Have you ever looked straight into the eyes of a lion, the only things separating you from her was the door of your open safari vehicle and your camera lens? On my recent 10-day journey to Tanzania, I did just that – several times – and each time, my heart skipped a beat or two. Not every wildlife encounter was this intense, but the sum of these experiences was powerful, evoking feelings of fascination, wonder and respect at every turn. From the incredible wildlife to the gorgeous lodges and camps to our expert guide, this trip was truly one of my all time favorites. Here are a few of the many highlights. (Be sure to check out my photo gallery here and a video of the trip here!).
Lions on the shore of Lake Manyara
Our first game drive was a special experience, not to mention a great success. We saw all kinds of wildlife: baboons, elephants, zebras, giraffes, a leopard and so many bird species, I simply lost track. But for me, the highlight was the pride of lions we spotted close to the lake towards the end of our drive. Lake Manyara National Park is known for its ‘tree climbing lions’, so seeing them out in the open is rare. Seven, maybe eight lions in all, just relaxing on the shore – free and unencumbered, as they were meant to be. Add to that, the ominous storm clouds looming overhead and thousands of flamingos on the other side of the lake, creating a pale pink line in the distance ….what a sight! It was fascinating to watch the lions interact, but I’m afraid we lingered a bit too long and soon, the rain came. Drenched and laughing, we arrived at our lodge, eager to compare notes and share highlights of the day. No surprise, mine was seeing that pride of lions.
The Great Migration, an unforgettable sight!
Game drives are always exciting – and half the fun is not knowing what you’re going to see– but on this day, we had our sights set on the Great Migration. It had rained quite heavily the night before, so driving was slower than usual until we reached the main roads. Though the drive was long, it melted away like a distant memory when we came over the crest of a hill, and spread out before us, were thousands and thousands of wildebeest, accompanied by zebra, gazelles, eland and buffalo, grazing contently on the plain. Wow! The sheer size of the herd was staggering, and it’s incredible to think that these animals are always on the go, driven by instinct in search of fresh grazing and water. We journeyed with the herd for a time, then stopped and enjoyed a picnic lunch, with wildlife all around us. What a privilege, what a day!
Camping in the Serengeti: An up close encounter with nature and wildlife (&Beyond Serengeti Under Canvas)
There’s something very special about staying in a tented camp on the Serengeti. Maybe it’s because for the first time, you grasp where you really are: in the bush, with nature and wildlife all around, no walls, or fences between you. Your senses are in overdrive. The food tastes better, fresher, more flavorful. Sounds are magnified. Shapes in the distance that were unrecognizable just yesterday, today come into focus as your eyes grow more accustomed to scanning for wildlife. Days are spent on game drives, while the evenings are for outdoor ‘bucket showers’, and for sitting around the fire, sharing stories and gazing at the stars. And when it’s time to turn in, you’re lulled to sleep by the deep grunts and growls of lions, and the strange whooping of the hyenas…. what an incredible experience….
The way the light plays off the savannah is spectacular, with dark clouds and rain in the far distance, and faintly at first, a rainbow appears…at one point, there were two rainbows side by side. Nature at it’s best, for sure!
A picture is worth a thousand words. Sunset on the Singita Grumeti Reserve. Pinks and purples, with the trees as silhouettes in the foreground….stunning.
For more pictures of my adventures in the African bush, see my Tanzania photo gallery. Photo credit for the first photo of the lioness goes to Lou deLisser.
A special thanks to Africa Inscribed Private Travel for expertly planning, arranging and executing this incredible itinerary.
Below is listing of luxury lodges and camps that we stayed at and visited:
Arusha Coffee Lodge
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
Serengeti Under Canvas
Lemala Kuria Hills
Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp
Explore Mobile Tented Camp
Singita Sasakwa (site visit)
Singita Sabora Plains Tented Camp (site visit)
Singita Faru Faru (site visit)