We recently returned from a three week journey through northern Tanzania and Pemba Island in the Zanzibar Archipelago. This is our travel diary. We have many photos from our trip, and we will continue to post them in the following weeks.
A Journey to Tanzania
Our Tanzanian journey began as we touched down at Kilimanjaro airport after a nine hour flight from Amsterdam. We were met by our amazing and tireless guide David Mark Makia (from Access2Tanzania) and taken to Arusha for a short stay.
We visited three of Tanzania’s sixteen national parks during our safari – Arusha National Park, Tarangire National Park and Serengeti National Park. At 14,763 square kilometers (5,700 square miles), Serengeti is the second largest National Park in Tanzania (second only to Ruaha which is 20,300 square kilometers or 7,838 square miles). We also visited the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you will find the vast Ngorongoro Crater – a volcanic caldera which is unique due to its dense population of wildlife living amongst human settlements (chiefly the Maasai tribe).
Steve and me at the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater
During our scenic drives through northern Tanzania, we passed the Olduvai Gorge– the cradle of civilization and the site of Mary and Louis Leakey’s renowned archeological work. It is here that the earliest human footprints were found. Olduvai Gorge is located in the area called the Great Rift Valley, which crosses an expanse of East Africa. We were struck by an intense sense of awe and wonder as we traversed this area, as we realized that we are all African at our core.
The Serengeti is truly the garden of Eden. Serengeti means “endless plain” in the Maasai language of Maa, and it’s easy to see why it was given this name. At first, a simple glimpse at the vast expanse of grassland reveals only flora of green and amber, a few hills and rock formations called kopjes. But once your eyes focus, the wildlife starts to reveal itself. You may spot a lion or pride of lions lying in the grass. If you are lucky, you may spot a leopard draped over a tree branch. Birds abound in every size and hue of the rainbow, with several reaching 1.5m (5 feet) tall . Overseeing the circle of life, eagles and vultures perch in the trees awaiting their turn to feast on a kill (there is a definitive pecking order as it pertains to a carcass). Zebras, antelopes and wildebeest appear all around – at times in great numbers. Elephants, giraffes and buffalo abound. Only a lucky few will catch a glimpse of a cheetah or rhino. We saw both.
A Leopard rests in a tree in Serengeti
The Great Migration of Wildebeest in Northern Serengeti
Our guide for the ten day safari was truly a gifted naturalist and communicator. His knowledge of wildlife behavior and habitats appeared innate, although he went to university to study wildlife biology. He revealed himself to be a comedian, and he kept us entertained on the long and often bumpy drives through the parks. On most days, we were in the Land Cruiser for five hours or more, and several of our longer days we were in the truck for ten or twelve hours. Much of this time is spent driving through the reserves/game parks. For instance, our camp in Tarangire National Park was a two hour drive from the main entrance to the park. The drive to the camp is filled with wildlife, so it is quite thrilling.
Steve with our guide David in Ngorongoro Crater
In the parks, we chose to stay in tented camps rather than lodges. We are happy to have made this choice, as the camps allow you to experience the wildlife as if you were part of its delicate ecosystem.
The camps consist of a small number of large private tents and a central dining and meeting area. They are furnished with comfortable beds, desks, dressers and nice linens. The bathrooms are large and functional and some even have outdoor showers (we showered with elephants at Tarangire). At night, you can hear the lions roaring just outside of your tent – a reminder that you are truly in the wild. Most of the camps employ Maasai warriors as security guards. The Maasai aren’t guarding against mischievous intruders or thieves, rather, they are guarding against lions and other wildlife. In the camps, it is not permitted to walk alone before 6:00 am or after 6:30 pm. A guard must accompany you if you venture outside the tent during darkness. As soon as you unzip the tent or illuminate a flashlight, the Maasai guard was at your side in seconds.
Our Maasai security guard at Lemala Ewanjan Camp in Serengeti
Tented lounge area at Lemala Ewanjan Camp in Serengeti
The Maasai are found only in Kenya and Tanzania. They are an autonomous people with a semi-nomadic nature. There are currently around 1.7 million Maasai people, and they live mainly around the game parks. Their livelihood is based on their livestock, and they consume only meat, milk and blood (although some have started to eat grains). Interestingly, they consume no vegetables. We visited a Maasai village in Ngorongoro, and they explained their culture and showed us the inside of a hut and also the school. Despite being a warrior culture, the people are kind and subdued. They have a proud and regal nature.
Maasai Warriors in Ngorongoro
At the end of the 10-day Safari we flew to Pemba Island, just north of Zanzibar in the Zanzibar Archipelago. These islands have been dubbed the Spice Islands, and the aroma of cloves, lemongrass and cinnamon fill the air. Pemba produces 70% of the world’s cloves. Pemba is a lush, verdant and hilly island where fruits and vegetables fall off the trees and vines. It is also known for its excellent diving, and we were able to experience some beautiful reef dives while there. Pemba and Zanzibar share a Muslim culture, and the people are some of the kindest I have ever met. We were warmly welcomed to the island and treated with the utmost respect.
View from Manta Resort on Pemba Island
We would like to thank Karen Stupic at Access2Tanzania for helping us plan and execute this trip of a lifetime. We also wish to thank our tireless guide David Mark Makia, who we now consider a part of our family.
Have you been on an African safari? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience.