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“Wildest” Tanzania!

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.

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Blog ‘once in a lifetime’ Kenia

‘Once in a lifetime’ Kenia!

What a richness of wildlife and culture this eastern African country has to offer. With its national parks, each unique in its own form, spotting the big 5 is almost guaranteed. If that alone isn’t reason enough to visit Kenya, I’ll give you another one. The culture of the Masai and Samburu people! These traditional indigenous people still live by their own laws. And they withstand. The government tries to have them integrate in modern society, however without success. I’ll tell you more about my adventures with these people later in this blog. Just like the rare moments I had with wildlife in open nature. Do you want to experience a unique trip like this yourself and go home with spectacular photos? Than you’re very welcome to join!

Before I tell you about some special moments we had, let me first tell you something about the best season to visit Kenya. Kenya has a dry season, a wet season and a short wet season. It’s best to avoid the wet season, which is from April until mid-June. The dry season is okay to visit. Even though it’s dry, dusty and hot. We’re talking about January until March and July until September. This is the best time to spot wildlife because nature is dry and arid. Do you want to see the great migration up-close? Than you should be there from July until October. But keep in mind all the jeeps racing around to get the best views. That brings me to the most ideal time to visit Kenya, October until November. This is the low season, which means that you can spend time with all the wildlife in peace and as long as you wish. Nature is luscious green, which gives that extra touch to wildlife photography. Trust me, you can see the animals just as good. If you’re not convinced, check the photo gallery on the site. It’s also not as hot and as expensive as during high season. And those rain showers? You might get 1 or 2 hours of rain a day, or even only once a week. So for us Dutchies, nothing to complain about!

Alright, let’s start at the beginning. Together with Julius I went on a 17 day trip. And we had a mission. Turning Kenya inside out, searching for the most special places for photography. Julius is, like many other Kenyans, a wildlife specialist and knows every park from corner to corner. With his wildlife expertise and my photography knowledge, we complement each other, which makes unique images that even surprised Julius with his 25 years of experience. And above all, we had lots of fun!

Okay, enough about that. Back to adventure. Let’s start with the Samburu people and national park. I spent some time with the Samburu people to better understand their lifestyle and habits. They live in small huts build by the women, that withstand up to 6 years. By then, the entire village moves to a new location to start all over again. They only possess their homes, colorful clothing and jewellery, nothing else. They mainly live of milk and meat from their cattle and ingredients found in nature. The men patrol and protect their village and cattle. The women take care of the children and do the cooking. Life can be so simple! They love traditional song and dance, which is their way of welcoming and thanking you. Before marriage the men get the role of ‘warrior’. They learn to survive in the wild nature and learn how to protect their village. They are stars at throwing their spears and traditional orugume! Not so long ago every warrior had to prove his masculinity by overpowering and killing a lion. Luckily, they don’t practice this habit any longer. It were warriors that I joined during my trip. It turned out I’m bad at throwing spears, but then again they’re bad in photography. But together, we managed to use the magical lighting of the sunset and their beautiful land to catch some gorgeous pictures.

The Samburu National Park is a true gem. Gorgeous landscapes that only get more gorgeous when the animals get in sight. Gigantic herds of elephants parade through the grass and you don’t know where to look. It is this time of year when you can see these big herds. There’s enough to eat for everyone. Once it gets dry and arid, they split up because there is a shortage of food. The lions make their rounds like tough rulers and giraffes gracefully stride from tree to tree. It’s a true delight to watch these beautiful animals in their own habitat. A big recommendation it is!

Actually, all parks are recommended, they all have something unique to offer. Like Solio Ranch. With a great amount of rhinos it offers something completely different. You drive through vast landscapes and hilly areas. When you drive through the yellow acacia woods with its gorgeous lakes, you think you’re in a fairy tale. You won’t find elephants here, but the rhinos make up for that. Antelopes, giraffes, lions…you’ll all find it here. It’s the combination of diverse landscapes and wildlife that make this park a must-see.

Lake Nakuru, in the famous Great Rift Valley, is another gem. There are several lakes in this area, like Baringo and Bogoria. Once, all of them were a real haven for millions of flamingos. However, the changed water quality caused a decrease in number and now there are only a couple thousand left. But it’s still an amazing sight. You can only hope that nature recovers so this pink phenomenon returns. Luckily Lake Nakuru has more to offer than flamingos and that’s worth a visit too. The rising water in this time of year gives you amazing views on the east side of the lake. Large areas of dead forest are submerged, a feast for the eye. Besides all the wildlife you can find here, you’ll also have breathtaking views from the hilltops.

The showpiece of Kenya, better known as Masai Mara, has everything. The Masai culture, the gorgeous landscapes and the Big Five. What else do you want? I stayed a few days in the national park and an entire week with the Masai people. As soon as you enter the park you can keep your camera ready for action. Even though it’s a vast area, you’ll find lots of wildlife in a relative small area. Like the lions and leopards that I found, living next to each other like neighbors. Or the leopard couple that I spent two days with. They only spend one week a year together to mate, than they go their separate ways again. It’s an astonishing spectacle. Having nothing but respect and admiration for these athletic predators, they let us come close. It’s amazing how they keep their balance on even the smallest branches and they don’t have any problems mating on them. One week of mating as much as possible… The female becomes in heat almost every hour and with a pervasive growl she lets the male know to get in action. A few seconds, and some loving bites from the male, the action is over and all is calm again. But of course the Masai Mara has lots more to offer. Regularly we rushed off to admire the spotted lions and cheetahs. This park is also the place to be for the great migration. Between July and October, the wildebeests try to cross the Masai Mara river. Without being cought by waiting crocodiles. It’s obvious why the Masai Mara is Kenya’s showpiece.

Alright, Masai culture. I spent a week at Nairoshi Foundation in the heart of the surrounding Masai villages. Not only did I learn about the way the Masai people live, I also was touched by the living conditions. Don’t get me wrong, they choose how they live and their happy with it. Their lives are similar to the Samburu people, as you could read earlier. Their clothing is different and their huts are more solid so they hold up for a longer period of time. The government tries to persuade the Masai to send their kids to school. Families consist of multiple children and some of them go to school now, but most of them don’t. There’s a lack of support and after they finished school most of them go back to living the Masai life. Even if they want to, there’s not enough money to go to college. At a young age, a lot of girls are forced in an arranged marriage. Early pregnancy, I’m talking about ages between 14 and 18, forces them to stay at home. The Nairoshi Foundation supports these kids after school, which is often rewarded with kids graduating high school. Sponsors around the world support the students financially, giving them a chance to find good jobs. This week I’ve seen lots of kids passing by. No matter where you are in the world, kids are the same everywhere. Naughty, with twinkling eyes… They play with footballs, made out of paper and tape. Shoes that have holes in them and raggedy clothes. They don’t have a private place, they share rooms that are made out of clay, and sleep on goat’s skin. The Masai choose this way of life and they’re happy. I hope they can stay like this for many generations to come, it would be a waste to see this culture disappear. However, the kids don’t always choose this life and it’s a good thing they are offered options to live differently too.

Touched by the conditions I’m determined to support some of these kids. And maybe you would like to support too. Please send me a message if you do, I’m happy to think about options.

So, once in a lifetime Kenya! An experience I’ll never forget. I’ve chosen the best locations for you and you’re more than welcome to join on this trip!

Check here photography trip 'once in a lifetime' Kenia, or here for the gallery. For the combi tour with Tanzania you can check here the photography trip 'Wildest' Tanzania or here the gallery

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