When we began planning our African adventure, we turned to friends who lead photography workshops in the Serengeti. Without hesitation, they directed us to Unique Safaris to put together the perfect experience. My husband, a nature photographer, had been to the Serengeti years before, but it was my first trip to Africa. Our goal was to travel without anxiety, enjoy comfortable lodging, good food, and be open to whatever “wild” experience came our way.
From the moment we stepped off the plane, we were in Ester’s care. The handling of our arrival process, luggage and transport to our first lodging was seamless and stress free. Despite our long flight and airport layovers, we awoke refreshed and enjoyed a lovely, quiet breakfast on the patio at Kili Villa.
The next day was an introduction to savanna life at Arusha National Park. I celebrated the sighting of our first giraffe popping out from behind the trees and crossing the road. Then another, and another, and another as they joined wildebeests, zebra, warthogs and gazelle enjoying their time in the park. I was full of wonder and complete calm at the same time. (Recapping this experience brings tears as I write this.)
The next day, we were met by our driver, David, who would remain with us throughout our travels within Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks. We had arranged to have a safari vehicle for ourselves so that Lou could move freely and photograph from all perspectives. I, on the other hand, amassed wonderful images through an open window with my cell phone.
Lodging at all three Karibu properties; Sametu, Woodlands, and Lion’s Paw, exceeded all expectations. The beautiful images on the website are not enhanced and truly represent the tents, environment and amenities on each property. What they don’t do, however, is convey the warmth and caring nature of the staff whose goal is for guests to enjoy this unique world to the absolute fullest. In Woodlands, a mobile camp, we were met by the whole staff when we returned from our drives. This team became our family, making it so tearfully hard to leave and move onto the next camp.
We feel like we won the jackpot having David as our driver/guide. His spotting skills were exceptional. In most cases, we were the first to arrive at a point of interest, with other safari companies pulling up behind us. In one instance, he grabbed his binoculars, looked far into the distance, and told us to “Hold on!” We drove ahead to where he spied a white feather floating. As we neared, a leopard bounded out of a tree with a live stork in its mouth! During our 12 days, we saw every animal and bird you could imagine, including the elusive leopards and rhinos. More importantly, we witnessed their behavior, in their world, playing out just as it likely has for thousands of years.
While we were at the Woodlands, we decided to take a balloon ride with Serengeti Balloons. We didn’t schedule or budget for it prior to our trip. Do it. I can’t begin to explain the once-in-a-lifetime experience. We glided just above the acacia trees and heard the giraffes munching on the treetops below. We heard the pounding of the wildebeests’ hooves as they avoided a lion on the prowl. Back on the ground, we enjoyed a beautifully presented full English breakfast and time with our pilot and new friends.
I didn’t have a list of what I wanted to see or experience while on the trip. I knew that everything about it would be new, and I could just immerse myself without anything to plan or worry about. This part of the world is so raw, so real, so rich. No other travel experience has been so impactful, and we couldn’t be more grateful.
Marianne and Lou Nettelhorst