Northern Serengeti Tanzania
2 Nights 3 Days
The Serengeti safari and migration by all accounts is classified as an adventure of a lifetime.
While the Tarangire and Ngorongoro Crater were experiences not to be missed, the Serengeti is simply out of this world. One of the main reasons for scheduling this safari for September was the migration. Yes I know that you cannot predict precisely where the migration will be in any particular week but from research I figured we had a great chance between the Northern Serengeti and Maasai Mara in Kenya. We wanted to experience the northern Serengeti and then scoot over to Kenya in the Maasai Mara for even more migration action. And we were not disappointed to say the least. This was surely a trip of a lifetime.
We began in Arusha at the Coffee Lodge, moved onto Little Oliver’s Camp in the Tarangire followed by the Ngorongoro Crater and the Plantation Lodge. All of the accommodations up to this point met all of my expectations or a little beyond but I can’t say the same about the game viewing. In the Tarangire Park I caught a glimpse of 2 Cheetah and a little cub hiding inside a tree. In the Crater I saw about 8 lions either mating or eating fresh kill but they were also somewhat off in the distance as there is no off road driving in those parks (which I am sure the animals appreciate). Even though this was my experience it was still extraordinary because I saw just about EVERYTHING else with the most beautiful scenery you could imagine. Of course a safari is more than lions, Cheatas and Leopards but let’s be honest, predators are a huge reason for the trip. I made sure to take in each and every moment in the present because I had a suspicion that the Serengeti and Maasai Mara would provide everything we’d gone without thus far.
Must have seen a million wildebeest but never felt like I’d seen enough…didn’t expect that.
The idea of moving from Arusha to the Serengeti was perfect for us because things built up to a crescendo as each stop was that much more exciting. If I were presented with an issue and had to eliminate one location on this trip I think it would be the Crater – tough choice. It is difficult to say which location I enjoyed the most but all things considered I gotta put the Serengeti as #1 (by a nose) out of 4. The Crater is #4 and Tarangire is #3 so Maasai Mara comes in at #2.
Up until this point we had a dedicated safari guide and 4×4 for the two of us; our experience so far was very coddled. Leaving the Crater we took a short flight into the Northern Serengeti and upon landing at the Kogatende airstrip there was excitement. Everything seemed heightened, people from all over the world with different dialects either arriving or departing in safari gear with rows of green and tan 4×4’s with the names of all of camps on the doors, some with chairs and tables set up with drinks and nosh. Guides together in groups or pairs talking, some dressed in traditional Maasai clothing reviewing guest lists preparing for the arriving flights. We felt like this area of the trip would be different and that we had finally arrived!
Let me take this opportunity to detail gear that I really appreciated while on safari. You spent a lot of money for this safari so don’t get cheap now. Make sure to take the essentials, you want to be comfortable and prepared.
Remember at most camps laundry is included and you actually don’t need to pack as much as you may think. I would say more shirts than pants.
Visine – Very dusty
Face Mask – Dust
Safari Hat – Soft shell tan with draw string for riding thru the pop up on the 4×4
Sun Dress – Dinner
Quick Dry Authentic Safari Clothes – In Tarangire the Tse Tse flies didn’t bother me as much as others and that ‘maybe’ because of the insect proof treated clothing. On windy days the pants were helpful in that they were actually wind resistant. My legs stayed warm and the wind did not penetrate the pants.
Neck & Shoulder Scarf – Morning and eve drive get chilly
Water Resistant Windbreaker – Hooded
Water Resistant Hiking Shoes
Soft Wool Cap
Storage Space for Devices – Pictures/Video
We were met at the airstrip by a driver from the Asilia Sayari Camp. He gathered and loaded our luggage on the truck. Our small flight had about 8 on board and we were the only ones expected for Sayari. Other than a warm welcome, Asilia did not provide anything thing in the way of snacks, drinks etc. This was actually the norm it seemed but I was hoping for more. The driver asked if we preferred to meet up with our guide already out on safari or head directly to the camp. That was a no brainer for us. Within 15 minutes we found ourselves with our guide, Kivuyo. There was one other couple on the truck also from the US (this was their last game drive as they were flying out that afternoon). We made our introductions and Kivuyo went over a few things with us. One of the first things he mentioned was “When I say get in the Car, please get in the Car”…ummm, okay. I guess within another 15 minutes of chatting guess what Kivuyo said? Yep and this would not be the last time we heard this phrase. We all jumped in the truck so fast and Kiv took off even faster and headed to the river. He’d just heard over the radio that a wilderbeest crossing was about to start. This was our first migration crossing of the Mara in the Serengeti. What a RUSH.
I gotta be honest here, witnessing a migration crossing is something that I’ve dreamt of for many years so I felt like I was living a dream. This crossing was only 1 of 4 we witnessed while in the Serengeti.
The Serengeti is #1
The Serengeti was my favorite spot edging out the Maasai Mara because of the game, and the camp’s proximity to the river for crossings.
Again, here’s how I rank things. (Click to see my trip reports)
2. Maasai Mara
Game viewing was excellent except wild dog. We even spotted a black Rhino.
A safari is more like an adventure than a vacation in my opinion. While there will be time to chill out and relax by a pool, if your camp has one, or in your tent, for the most part you are on the go trying to spot the game. Up at the crack of dawn or before, riding in a 4×4 off road does not make for a smooth ride and also remember most trucks are completely open, no doors so you are exposed to the elements. After four or five hours of this twice a day, three gourmet meals, afternoon tea, sundowners and all the booze or wine you care to drink… you sleep like a baby (unless the lions begin to roar – seriously you hear them and they are very close at times). I LOVE IT!
The couple that we shared the truck with was very nice and also from the US. The wife went on only one game drive per day so half the time we had only 3 in the truck. It can be a challenge sometimes if you just so happen end up with a person or couple that you just can’t get along with for some reason. I’ve never had this issue but its possible. I imagine they would move someone to another guide. Things just work smoother when like people are paired together and somehow they usually figure this out pretty well.
Our guide Kivuyo worked well with us in that the night before he’d ask if we had any particular preference for the next day. He would also confirm how early everyone wanted to start out. Of course the earlier the better and everyone has to agree. We also discussed how long we wanted to stay out on the drive. For instance, you can take a box lunch or return to the camp for lunch. Its usually nice to have a lunch on the Serengeti so we did that once and on another occasion we returned to the camp.
The food here was my favorite. See my review of Sayari Camp here.
There are no phones in the tents so your wakeup call is someone arriving with a gentle “Good Morning” through the canvas and a tray of coffee or tea and morning nosh. You get dressed and get escorted over to the dinning tent (at dark you cannot walk alone you must have a guide) where you have a full breakfast unless you’ve decided to take a box breakfast to go in order to get a super early start. Kivuyo would meet us in the dining room and we’d set out on the first game drive. Its normally still a bit dark. So in the morning, your guide greets you and confirms the agenda for the day. The guides live at the camp and I imagine compare notes daily on game spotted etc. They also share this information over the radio on the trucks so if one group spots something exciting its communicated to others. They also usually make suggestions and confirm if you’d like lunch during the drive or at the camp. They also ask if there are any animals in particular you’d prefer to see. Some folks may be bird watchers while others like wild dogs or Rhino. Of course there are no guarantees but you’d be surprised how well everyone may be accommodated.
Our truck was fully stocked with snacks, water and whatever beverage you request. Starting out in the morning, the weather was very chilly. Blankets are on board but remember this is an open air vehicle so you have to dress warmly. By mid-afternoon the weather heats up quickly so its important to dress in layers because you will begin to peel out of the clothes. It actually got warm enough to enjoy time in the pool.
We had two morning drives while here. On the second day Kivuyo suggested we get an extra early start to drive out to a location to try and spot a pride that lived in that area. The wife of the couple decided she didn’t want to wake up so early and decided to sleep in…..BIG mistake. We arrived and initially saw nothing. It’s amazing how difficult it is to spot these huge lions once they settle into the bush. We drove a bit more, stopping and staring, everyone’s binoculars up and searching, backing up, going forward and around and finally out of nowhere the pride started walking out of a bushy area into the clear. One by one then two and three at a time; there were also two big males.
Boy did they give us a show, the cubs were beautiful and playful and we were so close to them.
It was amazing being able to observe lions doing whatever it is a pride of lions does on a morning in the Northern Serengeti. I’ll never forget that experience.
Safari Massai Mara (Naboisho Conservancy)