After my dream trip to Peru and Bolivia, I well and truly caught the bug of adventure holidays. So I had to book another one. And this time my sights were set on Africa – in particular, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – the largest mountain on the continent. It seemed such an interesting place to visit and an exciting challenge to boot.
So I started researching trips. And only then did I realise how close the Sergenti was as I found many tours bundled together. A safari was then added onto my expedition to make it a 2 week trip to Africa. I wasn’t that keen on the safari initially and just thought since I was in the region I should give it a visit. But when I went my mind was blown – it was absolutely amazing.
So the entry point to this tour was Nairobi – such a fun bustling city that was chaotic and fascinating. We spent some time visiting the city and wandering around – it felt safe generally, but I was conscious we stood out and there were always people calling out and trying to sell us stuff. Hence not many photos of the city.
Cameras did come out when we went to see the giraffes. My first African giraffe experience was very staged, in this tourist attraction in Nairobi. Here the giraffes were so friendly and it was mindblowing to be beside them.
So what brought them so close? Food. The giraffes were free to roam their large enclosure, but they choose to come over to get some tasty snacks.
I had mixed feelings about the experience. It was very zoo-like and I felt sad the animals were not in their real native environment. Yet they had a happy life and were very well looked after, much more than in the wild.
Sometimes a place is just interesting for non-touristy reasons. One of the coolest places we stayed was on Lake Victoria. Camping on a beach campsite was awesome.
Waves crashing were an ever-present backdrop to the location. The sunsets were magical, and looking out into the Lake it looked enormous like we were looking int an ocean. Yet it is definitely a lake, albeit a massive one covering three countries.
And one of the most fun parts was going on a cycle ride around the town, seeing how people really lived. It was both humbling and inspiring. People were really happy everywhere, despite not have much material wealth. And the market was bustling and bright coloured. Being a veggie the fish market grossed me out, but others seemed to find it interesting.
All in all, a great place to spend a few nights and see a little bit of local culture.
And then it was onto the section that was soon to become the highlight – the Serengeti. With such a foreboding entrance offering a glimpse of what is to come.
Upon driving in, it was not long before the wildlife was around us.
Wilderbeast and zebras were everywhere – just hanging out and enjoying the Serengeti landscape. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being impressed with the markings on zebras – they are just so stunning and unique in my opinion.
As the safari was just tacked onto my main trip, I did not have high expectations for it. I was going with the flow until the zebras appeared. From then on I was mesmerised – I just loved seeing all these animals in the wild.
It didn’t take us too long until we started seeing more wildlife and our first big cat sighting. Lions were everywhere, and they even walk up to and around the trucks, treating them as they would a tree or bush.
And it became apparent how much work is involved in wildlife photography. The Lions liked to rest in the shade, which made taking pictures harder. I started to give up on pictures and just enjoy the moment. As there were such incredible scenes just out the window.
Diversity of species
There were also giraffes galore in the Serengeti. Nothing prepared me for seeing them hobbling along in wild. They have such an ungainly walk, yet are such majestic creatures.
And of course, there were lots of elephants around. And the baby elephants in the wild are every bit as cute as you expect them to be. Our tour guide joked that she was going to do a book titled African Animal Butts, as she got so many photos of their rear ends.
And I saw more wildlife than just the big animals. Some of the smaller animals were also amazing. As an example, seeing meerkats in the wild was unexpected but so cute – especially when they all demonstrated that back leg manoeuvre for us.
Not the mentioned the birds – Ostriches were just wandering around with the zebra. And so many other interesting birds it was difficult to keep track. Even the reptiles were pretty around here.
Camping in the national park was fun, but not for the faint-hearted. When getting out of our tents at night we had to scan the area for wildlife. And when we went to bed, the hyenas came and appreciated the warmth of our campfire.
I hope you can tell how much the Serengeti blew me away. It was worth every penny I spend on it, and a lot more.
From the Serengeti, we went to Ngorongoro Crater. When I visited the crater was the opposite of lush. I found it mainly dried out with small oasis like sections. We were told this made finding the wildlife easier, although it reduced the overall population.
The variation between the sections was immense – yet as expected we found loads of wildlife hiding. There were just so many hippos hanging out in the lakes and they were great fun to watch.
Elephants and the odd giraffe were also roaming about in the crater and easy to spot. More difficult was our final spot of the big five. We hadn’t seen a Rhino yet and luckily our guide found one – although it was at a distance far away from the truck.
After a relaxing week in Africa and on safari, it was time for the hard work to begin.
What was originally the main part of the trip had been overshadowed by the unexpected awesomeness of the safari. However, after a week of sitting down, it felt great to start moving again.
I did the 5 day Kilimanjaro route, staying in the huts. They were basic but provided some protection from the elements and were cosy in your sleeping bag. Moreover, we had porters who carried our luggage and did the cooking for us, which made it so much easier.
The first day was fun, and we couldn’t see the mountain or the challenge ahead of us. Your surroundings and the whole ecosystem change as you climb the mountain and it’s fascinating to move through all the different ecosystems.
The first night on the mountain was relaxing, with a hearty meal served and people staying up around the table in the dining room to chat.
And the second day was easy walking and fun again, but we were getting into altitude sickness zones now. Our guides were warning us to look out for the signs and urging caution. We were all fine but were feeling a bit tired, so nobody stayed up late. Not to mention it was a bit peaky outside.
Trekking on up
As the climb progressed, the summit seems nearer and you get more and more glimpses. It manages to look both so close and yet so far.
When the third day seemed easy, we remembered the schedule. The fourth day starts at 11 pm on the third day. We went to bed at 6 pm, ready to summit the mountain the next morning.
Even though I am a morning person and I don’t mind the cold, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about an overnight hike in -15C. We layered up the clothes to the extreme. I had tights, thermal leggings and thermal trousers on, two pairs of socks, three pairs of gloves etc. Off we went just before midnight on the final trek.
My first surprise happened then. It was magical seeing the lights. Headlamp lights. Lighting a trail up the path before us. It was very busy and just seemed really out of place as we did not see that much of all the other groups on other days. Now I won’t lie. This bit of the trek was hard. The altitude really got to me. I felt groggy and a bit confused. I begrudgingly let the porter carry my bag and insisted on trekking on.
As you get close the glacier comes into view. It is so weird being up close beside it. Despite the ever-increasing altitude, a band of resilence came into play and I suddenly felt more clear headed. And then it was an easy wander over to the summit.
Making it to the summit is surreal. Again it’s very busy and everyone queues to get their picture take with that sign. Sadly we didn’t have great views as there was a ring of cloud.
Nonetheless the achievement of making it was electrifying. It felt great, despite the fact it was still under freezing and only 6 am. And it comes highly recommend to those who also love an adventure holiday.
Related Posts – Counting Countries Series
- Travels as a Child – Countries 1 to 6
- On my own dime – Countries 7 to 16
- Going East – Countries 17 to 22
- Europe and Beyond – Countries 23 to 27
- The Caribbean and yet more Europe – Countries 28 to 31
- Inca Extravaganza – Countries 32 & 33
Over to you
- What are your thoughts?
- Have you been on a safari?
- Are you a fan of adventurous holidays?