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27 November 2019

Client review: The Clark couple’s vacation to Tanzania

YZ clients Nora Clark and her husband recently returned from a trip to Tanzania. They explored Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater, and the Serengeti, before relaxing along the shores of Zanzibar. Here’s their review of the trip:

Oh my, where to start?! Let me start off by saying, our trip was a life-changing experience that is difficult to accurately convey in words and pictures, but I will try to convey even a small sentiment. 

Highlight of our trip: It’s just a little past 6 AM and we’re driving through the northern Serengeti in our open SUV, the sun is starting to peek through the clouds, wind blowing through my hair, watching the 2 million wildebeests, zebras, elephants, giraffes walking by and going about their morning routine can only be described as an emotional experience. That same morning, we stumbled across 3 lionesses in an open field chasing each other, playing with a zebra tail. Yes, a zebra tail. But it wasn’t sad or grotesque by any means. These lionesses were so unbelievably happy, it was evident they were exactly where they were supposed to be doing what they were meant to be doing. There’s a certain profoundness with seeing that sense of purpose being fulfilled. And that’s the lesson Tanzania and Africa brought to me, grounded me on the significance of the simpler things in life.

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Lioness playing with a zebra tail

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A glorious morning in the northern Serengeti

Let’s start at the beginning! We flew into Mt. Kilimanjaro and spent our first night at Machweo House adjusting to the time difference. The grounds were beautiful, and we woke up to the roosters crowing, what a difference from NYC!

Lake Manyara

Our first game drive! Early morning, we were warmly greeted by Krewella, our guide for the next 2 days. Krewella is extremely well informed and teaches us about the importance of termites, the Maasai people, and all the birds. We were not bird people before our trip but now we might be, thanks to Krewella. Secretary birds, crowned hornbills, ibis, eagles, herons, who am I? But I love them all. Next we see our first hippos: a mom and a baby hippo are separated from the rest of the pod. We drive right up and see fresh scratches and wounds on the mom. Most likely a fight with the other hippos that forced them out of the group. Zebras, elephants, baboons, and more. A perfect 1st day. That night we arrive at Plantation Lodge, the grounds are exquisite, the food amazing, the people remarkable. Alec and I joked that we’d go back there to renew our wedding vows. (No joke, we would!)

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Krewella with my husband Alec

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Hippos in Lake Manyara

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African jacana

Ngorongoro Crater

Day 2, we’re up before dawn. We’re morning people so this works great for us. Krewella wants to be the first car in, we appreciate the hustle. It’s an hour drive down to the crater floor, 10 minutes in Krewella slows down, reverses the car, and we see a beautiful, full-mane, adult lion on the side of the road. So peaceful, regal, and calm. Wow. If we saw nothing else that day, I’d be happy. Little did we know we would see just about everything. Jackals, wildebeest, zebra, cape buffalo, hippos, hyenas, elephants, lions mating. Yes, lions mating. Throughout the day, Krewella leads us to different sightings, always sharing his knowledge of this spectacular place and all her residents. We even get to meet his younger brother, also a guide. The ambiance of the crater is unparalleled, the wheat-and-gold landscape, the mountains in the clouds. I’m in awe. Back at Plantation lodge, the staff bring me to meet the owner’s dogs, Bella and Hugo! So cute, reminds me of our dog at home. I get an impromptu tour of the grounds, they show me the gardens where all of the food is grown. No wonder everything tastes so fresh. Amazing.

 

Northern Serengeti

Our first flight in Tanzania, off to the north! We are greeted at the airstrip by Hassan, our new host and guide. He asks what’s on our list, I tell him a wildebeest river crossing where a crocodile tries to eat a wildebeest. He responds that it’s a tall order that I want to see 3 separate things and then all together… here we go! On our way to Lemala Mara, we are instantly overwhelmed by the sheer number of wildebeest in the area. They are everywhere as far as the eye can see, sometimes with their zebra friends. They remind me of ants. We drive through crowds of them, they move for us, running haphazardly (and endearingly). Throughout our time here, we develop a new love of wildebeest we never knew. To them, the water is life and death. They need to cross into Kenya this time of the year, always in search of greener grass. For them the grass IS always greener! They stand on the edge of the river for hours and hours, patiently and eagerly waiting to cross, they are waiting for one brave wildebeest to lead them or maybe it’ll be a zebra. They brave the river current, the crocodiles. Our drive back to the camp, we are lucky to see our first crossing. So much going on in one place, the wildebeests, there’s crocodiles beached on the sand, hippos further along in the river bopping their heads in and out of the water, some wildebeests are struggling and stuck in the mud, and there’s even a dead one in the water. Circle of life. 

We arrive to camp for a hot lunch and I’m amazed at how tasty the food is. With full stomachs, we head back out for our afternoon game drive. More wildebeests, elephants, and our first cheetah sighting. They’re brothers and oh so sleepy. Moving just to find another place to lay down. Hours of watching these animals and a lifetime wouldn’t seem enough. On our way back to camp that evening, we stumble across lions on the rocks. As we make our way back to camp, they’re off to hunt. Good luck girls!

Another day in the north and we see leopards, a mom and her 2 babies. How does nature create something so stunning? We’re amazed yet again. Just when we think it can’t get any better, we’re front row for a river crossing that’s just starting. Hassan points out, there is a crocodile trying to get a baby wildebeest. It’s a struggle, the mom is waiting on the other side. We see glimpses of the baby in and out of the water. Can’t believe we are seeing this in real life. The baby escapes in the end and is reunited with his mom. I love a good ending.

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Leopard spotting in the Serengeti

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A baby wildebeest safe after a close encounter with a croc

Central Serengeti

More adventures to be had, off to central Serengeti! We arrive to the gorgeous grounds of Lemala Nanyuki. Warmly welcomed by the team there, the spaces are impeccable. New and beautifully decorated, it feels like we’re the only ones there. The lodge is home to a lion pride, and we need to walk with a Maasai warrior to and from our room every day, morning and night. Our lodge is quite possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed. There are sliding doors at the foot of the bed that walks out to our deck. Giraffes are not far off in the horizon. The game drives here are quieter compared to the north. It’s rural, authentic, quiet, sometimes we go hours without seeing another vehicle. It’s a nice contrast to the busyness of the wildebeests. So many big cats, cheetahs, lions, more lions, hyenas. The first night, I’m woken up by lions roaring. I wake up Alec, he needs to hear this! The warmth and service here really stands out. After 2 days of game drives, plunge pool, outdoor showers, we’re off to the beaches of sunny Zanzibar!

 

Zanzibar

We arrive to Pongwe Beach Hotel, it’s warm, inviting, simple. What else could you need on a beach? We have the most relaxing 3 days on the beach. The staff is funny, welcoming, and the food oh the food… every meal is more delicious than the last. This is all we need in this moment. In the evenings, over cocktails we reflect back on our first safari trip in Africa. Promising each other, we’ll come back soon. We’ve seen so much here but there is more to experience in Africa.

Feeling an abundance of gratitude for nature, Tanzania, the people we’ve met, and all that we’ve experienced. It’s impossible not to feel different after a trip to Africa. Yellow Zebra team was exceptional in their knowledge, service, planning and all of the above. Until next time, asante sana!

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If you are interested in a safari to Tanzania, please don't hesitate to contact our experts here. Alternatively, take a look below at some trips and lodges for more inspiration: