africa

Tanzania with Mefi - Katavi + Mahale + Ruaha.

I rubbed shoulders briefly with a male chimp called Christmas on my trek up Mahale Mountain from Greystoke Mahale. Yes, you heard it right, this Safari had many firsts for me. 

Mzee Jairo, Sarina, Lisa, Drusti, Sally, and your's truly, Mefi. 

Mzee Jairo, Sarina, Lisa, Drusti, Sally, and your's truly, Mefi. 

My third Tanzania with Mefi Safari. I was with three adventurous ladies.
Sally, whom I have traveled together with before [and she's been on other private Safaris with friends and family in Tanzania where her soul lives]. Drusti, an Elephantopia member and her extreme love of elephants keeps bringing her back to Africa. She went to Zambia with Journey To Africa. Lisa, a Safari newbie and I can safely say, the Safari bug has bitten her. Sarina, a single traveler who became part of the group was a true city girl who definitely warmed up to nature. 

Our first stop in this epic adventure was Katavi National Park; a remote park in Western Tanzania. So remote, there are only two flights a week. 

On arrival, we meet Mzee Jairo with Chada Katavi.  A quiet man, but a hawk. His animals knowledge, instincts, and his eye-sight lead us to some amazing viewings. 

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We had an up-close [about 10 feet away] encounter of two hippos fighting - heart pumping moment, saw three lioness fight which was a #natgeo moment, healthy numbers of lionesses and lion cubs, beautiful birds including the ever beautiful lilac breasted roller, listened to bone-crunching sounds by a leopard enjoying lunch right above us, and spotted the elusive elephants of Katavi who were hiding in the bushes. 

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Katavi was wet as the short rains had already arrived in this part of Tanzania. This made the landscape so fresh and green. The drawback was that it was muddy and at times buggy but really, it was a non-issue if you go with the flow. 

Katavi, in the low season, can become your own private park. With very few camps, we spotted 2-3 vehicles a day. We stayed in Chada Katavi which is truly a rustic lodge. Eco-bathrooms and outside showers in comfortable tents with fans and charger in the room. The staff at this camp were amazing. By day two, they knew our drink preferences and would have them ready on arrival after our game. In case you are wondering, mine is warm water with lemon. Perfect for a cool evening. 

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On to Mahale Mountains and magical Greystoke Mahale.
I had been dreaming about this place for years. To see the chimps and to experience this place that everyone says is one of the best places in Africa. 

I concur. The Nomad Tanzania group at Greystoke have got it down right.
From the introduction to the fantastic guides on the boat ride to Greystoke, the terrific crew in the camp, the ultra-comfortable rooms, activities outside of chimp trekking, and more. 

Guide extraordinaire Butati, ranger Husein, me with my huge smile, uber-guide Mathias who I am so grateful made to go on my second hike as we saw so many chimps. 

Guide extraordinaire Butati, ranger Husein, me with my huge smile, uber-guide Mathias who I am so grateful made to go on my second hike as we saw so many chimps. 

But, the dream was the chimps. And we were all touched, literally. Special shout out to guides Mathias and Butati who lead our group, TANAPA rangers especially Hussein and trekkers who go out early to spot the chimps and let us know when to start the hike while we wait, all ready to trek at a moment's notice. 

We had four nights at the camp and every minute was throughly enjoyed. 

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The chimps.
The first trek and the first chimp I saw was a baby chimp. And then, drum roll, we spotted the back of Primus, the alpha male leader of the M-group. I was shrieking inside and smiling so hard but did not let out more then a little peep. The 1 hour with them went by too fast but each second was amazing. What we saw was typical human-like behavior - Primus waiting on his lady Yuna to get moving. And because he is alpha, a grooming session with another male chimp. What a pinch me moment!

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Second trek, we had a lot more chimps interacting. Christmas, a male chimp walked right by my shoulder and started shaking a tree towards me which hit my backpack - he is the one you see me photographing. No hard feelings Christmas. Apparently, he was aiming at a fellow guest who Christmas did the same action last time.

Primus and Yuna where having their moment together - Primus is making sure his DNA is passed on. Also, within the hour, we saw a whole scene where Juno, a female did not want to mate with Primus, and was screeching loudly, and how the other 5-6 males - including Christmas - were trying to get in their turn with her but in the end, Primus prevailed. And calm Sally had Primus right by her as well when she and Mathias got super close to the mating action. Every minute of the 1 hour with them was filled with excitement. 

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The days we did not trek where enjoyable as well. Our group plus other guests at Greystoke, Mathias, Butati, at that time manager Julien and Hussein played a few rounds of 'The Bowl' game and Kingdom - ask me if you want to know how to play. We also got to take a magnificent sunset cruise on Lake Tanganyika and swim the blue waters of the deepest lake in Africa. Total bliss. 

November is the rainy season and that makes the trek slippery and also because food is abundant higher in the mountains, the chimps move up. Anyone who wants to go see the chimps, need to be physically fit. We trekked 4-6 hours minimum each trek up and down. Tips for trekking Mahale Mountain and how this process happens - read here.
* Best time to come to Mahale for chimp trekking; dry season which is July to October but why November, low season rates. 

Mahale Mountains and Greystoke - you spoilt us and I can't wait to get YOU to experience this splendid place.

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Our final park in Tanzania, wild Ruaha National Park. Ruaha is larger than Serengeti at 8,000 sq. miles. Serengeti is around 6,000 sq. miles. The last time Sally and I visited Ruaha was in May 2015, right after the rainy season. It was green, with tall grass that we had a hard time spotting wildlife - but we still loved the park so much that we came back. In November, the rains were not here yet and the park was dry as a bone with short grass. Every season has it's advantages and keeps it fresh. 

Because it was dry and grass was short and not bushy, it was easier to see large herds of elephants, five cheetahs - a mom and her cubs having just hunted, huge buffalo herds, and finally a pinch me for me, wild dogs. What a thrill. Elly, a guide was taking us for a night game drive and boom, a pack ran in front of our vehicle. The sun was setting casting a reddish orangish glow on them. A few minutes with them and they were gone. Wow! 

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We spent time in Kigelia Ruaha, another beautiful Nomad Tanzania property. The camp has flush eco-toilet, hot and cold water bucket system for washing hands and face, filtered water for brushing, and outdoor shower. The camp currently is overlooking a river and dinner by the banks, under the stars was lovely. 

This truly was an Epic Safari with some amazing memories and #SafariStories made with old and new friends. To many more! 

Want to head out on Safari and create your own Safari Stories? Yes.

"Quite a Memory."

George, Joey, and Henry and I started planning their Tanzanian Safari in March 2017 for their November 2017. Three photographers on Safari in Tanzania - I was ready to see some great pictures of wildlife and landscape and I was right. George, Asante sana for sharing your Safari Story with us and your amazing photos. 

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" We had a spectacular time! In pretty much all respects, it was everything I imagined it would be.

Festo and Nathan were great but Nathan gets a special mention as he had us for the 9 days and 800+ kilometers; he was not only a wonderfully knowledge guide but an excellent (and patient :-)) travel companion. Life in the Land Cruiser was great, even with the free African Massage (as Nathan described traveling down some of the roads).

Camps and lodges were very comfortable and we were very well fed and taken care of in the camps. Ngorongoro Farm House was a nice oasis after a long day drive down from Kati Kati ... walking up the hill and seeing the sunset over the lawns, someone handing me a cool cloth and lemon water, I thought "Ok, I think I could hang here for a while". 

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The game drives and wildlife viewing were superb and the weather ideal; we'd certainly recommend that time of year to go, rains, not a factor at all and in fact welcome to keep the dust down. Temperature nice and summer-like, crowds not a factor at all (well almost never, there was that leopard site ... :-)). It would be nice to go back and see the same areas right after the long rains though ... the stark contrast I imagine.

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We missed out on the rhino at Ngorongoro and only saw the wildebeest hover but not cross at the edge of the Mara but otherwise, we saw all the big and small mammals and lots of birds (about 100 names on our list). Our cameras got a good workout and we're still curating the 5k+ images each of us have. Tough to capture the full impact of zebra and wildebeest out to the horizon in the Central Serengeti ... that is quite a memory.

For me the trip was one big highlight but a few things come to mind ...

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  • When we were in the crater, we watched this big old bull elephant saunter across the crater floor towards the marsh where Nathan had us positioned. The old boy stopped maybe 12 ft away and just stood there, dust bathing and looking at us for about 15 minutes and then just continued on his way.
  • Being a city boy, I don't see the Milky Way very often due to light pollution so I hoped to get a night sky shot at some point on the trip. At Kichuguu, what was just as memorable was the honor guard of camp staff we had around us, simultaneously ensuring we didn't get eaten and just as keen to look at the results.
  • On arrival at Kati Kati, Nathan had a somewhat extended dialogue with one of the Camp #2 staff after which, he chuckled and told us that we were in the right place but, since a family of elephants had gone through the kitchen tent the previous night, we were being moved to Camp #4. All was well and we got to see and hear a loud debate within an elephant here the next morning ... camp staff figured it was likely the same herd that had visited camp #2
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Thank you for putting this all together for us and hope to do it again someday. "

Makes me happy when my Safari goers get to fulfill their Tanzanian Safari dream.
What is your Safari dream? We can help make it a reality.

Lioness Fighting.

Drama with the Lioness.
Katavi National Park.
We were having high tea - as one does on Safari - when Jairo, our Chada Katavi guide rushes to say we should get going because the camp manager Hamza has spotted a few lioness in a tense mood. We hopped in our Safari vehicle thinking we were going to see a hunt - topis were close by and on edge - instead, what we saw was Nat Geo worthy. A fight between a single lioness, who we believe was trying to hide her cubs and walked away from the den and two lionesses from the Chada pride who were trying to protect their territory.

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What we witnessed was dramatic! I was nervous because I was not prepared to see a fatality. The single lioness showed all the signs of submission - she was yawning, licking, lying really low - nothing helped. It all transpired in less than a minute and a half. Enjoy the sequence. 

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And done. The Chada pride's territory was marked with lots of rubbing the bushes and a pee here and there. They two Chada lionesses walked away after a few minutes into the bushes - we had sundowners with them. 

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One of the Chada lionesses may have bitten the mama lioness hard - see some red around her teeth - but I think everyone left intact. 

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You never know what you will see on Safari.
These are my Safari Stories from my Epic Tanzanian Safari to Katavi National Park, Mahale Mountains, and Ruaha National Park. 

Lost in Translation.

On Safari, you are going to be spending a lot of time with your guide, your new friend. This person comes from a different culture, different background, does not know you, your personality yet he will work hard to show you a great time. That is his goal and our repeat clients are a testament to how hard they work to make it happen.

Be open and patient with things that can get lost in translation.

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My guide Makubi from Dunia Camp in Central Serengeti was telling me his Wakuria tribe culture was not to look in the eye when talking. That is a sign of aggression. He would never do that in his village with his elders or peers. In our western culture, if you don’t look in the eye when talking, you are rude. The dilemma. He adapted.

Reuben is a Maasai. A proud warrior whose Maasai blanket [his tribal clothing] would peek from his sleeve. He said wearing the clothing reminded him of his heritage. He would sit with us for dinner and share some good stories of his people, wildlife, Tanzania, etc. When we were served polenta with our lamp chop, he would be polite and have small bites but I have a feeling after our meal, he would head to the kitchen and prepare his own local food.

They go through lots of training so they can understand our western sensibility and adapt for our comfort. To be fair, be open to a different culture. Don’t get offended with what may not translate to our culture.  Talk. You will learn from your new friend when on Safari.

Isn’t that part of the adventure of traveling to another place?

A Typical Day on Safari in Tanzania.

Everyday is a different day on Safari. No agendas; just you and your Safari guide making plans on what to see, where to go, how long to be out, and more. Here are guidelines to navigate your day on a Tanzanian Safari.

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Morning.
For the most part, I'd say on Safari, waking up early should be the norm even if you are not a morning person. Why? Sunrise. This time of the day is truly glowing. 

Your wake-up call can be any where from 6:00 am onwards.

1. You can decide to have breakfast at the lodge. Enjoy coffee in your room, then head to the main area. Majority of the Safari lodges in the national parks have a deck looking out at the park. Enjoy the sunrise while eating breakfast.  
2. Start around 6:30 am and go out looking for wildlife in the early morning, when the sun is lighting up the African soil. Have breakfast around 8:30 -9:00 am [or when your stomach calls for food] in the middle of the national park. This should be your choice at least once or twice in each national park.

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Afternoon.
Depending when you have started, you will have two choices. 

1. Stay out for lunch in the parks. If you have stayed in for breakfast, go out and stay out for a bit longer. There are many picnic spot your guide will take you or in some cases, you will eat in the car while watching the rhino crawl or in the middle of the Wildebeest Migration.
You can come back to the Safari lodge at your own leisure for your afternoon siesta.

2. Come back for lunch at the Safari lodge. If you have been out from early morning, this can be an option. And if you want, squeeze in an outdoor shower when the sun is out. 

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Late afternoon / Evening.

Around 3:30 - 4:00 pm, you will be heading out again if you have been in the Safari Lodge. Go out to capture the evening golden hour. If you've had enough for the day, stay back. There are no rules. 

You will be out and about until 6:30 pm, stretching it to 7:00 pm before you have to return back. Many a rush drive back have been had as you want to soak in every last light on Safari.
Also, this is the time for sundowners. The time you park your vehicle, enjoy a drink while watching the glorious sunset in Africa. You will pinch yourself, you are on Safari.

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Night-time.

Pure cozy. Campfire, Safari stories by the camp manager or staff + dinner.
Some stories that have to be heard like this Maasai warrior telling us about his right of passage by hunting lions. Keep an open mind - it's not all black and white, lots of grey, lots of changes that need to be made, lots of traditional ways that have to alter, lots of cultural stories that need a new course - listen. 

In the end, you decide your travel style. Some clients want to be out all day; they want to soak every minute of being on Safari. Others want to relax a bit more; have all meals or more meals at the lodge and go out on game drive at leisure. 

Whatever your style, you will love your day on Safari. 

2016; Kwaheri.

As we bid another year good-bye, we are grateful we got to show You the beauty of Africa.
The range of wildlife, birds and other creatures in the amazing National Parks of Africa, the chimps of Mahale Mountains and gorillas of Rwanda, the warm people, the blue waters of the Indian Ocean or Lake Tanganyika,  the highest peak in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and much more.

There is just so much to love on an African Safari. Thank you for letting us share our love.
Cheers to 2017. We welcome you.

Serengeti, Tanzania

Everything we dreamed off and more.

When Vickie called me to say she and Neil wanted to go on a Journey To Africa Safari, I was super excited. See, Vickie and Neil are world travelers. They have been to every continent with famous large travel operators. I was up for the challenge to show them my Tanzania and provide them with the same quality service they had come to expect - and more - because we are into tiny personal details.

Safe to say, they had an amazing time and even after a few years, Vickie and Neil are still great supporters of Journey To Africa by constantly sending us referrals.

Asante Sana Vickie and Neil. 

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"Amazing, incredible, life changing are just a few words I use to describe our  "Journey to Africa".

From the moment we arrived in Kilimanjaro, we were transported into one of our most magical vacations ever! (That's saying a lot! as we are veterans of world travel, seven continents with some of the top outfitters in the travel industry)

We picked Journey to Africa because Mefi could design a VIP tour package to fit our schedule, our personal Africa safari wish list:

  • We wanted our own guide. 
  • We wanted to experience five luxury camps at our leisure. We wanted to go on a minimum of three safaris per day. 
  • We wanted to meet Maasai , Hadzabe, Datoga tribes and experience their cultures.
  • We wanted a hot air ballon ride over the Serengeti.
  • We wanted to see the "Big Five"

We received every single item on our personal wishlist, and much, much more!

Everyday was at our leisure, perfect for us, as we didn't want to share a vehicle or a "time line" set up by others. We saw lots of game on all our drives, we witnessed a couple hunts and kills - we were there during the migration.

While in Ngorongoro, two well known "five star" outfitters zoomed by us missing a beautiful leopard sleeping in a tree very close to the road. They were on a "scheduled tour" staying at the same lodge as us. Their guest informed us they have to stay on schedule so they couldn't stop for the leopard.

We stayed in the same world renowned lodges and camps as other outfitters but, we were offered something that they couldn't provide, a personalized experience.

We experienced everything we dreamed of and more!!!

-The Love's."

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Life worth Exploring. ™
Make memories on your Journey To Africa Safari.

Style on Safari.

Let's talk about how to look good and comfortable on Safari?
- Good because shouldn't we always pay attention to how we dress at anytime. And if we think we look good, we feel happy.
- Comfortable because that is just what you need on Safari. You will go from game driving in either a closed or open vehicle with dust flying in to enjoying dinner on arrival at the camp because you stayed out a bit too long enjoying the evening's golden hour. Nothing wrong with that by the way.

These two ladies should know a thing or two about style. They are after all Houston's leading fashion bloggers. Sheree and Natalie are both wearing Kuhl's Rekon Jacket. The jacket is versatile enough that you can wear back home. Sheree is wearing her Kuhl Pants and Natalie is wearing her Prana pants. You get the general idea - no wrinkle pants, pants that dry up quickly and can be zipped open into shorts. Some even have bug repellants. 

Having 2 to 3 such pants is all you need on Safari. Re-wearing is totally acceptable on Safari. 

Style Tips:
- Sheree and Natalie upped their style with a bandana. They wore is around their necks as well as using it as a hair accessory. Always a good idea to have items that work in multiple ways. 
- Buying local jewelry. Sheree and Natalie got to shop at the Tanzania Maasai Women Arts's shop on our Tanzania with Mefi Safari. You too can do that before you head out on Safari. The lodges in Arusha will have local accessories in their gift shop. Or bring your own from home.

My buddy Carlos with his friend John and our amazing guide Ayoub.
Keep it neutral to distract bugs who love blue and black - though I am guilty of wearing those colors. Neutral colors also let you blend in with the environment. Keep it comfortable. Look for breathable clothing especially if you are going during the hot months.
Dri-fit clothes really do feel good when you are sitting in the vehicle for many hours under the sun. They can transition easily to evening wear by the campfire and dining tent.  

Style Tips:
- Up your game with a belt but only if you like. You decide how you want to be comfortable. 
- Important accessory here is hat. Not only does it look good, it is a necessity to protect yourself from the African sun. Baseball cap is just fine. 

I had such a great time planning this family Safari. We surprised Yanni for his 17th birthday in Serengeti. What a lucky kid! 

Style Tips:
- Good shoes. Not only is the ground uneven in some spot but there are twigs, tall grass, tiny creatures - who are much needed by the eco-system, crawling around ++. Up your game with some good hiking shoes that will take you beyond a Safari. Not a fan of those, even your daily sneakers will do.
- It does get cool in the morning and evenings. Scarfs not only keep you warm, but also add some glam. Men, get a vest or fleece jacket with good neck coverage.

Not into style. No worries. You're on Safari. Nobody cares how you dress.
*Just wear closed shoes though. 

Now let's get you on a Journey To Africa Safari.