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How's that for alliteration? :D


I thought I better get this started or it might never happen!  2.5 years ago Chalo Africa gave me a neat opportunity to take a group of friends and family to Africa with me and I started to try and piece together what I thought would cover a lot of ground and give folks (most of whom never had been on safari before) a full range of experiences.  I wanted them to see the plains game Africa is so famous for....I wanted them to see Edgar Rice Burroughs' Africa, Tarzan's Africa.  I wanted them to experience the people and culture too...I've thought too often we go only for the wildlife and stay in a bubble the entire time.  But it's the African people we fall in love with along the way...I wanted them to experience all of that in one visit.


We settled on November just outside high season so we could get some price breaks.  @Sangeetatold me that river crossings still take place this late as the lagging herds follow the Great Migration into the Central Serengeti...she would turn out to be right as we saw four river crossings while we were in the Northern Serengeti at Lemala Kuria Hills.  COVID-19 bumped our safari a year but we were determined to make this work!  So the itinerary went like this:


First, we'd gather in Arusha andso we booked two nights just in case anyone had issues arriving on their international flights (everyone made it as scheduled):


Night 1 and 2:

Rivertrees in Arusha is a lovely place set along a river or stream with blue monkeys, colobus monkeys and vervets providing the entertainment...for an activity we scheduled a hike on the Shira Plateau on the base of Kilimanjaro where we would drive to the "end of the road" and set out to find the giant groundsels that only grow on Kili and a couple other East African mountains...plans would change as the weather was pretty miserable on Kilimanjaro that morning, so we substituted Arusha National Park instead and had a really nice outing to start us off...


Nights 3-5

We flew to Mahale Mountains NP and stayed at Greystoke Mahale one of my favorite camps in Africa for some chimping...it was better than ever...!

Nights 6-9

We flew to Lemala Kuria Hills in the Northern Serengeti for four nights.  We did the hot air balloon over the Serengeti which never disappoints...Kuria Hills is where we saw four crossings including croc action taking out wildebeests and attempting to do the same to zebras!

Nights 10-12

We land transferred from Kuria Hills in the north to Lemala Nanyukie in the Central Serengeti.  From this vantage point we drove to the Moru kopjes area to intersect with the main migration.

Nights 13-15

We flew to Zanzibar and stayed at Emerson Spice in the heart of the old medina of Stone Town.  On our last full day we flew south to Mafia Island to swim with the whale sharks which reside permanently in the waters around the island.


Here are a few photos and vids to get us started and I'll be back to complete the report :)


Tree climbing lions:


Tree trimming giraffes:



Lazy Leopards:


Hoards of wildebeests:


Cheetahs and Chimps:




We got our culture in Zanzibar too :):




Edited by gatoratlarge
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Great intro and photos @gatoratlargelooking forward to more when you have time. What an interesting and varied itinerary you planned for your friends.

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First stop was Arusha Rivertrees -- a lovely place to rest up from jet lag or after a long safari:





We spent a half day exploring Arusha NP --- visiting a waterfall, having lunch perched on a hill beside a lake with some hippos, crowned cranes,,,we were surprised by a large flock of flamingos that circled....




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Next stop was Mahale -- which is just a dream.  I think most in our group said it was the highlight of our safari, but it was one of many highlights...




The "chimping" was tougher than before as they were in a different location than in previous times i had visited---age may have had something to do with it but I think it was just a more difficult terrain --- the viewing was grand!  They made us work for it for sure, but it was well worth the extra effort:



Glimpses of Lake Tanganyika were common as we hiked our way through the jungle often with the Congo (DRC) clearly visible across the lake...I don't remember getting such clear views on previous visits.  Might be the time of year and lack of haze...


Feeding on the Mulberry? or Monkey Brain Fruit...


A closeup reveals why its nickname is "monkey brain fruit"




This wagtail pair had built a nest on the boat and seemed to tolerate its need to move about on occasion---I guess the compromise is the nest is safe from predators...DSC00002.jpg.03db84e3ea49684a4eecaaeae7eaf2f1.jpg

Swimming in 1400 feet of water to avoid crocs and hippos:


The inestimable Mwiga and Hamza---two fantastic primatologists than know the family tree and the soap opera of the lives of the M Group -- they are as good as guides get!


And if folk think you're going to starve over in Africa -- the food is most excellent (these were just snacks and I'm not sure why I picked them to share as sardines and coconut slices were two of the more exotic things we ate but the breakfast is more lie the standard fare):




Pictures are great but the videos are better when it comes to chimps:




This was an early morning storm from the tent:


Edited by gatoratlarge
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We were getting snippets of your trip's progress while we were in Kenya.  Mahale is worthy of the highlight.  I'm sure your friends were wowed.

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@gatoratlarge- I have Mahale on my list for one day down the road.  What are the logistics involved to get to Mahale?  Thanks....

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what a fantastic trip. thanks for sharing with us.


Apart from the wonderful wildlife I love the differing accommodations and the one of Mahale camp leading to the beach is quite simply blissful. I want to live there.


You certainly pulled together, with Sangeeta, a really good trip for your 'new to safari' friends. and did it work ? are the planning to go again?

Edited by wilddog
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@madaboutcheetahMahale is remote for sure.  You must arrive by air and from Arusha it's a long distance in a small plane so it's costly especially coming from the Northern Circuit in Tanzania.  It probably pairs best with the Southern Circuit and Katavi is a sister property.  Our route was leave Arusha and fly an hour and a half south to Tabora to refuel and a stretch legs stop.  Then we dropped a couple of folks off at Katavi which was about an hour away and then another half hour to reach Mahale.  so about three hours of flying from Arusha.  Then there's an hour and a half or so cruise down the lakeshore to reach Greystoke.  The dhow journey is pure bliss...


@wilddogtime will tell as to whether they return but I do think there are new converts and believers...I heard over and over that when folks ask them how was the trip, they just can't put into words what it was like, that it was something you have to experience to really understand, that they "get it" now...one friend is intent on bringing his two sons to Africa.  So yes, I think Mission Accomplished :D I can't say enough good things about the folks at Chalo @Sangeetaand her team exhibited unbelievable patience with all the questions and were "Johnny on the Spot" with the Covid protocols...


Mahale is just a stunning location and a special place.  Interestingly Lake Tanganyika is rising and they've lost 100 feet of beach and have had to rebuild the mess hall significantly further back as well as the bandas...not sure if this is a result of Climate Change but that's what they've had to do...

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@gatoratlarge Thanks for this delightful video of the chimps. It helps to keep my plan alive to visit Mahale the next time I go to Ruaha. And good to know that one can go and see chimps in November.

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@gatoratlarge I have to say that after no less than 29 safaris, Greystoke Mahale is the single most beautiful place that I've ever visited. I was so impressed with it that I thought that the chimps were almost an afterthought. You are right it's right being there is like experiencing a dream.. 

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I am very impressed with your pictures and video of Mahale and I have to be honest that with all the other dream destinations in my mind , I forgot a bit about this one ; in 2017 when I visited Ruaha an alternative was in fact Mahale and Greystoke camp combined with Katavi NP but as it was my first time to Tanzania the variety in wildlife especially antelopes of Ruaha just had the edge ! 

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Greystoke Mahale has been #1 on my list of places that I want to go for about a year, since I 1st heard about it. I would combine it with Katavi. I don't think I will be able to go in 2022 due to a conflict with another trip planned and postponed  several times due to covid. But fall of 2023 I definitely want to go. As a single female, traveling by myself, I need to find another like minded female to do this trip with me and share accommodations.

Edited by NancyS
put the wrong park name
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What a wonderful trip report. Greystone Mahale looks like a dream destination. Thanks for posting this. 

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@AKR1My pleasure---Mahale is definitely my favorite camp in Africa although it's so different from most camps I think we're allowed to have several favorites :)---it was my third visit and hopefully not my last!  My first trip was in 2000 and Roland Purcell was the hands-on founder and camp manager.  I think the story goes he scoped it out by air (he is a pilot) and got permission from TANAPA to open a seasonal camp that he had to break down in the rainy season and rebuild each year.  He is the epitome of an adventurer, an Irishman that founded Mahale Greystoke and then Chada Katavi which made a perfectly remote, complete and wild safari to Tanzania.  For a while he raised his family at Mahale.  Ironically, his son Wolfie was there while we were visiting acting as a guide for a Scottish woman writing a book about the history of Lake Tanganyika.


@NancySthat's what I have found so great about this forum is it brings like-minded safari nuts together ---  at first I was a lurker, then a contributor on the occasional trip report and then a fellow traveler on several safaris with other SafariTalkers (to Ethiopia, Chad and Gabon)!


I don't know if this story will translate well--maybe you just had to experience it first hand but the short rain season had already begun when we arrived to Tanzania and I was awakened in my banda in the middle of the night to the sound of crashing thunder and flashing lightning!  It was about 4A I believe.  I had left everything open save my mosquito net to listen to the lapping waters of the lake...my banda was oriented just right for a gale force wind to blast straight on and whip the entire mosquito net over my head and the headboard of the bed knocking over both bedside lamps in the process---awakened from a dead sleep I was completely disoriented and thought for a moment a wild animal (monkey/baboon?) had run scared from the thunder right through my banda!  The wind was relentless and my bed was getting soaked!  Behind the bed is a little anteroom where I heard all of my papers for the trip scatter and stick wet to the walls!  I was stumbling around in the dark trying my best to collect my things, my thoughts and figure out a smart plan which was of course to shut the canvas flaps and hook them at the bottom---still the wind was so powerful it was like a sail!  All I could do was lay in my bed (now pretty soaked) and listen to the thunder and torrential equatorial storm pour down the rains...it was a wild and wonderful and a bit scary experience...did I learn my lesson?  Not really.  The next night I left everything open again but when another storm awoke me I rushed immediately to the canvas and hooked it shut...it didn't really approach the first storm in intensity but I was prepared for round 2!  


@optig29 safaris?!?! You really are a fortunate one!  I am jealous!  And to be able to live in Nairobi puts you in the epicenter of getting around Africa!  So awesome!

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Our stay in Mahale came to an end far too soon but our group was really in the safari spirit now and it was a fantastic place to begin.  Next stop was Kuria Hills, a Lemala camp.  We had hoped to see some river crossings (or a river crossing) but knowing it was late in the season and most of the great herds had already made it into the Central Serengeti from the Mara our guides seemed a bit doubtful.  Most of the wildes and zebras were making their way south and we were up near the Kenyan border...but @Sangeetatold me not to be surprised if we did see a crossing of the laggers which turned out prophetic.  We saw  four crossings and largely without the crowds of other vehicles --- oh there were some, but not nearly what I saw in the Mara in the height of the Migration a few years ago.  We did have one vehicle rush past us and nearly block the wildebeests' path which is pretty unethical...but mostly we had them to ourselves with a few other vehicles taking it all in...


The first crossing a croc took down a wildebeest...at a zebra crossing a large croc made three or four attempts but the zebras were tough and fended it off...


Here's our Mahale goodbyes and a little video Mwiga made for their sister Nomad camp Lemai that won leading safari lodge of the year for Tanzania  -- he's a total cut up :D



We didn't want to say Goodbye:

Here are some crossings which are particularly cool on video :):


A croc took down a wildebeest on the first crossing we saw below:


Zebras fended off a large croc that made several attempts to take them...






Edited by gatoratlarge
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One of the more interesting (and stressful) experiences was on an afternoon game drive, a rain storm was approaching when we came across a leopard with two cubs resting atop a termite mound.  She had killed a young zebra which was hidden in the nearby brush.  But as several vehicles watched the mother and cubs, a large troop of baboons began to assemble and move in toward them.  The guides said that they are mortal enemies, leopards and baboons, and that either would take out the other if given the opportunity.  Like a scene out of The Planet of the Apes, some baboons sat patiently atop the rocky kopjes like they were about to watch gladiators at the coliseum!  The larger males began to move closer to the resting mother...she was unaware that they were moving toward her in a mob.  When she did spot them, she snarled and crouched, slinking away leaving her two cubs on the mound!  Finally one of the cubs imitating its mum crouched low and slunk under a safari vehicle and took off out the other side leaving its sibling alone on the mound.  Meanwhile the large male baboons moved closer to the mound...no one wanted to see a small cub killed whether it's nature or not...we were breathless when they began to search the mound and the surrounding bush...apparently the tiny cub went down into a hole in the mound and hid!  Whew!  After a while, the baboons moved on..  The guides told us later that the leopard and her cubs reunited and escaped with their lives...I apologize for the narration in the video :blink:---call it nervous chatter...!


Some of the prettiest little antelope around....the klipspringers...



Of course we saw lots of birds including five species of vulture: the Ruppell's, the white headed, the lappet faced, the hooded and white backed---


Green pigeons are striking...


So many lions:



They loved their kopjes!  DSC00202.jpg.01d6ab0e956728f136361634de7c8936.jpgDSC00214.jpg.27a9a5f05921cf30454e8f556277b165.jpgDSC00225.jpg.c3e5c332ca59ceefaaf0ee1b67cbaf65.jpgDSC00272.jpg.f5fbbc1090d75019bc47b59c57bc0ca1.jpg

This giraffe drank while the wildebeests tried to make up their minds to cross...



Another highlight was ballooning over the Serengeti and the Mara River...it's an amazing vantage point at a most beautiful time of day when the light is so amazing...we floated over pods of hippos, large crocs, hyenas, elephant and giraffe...


Edited by gatoratlarge
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@gatoratlarge Despite having been thrice to both the Serengeti and the Masai Mara I know that I'll have to visit both again. I will see plenty of new things.

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Fantastic videos!

Looking forward to the next one.



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We wrapped up four eventful nights and days at Lemala Kuria Hills and land transferred to Lemala Nanyukie in the Central Serengeti. It was about a four or five hour drive but I rather enjoyed it. We saw plenty of game: elephants, lions, hippos, zebra and Wildes and giraffe — and our time outside the park was interesting as we passed through a few small villages.  Both camps were beautiful but I particularly liked Nanyukie and it’s style. 

some shots on the way to Nanyukie:


Love the random beauty of Africa — here, a pod of hippos3BE69F21-41F1-4CAB-B3D7-67B9F6FD38B6.jpeg.2dd27ce3f6654d02e87b2f706940bdf6.jpeg

An elephant and Buffalo acknowledge each other


Napping baboons




the tree climbing lion turned out to be in the midst of mating! 0436C933-49A0-4B43-819D-F26139B67733.jpeg.bf04e4f8c6822d1fafe0031aa6928e8c.jpeg5C9E69C1-2E86-42D2-BB5E-5FB4986A0FA6.jpeg.743aee9b1e1d54a1f6b1cc00c400227b.jpegAF5025D4-DA87-4FE7-975C-25F35A7A52D1.jpeg.33bcb8687185f3c629fd7a8fa2b32c5b.jpegB7CD652E-CF0E-4DBA-8E31-9070E531D026.jpeg.7fc8925bf8bbed389bbcc7f9d4c32cfd.jpeg04EFACBA-2ABC-4933-AE7D-2760EEDCAEB8.jpeg.267a608b85c7a1ef0521e52e1acff082.jpeg

 We had a picnic lunch at the Serengeti Info Center in the park. They had a well done exhibit on the migration and it was a great place to stretch legs:

the colorful agama lizard also called the Spider-Man lizard as you can see the resemblance! 😁


we brake for leopard tortoises!975EED8E-8402-482D-AD0F-5E2589C993F8.jpeg.989d1ab9a7fd963a6a78aab37f5772ef.jpeg


Some pics of camp:



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The plains around Nanyukie were devoid of many zebra or wildebeests— the migrating herds were about 70 kilometers away and we would seek them outlater in our stay but they were loaded up with hundreds/ thousands? Of Thompson’s gazelles (favorite food of cheetahs) with a sprinkling of Grant’s gazelles. The plains were much more wide open here than in the kopje-dotted north. We certainly saw our fair share of cheetah 🐆 and big cats:


cheetah and lions

EE6FA96C-487F-4D02-8A3C-193076885AE3.jpeg.59148f7cfe5cebe18eef98b5b9d92485.jpegAnd this large male leopard with a reedbuck dangling in the tree with him:


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I bet you were all relieved when the leopard cubs escaped.  It seems as though the cubs just had to fend for themselves.  Fortunately they did.  Great animals and scenery!

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13 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

I bet you were all relieved when the leopard cubs escaped.  It seems as though the cubs just had to fend for themselves.  Fortunately they did.  Great animals and scenery!

We were very relieved — They sort of did have to fend for themselves and they were quite small— one copied the mother and skulked off after her and the other one went (thankfully) down into a hole in the mound. Otherwise we would have witnessed a horrific sight.  The baboons searched all around the mound and the bush and finally lost interest and moved on 

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Our last day of safari our guides headed  the 70 kilometers to the Moru Kopjes for two reasons — the main reason was to try and intercept the Great Migration and the other was to try to spot black rhino. One out of two ain’t bad!


We saw thousands of wildebeest and zebra snaking their way across the plains to a waterhole. So interesting to observe the group behavior. We literally watched them lower the water table as you could see where the water was before and after they drank. Several times they got spooked and panic ensued stampeding for no apparent reason with great clouds of dust billowing upwards.  First, we came across another pair of amorous lions 🦁:

And then a herd of eles:

And then the herds of wildes—-they were quite the sight!


Shade was at a premium:

The white headed vulture completed our list of Serengeti vultures 👍🏻 for a total of five species:


Edited by gatoratlarge
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Wildes everywhere and congrats on your Vulture Big 5!


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