As i sit here watching the snow come down in Vermont, I can't help but think back on our amazing trip to East Africa. There were so many highlights, so before the new year really gets rolling I thought I would write them down so we can always look back and remember.
Nairobi: Everyone makes their flights and finds me waiting for them right outside the arrivals gate of Jomo Kenyatta Airport. We kick back our first night in a quiet part of Nairobi at the historic Norfolk hotel, with everyone reuniting at breakfast the next morning in the Lord Delamere Terrace. Then we jump on our first of many small safari plane rides. We are able to see the slums, Nairobi National Park, the Abedares, and Mt. Kenya before landing at Samburu.
Samburu National Reserve: We find the Samburu 5 almost before our first game drive. We visited Gabriel's village to dance with the Samburu warriors. We worked hard to see a leopard, and a lion, although the ostrich may have been an even bigger hit. Larsens Tent Camp was a big hit as we saw elephants crossing the river that our tents looked out on. It was a great place to have Christmas as Santa Clause made an appearance and the local choir gave a moving performance. The group was introduced to Africa's amazing birds and survived a charging elephant that gave one of our cars a very close call.
Masai Mara: So many highlights from this one. Flying in we lost count of all the animals filling up the fields. A beautiful welcome table with drinks and snacks was waiting for us as well as our all-star guides Jackson and Massek. We almost saw a river crossing as several zebras came close. The crocodiles were closing in. We found our final Big 5 with a black rhino encounter. Then we watched as three lions narrowly missed a warthog. We got closer to the small stuff on a walking safari. Our nighttime sundowners on the airstrip with nearby hunting lions and grazing hippos really got everyones attentions. We traveled to the border to have lunch with two cheetah brothers who work the gorgeous open lands between the Mara and the Serengeti. On the way we were very lucky to see a lion hunt from start to finish with only our group, no one else around. Another drink break was high stakes as we had to jump back into the vehicles with elephants trumpeting in the nearby bush. The group had another leopard at night right before being blown away by our first bush dinner complete with chanting Maasai and hyenas walking through the area. Even with all the amazing wildlife it was hard to leave our amazing accommodations at the exclusive andBeyond Bateleur Camp.
Serengeti: This was big cat central. Right off the bat we saw two male lions followed by two females. It seemed if we couldn't see lions we could hear them, including all night long from our tents at andBeyond's Under Canvas Mobile Tent Camp. We found hunting cheetah, cheetah with a fresh wildebeest kill, and even a cheetah carcass hanging from a tree compliments of a local leopard. Lion skirmishes broke out across the Ndutu region due to a neighboring pride invading this area. Sherry was given a new name by the Maasai here which translates to 'Lion Queen.' We chased after the Great Migration, taught our guide Justice the dance, and had a wonderful encounter with a rare Serval cat. We roughed it with bucket showers in a tent fit for royalty.
Ngorongoro Crater: Driving from the adjacent Serengeti took us past the enigmatic shifting sands and into the cradle of mankind, the Olduvai Gorge. Made it to one of the best lodges in the world, Ngorogoro Crater Lodge for a once in a lifetime New Years Eve. A little hail and rain early on wouldn't dampen the festivities later which included 100 chanting Maasai warriors leading us on a winding dance through camp. Sunrise over the crater and an all day game drive into the famous Ngorongoro Crater followed. We counted 32 lions, hyena, flying flamingos, another rhino, and a serval. Everyone loved the close encounters with zebra, wildebeest, and buffalo. Although the encounter with the black kite was a little too close for comfort. We spent time enjoying the lodge with make-yourself-gin and tonics, fireplaces in the rooms, fudge samples, and drawn baths. And we'll always remember our private happy hour overlooking the crater.
Mnemba Island, Zanzibar: Kicking back tropical island style after safariing in the bush at andBeyond's private Mnemba Island. Scuba diving, snorkeling, stand up paddleboarding, sundowners sailing on traditional dhows, and fly fishing kept us busy. Breakfast and coffee delivered to our open air bungalows was a good way to start our days and amazing dinners with great conversation provided a solid end. Not wearing shoes for four days is how every adventure vacation should end.