In the bright sun of late morning, we landed on an unfinished runway in Serengeti National Park
The park, although one of many in Tanzania, is undoubtedly their most famous. Located on the southeast shore of Lake Victoria and reaching eastward into Kenya, you will find that it is also one of the most beautiful too. Serengeti National park is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular places on our green planet, so it’s no wonder we see it featured in so many documentaries, photo contests, and Planet Earth episodes.
Lions, elephants, and leopards - oh my!
On my first day in the Serengeti I was lucky enough to see four of the Big Five. The ‘Big Five’ are the infamous beasts of Africa and include the lion, cape buffalo, leopard, elephant, and rhino (unfortunately, due to poaching, rhinos are dwindling towards extinction and any left are under the constant protection of the government). It was a sight to behold all of these beautiful animals
As soon as we drove away from the air strip, we saw our first elephant, a bull, who was (quite literally) larger than life. As the drive continued, we pulled up next to a pride of female lions resting under the shade of a tree with their cubs. Not far away, two male lions also slept to avoid the arid heat of the day. Cape buffalo, gazelle, and wildebeest grazed in the distance.
A special moment was the sighting of two leopards, most likely a mother and cub, in a large Sausage Tree. Yes, you read that correctly as the name. However, the most famous trees there are certainly the Acacia trees, which are known for their wide-reaching branches and flat tops. The leopards, long and lean, slept and stretched on thick branches.
The Big 5: Five tips for surviving your first safari
Wear neutral-colored clothing. All the khaki and cargo shorts you see on TV are legit. Neutral colors are less threatening to the animals and can allow you to get up close and personal with the wildlife more easily. Also, avoid blue - it attracts the flies!
Bring sunscreen. You’re closer to the equator than you think.
Buy (or borrow) a good camera. We were lucky that we had some professional photographers with us on the trip because your smartphone really doesn’t cut it. If you want some great zoomed-in shots, I would definitely recommend bringing your best camera!
Write in a journal. You’ll want to document all of the amazing adventures you experience - including the scary ones!
Don’t forget a bandana! If you’re like me, you’ll be standing in your truck as much as you can to see the animals, which also means that you’ll be inhaling a ton of dirt. I would suggest bringing one to cover your mouth in nose, especially if you’re visiting during the dry season.
Do your research before your big visit to the Serengeti. You’ll want to make sure that you’re staying in a safely guarded lodge or campsite in addition to traveling with knowledgeable guides. While the animals seem peaceful and used to people, they are still wild and can be unpredictable. Make sure to travel with a buddy at all times and to listen carefully to the advice of your guide. Thankfully, there are many great options for a variety of price ranges. We traveled with Leopard Tours and stayed at the Soroi Serengeti Lodge, which was a simply fantastic experience. For more information on where to stay and what to see during your visit, checkout http://www.serengeti.org/faq.html.