A Camping Safari in Lake Manyara, Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater

Dear Family, Friends and Followers,

We apologize for our delay in posting but we have not had a reliable source of internet for over a month and a half.  We are minimalists and don't have a fancy phone with internet access so we must rely on wifi. We have been making our way across Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and Rwanda and the internet sources have been few and far between.  It’s been such an amazing adventure and we can't wait to catch up on the past month and a half of experiences. Let's get started on post one of four to come. 

There were two main reasons for our journey to the vast continent of Africa 1) To take a safari in the Serengeti and 2) To summit Mount Kilimanjaro.

Josh had a few days under his belt with his new rootless tooth and all was going well so we decided to take a bus journey across the border from Kenya to Tanzania.  Leanne searched the internet for a reputable bus company. We called the owner and booked two seats for the bus that would head out at 7:00 am the following day.  We crossed our fingers that it was a legitimate company.  

Side note: It's funny, the longer we travel the more we throw an "ish" on the end of words to describe things. Here are some common quotes and favorite words that we have come up with along our journey:

The room looks cleanish.
That company seems legitish.
The food tasted normalish.
It's dirtyish but we can make it work.
The water looks safeish to drink.
That person appears to be scammyish.

The following morning we were picked up from our hotel on time, dropped off at the correct bus station (more like an area with an assortment of buses) and climbed aboard the mini bus to make our way to Moshi, Tanzania.  We had to pinch ourselves because we couldn’t believe we were riding through Africa!

Despite a few shoves and pushes while waiting in line at the immigration office to exit Kenya, it was smooth sailing across the border of Tanzania.

We were on our way to Moshi, the town for starting Mount Kilimanjaro treks. Summiting Kilimanjaro was another dream of ours and we couldn’t wait to fulfill it. 

After one bus change in Arusha and an eight-hour journey we made it safe and sound to Moshi.  The word moshi is Swahili for "smoke".  Often times the clouds around Mount Kilimanjaro resemble puffs of smoke and prohibit you from catching a glimpse of the glorious mountain. We were lucky enough to feast our eyes on this beautiful sight just outside our door of the bed and breakfast we were staying at.  Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest freestanding mountain in the world. It’s a breathtaking, snow-capped wonder! We began picturing in our minds what it would be like to climb that mountain.

Random side note: Coca-Cola is VERY popular throughout Africa. Josh loves Coca-Cola but since his teeth have started to fall apart he has significantly reduced his intake. He actually gets a little depressed when he remembers his fonder Coca-Cola filled days. Yes, we know, it's bad for you and blah, blah, blah but sometimes there is nothing like a cold, bubbly Coke! Keep it up Africa!

We spent the first few days in Moshi pricing out Kilimanjaro treks. We thought we would be able to save some money by booking on arrival rather than ahead of time online.  It worked for us on the Everest Base Camp trek so we were crossing our fingers that we would find the same would be true for the Mount Kilimanjaro trek. After countless hours of research and speaking with several different trekking companies, it turns out that you don’t save that much money by booking a trek when arriving in Moshi because the park fees are so expensive.  However, you can save a few hundred dollars and as the saying goes, “a dollar saved is a dollar earned.”

Sandra, the owner of the bed and breakfast, quoted us a fair price and was willing to let us borrow any equipment that we needed so we decided to book our trek through her trekking company. We had our mind made up to start our trek 2 days from our arrival into Moshi and then book our safari upon our return from our trek but Sandra threw us a curve ball.  She received a call from a friend that a couple was looking to share a 4-day camping safari to Lake Manyara, the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater and planned to leave in two days. Oh the dilemmas of traveling! Sometimes it can be tough to find other people to share the cost of a safari so we decided to jump on the opportunity.  You never can get your heart set on plans when you are traveling. Flexibility is the name of the game when you are on the road.  Besides, tourist adventures in Africa are extremely expensive so we welcomed any chance at saving some money.

It is virtually impossible to convey our excitement the day we left for our safari. The thought of being merely feet away from exotic animals in their natural environment made us grin from ear to ear.  Obviously, we both love animals…we got married in a zoo!

We headed out to pick up the other couple in Arusha, about an hour and a half drive from Moshi. It was a clear day so we were able to see Mount Kilimanjaro in all of its wonder!

As we drove, we wondered what this other couple would be like since we were about to spend the next 4 days and 3 nights sharing close quarters.  Would we get along?  Would we have anything in common?  We decided that we could handle anything for 4 days. We generally get along with the majority of the people we have met along our travels so we were certain we would have a good time with our new safari buddies. 

Andrew and Liz were great! They were both teachers in Seoul, Korea (Andrew for 8 years and Liz for 5 years) and had quit their teaching jobs to travel around the world for 15 months before heading back to the States. We connected instantly and spent time exchanging funny travel stories and experiences.  During the safari we celebrated our travel anniversaries. We celebrated 1 year on the road while they celebrated 6 months on the road. There were a lot of beers and cheers over the next few days with our new friends.

Traveling on tours in Africa is a bit more luxurious than other areas of the world. You have a driver/guide as well as a cook during a safari.  They set up your tents each day and made delicious meals. It felt strange at first to be catered to so much but we quickly got used to the royal treatment. Albert was our guide and he knew his animals, especially birds. He had a passion for birds and even his ringtone on his phone was of an African Fish Eagle. He could tell you the name of any bird, even ones that were far off in the distance.  He was an awesome guide and driver! 

The first stop on our itinerary was the national park at Lake Manyara. We stopped to snapped some photos of the lake from afar. 

Baboons lined the sides of the streets as we made our way to the park. Spring had approached so that meant there were plenty of cute babies around. 

Josh had his safari game face on.  He was equipped with his binoculars as well! The task at hand was to spot as many animals as we could. 

Liz shouted out that this elephant was heading straight for our truck. He cruised right past us but was only inches away from our vehicle. It got our adrenaline pumping a little bit. 

Look, there's Pumba! This part of Tanzania was the clearly the vision for the movie, "The Lion King". 

We made our way down the winding dirt road to see what animals awaited us. 

Leanne was all smiles when she saw the zebras. They are such exotic animals and you were easily distracted by their exquisite beauty.  

Their stripes, no two alike, glistened with the sun's rays and glowed intensely black and brightly white. Zebras quickly became one of Leanne's favorite animals. 

More springtime babies! 

Notice anything different about this monkey? That's right, it has blue private parts. We can't remember the official name of this monkey, we just referred to them as "blue ball monkeys." Quite a creative name, huh?

A rainbow to end the day is not a bad first day! We saw tons of baboons, various monkeys, zebras, impalas, wilder beasts, buffalo, giraffes, wild boars, hippos, crown cranes, eagles and elephants.  We might have missed listing a few others but it was a wonderful start to our safari. Don't worry, we have plenty of pictures below of all the animals that we saw during our 4-day safari. 

Our first night of camping was a "fancy" night of camping. We had beds, a great dinner and hot showers. We were not exactly roughing it but this was the cheapest safari package we could find. 

The date was March 3rd and it officially marked our one year anniversary on the road. Nothing says classy like a cheap box of wine. Cheers to us for making it through our first year of traveling. 

We left early the next morning in pursuit of Serengeti National Park and big cats were on our radar!
On the drive to the park we saw these two street stalls. Liz and Andrew informed us that these stalls were actually in the last season of The Amazing Race. The contestants received clues from these vendors. We haven't watched much T.V. over the past year but we still thought it was cool and took a picture. Apparently, they spelled Clinton incorrectly and had to fix it for the show. 

We stopped for a few minutes so Albert could obtain our park permit and then made our way through the official gate. Serengeti, here we come!

On the way to the park, Albert stopped so we could get a glimpse of Ngorongoro Crater. We would be spending our fourth day there. It was an unbelievable sight. Through the binoculars we could see so many animals wandering around. 

Masai villages dotted the landscape as we drove through the hills. 

Here it is...Serengeti National Park! We were on a mission to see all of "The Big Five." The Big Five are classified as the five animals that are toughest for hunters to kill on foot. They are classified as:

1) Lion
2) Buffalo
3) Rhino
4) Leopard
5) Elephant

We already saw buffalo and elephants at Lake Manarie the previous day so we only had three more to go. 

As soon as we crossed the gate we were greeted by a pregnant hyena. It was incredible to see a hyena so close let alone a pregnant one.  We don't want to offend you, hyena, but you are a disgusting animal. She had snot dripping from her nose and was covered with dirt. She was so gross that we actually found her to be cute. 

 More zebras!!

We stopped for a picnic lunch and climbed a small hill for a better view of the breathtaking scenery. 

Check out the shadows that the clouds cast on the landscape. Albert said he loved the cloud shadows and we all agreed with him. 

Our bellies were full so it was time to get back on the road.

Wilder beasts were everywhere.  It was towards the end of the migration season but we were lucky enough catch some of it.  

Next up were the lions.  Albert informed us that the lions were "honeymooning" meaning they were mating every 15 minutes for seven days. That's a lot of work! We witnessed one of the mating sessions but decided to give the lions their privacy and did not post a picture of the action. 


and after

This little kite was being ignored but he had the coolest red eyes so we snapped a picture.

Aside from all the animals the scenery was beautiful. 

There were plenty of elephants all over strutting their stuff.  We've seen lots of elephants on our travels but we try to never take these beautiful animals for granted.

Albert had a pretty good eye and found a few females with their cubs

Pretty cute but we wouldn't suggest trying to cuddle with it.

One of the highlights of the day was seeing a group of leopards sneak through the grass and kill an impala.  They drug it into the tree and decided to pose for us for awhile. The tree that they were perched in was called a sausage tree because the fruit of the tree resembled a sausage. We swear, that's the name!

After a great day of seeing lots of exciting things we called it a day and headed back to the campground.  It wasn't as nice as they day before but it still had hot showers so it was nice enough for us.

After another fun night of hanging out with Andrew and Liz we got up the next morning waiting for the what the day had in store in us.  Hyenas were howling all night long so we were pretty sure there would be a few of those around.

Right out of the gate we saw a leopard crossing the street.  Unfortunately, we weren't able to get a photo but sometimes its not meant to be.  We did get a good picture of this guy chilling out in the street.

Yup, there you are.

Here's a nice reflection pond with huge cranes in the trees

More zebras walking in a single-file line.  This really made Leanne happy.

There were small antelopes called dik diks that were very clever at hiding but we managed to see a few of them.

We loved this picture of a lonely buffalo

Hippos were everywhere but this guy got really close!

How can you ever get sick of seeing scenes like these?

Bottoms up!

After our morning safari we headed back to our campsite to pack up and head out for one last chance to see a chetah.

During operation chetah search, we were approached by this friendly guy.  He literally came within a few feet of our vehicle!

Can you spot the baby elephant in this picture? 

We tried our best to find a chetah but unfortunately, they were just too hard to spot. We couldn't complain because we saw so many incredible animals. 

Speaking of beautiful animals, here's a prize winning shot. There was a lion just relaxing in the tree while an elephant was cruising around below. 

More hippos cooling themselves down. 

We left Serengeti National Park with wide smiles and a sense of true satisfaction. It was a wonderland of animal delight. It was like we were a part of "The Lion King. " Liz even busted out singing "The Lion King" songs during our adventure.  

On the way to our third campsite, we stopped by a Masai village for a tour. We had to make a donation which was completely fine by us. Although the village caters to tourists it was still an interesting experience. We were the only tourists visiting at the time. 

Their vibrant colored clothing made for spectacular photos. 

We are fairly certain we were the only tourists to join in their traditional dances. Yeah right!  For those of you that have ever seen Josh dance, you know he doesn't have much in the rhythm department. However, he was a good sport for trying. He blended right in. 

Liz and Leanne were asked to join in too. Liz was slightly uncomfortable with the whole situation. 

The school children recited their ABCs for us. We are not certain how much educating actually takes place because the blackboard had words that were spelled incorrectly. The whole thing might have just been a show for the tourists but the children were adorable.

These ladies were busy making jewelry.

While this one just wanted her picture taken. Now that is one unique smile. 

Our guide gave Josh a quick lesson on spear throwing. Josh decided to pass on the offer to throw the spear for fear he might slice open his hand. That's already happened once on this trip so he didn't want to press his luck.

It was even spring time baby time at the Masai village. 

Liz attempted to ask our guide about the equality of women in the village. She was answered with a big laugh instead of an answer. The Masai have their own traditional views of men and women's roles.  There was something odd about the ratio of men to women. Each male had several wives. We asked questions but the guide brushed them off by saying that the ratio was even. We disagreed. It is part of the tradition that the men of the tribe are circumcised at the age of 13 and left to fend for themselves in the woods for 3 months. We have a sneaking suspicion that this might have something to do with the odd ratio.

We were glad we stopped by the village. We learned a little more about their tribe and beliefs and it shed some light on how they survive in today's world. 

Campsite number three was at the ridge of Ngorongoro Crater. 

It's funny just how tired you can get from waking up early an sitting in vehicle all day chasing down animals. We tossed in early this night as we had an early wake up time for the following day. 

It's not every day that you wake up to a elephant visitor in your campsite.

Apparently, he was a regular because he knew exactly what he wanted...a drink from the water supply. 

As the sun rose we headed into the crater. 

Ngorongoro Crater is the world's largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera (feature formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption). It is a perfect balance of prey and predator. Nothing gets out of the crater and nothing comes into the crater. The weather is the same year round so there is no migration that takes place. It's a spectacular sight. 

Binocs in hand and a smile on our face. This was going to be a good way to close out our safari. 

Thousands of flamingos!

Warning: The next section is not for the faint of heart.

As we drove around the crater we noticed a line of safari vehicles off in the distant. At first we thought it was a parking lot but as we got closer we realized that everyone was looking at something.  We knew it must be something good because of the attention it was drawing. Albert made his way there for a closer look.

When we got there we noticed a pride of lions and two buffaloes off in the distance. One buffalo was sitting on the ground and was already critically injured while the other appeared to be fending off the pride of lions. Albert said "You are lucky because you are witnessing a big five hunting another big five". This is something you don't see at the crater everyday. 

It was truly an emotional scene. The buffaloes were both male. The buffalo on the ground was having  a tough time getting up while his buddy was desperately trying to fight off the pride.  It was actually a really sad moment when the buddy of the injured buffalo came to the realization that there was nothing further he could do.  He put his head down and walked away without turning around.

We were trying to locate the male when we looked over at one of the jeeps and he was relaxing right next to them!  He was just sitting back and watching the show.  We went ahead and jockeyed for a better position closer to the action.

Once the buffalo's buddy left the pride of seven lions moved in for the kill.  Although it is the circle of life it was upsetting.  This is something that you see on tv so we couldn't stop watching.

This guy fought so hard for his life it was an amazing sight.  He got knocked down and got back up so many times you couldn't help but root for him.


back up.  Go buffalo!!

Ah, back down again.  We thought for sure this was the end.

Nope!  He dug deep once again.

There were two male cubs in the pride and Albert said that they were proving themselves to the older male lion who was sleeping by the jeeps.  He also said that they probably hadn't eaten in over a week so they were certainly hungry.  The whole process took about 5 hours but we watched for about an hour.  When we drove away the buffalo was on the ground so we left in a somber mood.  We needed to move along to find the last member of the big five. The rhino!

We did see a lot of ostriches but really liked this picture.

There it is!  Now we checked off the not-so-elusive rhino to round out the big five.  He's behind the zebra.

We finished out the day strong with lots of lions and some playing zebras.

This is one of Leanne's favorites.

This is one of Josh's favorites of our whole trip.

Look at these two sexy animals!  Oh yeah, there were a couple more lions too.

One last group shot before we headed back to Moshi.  Liz and Andrew, if you're reading this we had a great time getting to know you and we hope to cross paths again.  In the meantime, we'll be following you through social media.

To all of our friends, family, and followers, we'll be putting up another post in a few days about our Mount Kilimanjaro trek.  Thanks for following!!

Leanne and Josh