A family safari to Tarangire and the Mara River

August 2009

Organizing a large extended family to get together in one place, a family that lives all over the United States and includes grandparents and various spouses with their children can be a difficult thing to arrange even at home for Christmas. Trying to get 16 family members out on a Tanzanian safari is a whole other ball game! Obviously I don’t get involved here but will make sure all the group gets together out here and on to safari together. Rooming requirements, vehicle considerations and flight times take some coordinating. Getting a private mobile camp up and to the standard required for a group this size is a challenge as well. I recommended that we just enjoy two locations and fly in between. With only seven days here in Tanzania, which is not enough to see The North the main question was – ok so where to go? There is something rather special about combining Tarangire with its huge elephant herds, massive baobab trees and the swamp systems there with the Serengeti migration at the Mara River. It is just right; it is combining two wonderful spectacles in 7 nights and I would recommend that week to anyone for the month of August, if they only had 7 nights to spare of course.

Jo Anderson and I arrived at Kilimanjaro International Airport to greet everyone as they flew in from Nairobi. At once we could see that everyone was relaxed and had settled into the pace of East Africa having just enjoyed Lewa Downs in Kenya. Two of the party – the Grandparents and main organizers of the trip, had been out with me on a mobile camping safari a number of years ago and it was great to see them return. One couple had arrived the previous night and stayed close to the airport and once they joined us we climbed into two Cessna caravans and flew to Tarangire. The Silale swamp was bursting with hundreds of elephants as we flew over and within half an hour of landing we were parked and surrounded by these great beasts. Everyone was shocked at the scale of things, the numbers of elephants on view (500+) and the grander of the landscapes we had suddenly arrived into. This is no fenced in habitat and very different to somewhere like Lewa. Oliver’s camp was full for these dates so we opted to try the new Swala. All was well and everyone was smiling! Add to that two leopard sittings before heading to Swala Camp and you can guess the excitement buzzing around the group..

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THE LUXURY SWALA CAMP (AFTER THE REFIT)

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Swala Camp Tarangire (more a lodge than a camp) has changed hands a few times since I first saw it established back in the early nineties. The recent refit was superbly done I had been told and it’s always a relief to hear everyone proclaim that they love it! Wildlife was walking around the camp and over the next couple of days we watched lions hunting, visited a nearby school and enjoyed the great variety of wildlife and scenery Tarangire has on offer. One afternoon we enjoyed a short walking safari avoiding the 12 bull elephants that seem to live around the camp/lodge.

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EVERYONE ENJOYED THE SCHOOL VISIT

We flew out of Tarangire (again in two 12 seated Cessna caravans) and the excitement grew. Coming into the Kogatende airstrip when the migration is all around the Mara River is dramatic indeed.

Like tiny ants the tens of thousands of animals come slowly into focus as you land. Look- hippos and look again an elephant herd - see that – that’s a huge group of zebra! I had planned (with the help of Tim Corfield) a rather special second location. Tim has been organizing camps out here for 40+ years and the location we agreed upon was the first time any group had camped there- it was on the Lamai Wedge of Northern Serengeti, it was literally in the migration! We were the only camp in Tanzania north of the Mara River with distant views over Kenya’s Maasai Mara.

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Sunset drinks were always special and great to share with Tim and Jo

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One of the river crossings we witnessed from the 4 open vehicles

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Camp evenings were magical

To say that we saw the Serengeti Wildebeest migration is just not saying enough - we lived it for 4 great days! Our wonderful camp was constantly surrounded by wildebeest herds and we experienced two exciting river crossings by thousands of these ungainly yet driven animals. Lions, elephants and cheetahs were close by and hyenas patrolled the camps edge all night it seemed. It couldn’t have been better, a private Camp in an almost completely private part of the Great Serengeti National Park. Everyone was thrilled. Just before we flew out of the Serengeti I was interviewed for a British Airways commercial which did appear on TV I later heard. My pleasure after experiencing such a rich week of wildlife must has come through because they used some footage of me. Great free publicity!

It is always a pleasure to see new, old and young minds refreshed and filled by the safari experience – everyone wants to come back and there is no finer recommendation than that!

Many thanks go to all the people involved in making this important family reunion safari work so well. And that would be around 100+ people in total!