The country par excellence for wildlife, with its famous Serengeti park and the breathtaking Ngorogoro Crater. They stand up to their name and it doesn’t stop there. Read all about it in this blog.
It’s the beginning of December when I cross the border on land from Kenya to Tanzania, via Namanga. With one day delay due to “the day of the Republic” the Tanzania adventure began. In the blog about Kenya I already described why this time of year is the best for going on a safari. Read it again to add up all the benefits and come to the same conclusion!
My partner in crime for this trip is Gabriel, a friendly ‘rasta’ and experienced chauffeur and wildlife guide. He understands a photographer, what helps in shooting the best pics! We get our entrance tickets to the parks and buy the necessary provision. For this scouting-trip we camp in the parks. I love camping and it’s a real pleasure falling asleep while listening to the sounds of wildlife!
Our first stop: Tarangire National Park. This vast park with its river going right through the heart of the park, has a lot to offer. The animals get close, really close. It’s fantastic to be able to almost touch them, while your camera is working overtime to capture beautiful close-ups. It’s the variety in the landscape that takes up an important role in the park’s character! When the magical light shows, idyllic scenes appear when elephants dive into one of the many lakes for a nightly bath. They lead by example, except we head into our tents! We don’t have to worry. We’re guided by a group of lions, only 150 meters away. No better security possible. The males’ ‘roar’, used to delimit his territory, is the sound that I fall asleep with and wake up with. It’s amazing to awaken like this! In the morning, when we’re following a young male that has been out casted by a group of lions, we get jammed. The jeep is stuck, it doesn’t move at all. So we have to dig. Without success and we’re in a remote area with no cell phone reception. Yet again we’re greeted by some roars. This time it’s not so nice, because a roar during the day means there’s a female coming. She is letting her sisters know that she has prey in her sight. We recognize at least three roars and know we’re surrounded. Gabriel, who grew up as a Masai warrior, bravely defies the lions. From an adjacent road on higher ground he knows to get the attention of other jeeps. We’re on our way again, ciao lions, till next time!
Our next stop is Lake Eyasi, with its famous bushmen called Hadzabe. It’s hard to imagine how long this rare tribe will live on. But with a total of 800 tribe members they should be able to go on for a few more generations. However, they are the last ones of their kind and it’s an honor to visit these former cave men. Covered in baboon skin, they spend most of their time hunting and making bows and arrows. For every animal a different arrow, which is carefully prepared, with or without poison at the tip. The kids learn to use these at a young age, so they can join on the hunt. The government unsuccessfully tried to convince the Hadzabe to get a more modern lifestyle and get their children educated. The declined everything, the government gave up and lets them be. It’s an absolute must to visit them and see the lifestyle for yourself as long as it’s possible! You’ll learn to shoot a bow and can join on a hunt if you like to.
We trade in Lake Eyasi for Serengeti National Park. It’s not easy to beat Masai Mara National Park, this is the place to be to spot wildlife. We find most of the wildebeest one kilometer in front of the Serengeti entrance gates. They are early this year and are starting to migrate to the south. Around July/August they’ll arrive at Mara river, where the spectacular crossing of the river takes place, surrounded by crocodiles. An experience and safari on its own, but that’s not why we’re here. We are here for all Serengeti has to offer and the park delivers! An abundance of lions, cheetahs and leopards can be found in central Serengeti. You get a double feeling seeing these powerful predators at work. They don’t always stay undamaged, hence the wounds and scars. Nevertheless, the victory is theirs most of the time, that are the laws of Mother Nature. We follow a small pack of lions and surprisingly see them on higher grounds taking down a hippo, that’s so rare! It takes a 35 hour game of catch and release, before the hippo takes one last breath and goes down. An incredible long fight which also shows the stamina of the hippo may never be underestimated. We drive to different locations on these volcanic grasslands regularly, to visit a leopard or watch a herd of elephants.! There’s enough to see and experience, Serengeti never disappoints! The camping here is an incredible experience. As soon as night falls, the bright green eyes of the hyenas light up. Cheeky as they are they search for food leftovers to get a lazy meal. A flashlight at their heads and a sham in their way is enough to chase them away. It’s all happening in Serengeti. The most special sighting is a cheetah mom training her cubs. Hiding in the tall grass the cubs watch how their mom keeps an eye on a herd of impalas. The impalas slowly get closer to the cheetahs. Observantly looking around at times, they have no idea what’s waiting for them. They are within range of mom and with graceful but sneak movement she finds her way through the grass. When the fastest land animal starts running, there’s no hiding from it. An adult impala gets taken down and this is when the cubs can in action. Ill at ease the grab the impala and it’s funny to see how they hang on to it, powerless. The impala doesn’t look impressed. The impala escapes easily and mom cheetah lets it happen. This obviously isn’t a hunt for food, the cubs need to learn to hunt. They still have a long way to go and it takes more than one “training” before the cheetahs can go out on their own in this big world.
With the satisfaction of Serengeti still in my mind, we head out to Ngorogoro Crater. Even though we’re in the middle of a volcanic area and Ngorogoro looks like a crater, it isn’t its origin. That doesn’t mean it’s not breathtaking. Standing on the edge of the ‘crater’ you look into the deep valley and you can only imagine the diversity of wildlife that lives here. When day breaks and the magical light shows on the horizon, we drive into the Ngorogoro valley. The mountain walls are a fantastic background for wildlife photography. Wildebeest and zebras make an amazing contrast with the landscape, where elephants show how tiny they actually are in this environment. This is also the only park in Tanzania where you’ll find the rhino and with this has the Big Five to offer. For the last several years the government raised the entrance fee to Ngorogoro significantly. But a visit to this nature phenomenon is definitely worth it. As show stopper we spend some time with a group of five male lions. This is very unusual and the reason of their gathering still remains a secret.
I find Lake Manyara an absolute must to visit during this photography tour. Same goes for sleeping in lodges instead of camping. We end the trip at Lake Natron. It’s a tough drive to get to Lake Natron and a couple of rain shower could easily block the road. The volcanic ground doesn’t absorb very good, this is the reason why roads can change in wild rivers within minutes. Luckily we don’t get any rain, but the rough landscape is still a challenge. Our 4x4 landcruiser shows its power and it doesn’t disappoints us. The free 4,5 hour massage was free.. Lake Natron, next to Tanzania’s only active volcano, is known for its salt water and distinctive color caused by evaporation (liquid turning into gas). Located in the middle of nowhere, it’s a lovely place to watch all the beauty Mother Nature has to offer in peace and quiet. The Masai who own this land make sure you’ll have everything you need. An amazing end to again an exciting trip through Tanzania. A must for everyone who loves wildlife, nature, landscape and culture.
I’ll gladly take you to all these specials places, you’re more than welcome! Check here the photography trip of Tanzania, or here the combi trip Tanzania&Kenia. Do you want to et in the mood? That's possible! Check the gallery of Tanzania or for the combi trip the gallery of Kenia.