Hardcore backpacker Sarah Wroblewska has just returned from a safari in the Serengeti, a vast and beautiful region straddling Kenya and Tanzania, and absolutely teeming with lions, elephants and other classic African wildlife.
Her 8-day adventure, which took her to Lake Victoria, Ngorongoro Crater and of course the Serengeti National Park, was with Intrepid Travel, a company which specialises in responsible travel and which takes small groups on big adventures.
I caught up with Sarah to find out a bit more about her trip, to hear about the highlights and to ask about how you can follow in her footsteps.
Welcome back, Sarah! So, you began your journey in Nairobi, capital of Kenya…
I did! It was certainly different. We got a taxi from the airport and there were cows all over the road, and people kept coming up to the car when we were stuck in traffic to try and sell us things. The best thing about the journey was seeing the party buses. Because it was a Saturday night, the normal public buses are converted into moving discos; it was like being in the middle of Notting Hill Carnival!
Awesome! So, next stop…
We left Nairobi the next day and headed out into the Great Rift Valley, where the scenery was epic.
We drove all day, passing through lots of shanty towns. It was a Sunday so all the kids were off school and working in the fields with their parents. The next day we crossed the border into Tanzania and reached Lake Victoria, which was absolutely amazing.
Presumably by now you had spoken a fair bit to the group and guide – what were they like?
Well, when we got the to the lake instead of putting up the tents for the night, I just relaxed on the shore with a beer, and this gave me a chance to properly speak to the group. They were really cool, and although it was a small group the ages ranged from early 20s to a 70 year old Australian guy. He slept a lot. We all got on really well because we were there for the same thing.
And the guide was awesome. He was from Masai Mara [in Kenya], and came from a family of 50 brothers and sisters and half-brothers and half-sisters. In his culture, the men have to jump as high as they can, and the highest jumper gets his pick of the women. I guess he could jump pretty high because he had lots of wives. Anyway, he was a really good guide – he didn’t constantly talk, which can get really tiresome, but only spoke if it was to alert us to something really important.
Where did you go after Lake Victoria?
Next we had two days in the Serengeti, which was absolutely incredible. We started seeing wildlife straight away: monkeys, zebras, giraffes and lions! When we arrived at the campsite it was completely exposed, which made me feel a bit nervous, but there is a big campfire burning all night, which keeps the animals away. Apart from the hyenas – they don’t come into the camp but they do watch you from a distance, and you can see their eyes glowing in the darkness.
We ended up seeing all the big five over the time we were there. So as well as lions and elephants, we saw buffalos, rhinos and even two leopards in a dead tree, which our guide said was a really rare thing to see.
At one point, some lions were literally right next to our truck, it was so cool seeing them just chilling in the sun.
Later on, some lions tried chasing down a baby elephant, but the rest of the herd were having none of it and chased the lions away.
And after that, we saw an actual kill, which was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. A zebra walked really close to a lion hiding in the grass. The lion then used our truck for cover to sneak around, and then chased and pounced on the zebra. As if that wasn’t enough, a hippo then came charging out of a nearby waterhole at both of them.
Wow. What an experience! Where did you go after the Serengeti?
Next up was Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the remains of an ancient and long extinct volcano. It’s now a huge conservation area and just unbelievably beautiful. We saw a sunset from the top, words can’t describe how amazing that was.
Inside, the crater is like a lost world and the geography is so diverse: from arid plains to lush grass to full on rainforests.
From the crater we made our way back to Nairobi and finished the trip.
It really does sound incredible. So what type of person do you think this trip is best for?
It’s an obvious thing to say, but people who love animals, because that really is the focus of the whole trip. Everyone is there to see the wildlife, so accepts that this means really early starts and constantly being on the move. If you’re not an early riser and are not that bothered about animals, you probably won’t enjoy it!
And what would you say to parents of younger people considering this tour?
Just that it is so safe. The tour guide is at your side from start to finish. There is even a taxi organised from the airport. The food is really good too. Yep, you’ll definitely be looked after!
Photos: Sarah Wroblewska