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Hooked on Safari after doing Ndutu, Tarangine and Ngorongoro crater - July 2023


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Now it is my turn to attempt to summarize our very first safari in early July in this trip report.


And sadly (for my future economic situation), I must admit that the whole family is now severely infected by the safari bug.


For our first trip we had a couple of priorities:

  1. See the Ngorongoro crater (bucket list thing)
  2. Stay away from too crowded areas. Afterall it is nicer to see more animals compared to safari vehicles.
  3. Prioritise the big cats, since they were the most wanted animals from our 10yr daughter (and potentially also her parents :D)


Based on the above priorities and with much appreciated feedback and suggestions from this very forum, we ended with an itenary that looked like this:


Day 1: Arrive in the Arusha area

Day 2: Drive from Arusha to Tarangire and then onwards to new accomodation near the crater

Day 3: Late start for the Ngorongoro crater, and then onward to spend the night in the Olduvai Camp

Day 4: Walking safari in morning with the Masaai in Olduvai, and then drive to Ndutu (seeing Olduvai Gorge on the way). Gamedrive in Ndutu and arrive in Ndutu Safari Lodge

Day 5 and 6: Game Drives in Ndutu

Day 7: Morning game drive before being dropped off at the Ndutu airstrip flying to Zanzibar

Day 8-16: Scuba diving, being cultural and a hint of relaxation in Zanzibar. All the time based in the amazing Unguja Lodge.

Day 17: Chumbe Island overnight stay for seeing the nocturnal Coconut Crabs

Day 18: Fly back to boring work-life :D


Our trip was arranged together with African Travel Resource (ATR) after recommendations from this forum, and we were very happy with their efforts to tailor make the trip to fit every (unreasonable) request I had.



Day 1:

We were lucky enough to be able to fly directly from Zurich to Kilimanjaro Airport, which is only around a 9hour flight. We flew with Edelweiss air, which was nice and easy, arriving in Tanzania around 7pm. Highlight of the day was the poor customs officer who asked to loan our pen, in the process brining us past a looong line of people to the top of the line. He never gave the pen back, but it was soooo worth it instead of waiting for 1.5 hours in line with a 10yr :D. We spent the night in Machweo Retreat outside Arusha. It was ok, but in the end it did not matter since we just needed a bed for the night.


Day 2:

We were picked up by our guide Malissa at 0800, and started driving towards Tarangire National Park. As we got close to the park we started seeing Blue Wilderbeest and Zebras in the countryside. Our first safari animals, and like all rookie safari-goers we were probably more excited for those initial sightings than we should have been....


We had selected Tarangire mainly for the elephant herds there, and it did definitely not dissappoint with a number of great encounters with them. Highlights during the stay in Tarangire included 1 Leopard encounter (though fairly long away and hidden), 2 Lions in a tree, a brief encounter with a spotted Hyena (according to the guide they are not that common at daytime in Tarangire) and last but not least a chameleon crossing the road. For whatever reason that chameleon was more or less the highlight of the trip for our daughter :D.


Overall spent around 5-6 hours in Tarangire before driving to our hotel for the night, the Bashay Rift Lodge in the Karatu area.






2 Lioness' relaxing in a tree



Sadly the only leopard we say on the trip was in poor lightning and just outside reach of our cameras.



Must be handy having 360 degree vision, so that you can watch the humans behind you, while watching the road ahead too.



I am always impressed by the blue colors of the Vervet Monkey...it is just not a color normally occuring in nature :D



Day 3:

We had decided to have a late morning this day, aiming to arrive at the Ngorongoro crater around 11.00.

Descending into the crater was breathtaking, and overall I was pleasantly surprised about the number of other vehicles we encountered. One time during the day it got quite congested was close to a male lion who was lying in the high grass with a kill (we could mainly see the tail and head occasionally), with 2-3 spotted Hyenas and 2 black backed Jackals cautiously approaching in the hopes of a chance for leftovers.


We did technically see a single black Rhino, thereby completing our Big 5 in the first two days. I say technically, since it was very very far away, and you probably needed to know it was a rhino to recognize it in the binoculars.


Other than this the highlight in the crater was another encounter with two lioness', a big male elephant before we even came to the crater floor,  lots of Hippos, and a great Serval encounter as we were getting ready to leave the crater.


We left the crater, driving to Olduvai Camp, where we arrived just in time to take a short walk for enjoying the sunset from the top of a nearby Kopje. Inside the restaurant we had a 'friendly' genet continously trying to sneak into the kitchen area.



This Olive Baboon did not feel like the sign was enough to warn the tourists about monkey business



The breathtaking view of entering the crater





Sadly this is the only Rhino we saw....and not exactly clearly



Black Backed Jackal waiting for the chance to steal from the lion



ATR had by default planned for us to have a nice picnic 5 min away from the horde of other vehicles. This was a very nice surprise



Just an elephant getting a snack





Family of Hippos going for a nice walk


And another hippo in its own personal "1-person" spa



Beautiful Serval strolling along the road



Olduvai Camp seen in the setting sun







(to be continued)

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~ @caz777: Thank you for posting the images above.


The serval images are delightful — such a fine sighting.


It's understandable that your family is eager for the next safari.


May it be sooner than you expect!


         Tom K.

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Wow, what a first couple of days of your first safari! You saw a ton!

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@caz777thanks for posting a report of your first safari. Great sightings in the first couple of days, including a serval - such a delicate little cat.

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Day 4:

This day started early with a 3 hour walking safari on the savanah in and around the olduvai river. It was enjoyable getting out of the car, and just walking through the landscape, and search for animals. We spotted herds of Thomson's and Grant's gazelle, 2 ostriches, baby birds in their nest on the ground (probably some kind of Lark?), our first 2 secretary birds (our daughter's favourite bird before coming to Tanzania), but the highlight was on the way back to the camp, where we encountered 4 giraffes in the river bed.


Not sure what this little fellow is? Some kind of Lark since the nest is on the ground?



Giraffes on the walking safari





Back in the camp, we grabbed lunch boxes, and headed to Olduvai Gorge. The museum there was good and interesting, but also quite pricey. While it was nice to experience the very earliest discoveries of hominids it was not a need-to-experience thing.


After Olduvai Gorge, we headed towards Ndutu Lodge, doing a gamedrive for the entire afternoon. Highlights on the gamedrive were a single female cheetah, where we spent around 1 hour, and later on first a single lioness sleeping. According to the other vehicles, there had been a male lion there also, and they were likely to mate later on. We waited for a long time, and also found the male lion. Unfortunately at some point a careless driver tried to turn his car to drive off, getting too close to the male, who decided to leave then.


Just a couple of giraffe in Ndutu




Cheetah in the beatiful purple flower meadow



Lioness potentially waiting for male companionship?



And the male lion, found 50 meters away from the lioness.



We arrived at Ndutu Lodge (and totally fell in love with that place), and sat down on the porch of our room, and just enjoyed a herd of 50+ Impalas getting closer and closer to us.


Not very shy Impalas




(To be continued tomorrow)



Edited by caz777
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~ @caz777: I almost jumped out of my home office chair when I saw the cheetah images.


Those purple wildflowers are familiar to me, but I've never been able to identify the species.


Your nice photos shows them to good effect, bringing back memories of safaris years ago.


Again, many thanks for preparing this trip report.


         Tom K.

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Day 5:

This day we got up early, and were ready go for a an early game drive at 0600, bringing breakfast boxes with us. This was the first morning where we did not have to get up, pack, and check out of our lodge, which was nice.


While enjoying the beatiful sunrise, we saw a couple of spotted hyenas, as well as a hippo trekking away from us. In addition to this we saw two beautifull owl sitting in a tree.




We were on the lookout for 2 male lions who had been spotted by another vehicle, but even though we ended up being 3-4 vehicles, they eluded us. So after a while we decided to spend the time having breakfast while the other cars kept looking. After breakfast the lions had been found, and it turned out to be a coalition of 5 male lions.




We returned for lunch at the lodge, and my daughter and I spend some time looking for chameleons around the lodge.




In the afternoon gamedrive we wanted to attempt to find more cheetah/leopard, but unfortunately we had no luck. We did however have a highlight in a good encounter with a Secretary bird being attacked by an Augur Buzzard.



In the evening, we had the pleasure of the resident genet visiting the lodge. Such a cute animal.




(to be continued)

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@caz777 Already looks like a great trip, so many sightings.  Especially the serval is great, I been on safari over 200 days and I only seen one as well . And your sigthing was better that mine :) I hope your daughter was happy with your big cats numbers, you saw a lot. 

And it seems like this is not your last safari, so congratulations, now you also have the safaribug like the rest of us :) 

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Wow, what a great first safari - seeing plenty and some unique! No wonder you are under pressure to arrange a return - where else* can you go looking for chameleons by the bridge when you have a little downtime? ;)



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1 hour ago, JayRon said:

@caz777 Already looks like a great trip, so many sightings.  Especially the serval is great, I been on safari over 200 days and I only seen one as well . And your sigthing was better that mine :) I hope your daughter was happy with your big cats numbers, you saw a lot. 

And it seems like this is not your last safari, so congratulations, now you also have the safaribug like the rest of us :) 


It was a great trip, and our daugther was definitely happy overall with the number of great cats. The next updates in this thread will also show this.

But yeah the Serval was wonderful, and you never know when little things like that happen.


With the risk of sounding incredibly spoiled, I would have hoped for more varied Cats :D We saw a lot of lions, and would have loved to have more cheetah, leopards and perhaps Caracal also. But as said, that is just me being spoiled.


But overall yeah, definitely not the last safari for us. As long time scuba divers, we now have two competing vacation hobbies, that are both quite expensive :D. I have to find a Get-Rich-Quick Schema I guess :P

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Day 6

On this day we once again started as early as possible at 0600. Fairly quickly after departing from the lodge did we find 4 lionesses walking with purpose for quite some time. Our guide guessed that they were on their way to their cubs, and we decided to leave the other vehicles, to get around an upcoming ridge.  The guides intuition was correct, which meant we got the best spot for looking into a small rift, where the 4 lionesses got to their cubs. The other vehicles arrived after us, and were not able to find a good spot.





After spending a good amount of time near the lions, we drove off to the plains, where we first had good encounters with 5 spotted hyneas (potentially in 2 groups?) and later on a solitary male lion, walking around the plains. We did not manage to follow him that long, since our daughter needed to use a toilet, so we had to head back for lunch :D




Warthog thinking "i'm invisible...I'm invisible"




After lunch we did the another game drive, where we got good encounters with a big of 10 giraffes, with mulitple neck fights happening,  as well as a close encounter with a very old elephant bull. The guide thought it was one of the oldest elephants in the area at more than 60 years old, but I have no idea if that is true.




At the end of the afternoon we returned to the area of the lions with cubs, and had an amazing encounter for 1-2 hours of the cubs being out in the open and playing.



A very stealthy little one sneaking in an ambush on his brother/sister



Lion cub with a victory cigar



I love this picture. The sheer look of total affection in the cub's eye is just adorable




Sadly this encounter became a little less fun when another group decided to leave the vehicle to prepare for an overnight camp just 100 meters away.  Immidiately the demeanour of the cats changed, and they became extremely alert, and were clearly feeling threatened. Both our guide and another guide was upset, and got in a discussion about it with the guide of the camping group. And in the end, they ended photographing it and reporting it to the rangers.


Just after the camping group got out of the car 100 meter away....suddenly the cubs are all around the adults, who are very very alert. The last adult is not visible, but was sneaking closer to the group to investigate.



And I would also say that in general it seems a poor choice to set up camp too close to a mother lioness and her cubs. Eventually the lionesses luckily decided to just go somewhere else instead of seeing it as a free dinner for their cubs.

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Day 7


Last day of safari for us. While it was a short safari, I would say that the length seems adequate when having a 10year old along. She was starting to become more impatient during the last game drives, and was completely full of new impressions.

Nevertheless, once again we started out at 0600 for a gamedrive before being dropped of at the Ndutu airstrip after 4 hours of game drive.


The highlights of our last game drive was yet another encounter with lion cubs. I am pretty sure this is another group, as the cubs were bigger/older than the one from the day before.



This is the lion equivalent of a human parent stepping on their child's LEGO brick




After spending time with the lions, we also had good sightnings of a couple of Black backed jackals, and finally also a two bat eared foxes, where one of them went to their burrow very quickly though.



At the very end of our game drive we did also have an encounter with two Striped Hyenas. However the encounter was very brief (1-2 min) and at some distance (so no pictures/proof). We tried finding them again, but no luck. Reading some of the other trip reports here after coming back I realise that was a much more rare sighting than I originally thought (I knew they are more rare at day than the spotted ones, just not how rare).



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Day 8-18

After leaving mainland Tanzania, we spent time in Unguja Island and Chumbe Island respectively. We stayed for the entire time in Unguja in Unguja Lodge in the non-touristy south of the island, which was amazing. The lodge is built without removing the forest around it, so there is a very good animal life on the grounds. While we were there we saw many times Elephant Shrews, Plated Lizards, Dik-Diks as well as the resident family of 15+ Sykes monkeys and 3 Zanzibar Red Colobus monkeys (sadly all the same gender). Sometimes the monkeys come all the way into bungalows to steal your stuff if you leave lying unattended. To be honest the viewing of the Red colobus was much better in the garden of the lodge than in the Jozani Forest, which is famed for them.

In addition to this we also had a Giant African Land Snail crossing our path one day.


Elephant Shrew


Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkey in our garden



African Giant Land Snail (I think...)



We also had two snake encounters in Zanzibar, once in Jozani Forest and once on the beach waiting for the boat to Chumbe. In the first case the guide felt that it was a harmless Green Tree snake (aka not a green mamba), where as the second snake was killed on sight by a 'guard' (with his flip flops) on the beach claiming it to be a green mamba. To be honest I am not sure he was right about it being a green mamba, but I am no snake expert. I dont think he was either, but I imagine they just kill them on sight as a precaution on that resort.


The snake we saw in Jozani Forest




In Zanzibar our daughter also got certificated as a Junior Open Water Diver, so that from now on we can resume diving some more as a family.




In our last night in Tanzania we spent the night in Chumbe Island, a small protected island, with only 7 bungalows in total. The purpose was to see the nocturnal Coconut/Robber Crabs, which are the largest land living species of crabs. Amazing creatures!




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That concludes my trip report.


All in all we had an amazing first safari, and are definitely going to be doing many more safaris in the coming years/decades.


Thank you for all the input during the trip planning phase. It definitely helped us plan a great trip.


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Thank you for this trip report @caz777.   You did very well and even had good sightings in Zanzibar - the Sengi for example.   I like the photo of the angry mother lioness with the cub biting her tail.  


And you saw some great behavior like the Augur Buzzard attacking the Secretarybird.  


Too many other noteworthy things to comment on, but very well done for a first safari!   


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Thanks for sharing, we took our kids (5 & 7 at the time) on their first safari earlier this year, also to Tanzania. They liked it so much they asked to go back to to Africa next year. It's always nice to see the young kids enjoying these types of trips. You really had some great sightings for a shorter safari! 

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Thanks for sharing this, you sure had a very wonderful first safari. Wish you many more to come.

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  • 7 months later...

@caz777Just came across this report and loved your photos of the lion cubs.  Both sets...younger and older.

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  • 3 weeks later...

You fulfilled your priorities, @caz777!  Lots of cools sightings including the striding chameleon, shrew and the coconut crab, none of those common.  Looks like you caught the African bug.  You are to be commended on completing your trip report so promptly. We will look forward to the next one.

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