Decide what you want to see
Basically, you can do a safari in Tanzania all year long. There are enough national parks and lots of animals to see, including the Big 5. But there is also the Great Migration, one of the top reasons to do a safari trip in Northern Tanzania. We did ours in the beginning of July in anticipation of the Great Migration. But this is also the high season so everything is relatively more expensive. You can find our 10-day itinerary in this link.
Sometimes where you choose to stay while travelling is a destination in itself. While I do not mind booking myself in a standard hotel or a camper in the middle of a Dutch farm, indulging in hotels where the view is breathtaking and the wine overflows, makes my travels a little more memorable. Through the years, I have stayed in many unforgettable accommodations, some cost me a fortune, others not even €10 a day. What they have in common are their amazing locations and top of the class service – two of the most important factors I am looking for in a hotel. I am sharing five of my favourites here:
I was a little scared of what my safari trip has done to me. I was afraid of going back home, going back to work, scared shit that I won’t like it anymore, terrified with the thought that I would be making abrupt decisions of running away again like I did many times in the past when I was dissatisfied with my life. I was searching for beauty and happiness. And I found both in Tanzania.
I recently finished reading Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being where he said that when man was kicked out of paradise, he was doomed to live his life in a straight line. The only way to go back to paradise is to walk around in circles and leave everything behind. I am toeing the straight line now and I have seen paradise in my last travel. So I asked myself, should I quit my job, sell everything I have, leave everything behind and join a volunteer group in Tanzania and then travel the world?
The answer is – No, I won’t. This time, I would not be running away.
I like my life now. It is beautiful and it is a consequence of the decisions and experiences I’ve made and had in 31 years. I am satisfied with it.
As for travelling, what truly makes me happy when I travel is not ticking things off a list no matter how authentic or shallow it might be BUT recognizing that all of us, no matter where we live or what we do, are the same people who share the most basic human need – the need to be loved. When you realize that, you’d understand the world a little better and you can make meaningful connections. I think that is what travel and pretty much everything in life, is all about.
When I turned 30 last year, I wanted to write a blog about birthday thoughts and self reflections but I was overwhelmed (as usual). Yesterday I turned 31 and I decided that I won’t be overwhelmed anymore so that the next 31 years would include many blissful memories if not entirely problem-free (because that’s impossible!).
So starting on my 31st birthday I will:
Spend more time with myself and the things that makes me happy: travel, writing and dining
Keep my circle even smaller because I do not like engaging in shallow conversations
Work just enough to fulfill my responsibilities and not more that it’ll interfere with my private time
Weed out people I don’t really like and spend my money, time and energy on meaningful relationships
Forgive my love ones easily
Say what I think
Spend even less time on Facebook
Read more books
Do more safaris
Drink only good alcohol
Save up and eventually invest
Cry if necessary and not hold it
Try not to flare up easily
So cheers to me and cheers to life. To end, I am sharing a quote from Anton Chekhov’s The Lady with a Dog:
“In reality everything is beautiful in this world when one reflects: everything except what we think or do ourselves when we forget our human dignity and the higher aims of our existence.”
There’s a kind of high when you are staying in the Serengeti. That high slowly fades away as soon as your Land Cruiser touched the asphalted roads. And when you realized that you are not staying in luxurious tented camps anymore, without the sounds of the hyenas and lions in the evening, a kind of sadness overwhelms you. Serengeti is a paradise. It is a special place that unfortunately is exclusive to those who can pay and whose backs are still strong enough for its tough terrain.
We had a limited time in the Serengeti. The next day, we headed to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
In the early morning, the crater was enveloped in thick clouds, making the ascend treacherous. You cannot see farther than 50 meters and the thick clouds rising from the ravine make you feel that you’re driving to the unknown. If we’ve fallen into that ravine, could have said “She died and went straight to heaven.”
When we reached the lake and the crater opened, it revealed a panorama that I was afraid to see – a breathtaking landscape peppered with hundreds of safari jeeps. There was a line of 4×4 for anything that is exciting – a pack of lions feasting on a kill, some hippos lounging in the sun, a herd of buffalos assembling themselves in a defensive position against a pack of hyena. Robin and I had to think of a zoo.
But there was one highlight that we would not miss for the world, seeing the elusive rhino a little bit closer than two kilometers. He was alone, munching on his vegetarian breakfast and hoping to cross the road to the river to drink. But there were just too many cars. After 15 minutes, he went away to hide. There were only 13 rhinoceros left in the NgoroNgoro Conservation Park. Their number dwindled down rapidly due to poaching. Rogarth said we were lucky that we’ve seen one so close.
This was our last safari drive. The next evening, we caught the plane back to the Netherlands. For the last time, the wild life of Tanzania gave me something to make me smile. I left with the very funny video (above) of a zebra scratching himself silly on a piece of rock.
I will miss this country.
Day 7 – Our last day in the Serengeti
I didn’t take as many pictures as I probably should have. I wanted to experience this trip with my soul and all my senses – looking a lion in the eye, smelling the lemony whiff of the freshly cut grasses made by the elephants, tasting the dust and sand during game drives, hearing the hyenas roaming about during the night and feeling the chilly air in the morning and biting heat of the Serengeti. Not behind the small frame of a viewfinder. So when I am old and my eyes becomes bad, my heart will still remember how beautiful this was.
In addition to the searing heat and sea of dust, in the Serengeti, you’ll also be assaulted by annoying tsetse flies that stings as painful as fuck (even through your long sleeves). I notice that instead of whacking them to death, Rogarth would open the windows to let them out. I am not sure if tsetse flies are just generally mean and want to sting people to death or they just get confused flying inside a 4×4 with tourists who have thick guide books to slap them flat.
Tsetse flies are good indication of getting nearer to the herds of migrating wildebeest. On our 6th day, when we saw our first big herd, the tsetse flies were all over the Land Cruiser.
We didn’t really see the river crossing, the image that usually represents the Great Migration. What we saw was a big herd quenching their thirst on a small river. There were thousands of them, littering on the plain, some running to the other side of the road, some coming back.
These wildebeest are funny animals. They look like some mindless cows running around not knowing where to go. Like the zebras, they would run back and forth until one of the leaders would chase each one into the line when it’s time to move. Slowly you would see them forming a long que. A lot of people could really learn a lot about queuing from these wildebeests.
The Great Migration refers to the annual migration of about two million zebras and wildebeest in East Africa, mostly in parts of the Serengeti to the Masai Mara in Kenya, chasing the rain. Their most dangerous plights happen when crossing the Lobo and Grumeti rivers where hungry crocodiles await them. This is the most filmed moment in their journey. They would be also followed by the big predators. Most of these wildebeests would die in this annual plight for greener grass.
We were lucky to see two big herds in the Serengeti. One was during our 6th day and the second on our 7th day, just when we were checking in at the Eco Lodge Africa at the Grumeti Camp. You wouldn’t believe the kind of noise these animals make and it can last all throughout the day.
I’ve had the perfect bed at the Eco Lodge Africa, hard bed with lots of pillows. I felt like a million dollar although it is certainly not the best lodge. Since I was still sick and couldn’t sleep, I spent the whole evening listening to the wildebeest and the hyenas, hoping to hear the distress call of the zebras. But I didn’t hear any kill during the evening. Good for the migrating herds.
The next morning we went back to spend our last day in the Serengeti. In addition to the usual sights, we were treated to a haunt – a pack of lions trying to snatch a zebra from a small herd for breakfast. Unfortunately, they all missed. However after half an hour of spotting, we chanced upon lion feasting on a kill by a small river. But there were at least 20 cars around it and god knows how many other tourist snapping their cameras at the lone lion. We couldn’t enjoy it very much.
The same thing happened when we spotted some leopards. If there had not been too many cars, we could have enjoyed looking at the leopards even though they were still too far away. But I wasn’t disappointed as much as my co-travellers were. I felt like I was already so blessed by so all these amazing sights and missing some animals only gives me more reason to come back.
We had lunch near a salt lake after a failed attempt to get near a rhinoceros. But we could technically say that we’ve found the Big 5 in one trip to the Serengeti. At least for the people in our group who wants to tick it off their list.
As for me, I was just too happy being in the Serengeti – pushing the Land Cruiser when it got stuck in the middle of the Grumeti Camp, peeing in the open despite the danger of lions attacking you because you’re bladder is going to explode if you don’t (you know how they warn you NOT TO GET OUT OF THE CAR), lunching near a salt where you saw a rhino just a couple of kilometers away and seeing a lion attacking a zebra. Your heart would be pounding but at the same time, you were also wishing the moment never to stop.
We left the Serengeti after lunch, my heart filled with joy. All the money spent in this trip was worth it. But just when we thought we’ve seen enough, the Serengeti had one last surprise for us – a pack of hyenas and vultures feasting on the remnants of a kill. And here Robin took what for me was his best shot in this trip – a hyena running away with a big chunk of the kill.
This photo sums up what the Serengeti is – wild and free (up to a certain extent). Calling it the Last Eden is only but apt because here we could still see what paradise looks like, the one that we were taught God created.
However in the near future, when more people could afford a safari trip, would there still be enough space in the endless plain of Africa to accommodate all of us?