Africa

Trekking Tips for Mahale Mountains from Greystoke.

I have rubbed shoulders with chimps. Yup, I rubbing shoulders with no other than a male chimp called Christmas, who lightly whacked me with a twig [no harm was done] - what an unforgettable present. 

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To successfully hike the mountains, I have some tips for you [in no particular order] especially for amateur hikers like me. Tips collected from personal experience and collected from other experienced hikers. Rain and sleek or dry, these should come in handy. 

// Wicking clothing.
It is hot and humid in the mountains. Having moisture-wicking clothing was more comfortable but on the day I did not wear that fabric, I was drenched. Not a deal killer for me but if you are sensitive to sweating, definitely look into moisture-wicking clothing - you can use it for your Safari as well. 

// Raincoat. 
Greystoke Mahale provides a poncho but for a smaller person like me, I found myself tripping on the way up and down the mountain. Having my own rain jacket would have been more comfortable. I do have to say that the poncho did cover my camera packed back-pack when it was raining hard so if you do take a raincoat, see if it will cover you and your back-pack. Or stick with the poncho.

// Gaiters.
When Sally said she was getting this, I was not 100% convinced I should get the gaiters but I am glad I did. It kept my socks very dry. Which leads me to then next must item ...

// Waterproof hiking shoes  - if you can.
I had Columbia Peakfreak hiking shoes and I could not have been more comfortable. They gave me traction, kept my feet dry and kept me blister free. I wore mine with Smart Wool socks. Happy hiker here.

// Camera solution.
A fellow trekker could not use his lens because of moisture. Make sure you have a water proof protection / backpack for your camera on the climb - he had it around his neck, and making sure you have a good seal for your lens + camera. Have a back-up as well if you can. 

Another personal note - I lost my lens cap on the mountains and some chimp is playing with that. In the fluster of climbing up fast, setting up the camera quickly, etc., I dropped my lens cap and realized too late. Note to self - secure your lens cap with a cord. 

// Camera Tip.
Learn your camera. Have it set for the quick shooting in low light and definitely know your settings if you are planning on using manual. The camp manager and guides like Butati at the camp were helpful with suggestions. It is dark, humid, and the chimps can be 5 ft. away to 50 ft. so what type of lens to carry is the million dollar question.  I had my 70-300 mm lens and used my iPhone for the close-ups.

// Other trekking notes.
- Energy bars and sweet bananas were provided by Greystoke Mahale - they really helped with giving the group a nice boost on the trek.
- Bring extra cash. There were other people besides our guides who took care of us like the trekkers who start early to find the chimps and Tanzanian government rangers.
- Self care items like for blisters, scratches from the forest, balm for the hard trek. 

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Anything else we can add to these tips?
Besides these few tips, do make sure you are fit to make this trek. It can be long and steep up the mountain, and you truly want to enjoy the whole experience.

And let me tell you, it has been one of the best experiences of my life!

Don't Mess with Me!

When Heather T. kindly shared her November 2015 Tanzania Safari photos with me, this sequence of photographs made me want to know more. What happened here? What was the end result?

I emailed Heather and this is her account.

” The elephant was chasing a lion couple because it was leading a small group of elephants which included a baby elephant they wanted to protect.  Indeed there was trumpeting and the elephant stood its ground, scaring the little cats away – twice!  The first time they did not move far enough away for her liking. ”

Oh, I would have loved being part of this conversation in the Safari vehicle with my friends.
“Here she comes.” “She’s scooting them away.” “Oh watch out lions. Don’t make her angry” “What, moving in again” “Go get them mama elephant.” “Oh, the look of defeat.” “Better luck next time.” “Pick another animal.” “She was so scared, she pissed in her pants”

Okay, this is what is going through my mind when I am looking at these photographs having read Heather’s account.

A memorable moment on Safari!

Write your on Safari Story!

April Showers, May Flowers

"I bless the rain's down in Africa" - Toto.

We do love it when it rains in our National Parks. The animals and birds depend on the rain to fill up the water sources layers deep. The grass, bushes and the trees flourish during the rains providing food for countless wildlife. From the lakes, the rivers and its many tributaries, to the swamps and water holes, life depends on the rains to swell these life-lines come the brutal dry season which is usually from July to September.

April and May are usually the rainy season in Tanzania and Kenya. This year we have had some good rains in the National Parks. From wild Ruaha to Masai Mara, the parks have had some good downpour. In fact, some areas in the parks are still experiencing rainfall. That is nature for you. Awesome yet unpredictable!

Here are 5 reasons to consider an April + May Safari :

  • Low number of people on Safari.
  • Great rates on many of our luxury Safari lodges and tented camps.
  • Wildflowers galore.
  • Dreamy sky for great photography.
  • Wildlife is always there!

Hardly any people on Safari. The rains tend to scare people. But don't be. It usually rains for a few hours and then you have a clear day to enjoy. Be ready for an adventure.  Sometimes you have to wear a poncho on Safari or sliding around during your game drive -- all memory makers. 

Seeing only a few other vehicles in your own private park. Sure Tarangire and Ruaha will have long grass but if you are patient, the sightings are going to be that much rewarding.

Most of our preferred lodges offer great rates around this time. Take advantage and escape right after school closes [in the US which is usually end of May] for a Family Safari.

Green green grass with lots of wildflowers and blue grey skies. My photographer clients love this time as they say the background for their subjects tend to be dreamy. The harsh sun can be tamed and the whole day can be a photoshoot. And the subjects are always spectacular and sometimes freshly cleaned.

Come. Explore Tanzania in April and May.

The Great Wildebeest and Zebra Migration

One of the biggest draw to the wildlife-rich Serengeti National Park in Northern Tanzania and Masai Mara in Kenya is the wildebeest and zebra migration. The 1.5 million wildebeest and 0.5 zebra strong herbivore team, and its many herbivore and carnivore co-dependants, are constantly roaming this expansive area. The phenomenon is one of the Natural Wonders of the World. An experience that must be witnessed first hand as words alone can't justify this wonder.

The large herds are constantly moving this approximately 7,000 sq. miles area in search of fresh food and water.

They will feast on the nutritious mineral-rich grass of the Southern Serengeti during birthing time. With lots of calves, the cats have easy target. They sustain themselves on the long grass of Northern Serengeti and Masai Mara after rutting in Western Serengeti. And pass through Central and Eastern Serengeti / Loliondo area when heading back to Southern Serengeti. While on the move, you may be lucky and witness the Grumeti River crossing in Western Serengeti  and Mara River crossing in Northern Serengeti. That is bonus.

Quick guidelines ::

- November to December // short rain season.
Sporadic showers will not hinder your Safari. The wildebeest and zebra migration are heading to Southern Serengeti from Northern Serengeti. They are moving down via east of Serengeti in the Loliondo area and the many private concession areas. During this time, it is best to hedge your bets and stay in two regions of Serengeti.

- January to March // hot.
Birthing season for the wildebeest and zebra. The place to be is Southern Serengeti to Loliondo and the many private concessions areas. The herds will also spill over to Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
A good time to enjoy lots of hunts as cats come out to play with lots of young calves around.

- April to May // long rain season.
Showers can last a few hours but when it clears, fresh skies. If you don’t mind being adventurous this is a great time to visit and get some amazing deals on lodges. Central Serengeti to Western Serengeti is the place to be.

- June to July // cooler months.
June is green after the rains. Enjoy the wild flowers. Migratory animals are roaming from Central to Western Serengeti on their way to Northern Serengeti and Masai Mara. During this time, the herds may be crossing the Grumeti River to get to Northern Serengeti or may already be in this area. Grumeti River is home to large crocodiles. Areas outside western Serengeti are also prime viewing spots.

- August to October // cool and dry season.
The Wildebeest and Zebra population are usually in the long lush grass of Masai Mara and Northern Serengeti. They are in this region for a few month enjoying vegetation that long rains of April May brought about. The herds are going back and forth between Tanzania and Kenya and increasing the odds of seeing a lovely Mara River crossing.

Planning a Safari to Serengeti and Masai Mara?
The wildebeest and zebra herd of a million plus are always moving. The thing to remember is getting to the right place, right Safari Lodge at the right time.  We know.