After climbing Kilimanjaro, we wasted no time starting our Tanzanian safari. We had four days before flying out of Kilimanjaro International Airport and we packed them full. We decided to use the same company we had used for our climb, Mar Tours.
By 9am the day after our climb we were in our safari car and on the way from Moshi to our first stop, Tarangire National Park. As a side note, if you fly to Kilimanjaro for a safari and do not climb the mountain first, you’ll probably head to the larger town of Arusha before heading out into the bush. This also helps cut down on the travel time before you get to Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park
After about a 4-hour drive we arrived at Tarangire National Park. By this time I was ready for lunch. While our guide was getting paperwork filled out, we sat down in the picnic area at the park entrance and had our boxed lunch. After lunch, it was finally time to see animals!
While we saw warthogs (Pumbas!), zebras, wildabeests, and one lion sleeping in a tree (!!), Tarangire is known for their elephants. And elephants we did see!!
After about 4 hours in the park, we headed out and stayed at a lodge and campsite about 30-minutes away. There is also at least one option to stay within the park (which I assume is expensive) but there were numerous places close by and also within a close distance to Lake Manyara National Park if you are planning to visit that park as well.
Serengeti National Park
The next morning we were on our way again around 8:30am. It was another long drive to just get to the entrance of the park! On the way, you actually stop at the Ngorongoro Crater gate, so we stopped for a bit to use the restrooms, check out souvenirs, and fill out some paperwork. It was a nice break on our 4-hour journey.
As we had at Tarangire, we had lunch when we arrived in the Serengeti and then we were off on our game drive! The Serengeti is vastly different than Tarangire. The African plains seem endless.
Within twenty minutes of our drive beginning, we saw a cheetah stalking two gazelles – a mom and her baby. We stopped and within minutes the cheetah ran after the gazelles and grabbed the baby. While sad, it was incredible to be in the middle of nature seeing the circle of life.
After the excitement, we came upon a small family of lions, and then a larger pride of lions. I was in awe. We saw baboons, more elephants, giraffes, buffalo, even rhinos in the distance, and ended the day at the Serengeti Sopa Lodge.
The lodge is located in the middle of nowhere and is absolutely beautiful. We caught a gorgeous sunset (and sunrise) and enjoyed delicious dinner, wine, and service.
The next day we were up early to head out for a sunrise game drive. I’m not sure if all of the animals had just gone to bed from partying all night or some were just sleeping in, but we saw the least amount of activity that morning. Still, enjoying the beautiful scenery in the Serengeti was good enough for a morning drive!
We then stopped for lunch at the gate of the Serengeti and then we were off to Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge for the night.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Our last hotel for the trip was the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge. The views were incredible. We arrived at this hotel earlier than the previous two and were able to sit outside with a bottle of champagne, take in the view, and let the last 9 days of our adventure sink in.
The lodge sits about the crater at about 8,000 ft above sea level, so after the sun set things cooled down and we enjoyed another bottle of wine in the cozy indoor bar around a fireplace. After dinner it was time to crawl into bed and surprise! there was a hot water bottle heating up the sheets.
The next morning we watched the clouds roll over the edge of the crater and got ready for our last game drive down below.
Our morning down in the crater was amazing. We had heard mixed reviews – it’s “small” compared to the vastness of the Serengeti, but it’s no zoo or game reserve. We saw a group of lions on a walk to get water, playing, and then napping. We saw numerous male lions, hundreds of zebras, wildebeests, buffalo, elephants, baboons, and hippos! If you are even shorter on time than we were, I would definitely recommend a day in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
After we left the crater it was time to head to the airport! We arrived with plenty of time to relax in the lounge and were on our way to Amsterdam at 9pm.
All in all, the safari was amazing. But every day was a long day of driving. With our limited time, I wouldn’t have changed a thing, but I could see if you had more time (and money) to space out your game drives a bit and spend a little more time relaxing at the nice lodges.