I’m in the waiting room of Kogatende airstrip waiting to board our flight to Arusha.
We’ve had an absolutely indescribable time in the Serengeti.
Lucretia and I arrived safely in Kilimanjaro International Airport, where we met with a driver that took us to the African Tulip hotel where we spent the night.
Kristen who was also joining us that same evening (Thursday), missed her connecting flight in Amsterdam, so she rebooked on Qatar to arrive at 7:30am in Kilimanjaro airport on Friday. Well, our flight to the Serengeti was leaving at 9:30am from Arusha airport which is about a 45 min drive from Kilimanjaro airport. So she had to get off the plane, go through passport control, get her luggage, drive to Arusha airport while repacking her bags so that just had a small bag for Serengeti. Anyway, miraculously she made it - and even boarded the flight before we did!
It was a small prop plane and we arrived at Kogatende Airstrip in about an hour.
It was a dirt airstrip, like nothing I’d even flown into before, so that in itself was a treat. When we were coming into land we saw zebras, wildebeast, giraffes, so that got us even more excited for the trip.
Juma who was going to be our game driver / guide for the few days we were there, picked us up and on the way to Kati Kati Tented Lodges where we were staying, we saw elephants, and more zebras, giraffes, wildebeast, impala, only this time much closer than we saw from the plane.
We were greeted by the staff at the tented lodges and they showed us the dining tents, the tents we were staying in and how to ask for a shower. The showers were buckets at the back of the tent which were filled with warm water and on a pulley system that was operated from within. We had to request a shower at the food tent (if you wanted one at the end of the day or at night after dinner if you wanted one in the morning), then Mister Shower would come over with his bucket, fill it up and he would shout through the tent that he was ready. He would stay nearby so if you needed more water, you would just call on him. I never needed more water, one bucket was always enough and it was the perfect temperature.
We were all tired/jet lagged, so after lunch we had a nap when we got settled and we had a briefing from Serengeti Balloon Safaris because we were doing a hot air balloon ride the next morning at sunrise. We needed to be up at 4:30am to be picked up by 5am. We then had some free time until dinner.
Breakfast and lunch were buffet style and always delicious, at breakfast the chef was there cooking omelets for us. We were incredibly well fed the whole time. I found it interesting that all over Tanzania, there is a strong Indian food presence. And for every meal, Juma, our guide was with us, answering our questions and chatting to us about life, he became a friend to us all during our short time with him.
The hot air balloon ride on Saturday morning was an absolute treat for me, probably one of the highlights. On the way there, we were lucky enough to see a pack of lions (it was dark though so I wasn’t able to get a good photo). We were in a 16 person basket and we didn’t go too high, we skimmed the treetops, but this was so that we could see the animals on the ground. We went over a few of the other tented lodges and actually on our last day they flew over ours!
We saw all sorts of animals from above and we even saw a leopard with its kill in its mouth.
Once we touched down, which was very smooth (and the basket remained upright), Zumo our pilot told us about how pilots got their name and why champagne is used to celebrate the landing. We then had a full English breakfast under the acacia tree.
We were then driven to the airstrip to meet Juma for a game drive and we just caught the wildebeast migration through the Maru River, which was amazing. At this time of year it’s the great migration of the wildebeast.
We then drove around and saw a ton more animals… too many to list (but I might add a list of them at the end of this)
We came back for a shower, dinner and then early bed as we were waking up early for drives. Also, we were having early morning wake up calls from the lions roaring nearby (well, more of a groan than a roar, but they were very vocal and very close - in the camp!)
Sunday we went for two game drives, we stopped for cooked lunch at the camp. We went to the Tanzania / Kenyan border and got out of the jeep for some photos at the border marker. While they we saw the wildebeast migration, as far as the eye could see, there were wildebeast walking 1 by 1 across the plains. It was incredible to see.
We saw monkeys, baboons and really close to elephants, giraffes.
If you’re looking to do a safari in the Serengeti, please let me know as I have lots of recommendations for you.
On Monday we were heading back to Arusha to pick up our luggage and then drive 2 hours to Moshi to meet the rest of the group.
We had a long wait at the airstrip, which was fine, they had good Wi-Fi and electricity to charge our phones. We watched the planes go by and noticed that our flight was going to Arusha via Mount Kilimanjaro Airport, so we decided to get off at Mount Kili and have our bags driven to our hotel (the tour operator - Deus - was in Arusha and picked them up for us). We had a very tiny plane on the way back, only 12 passenger seats!
Connie, who I had been hiking with a few weeks ago was flying in at the same time, so we met her at the airport also. Then we came to the hotel where the three of us (Kristen, Lucretia and I) stayed in a room together. We’ve become really great friends and I know that we’ll stay in touch for a long time. We’re already talking about our next trip together.
Tuesday we walked around Moshi, went to a craft market, a food market, had lunch and then back to the hotel to pack, bring our stuff for our briefing to make sure we have everything, repack, weigh our bags, take stuff out, repack, and weigh again. Finally ready! I was feeling nervous and apprehensive and little (a lot) frustrated with the packing and felt totally out of my depth having not done anything like this before. Then we had dinner and early night.
I haven’t posted too many photos with this update as the Wi-Fi is terrible and I only have an hour before we leave for the mountain! Eeek!
Animals we saw at the Serengeti:
Black backed jackal