20 Years of Travel #9: African Safari

The 20 Years of Travel series continues with an African Safari. Below you will see pictures from our adventures in the Serengeti, Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater in 2014. If you want a bit more detail of this our adventures through Tanzania, please see the blog links at the bottom of the page for other posts related to this.


The Serengeti

First of all, I am not known among my friends as a person who loves camping. However, I loved this kind of camping, which I would classify as glamping. I did have to figure out how to take a shower with only two buckets of water, but I learned quickly and the water was a warm temperature. Plus, a tray with a pot of coffee would be waiting for us in the morning just outside our tent. It was lovely!

Second, I feel like I have a whole new respect for wildebeest. I just thought they were ugly large goats, but I miss waking up to their sounds. I wish I had recorded them and could set their sounds as my alarm clock in the morning. If you can plan your Serengeti adventure to include the Wildebeest Migration, I highly recommend it. It is absolutely thrilling!

Finally, I loved watching all the different animals from just a few feet away. They didn’t seem all that concerned with us, which allowed us to watch them for long periods of time. You definitely get to witness the circle of life up close and personal.

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 Lake Manyara

My takeaways from our time at Lake Manyara was how much I adore baby monkeys, and that you should always have your camera ready in case thousands of birds get scared and take flight all at once.

The Ngorongoro Crater

Who doesn’t enjoy a crater filled with beautiful animals, including lion cubs and a pond filled with hippos?!

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If you would like to read more about our amazing experience in Tanzania, please see the following posts:




Ngorongoro Crater – Tanzania (August 2014)


For people traveling to Tanzania and the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater is a must. However, I would recommend starting your African Safari with the Crater. We did the Crater at the end of our safari, and it was a bit of a let down after the tranquil vastness of the Serengeti.

All accommodations are outside the Crater, so we took a very early drive to get there and then to get down into the Crater. There was no visibility due to an immense fog, which made me happy that I was not driving. You can only enter the Crater through a tour company.

lion cubs

The Ngorongoro Crater is rich with vegetation and water, which is why many creatures have made this their permanent home. We mostly wanted to see lion cubs as we missed that in the Serengeti, and that was one of the first things we saw (pictured above). There were three adorable cubs playing with each other. The hippo pool is wonderful as well. You could spend hours there watching them play (pictured below). I think the only thing I really disliked about the adventure in the Ngorongoro Crater was the fact that it is pretty crowded with tourists. After a week in the Serengeti, where it felt like it was just you and the animals, the Crater was heavily populated with humans. We had to wait to get a spot to view the hippos. I still find the place very interesting and feel that it is a must see.


If you are looking for a nice place to stay while you visit the Ngorongoro Crater, I highly recommend Gibbs Farm. Gibbs Farm (pictured on the right) is located on a coffee gibbs farmplantation, which you can venture through. It is a simple yet luxurious retreat. Wi-fi is a bit unreliable, but with all the beautiful scenery, delicious foods, and fun activities, who needs Wi-fi? Each room is like your own secluded bungalow, where I enjoyed my first outdoor bathing experience. After a week in the wilderness, it was a welcome relaxing retreat.

I would say that a couple days of viewing the Ngorongoro Crater is all you need, but it is worth it!

crater 2

Serengeti – Tanzania (August 2014)

Serengeti_RhinoAs we flew in a tiny plane from Kilimanjaro, Tanzania to the Serengeti National Park, I had no idea what to expect from the upcoming adventure. I had never done an African safari before, though it was always at the top of my travel bucket list. Our adventures in the Serengeti far surpassed anything I could have ever imagined. As we flew over the vast lands, I could see the almost perfect lines of migrating wildebeests. In just a few short hours, we would be riding in a jeep among the wildebeests. (See here for more details regarding the Wildebeest Migration experience.)


Ker & Downey organized our Tanzania adventure. We stayed at the Serengeti Safari Camp, and they arranged a personal guide for us. Our guide was named, Nathan, and he quickly became a wonderful addition to our family. He took such good care of us. He tolerated our wackiness, educated us on the animals and their behaviorjeep (I learned more about the circle of life than I ever wanted to know), prepared and arranged wonderful private breakfast locations, and even accommodated the photographers in our group by placing the vehicle in the right position to get the best photographs. When we first started traveling through the Serengeti in the jeep, we were so excited about everything we saw. We took tons of pictures of this multi-colored, tiny lizard. Nathan thought we were so strange, taking pictures of a little lizard. We clearly didn’t understand what we were about to experience. Within the first few hours, through Nathan’s amazing guidance, we got more than a taste. We saw hippos, giraffes, elephants, zebras, buffalo, ostriches, lions (one pictured above), and even a river crossing by the wildebeest migration.


The following days were filled with more river crossings, rhinos, cheetahs, monkeys, and so much more. I never pictured myself being the kind of person that could do the wholesunset camping thing (even glamping) with wild animals all around or taking showers where the water comes out of a bucket, but I loved it. The sounds that the wildebeests made always put me to sleep, and I would wake up refreshed, very early in the morning, ready for new adventures. I was never disappointed. The sunrises and sunsets were just glorious. For my first safari experience, this was absolutely the best. I can’t imagine any travel adventure topping this one.




DSC_5238aEvery year, more than a million wildebeests migrate throughout Tanzania and Kenya in DSC_4383asearch of fresh vegetation and water. I have never seen an event more amazing than watching a wildebeest migration. Watching a wildebeest migration is like watching an ant colony on a large scale (see picture on the right). They move one by one through the Serengeti. If there is too large of a gap between two wildebeests, they actually run to close that gap. If there is a storm in the distance, you can be sure that the wildebeests will head in that direction for the fresh rain water.

The most dramatic scene of the wildebeest migration is when they do a river crossing. We were very fortunate and saw a river crossing within a few moments of being in the Serengeti. When the migration reaches the Mara River, the wildebeests spend a lot of time contemplating crossing the river. It is dangerous for wildebeests to cross the river. A wildebeest could lose its footing on the rocks and break its leg. If this happens, the wildebeest will drown. The other danger is crocodiles. They prey on wildebeests as they cross, especially young wildebeests. The wildebeests could spend hours on the edge of the river just thinking about crossing. A few times we watched them get close to the water, only to have something scare them away. However, when they start crossing (sometimes with the assistance of the zebras, who are among the wildebeests and appear to be more brave by crossing first), it is game on and they all start running at once across the river. The wildebeests come from everywhere and a crossing could last a while because there are so many. The most dramatic of the five crossings we saw came during the last one. As the crossing began, we saw a crocodile in the water. A young DSC_5256awildebeest was super close to it and at one point was even standing on top of it (see picture on the left). We were all holding our breaths and hoping that the young wildebeest would make it and not die in front of our eyes. It was so intense. It turned out that the crocodile must have been well-fed already, because it made no move to attack any of the wildebeests. The young wildebeest made it to the other side safely! I am happy to report that while many wildebeests lose their lives crossing the Mara River every year, we did not witness any loss of life first hand. On the other side of the river, wildebeests connect with their families that they lose track of during the crossing and the migration continues.