Our Africa Specialist Jackson Ray recently safaried in Tanzania’s Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks, then went on a trek in Rwanda to track mountain gorillas in Parc National des Volcans. With an experience like this, it comes as no surprise to hear that Jackson is counting the days until he can return. Here are some photos and reflections from his journey.
Having traveled in Africa before, I thought I knew what I’d find in Tanzania and Rwanda, but WT’s Serengeti Wildlife Safari was beyond anything I could have imagined. Here are a few pictures from my journey to give you a sense of what was, for me, the adventure of a lifetime. Enjoy!
Our first stop was in Tarangire National Park, where the river attracts all manner of wildlife, year-round. Just after entering the park, we encountered these three lionesses basking in a tree.
The park is home to Tanzania’s largest elephant population, including this bull who calmly asserted his right-of-way. We didn’t challenge him. Here we’re in a purpose-built open safari vehicle, which was surprisingly comfortable, given how rugged the terrain was. The 4X4 made for some exciting and up-close encounters.
After spotting our first leopard, we celebrated with well-deserved sundowners (cocktails enjoyed after a day on safari, a tradition I happily adopted).
Leaving Tarangire, we traveled through Lake Manyara, a small, verdant national park where our group encountered an elephant family. The considerable tusks on this particular male indicate his advanced age–tusks grow just a few inches per year.
Heading north from Manyara, we arrived at the breathtaking Ngorongoro Crater. At over 100 square miles, it’s the largest unbroken caldera in the world. The landscape alone defies belief, but when you add to that Africa’s largest permanent concentration of wildlife, the place casts a truly powerful spell.
On our drives through the crater, we were constantly encountering massive herds of wildebeest, who never seemed to be concerned enough to move out of the road. I’d never expected to get so close to these Seussian creatures. Photos often show them fording a distant river, so I was surprised to see so many of them lazing around, practically within arm’s reach!
I lost count of the number of lions we saw during our game drives in Ngorongoro, but this one was particularly astounding as it casually sauntered past, about a foot from my window. At this range, you really get a sense of the size and power of these males.
As we drove north to our camp in the Serengeti, we had our first and only rain of the trip. The weather made for breathtaking, dynamic skies, with pastel rays that pierced the clouds. It was a fittingly majestic backdrop for these two handsome fellas!
Arriving at our camp in the north of the park, we were welcomed by this beautiful Serengeti sunset.
The Serengeti’s rock outcroppings, or ‘kopjes’ are iconic, and even more so when a male lion poses on one to recreate a Lion King moment (at top left in this photo). Thanks, Simba!
The staff surprised us by setting up sundowners on this rock at sunset, and as we enjoyed our drinks, staff member Kaposhi regaled us with stories about his Masai culture and traditions.
The draw of a safari is the wildlife, of course. But as magnificent as the game drives were, some of my most treasured memories from Tanzania are of the people who made our journey possible. Our three guides (from left: Henry, Trip Leader Mzee, and Arnold) were so skilled, knowledgeable, and friendly that I genuinely felt lucky to have gotten the chance to not only learn from them but also get to know them as friends!
To extend the adventure after the safari concludes, you can continue on to Rwanda for a trek in Parc National des Volcans. As a youth I loved primates of all kinds, including and especially mountain gorillas, so having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be up close with these majestic creatures was truly amazing. It’s hard to overstate how moving it is to witness their physical power, contrasted with such profound gentleness.
Looking back on the trip, it’s staggering just how much there is to do and see in so short a time. More than anything, I came home motivated to share these experiences with other travelers.
Until next time, Africa. I’ll see you soon!
—Text and photos by WT Africa Specialist Jackson Ray, Serengeti Wildlife Safari and Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans extension.