The mighty Kilimanjaro provides an impressive backdrop to the hustle and bustle of everyday life in Arusha. Massive Jacaranda trees line the streets, the stunning purple flowers drop their petals onto the rickety wooden stalls below. People tout for business, selling safaris and treks to climb Africa’s highest mountain. We stay one night in Arusha, heading out early the next day.
We will be collected from our hotel by our drivers. Unlike the majority of safaris we do not follow the main road towards the Serengeti. Instead we take an unusual route and make our way through incredible scenery to Ndutu Safari lodge. There will be regular rest stops and photo opportunities. Near to the Olduvai gorge we will find the magical shifting sands. This crescent shaped dune of sand has magnetic properties. Beautifully symmetrical it can move up to 10 metres a year. The grains are bizarre to the touch and if thrown the particles fall heavily back to earth. It is a sacred place for the Masai.
Situated in the Ngorogoro conservation area, Ndutu lodge is a wildlife lover’s delight. The bird life next to the lodge is fantastic. Many are so tame that they will come and ask you for a share of your snacks as you sip your drinks round the camp fire. Love birds nest in the rotting trunks of trees and habituated genets live in the main building. Accommodation is in comfortable, clean, individual stone buildings.
Just a short drive from the lodge and you will be launched into the world of a million wildebeest, their calves and the animals that predate them. Its cat-tastic! But that’s not all; there are bat-eared foxes – a particular favourite of mine, hyenas, zebra and buffalo by the ton, giraffes, jackals and even honey badgers. The bird life is phenomenal too; secretary birds, bustards, vultures, ostrich and loads and loads of mesmerising, brightly coloured little guys…. So, every day, twice a day we drive through this beautiful African scenery. The iconic acacia trees with their flat tops, the swamp areas characterised by their tall, swaying, golden grasses; lakes and rivers and of course, the endless grass plains that are so synonymous with the Serengeti. We watch sunrises and sunsets. The huge red African sun silhouetting shapes as she dips below the horizon. Wildebeest, the endless wanderers. They march the vastness in long lines, calling constantly. Sometimes they piaf (it’s a dressage term) to show that they are not for dinner today. When they run the dust cloud follows them over open plains. Not the brightest, they are often seen heading in the wrong direction, away from the herd and towards their doom. In the chaos the young often get lost, desperately trying to find their mothers, they will hook up with anyone that will have them. That includes safari vehicles and, on occasion, a lion…
There is nothing like hearing the roar of a lion. His message; I am king, travels for miles through the early morning mist. His shakes his head and with it his magnificent mane, the power in his body, rippling with muscle. He is right, he is king. Cubs…. Playing with the black end of his twitching tail. His patience as a father remarkable.
With luck we will have encounters with the graceful cheetah: proud and elegant, lean and agile. Tear dropped eyes.
From Ndutu, we drive to the famous Ngorogoro crater area. We stay at Rhino Lodge ensuring close proximity to the park entrance for our early morning game drive. The stunning backdrop of the crater walls makes for an incredible experience… In the afternoon we make our way to Tarangire… Baobabs and elephants.
The landscape is breath-taking. Rolling hills and rivers meandering through sandy soils. The roaming water sculpting the landscape as it finds its way through the unstable terrain. Forming artistic patterns as it creates a multitude of intricate trenches. The lodge is set on an escarpment. Luxury tents curve round the rim. The terrace is the best spot imaginable for a sundowner. Dotted with huge Baobab trees scored by the tusks of hundreds of elephants, it’s green even in dry season… We searched the endless baobabs and sausage trees for leopard. They have leopard written all over them! But no joy…. Well plenty of joy actually – it’s such a special National Park with so many elephants, so just no specifically leopard-related joy…
Big Mammal action
“I woke in the night to chopping, then the quiet rumble that gave the elephants away. They were munching their way through some tall, lush grass growing behind the tent. The flaps at the front were already tied back – you are supposed to shut them but I never do – I love to see the shadows when things pass by in the night. So there was just mesh between me & the outside. At the side of the tent curtains obscured my view so I pulled them back to see what was going on… A huge female elephant with her very young calf were a metre from where I sat. She lifted her trunk and smelt me. I whispered “hello jumbly!! Nice baby…” Then quietly, gently, they moved on together down the escarpment.. Her enormous padded feet placed with care as she passed silently by.
Then more noise, this time two naughty teenagers.. Boy elephants. They were so close I could hear them breathing. Their leathery ears flapping rhythmically.. They meandered between the tents, just a couple of metres away, play fighting; tusks clashed in the darkness. On the edge of the escarpment and right outside the tent a massive, ancient baobab tree turned their attention. Gouging tusks into its succulent trunk, they crashed about. Then they pulled up the lights, embedded in cement, along the path. One started kicking the metal supports of next door’s tent, tap tap tapping it. He then had a go at the thatch above, pulling it out and chucking it on the floor. By this time I was standing watching intently right by the mesh at the front of the tent. Moonlight illuminating the naughty boy’s activities… Suddenly, I was noticed. One of the adolescent male elephants stood face on, scraping the ground with his enormous paddy feet, swinging his leg back and forth. He pushed the table over with his trunk and then lifted it up smelling me. From the tip of that elongated snout to the tip of my nose must have been less than two foot with nothing between us save green safari mesh. He flapped his ears and raised his trunk and looked straight at me – at which point I took the wise safety precaution to move to the other side of the bed. Always wise to put a bed between you and any potentially dangerous wild animal! He checked me out for a few minutes more before crashing off down the escarpment to catch up with his partner in crime..
Too blown away by all of this to sleep, I lay awake listening. Lions roared in the distance… Then a torch light and a voice and the shadow of yet another little jumbly bumberling along down the path followed by a man with a torch telling it off… Apparently, there had been elephant activity up near the restaurant and swimming pool area too… Love those jumblies!!! Even if we didn’t have water the next day- they had smashed the pump on a raid of the water tower…. A small price to pay. Though I suspect the irate American felt differently.”
Day 1: Arrive Kilimanjaro International airport and transfer to our hotel in Arusha.
Day 2: Ndutu day. We will be collected from our hotel by our drivers. Unlike the majority of safaris we do not follow the main road towards the Serengeti. Instead we take an unusual route and make our way through incredible scenery to Ndutu Safari lodge. There will be regular rest stops and photo opportunities. Near to the Olduvai gorge we will find the magical shifting sands. This crescent shaped dune of sand has magnetic properties. Beautifully symmetrical it can move up to 10 metres a year. The grains are bizarre to the touch and if thrown the particles fall heavily back to earth. It is a sacred place for the Masai. We stay at Ndutu Safari lodge.
Day 3 & 4: Morning and afternoon game drives, led by our experienced guides. At this time of year Ndutu and the Serengeti play host to the mass birth of wildebeest. The sight of these animals (and a load of zebras to boot) as far as the eye can see, is one of nature’s incredible sights. It also makes for a cat-tastic experience. Ndutu Safari Lodge will be our home for a few days. It’s a great place to chill in the evening with lots of interesting and unusual visitors.
Day 5: We head to the Ngorongoro crater area. Overnight at Rhino lodge.
Day 6: Early morning game drive down into Ngorongoro crater. Head to Tarangire….
Day 7 & 8: Tarangire – Baobabs and elephants. It’s a truly beautiful park. Tarangire Safari lodge is a wonderful place to stay… The lodge is set on an escarpment. Luxury tents curve round the rim. The terrace is the best spot imaginable for a sundowner. Dotted with huge Baobab trees scored by the tusks of hundreds of elephants
Day 9: Early morning game drive then in the afternoon we make our way back to Arusha.
Cost – £3,995 pp
Accommodation based on two people sharing
All food & water
Park entry permits
Vehicles & fuel
Yoga, meditation, movement & mindfulness
What’s not included:
Alcohol and soft drinks at lodges
Tips for driver/guide