Over the last few months, we have been packing in travel and particularly dream trips that we have been looking forward to for some time. In May, we were in France and in June we headed out to Tanzania for “our trip of a lifetime.” When crafting our bucket lists years ago, a rough version any way, doing a safari was an item on both our lists. We continued to add more items as we learned more and delved deeper into what each continent and country has to offer. Knowing we were headed to Africa, we focused these lists even more and relished all the opportunities on the continent we were to call home for a bit. This gave rise to our additions of going to Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater. We particularly pinned for the opportunity to witness the great migration (my husband distinctly remembers watching shows/videos about this as a child)…even possible to do by air in a hot air balloon! We’ve gone back and forth about this trip over the last year and a half and finally decided a couple months ago that it wasn’t worth putting off another year since we are so close now to Tanzania.
Although, we still hope to venture back in the future to witness the migration itself – we didn’t have enough time in the Serengeti to get up North – it was without question the once in a lifetime trip we had been hoping for. We’ve now been on several safaris…we just can’t get enough! But this trip brought us up close with more animals and landscapes than we could have ever imagined. It is hard to put into words the feelings that come over you as you look out the pop-up jeep, wind in your hair at the vastness of the Serengeti with the sun and clouds playing with the landscape.
We set out hoping to spot a lion and fingers crossed for seeing the big five. We were successful in both efforts even with only a day and a half of game drives. In fact, we saw our first lion shortly into our drive in the Serengeti. Having already checked that box, we didn’t expect to see as many more as we did and in different contexts… sleeping, looking for the rest of the pride, on the prowl, and feasting along with a handful of cubs. We sat in our jeep less than 10 feet away from a lioness.
Later, we came upon a leopard down for the count up in a tree. Having always loved leopards when I was young, even doing an animal project on it, this was a dream come true….even if I could only see his rear with his back legs and tail hanging down from the branch.
Early in the morning, we came across a cheetah… no two, three, actually four cheetah who were almost putting on a pageant for the jeeps huddled around them. Walking up and down for all to see and take in their long legs and beautiful spotted coats. We saw them from a distance starting to break a stride after a late morning snack, but they changed their mind and paraded around some more instead. This was an animal we joked off-hand about hoping to see.
As we drove through the park, we came up on huge herds of elephants peppering the landscape. Having thought we had gotten close to elephants at Akagera National Park in Rwanda…we didn’t think we’d get any closer…until the Serengeti. Just outside our jeep, stood elephants of all ages and sizes, with more and more coming to join them. We watched babies following along close behind and stopped to witness one taking down a tree for lunch, close enough to see his trunk grab branches and put it into his mouth.
We stood looking down onto a pool filled with hippos almost looking as if they formed one mass. We heard them grunting at one another, watched them scoot up on top of one another, and splash water to keep their skin cool. I always felt lucky before having seen them from afar with just their eyes above the water peering at me and their ears listening for movement…always seeming to be shy. But this pool was different, they were content where they were and with us looking upon them.
And, of course, my husband’s East African Birds book we bought a few months ago came in quite handy as we all thumbed through the book to try to identify the variety of birds we came across throughout the Serengeti. Some circled overhead looking for their next meal, others dipped their toes in water, looked down on us from above, and others stalked us as we ate our lunch waiting to be fed or to snatch our crumbs off the table.
Our night spent inside the park was unlike anything…in a tent surrounded in darkness with animals lurking around. We started our night off sitting by the fire looking out at the sunset on the Serengeti recounting all we had seen in our first day and our hopes for the next. After our incredible dinner in the dining tent, we were escorted back to our tent with just a flashlight to illuminate our path. We enjoyed looking up at the stars in the sky untouched and listening for the various sounds of animals located somewhere outside our tents. It was a scary and extraordinary experience all at the same time!
We loved having the experience of Mushi, our driver and tour guide, to help us have the most incredible and personalized experience…even better than we could have ever imagined! Check-out Sunny Adventures for their package options.