For most people, an African safari is a major bucket list trip for me however, it was never truly on my radar. Last year, as I was deciding where to go for my big annual trip I was inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s Tanzania episode on Parts Unknown. If Tony could do it I could do it but the only challenge would be getting the maternal unit onboard.
When I started researching the trip and the suppliers I was convinced that I would be paying off this bucket list trip for years to come. However, as I did my research it became clear that safaris come in all shapes and sizes ranging from budget conscious overland camping tours to the high-end super luxe packages. When all was said and done, we decided on a mid-range private tour and could not have been happier with the decision.
When landed at Kilimanjaro airport and our guide was waiting for us right outside the airport with warm welcoming smile. As we departed the airport I was instantly taken away by how lush, green and undeveloped the landscape was. As we drove to our first lodge we passed fields of sunflowers and corn and almost every home had a donkey or two grazing in the yard. After about an hour drive we arrived at the beautiful Lake Duluti Lodge and were greeted by the friendly staff. Our room at the lodge immediately exceeded my expectations and eased my fears of spending the next six days in the African bush as a city girl. The next morning we were finally off on our first game drive but we had to navigate the traffic of downtown Arusha first. When we finally reached the edge of the city our guide commented on how that would be the last of the city for a while. I foolishly asked what we would see and his response was the bush and almost instantaneously the land on both sides of the jeep was natural untouched land.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was our first wildlife spotting as we drove up to our second lodge. Our guide had to remind us that we hadn't even entered Tarangire National Park and that there was much more to come. Seeing animals behind enclosures in a zoo is one thing, being able to witness them in their natural habitat takes the experience to a whole other level and gives one an even deeper appreciation and respect for these creatures.
After a few days when we finally arrived at the savannah that is the Serengeti National Park our guide paid the entrance fees to the park and suggested that I climb the steps to get a view of the park. I climbed halfway up the steps and almost turned back out of fear (my mother stayed below as she didn't want to climb all the steps). However I carried on despite almost being "attacked" by a lizard and I was glad I did because I was awestruck at being able to see land for miles and miles in the distance. Nothing really prepares you for seeing the Serengeti for the first time.
During our trip, each day and each experience surpassed the previous and no matter how many zebras, giraffes or gazelles I saw I was always amazed. For some people a safari is a trip of a lifetime but for me this trip instilled a desire to go on safari again and again. Stay tuned for my next blog post where I detail our exact itinerary and give an overview of each of the lodges.