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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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!

Zanzibar’s Park: Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park

Most people likely think of Zanzibar (Tanzania) for its beaches and resorts.  Or perhaps also for its very unique history and architecture.  Or maybe as the birthplace of Freddie Mercury.  However, get off-the-beaten-path and you will discover Zanzibar has other interesting places to explore.  The Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park is one such place.

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On the way to the park

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Entrance to the park

The park is a great example of conservation efforts that involve the adjacent communities that otherwise would tap the park for its natural resources, over time depleting them.  The efforts to conserve the park were part of my visit there and it was great to see how the neighboring communities, once brought on board, understood the long-term considerations and began adapting their own approaches.

The park is west known for its red colobus monkeys.  Quite comfortable with humans (which may be a concern), they are amusing to watch for sure.

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Red colobus monkey

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Red colobus monkey monkeying around

Besides the monkeys, it is neat walk around and look at the flora native to the area.  A bit humid but otherwise a great walk!

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Vegetation at the Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park

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Vegetation at the Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park

So if  you ever head to Zanzibar, enjoy the beaches, Stone Town, and the local contribution to world music but do not miss the Jozani-Chwaka Bay Park!


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!

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#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).

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#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!

elephants, acacia, tree, shade, Serengeti, Tanzania, Africa, Olympus, travel, adventure, photo, safariElephant, sunset, skies, clouds, Africa, Serengeti, Tanzania, travel, safari, photo, OlympusSunset, tree, birds, blue, sky, dark cloud, safari, travel, photo, Olympus, Serengeti, memorable

#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…

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

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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!

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

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.

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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.


Boarding Pass Stories: Dar es Salaam

This installment of the Boarding Pass Stories goes to Dar es Salaam – via London and Dubai! Boarding pass, Dar es Salaam, Emirates, airline, travel, flight, Dubai

The destination, the when(s), and the reason(s)

While working for an international non-profit, I traveled to visit field projects and to do an internal audit.  It was a toss-up between Bangladesh and Tanzania and the latter was just a bit more interesting to me so that’s the one I went for.  The trip was in 2007 and to get the cheapest price possible, I did a 2-stop itinerary via London and Dubai. I could have done a one-hop via Amsterdam or London but I was being thrifty with our limited funds. A 6-hour layover in London and a 9-hour one in Dubai were enough the wear me down. But it was neat to fly Emirates Airlines and to see the incredible Dubai airport (Atlanta to London was on my local airline, Delta).

The airline

Emirates was phenomenal. Though I flew coach, I felt I was being treated like a business class customer. The plane was the first I had ever flown with nose and underbelly cameras. I loved the camera viewing especially at takeoff and landing.

What fascinated me about this experience

Well, it was my first trip south of Egypt in the African continent so that, by itself, was fascinating.  Dar was interesting.  A mainly expat district helps expats stay as if in their country.  But I greatly enjoyed my time at work, where I got to collaborate and eat lunch with Tanzanians who worked for the same organization.  Their friendliness and soft-spokenness warmed me up immediately to them and, to them, I say asante sana!

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Driving along a main road in Dar es Salaam

A Wild Time in the Serengeti – Safari!

The Serengeti is the epitome of the national park offering what we call a safari experience (“safari” actually means “journey” in Swahili).  Its vast expanse and, of course, the natural beauty and wildlife offer a very unique experience to us who don’t love in remote areas of Africa.  I had done a one day in-and-out visit to this incredible site a few years ago.  Work activities only permitted that one day.  I KNEW I had to go back someday….

That opportunity came on the trip I made to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  After 7 days of working the mountain and a few days of working with a local orphanage with Trekking for Kids, 13 of us from the climbing group devoted 4 days to Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro, and the Serengeti.  Oh, and a visit to a Masai village!

These parks are very different from each other, even if some of the wildlife is the same.  If you do this circuit, start with Lake Manyara.  Leave Ngorongoro and the Serengeti for after it.  We used Zara Tours who had also been the operator Trekking fro Kids had chosen for the Kili hike.

Here is an overview of our visit and some pictures.  Clearly  I have too many pictures and many are very good so to not overload you here, I will continue posting those over time in different posts be it photos of the week or photo essays.  Keep checking in!

Where we stayed

Due to the route we were taking, we stated at two different places:  the Highview Hotel Karatu on our first and fourth night, and the Ikoma Tented Camp the middle two nights.  Two very different experiences and worthwhile in their own way.  The best part:  both offered good views of neighboring areas – and both sold wine and beer, something we were ready to partake in since we were eager to celebrate our climb of Kili.

The Highview Hotel, offered more standard hotel rooms which was nice from a normalcy standpoint.  Of course, being in Africa, A/C is not a common amenity and this hotel was no exception but the building does sit high on a mountainside so there was a little more chance for a breeze.  You could sit in the hallway which was one large, open porch and view the land around the hotel.  Or you could go downhill to the hotel main building and sit there, sipping a glass of wine (likely South African) and watching the sky’s colors change.  When our last day of safari ended, we loved getting back to the hotel to jump in the pool which, oddly, was very cold!

hotel, tanzania, highview, karatu, serengeti, ngorongoro, vista, view, safari, zara tours

Headed up to the rooms at Highview Hotel Karatu

The Ikoma Tented Camp was a great place to stay right outside the northern boundary of the Serengeti   The advantage of staying here is the proximity to the park (less time driving).  The camp’s tents are not small thing:  our tent had two full-sized beds with plenty of room around us to spare.  Each tent also had its own bathroom which though not luxurious were the size of a normal bathroom

hotel, tanzania, highview, karatu, serengeti, ngorongoro, vista, view, safari, zara tours, ikoma, camp, tents

Our tent. Zippered windows and doorway to help keep critters out

The restaurant was perched on top of a small hill, offering EXCELLENT sunrise and sunset views over the plains of the Serengeti.  See for yourselves!

Ikoma, tent, camp, Serengeti, safari, sunrise, vista, view, Olympus, photo, tanzania

Sunrise view over the Serengeti from the restaurant

Ikoma, tented camp, Serengeti, sunset, safari, sunrise, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, Tanzania

Sunset view

You can stay in lodges inside the Serengeti too (if you want to dish out a lot more money) and that may be convenient but I have nothing but good things to say about where we stayed!

Wildlife watching

Of course, the reason you came here was, first and foremost, animals!  So let me share a little on that…  First, let’s debunk that you have to be up at the crack of dawn.  Yes, less people out and about and yes, the animals don’t like the heat of the early afternoon.  However, we managed to see lion kills and all the animals we wanted to see without an absurd wake-up time.  Now, if you want to maximize how many hours of daylight you spend out there, then yes, wake up really early.  While having a lot of vehicles can be a nuisance at peak times, it also helps your driver pinpoint where there may be something interesting as there are more driver-eyes looking out for things!

We saw everything… Here are some of my favorite shots.

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, zebra, outdoors, nature, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Double the pleasure; butt shot

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, giraffe, outdoors, nature, photo,, Olympus, camera

So majestic whenever we saw them

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, wildebeest, gnu, outdoors, nature, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

A former wildebeest (aka gnu) left up in a tree by a cheetah

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, hippo, outdoors, nature, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Hungry hippos nesting on each other. More on this scene in a future post as an “event” happened…

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls,lions, acacia, outdoors, nature, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Lions resting before or after a kill. One of my favorite pix

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, giraffe, outdoors, nature, photo, Olymmpus

There is other entertaining stuff going on besides the wildlife!

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, elephant, school, outdoors, nature, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, acacia

One of my favorite scenes: a school of elephants grabbing a shady spot!

But that’s not all…

OK, the lion kill I saw will go in another post as this one has become quite long.  But I will leave you with two beautiful parting shots as we left the Serengeti one day… Breathtaking.

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, giraffe, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, sunset

Look at that sky!

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, elephant, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, sunset

Now THIS is what I call an “elephant sunset”!

Honey Badger Anyone?

If you are a regular visitor of this blog, you know I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro this past February.  It was a fantastic experience that I am glad I was dared to do.  Before we embarked on that hike, we spent a few days in the town of Moshi visiting and working with a local orphanage, Kili Centre.  A great couple of days to set us off for our hike.  But those couple of days allowed me to meet the honey badger of that viral video.  The reason the topic the video came up was not just because we were in Tanzania where likely there are honey badgers.  It came up because we stayed at the awesome Honey Badger Lodge outside of Moshi!

We arrived around 2AM at the lodge due to a flight delay leaving Amsterdam.  Obviously, everything was pretty dark and quiet when we got there and we were eager to get to our rooms and bed.  We were all sharing rooms with other trekkers but my roommate was arriving the next night so I appreciated having the room to myself that first night.  My room was in a standalone cabin whereas some other rooms were adjoining rooms in small buildings.  My cabin was super spacious with two queen beds (with mosquito nets).  No fan though…  Oh, and it had separate shower area from the rest of the bathroom.

cabin, honey badger, lodge, moshi, tanzania, olympus, lodging, accommodation, hotel, tourism

Half of my cabin!

The hotel grounds had a lot of nice vegetation and monkeys too.  There was a nice sized pool with a great area around it to sit and a few steps down from it was the dining area full of picnic-like tables and the bar.  It all felt very close and convenient yet I felt there was a lot of space and openness.

Grounds of the Honey Badger Lodge in Moshi, Tanzania, lodging, accommodation,

Grounds of the Honey Badger Lodge in Moshi, Tanzania, lodging, accommocation Olympus

Monkey Grounds of the Honey Badger Lodge in Moshi, Tanzania lodgiing accommodation

Notice the monkey?

One night, there was a show with local music and dancing that was quite enjoyable; I think this is done often for the benefit of the guests.  The lodge can also arrange any number of activities for the visitor including climbs of Mt. Kilimanjaro – even if you don’t use them for that, I highly recommend staying there before and after!

But the good news about the Honey Badger Lodge don’t end there.  The lodge makes a serious effort to to contribute to the local community.  A portion of the profit goes to support local education and other projects and they strive to train staff and give them a good situation for employment (read more in their website).  The current owners, Joseph and Jenny, do this but this started when the owner (and founder of the lodge) -the mother of the current owner- decided her business could be more than just to make a living for her and her family.

I enjoyed my stay there because of the nice layout and the knowledge that our giving them our business would have more of an impact.  But, as a final word, I will say that I enjoyed my stay there because the staff was very friendly and made an effort to call us by our name.  I was impressed.  Clearly management knows what it’s doing and I like that in every which way!

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Moshi, Honey Badger Lodge, children, special, vista

Neighbors of the lodge and the roof of Africa behind them

Photo of the Week – Sunset over the Serengeti

Right after my hike of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, I went on safari to Lake Manyara, the Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro Crater.  One of the best views during the safari was seeing the sunset…  Magnificent!

Sunset over the Serengeti in Tanzania while on safari - a fiery sky

One beautiful sunset!

Of Kids, Water, a Fence, and Chicks – the Kili Centre Orphanage

Going to Tanzania was not just about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro though that consumed most of my energy pre-trip (and, heck DURING the trip!).  I had done a hike in the Transylvanian Alps in Romania last summer with Trekking for Kids (TFK)  and I was so impressed, not only with the excellent logistics planning for the hike, but also with the great care with which the orphanage had been selected and the projects chosen.  So going to Kilimanjaro was also about having another opportunity to help improve the lives of orphaned children via TFK.  Tanzania is far and doing this trek was a not-trivial use of my time and money (though TFK is much cheaper than many outfits who organize Kili hikes).  But I understood that my efforts would really make a difference on these kids’ lives and that my hike would be safe and well-planned.

I have written a few posts about the planning of my trip and the hike itself (see links at the end of this post).  So I wanted to focus this post on the orphanage we worked with in Moshi:  the Kili Centre.

Kili Centre orphanage in Moshi, Tanzania

Kili Centre welcomes its visitors!

The Kili Centre orphanage

I posted in LinkedIn that I was going to hike Kili and work with this orphanage as part of the fundraising all trekkers commit to do (raise a minimum of $1,000).  One of my connections replied that she had been there and that the Centre’s leader, Michael, was doing a great job with the orphanage and the kids.  Though I know TFK does a thorough job vetting orphanages, it was still good to hear this.  After finally meeting and spending time with Michael in Moshi, I have to agree with the assessment my connection had made.  He had a great vision for the orphanage and the projects he had proposed were very well thought through in terms of sustainability, impact to the children and the future of the orphanage, and ability to demonstrate to the donors their money had been well spent.

The projects funded at the Kili Centre

The future site of the Kili Centre

The Kili Centre rents its current location but it is not adequate anymore for the needs of the orphanage or meeting its future plans to accept more children.  Some of the changes that would make it more adequate may not be acceptable to the landlord so the Kili Centre needed to find, not only a new location, but a place where it can be owner of its domain, so to speak.

New Kili Centre location in Moshi, Tanzania

New Kili Centre location with Kilimanjaro covered by clouds (showing the new fence)

What’s in a fence?

So Michael was able to raise funds to buy a new lot (with a GREAT view of Kilimanjaro!!  though maybe this is not hard in the area given its proximity to the mountain and the height of the mountain).  But this lot sat empty and ran the risk of being taken over by others.  In many places in Africa, having title to land is not enough.  If people squat on it, or neighboring folks start farming it, at some point one runs the risk of losing it.  In addition, I heard there are rules that a purchased lot has to have something built on it in a certain amount of or, otherwise, the government can take it back.  So here came an opportunity for the first and main project funded by the trekkers’ fundraising and their generous donors:  building a perimeter fence around the lot.

New fence on the Kili Centre's future home

TFK Executive Director Cindy Steuart and trekker Dave Hughart at the fence on our first visit

Guardhouse at the site of the new Kili Centre

Progress while we were there! The finished guardhouse (shown without a roof in the prior pic)

H20 – Water – A basic necessity we take for granted

Though not an immediate impact to the kids’ lives, it will clearly help the children eventually have a new place that will better serve their needs.  For example the current location of the orphanage does not have running water.  So water must be trucked in (at great expense due to the cost of the vehicle and gas).  In the new location, not only did the project build the perimeter fence (and the gate/guardhouse) but it also connected the lot to the town’s water system!!

I was very excited to see the running water during my visit of the new site.  Water is fundamental to progress in less developed locations as it is essential for good health.  Without good health, the education of the children suffers.  So having running water in their new location will be a real improvement in the quality of life at the Kili Centre.

Running water at the Kili Centre

One of the faucets installed connected to the water system – water, the stuff of life!

Clearly, just having a fence and running water will not be enough to give the Kili Centre its new home.  However, the evidence that other donors saw the Kili Centre’s plan as solid will help it in fundraising to have the wherewithal to build the different structures that will be needed.

Chicks (not for free, contrary to what Dire Straits may say)

One of the Centre’s activities that provide both a food source and income is its chicken coop.  However, the Centre had been forced to sell its chickens in order to pay for the schooling of the children.  The chickens had been towards the end of their productive years so the decision to sell them for meat was a good one however, it set the chicken coop back.  So, some of the budget TFK had for projects went to buy chicks to “replenish” the chicken coop and assure some income and food for the Centre.

Trekkers and kids given the thirsty chicks some water upon their arrival at the Kili Centre

Trekkers and kids given the thirsty chicks some water upon their arrival at the KC

The kids well-being

Another item on the project list was repairing the furniture in the kids’ rooms and getting them new mattresses with new mattress covers (to make them last longer) along with new blankets.  Their rooms looked great!

Refinished bunk beds and cabinets at the Kili Centre

Refinished bunk beds and cabinets

Focus on education

As alluded to, the Centre is focused on the children getting a good education.  (I wonder if the children of the Centre are more “lucky” than the children outside the orphanage given the attention paid to their studies by the Centre’s staff.)  The Centre had a computer lab with learning software but the PCs were ancient and they no longer were going to be good for supporting new/additional software.  TFK’s funds supported the wholesale replacement of the computer lab!

Computer lab being set up at the Kili Centre

Computers being set up!

The focus on education does not stop at school and academics.  The Centre had identified developing a sewing “program” to teach a potential income-earning skill to the girls at the orphanage.  Once kids leave an orphanage, it is important to have given them education and skills to make it in life in terms of livelihood.  So the Centre had proposed TFK fund a sewing room:  from setting up the power outlets to the scissors and materials, and everything in between.  With the funds provided, used sewing machines were acquired, brought up to par and installed in the new sewing room!

New sewing room at the Kili Centre in Moshi, Tanzania

New sewing room

While these are not all the projects, I hope you can see why I was so pleased that my efforts to fundraise and my “investment” of my own time and money were well worth it.  But enough about the projects and on to the great kids of the Kili Centre!!!

The children

The first time we got to the Kili Centre, the children were right there waiting for us.  They surrounded our bus as we arrived for the first of 4 days we would spend with them (2 before and 2 after climbing Kilimanjaro).

Welcoming the visitors at the Kili Centre

Cheerful welcome!

That day, they had prepared a dance show for us.  You could tell they loved dancing and putting on a show and, in us, they had an audience wanting to see all they had prepared.  The kids who danced were definitely high energy and not shy!

Children dancing at the Kili Centre

Part of the welcome show put on for us!

Kili Centre kids show us traditional Masai dance at the Kili Centre in Moshi, Tanzania

Kids doing traditional Masai dance

Our time at the Centre was mostly spent with the kids.  We had brought gifts for them (they are kids after all!) and it was a lot of fun giving each of them a backpack full of goodies and also distributing items like soccer balls, frisbees, and volleyballs.  Of course, we then got to use many of those things in an afternoon of just “being.”  I worked along with two kids and another trekker on a challenging jigsaw puzzle that, to this day, I hate not having had time to finishing!

Kids of the Kili Centre in Moshi,. Tanzania

One night, we ate at the orphanage during a party where again the children danced and neighbors of the orphanage were invited to come.  I was so proud watching the kids’ manners.  They lined up by section to go get the food, took everything back when they were done, etc.  Just like I noticed in Romania, the children of this orphanage were very well taught by their staff.  The staff was very much engaged with the kids and I do not recall any instance of the staff just bossing the kids around.  All the engagement I noticed was warm and, at times, playful.  It made me feel good this was the right orphanage to have invested myself in.

Trekking for Kids trekkers, Kili Centre staff and kids in Moshi, Tanzania

TFK photo of the entire group: Kili Centre kids and staff along with the trekkers!

One of the hardest moments in these trips is saying goodbye.  You have developed, usually, a connection with some of the kids and you hate to leave.  Unfortunately, the fourth day of being with the orphanage, I was bedridden with a nasty cold/infection that hit me once we came down from Kilimanjaro.  I had forced myself on the third day to come along with the group but on the fourth day, I just slept all day.  So I missed saying my goodbyes and I am saddened by that.  However, I know the children now have a better home and are set up for an even better one in the future thanks to having been part of this trek.

To Michael and the staff at the Kili Centre:  thank you for the great job you do with the kids and the Centre.

To TFK:  thanks for another great opportunity to push myself (up a mountain) and to make a clear difference in childrens’ lives.

To my donors and supporters:  thank you for your financial generosity and moral support to make this happen for the kids!

To the Kili Centre kids:  keep studying hard, be good and stay cool!

Kili Centre children in Moshi, Tanzania

Kids showing off their new backpacks and sunglasses!


–  Preparing for the hike is more than training and gear

–  The Machame Route:  our way up

–  7 things you will not see me without as I climb Kili

–  Day 1 of the hike (starting the climb!)

–  Day 2 of the hike (getting to Shira Camp)

–  Day 3 of the hike (the Lava Tower and hail)

–  Day 4 of the hike (Barranco Wall)

–  Day 5 of the hike (getting to summit base camp, Barafu)

–  Day 6 of the hike (the ascent to the summit – Uhuru Peak)

–  Interview with fellow Kili climber and Ultimate Global Explorer


A Brief Visit to a Masai Village

The day we were to enter the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, we first made a stop outside of the park at a Masai village.  My image of the Masai before this visit was of tall, lean men wearing blue or red clothes holding a cane-like piece of wood.  I knew they were a nomadic people and that they lived generally in both sides of the border between Kenya and Tanzania.  However, that was the extent of my knowledge about them.

Visiting a Masai village is not the only time you can see the Masai as you see them in small towns as you traverse this part of Tanzania and as they may work in some of the places you may stay.  You will also see them herding their cattle to take them to get water (like the ones we saw heading into the Ngorongoro Crater).

When we were taken to their village, I was not sure what was in it for them.  I understood they lived off their cows and didn’t have many possessions since they are nomadic so I didn’t quite get it.  I was not aware that some do make the best of the tourism in the area by making crafts to sell to visitors.  Basically we were taken to their village so we could get a glimpse into their lives in return for the potential purchases we would make from their inventory of crafts.  I am used to tours (big or small) always taking visitors to places for shopping and sometimes I can find that tedious (even if I do need to buy some gifts to bring back home).  This time, I somehow did not mind.

Crafts for sale at a Masai village in Tanzania

Some of the crafts

First, they welcomed us with some chanting and by placing ornaments around the necks of the female visitors.  They also proceeded to show how high they can jump and got one of our guys to try jumping higher than them – nope, could not do it!

Masai welcome at their village in Tanzania

The group welcoming us to their village

Masai women welcoming us to their village in Tanzania

Women greeting us

I found the short glimpse we got into their lifestyle very interesting.  We were divided into smaller groups so we could each visit the small home of the Masai and there talk a little bit about how they live.  The warrior into whose house we went offered good information and was generous in answering our questions.

Exterior of a Masai warrior's hut in Tanzania

Exterior of a Masai hut

Interior of a Masai village hut

Our host and some visitors at one of his wives’ hut

Among the things our warrior shared with us:

  • things are communal; they make crafts and the sales go to the entire group
  • they are polygamous
  • since their huts are so small, the house in which the warrior sleeps at night, any kids older than 4-5 get sent to another wife’s hut
  • the warriors’ job is the safety of the group; women have a long list of things they are responsible for like building the huts, cooking, fetching water, minding the children, etc.
  • some warriors get an education in a village or town so they can, for example, speak English and welcome tourists to their villages
  • life centers around the cattle on whose milk and blood they depend
  • they move every 2-3 months to a new place (where there is more grass for their cattle)
  • when someone dies, they leave the body out in the open to be nourishment for animals; they leave some marker so people know not to build their camp there; supposedly, a few months need to pass before the area can be used again
  • they live typically into their 100s (he also told us they don’t have illnesses).

After chatting with the warrior and checking out the crafts (and making purchases), we stopped at the tiny schoolhouse for their group.  The kids were into showing they could read the words on the blackboard!

School building at a Masai village in Tanzania

School building

Kids at a Masai school in Tanzania

The kids at school

I left with admiration for a people who seem to strike a workable balance between living according to their traditions while dealing with some of modern life with common sense (like taking advantage of the opportunity that visitors can provide in terms of extra income for the group).  We gladly perused their crafts and, while certainly not offered very cheaply, we were happy with negotiating some but not as much as we had done in other settings.

Masai women with the containers to store cow's milk and blood

Masai women with the containers to store cow’s milk and blood

Curious what else others know about the Masai.  Leave a comment and share!

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