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Tanzania Trip Report: 5 Lions in a Tree

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I recently returned from a June trip to Tanzania and fell completely in love with the country. Our trip was comprised of Horseback Safari on the volcanic plateau between Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru, a four-day stay in Western Serengeti and then a final two days in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Game viewing in all three area was exceptional. My prior safari experiences were in South Africa and Botswana, so the abundant herds and easily spotted predators were remarkable to me. Probably the most unusual sighting was five lions in a tree! We spent quite a bit of time with this Western Serengeti pride.

For those of you considering Tanzania, I encourage you to go! A few of my impressions of the trip follow:

1. Africa Serendipity (Sandi, as travel agent) did a superb job with the itinerary and personalizing the trip to meet our wishes. Horses are rare in Tanzania, so we were thrilled to spend four days on horseback and even cantered along side a herd of giraffe.

2. Roy Safari supplied our vehicle and driver, Daniel. He was superb in every way! Sandi recommended the Toyota Land Cruiser over the Range Rover and we couldn't have been happier with the vehicle. I would recommend the "pop-up" top over the "pop-off" top. It was great to have the shade over our head.

3. I didn't think I'd enjoy a "closed" vehicle, as open vehicles are standard fare in RSA and Botswana. However, we really enjoyed the protection it provided from all the dust and certainly had great photo shoots from both window and roof line. Our favorite thing was to stand while the vehicle was racing down the dirt roads...wind in our faces, enjoying the 360 degree panoramic view.

4. Western Serengeti is stunning. We started off in Central Serengeti to see the migration, which was awe inspiring. However, there were just too many vehicles! At one point, there were eight or nine vehicles gathered to see...one small monkey!! The Kirawira area in Western Serengeti was much less traveled and we saw very few vehicles. The game viewing was spectacular...everything you would want to see. There were a few sublime moments: watching a large troop of baboons leisurely work their way through a vast field of morning glory flowers, popping off the flowers and tossing them in their mouths like popcorn; spending almost an hour with a group of 20 giraffe as they browsed on whistling thorn acacia in complete serenity; watching a female lion drag her wildebeast kill across the savannah, stopping every few yards to catch her breath; having six lion cubs walk single file by our vehicle on their way to the water hole, as their mother called out for them to "hurry back".

5. Go to the Crater! There are no words or photos that can adequately capture the stunning Ngorongoro Crater!! The views from the rim are breathtaking and the views from the floor of the crater are just as special. There is wildlife at every turn and we didn't find the other vehicles to be intrusive, because the area is so large. A typical scene in the crater: wildebeast and zebra moving to a water hole that already has eight hippo with babies. The entire scene is highlighted by brilliant pink flamingos and framed by the steep cliffs of the crater. I highly recommend a fabulous book, The Ngorongoro Story ($30 online...$120 at one of the lodges!).

Tanzania is one of Africa's great jewels. I hope we can return soon!

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