One of the absolute highlights of my visit to Tanzania and something I could only have dreamt of ever doing, was crisscrossing the Serengeti region. In the Maasai language, ‘Serengeti’ means ‘Endless Plains’ and that is exactly what it is. The Serengeti is a breathtaking hotspot of wildlife with a highly diverse range of habitats, composed of endless grasslands, woodlands, swamps and forests. About 70 species of big mammals, including the famous ‘big five’ and an impressive population of lions, find their home in the area.
We were right in time to witness a unique phenomenon: the largest annual terrestrial migration of mammals in the world, something that I only knew from watching the National Geographic channel. The endless stream of thousands and thousands of migrating mammals was almost surreal. I experienced an ultimate sense of freedom when confronted with the humbling pureness and beauty of the Serengeti. Being face to face with predators that can take your life in a split second is thrilling, as if the situation confronts us with our old selves, our ancient ancestors who once lived here. It triggers something deep inside the core of your being, an experience that is perhaps best described as psychedelic. Maybe it was this sense of somehow returning to our origins as human beings that made the trip feel like a refreshing spiritual and meditative shower.
We also spent a day in the Ndutu Ngorongoro Conservation area, a combination of woodlands, plains and big marches that is home to a walhalla of grazing herbivores. The traffic jam of wildebeests, zebras and Thomson’s gazelles is impressed in my memories. The stream of mud bathing hyenas, goofy warthogs and nervous dik-diks (tiny antelopes) also was a real treat. We had the pleasure of seeing a whole herd of elephants with cute babies, a bunch of sleeping lions, cheetahs on their way to the market, hippos cooling down in the water, a leopard family with a kit and a cub, so many species of exotic birds that we never managed to remember all the names and a bunch of naughty patas monkeys.
My fear that ‘going on safari’ would be too much of a tourist attraction proved ungrounded. It really was a small scale, tailor made and unique journey. We had the privilege of experiencing a Serengeti sunset with giraffes passing our tents. We got to hang out at campfires while the night was falling in, we slept to the sound of lions roaming around our tents and we woke up to amazing sunrises. What definitely added to our comfort, was that the Tanzanian bush camps where we were staying in, were anything but the primitive camping sites I know from back home. It was the first time I got to experience the concept of ‘glamping’, the fusion of glamour and camping. It really offered the comfort of a good hotel while at the same time allowing us to be in the midst of the wild nature and to naturally blend in with the environment.
Our tents had amazingly soft beds, and came with a personal bathroom, light and everything else you might need. If it weren’t for the stunning surroundings and the fact you had to ask a Maasai staff member to prepare your bathing water, you would think you were still at home. There was a special bar tent were you could charge your devices while having a beer and enjoying the best free wifi in all of Tanzania (while in the midst of the Serengeti!). In a special dining tent, some great breakfast and dinners were served, and the bush camp also provided a nice lunch package for during game drives. Of course there was also the ‘happy room’ where you could hang out when receiving your own private call of nature… And everything was designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible and the staff was simply amazing.
Of course, it wouldn’t be me visiting if our stay at the bush camp didn’t involve some hilarity. This started with a somewhat unfortunate incident when we were welcomed by a full line of Maasai, which gave me chronic giggles from then on. The next ‘crisis’ came in the shape of a rather large spider in my bed, which triggered all my hunting instincts and led me to not rest until I had killed it. It really does make you wonder why any invertebrate that happens to be in the vicinity, always seems to pick my shoes, my bed, my hair or whatever else it is that smells like me as its hangout… In the morning, instead of by an alarm clock, basically everybody at the camping site was woken up by my roomie’s icy scream. It turned out that she had regular nightmares that sounded pretty much like a lion attacking someone, and we had to make serious apologies at breakfast for freaking others out… The incident did, however, gave us just the right adrenaline boost to kick off the day and go on game drives. That is, not until after a kind Maasai guard had caught us in the nick of time, bringing pieces of luggage we had forgotten...
During one of our game drives, the excitement of all we were seeing had apparently absorbed my roomie to the extent that she carelessly put her expensive iPhone on the top of the roof of our half open jeep for a while. Suddenly, she started searching for her lost phone. Karma was clearly at her side, as we found it untouched where she had left it, despite our rough ride. The only guy in our company also added some flavour to the trip with his own sense of drama. Somehow, he proved extremely attractive to Tsetse flies and he was the only one to collect some nice bites. We all still had the horror story of an American acquaintance of one of us in our minds. She had brought home a Tsetse fly’s bite from a trip to Tanzania, and with it sleeping sickness, which had eventually resulted in all her limbs being amputated and her leading a paralyzed life. So you might understand that we all got a little paranoid when the driver kept his window open while one Tsetse fly after the other decided to join us in the car. Eventually, we decided to put the ‘T-word’ on the blacklist of topics that should not be discussed any further, in order not to ruin our wonderful trip with dark thoughts about what these bites might evolve into...
A special warm-hearted thank you goes to the two wonderful sponsors who made this unforgettable trip possible!
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