My First Safari Experience : Africa Itinerary
There’s something so exhilarating yet humbling about being in nature, and something even more surreal about being in the wild. This was my first safari experience in the Great Grasslands of Africa and it was definitely an unforgettable one.
Day 1: Nairobi
Arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi and had the rest of the day to relax, beat the jet lag and try to keep calm before the animal-spotting excitement kicked in.
Check out: Giraffe Manor where you can literally have breakfast with Giraffes!
Day 2: Lake Naivasha
Post Breakfast, we drove to the beautiful serene Lake Naivasha in the middle of the dense forest conservancy. It made for the perfect spot for a lakeside picnic lunch accompanied with bird watching. We took an afternoon boat ride on lake for hippo-sightings. Oh and what a sight! We saw a bloat of hippos, just lazing and sunbathing in the water, under the afternoon sun.
By evening, we drove up to our lodge. This was my favorite hotel of the entire trip! Run by an elderly, kind British lady and two of her cutest furry friends, Loldia House had the most homely feel. The central mansion had a massive poach, a garden full of flowers, hammocks and swings, all set against a beautiful background. A sumptuous welcome high tea was laid for us in the garden. Each private lodge house was tucked in different parts of the conservancy and we were driven there by our guide and guard in our game drive jeeps. The lodge was luxurious with a large but cosy living room and fireplace that opened onto an outdoor terrace seating that overlooked the valley (perfect for sunset-sunrise views or stargazing). We were thoroughly spoilt with fresh flowers that brightened every corner, abundant coffee flavors, chocolate by the bedside, hot water packs under our mattresses and loads of board games to keep us entertained through the night.
We had a delicious, authentic 5-course dinner in the fancy dining room of the lodge along with the other guests. We met so many interesting people and heard some inspiring stories travel stories. We obviously compared which animals we'd spotted and which we still desperately want to see!
Post dinner, we went on a night drive and caught glimpses of a few nocturnal animals like hyenas and porcupines.
Day 3: Masai Mara
After bidding goodbye to our little cottage, we headed for the airstrip (which was literally in amidst the conversancy) for a flight to Masai Mara. And we took off amongst zebras, deer and gazelles!
On arrival in Masai Mara, we were warmly greeted by the Masai Tribe. We checked into our glamorous tents at Olare Kempinski, which overlooked the savannas and all the animals it held.
During our evening game drive, we saw our first pride of lions, mothers and cubs, playfully learning and lazying around. But even the smallest cubs had something so mesmerizing about them, that you surely feel like you're in the presence of royalty!
Day 4: Masai Mara
We enjoyed an early morning game drive with a picnic breakfast in the savanna, under a sole tree, in the vast lands, surrounded by countless zebra, impalas, giraffes, wildebeest, gazelles along with some jackals and wild boars in close proximity.
Post lunch, we left for an afternoon game drive. And what we witnessed was simply awe-striking! We were lucky to see the migration and 'crossing of the river' by the animal kingdom!
We drove along the river bank till our driver decided to stop (along with a few other jeeps) by a relatively narrow stream. From his experience, he felt at that spot we may get lucky to see a crossing.
There were hundreds and hundreds of zebra and wildebeest by the banks, but there were also a few crocodiles lurking in the water. The herd of zebra stood still, and the wildebeests waited eagerly behind them as the two or three somewhat 'zebra leaders' (probably eldest/wisest/bravest?) leaned forward or dipped a hoof in the water. While the animals all waited patiently, after an hour or so, we were getting rather impatient and angsty. But our driver urged us to wait a little longer.
After following the herds up and down the bank as they contemplated the crossing, we finally witnessed it- hungry crocodiles ready to attack the herds of zebra and wildebeest fearfully crossing the waters and for the finale, a parade of elephants treading along to the other side.
The two or three 'leaders' went in first and then all zebras followed. They had to perfect speed and precision as if they were in the water too long or lost they're balance and fell in, they would be some hungry crocodiles lunch! They had to make sure they had sturdy grip against the water current and had to look out for the younger, less experienced ones. As soon as they ran, the wildebeest followed behind. And while it was so capturing to watch hundreds and hundreds of these herbivores trying to migrate across the river, it was also inevitable to worryingly keep looking out of crocodiles as they tried to catch their prey. We also spotted a herd of elephants crossing!
We also saw two lions in a fight! - So much action and excitement around every corner in the jungle!
On the way back to our tents, our jeep got stuck in quicksand and we had to wait for help. As the sun set and we heard all these sounds from the jungle, you can only imagine our fright. That's when we saw a bunch of hippos up close walking right by our jeep. SCARY, but totally worth it!
After such an eventful day, we enjoyed traditional danced and culture of the Masai Mara tribe.
Night drive post dinner.
Day 5: Tarangire
The last morning in Masai Mara can be spent in a so many different ways. From a horse-riding safari through the savannas, to a hot air balloon over the conservancy or maybe a last game drive to catch some animal action during their morning hunt. We'd been keeping a count of how many lions we saw, and our final count before we left Masai Mara was 42 lions!!!!!
Flight to Tanzania. We flew over Mt. Kilimanjaro as viewed the topmost snow-capped peak of this majestic mountain through the clouds. (Luckily, I had a window seat!)
From the airport, we drove to our treehouse hotel in the middle of the reserve.
Yet another adventurous turn: We managed to get lost and we were stranded for hours before the jungle patrol guards came to get us. But along the way, we spotted all sorts of small nocturnal animals like rabbits and possums, owls and omg a massive king cobra! So, not all that bad?
Day 6: Tarangire
Our hotel, Treetops, was literally on a treetop! We had a luxurious treehouse suite with wild elephants grazing on the trees outside our balcony. On the walk in the wild to breakfast, we encountered a few jungle book animals. Breakfast was so nice, we ate twice! Our breakfast table overlooked the infinity swimming pool that stretched out into the wilderness. Zebras, monkeys and elephants all came by to drinking water from it.
Post breakfast, we headed for our game drive. Home of the tree-hanging lions, Tarangire did not disappoint. We also spotted families of elephants with the elder ones teaching the cutest baby elephants to cross a pond, drink water and bathe themselves.
In the evening, we enjoyed a campfire dinner with dancing, singing and folk tales. Once again, we were spoilt rotten by the hospitality and warmth of the locals.
Day 7: Lake Manyara
Post Breakfast, we drove to Lake Manyara. Post lunch and check-in, we embarked on a cycle trek through banana fields and farms to the lake. The lake is set against the mountains and is populated with innumerous flocks of flamingoes! But the trek ran through an area called Mosquito Village. (And yes, the name is exactly what it means- its filled with mosquitoes!)
So next time over, I'd skip this. Manyara has loads of other adventure activities, hikes and treks. The shopping in near by town is really good for Tanzanite, Paintings and local Artifacts. Our hotel also had a cultural puppet, play and games in the evening.
Day 8: Ngorongoro
Leave for Ngorongoro. Post check-in and lunch at the Serena Lodge hotel at the edge of the crater, we spent the evening out in the village out of the Ngorongoro.
Day 9: Ngorongoro
After an early breakfast, we spent the day touring this volcanic crater. Ngorongoro is known for sighting the rarest of the Big 5, the Rhinoceros. And while we saw loads of other incredible animals, we were on the look out for the rhino!
Day 10: Arusha
After a late breakfast and a relaxing massage to end the trip, we left for our flight back home from Kilimanjaro Airport.
P.S- It's fun making a list of all the animals you spot! You'll be surprised to learn some new names and stay excited to catch a glimpse of the Big 5!
Animals we saw: deer, gazelles, impalas, zebra, wildebeests, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, cobra, rabbits, possum, porcupine, tree hanging lion, lions, cheetah, leopard, rhino, buffalo, giraffes, monkeys, topi, water-beest, wild boars, jackals, hyena, bushbuck, dik-dik, worthogs, aardvark, otters, reedbuck, antelope, mongoose, bushbaby, hartebeest, baboon, bat-eared fox, flamingoes, falcon, eagle, canes, and some more...
Hotels Recommended: Loldia House (Governor's Camp, Lake Naivasha), Olare Kempinski (Masai Mara), Treetops (Tanzania), Ngorongoro Serena Lodge (Ngorongoro Crater)