How to Go to the Serengeti

I have been fortunate many times in life.  With the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, I have been fortunate twice.

Serengeti National Park twice!

Back in 2007, I went to Tanzania for the first time visiting projects my employer supported in Stone Town (Zanzibar) and the Mwanza region while also visiting our main office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city (but not its capital which is inland Dodoma).

During my stay in Mwanza, I had a day off and I thought “if I never get to return to Tanzania, what would I do with that day?”  Well, the answer was easy:  visit the nearby the Serengeti, approaching it from its western side.  Though a day is certainly not enough, when that’s all you have, you take advantage of the opportunity to sample a place so unique and so present in our imagination from movies and the like.

tanzania, mwanza, serengeti, Lake Victoria, Speke Bay, lodge, Africa, adventure, outdoors, safari

The tiny Mwanza airport

Fast forward to late 2012 and I was convinced, sold, pressured, <fill in the word here> to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.  Never on my list of things to do, I was surprised I agreed to do it (wine had something to do with it but also the great people with whom I would go on this adventure).  Once on board, the opportunity arose to do a four day safari through the Lake Manyara National Park, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti after the climb.  I knew I had barely scratched the surface on my brief visit in 2007.  In addition, I had not gotten to Ngorongoro in 2007 because it takes a day of its own and it was outside the Serengeti on the OPPOSITE side from where I was coming and going back to (Mwanza).

My visits were very different in duration, in how they were guided, and in how I got to and departed from the park.  These visits provided me a view of the possibilities for someone contemplating visiting the Serengeti with potentially different itineraries.

How to get to the Serengeti from Mwanza

Getting to the Serengeti:  One option on getting to the Serengeti is to enter it from its western side.  You would do this if you were coming, say, from Rwanda or were to get to Mwanza (Tanzania) on the shores of Lake Victoria.  On my first trip to Tanzania in 2007, this is how I visited the Serengeti, as I mentioned.  From Mwanza, it would take 3 hours or so to get to the Serengeti’s western entrance, the Ndabaka Gate.  Fair warning:  the road in was rather rough from this entrance.

Staying near the Serengeti:  Since you really want to be at the park as early in the morning as possible, I stayed as close to the park’s entrance as possible.  They reserved a lake-shore bungalow at the Speke Bay Lodge (15 km from the park and 125 km from Mwanza) on Speke Bay (part of Lake Victoria) so I could get going really early – optimal time for seeing the wildlife at the park.

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My bungalow at the Skepe Bay Lodge – outside

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My bungalow at the Skepe Bay Lodge – inside

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The shores of Speke Bay

tanzania, mwanza, serengeti, Lake Victoria, Speke Bay, lodge, Africa, adventure, outdoors, safari

The shores of Speke Bay

Exploring the Serengeti:  I hired a driver from my organization to drive me in and out of the park who was more than happy to make extra money.  For the cost of his hourly wages multiplied by the hours spent taking me there/back plus a rather generous tip, I got to sample the Serengeti.  While he was savvy enough to not get lost, handle the very rough roads), and show me a good bit, he certainly was not a regular safari driver who has more of knowledge and instinct for finding the action.   Once in the park, he took me to the impressive Seronera Lodge so I could have lunch.  After concluding the day, I went all the way back to Mwanza which made for a long day since I had crammed into one day.  Needless to say, I recommend more than one day in the park and staying in the park which, while more expensive, would allow for maximizing the early hours of light to make sure you see all one hopes to see when doing a safari in the Serengeti…

Some images from that trip (film, not digital camera!)

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Some of the wildlife…

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Some more of the wildlife…

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Love this zebra picture!

How to get to the Serengeti from Arusha / Kilimanjaro

Getting to the Serengeti:  The most common way to visit the Serengeti is to approach it from Arusha.  Arusha is proximate to the Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) served by airlines like KLM (awesome way to go from North America with one stop in Amsterdam’s Schiphol).  More or less, it takes about four hours to get from Arusha to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  The visit to the Ngorongoro can take a whole day so I would not recommend going back and forth from Arusha.

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On the road in the Ngorongoro Crater

Staying near the Serengeti:  We stayed at hotel outside the Ngorongoro called Highview Hotel in Karatu (the vistas from the hotel reminded me of the hills of Tuscany!) which made it perfect because, the day after visiting the Ngorongoro, we launched from there into the Serengeti.  We then spent two full days in the Serengeti staying in the park at a nice tented camp (we had a bathroom in the large tent as well as two separate beds!) that allowed us to get a very early start the second day.

Ngorongoro, Serengeti, safari, Tanzania, explore, adventure, Africa, travel, photos, tented camp

My tented camp “tent” – nice!

Exploring the Serengeti:  On this safari, we did go on a guided safari which definitely yielded a great experience.  We were a group of 12 or so; we split into two vehicles and one left before the crack of dawn and the other sometime after dawn).  I stuck with the group that slept a little more 🙂  We were taking a gamble… would we miss the best wildlife action (a lion kill – which really meant a lioness or two hunting down some wildebeest) because we slept until the late hour of 6AM?  Well, thankfully, we did not sacrifice the opportunity to see how the hunt takes place (and the kill which was not the most interesting part for sure).  The vehicles we rode in sat a small group and the top would open, as most of the vehicles you see during safari, so you could stand look out without the glass of the windows obstructing a clear view out.

Ngorongoro, wilidlife, Serengeti, safari, Tanzania, explore, adventure, Africa, travel, photos, zebra

Second visit, an.other zebra shot..

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Hippos enjoying the water

We named ourselves the type B group (vs. the other group, which we lovingly labeled the type A group).  We had brought lunch boxes prepared by our camp but the type B group drove past the Seronera Lodge (yes, the one I had had lunch at six years before!) and we asked the driver to stop there.  Once inside, we decided lunch boxes were for the type As and we proceeded to go to the restaurant for the lunch buffet… yes, no shame here – we enjoyed the ‘luxury.’  Anyway, that may not be how everyone wants to do the Serengeti but it felt SO good to sit down, eat a real meal, sip on a glass of wine or a beer and look out the window at the Serengeti…

Ngorongoro, Serengeti, safari, Tanzania, explore, adventure, Africa, travel, photos, Seronera Lodge, pool

Pool at the Seronera Lodge – with a great view of the plains

In this visit, we witnesses an almost lion kill in the Ngorongoro (we saw the lion patiently monitoring things with a three lionesses not far probably doing the hard work).  And then we saw the full lioness kill of some wildebeests in the Serengeti itself.  An incredible experience especially when witnessing the patience and finesse of the lioness, and also the cleverness of the wildebeests (OK, all but one’s…).

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Patiently waiting for the menu to walk by…

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This is not going to end up well for someone…

Africa never ceases to amaze me.  The vistas, the wildlife and the people – the stuff we see on TV and that is so foreign to our daily experience (at least for those of us urbanites).  I leave you with these two images of the sunsets I experienced in the Serengeti…

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Amazing sunset on its way while we safari

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Amazing sunset from the restaurant at our tented camp

Pin these images to your travel board!

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Recently, the hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou has been trending on Twitter and for good reason. The world’s view of Africa is often a negative one, focused on violence, disease, and poverty. The hashtag was formed to show the world that this is not what Africa is all about, in fact there is so much beauty that is overlooked by the media.

Several bloggers and I decided to join the movement and share what it is that we love about the continent. There are common misconceptions about the way Africa is portrayed in the media, and we’d like to be part of the solution. Our hope is that the world will see that we need to change our view of Africa.

Raul of I Live to Travel  (yours truly!)


The news outlets, unfortunately, tend to focus on the sensational, on the negative. Sub-Saharan Africa is mostly portrayed in an unflattering light unless there is a story about safaris perhaps. Wars, AIDS, etc. always get top billing. But there is much more to Africa than the media would have you see. And most of it is actually quite positive. During my work at CARE, I got to visit its work in Tanzania. One of my most enlightening and heart-warming experiences was outside of the town of Mwanza. There I was taken to visit a woman who had been shown how to earn a better livelihood by selling fried fish along a road many went on (mostly on foot or bikes) to get to a market miles away. She and her family lived in a mud brick house with a thatch roof; anytime massive rains came, they risked the house flooding – or worse, washing away as many do. With her increased earnings, she was able to start building a home raised from the ground made with real bricks – providing a safe home for her family. THAT is the Africa I met the first time I went to Tanzania. Go beyond the sellers of “news” and meet the real people of Africa, living their lives with hope and hard work!

Erin of The World Wanderer


No matter what stories I heard in the news, Africa was always a place I knew I would visit. The cultures, diversity, food, people, and wildlife have interested me for years, and when I finally saw the opportunity to travel to the continent in 2012, I took it. As soon as I arrived, I realized how wrong the media was. Every continent and country has their fair share of bad news, but as I have found by traveling, there is always more good than bad; Africa is no different.

When I think of Africa, I think of it as a place full of warm, welcoming smiles and unspoiled, natural beauty. For three weeks, I traveled throughout Southern Africa, not enough time to truly know it or understand the way it works, but it was enough time for me to fall in love. Botswana, in particular, took an immediate hold on my heart; I felt connected to the vast landscapes and kind people. During a few days in the Okavango Delta, we spent time with the locals who we bonded with, especially over the campfire. We shared songs and dances, one of the girls and I made everyone s’mores, and we laughed and joked until the early hours. It was one of those moments, I will never forget. My time in Africa was full of small moments like this, moments that I wish people knew about because if they did, they’d truly understand what the continent is all about.

Francesca of The Working Mom’s Travels


I traveled to Africa by myself at age 31 to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and go on a Serengeti safari. I was nervous for a few reasons, mainly because I was traveling alone and it was AFRICA.  It’s so far and so mysterious and only bad things happen there. At least that’s what I was led to believe by those in my life who thought my traveling there was a bad idea. Little did they know, it was just the motivation I needed to go through with the trip, to prove that Africa is not as awful as mainstream media portray it.

I arrived in a village outside of Moshi, Tanzania, on Christmas Eve, and was to spend the holiday with a local family, along with a group of my American friends (we all traveled there separately). I arrived to a festive scene and happy, laughing kids everywhere. Everyone, including the children, was dressed in their Sunday best: men and boys in suits and dress shoes; women and girls in fancy dresses and extravagant hats. After they returned from Christmas Eve mass, the father and head of the family began cooking up an enormous feast. For a family that seemingly did not have much, they wanted to make sure they shared everything with us. We ate, we danced, and we sang, and it stands as one of the happiest Christmas celebrations I’ve ever been a part of. This family was grateful for what they had and was able to share, and they were joyous. That’s an aspect of Africa we don’t see much of in the media.

Craig of Stay Adventurous


I don’t know one person who traveled to Africa and didn’t come back different. For most it becomes the trip of a lifetime. Today, they don’t speak of Africa in only hardships and poverty, but describe its raw beauty and tell of its energy and what amazed them. Their stories seem endless.

For me, much of my one five-week adventure to Africa is documented on my travel blog. Yes, I showcase sunsets, sand dunes and safari (all expected), but I show more and things I didn’t expect. Things I certainly don’t hear people who haven’t traveled to Africa and or the media discussing today.

Many of such memories happened in Namibia. One morning a few of us set out to explore Walvis Bay, along Namibia’s Atlantic coastline. Watching seals, dolphins, and taking a look at a shipwreck were part of the itinerary, but so was tasting the local oysters. Delicious. Fresh. Oysters.

I never thought I’d be on a boat in a bay in Africa eating oysters one day. Well, is that something you see in today’s coverage of Africa?

Gerard and Kieu of GQ Trippin


Kenya has made its way into the media more recently for terrorist attacks which, unfortunately, has negatively impacted its tourism, but we didn’t let this deter us from coming here on our honeymoon. During our time in the small town of Nakuru, we visited the East African Mission Orphanage and was immediately rushed by excited kids eager to meet us. Apparently, they don’t get visitors often, maybe once a month at times longer during the slow seasons. Here, the children learn to grow their own vegetables and spend a good amount of their day in class getting a proper education. It brought a smile to our faces to learn most aspire to attend a university and finish school to pursue careers like becoming a teacher or an engineer. Here at EAMO, we weren’t pushed to give a donation, a surprisingly different experience than we’d thought. Instead, we truly felt it was our presence that was most welcomed and wanted… and our gadgets — the kids couldn’t get enough playing with our cameras & phones, they asked to see pictures of our home or of really anything that was beyond the gated community they call home. It both warmed and broke our hearts, not going to lie. There are good things happening here, we wish more people knew about it.


If you’ve been to Africa, we ask that you join us in spreading the good. Create your own post, share photos on Twitter and Instagram, and shed some positive light on this beautiful place. Let’s show the world what Africa is really all about, let’s show them #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou

If you want to read more about my visits to Africa (sub-Saharan or not), just click above on the menu item “Africa”! Hope you enjoy my stories about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, visiting an incredible coastal town in Morocco, seeing post-apartheid Johannesburg, and other stories!

Travel Inspiring Reads – “Dark Star Safari”

Dark Star Safari – Overland from Cairo to Cape Town”  presents the story of Paul Theroux’ overland crossing of Africa, quite the safari!  (“Safari” means journey in Swahili.)travel book, journal, Africa, Cairo, Ethiopia, adventure, reading, inspiration

I enjoyed this book because it presented interesting topics:

  • Thought-provoking questions
  • Rich descriptions of places
  • Horror stories
  • Good history nuggets
  • Ideas for off-the-beaten-path places to visit.

Let’s go through these briefly…

Thought-provoking questions

While a book about travel, certainly part of travel is gaining an understanding of the local situation (at least for me).  The author helps the reader gain an understanding of the current state and what makes it difficult for Africa to break bad cycles.  For example, he points out how education in some of the countries suffers because those that have education and could be teachers are pulled by foreign NGOs for other activities (though I think he misses the point that often what those people go do is to try to help while also further developing capacity in these would-be teachers).  He also discusses with people he meets the issues introduced by corruption and mis-management without writing a dissertation about it.

One thing that was unfortunate is that the author seemed interested in putting down NGOs (“the agents of virtue in white Land-Rovers”) wherever he could which is unfortunate since many do very good work on behalf of those in need (even if not all are perfect; many have learned and evolved their approaches).  It is unfortunate in my opinion since it gives the impression that he has a chip on his shoulder and, as a reader, that diminishes my appreciation for his critical thinking (though it does not impact my appreciation of his writing effort).  Also, I would worry that readers unfamiliar with the questions and topics involved may just take his word for it.

Rich descriptions of places

The rich descriptions he captures of what he sees make you want to explore the places he visits.  For example, this is his description of Bayna l-Qasrayn, a street in Cairo:

“Perhaps the oldest inhabited street in the high-density city of Cairo, one thousand years of donkey droppings, hawkers’ wagons, barrow boys, veiled women, jostling camels, hand-holding men, and hubble-bubble smoker, among mosques and princes’ palaces, and a bazaar with shops selling trinket, brass pots and sack of beans…”

I also enjoyed relating to some of his observations, not dissimilar to my own.  For example, in many hotels in Egypt there are metal detectors.  I often wondered what were they really good for should someone just decide to park a truck full of explosives in front of a hotel.  He is much more eloquent than me as he shares his observations on security while in Aswan:

“There were metal detectors at the entrances to most buildings though they were seldom used and seemed more symbolic than practical… Certainly the electricity supply was unreliable and there seemed to be a labor shortage.  The armed men, with assault rifles slung at their sides, meant to reassure the tourists simply looked sinister and added to the atmosphere of menace.”

Horror stories

His description of travel through southern Ethiopia and Kenya to Nairobi is filled with frustrating anecdotes and mis-adventures.  Unhelpful government people, bad roads, vehicle breakdowns, touts and thieves, etc. all color this part of trip.  You suffer with him and then remember to be happy you are not him.  Good reading though!

Good history nuggets

The book also included great nuggets of history which certainly pleased this fan of history.  It informed me about Italy’s horrible choices when it came to Ethiopia since the late 19th century – a story I had never heard about.  In 1896, the Ethiopians trounced 20,000 invaders from the Italian army at Adwa (a place I had never heard of).  Those poor young men, sent there by crazy leadership ill-equipped, for no good reason, to die or otherwise suffer.  Unfortunately, all these created resentment that the Fascists in the 1930s wanted to act on.  So off they went (with poison gas and all) to invade Ethiopia whose fighters were still using the same weapons from the 1896 era…  (Don’t mean to pick on Italy, by the way… History is loaded with ugly decisions by many!)

Ideas for off-the-beaten places to visit

The book introduces a reader like me to places I had never ever heard of but that I may enjoy visiting.  For example, his inclusion of Lalibela in Ethiopia where there are twelfth century Coptic churches carved into the mountains adds to my already-existing desire to explore Ethiopia!

Favorite quote

One of the pieces of wisdom he heard in north Sudan during this safari struck me as universally true and is my favorite quote of the book:

“The criterion is how you treat the weak. The measure of civilized behavior is compassion.” – Sadig el Mahdi


While the author can come across a little self-absorbed or sanctimonious, the story of his crossing Africa overland is gripping and well-written, sharing a lot more than just a narrative of adventures and mis-adventures.  I wish I could do that trip…  Maybe.


Top 16 Memorable Moments from 2013 in Photos

As I think of 2013, I recall the many neat experiences at home and away.  Looking through my photos is a great way to bring back the memories.  I’d thought I’d share with you some of my most memorable moments from 2013 via photos – some of which have been shared before in other posts and some have not – in no particular order.  Hope you like them!

#1  When I first saw Mt. Kilimanjaro

Not necessarily a great photo from a technique standpoint but pretty “momentous”.  I landed at Kilimanjaro International Airport around midnight.  When I woke up the next day at my hotel, someone told me that if I went outside to the local road, I could see Kilimanjaro, which I was about to climb.  Neat to see it but even neater to run into two little locals on their way to school!  A moment I will always treasure.

Kilimanjaro, schoolchildren, kids, Tanzania, Africa, vista, view, Olympus, travel, photo

#2  At Uhuru Peak in Mt. Kilimanjaro

I have shared a lot of pictures I love through my prior posts about hiking Kilimanjaro (start with the Day 1 summary if you want to see them all!).  So to keep this post manageable, to go along with my first sighting of the mountain in #1, I’d thought I’d then include me by the new sign at Uhuru Peak (the highest point in Mt. Kilimanjaro).  This photo is special as I brought my family along for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Kilimanjaro, hiking, hiker, Uhuru Peak, climbing, Tanzania, Africa, vista, view, Olympus, travel, photo

#3  Ancient ruins

I shared this photo in an earlier post about my visit to Jerash, Jordan but it remains one of my favorite pictures for the year so it deserves inclusion here.  Seeing Jerash – a complete unknown to me until that point – was a great discovery in 2013.

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Beautiful columns in the Temple of Artemis

#4  Monumental Petra

Everyone has seen the same picture of the Treasury in Petra and that is because there is not much space to back away from it.  But there are plenty of other angles to photograph this incredible “carving”.  This is one of my favorites.  I had been to Petra before but seeing how well this photo turned out back at home made me happy!

Jordan, Petra, Treasury, Indiana Jones, ruins, column, architecture, sky, travel, photo, Olympus

#5  Twins?

While touring Jordan, after a long day at Petra, the group went out for dinner.  Yes, we were all a little tired.  One of our fellow travelers pointed out how our guide and I were not only dressed alike but were in the same pose – and snap! the picture was taken.  We were laughing when we realized this was all true and the photo captured that moment so well!

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#6  Kid in Mt. Nebo

Exploring Jordan was incredible:  lots of history, incredible nature, etc.  But the people is what really made the difference:  warm and friendly and the smile on this kid’s face captures well how we were made to feel welcome by everyone.

Mt. Nebo, Jordan, tourism, photo, child, Canon EOS Rebel#7  Food, food, food

I summarized my year in food and drinks in an earlier post but this plate deserves inclusion here.  It is from a lunch I had in Mardaba, Jordan but I’ve enjoyed great food this year from Manila to Miami, from Jordan to Minneapolis, from Washington, D.C. to Mt. Kilimanjaro!  Oh, and don’t forget Tampa and Atlanta!

food, Jordan, travel, photo#8  DragonCon’s parade in Atlanta

DragonCon is an interesting event held in Atlanta every year.  I went with friends to see the parade and enjoyed seeing all the characters that walked along.  This is one of my favorite pictures from that parade (others here).

DragonCon, Dragon, Atlanta, parade, conference, convention, science fiction, fantasy, Canon EOS Rebel

#9, 10 and 11  Africa and the great outdoors!

In addition to hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, my Tanzania experience included doing a safari the right way (4 days, not just a one drive in-and-out as I had done a few years before due to limited time while on a business trip).  These images capture well my favorite moments from that experience!

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#12  An amazing construction scene

Driving around the neighborhood next to mine in Atlanta, I ran into this scene!  What an incredible sight.  The house was being lifted so it can sit higher on the ground due to being in a flood plain.

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 #13  Stormy sky in Atlanta

My hometown provided another of the most memorable photos I took on 2013:  stormy skies over Buckhead.

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#14 and 15  Pictures of this traveler

During my trip to Jordan, a few pictures of me were taken by fellow travelers.  I like these two (which clearly were taken on the same day…) in particular because they show how happy I was at the time.  The second one has me with my faithful companion:  no, not the donkey but my camera!

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#16  Sunset over the Dead Sea with a couple of love birds

To close this post, I will re-share one of my favorite photos ever from 2013 taken by me as the sun set over the Dead Sea from our hotel in Jordan (the Movenpick resort – awesome).  I was lucky these two birds were waiting for me on that palm tree to capture the moment!

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Is this a sunset scene or what??!!

I hope 2014 brings you many memorable moments, whether you capture them on a photo or not!


Photo Essay – Hungry Hippos

While visiting the Serengeti in Tanzania on safari, we ran into a few pools of hippos.  They are one of the many incredible sights in the Serengeti along with things like a lioness kill or a beautiful sunset.  Hippos look cute but these animals can be quite dangerous.  Our drivers and guides clearly knew where to take us to be able to look at them yet be safe.  I have to say they were quite a sight even if the baby one went to town eating stuff that came out of another hippo…  Also, it was cool to see how birds co-exist with the hippos.

I thought I’d share some of my favorite pictures of these incredible beasts!

Photo Essay – Anatomy of Lioness Kill in the Serengeti

During my trip Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, I made time to do a safari.  We first visited Lake Manyara, then the Serengeti and at the end the Ngorongoro Crater.   Never in my wildest dreams did I think I was going to see a lion kill.  But that’s exactly what we got to see.  We saw two of them in progress, one with a solo lioness in the Serengeti and another with a trio of lionesses working together in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Lion kills are a slow thing with the beast slowly and deliberately moving to not alert the prey to their presence.  The trio of lionesses was way too slow and after like 45 minutes of watching them without them getting an inch closer to the target group, we moved on.  But the solo lioness was a different story.  Though it was taking a long time too, at least she was moving towards the target group (wildebeests, or “gnus“) so we hung in there.  And we were rewarded with quite a sight.  And the weird thing was, there were vehicles like ours all around (all of us silent, of course) and the presence of the vehicles did not seem to distract her from her focus on the target group and her cautious approach.  That probably was the most amazing thing for me!

So here is a series of photo from the moment we saw her until her moment of rest when it was all said and done…

Lioness, lion kill, wildebeest, Serenget, safari, Tanzania, photo essay

A cute lioness just soaking up the sun in the Serengeti?

Lioness, lion kill, wildebeest, Serenget, safari, Tanzania, photo essay

Nah! She is looking at the source of her next lunch: the wildebeest resting under an acacia!

Lioness, lion kill, wildebeest, Serenget, safari, Tanzania, photo essay

The lioness lies very low, hidden in the tall grass. I lost sight of her a few times!

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She is a beauty for sure! A tough beauty!

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She is monitoring the wind so her scent does not carry to the wildebeest scouts who are away from the group to protect it

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She pauses every now and then. Sometimes she sat there for 5 mins or more

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She finally moves again. I am leaning on the roof of the vehicle without movement while we wait! My arm falls asleep…  We are ready to snap pictures the moment she makes the final run!

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She goes low again and we lost her for a moment  This is the final stretch!

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She is too fast and the chaos that ensues makes me lose her but here she is… she got a young one so she does not have to give chase.

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The group of wildebeests (or gnus) flies off. I had followed the group thinking she went after them but she was already enjoying her prey under the tree.  Newbie me.

Lioness, lion kill, wildebeest, Serenget, safari, Tanzania, photo essay, gnu, Africa, outdoors, nature

The lioness enjoy a moment in the shade enjoying her success. She is probably about to post a selfie in Instagram as she chews on her lunch.


The Machame Route: Our Route to the Top of Mt. Kilimanjaro

 (At the end of this post, see the series of posts written post-climb about this route!)

I am a few days away from leaving for Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the rooftop of AfricaEager anticipation and a modest level of anxiety are my constant companions these last few days before the trek…  How fun will it be to finally see the mountain?  Did I have the right pieces to deal with the extreme cold?  Will my body cooperate?  Will I summit?  etc.

As I do a final review of the gear list, I am checking against the hike itinerary to be sure I am accounting for the right number of pieces given the varying climate zones we will encounter.  Let me share with you what the climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro looks like.  Mind you, this itinerary is based on going up the Machame Route (one of several routes available).  The Machame Route is known to afford better altitude adjustment, offer better views, and typically have much less trekker traffic.  All of these make it -ding, ding- a winner for me.  Especially the better altitude adjustment since it increases the odds of summitting, something that is not assured even with a good fitness level since the lack of oxygen at high altitude can hit every person very differently.

Here is a view of the routes to climb Kilimanjaro to which you can refer as you read the day-by-day breakdown below.

Routes to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro


Itinerary to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro via the Machame Route

Day 1Adrenaline day!!  Start at the Machame Gate at 1,800m/6,000ft.  Head up to Machame Camp at 3,100m/10,200ft.  It should take anywhere between 5-7 hrs depending on the number and duration of stops along the way.  We should be covering around 18km/11miles.  The habitat will mainly be forest.  I am praying that adrenaline will carry me through the mud or whatever we encounter on this part of the hike!

Day 2 “I can’t believe I am here” day.  Continuing the climb, we go to the Shira Camp at 3,840m/12,600ft.  This day we go for 4-6 hrs covering about 9km/5.5miles.  The habitat here is moorland.  You may ask what “moorland” looks like (like I did).  So here you go, courtesy of  The landscape looks surreal, doesn’t it?

Moorland on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Day 3Reality check day!!  We leave the Shira Camp and move into semi-desert habitat.  We head to the Lava Tower at 4,630m/15,200ft but descend to 3.860m/12,700ft to camp overnight at the Barranco Camp at 3,860m/12,700ft.  As you may notice and wonder (like I did), why if we go up do we go through the effort of going BACK DOWN??!!!  Seems counter-intuitive but after hearing the explanation, it makes perfectly good sense:  you want to climb high to force the body to exert itself at altitude but then climb down so you can sleep at lower altitude (which means more oxygen) to help the body adjust better.  OK, maybe also just the lay of the route contributes to this approach.  This is the type of factor that helps improve the odds of making it to the summit.  This hike will take 5-7 hrs and cover about 15km/9miles.

Lava Tower in Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Lava Tower (Source:

Day 4“OK, how much worse can it be compared to yesterday” day.  This day we cross Alpine desert to go up to the Karanga Camp at 4,200m/13,800ft.  This day we go up, and stay up.  But we are not camping at the maximum height reached the day before so we are still sleeping lower than our maximum exertion the day before.  Total time climbing should be around 4-5 hrs covering about 7km/4miles.

Day 5The “are we there yet?” day.  Continuing to climb without descending, this day we move to 4,600m/15,100ft going for 4-6 hrs and covering 6km/3.7miles which seems a cake walk compared to the prior days given the shorter climb and duration but I am sure it will be anything but (you will see why as you read day 6)!  We will stay at the Barafu Camp this night.

Day 6 The big day!!  This day we actually wake up at midnight (midnight between day 5 and day 6 – which means little sleep which will make ilivetotravel a little cranky – if he can muster the energy for that!).  Why do we barely sleep this night?  So we can see sunrise at the summit!!!  It will be a long hard night for most of us as you can imagine.  My headlamp will absolutely be my second best friend after all the layers of clothing that will keep me warm.  Uhuru Peak (the tallest peak on Mt. Kilimanjaro) sits pretty at 5,896m/19,340ft.  It will take us 7-8 hrs to go 7km/4miles.  Yes, twice longer than the same distance on Day 4.  Why?  Well, it will be slower going due to the altitude.  Pole, pole (slowly, slowly in Swahili) will rule this day.  There will be ice/snow towards the summit and I hope to see the glacier that, it is said, will be gone in 30 years or so at the current rate.  Stone scree will also be present so our gaiters will play an important role in keeping stuff out of our boots.

On this same day, of course, we have to get off the summit.  So on to 7-8 more hrs. of descent to the Mweka Camp at 3,100m/10,200ft to what it will feel like drowning in oxygen!

Day 7The happy day!!!  OK, Day 6 will be a VERY HAPPY DAY for those of us who summit.  But Day 7 is happy in other ways – we get to celebrate our climb and we get to shower!!!  We climb down to the Mweka Gate which sits at 1,830m/6,000ft, walking down for 4 hrs and covering 10km/6miles through a forest habitat.  A beer will never taste as good as the one I am planning to have that night at dinner!

Again, another view of the route (there were a few good ones so I couldn’t just use one…).

Machame route to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro


Climbing Kilimanjaro is not without risks

The key to a safe and successful climb is to be aware of what is ahead of you (literally and figuratively).  Going slowly, staying hydrated all the way, minding where you are walking, and very important:  listen to the lead guide and his aides.  We are lucky to have a veteran of Everest, Kili and the rest of the Seven Summits (tallest peaks in every continent) which makes me feel much better.  Able to detect altitude sickness early, knowing the landscape well, supportive leadership, etc. are very important traits in a lead guide and we have that in our lead guide, Luis Benitez, one of the leading high altitude mountaineers in the world.  In addition, I have been on a prior trek with Trekking for Kids and everything is well thought through and planned.  So Luis and TFK are what make me feel confident that I will have a safe and successful climb regardless of the highest point of my climb:  at the summit or somewhere on the way there!


I have added to this post the writeups for each day AFTER the climb so you can read more about each day!  Also here is a post about the actual clothing I took to climb Kilimanjaro item by item with the corresponding explanations in case it helps you plan your own hike!

Day 1 – Getting Going

Day 2 – The Moorlands and Reaching the Shira Camp

Day 3 – A Lava Tower and then All Hail Broke Loose!

Day 4 – The Barranco Wall and Its Challenges

Day 5 – Rocks Everywhere!

Day 6 – Reaching Kilimanjaro’s Summit:  Uhuru Peak

The descent from Uhuru Peak

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