This trip was a long time in the planning. From our first contact back in 2019, our Safari consultant Dawn Anderson was encouraging, a wealth of knowledge and patient. We knew we wanted to do a safari for our 30th Wedding Anniversary in September 2022 and we knew we wanted Tanzania – the migration, the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater. We also wanted a private experience so we could go at our pace and see what we wanted to see.
When the ban on international travel lifted in Canada in the fall of 2021, we finally booked! Then we waited and watched the pandemic run its course. Grateful does not begin to describe how we feel that this trip of a lifetime happened with no disruptions or delays.
The airport greeting in Kilimanjaro was wonderful after a long journey from Canada. We were offered hot towels and cold drinks in a comfortable lounge while our paperwork was processed. Then, into our awaiting Land Cruiser for the hour and a half drive to Arusha.
For our experience, we selected a 10-day safari with Hemingway style accommodation. As recommended, we added an extra night in Arusha at the beginning, and an extra night at Gibb’s Farm to break up the long drive from the Ngorongoro Crater to Lake Manyara. Solid advice!
The extra night in Arusha gave us not only a 24-hour cushion before our scheduled flight to the Serengeti in case of any delays but allowed us time to recover from the trip and experience a bit of Arusha. We loved the color and chaos of Arusha driving around the city with Roman and Matthias, and we had so much fun with them on the city tour! The Arusha Cultural Centre was great for window shopping on day one. We really enjoyed the adjacent art gallery! It is worth a visit if you have the time.
The flight up to the Northern Serengeti was highlight in itself! Since we were the last stop, we experienced four take offs and landings on dirt runways!!
Our driver/guide David met us at the final stop. He was awesome! Initially reserved, we soon discovered his genuine kindness and great sense of humor. His driving expertise (these roads are rough), knowledge of the animals and his ability to put us where we needed to be, impressed us every day. Within minutes of the airstrip, we saw zebra, warthogs, giraffes, gazelles… then we went in search of the migration to witness a crossing.
We witnessed four Mara River crossings of the great migration. Each one was different, from dramatic leaps into the river and daunting swims to a gentle, dry crossing. The experience was very emotional and raw. We did not know beforehand that wildebeest do not adopt. The sound of mothers and babies calling to each other after the crossing was moving. We came away with a profound appreciation of the wildebeest and their journey.
We loved our game drives! Most days, we had a light breakfast at 6 a.m. and were in the land cruiser by 6:30 watching the sun rise. We opted for box lunches each day preferring to stay out rather than return to camp. David always found a picnic spot with facilities. Return to camp ranged between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. depending on the game drive, the property and number of nights at the property. There was always time to enjoy a sundowner and a hot shower before a delicious dinner.
Part of the adventure was never knowing when we would come upon the next great sighting… and there were lots of them…lions, elephants, giraffes, leopards, cheetah, a serval cat, impala, gazelles, hyenas and countless birds!! We were happy to kick off our shoes and stand up through the roof and feel the wind and sun on our faces. While the animals are the big show, Tanzania is very beautiful with constantly changing landscapes.
In the end, we did see all of Africa’s big five: lion, elephant, leopard, cape buffalo and black rhino in the crater. The rhino was camera shy that day. It was one of the few times we wished for a longer lens or an extender for our 100mm to 400 mm lens.
The Hemingway properties were all as pictured. All offered 24-hour electricity thanks to solar power and generators. One of the camps did not offer a hair dryer – not a big deal. On safari, hats and hair ties were the way to go. We appreciated the small, intimate nature of these camps. The staff were amazing!
Staying under canvas was very special. You can hear the animals – lions roar, wildebeest and zebra walk by the tent, cicadas sing and a couple of evenings thunder roared. Tucked into a very comfortable bed, with big comforters, surrounded by mosquito netting… it was awesome!
While the “night melodies” are thrilling, and we would do the Hemingway experience again, they do mean that sleep is interrupted. Our stay at Gibb’s Farm in Karatu offered a different experience – Europe and East Africa meet at a working coffee plantation. The property is unique and the food delicious.
Everything is produced on the farm. Fires were lit in the rooms at turn down (Arusha Coffee Lodge did this as well upon request) and freshly ground coffee was delivered to the room before breakfast. We took a little extra time at the property and enjoyed a hike to caves excavated by elephants and a waterfall.
The icing on the cake of Tanzania is its beautiful and gracious people. We were overwhelmed and deeply moved by the reception we received everywhere. We were welcomed like family and always given the nicest send off. We will be back!
We could not have asked for a more perfect way to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.
Carolynn P. and Bill R.
Safari Dates: September 06, 2022 to September 17, 2022