Day 13: Last day on safari

Today our group splits up. Half are going on to Rwanda, a quarter are back home to Canada, and 4 of us are going on to the south Serengeti. Before we leave however, one last game drive brings a pride of 10 lions. There were several cubs in the pride and cooler weather just before evening had them playing and wrestling. Magic. As light started to fade, we drove to a hilltop to be welcomed with a sundowner to finish the trip.

Those going to Rwanda are going gorilla and/ or chimpanzees trekking. Those headed to Canada find the start of winter, and the rest are looking to slow down and enjoy a more relaxed pace for a few days. I know its a tough life but being on Safari is not a “feet-up” kind of holiday. Generally, you are up before the dawn and on the road to get to the location of the day before the nocturnal world disappears. The day ends quite early, normally before 10 pm, but you are outside pretty much all day long, tiring as that can be. I’m looking forward to a walking safari, a night drive and a slower pace without the long distances. The herds are smaller and so is the terrain.

Day 11: Hot air ballooning in the Serengeti

Ticking an item off the bucket list.

It’s so iconic it is almost cliché. A hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti at sunrise, is so much better than you could possibly imagine.

The 4 am wake up call was not as magical as you think, and the bleary-eyed scramble to get ready for 5 am take off was somewhere between tragic and comical. An hour of bumping along something between a disorganized set of ruts and an invisible track through the predawn light brings us to a balloon being filled on the ground.

We get a pre-flight briefing, get loaded into the basket, the balloon fills, and we take off. No wind as we slowly rise, barely clearing the treetops. The pilot explains what is happening as we rise and descend over hills and trees. In a few minutes we are over the Mara River and a favourable air current has us following a straight stretch of the river. The pilot descends below the height of the riverbanks, and we are just a few meters above the water. Crocodiles and hippos are easily seen as we float lazily upriver. The river bends and we rise up. From the air, herds of wildebeest make their appearance as do elephants, zebra, warthogs, antelope, and the beauty of the Serengeti fills our senses. We rise way up, and the view is spectacular.

In the distance, those of our group that didn’t make this trip are on a game drive. The guides have positioned themselves so we will overfly them. The pilot descends so low we are only a couple of meters above the roof of the trucks, and we are taking photos of people taking our photo. Good natured banter back and forth for the seconds it takes, and we are past them and rising once again. The flight continues for another half hour and the pilot expertly places us about 100 meters from a table set with our champagne breakfast.

As the saying goes…. You got to try this.

Day 7: On route to the Serengeti!

We drove from Ngorongoro camp along the rim of the crater a little more than halfway around, and then on to Serengeti National Park. We stopped along the way at Oldevai Gorge but more on that later. 

Roads in the part of the world are charitably classified as “highways” or bush roads. The highway was a less bumpy version of no road at all. Many of the bigger rocks were pushed out of the way, leaving a washboard that beat you around the inside of the Land Cruiser. The bush roads were smoother in that you couldn’t go as fast, but if you aren’t careful, you can tap the side of your head a couple of times on the window. On the other hand, we saw lions and cheetah hanging out in the shade right beside the road, and photos from a distance of 10 to one hundred feet are very common. 

OLDUVAI GORGE

One of the bonuses for driving between Ngorongoro and the central Serengeti was the stop at Olduvai Gorge. One of the oldest inhabited places on earth, the magnitude of the history of this place is astonishing. Fossil remnants of humans and protohumans go back 1.5 million years. The interpretive centre is brand new and most impressive. What caught my attention however, as we were getting ready to leave, was the view into the gorge. I saw two Masai standing on a rock outcrop. Much as their ancestors, and millennia of their ancestors did before them.

One feels quite insignificant.

Day 6: Ngorongoro Crater!

Early Morning 

It’s 5 in the morning and the world is slowly starting to come to life. We are in a tented camp on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater. It is still dark and the only sound is birdsong. Soon the group will gather for a quick bite before getting in our Land Cruisers for the drive to the crater floor. This is one of those moments when you realize exactly where you are and what us about to occur. Everyone knows this place. When I was a kid I saw photos and THIS place was Africa to me.

Late Afternoon 

WOW!!!

That was like drinking from a firehose. Every type of African wildlife you can think of. Except giraffes. Herd after herd of zebra, wildebeest, and buffalo. Gazelles and antelope of every description. Rhinoceros were in the distance- shy like only a two ton beast can be. A few elephants dotted an immense landscape. The largest clan of hyenas I have ever seen lazing around a waterhole with hippopotamus looking like rocks in the hot, hot sun. And the star of the show-Lions!!! One person in our group counted 17 different animals. All of this encompassed by the towering crater walls. 

Evening

Everyone is weary but excited from the adventures of the day. We sit around the fire watching the bush TV and listening to men from the camp singing in Swahili before sitting down to a fabulous dinner that magically appeared from the tiny kitchen in our bush camp. We are blown away by our staff singing and dancing. I look around and everyone has the biggest smile I have ever seen.

What a day.

Days 2 to 4 : Tarangire National Park

An African trip seemingly is on everyone’s bucket list. Safaris, travel to Egypt, South African wine tours. Whatever it is many people have a dream to travel there. Until you’ve been there, and then you need to go back. Is it the sights? Yes. Is it the sounds? Yes. Is it the heat? Oh yes. Is it the wildlife? Very much yes! But it’s the people that captivate. The crowds, the bustle, the smiles and the welcome you get from a truly grateful people. Yes there is poverty and you see it and it hurts, but you also see the indomitable spirt and it gives you hope. I’m back, and I’ve missed this place.

March 9th – out to sea

With a full day out to sea we had left the Beagle Channel and straight into the Drake passage South bound we go! Full swing into our adventure now and no turning back.We were super fortunate and experienced very calm seas. Magnificent body of water as you look out to the horizon of nothing! Today was filled with presentations educating us on the wildlife and science of Antarctica. Very interesting and experienced staff who have so much knowledge to share with us on board. Each evening we have a debrief on the days events and talk about the schedule for the following day.

Throughout the day we saw Southern Ocean whales and multiple types of sea birds.

In the afternoon we would perform a safety drill with our life jackets that have been allocated and later that evening Quark would fit us with our incredibly warm jackets and boots for our excursions. These are fantastic quality and a gift for you to take home. The process was seamless, fun and exciting!

Kylan’s Off to Zimbabwe!

Mana Pools is located in the northern part of Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River, it has been highly talked about as one of the best wildlife areas in the world in terms of both numbers and how WILD it truly is. Due to intense training programs and the diversity of activities offered in Zimbabwe – game drives, true walking safaris, canoeing and river boating – many of the best guides in Africa are from this incredible country. The area of Mana Pools I will be exploring is so wildlife rich in fact that Mugabe (past President) had reserved the area for himself. It is special due to its remoteness and plains as well as a natural spring that attracts wildlife. The area has recently welcomed 4 new camps that I will be inspecting.

After Mana Pools I’ll head to Victoria Falls for a couple of days, before spending 5 days in the beautiful Cape Town where I’ll meet with our local partners and lodge owners/operators from all over Africa.