Written by Lee Kelsall
Lee Kelsall, CEO of Ker & Downey Africa – or as we like to call him Chief Adventure Officer – shares his epic Tanzania safari travel log highlighting elements of adventure and, of course, luxury. From Tarangire National Park to the plains of the Serengeti, here is the story of his trip.
The scenery and people of Tanzania are world famous. Before seeing Tanzania for the first time you can’t help but get swept up in the sensational stories of this wildlife destination. My Tanzania safari lived up to the expectations set by the reputation of this incredible wildlife destination for so many reasons. It wasn’t just the wildlife – yes, the wildlife did live up to those stories, but it was more than that. It was the whole experience from waking up to an Eskari warrior serving me coffee to watching the clouds roll into the world famous Ngorongoro crater – the experience in totality speaks for itself. Flying in was particularly memorable. Catching my first glimpse of Mt. Kilimanjaro was something that will stick with me. Here’s a little bit more about my trip.
The first leg of my Tanzania safari took me to Tarangire National Park. At Tarangire Treetops, I stayed in what was essentially a treehouse (a camp on stilts). I was awoken with a flask of coffee and rusks around 5.30am, brought over to the treehouse by an Eskari (Masai warriors who keep watch overnight). There’s something different. I got to enjoy the spectacular views over the Tarangire National Park whilst savouring the brew. Tanzanian coffee is not as famous as Kenyan or Rwandan but, especially with this view, it was world class. I’d stock up on this coffee a bit more in Karutu this afternoon – maybe that’s the idea.
I enjoyed a light breakfast around the boma (fruit and some eggs on toast) before heading out on an early morning game drive through the Manyara Conservancy (bordering the Tarangire National Park). The reason you have to get out into the bush early, according to David – my personal guide and expert tracker – is because the cool temperature encourages the wild to be out from the shade of thick bush.
David’s knowledge of the wildlife, ecology and natural history of Tanzania was staggering. He was an incredible tracker giving us some of the most thrilling of sightings including a cheetah with her cubs and two lions up a tree. However, what truly set David apart was his terrific personality. Oh and he was also a great off-road driver (he’ll thank me for saying that!). David and I have spent quite a bit of time in the bush, him admittedly much more than me, but we both share the desire to be out into the bush before any other vehicles from the lodge – so that we can be first on any good sightings. We get what we want and we’re out first. Just reward comes in the form of sightings of baboons, flamingo, wildebeest, hippo, elephants, zebra, African Crown Eagle (a very rare sighting) and a Martial Eagle which were real highlights of the trip. Towards the end of our game drive we reach the shores of Lake Manyara where we stop for an incredible picnic style lunch.
The afternoon offered up the opportunity to do an excursion to Karatu (a town just outside the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area) where you get a real chance to connect with the locals and stock up on that coffee I mentioned. Your options for a coffee bean keepsake include a few plantations including Ngila Coffee Estate, Ngoro Ngoro Mountain Coffee, Gibb’s Farm and Shangri-La Estate.
Tarangire tips: Tarangire has an incredible number of elephants, great for walking safaris (south of Swala camp), best visited in the dry season, watch out for Tsetse flies.
Top sightings: a leopard in a tree and the eagles I spotted.
Find out more about Tarangire National Park in Tanzania.
At Acacia Farm Lodge, I stayed in a chalet-style suite. Wake up call was around 6.00am – few people love early morning wake up calls but there’s something about the peaceful, quiet Ngorongoro area that ensures you get incredible sleep. This makes the wake up call a pleasure. I enjoyed a quick cup of coffee before departing sharpish, the lodge had already packed us a breakfast selection to enjoy on the crater floor mid-morning.
We drove the 15 minutes to the main entrance to the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area – a spectacular drive up to the top of the summit of the crater through tropical jungle, it felt like a scene from Jurassic Park. We caught our first glimpse of the crater floor teeming with wildlife and framed by the low hanging clouds that rolled over the summit’s edge. We had a terrific game drive until mid-morning with sightings of hyena, lions and a caracal which we tracked for 15 minutes. We then had a mid-morning stop for brunch (pancakes, coffee, fruit and hard boiled eggs) that we enjoyed out in the middle of the bush.
That afternoon we had a game drive which offered up a close encounter with a lion and lioness (see video!) and a visit to a local traditional Masai village in the Highlands. Another opportunity to connect with the real soul of this country. Later that day we embarked on a cycling tour of the nearby town and market place followed by a farm tour, so I was able to catch the scenes at a different pace as well as get a good workout in.
Dinner. Whiskey. Sleep.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area tips:
Top sightings: A caracal and black rhino
Find out more about Ngorongoro in Tanzania.
My Tanzania safari continues in the legendary Serengeti National Park. Wake up call was again around 6:00am, followed by breakfast at the camp and an early morning game drive for 2-3 hours. We returned at around 11am to relax at the pool or and in the mess tent (Lemala Ewanjan). We had a late lunch around 2pm before enjoying an afternoon / evening game drive (departing around 4pm) and sundowners in the bush (6pm). The day was rounded up with dinner at 8pm and a drink in the boma.
Serengeti tip: The Serengeti covers 12,000 square miles, the game viewing is good in the dry season even in the areas that are no longer inhabited by the (great) wildebeest and zebra migration
Top sightings: a martial eagle swooping and taking a small chic from a nest, two lions climbing up a tree, a lioness attacking a zebra, 200+ elephants at a watering hole, crocodiles in the Mara river, hyena den near to camp in the central Serengeti and so much more!
An absolute highlight of the trip was a hot air balloon over the Serengeti. It offers a great vantage point for photographing the wildlife and is far more fun than I’d realised – expect a bumpy ride and some incredible memories. The English breakfast and champagne in the middle of the bush straight-after the hot air balloon ride finished off a perfect morning. Oh, and the flight back from Seronera airstrip to Lake Manyara over the Ngorongoro Crater was also spectacular.
I enjoyed each of the properties but if I had to choose my favourite camp would probably be Nyaruswiga in central Serengeti which was perfect in terms of its styling, service and overall ambience.
Find out more about Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.