The Parks and Animals of Jenny Revesz and Abby Olemisiko's "Trip of a Lifetime" Boutique African Safari Itinerary
I am back this month with part two of my three part African Safari blog series. In this entry, I am sharing about the incredible natural landscape and animals that we encountered with our expert guide Abby of Boutique Safari on our annual Tanzania Safari.
What many travelers don’t realize is that encountering specific wildlife on Safari, though probable, is not guaranteed. Many factors come into play and having an expert guide who is willing to go above and beyond and knows the tricks and secrets to encountering those animals, is an essential part of our itinerary.
There are three main parks that we visit on the 2019 version of this itinerary, each with their own unique intrigue: Tarangire Park, Ngorongoro Park, and Serengeti Plains National Park.
All travel into the parks is done in a private 4 X 4 vehicle and Abby remains with us for our entire safari, teaching us about nature, geography, and the local culture. The main roads are newly paved, but the side and national park roads aren’t always so it is best to prepare for some bumps along the way.
Upon arrival at the Park, we set out right away for our first game drive in one of Tanzania’s outstanding Reserves. Tarangire National Park covers 2,600 square kilometers and is on the traditional migration route of several species of wildlife. Resident lion, giraffe, elephant, and black rhino are common at any season; Tarangire is noted for its concentration of elephants, outstanding baobab trees and splendid vistas of rolling savannah and acacia woodland. Your first game drive will be a very exciting experience!
Come evening we retire to the Maramboi Tented Camp in Tarangire Park. This is a unique opportunity to experience and explore the Tarangire and Manyara ecosystem. Maramboi Tented Camp offers permanent camp facilities and endless vistas of rolling golden grasslands and palm-lined desert between Tarangire and Manyara Lake. A visit to the area is essential for anyone interested in evolution and the origins of Mankind, an explanation of the Rift Valley, and Africa's big picture. Expect a complete semi-desert experience focusing on game drives.
An impressive landscape from the Rift Valley gives the visitor an amazing natural welcome to an area extraordinarily rich in wildlife. The camp offers stunning views of the Manyara National Park, Rift Valley, Ngorongoro highlands and on clear days even Oldonyo Lengai a sacred mountain to the Maasai.
Our next stop is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which we enter and ascend to the exterior of the crater reaching its rim. Here you can capture a wonderful glimpse of what has often been referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”.
The Ngorongoro Crater is the remains of a once-massive volcano, nearly three million years old, on the eastern border of the Serengeti National Park. Now collapsed and eroded to leave the world's largest unbroken, unflooded caldera, it forms an extraordinarily fertile ‘bowl’ in the midst of rolling highlands, with permanent water sources and steep sides ensuring that the wildlife that thrives here has little reason to leave. Situated in the midst of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a wildlife preservation area roughly the size of Crete, the crater forms an important aspect of the northern Tanzania safari circuit.
We stay at the 5-star Ngorongoro Serena Lodge which is an architectural marvel built on the rim of the collapsed volcano. The lodge boasts the most magnificent views over the crater floor, home to vast herds of buffalo, wildebeest and zebra, the rare and endangered black rhino, mighty bull elephant, cheetah, leopard, lion and herds of gazelle and hartebeest. Most of the wildlife is found on the crater floor, a short drive from the lodge. High on the crater rim it can be a little chilly in the lodge in the evenings and, during the colder times of the year, log fires blaze gloriously in the restaurant and bar and central heating and hot water bottles in the bedrooms ensure a cozy stay. Within an area which has been inhabited by man and beast for over three million years, Ngorongoro Serena Lodge offers calm and tranquility, allowing its guests to soak up the sensations of viewing the spectacular whilst enjoying the highest levels of service and attention.
We depart very early from the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge in order to be first into the crater. We then descend to the floor of the crater and have an experience of a lifetime watching the thousands of African animals. The unique eco-system supports the delicate balance of predator and prey in the endless quest for survival. The crater is the spectacular stalking ground of around 20,000 to 30,000 wild animals at any one time, the most densely packed concentration of wildlife in Africa.
In order to preserve the quality of the experience and the environment, measures have had to be taken to limit the number of people inside the crater at any one time, and safaris are now limited to one per day for each vehicle either as a morning or an afternoon adventure. The game is very active in the morning and this also gives us a chance to have a safari breakfast served by the hippo pool. We spend the full morning exploring new areas of the crater reserve and after breakfast depart for the short grass plains of the Serengeti (Seronera area) where the miracle of the migration takes place. The drive is incredible with amazing vistas of the Great Rift Valley. Circumnavigating the rim of the crater, we make our way to Serengeti National Park via Olduvai Gorge, the site of Louis and Mary Leakey’s renowned archaeological discoveries. Their findings include some of the man’s earliest known ancestral remains.
Serengeti National Park
Tanzania's oldest and most popular national park, also a world heritage site and recently proclaimed a 7th worldwide wonder, the Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebras and 300,000 Thomson's gazelles join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing. Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game-viewing in Africa: great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of Eland, Topi, Kongoni, Impala and Grant’s Gazelle.
The spectacle of predator versus prey dominates Tanzania’s greatest park. Golden-maned lion prides feast on the abundance of plain grazers. Solitary leopards haunt the acacia trees, while a high density of cheetahs prowls the southeastern plains. Almost uniquely, all three African jackal species occur here, alongside the spotted hyena and a host of more elusive small predators, ranging from the insectivorous aardwolf to the beautiful serval cat.
But there is more to Serengeti than large mammals. Gaudy Agama lizards and rock hyraxes scuffle around the surfaces of the park’s isolated granite koppies. A staggering 100 varieties of dung beetle have been recorded, as have 500-plus bird species, ranging from the outsized ostrich and bizarre secretary birds of the open grassland to the black eagles that soar effortlessly above the Lobo Hills.
As enduring as the game viewing is, so is the liberating sense of space that characterizes the Serengeti Plains, stretching across sunburnt savannah to a shimmering golden horizon at the end of the earth. Yet, after the rains, this golden expanse of grass is transformed into an endless green carpet flecked with wildflowers. There are also wooded hills and towering termite mounds, rivers lined with fig trees and acacia woodland stained orange by dust.
Each of these three unique parks is spectacular in its own right. This is why Abby and I curate the timing and visits to each of them to ensure a well rounded Safari of a lifetime experience. It is important to keep in mind that some of the parks visited will vary year to year. We are constantly tweaking and revised annually to offer the best possible Safari experience based on the season, the migration of the animals and changes to the natural landscape.
I am concluding this post with a list of the animals and birds we saw in May and June on this past year’s 2019 East Africa Boutique Safari with our master guide Abby
Come back next month for my highlights on the people and culture we meet, befriend, and learn about on this incredible Boutique Safari Journey!
Fox, Bat Eared
Hare, Red Rock
Jackal, Side Striped
Monkey, Black-faced Vervet
Python, African Rock
Wildebeest, White Bearded - Gnu
Big Five: Lion, Elephant, Rhinoceros, Leopard, Buffalo
Little Five: Ant Lion, Elephant Shrew, Rhinoceros Beetle, Leopard Tortoise, Buffalo Weaver - not all seen
Bishop, northern red
Dove, African Mourning
Eagle, Black-chested Snake
Eagle, Marshall - juvenile
Go-away bird, Barefaced
Go-away bird, White-bellied
Starling, Greater Blue-eared
Storks, Large mainly white
Vulture, African White-backed
Vulture, Rueppell’s Griffon
Weaver, White-headed Buffalo