Africa XX: Nomad Tours Day 8, Stone Town Zanzibar

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti
Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive
Africa XV: Nomad Tours Day 3, Game Drives
Africa XVI: Nomad Tours Day 4, Game Drives!
Africa XVII: Nomad Tours Day 4, Maasai Warriors
Africa XVIII: Nomad Tours Day 5, The Ngorongoro Crater
Africa XIX: Nomad Tours Day 6 and 7, Overland to Dar es Salaam

____________________________________________________________________

Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we just finished traveling overland to get to Dar es Salaam where we took the ferry to Stone Town, Zanzibar. At the end of the last post I promised you a scary story and I won’t disappoint!

Stone1

But first, lets set the scene. Above is our hotel room! You heard me right not only did Erica and I get a hotel room here (unlike the camping we’ve been doing the whole trip) but we also were super lucky and got a room right on the water! Look at the view off the deck, below.

Stone2

So pretty! Since we were right along the beach (which can get a little dangerous at night for tourists), we also had armed guards that sat outside our room all day and night.

Stone3

Paradise!

Stone4

While we were getting ready for dinner we got to watch locals play a match of soccer out here at sunset.

Stone5

The following morning Erica and I both signed up for a walking tour, which was one of the optional excursions on the trip. This maze of a town reminded me of Old Jerusalem, Israel and it was nice to have a guided tour.

Stone6

We started at the fish market in Stone Town. Above is a live auction happening right in front of us. The fisherman auction off the fish and people buy the fish, cut it up saving some of the fish for their families, and then they move to a stall where they sell the rest of the fish for a prophet.

Stone7

This was dragged through the market when we got there. It’s huge!

Stone8

Above and below are photos of the different fish, squids, shrimp and seafood that vendors were trying to sell after just purchasing them from the auction. It was cool to see, but there were probably 1000 flies in that room. It was pretty smelly too with all the un-iced fish sitting around.

Stone9

We also went through the meat market, which you can imagine I didn’t take photos of. Yuck, that room was disturbing.

Stone10

I didn’t take may photos within the fruit and vegetable stalls in Stone Town because the vendors are pretty fussy about it. Above are some of the other Nomad Tour group members walking through the stalls.

Stone12

I just love these types of winding narrow streets.

Stone13

Above is our local guide teaching us about Zanzibar doors, something Stone Town is famous for.

Stone14Stone15

Narrow alleys are fun to explore.

Stone16Stone17

I just love the colors and textures around the city.

Stone18Stone19Stone21Stone22

We cut through the Old Fort and Cultural Center in Zanzibar.

Stone23Stone24Stone25

We moved over to the Shangani section of Stone Town where Freddie Mercury lived as a child. I should note that Zanzibar is like 90% muslim which means a dress code exists here, and women should not wear tank tops or other revealing clothing while not at the beach. It’s good to pack along scarves to help coverup too. I say this here because it’s also illegal to be homosexual here, which probably explains why Freddie Mercury lived here as a child but not as an adult.

Stone26Stone27

We walked by the Shangani Hotel, which is where I booked a room (with the help of Norman) for my last night in Zanzibar.

Stone28

In the center of Stone Town is an area where poeple sharing coffee and talking about current events. Since it’s a Muslim town, only men are allowed to partake in this tradition. They have a sign hanging about making international calls and a phone tied to the tree (above).

Stone29Stone30

As part of the walking tour we went into the Christ Church which sits on the old slave market. As part of the tour they take you down into where they kept the slaves before auction (below).

Stone31

They crammed tons of people in here and when the tides rose water would seep into this room located in the basement. People lived here for long lengths of time, with limited food and of course no bathrooms. Being down there was eerie and I just can’t imagine how bad it was down here.

Stone32

Above is a painting of Bishop Edward Steere who worked to abolish slavery in Zanzibar. Does he look like anyone you know? Maybe John Travolta?!

Stone33

Above is the Cathedral from the exterior. They are still doing restoration work on it.

After the tour ended we drove back to the hotel, picked up the rest of the Nomad Tour group and headed to the north part of Zanzibar. More on that in my next post!

WARNING– OPTIONAL SCARY STORY! 

The night we stayed in Zanzibar, in the room by the ocean, there was a snake in our room. I was alone in the room from 9p-11:30p, when Erica came back to the room. At 11:30 I went to sleep and at 12:30am I awoke to 2 of the guards in our room. When I asked in my sleepy stat ewhat was going on, Erica assured me that there was a rodent in the room and they were just getting it out. My mind immediately jumped to “THERE’S A SNAKE IN THE ROOM!” Erica assured me that there wasn’t any issue and I should go back to sleep. Then, WACK! One of the guards whipped something in the corner of the room. I was within the bed netting and my glasses were on the counter so it was all a bit blurry, but it freaked me out. I had nightmares the rest of the night about snakes.

The following morning after Erica and I checked out of the room, she finally explained to me the full story. She found a snake around midnight and tried to get it out of the room herself. Realizing how dangerous this was she called in the guards who were outside our room. Knowing I HATE HATE HATE snakes, her goal was to just get it out of the room without me knowing what was going on. She shared this photo with me the next day:

1530647_794427237246198_917210813_n

 

Advertisements

Africa XIX: Nomad Tours Day 6 and 7, Overland to Dar es Salaam

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti
Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive
Africa XV: Nomad Tours Day 3, Game Drives
Africa XVI: Nomad Tours Day 4, Game Drives!
Africa XVII: Nomad Tours Day 4, Maasai Warriors
Africa XVIII: Nomad Tours Day 5, The Ngorongoro Crater

____________________________________________________________________

Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we just finished 2 days out on the Serengeti and a day in the Ngorongoro Crater. The safari portion of our tour was now behind us, but we still have the Zanzibar resort island experience ahead of us. In the meantime we had 2 days of overland travel in our truck “Tommy” to get to Dar es Salaam where we will take a ferry out to the island.

SnakePArk3

After leaving the Ngorongoro Crater, we headed back to our campsite/lodge in Arusha to meet up with our guide Norman and our truck “Tommy”. We spent the night here all telling stories of our favorite parts of the safari, then got up early and hit the road to head to our next campsite/hotel in Lushoto.

MapDay6and7

Travel1

Guides Norman and Servious made the overland tour fun. You would think 2 full days of driving would be boring, but it was actually really fun getting to see the Tanzania landscape roll by. They often would stop to let us take photos and bathroom breaks as well as teach us about local life.

Travel2Travel3

Norman (below) taught us all about the local plants. That palm came from the plants in the photo above.

Travel4

You can see in the photo above that the truck Tommy is really clean and comfortable. Those are our lockers behind Norman and there’s storage overhead as well. The truck also has a charging stations that you can charge electronics in Tommy over night.

Travel5

For lunch we stopped off at a campground (photos above and below).

Travel6Travel7

It was fun to roll Tommy in the campground and see the whole Nomad group assemble the tables and chairs. It was a real team effort getting lunch ready.

Travel8

People took turns wash and chopping up fixings for sandwiches. Tommy really has a compartment for everything. It’s a really well designed vehicle.

We spent the night camping in the Lushoto mountains. The view getting up there was incredible but it was difficult to snap photos as the road was basically a single lane (although there was traffic in both directions) so we couldn’t stop for photos. We arrived after dark to a sprinkling rain, setup camp ate and went to bed. We had to leave the campsite at 5am to make it to Dar es Salaam in order to catch the afternoon ferry to Zanzibar.

Travel9

The landscape subtly changed from small cottages to larger three story buildings, and that’s when the city of Dar es Salaam came into view. Note the German architectural influence of these buildings.

Travel10

This city landscape is just SO different from the rest of Tanzania we’ve seen.

Travel11Travel12

Before we knew it we were leaving Tommy and loading our bags into the ferry station.

Travel13

While we waited for the ferry to board (in a packed room) they had the tv series Bones on translated into Swahili. I love seeing what people watch in other countries and this was one of the first televisions we’d seen since we’d been in Tanzania.

Travel14

After a complicated boarding process (at which some of us got separated from the rest of the group), I finally found the gang and took my seat on the top deck of the ferry.

Travel15Travel16

The boat ride to Zanzibar was so beautiful and I swear I saw dolphins jumping around us.

Travel17Travel18

Off we went, with the city of Dar es Salaam in the background and Zanzibar to look forward to.

Travel19Travel20Travel21

Above, we approached the island.

Travel22

We got in just as the sun was starting to set. Incredible.

Travel23

Our ferry docked, and we made our way into the station. They check passports and yellow fever vaccination forms here, so have these documents handy.

Travel24

Once we were all checked in, we exited to a waiting van where Nomad arranged a local company to take us to our hotel and lead us around the island for the next few days.

Next up, I’ll share our hotel in Stone Town Zanzibar, our walking tour around Stone Town and even share a scary story!

Africa XVII: Nomad Tours Day 4, Maasai Warriors

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti
Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive
Africa XV: Nomad Tours Day 3, Game Drives
Africa XVI: Nomad Tours Day 4, Game Drives!

____________________________________________________________________

Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we just finished 2 days out on the Serengeti. Next up, we made our way from the Serengeti to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, stopping off mid-route at a Maasai tribe nearby.

Maasai1

It cost $10 per person to visit the tribe, but that meant we could take unlimited photos of the people and they would perform a traditional dance for us. It felt a little funny to me, but it was the only way to see these huts close up and share images of the people.

Maasai2

They began by separating the men and women into two groups and going a traditional  song/dance.

Maasai3

Check out the video I took of the dance here:

Maasai4Maasai5

You can see the men in our group joined in the fun!

Maasai6Maasai7Maasai8

I just love their colorful outfits. The bright colors make them stand out from a distance, so from afar you can spot a Maasai Warrior. I ended up buying one of these outfits (it’s a blanket really) at a shop later in the trip.

Maasai9

Once this portion finished, they brought us within their compound where they did another form of traditional dance that involved a lot of jumping.

Maasai10

Here’s a video i took of this dance:

Maasai11

These guys get some serious air!

Maasai12Maasai13

The women do a slightly different jumping dance.

Maasai14Maasai15Maasai16

This little girl is such a cutie.

Maasai17

Once the dancing ended, we divided into small groups and got to enter different warrior’s homes. I was put with the son of the leader of the tribe. You can see based on the photo above, these homes are only 3-4 feet high. Even crouching low I hit my head on the roof.

Maasai19

We chatted in the home about their lifestyle and how they make these huts.

Maasai20

This is a closeup of the ceiling of the hut. You can see that it’s made of found objects like sticks, cardboard and even plastic trash. There’s also no electricity, so it’s very dark in there without any windows.

Maasai21

Once done with the home tour we walked around their middle courtyard with jewelry they had for sale. These items were very expensive and this tribe was pretty pushy about trying to sell them. This is there only for of income, so I get it, but it was also a bit uncomfortable.

Maasai22Maasai18

Next we went to go see the school room within the tribe.

Maasai23Maasai24

The kids all sing the alphabet in English and Swahili.

Maasai25

This child lead the group.

Maasai26

This kids were so adorable. The one in the photo above is clapping. You can see one child has a Texas University sweatshirt on. When we donate to Goodwill and Salvation Army, the left over clothes make it to Africa where they are given out. This means a lot of Africans are wearing University shirts or shirts with cartoons and other slogans that were popular in the 90’s.

Maasai27

Such cuties.

Maasai28

Above beyond the child is a fence to protect against animals and it’s bad of sharp brush.

Maasai29

As I was leaving the tribe area, this cutie waved goodbye to me.

Maasai30Maasai31

Outside the compound we gathered around a couple of the men playing checkers with plastic drink tops. This was common around Tanzania, and what a great way to recycle! Many of the Maasai tribes also wear sandals made of old tire tread.

Maasai32

Up next… the Ngorongoro Crater for another day of game drives!

Africa XVI: Nomad Tours Day 4, Game Drives!

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti
Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive
Africa XV: Nomad Tours Day 3, Game Drives

____________________________________________________________________

Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we had our first full day of game drives on the Serengeti! We now have the first half of the day to continue game drives on the Serengeti.

Serengeti51

This is how some people get to the Serengeti, by plane! Just don’t hit the lions!

Serengeti52

Here’s part of our group ahead scouting out animals.

Serengeti53

Lonely elephant must have gotten separated from his family.

Serengeti54

Not long after passing the elephant we spotted this lion hiding in the grass watching some gazelles.

Serengeti55

They decided not to stick around to hang out with the lion.

Serengeti56Serengeti57

Here’s a close up of the Secretary Bird above. They are so exotic looking, and quite big. Below you can see he’s the heigh of that gazelle.

Serengeti58Serengeti59

Further down the road we passed a giant group of elephants amongst the brush. They were all different sizes and so adorable. There were probably 10 in total.

Serengeti60Serengeti61

We continued on and bumped into a bunch of lions who were actually awake and moving around! Up until now most that we saw were sleeping or laying in the gas but these were up and walking around… at least for a little while.

Serengeti62Serengeti63Serengeti64Serengeti65Serengeti66

Look at these cute cats snuggling, sniffling and yawning. The animals can all smell each other depending on how the wind blows, so I imagine the guy above picked up an animal scent.

Serengeti67Serengeti68

As we started to leave the lions we noticed a brave little hyena walking in their direction. That explains what the lions were sniffing. The hyena ended up avoiding where the lions were sleeping, but he certainly got their attention…

Serengeti69

You can see above, all those sleeping lions all perked up to watch the hyena.

Serengeti70

Not long after seeing that we ran into another group of lions. Basically if you see a tree, there’s probably lions sleeping in its shade.

Serengeti71

Further down the road a lion was sitting up on a rock.

Serengeti72

It’s almost like the lion was posing for us.

Serengeti73

Our guide got us SOOOO CLOSE to the lion. You could almost reach out and touch it (but you never would want to). Im not going to lie, I was dying to pet a lion in the wild.

Serengeti74

 

Serengeti75

I love that these lions were up and moving. It probably means they were hungry, as they sleep 90% of the day and eat the other 10% of the day.

Serengeti76

This lion walked right up against our truck! At times it was hiding in the grass and ducking low, and thats when we realized it was stalking a group of gazelles on the other side of the road. Yup, that’s right… we got to see a lion stalk it’s prey!! This is extremely rare to see as it can take a lot of patience.

Serengeti77Serengeti78

We were willing to wait and see what was going to happen. Such excitement! Our hearts were racing!

Serengeti79

Look how close that lion was to our truck. Our windows were down and as he walked by he was so pressed against the truck, it’s like his fur stuck through the windows. It was crazy! We took photos in silence.

Serengeti80

The lion was getting closer and closer to the group of gazelles.

Serengeti81

This is the view across the street. The gazelle’s knew something was up. Originally they had been drinking and playing at the water beyond the tall grass, and now that the lion was crossing the road, they backed up away from the water and seemed to set themselves up like an army. I couldn’t believe we were getting to see this first hand in the wild.

Serengeti82

The lion inched closer and closer trying to pick out the weakest gazelle from the group. This is the lions strategy, as gazelles run really fast and can outrun a lion. The best bet the lion has is to watch to see who might be a slow runner and then make it’s attack! And lucky for you I recorded the whole thing! Check out these videos and see if he makes the kill!

Serengeti83

Im blanking on these birds name above, but I thought it was still worth sharing. They have blue necks and are so interesting.

Serengeti84

We watched the elephants roam and then made our way to a quiet area of the park where we parked an enjoyed our boxed lunches.

Serengeti97Serengeti98

It was fun parking and getting to walk around a bit on the Serengeti. There weren’t any animals around, which is the only reason we were able to do this, but it felt so freeing.

Serengeti99

Just us, out on the Serengeti. This place is amazing.

After lunch we made our way out of the Serengeti and met up with a Maasai tribe. More on that in my next post!

Africa XV: Nomad Tours Day 3, Game Drives!

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti
Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive

____________________________________________________________________

Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we had our first game drive on the Serengeti! We had finished the night by hanging out with 10 lions, so could today match that awesomeness?

Serengeti24

We took off in the morning to go looking for animals. That’s one of our trucks above. The best game drive times are early in the morning and near sunset. In the high heat of midday, they tend to sleep so there’s just not much to see. We will take a lunch break around 11:30 and then nap and go back out around 3pm.

Serengeti25

Look at these cuties above.

Serengeti26

Looking for hippos and seeing Marabou storks.

Serengeti27

Here’s another very large bird, the Secretary Bird. This one is about the height of a deer.

Serengeti28

After bird watching we stumbled upon a cheetah! How cool!

Serengeti29

We drove a little further down the road and saw ANOTHER cheetah and this one had a little cub (so adorable) above.

Serengeti30

They were walking around and showing off their muscular bodies. These cats have such  long bodies and run really fast.

Serengeti31

We weren’t the only ones watching the cheetahs. It’s funny how you can spot lions, leopard and cheetahs just be looking for where all the trucks are.

Serengeti32

Turn cheetah, please turn! Look at those spots. I can’t stress how fun it is searching for these animals, finding them and then just watching them exist.

Serengeti33Serengeti34

Later in the day we were driving and I spotted far off in the distance, 3 elephants headed our way. We pulled over and let them come to us.

Serengeti35Serengeti36

Look at that adorable baby elephant! So cute!

Serengeti37

We went back to where we saw 1 hippo the night before… do you see any above? Do you see like 100? They are all huddled together, probably for warmth. Check out this video I took of hippos. They are hard to spot since they look like stones in the water, but you can hear them as they make loud noises. Check it out:

Serengeti38

We saw lots of hyenas running around. They are the size of a large dog, but their sharp teeth make them look intimidating plus they have the spots of a cheetah. It’s like a dog and a cheetah mated to make a hyena.

Serengeti39

We stopped by a visitors center mid morning (clean bathrooms!) and took a look at their animal exhibits.

Serengeti40

They did a really nice job making this facility.

Serengeti41Serenget42

There were a ton of these little guys running around outside the museum. I imagine their predators don’t come near the building since there are so many people walking around, so these guys have the run of the land.

Serengeti42

Not long after leaving the visitors center, we turned down a road and spotted a leopard hanging from the tree! I had no clue that when you look for leopards you’re supposed to look up! This sleepy leopard was hanging from the tree and the closer we looked we noticed….

Serengeti43

On the upper left branches is an animal that the leopard just killed and snacked on. When leopards kill they drag the carcass up to the highest part of the tree to save them for later and keep other animals from eating them. Selfish leopards.

Serengeti44

We looped back to the hippos as it was approaching lunch time and they came out of the water to lay in the heat of the sun.

Serengeti86

Later in the day we came back out and stumbled upon a spot with nonstop elephants coming through.

Serengeti87

One elephant in particular caught our attention. We watched him separate from the group and drink water from the pools in front of our truck.

Serengeti88

While we watched this guy drink, several groups of elephants walked through behind him.

Serengeti89

After drinking water he crossed over and walked right over to us. We were dead silent.

Serengeti90Serengeti91Serengeti92

As he looped to the back of the truck, and we thought he was leaving us, he turned around and looked right at us…

Serengeti93

And snorted! You can see the dust around his head from the snorting. I’m sure in elephant speak he was sizing us up and seeing if we were a friend or predator. We must have passed the test in our complete silence, as he turned back around and continued on his way.

Serengeti94

We drove around and managed to catch up with him again while he snacked.

Serengeti95

We decided to give him a break, as we were around him for a while, and we continued on our way.

Serengeti96

We passed a ton of buffalo, which is one of the Big 5!

Serengeti45Serengeti85

The buffalo were fun to watch since the travel in big herds and often had young little ones with them. They also often had birds on their backs.

Serengeti46

We continued on and saw more sleepy lions hiding in the tall grass. The one on the left rolled onto his back. So cute.

Serengeti47

We started to head back in for the night and passed these two ostriches. The male is the colorful bird on the left and the gray/brown ostrich on the right is a female. I like to think these two are a couple.

Serengeti48

Time for another beautiful Africa Serengeti sunset. Just incredible.

We headed back in for the night at this point. The next morning we spent the first chunk of the day game driving in the Serengeti before we visited a local Maasai tribe and made our way back to the Ngorongoro Crater.

Next up: more game driving on the Serengeti!

Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti

____________________________________________________________________

Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we entered the gate to the Serengeti to begin our game drives. There’s a second check-in center once you get into the Serengeti, so we stopped there (clean restrooms!) and then made our way to the center to look for animals.

Serengeti1

The rules are that the trucks have to stay on the road, and we can’t get out of the vehicles around the animals (you wouldn’t want to). You also aren’t allowed to feed the animals or make sounds to attract them. When animals are around it’s best to stay silent to not scare them away. While we game drive our trucks padded roof lifts about 2 feet up, so we can comfortably stand in the truck and see out to take photos.

Serengeti2

I thought the above animal was a Thomson’s Gazelle, but it’s missing the black stripe so it might be a different gazelle? The gazelle’s scare easy, so just the slightest truck sound and they go running.

Here’s what I learned about the animal life out here- every animal has ways to protect themselves and ways that they are a target (pros+cons). For example, the gazelle is the size of a deer, smaller and thinner than a lot of other animals, so it’s an easy snack for a lion, but their thin legs make them fast runners. While the lions are big and scary, they can’t run very fast, so assuming the gazelle is healthy it should be able to outrun a lion. It really is survival of the fittest!

Serengeti3

I come from a family of birders, so I had to include the giant ostrich images (they are huge!). And their legs are SO pink! Below is the Superb Starling Bird, which is a very colorful bird.

Serengeti4Serengeti5

I just love the landscape here. The uninterrupted land goes on for miles.

Serengeti6

The above colorful lizard is an Agama Lizard. I wonder if the less colorful lizard is also a Agama lizard… maybe the female Agama?

Serengeti7

So pretty! When on a game drive your eyes are constantly scanning the land looking for animals. Lions sleep 90% of the day, so it’s best to look for them laying down in the grass. The cheetah’s also like the tall grass. Leopards climb trees, so it’s best to look up at tall trees for them.

Serengeti8

Above is a beautiful giraffe. You can identify the different types of giraffe by the pattern of their skin. This is a Masai giraffe.

Serengeti9

Serengeti10Serengeti11

Above is a hippopotamus. They easily hide in the water as their backs look like wet stones.

Serengeti12

A vulture keeps post at the top of a tree. One way to look for animals is to follow the vultures. They scout out for animal attacks, which means they are usually around when lions are feeding.

Serengeti13

The sunsets on the Serengeti are so beautiful. The bright colors and the silhouette’s of these umbrella trees have me in awe.

Serengeti14

Our first LION! Night one of game drives and we turn a corner to see a lion feeding on a newly deceased warthog. As a vegetarian, I had to really prepare myself for this sight. But once you see how much life is sustained off of one deceased animal, you see that it is the circle of life and it needs to happen to keep the world moving. For example, when the lion is done with the warthog, hyena’s will come in to snack, next the large birds pick at it, and then the smaller animals come in until that warthog is just bones licked clean. Nothing is wasted, and this warthog ends up helping so many other animals survive.

Serengeti15

I shoot my photos on a Canon G12 (nothing too fancy), and I attempted some video footage with it while in Africa. It’s not amazing quality since it’s not really meant for videos but I just have to share:

Serengeti16

(Above) Nomad Tour goers, scouting out the lion. The photo gives you a sense of how the truck and game driving works. The guides (who are driving) try to get you the best view of the animals. Our driver was AWESOME! He was so good at navigating that he would get us so close to the action. I was so impressed. Once the guide gets you in a good position you take photos and hang out until there’s some action or you decide to move on. Our guide had strong binoculars that we would pass around.

Serengeti17

I just love the colors at sunset! Note one of our 3 Nomad Tour trucks to the left.

Serengeti18

Just when I thought we were going to head to our campsite for the night, we turn a corner and see a pack of LIONS!! Can you see them above? Now do you see how difficult it is to find animals hiding just feet away from you in the tall grass. There are about 10 of them here in the grass.

Serengeti19Serengeti20Serengeti21

Our driver was able to get us SO close. Night one of game driving and I could literally stick my hand out and pet them if I wanted to (but obviously that’s not allowed and not a good idea). It’s so tempting though… they seem just like large kittens!

Serengeti22

They were sleeping and yawning and stretching, just like a pet cat. Like a really large pet cat 🙂

Serengeti23

After spending lots of time with these cute lions, we had to make our way to the campsite for dinner and bed.

Serengeti50

I should note that the whole group slept in one and 2 person tents at a designated campsite (above). This campsite doesn’t have a fence, or a guard or anything. It’s literally open to the animals. Later in the trip Norman told me a story from three weeks earlier when he was in this same campsite with a different Nomad Tour group and a large group of lions cut through the campsite. They say if you need to use the bathroom (they have group camping style toilets and a couple cold water showers- bring your own toilet paper), you flash a light outside your tent to scare off any animals. That night there were baboons hanging near the tents. Be sure to keep your tent zipped as the baboons would love to get in and take your cell phone.

Serengeti49

Dinner is prepared for us and we eat in the structure above. Bring your headlamp, as it only has a few little lights. The food is delicious as it has been all along. They always do a soup and bread, then meat (or a veggie stew dish for me) and pasta or rice and veggies. Usually there’s a fruit plate for dessert. If you want to drink alcohol you’ll need to pick it up before you arrive in the Serengeti, as there aren’t any stores here. When we were near the Snake Park in Arusha, we stopped at a place where people could buy juice, wine and beer. They provide hot water for tea and hot cocoa. The food is quite filling, and then we make our way back to our tents for the night.

Up next: More game drives!! So many more animals!

Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park

____________________________________________________________________

Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we were leaving the Snake Park in Arusha, Tanzania and heading on out to the Serengeti to begin our game drives. We said goodbye to our truck Tommy, and switched our group into 3 game driving vehicles provided by a different local Serengeti Tour Company, for which Nomad Tours has teamed up with. Since this was an optional excursion (included in my 10 tour package, but not in the 30 day trek package), one couple decided to stay behind with one of our guides, Norman. The rest of the group continued with our other Nomad guide Survious, and three new drivers/tour guides.

Day1Map

My vehicle for the rest of the 3 day Serengeti tour included my sister Erica, Robin (a 19 year old man from the Netherlands), and an aunt Marjan and her college-aged nieces Myrna and Jorien (also from the Netherlands). You’ll be seeing them in my photos, I’m sure. I really enjoyed our group and it was fun spending time with them on the Serengeti.

NTGettingThere1NTGettingThere2

We had a bit of a drive to get out of Arusha and all the way to the Serengeti. The above photos are to give you a sense of the landscape along the drive.

NTGettingThere3

In the above photo you can see that sometimes cows have to cross the highway. Also note that our driver had one of the beautiful Maasai Mara blankets (they wear them as clothing) across his dashboard. I just love the colors and patterns of these fabrics. I ended up buying one as a parting gift. I can use it as a throw blanket, and I’ll think of this trip every time I snuggle with it on the couch. I haggled with a sales man for it and spent $10 (I think?), which was what I told myself it was worth to me before even speaking with the sales man. I probably over paid, but he was asking $20 for it, so at least I got him down.

NTGettingThere4

Here you can see the Maasai boy in his red outfit trying to heard all these cows.

NTGettingThere5

We started seeing these giant mounds of dirt along the drive, and our drivers pulled around to take a closer look at one. The photo above shows one of our gaming vehicles, and look at it compared to the size of the dirt mound- the mound is huge! Turns out it’s a termite mound. Later in the trip we saw a family of badgers digging for termites in one of these mounds (they eat termites).

NTGettingThere6

As we are getting closer and closer we started seeing baboons! Our first glimpse of wildlife in Tanzania!

NTGettingThere7

We stopped off to take some photos of a large Baobab tree. It looks like a giant upside down tree, and there’s a whole legend story of the gods to go along with why it’s like that.

NTGettingThere8

You can imagine there aren’t a ton of public restrooms along the road, so they were good about planning stop off’s at place which had restrooms for us to use. Above and below are photos of the African Galleria where we could also stop for lunch.

NTGettingThere9

They have an outdoor seating area where lunches were distributed to us. Our meals are included in the tour, so everyone got an identical food lunch box. Mine was a tad different as it’s meant for a vegetarians.

NTGettingThere10

Here’s part of our group enjoying the boxed lunch under a beautiful thatched roof.

NTGettingThere11

Here’s my lunch as an example. I was given fries, different breads with a coleslaw, banana, juice box, some nuts, and usually a desert or mars bar. The others had fried chicken or some type of meat with their meal.

NTGettingThere12NTGettingThere13

After lunch, we were back on the road. These photos are to show more of the area and types of shops and open landscapes.

NTGettingThere14NTGettingThere15

We took a bathroom break at the entrance to the Ngorongoro Crater. Our guides figured out the permits to enter while we used clean restrooms, bought snacks, and took a walk through their little museum. We will cut around the Crater to get to the Serengeti, spend 2 days at the Serengeti and then come back and spend a day exploring the Ngorongoro Crater. This makes up our 3 day safari.

NTGettingThere16

Above is our Nomad guide Servious leaning on one of our safari trucks.

NTGettingThere17-5

Since we were driving around the upper rim of the Crater, we stopped off to take some photos. We would be back to explore this area in a few days.

NTGettingThere17

This above photo was taken in the museum at the Nogorongoro Crater, and it’s just to point out the “Big 5” of game drives. The Big 5 is made up of the black rhino, the lion, the African elephant, the African buffalo (or Cape buffalo), and the leopard. **spoiler alert- we saw them all!

NTGettingThere18

Here’s Erica snapping photos of the Crater.

NTGettingThere19

Bernhard Grzimek and his son Michael Grzimek are buried here (above). They made documentaries about the Serengeti to bring attention to the conservation problems as well as books. Bernhard created an animal life encyclopedia too.

NTGettingThere20

As we started our loop of the Nogorogoro rim, we started to see animals I’d never seen in the wild before and it really hit me how incredible lucky we all were to get to be here seeing this. Most people go their whole lives only seeing animals in print or in cages, and here we get to see them roam free happily. It’s a special feeling.

NTGettingThere21

As we drove a family of giraffe’s crossed the road in front of us and continued on. These animals are just so majestic.

NTGettingThere22

Once beyond the crater, we still had a distance to go to get to the Serengeti and the landscape went from hilly to flat.

NTGettingThere23

Very flat, but still beautiful. We kept our eyes pealed for thompson gazelles and ostriches which we passed along the road.

NTGettingThere24

Above is one of the trucks from our group making its way to the Serengeti.

NTGettingThere25

And I’ll leave it here, as we passed through the border onto the Serengeti. It’s real now, we are here. A feeling just came over me as you could see land stretch for miles with just animals and more land, this feeling of being this small dot in the middle of a huge continent. This is a special place.

Next up, we go deep into the Serengeti where we begin our game drives. I have SO many animal photos to sort through and share.