As much as I wanted to sing “lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” as we cruised through the wilds of the
Serengeti in our tricked out Toyota Landcruiser , I had to remind myself that this would be a serious African safari
faux pas, as only one of these animals (the lion) lives in Africa. It would be technically correct to sing “lions and
elephants and zebras, oh my!” but that lacks the punch of the former ditty.

    This 6-day safari was our “splurge” on our around the world trip. It was one of the few things we booked in
advance and completely pre-planned. Not only was it fun to have this to look forward to, but once we began the
safari we realized another benefit—the joy of having everything taken care of for us. No deciding where to go,
where to stay, what to do, how much to pay, how to get there…all the decisions we had been making on a daily
basis for the past four months in Europe. From the moment we arrived for the safari we were well taken care of
and we were able to kick back and enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.
    Jarrod and I elected to stay in mid-range lodges while on
our safari. There are many accommodation options, including
budget lodges, mid-range lodges, luxury lodges, tents, luxury
tents, etc. For many reasons, sleeping in a tent in the middle of
the wildlife parks did not appeal to me. In addition to the fact
that we just spent a week sleeping in a tent on Kilimanjaro, I
couldn’t get past the fact that lions, cheetahs, hyenas, etc.
would have free reign to come visit me in the middle of the
night. Sure enough, we met several people who elected to
camp and they had awful stories about hearing lions outside
their tent. I felt adventurous enough having to call a hotel
employee to accompany us from our room to the dining hall
after dark in case of wild animals. The closest encounters
Jarrod and I had with animals at our lodge was spotting a
buffalo on the driveway of our lodge in the Ngorongoro Crater
and having to chase two lizards out of our room in the
The Serena Lodge at Lake Manyara
    We followed one of two schedules everyday. Either an all day game drive which entailed a full buffet breakfast
at the lodge with an 8:30am departure. We would spend four hours driving through the park watching the animals
and then enjoy a boxed lunch at a picnic table in the park. We would pile back in the truck for a few more hours of
wildlife watching in the afternoon and then return to our lodge by 5pm. Alternately, in order to catch the animals in
the early morning when they are most active due to the cool temperature, we would depart the lodge at 6am with
a boxed breakfast. Eating our breakfast while bumping over the dirt roads, we would spend the next eight hours in
the park watching wildlife, and then return to our lodge at 2pm for a hot buffet lunch. After an afternoon rest, we
would head back our for an afternoon game drive from 4-6pm. We had to be back at the lodge everyday by 6pm
due to park regulations. This is to give the animals some peace and quiet, and ability to roam freely without
thousands of eyes and cameras documenting their every move. I think it is also for the safety of humans, as having
to change a tire in the dark in the middle of the Serengeti seems to have a high level of inherent risk.

    We likely gained a few pounds as the buffets at the lodges offered a staggering amount of food options. From
local specialties like ugali, a staple in the Tanzanian diet that is similar to mashed potatoes mixed with cornmeal, to
worldwide favorites like pasta. I would not say the quality of the food was anything special, but it wasn’t bad.
Somehow Jarrod and I managed to stuff ourselves silly at every meal. We spent our evenings downloading the
hundreds of pictures we snapped during day from our cameras to our laptop and reading. As funny as it sounds,
riding around in a truck all day is pretty exhausting.
     I can’t emphasize enough the difference a well-
qualified safari guide will have on your overall experience.
From how many animals you see to how enjoyable the
countless hours spent in the truck are, it is all in the hands
of your guide. We feel we got one of the best. Based on
reviews we read on the internet we requested Thomas
Mosha from our tour operator, Roy Safaris. We were told
that our request would be noted, but no guarantees could
be made. So we were overjoyed to see Thomas on the
first morning of our safari. We knew we were in for a treat
as we made our way from our hotel in Arusha to the first
park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Thomas made the
three hour ride over bumpy roads fly by as he pointed out
highlights along the way—Maasai villages, coffee
plantations (yum!), and red bananas, which are a local
specialty. He also gave us a very detailed overview of
Tanzania’s history, from the effect of colonization by the
Germans and then British to the eventual independence
and merging of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964 to create
the country we now know as Tanzania. There was not a
question Thomas could not answer.
The roadside fruit stand Thomas stopped at to buy some
red bananas. They are smaller and sweeter than our familiar
yellow bananas.
     More important than Thomas’ political, historical and cultural knowledge of Tanzania was his ability to spot
wildlife. I kid you not, we would be cruising past an endless field of scrub and Jarrod and I would have our eyes
peeled for wildlife. Certain that the field was empty, we would settle back into our seats only to have Thomas bring
the truck to a stop, point out to the field and announce a family of warthogs making their way through the grass.
Thomas has been a safari guide for almost ten years, and his knowledge of the parks and their layout was evident.
Not only did he stop to give younger guides directions a time or two, he also seemed to always have a plan as to
what we were going to see and where, none of this random driving around in hopes of spotting something. After a
day or two, Jarrod and I picked up on the subtleties of wildlife spotting among the guides. In addition to keeping
their eyes open for animals, the guides also keep their eyes open for parked safari vehicles. Because if a vehicle is
stopped that means there is something to look at. And the more vehicles stopped in the same place, the more
exciting that something is. I’m not saying that we never sped over to an existing crowd to piggyback off their find,
but nine times out of ten our vehicle was the first to stop in front of a leopard, lion or elephant, only to be joined by
a dozen other vehicles shortly thereafter.
This is the sight of a stand-off between a pride of lions and three buffaloes. Thomas, our guide, was the first to find this exciting
event. As you can see, we were soon joined by a herd of humans.
    As I look back, the safari easily met and
soared past our expectations. We envisioned
long hours of driving around the parks with
limited wildlife encounters. As you will see in our
photos we spent a great deal of time within
twenty feet of some of the wildest creatures on
earth. If you are thinking about going on a
safari…do it. It will be the trip of a lifetime. Just
don’t forget to bring the best camera you can
afford (it will be worth it), a bag of beans to rest
your camera on (you won’t have time or space to
set up a tripod and you can pick up a bag of
beans in Tanzania for less than a dollar), one
pair of quality binoculars per person, a good
book or two for the evenings spent holed up in
your hotel room and most important, ladies…a
supportive sports bra. Did I mention the roads
are rough?
This Toyota Landcruiser felt like our home after spending more than 8
hours a day inside it.
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Safari Life
Leopard in Serengeti