The Ngorongoro Crater, to get a great view of the big cats roaming in the wild
Take a hot air balloon ride for an aerial view of the savannahs
Sample some Mandazi, a form of fried bread that originated on the Swahili Coast
Carry a camera with a powerful zoom lens to capture all the wildlife on your safari
Carry a mosquito repellent as malaria is common
Always follow the guide’s safety instructions while on your safari to avoid disturbing the wildlife
Day One: Driving down to Lake Manyara
We began our drive from Kenya to Tanzania very early in the morning. After a huge breakfast of toast and eggs, we climbed into the jeep and started our journey to Lake Manyara. The fresh morning air rushed in through the open windows of the jeep. As the journey continued, the sky began to cloud and it started to rain heavily. All we could hear was the noise of raindrops hitting the roof of the jeep. After another two hours of driving around the grasslands in the wet weather, we arrived at the immigration stop to enter Tanzania.
The officer was very friendly and said, with a smile, that we should come to Tanzania more often. While filling up immigration papers, I met some Chinese tourists. I had a long conversation with them in Mandarin about how amazing Africa was because of its wildlife. When I left to get my bags, they told Mom that I was good at Chinese.
After moving to another car, and meeting our driver, Jerry, we entered Tanzania. Sujata Mausi, my aunt, said it looked a bit like Santa Fe because of the way the houses were constructed on the hill. As we were driving up a hill, Mom spotted a Baobab tree. The Baobab tree is a very ancient tree that is mentioned in the Bible. The average height of a Baobab tree is between 5-30 metres. It can hold up to 120,000 liters of water! There are eight species of the Baobab. Six of them are in Madagascar, one in Africa and one in Australia.
After stopping to take some pictures, we continued our drive to the hotel. I was told that our hotel was in the game park, an area set aside for the conservation of wildlife. After about half an hour, we came to a halt in front of the park entrance. The entrance was huge, with pictures of animals painted on it. To our disappointment, the park had got flooded due to the heavy rain, so we decided to go directly to the hotel. While everyone else rested at the hotel, I got my hair braided by the staff. It was really cool because they braided it till the very end, so they didn’t need to use anything to hold the end together!
In the evening, we were told that we should call a guard to escort us to the dining hall because often leopards, cheetahs and buffaloes come up to the area with their cubs and they could get very dangerous if humans disturbed them.
Day Two: Driving down to Serengeti National Park
We started the day off well. During our morning game ride, we spotted lots of birds, like the Superb Starling and Weaverbirds. The view was spectacular in the morning. The animals had just awoken and were getting their breakfast. We decided to drive up to the Ngorongoro viewpoint. On the way, we stopped in front of a little boy. He was holding a stick with a chameleon perched on top of it. I found it adorable because it was flicking its little tongue in and out of its little mouth.
When we reached the viewpoint, I could not believe my eyes! In front of me was a lush expanse of green grass where herds of wildebeest and giraffes were grazing, and sunning themselves in the water bodies. After taking a bunch of pictures, we all piled into the car to look for a good picnic spot. After about ten minutes, we stopped at a green patch and laid our food out. Our hotel had provided us with a picnic. All the food was wrapped in plastic bags, which I disliked because it was not ecofriendly at all! The lush grass was like a soft blanket, so we sat down and started to eat. The giraffes, zebras and bulls grazed away in the distance, not minding us.
Everything was perfect until the first black clouds rolled in and the wind started to blow. As we ran to our car for cover, we noticed some Masai kids who were staring at us as if we were crazy. They slowly approached us and looked at our food. I felt sorry for them and all of us gave them our chicken, juice boxes, sandwiches, apples, bananas and some of our chocolate. They seemed very happy and put all of it in their little cloth bags. When they started unwrapping their food, the wind picked up the plastic bags, and the kids ran after them!
As we made our way back to the hotel, we saw a family of cheetahs. There were four of them. Three of them were young and the larger one was their mother. All of them were annoying the mother. I guess all children like annoying their mother!
Day Three: Gaming and Hot Air Balloon Ride
We woke up at the unearthly hour of 4:30 am so that we could leave by 5:30 am for a hot air balloon ride, which Sujata Mausi had organized for us. We drank a cup of tea, ate a few biscuits and walked to the car. It was a dark and cold morning and it was drizzling. As we were driving to the hot air balloon spot, our car came to a stop in front of a family of lions who were sleeping in the middle of the road! All the cubs were sleeping on top of their mother. We waited till they moved to the side of the road and then carried on. When we reached the boarding site, all of us climbed in whilst the hot air from the balloon burnt the back of our necks. It was a smooth take-off. There were a maximum of four people to a compartment and there were four compartments. Mom was on top with some other people and the rest of us were down below. By the time we took off, the sun had started to rise.
The first animal we saw was a Thompson Gazelle. They are very dainty creatures and when the noisy fire-flame engine started, they ran away. Next we spotted a family of ostrich. They were also scared of the loud noise from the engine and started running. The female ostrich ran more gracefully than the male ostrich. Before we landed, the pilot spotted a hyena den. The hyenas were walking in circles around a small puddle of water, wondering where the strange noise was coming from. We rushed to take pictures.
The sun was already climbing up the sky. After a few minutes, the pilot told us to sit down and get ready for a bumpy landing. At first, I didn’t believe him because the take-off was so smooth…but he was right! The basket hit the ground and splattered wet mud everywhere. When we got out, I noticed the deep draglines the hot air balloon had made in the grass.
We had a little drink stop whilst the cars drove down to pick us up and take us to the bush breakfast site. The adults had champagne and the children had mango juice. On the way to the bush breakfast area, a family of lions, lionesses and cubs came right up to our car. It was really fascinating to see the king of the forest up close! When we arrived at the bush breakfast area, we washed out hands with a jug of cold water since there were no taps. The breakfast was delicious! We had the best scrambled eggs I have ever had. After a filling breakfast, we went back to our game rides. Half-way through the game ride, we saw something on a tree, and heard some strange noises. As we observed from our car, we realized that it was a family of vultures screeching at each other. It was hilarious to observe and The Jungle Book popped up in my mind. As we continued, we saw a lioness on a tree watching her prey walk right under her. We also spotted a leopard sitting on a tree and stopped to take pictures of him until he jumped off and ran away. Our driver, Jerry, then switched on the engine and started driving really fast. When we asked him where he was taking us, he said he was taking us to the place where the leopard would exit the grassland. Sure enough, after five minutes, the place where we stopped was where the leopard sprang out of the bushes to cross the road. I was amazed: how did Jerry know where he was going to exit?
By now we had started taking the contiguous array of wild animals for granted. When the sun started to make its way down the horizon, we decided to go back to our hotel. We came to a dead end and decided to turn our jeep. As Jerry turned into the slushy grassland, the tires got stuck in the wet mud. We tried everything from sticking stones under the wheels to pushing the jeep. Nothing worked. We waited until another jeep came to help us out. The driver reversed into the back of our jeep and gave us a slight push. The wheels started to move and we were back on the road. After thanking him, we made our way back to the hotel to end the long but fun day.
Day Four: Drive down to Ngorongoro Crater
We started our drive in the morning at around 8:00 am. We saw many interesting birds and animals on the way. For the first time, I saw a Dik-dik and a Sabo Cat up close when they crossed the road in front of us. The Dik-dik is the smallest of the deer species. They are lovely creatures and romantic too; if a Dik-dik’s mate dies, then the other one also dies due to heartbreak. As we continued our drive, we spotted a leopard walking around. In his mouth was a Dik-dik. I didn’t like that fact that this adorable creature was dead—his lifeless eyes were looking up at me as the leopard walked around. But, I reasoned, it was just the food chain.
On our way to Ngorongoro, we heard some strange noises coming from the car. It sounded like someone was dragging a piece of metal on the ground. Jerry stopped to check it out. After examining it, he told us to get out and wait because the car was damaged. He was going to call someone else to take us to the hotel.
I ran around, sat on a tree and took out my lunch. Then everybody else followed. Copy Sabo Cats! All of us ate our food on the tree watching the Dung Beetle roll some dung. It felt like a true safari experience. The breeze was pleasant and the leaves rustled in the breeze. We told each other stories whilst waiting for the other car to pick us up. When we finally reached the hotel, we pleaded with the hotel staff to organize a car to take us into the volcanic crater that was the jewel in Ngorongoro's crown. I had heard many stories about it from my grandfather who went there as a young bachelor. After calling a bunch of people, they finally got a car for us. I was so excited to go into the crater that I was already waiting in the car before everybody else came.
The crater looked even better from the inside. We saw a lioness sitting on a rock and enjoying the view of all her prey, wildebeests galloping around in the water and having a fun time and giraffes grazing in the grass. My aunt also saw a rhino, which was a long way away. Even though I couldn’t see it with my poor eyesight, they got it on their zoom lens camera and showed it to me. The crater had thousands of animals all in one big hole, right in front of each other. I wondered how lazy the carnivores here must be, as they have to make no effort to hunt at all. The Kori Bustards and the Eland were my new finds here. Elands are the largest of the deer family just as the Dik-diks are the smallest. After an interesting day, we went back to the hotel. It mad me sad that it was the last game ride of the trip.
Day Five: Drive back to Kenya
The sun had just begun its journey across the sky when we started our journey back to Nairobi . The holiday was coming to an end. In order to not lose time, we started our car journey really early: we were going from Serena Hotel, Ngorongoro to Eka Hotel, Nairobi. The only thing we saw on the road was a lonely elephant grazing in the grasslands. That was how we felt inside too, sad. All of us slept in the car with the music on. When we reached the Tanzanian border to cross over to Kenya, we made a quick pit stop, said good-bye to Jerry and switched cars. The next stop was Eka Hotel. We took another nice nap and woke to see our friends off, eat dinner and go to sleep again, dreaming of all the fun things we did in Tanzania.