We left our hotel in Arusha at 8:30 for the drive to the airport in Arusha. This is not the same airport we arrived in. Took about one hour to get there. The morning activities of the people was everywhere. We saw women carrying large baskets on their heads, children going to school and local markets where fruits, vegetables and meats were being sold. We finally arrived at the airport. This airport looked like it had not been maintained for at least twenty years. The airport consisted of a group of shacks with an old dirty tower.
Our airplane was a twelve passenger one propeller Cessna. There were two pilots. I sat behind one of the pilots. The airport only could land and take off prop planes. No jets nor any large prop planes. Our flight took off at 10:45. We are scheduled to fly for fifty minutes and then land to refuel. After we refuel, the flight was another thirty minutes to our final destination.
After take off we were in the clouds until the clouds disappeared and we finally saw the Serengeti. The Serengeti is about 5500 feet above sea level and flat plains with some single and multiple outcroppings of trees dispersed throughout the terrain. The area looked like some scenes from the movie “Out of Africa”. Specifically the scene where Robert Redford flys Meryl Streep in his plane over the plains of Africa. We started to see herds of wildebeest. We then landed on a non paved runway. The name of the landing was the “Seronera Airstrip”. As soon as the plane stopped, we all got out to stretch our legs, go to the bathroom and a fuel truck drove up to the plane.
After fifteen minutes, we all boarded and off we went. The plains were getting greener as we flew north. After thirty minutes, we landed on another dirt runway. The name of this runway was the “Kogatende Airstrip”. There were three open air land rovers waiting for us. Our drivers introduced themselves and our luggage was taken off the plane and stored in the land rovers. We then boarded the land rovers for our forty minute drive to the Camp.
I took out one of my cameras, attached a lens and got into one of the land rovers. As we drove over the plains, I started to mentally and physically unwind as I took in the beauty all around me. My sole purpose being here is to take great pictures and be surrounded by the beauty of this amazing part of the world. I realized how much I had missed the real Africa. We drove and began to see some wildlife. First some zebras, then warthog and finally elephants.
We then arrived at our Camp. Where are we? We are about five miles from the border with Kenya in the northern part of the Serengeti. I was assigned room three. The name of our Camp is Lamai Camp. We were first served a buffet lunch and then given an orientation. I was then led to my room. How can I describe my room. Spectacular is one way. The view is amazing. Looking out into the Serengeti towards Kenya on a rock overlook. My bed is huge and the bathroom is awesome. Of course, the bed is covered with a large mosquito net. We were told to settle in and all meet for tea and coffee at four. All of the Bush Camps I have been in serve afternoon tea and pastries. This is a custom left over from British rule.
I immediately took a nice hot shower and changed. At four I walked down to the dining area and had some great Tanzanian coffee. We would be leaving for our afternoon game drive at 4:30. I, of course, got friendly with some of the staff help. One of them told me that the Camp is privately owned but the land is leased from the Masai. All of the staff are Masai and they take great pride in their work and taking care of the guests.
At 4:30 we all boarded our three open air land rovers to go out. I was in one Land Rover with Cat and Sean. We drove and saw some beautiful zebras and a lone giraffe. I told Sean that the terrain looked like lion country and he told me it is. We drove and then made a turn into a rock area and our driver stopped. On the side of us was a beautiful spotted leopard sitting partially on a huge boulder with its tail hanging down. My mouth opened wide and I grabbed my camera. Sean told us it was a female and it appeared that she had given birth around six weeks ago and that her cubs were nearby and probably in the rocks. The leopard climbed up to the top of the boulder to rest. The boulder was warm from the days sun. I took some great images of her. We then waited for her to move. She was so comfortable that it took her a long time to move. Sean then heard her cubs calling her. She climbed down from the boulder and disappeared into the rocks on the bottom. The driver then turned the vehicle around and we saw that the female leopard had built a nest and her two cubs were there. She was nursing them. What a sight. The light was very poor and it was almost dark. I took some pictures but don’t know how good they are. Hopefully we will see this special sight again.
All vehicles must be in their Camps by 7 PM. There are no night drives in the Serengeti. The health and protection of the wildlife always comes first. We arrived back in Camp at 7PM. The temperature was dropping and Sean commented that this was great sleeping weather. Some staff members were at the gate to great us and walk with us to our rooms. The rule is you cannot go to your room yourself when the sunsets until sunrise.
Dinner was served at 8. A great dinner in an open terrace overlooking this part of the Serengeti. Wake up is at five. Coffee will be brought to my room and we will leave at 5:45 for our morning drive.
A great start to this amazing adventure in a very special place