Lake Natron Region.

“Take all Safari expectations and throw them out. The real Africa is much better.” – Unknown.

Why go to Lake Natron Region located within the Great East African Rift Valley, an area that is off-the-Safari-grid [not for long] when on Safari in Northern Tanzania? That was what I was trying to discover with my friend, expert guide Paul Oliver. I think I know why.

Stunning landscape.

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Ol Doinyo Lengai with ash on the side.

This place is for those who want to photograph stunning landscapes. The most obvious is the glorious volcanic mountain Ol Doinyo Lengai, the mountain of God for the Maasai tribe members. The deep ridges carved from erosion, the spewed lava that comes out every 10 years or so or the depth of vegetation all reflected differently from different angles. This live mountain is very mesmerizing.

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Glorious Lake Natron in the evening.

Alkaline rich Lake Natron and it’s reflective surface, the many rock outcrops that dot the mirror-like lake, the white soda ash on the shores and the lovely reeds that create interest. The hills are alive with character. You have to see the many hills with mini peaks that are formed to release the gas from the belly of the Earth.

If you are into landscape photography with the occasional wildlife spotting, this is your place.

Walking.

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Walking to Lake Natron

The area near our camp, Lake Natron Tented Lodge is about an hour walk to the caustic Lake Natron. You have to pass through surpisingly cool water springs [it was around 90F in February], muddy patches with lots of footprints to inspect from the large zebra to the little bird prints, and then the unique, crunchy dry soda from the salty lake.

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The dry crusty crunchy earth with soda and zebra footprints.

There is also walking to a waterfall from the Engare Sero village which I missed seeing but heard from people staying at Lake Natron Tented Lodge that the trek was worth the cool dip.

Birds.
flamingosThis area is a the breeding ground for flamingos. Lake Natron is an alkaline lake with the right ph for the flamingoes to breed. I was expecting to see lots of flamingos but that was not the case as they had flown away further south to Lake Eyasi and east to Lake Magadi in Ngorongoro Region. You could hear them flying at night from my room. Non the less, getting so close to the flamingos by foot was quite special.

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Wadders flying.

Then you have the large count of migratory birds coming all the way from Europe and even Alaska. Paul, who is a birder was clicking away. Wadders were skittish around us and Paul told me about bird netting and bird poaching. Birds are facing a huge problem in many European countries like Italy, Malta to countries like Jordan. Millions of these lovely birds are served as delicacy to satisfy humans.

Of course the local birds are every present. We had fun with the Spotted Morning-thrush hanging on the branches of the acacia tree. He and Paul had a good conversation about our lovely ‘Safari life’.

Cultural stop.
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Historic footprints have been found here. They have calculated the age of these footprints and they are around 120,000 years old, the first modern straight standing man. This area is very close to Oldupai Gorge, where one of the first homo sapiens skull was found by the Leakey family.

I am going back to see these footprints on my return Safari to Lake Natron in 2016.

A Safari with Paul Oliver is in the works for May / June 2016. Come join us.
Fill our out our Contact Us form and we will keep you posted on the Safari.

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Photo of the week – Southern Ground Hornbill

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Watch out! I am landing.

Birds! Birds! Who knew each one had so much personality. My fifth reason for loving Serengeti.

This pair of Southern Ground Hornbill was spotted in Northern Serengeti. These large birds are ground feeders and feed on snakes, tortoise, frogs, lizards and such. The group which consists of up to 11 hornbills are very vocal. Some even go far as saying lion-like.

The elder Southern Ground Hornbill tend to help the inexperienced young breed [co-breeders].  The couple, usually monogamous, will lay about 2-3 eggs every 9 years or so. 1 egg will usually survive. The male will tend the nest with eggs which they build on tree cavities.  Team working birds! The group work together to tend the young.

Life worth Exploring! ™ Make memories on your Journey To Africa Safari.

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Why Serengeti still takes my breath away

As soon as we passed Oldoniyo Lengai, the volcanic mountain in Loliondo, east of Serengeti National Park from my Tanganyika Flying Company scheduled flight to Kogatende airstrip in Northern Serengeti, my heart skipped a beat.  Serengeti, here I come … again and again.

Why Serengeti still takes my breath away?
My current top eight reasons why I could go back to Serengeti in a heartbeat.

One.
The Great Wildebeest and Zebra Migration.
Oh yes!  Being surrounded by hundreds and thousands of animals is unexplainable unless you have been there to witness it first hand. When I was flying to Serengeti in early June, I was expecting to see the migration in Central Serengeti. Well to my surprise, and lucky me, I got to see the arrival of the herd in Northern Serengeti earlier then normal from Western Serengeti. There is no exact timetable on these matters.  Luckily our guide said some of the Wildebeest and Zebra groups where still in Western Serengeti as we had clients booked in that region to experience this phenomena.

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Walking in single file. The herds are coming into Northern Serengeti from Western Serengeti. Oh the excitement!

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The longer we sat watching them march in, the larger the herds grew. What an experience!

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The morning sun spraying gold over Serengeti. Here is a small herd having just crossed the river.

Two.
Cats and cats. 
Oh these beautiful animals. Serengeti is home to a large concentrations of lions, cheetahs and leopards. In Northern Serengeti, I was lucky to see group of about 20+ lions ranging from couple of month olds to their mamas having a go at a freshly hunted wildebeest. ‘Food’ aka the migration was coming in. What an experience! Reuben, my Olakira Camp guide and I did not want to leave. He had promised me a sundowner near the table hills but we opted to stay back. How can you blame me. Look at those eyes.

We spent a while enjoying the interactions of this beautiful family in the Northern Serengeti valley.

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In the valley, about 20+ lion family enjoying a recent wildebeest kill. Some cubs were just a few months old.   What a splendid sighting!

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Some having a go at dinner while others needed a stretch or rub after some grub.

Central Serengeti is known as cat central. And it did not disappoint. We got to enjoy a few sighting away from the crowds that Central Serengeti attracts. Trust your guide and head the other direction.

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Look at that wee one following her mama through the tall grass.

Rains were about to come when in Central Serengeti and my guide Makubi and I were trying to get to Dunia Camp. Well, this stunning leopard appeared and getting wet was an understandable option. We got to hang out for a bit and stare.

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A stunning leopard spotted resting on a branch.

Three.
Elephants.
I love elephants! They are just beautiful and so precious and threatened.  In Northern Serengeti, I spotted a few but at a distance. South Central Serengeti, very close to Moru Kopjes, I was elated. Large herds were right next to the road. Elephant mama and babies – lots of them. Please stay safe! I am coming back to see you grow.

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Elephant mama warning us. We hear you mama. We will not harm you and your babies.

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Little one marching on. Look at that little trunk.

Four.
Impalas, why of course.
On this Safari, thanks to Makubi and my private Serengeti walking guide Richard,  I got to know more about these beautiful yet polygamous animals.

Did you know a male impala has a harem of female impalas? Yup, one male can have up to 20 ladies at his back and call. Then there are the bachelor herds who are always ready to spring into action should a window open.  As per Makubi, it is similar to the Maasai and Kuro tribe members who live on the boundaries of Serengeti. Ummmh!

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A female group with babies.

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Privacy please! Here is a male impala getting ready to mount on the female. The mating ritual lasted for about 20 minutes before she would let him on.

Five.
Birds.
My friend and elite guide Paul Oliver is a birder. I know many birders. He has been trying to get me into birding.

So this time, I chose to look up and was so impressed with the many colors that were presented to me. Lovely magpies shreks, common but colorful lilac breasted roller and egyptian geese.  I will have to work on honing my birding skill on my next Safari. I am hooked.

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The beautiful watercolor like Lilac breasted roller

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Magpie shrek. Mama bird with the white feather just handed over a worm to the baby Magpie. It was a fun exchange to witness.

Six.
An array of eco-system.
Serengeti has so much to offer. My time in Northern Serengeti and Central Serengeti gave me a glimpse of hills, valleys, rivers, endless plains, long grass, short grass, stunning kopjes, bushy terrain, woodlands and more.

When game driving or heading back to your camp, you can stare at the landscape and not tire of what you have in front of you. The sunrise that starts to peek behind the acacia tree and the sunset that makes for the magic golden hour are pure bliss. Serenity in Serengeti.

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The table hill of Northern Serengeti. So many other hill dotted in the North.

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The open plains of Central Serengeti heading towards Dunia Camp near the Moru Kopjes

Seven.
Great lodges here to unwind end of the day.  
At the end of the day, it feels so good having a comfortable bucket shower [common in most tented camps] and then heading to the main lounge and dining area. Usually the first stop is the campfire [unless is rains like it did for me at Dunia Camp] where you get to relax with your drink and get to know other guests. This is when the stories start. Who got to see what, were and do you have pictures to share? You get to sharing things like where are you from, why Tanzania, where are you going next, etc.  I usually get the envious, how many time have you been on Safari?. Plenty but many more to come.

Just a good way to end a day on Safari. Oh, and the food is delicious as well.

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The stunning view of Serengeti from Lamai Serengeti.

Eight.
Private Serengeti!
What a thrilling experience this was for me. No vehicles, seeing animals on foot, adrenaline pumping moments and you being able to hear your breath as you try to be still when a buffalo is 30 ft away from you. I would jump at a chance to be out there again. I ended my day sitting with a cold Kilimanjaro beer on a kopje, watching one of the most memorable sunsets in Serengeti.

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Golden Hour! Roaring fire, cold beer, stunning sunset while sitting on top of a kopje in Serengeti. Happiness.

Serengeti never fails to take your breath away.  An adventure awaits all day, any time, all year-round. Karibu [welcome] Serengeti!

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

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Safari Diary 2014 – Tarangire National Park

First stop of my 2014 Safari to Tanzania was my favorite park, Tarangire National Park.

This beautiful park never fails to set you in the mood for a Safari. The minute you turn into the park road and drive into the gate, you are rewarded by great sightings.  We were welcomed by a large herd of elephants. Elephants who take refuge in the shade of the beautiful baobab trees but also abuse these grand trees.  Male impala bachelor herds and its female harem, warthogs, lions, lilac breasted roller, and much more.

And it is not only the splendid wildlife and bird sightings that captures you when on Safari, it’s also the varied landscape. Oh, the landscape that you can stare for hours. The little and large hills, the life-line Tarangire river and its tributaries, swamps, the valleys, the variety of trees and plants.

Being on Safari is awesome! 

Family of elephants near a magnificent baobab tree

Family of elephants near a magnificent baobab tree

Large tusker mama elephant watching over the two baby elephants.

Large tusker mama elephant watching over the two baby elephants.

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Pied Kingfisher right near the road

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The beautiful lilac breasted roller. A beauty of a bird with all it’s color. Highly guaranteed to spot in Tarangire.

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Oh the landscape. Acacia trees and baobabs everywhere.

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Three lazy lions sitting/ resting on the dry river bed.

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Two of the male impalas, part of the bachelor crowd. The female harem is close by.

Life worth Exploring! ™ Make memories on your Journey To Africa Safari.

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Photo of the week

Egyptian Geese at the Hippo Pool in Central Serengeti

Egyptian Geese at the Hippo Pool in Central Serengeti

When I was driving around Central Serengeti with my entertaining guide Makubi, we stopped at the Hippo Pool when we spotted this lovely family of Egyptian Geese.  So many beautiful birds on Safari.

Specialist Guides on Safari

Our Safari guides are fantastic! We feel incredibly lucky to have some of the best trained guides working with us.

Sometimes, some clients want something different. They want to dig a lot deeper as they crave more knowledge of the animals and the land. They want in-depth answers to the what, why, how, when, why not, what if, what now, what more. Specialist guides will have your in-depth knowledge soar.

What makes them specialist guides?

  • Guides that have been guiding for more than 20-25 + years.
  • They train other guides.
  • They are friends/mentors with other specialist guides.
  • They cater to clients who already know a lot about the land, its people and wildlife.
  • Guides who are in the news as they have done research or have been part of research teams or organizations.
  • They are into photography and have articles published or are mentioned in articles.
  • They care about conservation and are our public voice. They have access to a larger platform.

But above all, they want you to come and enjoy being on Safari. They will have you love our country as much as they do. Twende [let’s go] Safari. There are fantastic memories to be made.

Stunning capture of zebras fighting.

Stunning capture of zebras fighting.

Paul Kirui.
We were first introduced to him in 2005 when we were on Safari in Masai Mara. Our luck we crossed paths with him. Paul, who has a gold standard certification, has been a source of information. He was involved with BBC’s Big Cat production as well as Disney’s African Cats.  He has been on many top Safari guide list. A Safari with him would be equal to winning a lottery.

Paul Oliver.
You have head of him many times on our blog. He has been our mentor when we first started Journey To Africa. At that time he operated Oliver’s Camp in Tarangire. Today he divided time between Tanzania and Australia. His passion for guiding is unwavering. He is an avid birder. He and his trusty land-rover can take you from Northern to Southern Tanzania. Get ready for a witty time.

Paul Oliver birding in Southern Tanzania's Katavi National Park

Birding in Southern Tanzania’s Katavi National Park. Taken by our friend Paul Oliver.

Jo Anderson and Mark Baker. 
Jo and his business partner Marc, started an organization in Tanzania called Carbon Tanzania. They have teamed up with local community and together with lodges and Safari companies, off-seat your carbon footprints.  They are deeply involved in conservation and going on a Safari with them will want you doing more for Mother Earth.

Why so many elephants in Ngorongoro? Poaching in other regions have them taking refuge here.

On his May Safari, Jo counted 350 + elephants in Ngorongoro? Not normal. Poaching in other regions have them taking refuge here.

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Life worth Exploring. ™
Make memories on your Journey To Africa Safari.

Get in Touch //
Email us – Safari@JourneyToAfrica.com
Toll Free – 1.877.558.6288 
Outside of US – 1.713.592.6228
Form – Request Information