Any time I page through a travel brochure - something I am prone to do - I have always found that Africa is the destination that beckons me most. I have had wonderful times touring ancient and beautiful cities and marvelling at man’s achievements in art and architecture, but being an avid bird and animal lover and a retired professional photographer, Africa offers me the things I love most.
The trip I took to East Africa with Craig Travel this past February/March was the best tour I have ever taken. If I had to give up the memories of all my other trips just to keep the memories of this one, I’d do it!
It wasn’t just the animals and birds that appealed to me either. For some reason the truly dreadful (main) roads we travelled through parts of Kenya on our way to Sweetwaters and then through to the magnificent Maasai Mara, totally delighted me! Perhaps there is some masochistic tendency in me, but being bumped around and watching our Jeep drivers have to change tires and seeing the Maasai people driving their herds down rock-strewn tracks towards us, were highlights to me. This meant I was truly going deeper and deeper into rural Africa.
My first ever night under canvas at Sweetwaters was interesting. There was a large water hole not far from our tents and all manner of animals visited there, including white rhino, giraffe, warthogs and, of course, many antelope. The noises of the animals at night were fascinating. Happily, there was a flush toilet IN the tent, and I was obliged to use it in the early hours prior to going to sleep. The toilet was only inches from the tent wall and, as I was sitting enthroned, something large leaned against the canvas and touched me. “Please don’t have claws!” I whispered and dashed back to bed and took a sleeping tablet. I got considerably braver after my first, exciting night under canvas.
The long grasses of the Maasai Mara, swaying in the breeze, hid animals so that it seemed silly to stay in the Jeeps and not get out to stretch our legs when we came to a particularly pretty place to stop. Then, one looked around where a moment before there had just been grass and two or three sleepy lions would get up and stretch and wander off. After seeing this a couple of times, staying in the Jeeps seemed like a good idea.
My favourite place of all was the Serengeti. As soon as our plane landed and we picked up new drivers and Jeeps and started off for the mountains and the Serengeti Saroi Lodge we saw five lions in one tree, and all manner of other animals. This particular lodge was magic as far as I was concerned. Guests were told not to venture out of their chalets during evening hours and Maasai warriors, wrapped in their bright blankets and carrying their fighting sticks, drove us around on golf carts. Lions apparently think anything on wheels is a funny-smelling moving rock and pay it no attention. A warrior ‘adopted’ me and walked me around the hill top as I delightedly indulged my photographic habit.
The Ngorongo Crater in the Seregeti has to be one of the most bewitching places in the world. Here our Jeeps were made use of by a lion to hunt her lunch. She lay in our shade until zebra and a wildebeest were almost in striking range then got up and slunk behind the Jeeps to get closer and closer and then waited for the rear vehicles to come forward to get her even closer to her prey before starting her chase. There was no question she had adapted to use us for her benefit.
The beauty of the Crater was incredible. From a soda lake populated by pink flamingos to bush country where elephants splashed in a stream to a rush-circled lake where hippos lazily dozed, the variety of this crater seemed endless. The sight I loved was just being still for a moment and watching any one part of the plain and surrounding hills change colour as the downy clouds scudded in before the sun and the whole landscape changed colour as if one were looking through a kaleidoscope. The Ngorongoro is pure magic.
My companions in our six-seater Jeep were a singular part of my enjoyment of this trip but even without these great gals, the trip was so much more than I had ever hoped. Can I say more in recommendation in that I have already booked the same trip again next year?