I Dream of Africa! Our guide and chauffeur was the owner Christopher, he is very experienced and speaks English very well! In 10 days we visited 5 National Parks and we camped inside the parks. We were in the middle of nature, with a lot of special and close encounters with wild animals!
Day 1. Flying from Amsterdam to Nairobi (much cheaper in the high season!), we are picked up by a local driver, arranged by Christopher. We are brought to the border of Tanzania, where Christopher is waiting for us with his big safari car. We also meet our chef Japhet, who will cook for us the coming days. We enjoy the African landscape, but being tired from the long journey, we sometimes doze off. In the afternoon we arrive at Muskietenkreek (MBO). We have our first African dinner under the stars, and we sleep in beds, which is nice in getting prepared for our camping adventure.
Day 2. Early safari to the Lake Manyara, the first National Park! We see baboons and a lot of storks in the trees. We unpack our cameras and begin taking photos. We see our first wild elephant, wow, really huge! The park is still very quiet, the animals start their day, just as we do. We see blue monkeys, hippos, giraffes, gazelles and an African fish eagle. Africa! Back for lunch and travel to the next park: The famousNgorongoro Crater! We camp at the rim of the crater, beautiful view! But rather busy there! And very cold because of the high altitude! We have dinner at a big open space, all the tables are covered with colourful Maasai blankets, very nice! The dinner is delicious. Everyone is excited about what they have seen and what they hope to see! We sleep with our clothes still on, it is very cold, brrr! Christopher calls me: 2 big elephant bulls are drinking water from the big water tank near the kitchen, very impressive! After a while they disappear silently into the dark.
Day 3. Early morning start to be in the crater before it is crowded. Our first encounter is a pair of rhinos, very rare to see them! Then we have all day for so many other animals, amazing! You can get very close up, they are not scared. We see lots of wildebeests, zebras, buffaloes, austriches and cranes. Christopher teaches us a lot about their habits and lifes, very interesting! He wants us to stop and observe the animals, so you can learn about them and see much more. We like that! At a hippo pool we see a herd of hyenas chasing warthogs. The small animals are smart: They form a circle and stand with their sharp teeth directed outwards. The hyenas give up, screaming, they are hungry! Then some hippos come out of the high grass and walk a bit on land. One hippo stays in the water with her tiny baby, she rolls over in the mud a few times. Every time we are afraid that the baby has disappeared under her weight, but it pops up again and joins her mother, so cute to watch! A lot of cars come and go, they take a few pictures and leave again, chasing the Big Five. We stay and watch and learn. We see a serval cat coming out, very rare to see. Christopher teaches us more, we are fascinated, his knowledge about nature is incredible! We are happy to see a lion family stretched out across the road. Probably after a successful night of hunting. They lay on their back, very lazily, which is funny to watch! We have brunch at a beautiful picnic spot with a lake. It is very quiet now, we are early. When we are done, the crowds come for lunch, thank you Christopher for your excellent timing! In the afternoon we see a lot of elephants, sometimes very nearby, eating the bushes next to the road, impressive! Then back to the campsite. There we see a herd of zebras next to the parking lot. My daughter is excited, she loves horses and zebras are her favourite African animals! Now she can follow this herd with her camera, very close up! And my son tells us that this morning, back from tooth brushing, he saw this strange creature walking at the edge of the campsite. Now he knows it was a hyena! Lucky for him, the animal just gave him a quick look and then moved away. The children are very excited about all this, you do not experience this on a lodging safari!
Day 4. After another chilly night we leave for the next park. A large group of giraffes is grazing next to the road, we stop to watch them. When we start driving again, they come beside our car, galopping next to us for a while! Wonderful to see! Our next stop is the endless plane of Serengeti! We camp at Seronera, in the middle of the park. The children help with unloading the stuff and putting up the tents. Usually Christopher asks some local guys to help us too. Our chef Japhet will prepare his mobile kitchen and we go on a late afternoon safari. That is also the time when animals get active. This time we see a leopard in a tree, enjoying his fresh caught gazelle, it hangs on a branch. We see him eating very clearly! Our Big Five score is going up!
Day 5. Serengeti: Early morning safari, watching a hunting cheetah, she has a cub. And we see a lioness with her cubs under a tree. After lunch we pack and go to the north of Serengeti: Lobo. The roads are terrible, we doze of a lot of times. But Christopher is an experienced driver and he brings us safely to our next camping site. There we have a lazy afternoon and another wonderful dinner! Everything is delicious; we have fresh soup every day, fresh vegetables, potatoes or rice and meat, whatever you want he can prepare. The other guests tell us, they like the fresh made camping food better then the food in the lodges! We are happy with our chef Japhet! We did not catch any food bugs either!
Day 6. Mara River! Very early start of the day, we leave in the dark. It is a long drive, up to the northernmost point of Tanzania, close to the Kenyan border. In this time of the season, the wildebeests and zebras cross the river in their migration to the north, following the rain and the green grass. We have seen it on TV, will we also see it in real life? We are excited! After a while we see herds of wildebeests, we have breakfast in surrounded by them! We continue up north, the landscape changes to high grass, very different from the Serengeti Plane! Then we see the Mara River, big, fat crocodiles lying here. But no wildebeests! Each time we meet another car, Christopher shares information with the other driver, so he finds out where the herds are! When we get there, some are crossing the river, so we jump out of the car to film it, wonderful! Then the line breaks and we learn from Christopher that the animals sometimes wait for days to cross again! We stand at the border of the river, along with numerous other cars! He wonders if our presence prevents the animals from crossing the river. He makes a deal with the other drivers to all move away from the river. After a while another crossing is starting, we are just as nervous as the wildebeests! We are so lucky to see them crossing again! No crocs waiting for them here, so they all make the crossing. They have to swim hard, the current is strong! The last wildebeest to reach the shore is tiny and is limping. Its mother is gone, we are very sorry for the tiny animal, can we help it or save it? No, this is nature! The children are sniffing, it is hard for them to accept this! We emphasise that most of the animals did make the crossing, and that the lions have to feed their cubs too. Back to the camp before dark! Another group also went to the river today, but they did not see any wildebeests and no crossing. We are happy with our experienced and wise guide!!
Day 7. No rushing today, resting a bit, but we are used to waking up early by now. We pack and go to our next stop: Lake Natron! Another tiring journey over wobbly roads. But beautiful nature, we see the Rift Valley and vulcanos. The big vulcano El Donyo Lengai (God’s mountain) is very impressive! With a local Maasai guide we go to a waterfall, following a little stream by foot. The water is warm, we can swim! This night we have to be more careful of mosquitos, we wear long shirts and long trousers! Early to bed, we are tired!
Day 8. Early rise: On our way to the flamingos at Lake Natron! We have the same Maasai guide as yesterday. We have to be there early, before the birds move further away in the lake. But this year there are not many flamingos, their food is gone, eaten by other creatures. The flamingos have moved to the salt lake at the Ngorongoro Crater, well, we have seen them there! But the sunrise is beautiful and some flamingos are still there. This is nature too: never predictable! After lunch and packing, we go the the last park: Tarangire Park. There we will stay several days, very nice! According to Christopher this is the most beautiful National Park of Tanzania: Not too big, and soooo many animals to see! Also hundreds of bird species, he knows a lot about birds. The children make a contest of getting them close on their cameras, not easy! Lots of different eagles, birds with all kinds of colours, bee-eaters, etc., very interesting! On our way to the campsite in the park, we see so many animals, lots of elephants, zebras and wildebeests. Because of the dry season they look for the water and you can see them very close. At the campsite we set up the tents and relax. A family of elephants is eating the fruits under an acacia tree just nearby. I take a chair and sit nearby the restroom to watch them, amazing! Just be quiet and move slowly, so as not to disturb them! This you also do not experience on a lodging safari! The children join me, we are watching a real live movie! Wow!!! At dinner, Christopher gives us some additional safety instructions, because we are in the middle of nature, so the animals can all pass our tents at night! Always use your headlight and look around and behind every bush! My daughter now is afraid to go to the toilet at night, she will wake up her big brother to join her! She can also call Christopher if she wants to. Every night also an armed ranger from the park also stays at the campsite, just in case! But everything is quiet at night, just some baboons crossing. Then at breakfast Christopher tells us why they were screaming, there was also a lion nearby! Wow! But he has never heard of accidents happening with tourists camping, you just have to be careful! And the guides are very well trained in protecting their costumers!
Day 9. Tarangire Park. Today a quiet day, to rest a bit. From our breakfast table we see a lot of birds, we see an eagle coming over, and some zebras and wildebeests, and if you look close, some giraffes and the elephants are here again too! Just 10 metres out of the campsite we stop to watch a group of elephants, very impressive. Later we are told, that they had been standing and eating under the baobab trees at the campsite for several hours. We watch two young male impalas fighting, Christopher explains about the rules in a herd and how they live their lifes, very interesting. Lots of birds, also very interesting. African nature is not only about the big and famous animals, this is beautiful too! Then we see lots of elephant families, slowly eating their way through the landscape, they do that day and night! We see the little babies drinking with their mom, big young males fighting with each other, just learning their strength and techniques. Not to come too close to them, they are quite big! They seem to live in an elephants paradise, no dangers for them here! But still be cautious. 3 big bulls come to the waterfront, we stand in their way with our car, Christopher decides to move the car a bit forward, we do not want to make them angry! The other animals move away from the water too, these big guys can be aggressive if they are not happy!
Day 10. The last full day at Tarangire Park: Another early game drive! Yesterday we saw 3 cheetahs, we hope to see them hunting, but they are gone. We do see a big group of buffaloes, maybe one hundred of them, making a lot of dust as they come running to the river! Then more giraffes, birds, elephants, we are getting tired, we need some rest after lunch!
Day 11. Back home again! Packing our stuff for the last time, last breakfast in the bush! Going to Arusha, we buy some souvenirs at a local shop. We say goodbye at the local bus station, a shuttle bus takes us directly to Nairobi airport. With sadness in our hearts we say goodbye to our very kind and wonderful guide Christopher, who has given us an experience which we will never forget! And can we take the cook Japhet with us to Holland – we will miss his delicious meals! We learn about the African way to part company – it is not goodbye, it is see you again! Let’s hope so!
From Ingrid Betten, Holland, 2013, writing about her Tanzanian camping safari in July/August 2012:
I have made two wonderful safaris with Christopher as a guide. We have been to Tarangire, Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro.
It were wonderful experiences for me! I had never been to Africa before. To experience life and nature there really was stunning and overwhelming! I can write so much about how amazing it was to see the wild animals, often very close!!!, in their natural environment, but that would fill a lot of pages here!!
I was especially impressed by the enormous scale of nature, everywhere you can see, only nature, (hardly) no human traces!! Such a difference with life in Holland, with stone and concrete everywhere, and nature at second place. It made me feel humble and small, putting things in a total different perspective for me. Christopher told me, that often travellers at safari, are crying and go through a kind of existential process, realising what they worry about in their daily lives, how they want to change their lives when they go back home!!
Christopher is a guide with enormous knowledge, of course about the wild animals, but also about the different people living there, descending from the Maasai himself. He has a wide interest for all aspects of nature, including plants and eco systems, very interesting to learn so much from him! Everything co-exists in a delicate balance. He is really involved with nature!! Also his English is excellent and he can tell things in a very inspiring manner!!
I can really recommend him as a guide and tour operator! He is very friendly and cooperative, he makes sure your wishes come true, when possible. His preparations and materials are excellent! And his eyes are spectacular!! He can see animals were we can only see bush and grass!! He is patient in showing you were to look. And he knows his way around very well, he knows the best spots of were to find the animals, he has many years of experience, you really can tell!!
I hope to make some more safaris with him, like a walking safari, meeting more of the local people (the Bushmen!!), seeing other beautiful areas of Tanzania!! He said he loves nature, well he taught me how to love Africa, I am afraid I have become addicted!!
From Ingrid Betten, Holland, 2011:
We travelled with Christopher for a week during our honeymoon to Tanzania in September 2006.
We visited Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti. It was absolutely fantastic and we couldn’t have wished for anything more.
Christopher is extremely professional, polite and friendly. And his English is excellent. You could not fault his promptness and his eye for spotting the wildlife was unbelievable! (We were lucky enough to see four leopards on our trip – thanks to Christopher’s keen eye!)
Christopher is very knowledgeable, not only about the wildlife, flora and fauna, but also the local culture, which was very interesting.
Christopher helped make our honeymoon very special and something that we will never forget.
We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Christopher and one day we would love to return to Tanzania and travel with Christopher again.
We would like to wish him all the best for his new venture!
From Jo and Andy Richmond, Nottingham, England: