Saturday, December 12, 2015

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania: Chasing Down Cheetahs

I left Egypt and headed to Tanzania to meet up with my super good friend from New York, J. Rich.  We had planned to meet up for safari and travel around Tanzania/Rwanda for two weeks (J. Rich had a two-week break from work because you know, that's how things work when you have a job). We met up in the city of Arusha, Tanzania to start our safari (J. Rich flew in from NYC, I flew down from Cairo) - the town is about an hour from Kilimanjaro. During our safari, we hit up 3 national parks: the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire.

What It's All About:
We started our 5-day safari in Serengeti, which is the largest national park and very Lion King-esque. (Yes, apparently my base knowledge for everything in life comes from Disney movies). But it's amazing - imagine totally flat grasslands and plains for as far as the eye can see.  You seriously can't see anything on the horizon but more grasslands. Then throw in a dash of crazy-looking African trees, a couple rock croppings, and animals hiding out EVERYwhere.  

Elephants parading through the Serengeti. Does this photo even look real!?!
I especially liked the Serengeti because we could go anywhere we want: when our guide, Herman, spotted an animal, he would veer off the road to get us as close as possible. It was truly like being out in the middle of endless desolate gorgeous safari plains.

Serengeti sunset!

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Spent a day in Arusha at a super-fancy hotel (because again, these things are of note now). We wandered through town for lunch, then were picked up the next morning by our safari company, Easy Travel, to start our trip.

J. Rich and our fancy hotel

This is a combo ice cream/express passport photos store

2,000 Tanzanian shillings = $1, therefore I had too many bills to fit in my wallet.  I didn't choose thug life; it chose me.

  • The next morning, we were picked up by our local safari guide, Herman, to start our journey! We drove 7-hours out to Serengeti National Park.  Immediately following will be 2,000 photos of animals we saw during our 2 days in Serengeti. 

    This is our super-fancy private safari vehicle

    This is our guide, Herman

    Greeting us at the entrance to Serengeti National Park was this super-weird bald bird

    And then we saw lions!!! These were two brothers, and they got super super close to our vehicle.  Also, some of these photos were taken with J. Rich's fancy zoom-y camera, which is why they look ridiculously better than others

    And here is one of the lions looking majestic

    And then we saw a giraffe

    We decided to take a selfie with the giraffe right as it was peeing

    And then celebrated the day's sites with Serengeti beers! 

    Magical sunsets on the Serengeti

    Everywhere you looked was like a postcard

    • Our two nights in the Serengeti, we stayed in tented camps - which is basically glamping on crack. Our tented camp was incredibly fancy in every way - we had multiple rooms, and even had a fancy patio section!  Really, the only ways in which you could tell you were living in a tent were: 1. Couldn't use the tap water for anything but washing hands, 2. Had to call the staff for hot water, and they would come tromping over to your tent and fill your water tank, 3. Had to walkie-talkie a staff member if we walked anywhere outside the tent when dark.  

    The outside of our fancy tent mega-mansion

    Oh hello, incredibly fancy bed (we had another bed a room back, as well as a bathroom and dressing area)
    Here is the fancy communal meal tent where we were served the most delicious food
    Here is a fancy meal that they served in the middle of nowhere in the tent

    Watching the sunset from our glam-tent

    • Day 2, safari continues. Photos of animals, commence.

    Here is a leopard in a tree!  Which you can't see at all!! But I had to include because the leopard is one of the famous "Big 5" animals

    Giraffes in trees everywhere!!!!

    And warthogs! 

    Our hotel packed us fancy boxed lunches to bring along as a picnic

    Here is our breathtaking picnic site

    Baboons grooming. This male seriously walked over to the female and lifted his leg, basically telling her he was ready to be groomed. And she did it. Female empowerment, lady baboon.

    And we saw a group of elephants

    I love baby elephants

    More than baby elephants, I love baby elephants all in a row

    Our guide called this "the mythical five-legged elephant." Which....I'm sure you can see why

    And then it downpoured and we came across these giraffes, who just stood there in the rain motionless, taking it in.

    Another sunset on the Serengeti

    • Day 3, we were going to head to the Ngorongoro Crater - but before we did, we did one last half-day drive through the Serengeti.

    And then the best part - we came across a family of cheetahs!!  They couldn't have cared less that we were there.

    Yes, I dress very Big Buck Hunter-esque when on safari

    Cheetah fam! A mom with her 3 cubs. They were SO CLOSE to our car

    And then the mom cheetah came and rested under our car's shade. It was CRAZY. We ate lunch in the car and stared at her the entire time.

    The coolest, coolest part was when all the cheetahs got up - and the mom started stalking a gazelle and then started running full-speed after it to chase it down. It was the craziest, craziest thing to watch - she was running full speed after this poor gazelle. She didn't end up catching it, which I personally am OK with - not sure I could have handled watching a gazelle get torn to shreds.

    A rock outcropping filled with lions. Just like Pride Rock in "The Lion King"!!!

    This lion was very, very sleepy

    • The safari was SO COOL.  I loved the feeling of being a intrepid explorer searching for animals, not to mention we were totally alone in tons of areas. Herman kept saying that the Serengeti is the size of a small country - therefore there are so many areas and hidden nooks/crannies you can explore to find the animals. And it was always so exciting when you spotted one!  We got to see 3 of the 5 "Big 5" animals in the Serengeti (leopard, elephant, lion) and the wildebeest migration (which I didn't include a photo of here, given there was 10 million photos we took and even narrowing it down to the ones above was not that fun of an exercise).  
    • Tomorrow: we move safari locations to the Ngorongoro crater!

    Fun Facts of the Day:
    • "Lion" in Swahili is actually "simba"!  Thank you AGAIN, Lion King, for being so helpful!
    • Cheetahs can run up to 70mph. Clearly not the cheetah we saw unsuccessfully catch the gazelle, but.....Herman said she was trying for a larger gazelle that was too far away - she likely went too ambitious because she was aiming for a larger animal to be able to feed her 3 cubs.
    • Cheetahs also have black tear marks running down their face - like football players, this is to reduce glare in their eyes in the sun.
    • The only thing every animal in the world seems to do with 99% of their time is eat or sleep.


    1. Beautiful pictures! The cheetahs were especially amazing and gorgeous. What an experience! xoxo

      1. Thanks love!! Wish me and my iphone could take credit for all of them (but we definitely, definitely can't - so glad I had a friend with a real camera!) Love you and love reading your comments always! XO

    2. Wowowowowowow I was waiting (im)patiently for this post and it was everything I dreamed of and more. So insanely amazing!! Sending love to you and j.rich!! Xoxo miss you guys!

      1. You were completely patient! Wish you could have joined us!! Love you and miss you tonssssssss <3

    3. Your pictures look insanely beautiful!! theyre so beautiful that they look fake! What an AMAZING experience with the animals being so close! Baby elephants are the best ❤️ And the cheetahs and giraffes and lions... Love it!!! Bryant says hi btw 😊 He loves cheetahs haha

      1. Haha thanks!! And to think they were all (most) taken with an iPhone - which was heavily judged by the safari guide, trust me! Say hi to Bryant for me as well - cheetahs are the best! Love you!! <3