of elephants in this park and possibility of viewing African Wild Dog, which we have not seen this trip. Also, Tarangire is famous for its large mature Baobab trees that can be up to 2,000 years old. Very distinctive and haunting looking trees. We arrived in the park about 3:30pm and began an afternoon game drive as we proceeded to the lodge. We were at a lower elevation than at either of our previous parks so the terrain was different. Less deep grasses, more shorter dried up grass and brush, large granite boulders, dry lake beds, and low water running through the Tarangire River that gives the park its name.  As we traveled along the river bank, we came upon a group of 20+ Vultures scavenging a Buffalo carcass in the river bed. The Buffalo did not appear to have been there long as it was still in reasonably complete condition. But the birds were hopping all over it and ready to not miss an opportunity for a meal.

 Amani suggested that it may have died from something other than a predator since there were none present eating or guarding the carcass. But soon more scavengers and predators would arrive as the vultures continued their destruction.

  The road continued to follow and cross the river as we drove on. Lots of the same well observed wildlife from the previous parks. All wondrous and beautiful but after a few days it’s easy to start to get a little jaded and want something different or unique to spice up the game drives. We did see a pair of Dik Dik-really cute-and a large troop of Baboons. Some of the giant Baobab trees had numerous nests left behind by Weaver birds that looked like large pieces of hanging fruit which was something unseen previously. As we crossed a bridge over the river, we saw a small herd of Elephants in the river bed. As we approached, it was then we noticed that they were digging in the sand rather than drinking from the small quantity of water running by. Our awesome guide let us know they were after cooler sand, which they then ingested for the minerals they needed.

  Passing a good size watering hole, we saw a small herd of impressive Cape Eland along with groups of Elephant and Buffalo all partaking of the precious liquid. Suddenly the radio crackled and we could make out someone calling Amani by name. After a brief conversation in Swahili, he announced that he might have a surprise for us. This turned into a most memorable final wildlife encounter before our departure tomorrow. Off he rolled quickly down the dirt road. It seemed to take a while but eventually we turned on to another road pointed towards Mpingo(?) Picnic Area. We headed into what felt like a one way road between a group of granite boulders on a hill-these are called kopjes, which is a Dutch word. We squeezed around the rocks into a parking area that happened to be filled tight with other vehicles.

 Now this rest area consists of 6-7 picnic style tables with umbrellas for shade placed at various levels within the kopje. And a decent looking building housing the rest rooms. After slipping into a spot to park, we saw that everyone was looking towards said rest rooms. In an amazing sight, two teenage lion were lounging and wrestling on the cement just outside the door to the Ladies room! These two were just having a fine time grabbing, swatting, and tumbling over each other along with certainly preventing any bathroom use. As we observed them, we became aware that they were not the only Lions in this rest area. I looked behind me as I stood in the vehicle and was basically eye to eye with a slightly older-but not yet adult-male laying on a granite ledge about 25 feet away. And looking around further we counted 7-8 other females & young males using the rest area as their pride hangout. Amani told us that they are here consistently and what probably occurred was prior to the rest area being created in this kopje, a Lioness gave birth to her cubs among the rocks. As time went on, more mothers came here to hide their birth dens and it became imprinted on generations to return here. Somehow it was unknown to the parks people and they put in the facilities not knowing about the frequent visitors.

 One of the two teens outside the Ladies moved off as the other continued to lounge. Then this Lion slowly got up and proceeded to explore the open doorway and then right on into the bathroom. Made for some really funny photos. As the sun slowly continued its descent, 2 or 3 of the other females started to climb up into the rocks and take up positions-singly or in pairs- to soak up the last afternoon rays. The light started to turn an amazing golden color, adding it’s hue to the trees, rocks, and sky. Along with casting the glow onto the tawny coats of the Lions. This combination created the perfect radiant glow for what would be the last great pictures of our amazing safari. 

 The next morning we saw nothing out of the ordinary as we drove through Tarangire onward to Arusha and Kilimanjaro Airport for our flights to Addis Ababa, London, and home to the US. I know we will never experience anything like this again, even if we someday return to East Africa.

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I’ve enjoyed your report while sipping my morning coffee.  So much better than a newspaper or magazine.

It’s such fun feeling your anticipation and excitement of a first safari.  

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Baby hyenas, what a treat.  Kopjes or the ladies room are all the same when you are the King of Beasts.


You had a wonderful first safari.

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Really enjoyed you report, hopefully you can also share some pictures.  Sounds like you had some nice sightings!

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I too hope there will be pictures soon...what a wonderful TR and I totally understand your first sight of Nogorongoro Crater and all the emotions. I was wondering...where did you stay in Tarangire?

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@melproffit , do you need some guidance inserting photos into your report?  You have an impressive list of sightings that could be nicely illustrated by photos.  I am assuming you took some, perhaps you just soaked it all in, no equipment needed.

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Thanks to all for the kind comments. Actually only our first safari in Tanzania. Spent a week in Botswana in 06 for our honeymoon. I WILL post pics this week. Been hip deep in some other travel planning the past week or so. Atravelynn, thanks for the offer on pics-will post if assistance.

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so I'm following through with Tanzania pictures. this is a test run. We saw many baboons during the trip but this was the only Momma/baby shot we managed. should be more to come.

baboons P1030643.JPG

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Ngorongoro day one

Birds P1030785.JPG

First lions P1030233.JPG

First lions P1030668.JPG


worthog P1030914.JPG

Zebra P1030286.JPG

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Ngorongoro day two








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Crater to Serengeti and Serengeti day one

Giraffe P1040223.JPG

herd of elephants P1030710.JPG


Rhino P1040313.JPG

leopard P1030766.JPG

leopard P1030755.JPG

leopard P1040319.JPG

leopard P1030769.JPG

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Serengeti day one pt 1

bee eater P1040468.JPG

cheetah P1030835.JPG

cheetah P1030794.JPG

Hartebeest P1030970.JPG

hippo P1040027.JPG

hornbill P1040501.JPG


hyrax P1030887.JPG

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Serengeti day one pt 2

cheetah P1040423.JPG






worthog P1030998.JPG


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Serengeti day two pt 1

cheetahs P1040183.JPG

elephant and baby P1040262.JPG

elephants play P1040605.JPG

fish eagle P1040585.JPG

rhino P1040732.JPG

water buffalo P1040594.JPG

worthog P1040192.JPG

baby hyena P1040297.JPG

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Serengeti day two pt 2

lions near road P1040157.JPG

lion and leopard P1040237.JPG

lion and leopard P1040661.JPG

lion and leopard P1040709.JPG

lion and leopard P1040674.JPG

male lion P1040270.JPG

rhino P1040732.JPG


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Serengeti to Tarangire

baobab P1040336.JPG

elephants P1040345.JPG

elephants P1090018.JPG

elephants P1090012.JPG

eland P1040315.JPG

steenbok P1040367.JPG

cheetah on rock P1040758.JPG


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Tarangire lions

Lions at ladies P1090088.JPG

Lions at ladies P1090090.JPG

Lions on rocks P1040349.JPG

Lions on rocks P1040361.JPG

Lions on rocks P1090046.JPG

Lions on rocks 'P1090058.JPG

Lions on rocks P1090054.JPG

Lions on rocks P1090071.JPG

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i have a couple of brief videos i may try to post here or in the post your videos forum. and i may try to find my Botswana trip report & photos to post in that forum. i have many photos from different trips of world wildlife that i will be adding to the show us your wildlife forums-bears deer whales birds etc. hope you enjoy and any Q's ask away.

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