Kyle Witten and Szilvia Hegyi visiting Tanzania
Jan 10 – Arrived on Kilimanjaro
Greetings from Kilimanjaro, Tanzania! After a comfortable flight on Emirates and a layover in Dubai we have arrived the Kilimanjaro Airport.
We checked in to the charming Kahawa Cottage. Located outside of Arusha, the hotel is the perfect place to begin (or end) a safari. We had the pleasure of meeting the owners and enjoying some delicious food.
Jan 11+12 – Fly to the Serengeti and overnight Ehlane Plains
And luck was on our side as the top of Mount Meru was visible from the tarmac.
It was time to head out on safari and our first stop was Ehlane Plains in the eastern part of the Serengeti. The camp is absolutely gorgeous and we are thrilled to be able to spend two nights here. We are especially excited to partake in some game drives in the region, which is famous for the big cats.
Jan 13+14 – Game drive enroute to Siringit – Serengeti, Tanzania
This morning we bid Ehlane Plains farewell and headed off to Lemala Nanyukie, where we did a site inspection. In a word – WOW! The camp just opened this past October and entices guests with its beautiful tents (15 in total) that are spaced apart to ensure privacy and they offer every comfort such as a stocked mini-bar, en suite bathroom with double vanity, hot water shower, flush toilet, bath tub and indoor-outdoor shower. The highlight is the private deck with your own plunge pool to soak in the incredible views of the Serengeti plains. The common areas are equally stunning!
We had a wonderful game drive from Lemala Nanyukie to our camp for the next two nights, Siringit Serengeti Camp. Located in the central Serengeti, it is an ideal base for year-round game viewing. And with just eight tents, the camp feels very intimate and strikes the perfect notes of traditional canvas with modern amenities (such as on-demand hot water available 24/7, hair dryer and fireplaces in each tent). We especially love the main lounge tent, with rich wood elements and local art pieces, it serves as a bar area and dining room. The staff served a wonderful lunch in the shade of some thorn trees.
Our guide Wilson has been pulling out all the stops and showed us lots of hippos, lion cubs in the grass and a leopard in the tree!
Our second day, we combined game viewing with a site inspection of One Nature Nyaruswiga. This camp is spectacular! They have thought of everything such as the proper distance between tents, to camera lens rentals, Wifi on vehicles as well for people who need to check email for work and a unique opening on their safari vehicles so guests can lay down and take low level pictures, like cheetah in the grass.
Everything in the camp is beautiful, classic and tastefully done. The family room is stunning. They offer fun things like jazz at night, exciting kids activities and one can even smoke a hookah in one corner.
We had a very productive game drive. Good lion sightings, and the best zebra sighting with a few thousand zebras in and out of water, two tree climbing lions in the distance, nice giraffes and a lilac breasted with grasshopper in mouth.
This time of year is also a birders paradise. Weather is good, warm during day and cool at night.
Off to Mara next!
Jan 15+16 – Fly to the Maasai Mara, Kenya
Today we departed the Serengeti for Kenya’s Maasai Mara. A short flight brought us across the border, where we cleared immigration, and then continued to our next camp, Offbeat Mara.
We love it at Offbeat Mara, a nice bushcamp with superb Maasai guides, David is our guide and Moses is the spotter. We enjoyed 2 game drives with lion sightings, 2 cheetah brothers on hunt (waterbuck and zebra, both unsuccessful but it was great to witness when thet made the run for them). Female lioness with fresh zebra kill nearby. The landscape is very diverse here including woodland with beautiful trees, rocks, plains, rivers.
Offbeat Mara felt like another one of our favorite camps in Zimbabwe and began calling it the “Vundu of the Mara”… It really is an absolute gem of a camp! There are approximately 70 lions in Mara North so excellent lion sightings and now 4 lionesses have cubs. Off roading as well which is great!
The camp is run by 2 ladies managers, very hands on crew. We enjoyed a communal dinner and had a chance to meet our fellows safariers. This is a relaxed camp and ideal for those looking for a less structured safari experience.
This camp is also a fantastic option for families, they have a great family room with 2 bathrooms and 3 beds for kids and the standard tents can take a 3rd bed as well. The rooms have bucket showers. You can charge your phone and camara in the main area or on vehicle. Wifi is available only in the main area.
Zebra migration is usually here in February, but they have already arrived. We saw hippo out of the water, ostriches, hyenas at camp, eland, topis, warthogs, lots of vultures on a zebra carcass and jackal.
In the below picture (left to right) is Szilvia Hegyi, Moses a learner guide and helper, David our amazing guide (he knew exactly what the animals were going to do) and Kyle Witten.
The main river crossing area is approximately 1 hour away. Early in the season, it can take approximately 2 hrs as they have to go further to another area. This area is so good though, if the focus is not on the migration, there is no need to leave the area.
Mara Elephant project vehicle passed us, they collar elephants in the area.
Over our two days we spent in the area we found the game to be very rich and diverse. We saw a male lion in acacia bushes, looked like a rock, not everyone would have spotted this. Then encountered 3 male lion cubs and a jackal (jackal was barking loud, we have not heard that before). 3 lion prides here (Offbeat, Acacia and River). One afternoon we drove to the Mara River to see the hippos. Sighting was GREAT! These 5 lionesses came up from the reserve looking for new territory.
Offbeat Mara Camp was very good and we were sad to leave them. All their guides (Joseph, Joswat and Stanley) have worked there for a long time.
Jan 17+18 – Game drive enroute to Mara Plains, Maasai Mara, Kenya
We arrived at Mara Plains Camp today. This is a small luxurious camp located in the Maasai Mara’s private Olare Motorogi Conservancy. The seven-roomed camp is constructed under canvas on raised decks with amazing views of the surrounding savanna. Mara Plains Camp is located bordering the Maasai Mara National Reserve’s northern boundary, allowing guests of the camp the privilege of game-viewing both in the Maasai Mara and in the Conservancy away from the crowds and mini-buses. The area offers some exciting big game opportunities including numerous lion, leopard and cheetah sightings.
Duncan is our guide and has been here for 7 years. We saw a male and female from the Dik Dik pride. Saw the other females with six cubs earlier. They were deep in the bush so pictures were difficult. The cubs were playing, biting tails, nursing we could have watched them for hours. End of the afternoon drive was with a female cheetah and three older young. She ran to grab an impala but no luck.
Our last day of game viewing has been the best we have ever witnessed during 7 and 14 safaris respectively. We spent time with 3 female lionesses and their 3 cubs (2 months old), they were very active playing around and ‘talking’, then we saw a Thompson gazelle giving birth (we were the only vehicle) from start to end. Just an unbelievable morning. Then a flat tire and getting stuck a bit, but Duncan fixed both quickly.
The camera the camp gives every room is a great feature here! Great binoculars in the vehicle as well.
We learned so much on this return trip to East Africa and Kenya is providing beyond our expectations!