Monday, July 8, 2024

A Photo Journal: African Safari - Part I (Tarangire & Ngorongoro)

Last August, Mom called me. "I really want to go on an African Safari," she said. "Would you want to go with me?" While a safari had never been high on my wanna-do list, the answer was pretty darn obvious. For one, I had never been to Africa before. For two, I hadn't been out of the country since Covid and was itchy for an overseas adventure. For three, I very well knew that while the days are long, the years are short, and so if Mom wanted to go, we should go!

Mom and me in the Serengeti.

The next few weeks were filled with back and forth emails and phone calls to work through details. When were we going to go? Where were we going to go? Who were we going to go with? We both had openings on our calendars for the October and January/February timeframes. We decided on the later dates, firmly believing that a significant part of the enjoyment of a trip is the anticipation and preparation. We considered different travel companies to travel with and different destinations to travel to. After reading through bunches of itineraries and asking for lots of opinions, we decided to sign up for Overseas Adventure Travel's 13-day Safari Serengeti tour beginning January 24th. 

Five months later, both excited for our safari, Mom and I boarded a plan and flew to Tanzania via Ethiopia. We arrived two days before the tour began to acclimate ourselves to the new time zone. We were glad we did, as we really enjoyed the time to relax at the Moivaro Lodge before the rest of the group arrived. Soon enough, we started meeting the others who would join us on our tour. Once the tour began, one of our fellow travelers, Mary, kept saying, "I can't believe I'm in Africa!" I felt that way, too. Wow, I can't believe Mom and I are in Africa!

Me, in our Safari vehicle (aka our "bush limousine").

Having served as a bike guide for a number of years, I was familiar with the ins and outs of leading trips. But I had never been a guest on a tour before. I was particularly excited to see what it would be like being on the other side of the experience. 

We had three guides. Goodluck Godson was our main guide, the head honcho in charge of overseeing the trip. In addition to Goodluck, we had two driver guides, Miya and Dotto. I assumed the driver guides would simply drive us around, but I assumed incorrectly. The driver guides blew me away. In addition to safely driving us in some extremely challenging conditions (refer to the video in Part II), they also spotted animals and answered all of our questions about the fauna and flora. I likened the drivers to octopuses; they had one tentacle on the steering wheel, another tentacle on the gear shift, another tentacle on the binoculars as they continuously scanned for animals, another tentacle looking up bird species in a guidebook, and yet another tentacle handing each of us water bottles to ensure our hydration. These guys worked their asses off!

Goodluck and Miya.
(Dotto is not pictured.)

In addition to the three guides, there were twelve guests on the tour. I was the youngest, Mom was the oldest, and everyone else was in between. Unfortunately, two of the guests became ill mid-trip, and so these guests and their spouses spent a few days apart from the group tending to their health.

The group.
L to R: Mary & Stephen (Arizona), Mom (Illinois), Dotto, Miya,
Me (Washington), Goodluck, Claire (New Mexico), and Maria Teresa & Thomas (Minnesota)
(Not pictured: Suhas from Ohio, Pat & David from Pennsylvania, and Evonne & Thomas from Arizona)

This is Part I of a five-part series about our African Safari. Here are the five parts in the series:
This post and the four forthcoming posts describe just a fraction of what we saw and experienced. The whole trip was amazing — from the lodging and the meals, to the staff, to the wildlife sightings, to the "day in the life" experiences unique to Overseas Adventure Travel tours. Though I was somewhat ambivalent about safaris before I took this trip, having been to Tanzania to see the wild animals in their natural habitat, I now highly encourage everyone to make this trek at least once in their lifetime. The trip was absolutely WOW!

Tarangire National Park

I'd never heard of Tarangire before this trip. I love being surprised by places I didn't even know existed. Tarangire National Park is Tanzania's third largest national park. Behind Serengeti National Park, Tarangire has the second highest concentration of wildlife. 

We spent our first two days of game viewing at Tarangire. There was so much to see! Everything about the park was BIG, BIG, BIG.

Tarangire is best known for is its elephants.
We saw lots of them, including this elephant who was not more than 20 ft from our vehicle.
We observed the elephant picking up bunches of grass
and throwing the grass on its back to protect itself from the sun. 

Tarangire park is known for its baobab trees, some of them nearly 8000 years old.
As the trees suck up water like a sponge,
elephants often nibble on the trees to quench their thirst.
Over years this nibblig causes damage to the trees, as shown at the base of this baobab.

The baobabs are gigantic.
For context, here is the same baobab with a
mama and baby elephant at the neighboring tree.

Up until the mid-1990s, this baobab served as a hideout for poachers.
The hunters would crawl up into the tree's hollow insides to hide from authorities.

Here, Mom, Pat, and I stand just inside the entrance to the poacher's baobab.
This tree makes the giant old growths back home in the Pacific Northwest look like juveniles.

Here is a herd of elephant roaming near the Tarangire River.
The safari vehicles in the photo provide context for the vastness of the valley.

This pile of bones sits at the entrance to the park.
That's an elephant skull at the top of the pile.
The skull weighs about 110 pounds.

The termite mounds were gigantic, too.
They were are all over Tarangire.

All these awesome big things brought a ginormous smile to my face.
Here I am at our luxury tent at the Lake Burunge Tented Lodge
just outside Tarangire. What a cool place to stay! 

From our front porch, Mom watched a family of warthogs graze in the nearby grass.

And then she noted the animals she saw in her little itinerary booklet.  

Fun Fact: In years past, guests didn't have to worry about elephants roaming the grounds of the Lake Burunge Lodge because the elephants had all been scared away over the years by the staff. But with the absence of guests during the pandemic, the elephants returned and have since remained. For safety reasons, we were informed not to leave our tents if there were elephants in the vicinity.

Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is another place I never knew existed. The crater is not actually a crater; it's a caldera that was formed by the collapse of the ancient walls of a volcano — likely once the size of nearby Mount Kilimanjaro. Before entering the caldera, we took in the surroundings from Ngorongoro's rim, which stands 7,500 feet above sea level. 

Mom looking down into the Ngorongoro caldera.

We peered over the edge to see a perfectly circular crater that is 2,000 feet deep and 12 miles across. It was absolutely breathtaking and all wow, wow, wow!

With its permanent supply of water and its precise balance of predators and prey, the crater has been likened to a Garden of Eden. We saw all sorts of animals, including black rhinos and zebras and even flamingos. What was amazing is that we saw lions sitting peacefully near buffalo and wildebeest and antelope. I often thing of predators as constantly being on the hunt. But when all is in balance, there is only need to hunt when one is hungry. It made me wonder what the world looked like before Eden ate that apple!

We spent an afternoon driving around the inside of the caldera.

It was amazing to see the animals existing peacefully aside one another.

I was a sucker for the colors — the blue sky, the green grass, the puffy white clouds,
and of course, the funky black and white striped horses.

A picturesque tree at one of the picnic areas inside the caldera.

Yours truly inside the caldera.

We were only a few days into our safari. We had only just scratched the surface.


  1. I'm loving sharing the memories.

  2. Enjoying the photos and commentary - everything looks so fresh and clean - looking forward to next installments. Your PA Aunt

  3. Dang... adding Africa to my trip list now. Love hearing about your adventures as always!

    1. Oh wow, it's Dave! So great to see you here, after all these years! 😁

  4. Fab photos and really interesting description ❤️

  5. My favorite photo is the one of the elephants under the baobab trees. Wow!!! -Kelly


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