The seemingly endless plains of the Serengeti and the draw-dropping beauty of the Ngorongoro Crater are rightly seen as the big draws of Northern Tanzania but I also found on my recent visit that the less visited Tarangire National Park had a beauty and subtlety that both surprised and delighted me. On game-drives I saw herds of elephants scorched an almost reddish-tint from rolling in the rust-coloured soil and huge and rather mystical-looking baobab trees that added an almost timeless and distinctly African feel to the landscape.
My home for the night was the delightful and intimate Kichuguu Camp which offered friendly, personal service and spacious tented rooms in the heart of the park. The sounds of lions outside my tent at night will stay with me for quite some time!
Clambering out of the safari vehicle to assemble for our safety briefing, all pairs of eyes are on Samoa’s shot gun, probably thinking the same thing: I’d rather we don’t see anything than see a gun have to be put to use. My first walking safari and off I go in single file. Quietly. Within minutes, Samoa stops sharply and makes an assertive signal with a clenched fist – which, coincidentally, was not mentioned in the briefing – but we all got the message: something big is very close to us. An adult male white rhino is grazing just past the next tree! We silently skirt around him, with only uninterrupted, muffled munching filling the air.
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in Kwa-Zulu Natal, is the oldest proclaimed reserve in Africa (est. 1895). Conservation efforts here during the 1950-60s brought the rhino back from the brink and the park is now home to the largest population of white rhino in the world. We crept close to numerous more muffles as they chomped past us through the wild vegetation – testament to the ongoing safeguarding success.
For more than a walk in the park, there is opportunity to partake in the Primitive Trail (4-nights). Sleeping bags under the stars with just a fire throughout the night to warn off any danger? After the excitement of being on foot, so close to these special beasts – yes please! I think.
One thing that has been firmly on my bucket list for a while was to go Whale watching, something have finally I managed to tick off. During a recent trip to St Lucia, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa I had the opportunity to experience the exhilaration of searching out and finding these gentle giants of the deep. The Humpback whale season in this area runs from June to the end of November. We were there in November so to see not one but three was a pretty unexpected but wonderful experience. For such large animals, Humpback Whales are very good at hiding! It took us some time to find them in the inky blue sea, finally spotting the distinctive hump the whales make as they dive under the ocean surface, in the distance. The captain pulled alongside where we had spotted the whale and when he finally re-surfaced he had brought his friends with him! The three young males then swam alongside the boat for sometime before disappearing back into the ocean.
Getting up before sunrise is not always something I seek out on a trip overseas but my early morning encounter with the meerkats of the Klein Karoo was well worth the blurry eyes! After a strong al-fresco coffee, my group and I sat on portable chairs in a semi-circle as the first rays of sunlight hit the meerkat’s burrows. These burrows are over a century old and are located just outside the town of Oudtshoorn which is situated on the historic Route 62 in South Africa’s southern Cape. The meerkat troop is habituated to humans but viewing in a non-invasive way in the wild is a magical and educational experience. As the sun heats up so does the action and soon the troop will greet the sun and younger meerkats will begin to play! The tour last for around 2 – 3 hours in total and a further advantage of the early start is that you have the rest of the day left to enjoy the many of the other highlights of this historic and scenic region.