A how to avoid the crowds safari

July 2007

With guests from Chicago I organized an early dry season safari to Katavi, Mahale and the Northern part of Serengeti. In both Katavi and Mahale I decided to use the Katuma and Nkungwe Camps operated by Chimpanzee Safaris. Then Suyan Camp in Loliondo and to finish a private mobile camp at my favorite site in the North, namely Wogakuria. The challenge was to combine these sites without doubling back or via any major airstrips. Coming out of Mahale Zantas Air Services kindly arranged for us to be dropped off at Klein’s airstrip and their plane carried on to Arusha. This made it possible to avoid the crowds.

Katavi was a great first stop for 3 nights. The herds of buffalo alone were worth the flight via Tabora. These Katavi herds are huge and when two of three herds come together the congregations can reach up to 5,000 animals. Nowhere else in Africa can you see herds of this size and if you know of one please let me know. The elephant were feisty and the hippos gave us a hundred reasons to laugh. One dramatic encounter saw two hyenas try to kill a new born hippo. The drama lasted half an hour or so and thankfully the hippo mum was up to the task of seeing off these opportunistic predators, but only just.

[2007/200706_01.jpg]Frisky Katavi elephants

[2007/200706_02.jpg]Never swim in the Katuma River

[2007/200706_03.jpg]Hippos and giraffe in Katavi

[2007/200706_04.jpg]Katavi Lunch

Mahale for 4 nights is always a pleasure and I was a little worried because reports of the chimps being high up the mountains had been coming in that previous week. We hiked four times and saw the chimps on every trek. One very long day out lasted 9 hours on foot and we were eventually rewarded for our efforts. We had scaled way up and after we had huffed and panted for hours we finally herd a large group of chimps in a steep sided gorge. Our intrepid guide Sixtus left us to catch our breath whilst he made off to test the gorge. After half an hour he returned stating that there was no way we could get to the chimps-it was just too dangerous. Chest fallen we headed down with our tired legs wobbling as we went. Another group had been herd much lower down so we headed quickly to the area close to a beach south of camp.

We had to fight our way through some tangled vegetation before suddenly coming upon the three special males of this group, Bonobo, Kilonde and Alofu. A peaceful riverside grooming scene was just what we needed. Our peaceful hour sat near these scenes capped off a wonderful, if long, day in the magnificent forests of Mahale.

[2007/200706_05.jpg]Coming into Mahale by boat

[2007/200706_06.jpg]Forest walking

[2007/200706_07.jpg]Nkungwe Camp sitting area

[2007/200706_09.jpg]Hold Still – I see it!

[2007/200706_10.jpg]Kalunde’s eyes

[2007/200706_08.jpg]Forest feather

[2007/200706_11.jpg]A sacred forest

[2007/200706_12.jpg]A stream to cross

Our flight to Klein’s took us via Kigoma which was 45 minutes in the air from Mahale, here we refueled and flew 2 and a three quarter hour to Klein’s where a Suyan camp land rover met us. Our drive to camp stunned my guests. Such beautiful country, such a change of habitat, they stated. The northern hills of the Serengeti are stunning and as the migration was close by we settled into camp to relax.

Our two nights here were wonderful, the tens of thousands of zebra and the hundreds of thousands of wildebeest that move into this area in July simply change the very landscape as they move in. Vultures by the thousands fill the sky and the constant noise of these herds on the move dominates the day.

[2007/200706_13.jpg]Zebra Migration

[2007/200706_14.jpg]Suyan dinning tent

[2007/200706_15.jpg]my breakfast plate

We walked the last morning here dodging elephants and watching the birdlife along the way then drove 3 hours north to our private camp at Wogakuria and settled in for 3 nights. This lonely spot sits on a rocky ridge overlooking the Mara River Valley. It is a perfect getaway to end such a safari. We combined drives to the river with cross country drives on the Lamai grassland plains, encountering cheetahs, lions, huge herds of Topi, gazelle and solitude that only these open plain can provide- spectacular end to a safari well away from the madding crowds.

[2007/200706_16.jpg]Serengeti Lamai Cheetahs

[2007/200706_17.jpg]the migration is unstoppable

[2007/200706_18.jpg]curious Jackal

All our camps had provided excellent food with Suyan being the best, we had encountered very few other visitors and as if to make sure that we appreciated it our flight to Arusha landed at Seronera and Manyara where far too many cars could be seen buzzing along the tracks. We felt privileged to have been on safari away from the crowds and smiled that inner smile knowing where we had been and how special was our safari.