Africa XVIII: Nomad Tours Day 5, The Ngorongoro Crater

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

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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 visited a Maasai Warrior tribe. We got back into our trucks and made the drive back to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater where we are spending the night at the Simba Camp overlooking the crater.

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We got back into our trucks and headed to the crater!

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Here’s an overlook by the entrance down into the crater. We were just in the Serengeti, which is such a vast land for animals to explore, where as the crater is a much smaller area for the animals to live in. These areas aren’t fenced, but the steepness of the crater makes it hard for animals to migrate out. This means that it’s a much more concentrated area for animals. We would find out the next day just how many animals there are to see!

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Above is the Dutch Aunt and nieces from our Nomad Tour group. They were a lot of fun. I’m glad we stopped to take these photos, as the next morning the view point was fogged over, and the views were incredible.

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The landscape here is just beautiful.

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But you have to keep your eyes on the road, as you never know when a bunch of giraffes might go running across it!

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Just another 20 minutes down the road and we reached our Simba Campsite. The tents were all setup for us when we arrived (they were the same type of tent from the Serengeti). Being right on the rim meant the views were incredible.

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This campsite had restrooms and showers in that blue/green building above. Funny story- later in the night Erica went to use the restroom and had to wait for a pack of zebra to go by before she could reach the bathrooms. There’s no fences here so you never know what you’ll find outside your tent! Adventure!

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Once our Nomad Tour group got settled in for the night (it was chilly when the sun went down, so many layers were added) we headed to the dining hall (this also looked just like our dining space on the Serengeti). Below you can see they made us stew with spaghetti with veggies, yum!

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The next morning was foggy right around the rim of the crater, but once we made our way down into the crater it was pretty clear. The upper layer of fog kept it chilly for our morning game drive, but we all dressed in layers.

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On the Serengeti the two animals we hadn’t seen yet were the wildebeests and black rhinos. And our day in the crater started with tons of wildebeests! Notice the grey crowned cranes in the background.

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Oh and of course the occasional ostrich just running around. Oh Africa 🙂

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Wildebeest crossing ahead! There’s one of our other Nomad Tour trucks ahead.

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Wildebeests!

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Now once we got down into the crater our guide was clearly rushing to bring us somewhere, but he wouldn’t tell us why. Since the guides speak swahili to each other on the radio we couldn’t tell what they were saying, but something exciting was happening. Sure enough there were 2 very rare black rhinos that we were trying to get to before they hid in the grass. It’s rare to see the black rhino walking around and once it sits down in tall grass they are nearly impossible to see. We got there just in time! See the two above!

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The landscape here is incredible.

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We turned another corner and saw this mama lion…

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With her two baby cubs! So adorable!

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We looped around to get closer and more trucks joined us to see these cuties playing.

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The cubs were so playful.

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I want one!

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They’re just big adorable cats, right? I could watch them all day.

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We continued on as there was so much to see in the crater. No more than 5 minutes down the road and we ran into these large male lions sharing a meal. You’ll notice the zebras and wildebeests keeping a wide distance behind them. Also notice the other animals waiting to get their chance at the lions leftovers. There were even birds circling overhead for their chance to get a snack.

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This was our first time seeing adult male lions with the full mane. Just incredible.

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After seeing all the lions and the incredible landscape, I really felt like I was in the Lion King.

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We ran into a group of zebras walking right by the road.

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These zebras loved rolling in this spot. One after the next, they kept coming up and rolling in that same spot, what a sight!

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Why did the wildebeest cross the road? To join his buddies!

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Here’s one of our Nomad Tour trucks (above).

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Midmorning our guides timed a restroom stop (with toilets) at a spot near a bunch of hippos.

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Above is the kori bustard, another giant bird that was common in the Serengeti and in the crater.

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The white stretch in the distance is not snow, but salt! Way far out we could see flamingos and other birds enjoying it.

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Our other Nomad truck off in the distance.

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Cranes and wildebeests sharing the same watering hole.

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On our way out of the crater, we ran into another black rhino! Since there are only about 15 rhinos in the crater, to get to see 3 of them is pretty special.

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Bye, bye crater. Our time here has come to an end and it’s time to head back to Arusha.

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Just as we exited the Crater gates, we passed about 50 baboons in and around the road. They were being so playful and even one couple got into a fight.

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Cuties.

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Family love. At this point we heard the baboons climbing onto the truck and even saw their hands trying to climb into the windows. At this point we decided to take off and get back to our campsite in Arusha.

Next up, we make our cross country overland drive to Dar es Salaam, where we take a ferry to Zanzibar for the island resort portion of the trip.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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Check out the video I took of the dance here:

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

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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.

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

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Here’s a video i took of this dance:

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These guys get some serious air!

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The women do a slightly different jumping dance.

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This little girl is such a cutie.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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The kids all sing the alphabet in English and Swahili.

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This child lead the group.

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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.

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Such cuties.

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

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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

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Lonely elephant must have gotten separated from his family.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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?

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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.

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Look at these cuties above.

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Looking for hippos and seeing Marabou storks.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Look at that adorable baby elephant! So cute!

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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:

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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.

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

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They did a really nice job making this facility.

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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.

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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….

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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:

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(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.

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

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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.

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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!

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

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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).

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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Here’s Erica snapping photos of the Crater.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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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.

Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park

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

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Last I left off, Erica and I finished climbing Kilimanjaro with Zara Tours and we were back at the Springlands Hotel. We had an additional rest day here, which was a godsend. I ended up getting pretty ill that night and I needed that extra day to rest and feel better for the second part of my African visit: meeting up with Nomad Tours for our 10 safari!!

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Meeting up with Nomad Tours:
That next morning we took a special ” shuttle van” toward Arusha. Really it was a taxi cab that we ended up sharing with another hotel guest, to another taxi cab in the center of Moshi who then took Erica and I to Arusha where the fellow hotel guest was taking another taxi to Niarobi. It was interesting to see this is the way to get between Moshi and Kenya if you didn’t fly into the local airport. The cab driver dropped us directly at the Ndoro Lodge where we were meeting up with Nomad Tours and I think it cost like $15 USD each? Worth it.

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The tour that I signed up for with Nomad is the Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South. The group technically met in Nairobi where they spent the day driving to Arusha, Tanzania. Since Moshi (where we were) is the town next to Arusha, it made more sense to meet the group at the first hotel in Arusha, rather than travel back to Kenya only to spend the day driving back to Tanzania. This was easy enough to coordinate with Nomad Tours and another couple in the group also met up with the group in this way.

I should also note that Nomad offers different levels of accommodation. Since Erica and I are doing this on a budget we signed up for the “camping” package. It also makes it more of an adventure! This means that we camped in tents (provided by Nomad Tours) and we had to bring along a sleeping bag and pillow. We alway had access to showers and bathrooms as well. The other option is “accommodation” which means a more typical hotel room, but it is a more expensive package.

Another great thing about this tour with Nomad is that this 10 day tour is just one portion of a longer trek. I was doing 10 days of the trek, but Erica was continuing on with the tour for a total of 30 days. This means that if I want I can save up for another trip I can literally pickup with the tour right where I left off and still get to see the same things Erica is seeing now. This also means there is turnover within the tour group as people finish their time and leave, and new people come in for another portion of the trek.

For my 10 day portion of the tour, we were a group of 18 with 2 guides. All of the other guests were from Europe and everyone was over 18. Erica and I were the only Americans. There was a German couple on their honeymoon (in their early 30’s), a father and son from Croatia (in their 40’s and 60’s?), an aunt with her college-aged nieces from Amsterdam, just to give you a sense of the wide age range of all the guests. This was not a party tour of 21 year olds (thank god!).

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Above is Tommy! Each of the Nomad trucks is named after a deceased musician, and we got Tommy. You can see the truck is huge and has tons of compartments for all the gear. Within the truck are lockers and every guest gets 1 (so bring a lock!), comfy seats, and the seating is elevated so you san see above other vehicles which makes the drive more enjoyable. You can also probably guess that this large vehicle stands out on the road, so everywhere we went kids would wave to us. It was adorable.

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Above and the next few photos are all the Ndoro Lodge just outside of Arusha where we spent night 1 and night 5 of the tour. Above is the restaurant portion, and below are the hotel rooms for the guests with the accommodation level travel package.

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The campers (aka me) slept through this gate in a beautiful open courtyard. The tents aren’t out in the courtyard photo above, but I’ll have photos later of our tents. You can see to the left is a clothing line which is great for cleaning and drying clothes, which was very handy when we stayed here night 5 after visiting the Serengeti.

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Once I was finally feeling better I could finally enjoy a post-Kilimanjaro beer! What better beer to order than a Kilimanjaro beer! The restaurant/bar at the Ndoro Lodge had all sorts of drinks, and our meals were prepared by our Nomad Tour guides (Norman and Servius) and included in the price of the tour.

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The next morning we drove to the Meserani Snake Park and Maasai Cultural Museum as we made our way out to the Serengeti to start our safari! These photos are from our Tommy truck, which is why they are blurry, but I wanted to give you a sense of the landscape around Arusha. ***One thing to note- be careful when taking pictures from the van, as police have road blocks all over Tanzania and even if you accidentally take a photo of a police officer you will be fined a lot of money.

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***WARNING- the following photos are very scary and have already given me nightmares***

The Snake Park is very scary for this girl. The only thing scarier than heights are snakes! Part of me considered not going in, but I think my imagination would have made it worse. It’s like I needed to go in just to see that these snakes were locked up, and thankfully most of them were.

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Oh dear lord, just so many nightmares about this place. I think I was the only person in the group who was afraid of snakes. There was a portion of the tour where they let you hold little snakes, which of course I didn’t participate in, but everyone in the group seemed to really enjoy it. I personally would rather take a nap in the crocodile pit than hold a snake.

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The nice thing about the snake park is that there were other orphaned animals too. We got to see several large turtles (above).

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Look at this cutie above. She had been rejected by her tribe (they had a sign explaining it) so being here is better for her health. I heard other people saying that she could slap high-fives! So adorable.

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Here are a few of the larger crocodiles.

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Do you see that little crocodile hiding in the water?

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After the Snake Park, we walked over to the Maasai Cultural Museum. The tour was lead by a Maasai Warrior (not pictured), and was filled with these life-sized dioramas.

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This is the portion of the museum all about circumcision. It was disturbing.

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There’s a portion of the museum dedicated to the clothing and how each outfit represents something different within the tribe. For example boys wear different colors and patterns after they are circumcised at 15 years old.

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The museum exits into a women’s market. Each of these huts (and there are many more un-pictured) is a stall with different jewelry and craft items for sale. I avoided taking pictures of the women selling them, as I was trying to be sensitive to the culture.

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Up next, we make our trek through the Ngorongoro Crater on to the Serengeti where by sunset we have our first game drive! Spoiler- we see lions!