We have just returned from the unforgettable adventure of a lifetime. On our 12 days in Africa, we experienced the wonders of the vast Serengeti covered with wildebeests as far as the eye could see, saw the Olduvai Gorge of Lewis and Mary Leakey fame, stared in wonder at the Ngorongoro Crater, spent a night in the rich farmlands at the Plantation, visited the birds and baboons at Lake Manyara, and ended our adventure with the elephants, giraffes, impalas and birdlife of Tarangire.
On arrival at Kilimanjaro airport after a long, long flight, we were pleased and relieved to see two Africa Dream Safaris guides awaiting us. They collected our luggage, took care of our visas, saw us safely escorted in a new Toyota land cruiser, and carried on a lively conversation as they drove us to our overnight abode at the Arusha River Lodge where, despite the late hour, dinner was served. After a good night’s sleep and breakfast, our two guides were again awaiting us for the drive to Arusha airport were they saw us safely aboard the plane for our flight which took us over the Ngorongoro highlands and the plains of the southern Serengeti to Seronera in the central Serengeti.
On arrival at Seronera we met John Parmwat who was to be our guide and good friend for the next 12 days. How can I best describe John? It was his unfailing good humor and vast knowledge of the wildlife and birds that made our trip so memorable. My husband is a “birder” and was delighted to find someone who “spoke his language”. Between the two of them, they kept a log and identified 169 new birds. John was disappointed that they didn’t make it 170.
We began our game drive, and were excited to immediately see wildebeests, warthogs, elephants, giraffes, lions and hippos. The lunch site John had planned for us was the “hippo pool” where he gave us an interesting dissertation on the life, anatomy, and diet of the hippopotamus. We couldn’t help but wonder just how fast those hippos could really run if they came out of the water. After lunch, we game drove our way over the plains of the western Serengeti to our first abode, Mbalageti Lodge. The view from our room and from the dining veranda was of the vast plains and woodlands of the western Serengeti. Next day on our early morning game drive, among other sightings, we came across two lionesses with their five cubs watching a warthog heading in their direction. Fortunately he sniffed the air and changed direction. We also saw a cheetah getting ready for a morning nap, and a mother hippo with a newborn baby who had separated herself from the main herd for the event.
The next day we were off at 6:00 am for the long drive to Seronera and then south to Kusini tented lodge. At Seronera we saw a leopard leave his perch in a tree and manage to kill a baby hippopotamus. This is apparently not his usual diet, and John had never seen or heard of it. The mother was nowhere to be seen, and the baby hippo had apparently left the water for some reason.
On across the southern plains with its granite kopjes, lions, wildebeests, impalas, gazelles and zebras. Our first night in Kusini tented lodge was a long one, as a cape buffalo took up residence just outside our tent and grunted, snorted, and “chewed his cud” until the early morning. He left when a Maasai came with our tea and coffee. Our early morning game hunt on the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti surrounded by thousands of wildebeests as far as the eye could see, became even more memorable when John stopped, set up a table and chairs with a tablecloth, and served breakfast. What a wonderful treat! After breakfast we found a pride of 12 lions resting, I am sure, after a busy night. We also found the hidden valley, with even more wildebeests in residence. Sunset standing on the Kusini kopje, sundowners around the campfire and candlelight dinner with a lion roaring in the distance brought another safari day to its end.
Then, off to Ndutu lodge with its resident spotted genets in the rafters of the dining room, and its herds of zebras passing by followed, for some reason, by the wildebeests. On to the Ngorongoro Crater with a stop at Olduvai Gorge historical site with a tour of its museum and a picnic lunch overlooking the excavation site. Our descent down the 200 foot wall of the crater paled in comparison to our eventual trip up out of the crater. Finding an endangered rhinoceros was exciting, as was the site of the lake turned pink by thousands of flamingos. Staying at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge was certainly an interesting change, especially when we returned from a game drive to find a rose petal bath awaiting. It was a bit of unexpected luxury, but a welcome respite with unequaled views of the crater.
An overnight at the Plantation revealed an Africa of rolling green farmlands, so different from everything previously experienced. Tea in the garden was an unexpected pleasure. A wonderful dinner and breakfast, and we were off to see Lake Manyara with its many families of baboons and many birds, and then on for a long drive through Tarangire National Park with its many elephant families, giraffes, impalas and, and to my husband’s delight, birds, birds, birds. At Swala, from the deck of our tent, we were highly amused watching a male impala futilely trying to keep his harem all in one spot, and on opening our tent in the morning, we watched an elephant and several giraffes stroll by. On leaving for our game drive, the tent flaps had to be locked from curious monkeys. On our game drive at Tarangire we watched elephant families digging for water in the dry river beds.
Sundowner evening cocktails, a candlelit dinner on the veranda, and breakfast watching the birds concluded our African adventure. On arrival back to Arusha, we bid a fond adieu to John, rested for the afternoon, were picked up and driven to Kilimanjaro airport for departure and 16 hours of flight time home. We have been home for two weeks now, and are still having safari dreams. Thank you, Dawn, for planning such a wonderful and all inclusive trip, and for being so patient with all my many questions.
Walter and Louise S.