Safaris are really fun. Seeing animals is great, especially in their natural habitat. Driving around for three days was a little much. If I had to do it over, I would have done two days … or a day and a half. The country is insanely beautiful and the people we met were absolutely wonderful. I just don’t like sitting for hours on end. But let’s not focus on that. Let me just tell you all the wonderful, amazing things we did and where we went.
Our tour guide company, Zara, was extremely accommodating. We were supposed to have a day or rest between our safari and our hike, but we had decided on our hike that the day of rest might be better had at the end of the safari. We were flying out right after the safari was over and it just gave us a better timeline. (I don’t know why I didn’t think of this when I was planning the trip initially but say la vee) At first they said it was impossible, which we were bummed about but not to the point of being upset by any means, but later they came to us and told us they had found a guide and made all the arrangements. So incredibly kind.
For the safari we stayed two nights at this amazing hotel on the side of a mountain called Highview Hotel. The hotel was almost completely self sufficient, growing most of the food they cooked on the property. The hotel manager became somewhat of a friend of ours and took us on an amazing tour of the property, which included the gardens they had built. It was incredible. I think for us, what made the experience was the food. We were so excited for dinner every night and breakfast every morning. Everything was so fresh and vibrant and just thinking about it now makes me hungry. The other cool thing about the hotel was their association with a local hospital that was just down the road. Most of Zara and their connections are connected to some philanthropic organization, which was really awesome. Our new friend took us on a tour of the hospital when he was showing us the grounds and it was truly impressive. The whole experience with Highview was one for the books. I just really enjoyed every minute we spent there.
For the actual safari we went to three different locations. The Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara National Park, and Tarangire National Park. Each was amazing for very different reasons. Personally, I enjoyed the Ngorongoro Crater the most. The drive into the crater was absolutely breathtaking and the variety of animals we found there was astonishing. In the end, we didn’t end up seeing the big five – which I guess is everyone’s goal. I only know that because our guide, Peter, kept telling us that he wanted us to be happy and to see the big five.
Peter was an interesting character in our travels. He was extremely talkative and had a lot to tell us about his culture. I liked him quite a bit because he had an easy smile and seemed genuinely happy most of the time. He was also interested in us and our stories and America. I love sharing perspectives on life with people so I enjoyed very much hearing what he believed and why. The only downside, was that he was also somewhat of a salesman. He took us to a few tourist trap/ souvenir/ kickback locations. But honestly, if the worst part of a trip is having to say “No thank you, I don’t want to buy anything,” as long as you are respected, it is all good.
I think the highlight of the experience for me was just seeing the animals in the wild. Just living their animal lives. It was crazy that there was nothing that separated a lion from me other than a truck. It was also amazing to see the landscape they lived in and how they all lived together. It was so odd to see a zebra casually standing near a lion. We told Peter our favorite animals were monkeys, elephants, giraffes, and lions and he found all of them for us. Hell he got us up close and personal with all of them. I know I use the word amazing a lot, but when you are doing something in Africa … something that is kind of a once in a life time deal … it’s the only word that really works.