Top 10 safari highlights from Tanzania, Africa

Six of us had an amazing expedition to Tanzania for eight nights starting on Christmas Eve 2017.

My husband and I had visited nine years ago, choosing this route to see the great migration of two million creatures. We were returning with our grown daughter and three friends, and worried it couldn’t possibly match up to our marvelous memories. In fact, this trip surpassed the first, with deeper experiences and variety.

We did indeed capture the “Big 5”: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, caped buffalo—and so much more. Here are my top 10 highlights.

No. 10: Close encounters

The first views of elephants or lions, giraffes, antelope or zebras, are thrilling around each bend: sauntering, sleeping, eating, watching us watching them, or completely ignoring us. We could go off road in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to get intimately close, but often creatures just sprung up in front of our 4×4. (No need to fear: they have become accustomed to vehicles–but don’t attract their attention!)

No. 9: The Maasai

There are an estimated 1.5 million Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania, going about their lives as their ancestors did a thousand years ago (though often with cell phone in hand): herding gaunt herds of cattle and goats, dressed in bright traditional robes, living in mud huts. They’re beautiful; and willing to be photographed for money. There is  talk of relocating them to preserve the wildlife habitats, which would be daunting.

No. 8: Zebra migration

In the Serengeti, we came across a dizzying dazzle (group!) of zebras enjoying a small river bed, drinking, soaking, frolicking. The next day, they had vanished, following the rains elsewhere, part of the Great Migration.


No. 7: Elephant dust dance

At Lake Masek, we followed a band of elephants snacking and drinking. At one point, they used their feet and trunks to gently filter through the dusty grass seeking nutrients. Their swaying seemed to be a choreographed dance.

No. 6:  Lions galore

After the first exciting view of a lioness in a tree, we lost count. Most of the time, they were sleeping, often on their backs in very unflattering poses; some in prides, others alone. Two of the most memorable encounters: Watching a lioness in the Serengeti stalk a zebra pack, bounding after them too early and quickly getting left in the dust. And in the Ngorongoro Crater, we tracked a lioness from grasslands to the road, hoping for a hunt. Instead, she was so comfortable around vehicles, she strolled into the shade of one and plopped down for a snooze.

No. 5: Three leopards and a tail

It’s astonishing how well the guides can spot wildlife in the distance, and how willingly they share “finds” via the radio. We heard about a leopard and went in pursuit. Turned out it was hidden in a tree far, far away and you could just barely see a tail. But we did gape at three of these beautiful beasts: One had dragged a zebra carcass up his tree; another attempted to snag a bird; a third just lazed during the entire hour and a half we watched him, waiting and waiting under his tree for some action. It got so dark we had to leave.

No. 4: Balloon ride over the Serengeti

It was the first hot-air balloon ride for my family and we were enchanted by the quiet and peace, interrupted by gushes of fiery butane to lift us further. We saw the most spectacular sunrise, then were treated to a soaring overview of the migration (mostly wildebeest, accompanied by zebra, often loping single file), plus a cackle of hyenas going after gazelles.

No. 3: Darling babes

Lion cubs, zebra foals, baboon infants, warthog piglets, elephant, giraffe and hippo calves. We were enthralled with kids of all kinds, playing, eating, sleeping, suckling and nuzzling. See the next item!

No. 2: Cheetah cub and mom

Our daughter Regan spotted a distant image under a tree and we went to take a look. It was a beautiful female cheetah. As we oohed and ahhed out the right side of the 4×4, our friend Mary caught sight of a cub right in front of us! We watched the two tussle and snuggle without a care. We returned a few hours later, and found both with blood-stained faces, close to a wildebeest carcass.

And, the Number One highlight: Giraffe Valley

As we drove toward Lake Masek in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (where you can go offroad and do walking safaris), we were captivated by a horizon framed with giraffes, zebras and wildebeests. Our guide let us out and my daughter and I joyfully advanced upon them. Our travel companions drove past us, scattering the creatures over the ridge. So. We followed.

What a sight! There was a tower of 70 plus giraffes clustered in a valley. It was like discovering Jurassic Park: primeval and serene with an underlying hint of danger. We could have happily encamped there forever.


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5 thoughts on “Top 10 safari highlights from Tanzania, Africa

  1. Mei-Mei,

    Thanks for sharing your magnificent adventure.

    Now you are back come please be our guest at the Naples Men’s Discussion Group session on 1/19 on “Fake News” with Nick Penniman and his son. Will you join us for lunch at 11:30 at Moorings Park? Hope so. Program ends at 2 PM.


    On Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 8:19 PM Mei-Mei’s musings wrote:

    > Mei-Mei Kirk posted: “Six of us had an amazing expedition to Tanzania for > eight nights starting on Christmas Eve 2017. My husband and I had visited > nine years ago, choosing this route to see the great migration of two > million creatures. We were returning with our grown daught” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, I have read some of your blog posts and I absolutely love them. I am so glad you had a great time! Funnily enough, I am currently a safari guide in South Africa and am trying to share my experiences with everyone. It would be greatly appreciated if you have a look at my blog and let me know what you think. Many thanks in advance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sam,
      Thanks for your kind words. Same back to you! Fascinating insider stuff and sharp photos. You’ve got more readers than I of course!

      I was a journalist in my past life, so if I may offer a few thoughts to further enhance your blogs? First, you mustn’t have spelling errors. Second, I would edit pictures to avoid repetition–force yourself to choose the single best that depicts the moment. That would have greater impact. Third, you might consider staying focused on the single topic of your blog rather than put in a variety of other images and content. I know you’re teasing us and leading up to the headline but it’s a little distracting and sometimes irrelevant and you may lose folks along the way.

      Finally: I couldn’t find anything that tells me who you are? Maybe I didn’t look deeply enough. But make sure you have toggle so folks can learn about you.

      We’re now planning Zambia and Botswana! See you in the bush!


      1. Thank you for your kind words and pieces of advice. Yes the spelling mistakes are due to a busy schedule and lack of proof reading so will make sure I address them! Thank you for everything you have said and I hope you have a fantastic time when you come back. See you out there.


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