It's a tough job Adam has. Back in May he had to tear himself away from the office to hop on a plane to Tanzania with Mahlatini's director Greg Fox. Together they spent a week travelling the 'northern circuit' taking in the famous Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater with a short visit toLake Manyara National Park. Throughout this incredible safari they were hosted in And Beyond lodges and camps; all of which were not only incredibly luxurious but offer outstanding guiding and service too. This was followed by a hop over to the island of Zanzibar for even more 'hard work'! Here are Adam's top ten memories from his trip.
I was lucky to catch the wildebeest migration while in the Serengeti, one of the greatest experiences one can have on a safari. The sheer number of animals was mild blowing! We were able to see it on a few occasions - firstly from the air where the huge herds looked like ants on the landscape and then twice from our game drive vehicle in the Serengeti. It was very special taking the time to watch the herds crossing a road in front of us and the animals kept coming and coming and coming.... Trying to take a panoramic photo of them all together is simply impossible the herds are that large.
I have always been a fan of cats and have been privileged to have had brilliant sightings of the big cats (lion, leopard & cheetah) on trips to both South Africa and Tanzania. The smaller cats are much rarer though and if you spot one you are very lucky. On a particular game drive in the Serengeti our ranger said that a caracal has been spotted so we raced off in search of this fantastic sighting. Unfortunately by the time we got to the site the caracal was disappearing into the long grass, however, I was able to watch it for 5 minutes or so through the binoculars, a memory I have treasured.
The famous volcanic crater at Ngorongoro is like nothing on earth and I had a ring side seat! One of the best positions of any lodge in Africa the And Beyond Crater Lodge is perched right on the rim of the crater and every luxurious suite has a spectacular view. Waking up and watching the sun break through the clouds shining down on the crater is simply magical. If the scenery isn't enough the concentration of game within the crater is insane, everywhere you look there is something new. Our game drive provided endless photographic opportunities. I was so pleased with my shot of a golden jackal and the huge tusker bull elephants that the Crater is famous for.
'Sundowners' (toasting a sunset) are an essential part of any game drive. Nothing beats being able to leave the vehicle, crack open a cool drink (traditionally a G&T) and watch the magnificent African sun setting over the horizon. During our game drive from And Beyond Grumeti Serengeti Camp we pulled up right alongside a great plain teaming with game. So not only did we have the magnificent orange sky as a backdrop but the silhouettes of various animals to marvel at. The climax of the experience was when a crowned crane landed right in front of us - you couldn't have planned it better!
The flight to the camps is an experience in itself. This was my first experience of light aircrafts so I was excited to say the least. The most eventful flight was our first flight from Arusha to Seronera (in the Serengeti) where we got a bird's eye view of the Rift Valley, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru, the wildebeest migration and huge herds of buffalo. On landing we even had to swerve for a hyena on the runway. Now THAT is some flight!
Everywhere we travelled in Tanzania we met locals who were friendly, helpful and genuinely pleased to meet us. One particularly memorable experience took place in Zanzibar. Whilst driving the southern part of the island our guide realised we were getting hungry and thirsty. He took us to meet his friends who had a small fruit stand on the edge of one of the plantations. We enjoyed tasting their huge range of delicious fruit and getting to know these interesting characters. When we went to leave we tried to pay for what we had eaten but they refused to take any payment, they had simply wanted the chance to show off their product.
Serengeti Under Canvas camp is a mobile camp providing an authentic back to nature experience with nothing but canvas separating you from your surrounding landscape. This was a first for me and it certainly did not disappoint. I will not forget the nights spent lying in the pitch black listening to the sounds of Serengeti. On our first night we heard lion killing a buffalo. On the second night the camp was alive with the sounds of hyena including the sound of them passing our tent. There is simply nothing as exhilarating, it certainly makes you feel alive and more in touch with nature.
We had spent our last morning game drive at Serengeti Under Canvas searching for cheetah but had not had any luck. The guide then got word that a cheetah mother and her three clubs were passing through our camp. We rushed back to find them about 100m from the entrance of the camp. Whilst this sighting was obviously a thrill for us, the local baboons were none too happy about this! The troop of up to 40 baboons chased the cheetah out of the area but we followed them. At one point the cubs became separated from their mother which provided us with the chance to sit with the cubs as they hid in the long grass. It was an unbelievable experience and a great end to our game drive.
On the drive from Lake Manyara to Ngorongoro Crater we were able to stop at a couple of coffee lodges - Gibbs Farm and The Manor at Ngorongoro. These provide the perfect setting for a long lunch and a rest for the weary. They are also recommended for stays between safaris. These lodges pride themselves on the food and local produce they use. At Gibb's Farm we were treated to a delicious lunch where all the ingredients were sourced from the farm; the lodge is set within a working farm and hosts abundant gardens. It provides an 'English country house' feel within an African setting. The Manor at Ngorongoro is grandeur personified and with a beautiful balcony overlooking the countryside, for a moment I thought I was in the hills of Tuscany!
After a full safari circuit in Tanzania it is a welcome rest to relax on the beaches of Zanzibar. During our stay at The Residence, I was lucky enough to be staying in a beach villa, steps away from the beach. First port of call was a dip in the sea. Being accustomed to the sea of the North Coast of Ireland I tiptoed into the water but soon realised that it was warm, no actually hot! It was bath temperature. Time to lie back, float and relax!