On July 19th, 2015 the time had finally come - we went back to Africa. This time, a 16-day safari through southern Kenya and northern Tanzania was waiting for us. These are the destinations of our journey this time:
As the safari started and ended in Nairobi, two border crossings were necessary. Again the entire Safari was organized as an individual Safari with own 4x4 vehicle and guide by our friends (1000Thank you, Andrea!) via Sunworld-Safaris ( many thanks for this, Mr. Nowak). This time we were five: our friends Andrea and Harry, my wife Simone, our 14 year old daughter Luise and myself. We flew again with KLM and Kenya Airways via Amsterdam with a night flight first to Nairobi, where we were picked up by our guide, Eric, who had also accompanied us on our first safari 2 years before, in his LandCruiser in the early morning of July 20th. We were extremely happy to see Eric again this morning. As we had seen Nairobi 2 years before, we immediately continued our trip towards Amboseli.
Amboseli (July 20th - 21st)
Amboseli National Park is relatively small with 390km², but its location at the foot of Kilimanjaro, with 5895m the highest mountain in Africa, is spectacular. Although Mount Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania, it can be seen best from here. As the park is located at a height of 1200m, the mountain rises almost 4700m above it. The park is particularly famous for its large elephant population. On the way to our camp we already saw the first elephant groups. We were accommodated in the Tortilis Camp, a small camp with a total of 15 tents with a spectacular view to the Kilimanjaro massif - if it is not, as it is very often the case, covered by clouds.
The tents were extremely luxurious with private bathrooms, hot running water and electricity. Even a WLAN was available. We stayed here for two nights. After check-in and lunch we made our first game drive with Eric.
Arusha (July 22nd)
After breakfast we headed via the Namanga border checkpoint to Arusha in Tanzania. Due to the regulations there we had to change both the guide and the vehicle at the border crossing. So we were lucky to meet Arnold, who now accompanied us further in Tanzania. Arnold was also extremely friendly, nice and competent, he even spoke German excellently.
Arusha is a large city in Tanzania with about 400.000 inhabitants at the foot of the Mount Meru volcano, with 4600m height also very impressive. We were accommodated in the Mount Meru Game Lodge, that we reached in time for lunch.
Afterwards we visited the Arusha National Park at Mt. Meru for some hours. Unfortunately we had only limited time, but we were able to observe the Black Colobus monkeys and Blue Monkeys with their offspring.
Tarangire (July 23rd-24th)
After breakfast we continued with Arnold to Tarangire National Park. The 2850km² park further south is named after the Tarangire River, which constantly carries water. Remarkable in the park are the huge Baobab trees, true giant trees with trunk diameters of up to 10 meters. According to a legend of the natives, the devil tore the trees out and then put them back into the ground with their roots facing upwards.
Already during the drive to our camp we saw again large groups of elephants. Also very impressive: right next to the road there was a something about 2m long which we first thought was a branch. Arnold then told us that it was a very dangerous and poisonous black mamba.
Around noon we arrived at our camp, the Tarangire Balloon Camp. Again, this camp was relatively small, the tents were very luxurious and the staff very friendly. We spent the evenings at the campfire with Gin Tonic at the “Bushman-TV” and afterwards we had a delicious dinner in the restaurant-tent.
On our game drives we could observe large groups of elephants and giraffes. The sunsets behind the baobab giants were very spectacular.
Ngorongoro Crater (July 25th)
Early in the morning we headed west towards the Ngorongoro Crater, a so-called collapse crater on the edge of the Serengeti. Located in the Great East African Rift Valley, the crater with its opulent wildlife is often called the 8th wonder of the world. It was formed when a volcanic mountain collapsed at this point. The crater floor is at an altitude of about 1700 meters and the side walls are between 400 and 600 meters high, so that the crater edge is located at about 2300 meters. The diameter of the crater is between 17 and 21 kilometres. Because of the high crater walls most animals never leave it, it is a nearly closed biotope.
Even the drive to our accommodation, the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, was breathtaking. Due to the up to 2300m heighted crater edges, the clowds pile up, so that an extremely humid climate prevails. The drive went through an impenetrable rain forest in dense fog on a steep road nearly 1000m upwards until we reached the edge of the crater. There, the fog rose and an indescribably spectacular view to the 500m lower and sunlit crater bottom opened up, the opposite crater rim appeared in far distance. I felt like being on an alien planet. The road continued along the crater rim, which was at best 20-30m wide, for about 10km to Sopa Lodge, which we reached in time for lunch. The lodge is located right at the eastern edge of the crater and has 92 rooms, of which there are four in each of the many small two-storey buildings at the edge of the crater with a wonderful view into the crater.
After lunch we drove with Arnold into the crater. To protect the animals, only half-day stays are allowed there. Since most of the animals spend their whole life in the crater, they are accustomed to the safari vehicles and not very shy. When we watched a lioness in the late afternoon heat in the plain, she recognized her chance, got up, came towards us and lay down in the shade directly behind our vehicle. In the crater we also saw, even if only from a distance, the only rhino of our this year’s trip. Unfortunately it was too far away for a photo.
Already in the early morning after breakfast we went further west to the Serengeti. Before we started, we could see an overwhelming sunrise, fog banks fell down like waterfalls from the crater edges.
On the way to the Serengeti we visited the grave of the Grzimeks.
as well as the Olduvai (or correct Oldupai) gorge, where human remains from a settlement period of almost 2 million years have been found and which is therefore considered to be one of the cradles of mankind.
Serengeti (July 26th - 28th)
Serengeti National Park owes its current existence largely to the commitment of Prof. Bernhard Grzimek. With a size of almost 15.000km² the park is one of the largest and certainly one of the best known nature parks in Africa. Driving through the park takes about 6 hours by jeep. Our destination was the Kati Kati Camp. “Kati Kati” means “right in the middle” in Swahili and the name is program.
After a 3-hour drive with picnic we reached the camp, which was located at in the middle of nowhere at the foot of a hill with a total of 20 tents. Again, the welcome was very friendly. The tents were very comfortable with their own en-suite bathrooms. Due to the location in the middle of the wilderness, there was warm water for showering only on demand (but at any time). Electricity for recharging the batteries was only available in the dining tent.
The word “Serengeti” is derived from the Masai language of the word “Siringitu” and means “the endless land”. It is hard to describe the landscape more accurately. During our 3 days there we went on several game drives with Arnold in all directions, where we especially saw a lot of lion groups. During the long tours in all directions we always saw new landscapes and were very impressed how Arnold found his way back to the camp. The steppe was burning at several places on a wide area. Arnold explained to us that the fires were partly set intentionally and were necessary for the regeneration of the steppe. Among the numerous animals we saw, the most impressive was a female leopardess with 2 cubs, which we discovered early in the morning and were able to observe over a period of almost 2 hours (at last with her cubs in a tree).
Lake Victoria- Speke Bay (July 29th)
As a stopover to our last station, the Masai Mara, Mr. Nowak recommended a visit to Lake Victoria. Although the Serengeti borders directly to the Masai Mara in Kenya in the north, a border crossing from there is not possible, so that a big round trip is necessary. In retrospect we were very happy to have stopped at Speke Bay. After a more than 5 hour cruise, during which we were allowed to watch a huge wildebeest migration (the herd surely counted several thousand wildebeest reaching from horizon to horizon), and a picnic we reached Speke Bay Lodge in the afternoon.
Speke Bay is a bay on the southeastern edge of Lake Victoria, the third largest lake in the world. The lodge is situated in its own small nature park and is home to a large number of birds - according to the local information, over 200 species have been counted. The lodge is located directly on the shore of the bay. We were accommodated in comfortable round buildings in the traditional style of the local Sukuma tribe and could relax on our own terrace with a view on the lake and watch the sunset and the hunting Kingfishers above the lake. All in all the stay was a very pleasant and relaxing experience after the many impressions of the trip so far.
Masai Mara (July 30th - August 2nd)
Again the Little Mara Bush Camp in the Masai Mara was the crowning finale of our trip. After breakfast we went to Isebania to cross the border again. There we had to say goodbye to Arnold, whom we want to thank at this point again very much for his kindness, patience with us and extraordinary competence. At the border another guide, Caleb, and a new car was waiting for us.
We immediately got on very well with Caleb, too. He also spoke German excellently and was very competent. We learned a lot about the people in Kenya from him. From the border we went to the Masai Mara, where Harry enjoyed Caleb’s “sporty” driving style (I think he would have loved to drive himself 😉 ). The arrival at the Little Mara Bush Camp was almost a feeling like coming home. We were again welcomed very warmly by Michela, who still remembered us. Obligatory was the remark to Luise: “But you have grown up”. The camp was at the same place as 2 years before, but the tents had become even more luxurious. There was now warm water and electricity in the tents. Furthermore there was even a WLAN available locally.
On our game drives we saw again a huge number of animals. Unfortunately we could not see any wildebeest crossing the Mara River this time, we probably were hrer a bit too early for this. However, since we had already been able to witness a crossing twice two years earlier, this could be easily accepted - as we had many other great experiences. Especially to emphasize was a leopardess with 2 young cubs and a cheetah with four just 2 weeks old cubs. And of course the spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
Nairobi (August 3rd)
On the second last day of our trip, after a short morning gamedrive and a last breakfast in the wilderness, we headed back to Nairobi. We arrived there in the late afternoon and enjoyed a last dinner with some Tusker (Kenyan beer) in the restaurant of the Eka Hotel.
Return flight (August 4th)
In the early morning of the 4th of August we were picked up and brought to the nearby airport. The return flight started a little delayed, which meant that we reached the connecting flight to Düsseldorf in Amsterdam just in time, but unfortunately our luggage did not. It was then delivered 2 days later to our front door.
Once again it was an incredibly wonderful journey. Despite the two border crossings as well as changes of guides and vehicles, everything was perfectly organized and worked out perfectly. The camps were all first class, the service perfect. Thanks to the great competence of our guides we were able to see an unbelievable amount and learnt a whole lot again. Having taken more than 13,000 photos myself, viewing them, I nostalgically think back to the many great moments that we owe in particular to our guides Eric, Arnold and Caleb, who were always there for us, had an answer to all our questions and without them we would only have seen a small fraction of what we were allowed to see - thank you very much!
The Africa virus has been reactivated, we will certainly travel there again - after Africa is before Africa.