Safari Diary – Olakira Mara Camp [Lodge Review]

I know why we continue to send clients to Olakira Camp, one of our favorite camps in Serengeti.  It is because they have maintained their excellent standards but also continue to improve.  From finding lovely locations, great guiding to camp details, Olakira Camp is luxury tented lodging at its finest.

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Sunrise over Olakira Camp.

Olakira Camp, a Asilia Africa camp, moves every year between Northern and Southern Serengeti to be close to the every moving, never predictable but oh so awesome Wildebeest and Zebra Migration. When in Northern Serengeti, they find the best spot and for the past few years, they have made their home for 6 months near Mara River. Its meandering river gives you a glinting reflection.

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Teatime at the lounge area.

The warm staff with Kenneth as their current manager have made Olakira Camp extra special.

This story really sticks out in my memory. My Olakira Camp resident guide Reuben and I were on my evening game drive and had plans on enjoying a sundowner [watching the sunset while enjoying a drink of choice] when we spotted  the 20+ lion pride. I did not want to move. The little ones were too captivating.  The Olakira Camp kitchen crew came to where we were parked and handed us delicious, freshly roasted, warm cashews and peanuts. They were ready to pass over the wine as well. Now that is service. The nuts, oh so yummy! Watching lions never felt better.

And Reuben managed to get me the sunset shot … I was still enjoying my cashews and peanuts.

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Sunset before heading to Olakira Camp for dinner.

Each of the well spaced 10 luxury tented rooms are spacious with three sections. There is also a family room here as children over 6 years of age are warmly welcomed. We like having children on Safari. The twin bed room has a door to the main bedroom.

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Spacious, comfortable with lots of attention to details. Just splendid!

There is a lounge area in the front where you can enjoy a good book, have your tea in the morning and watch the sunrise before you head out for your early morning game drive and bush breakfast.

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View from the bed when enjoying a bit of rest before my evening game drive.

The bedroom area has a desk for your diary or letter writing. Here they have some good information on the ethics behind Olakira Camp and other Asilia Africa camps. Lots of conservation effort by Asilia Africa, one of the main reason we support their camps. Luckily, they are excellent as well.

“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better”.

The comfy bed. The staff adding some personality to the bed.  The side tables with comforting gadgets like a whistle, blow horn [hopefully you will not need to use it] and torch.  Drinking water is also provided.

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With the open canvas, you can hear the wildebeest grunting in the distance and the many birds that sing for you through out the day.

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Look which animal is on my bed to give me company.

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Cozy room at night after dinner.

The private bathroom has flush toilets and bucket-shower nook.  About 5 gallons [about 20 liters] are provided which was very comfortable with my long hair. When you know what will not have endless water, you do tend to shower quite quickly. Makes you realize you don’t need too much water for a good shower.

Tips on how to take a shower are //  turn on the shower, get wet, turn off, soap and shampoo, scrub, turn on, wash it off, enjoy the last bit of hot water. If you need more, yell loudly, the staff will bring more.  No worries! It has happened to all of us.

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Flush toilet – check! Running water – yup.

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The bucket shower. You realize you can shower quite quickly when you have limited water.

Good food, wine and drinks with good company.

At the end of the day, you start off with some snacks by the camp fire where you start getting to know other people if you are interested in chatting.

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Dining area where you eat family style. Some good stories to be enjoyed here.

Then head to the dining area. Being on Safari makes you hungry and good food is part of the experience.

On my Safari, I met with a couple from Switzerland who have been to Africa 10 times [South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia to name a few – lucky them] and this was their first Tanzanian Safari. They loved being in Tanzania and were very complimentary of Olakira Camp. That says a lot coming some a couple who have been to quite a few luxury lodges in Africa.

“A day in Africa is a lifetime of memories”

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Make memories on your Journey To Africa Safari
when staying at Olakira Camp.

Get in touch //
Email – Safari@JourneyToAfrica.com
Call us – 1.877.558.6288 / 713.592.6228

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Bush breakfast on Safari

One of the perks of being on Safari is having a bush breakfast. Ideally, you want to leave before the sun is up. Why? So you can be ready to admire the beautiful colors the sun sprays over the landscape.  A memorable start to any day on Safari. The early morning bird chirping committee will help wake you up.  Also, having coffee + tea and cookies delivered to your door by your crew for your wake-up call makes getting up an enjoyable treat.  An afternoon siesta will be well deserved.

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Watching the sunrise in Northern Serengeti with the wildebeest. Splendid.

Not an early riser? 
No worries. Enjoy the sunrise from your room – that works great as well. Some days on Safari you just want to take it easy and maybe read a book watching the sunrise from the comfort of your room/tent.  Perfect plan. Afterall, you are on Safari. A good breakfast will await you in our dining area.

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The views, the sounds, the stillness, the bush breakfast. Life on Safari is delicious.

Back to the morning where you do want to enjoy a bush breakfast.

Your guide will set up your ‘food truck’ style breakfast in an open area.  Just sit back, enjoy your freshly baked bread with eggs, an array of fruits, sweet bread, a good strong cup of Tanzanian coffee or tea all the while listening to the sounds of the wildlife at a safe distance and the morning winds.  Ahhh, life on Safari is amazing. And it is just the morning.

Experiencing a bush breakfast should be on your list of must do things on Safari.

Let us make this happen.
Email – Safari@JourneyToAfrica.com
Call us –  1.877.558.6288

Northern Serengeti

On my research Safari to Northern Serengeti in September 2009, when flying westward from Arusha, one of the things you notice is the constant change in color on the ground. The brown dusty dry landscape when flying east out of Arusha, the green lush treetops of Ngorongoro Highland, and the brown dry landscape of Southern and Central Serengeti. After an hour and a half flight, we come upon Northern Serengeti and … lots of green and brown. Fresh grass in September which is usually the dry season is refreshing. We are in Northern Serengeti.

Once we got on the ground, our fabulous Sayari Camp guide Albert [who worked with professional guide Paul Oliver at Oliver’s Camp in Tarangire in the early 2000s] told us this area has constant rain thanks to the precipitation from Lake Victoria.


We get in our open 4×4 vehicle [a perk of flying into an area] and off we go on Safari. From late June/ early July to October, this area is usually bustling with the million plus wildebeest and zebra migration. They are grazing the green grass or trying to cross the Mara River which runs from Lake Victoria all the way to Masai Mara in Kenya. During other times, you will be treated to an array of resident game – from leopard, lion, eland, jackal to large herds of elephant and much more. If you get lucky, the endangered elusive black rhino.

Advantages of heading to Northern Serengeti when on your Journey To Africa Safari ::

Off roading. You can get off the so-called main road and venture deep if you have spotted something interesting. On our Safari, Albert spotted a male lion escaping with a kill behind the tall grass. We rushed over and in a matter of seconds, the lion had pulled what looked to be a 30 + lb wildebeest behind the tall grass ready to devour his lunch.

Not many people get here especially when the migration is not in this area.  Getting to Northern Serengeti is via local flight to save time or you have to add a night or two in Central Serengeti before heading towards North Serengeti.  Northern Serengeti is definitely worth the extra flight or drive. During peak season, the few permanent camps and mobile camps fill up quickly but during other times, you can have this vast area to fewer people.

Walking Safari is currently allowed which you can not find in any other part of Serengeti National Park. From Sayari Camp or Lamai Serengeti, you have an escorted early morning or late afternoon walking Safari. Enjoy the small stuff on your escorted walk – from dung beetles, birds, lion tracks to wild flowers.

– And then as in any part of your Journey To Africa Safari, there are the views.  Amazing views. From thick bushes to open endless Serengeti. You can spend hours just enjoying the sounds, the smells, the wind and much more.

Karibu Sana Northern Serengeti. Anytime of the year!

What camera equipment to bring on Safari?

Photograph by Rick Sammon – Masai Mara giraffe

In August 2013, professional photographer Kevin Pepper and internationally recognized photographer Rick Sammon are taking their clients to Tanzania for a photographic Safari – Capture Tanzania by Lens.  On this Safari [August 8th to 16th] the group will get to explore amazing Tarangire National Park, dense and captivating Ngorongoro Crater and vast, green and breathtaking Northern Serengeti.

Besides enjoying these National Parks, the group will have Kevin and Rick with them at all times to improve the photography experience. From what setting to use, right aperture to capture the shot, picture composition to getting back to camp in the evening and talking about post processing. Want to join them on Safari? Contact us at Safari@JourneyToAfrica.com.

Kevin is taking a Safari to Tanzania in April to get a taste of Tanzania and I have asked him to talk about cameras and all the other accessories that need to be considered with taking a Photographic Safari. We will follow up with him after he comes back and get his final packing list for his August Photographic Safari with ‘natural light guru’ Rick.

For us photographers its time to make some decisions — what camera equipment do we take with us to get the photos we expect to be taking?

Camera bodies: Take a main body and a spare if you have one. One will suffice… but two is optimal. On my next Safari with Journey to Africa in April of 2013 and then again in August of 2013 I will be taking the Canon 5D MkIII and the Olympus E30.

Lenses: I suggest full coverage from wide angle to telephoto.  I will be taking the 11-22mm f2.8-3.5 wide angle, a 14-54mm f2.8-3.5 and a 50-200mm f2.8-3.5 with a 2.0x teleconverter for my Olympus body. For my canon body I will have a Sigma 150-500mm f5-6.3 and a 17-40mm f/4.0L

Flash: An external flash is also a suggestion. Filling in shadows and creating proper lighting indoors and when shooting local tribes people is something a flash will help you with.

Camera Bag: A backpack camera bag is ideal. You’ll want to be able to carry your equipment on to airplanes to avoid theft, so a backpack works best. I will have my gear in a LowePRO protrekker 400 as it will fit both my bodies and lenses in the bag while I am travelling.

Tripod: I am not going to tell you that this is a deal breaker… you can choose to shoot in any light situation you want… but why chance it. I will take a monopod , a beanbag and a light carbon fibre tripod. Chances are you will be using the bean bag most while on safari and when not using it the ISO adjustment will compensate for any low light situations. But for golden hour or blue hour shooting you will be kicking yourself in the butt when you see a scene at low light and you have no way to steady your camera for a couple seconds.

Storage Media: I shoot all my photos in RAW and will take a minimum of 5 media cards for the 7 day trip. Each card will be an 8gig or 16gig Sandisk Extreme CF cards and will hold between 400 and 1000 images on each card. If you are a serious photographer, bring a laptop as well, with software for basic editing. Plus, you may want to invest in some kind of external hd backup system so your photos are kept in two locations.

Other accessories: Take a rain cover for yourself and your camera body if you are going to be there in the rainy season like we sometimes will in the coming years. While rain last for very short periods of time in Tanzania, the down pours are hard.

Batteries and chargers: I have four batteries for each camera body and I will take them all. I will also be taking chargers with the appropriate wall plug to charge my batteries as they drain. You can also buy a solar panel charger from a company called voltaic systems for a couple hundred dollars if you want to go that route.

Filters: I will be taking my entire cokin P series polarizers and ND filters with me when I travel. I also have an assortment of Tiffen filters I use. At some point on your safari you will wish you had the right filter. Harsh light or bright skies and darker foregrounds will definitely have you scurrying to borrow someone’s filter if you do not take your own.

Lens cleaners and cloths: Take cleaners and cloths for both your lenses and sensor (if you know how to clean your sensor) If you are not careful when changing lenses you can easily get dust on your sensor.

Conclusion: But let’s not forget, an African safari is about experiencing a once in a lifetime event… that bucket list trip that will leave you with memories of a lifetime.

So there Safari goers. You have your camera equipment guidelines. Now go on Safari with Kevin and Rick and come back with loads of your own photographs and memories! Karibu Tanzania!

The Smell on Safari

When we have confirmed your Journey To Africa Safari, you are anticipating the beautiful lodges you will be staying and the comforts we have talked about when planning your Safari, the animals you will potentially see when in the National Parks, the landscape, the people you are going to meet, etc. But one thing that we can’t really describe that you will also experience is “smell”.

The smell of Africa. For me, the minute they open the KLM door in Kilimanjaro Airport, I smell ‘home’. I can smell the wood burning in the distance, the dust, the cleaner they use at the airport. When you get out and start your Safari, the smell of the trees, the open air, the vehicles and its emissions .. the good and the bad.

On Safari, you smell the musky dirt when it has rained or the dust during dry season. The animals and let me tell you, when you in the middle of thousands/ millions of wildebeests and zebras [poop, flies and all] or next to the hippo pool and all the gas that is emitted by the dozens of hippos or you have just passed a carcass – WHEW! Memorable to say the least.


Expand your senses. Go on a Journey To Africa Safari.