A Honeymoon Safari

May 2009

I am often asked to advise honeymoon couples on where to go and sometimes I am asked to go along! (Usually the man asks and plans with me as he wants the details kept secret). Strange having me along, you may think, but to get the best out of a safari and know that nothing major will go wrong is perhaps a comfort to these couples. So hiring someone like me to help design the safari and be there to make sure all goes well is advisable! This particular request was for great adventure during the day and wonderful comfort at night. As only 7 days out in the bush with a few days at the beach to end was asked for, I didn’t want to chop and change accommodation too much and just visit two safari locations and do them well. I advised the Ngrongoro Crater Lodge for 3 nights and then 4 nights at the Grumeti Reserves private concession which lies to the West of Central Serengeti. The wildebeest migration is usually moving westwards in May and with these two locations we would encounter these herds during the drive in-between! Arriving at Kilimanjaro International Airport can be a little intimidating for some guests so meeting people there and getting them settled in for that first night is all important. After a relaxing next morning and with a packed lunch we drove without haste to the Crater Lodge at Ngorongoro. This first drive is a great intro for visitors and done at a slower pace allows time to adjust, ask the 1000 questions and get excited about the days ahead. The light on landscapes driving up the Rift Valley and through the Ngorongoro forest to the crater rim is beautiful and best done later in the day. May isn’t busy with visitors so few cars were encountered.

The Crater Lodge (not depicted) is nearly but not always, a hit, 90% of visitors I take there love it. It is unusual and perfect for honeymooners. The food had improved I must say and everyone was extremely helpful and very welcoming.

The next morning we set off at dawn with a picnic breakfast and lunch in the vehicle to enjoy the Crater floor at first light. It still is an extraordinary place – different from when I first saw it in 1983 – agreed- but for first timers and your first day on safari (as long as it’s out of peak season) an amazing intro! The sheer variety of wildlife easily seen is unbeatable and within a few miles we were watching our first pride of lions.

As I had booked 3 nights at the lodge I suggested we do something a little different for our second full day out so we had a luxury breakfast at the lodge and headed out via Endulen, down to Naibadad and on to Lake Masek for our picnic lunch. Dust and stark landscapes are more common in Africa than not and as we travelled off road along the upper Olduvai we felt like the only people in the world except for the Maasai. These warriors were moving and coming into this area for the dry season. No set up encounters with locals are these-pure and spontaneous, and a real insight for guests. A great day out indeed and as we stood on the shifting sands looking over the whole area as the days light started to fade you felt transported back in time and happy to be there! Our sunset drive back to the Crater Lodge was spectacular.

As the next four nights were planned at the Grumeti Reserves private concession area, we drove across the great Serengeti Plains to get there. Unusually it had rained near Naabi Hill and Seronera and this had split the migrating herds somewhat. We encountered long columns of wildebeest and Zebra all the way across this plain of plains. Beautiful scenes and we enjoyed them all day long. The largest numbers were seen just before we exited the Park near Ikoma Fort on the South Western side of Serengeti. Our journey into the concession area was memorable as I got lost! That doesn’t happen very often these days and I enjoyed finding my way back towards our destination! Tall grass, short cuts, asking locals, all part of the fun! We arrived at the ultra luxurious Sasakwa Lodge close to dark. The last time I had been here was with the African Wildlife Foundation and the Ted Turner Foundation a few years previous so I knew what was coming!

Sasakwa LodgeSasakwa Lodge is an ideal place if luxury on honeymoon is your desire

Sasakwa Lodge

Sabora Tented Camp

Sabora Tented CampThe other facilities in the Grumeti reserves include Sabora Tented Camp- newly refitted!

It’s a palace in the bush and we settled in for 4 nights of amazing food, daily massages, great wildlife and even the FA cup final live. Oh I forgot to mention that one of the honeymooners is connected to Chelsea football club.

At the Crater Lodge I had watched my team lose to Barcelona in the Champions League final - I was gutted! So Chelsea winning the FA cup was a happier moment for the groom!

Breakfast on the Sabora PlainsBreakfast on the Sabora Plains

Sunsets to die forand sunsets to die for

Wildlife was plentifulWildlife was plentiful

and that makes for happy lionsand that makes for happy lions

The wildlife variety in this reserve at this time of the year is unmatched almost anywhere. The colours on view when herds of Topi, Zebra, Impala, Thomson gazelle, buffalo and wildebeest come together in a mass and bright morning sunshine illuminates – well- it’s why I do safaris! Stunning scenes awaited us each and every drive. The local lion pride was proving difficult to find and the local guides had been out and about over the previous 4 days but were unable to find them one morning the whole pride was roaring so we all set out to locate these animals. Tall grass and gullies filled with mud doesn’t help and as we couldn’t drive into the neighbouring National park we couldn’t get to many areas where these lions roam.

happy lions

happy lions

happy lions

happy lions

happy lions

The Lions of the Sabora Plains

happy lions

Eventually though the pride was located near a gully system and we enjoyed then for most of that day but for me the beauty of these mixed species herds was the highlight, the sunlight on giraffe groups, the vistas of tall grass and the elephant herds in woodlands. These safari days are full of beauty. As my guests flew off to Zanzibar I drove home to Arusha, crossing the great Serengeti Plain. From Grumeti Reserves to Seronera it was wall to wall wildebeest, from Seronera to Naabi hill it was wall to wall zebra and from Naabi to Olduvai both gazelle species were out grazing in their hundreds of thousands. Nice drive home I’d say!

It’s been a busy time since May and I have a lot to write about…….so more soon………from the honeymoon safari guide….Paul Oliver.