New York Times article and Nat Geo Traveler Trip of the Year
As some of you may have known, on May 22nd we were honoured to be featured in the New York Times. Journalist Jessica Bruder joined us for 4 days in the Maasai Steppe and Simanjiro ecosystem and wrote an excellent piece for the Times. We were glad to have her in the bush and felt she really portrayed the spirit of our safaris, as well as highlighting the conservation challenges in the Simanjiro Plains. You can see the link here:
It was wonderful publicity for the month, as we were also featured in National Geographic Traveler for Best Trip of the Year. Again, we're flattered and happy it gives us the chance to take more of you on safari.
Cheetahs in the Steppe
It has been almost 10 years since I've seen a cheetah in the Maasai Steppe. Lion, yes, plenty, in fact. But cheetah are not so common in the Maasai Steppe ecosystem and are very shy here. We've encountered them regularly near the waterholes in Tarangire where we've seen them hunting gerenuk and vulturine guineafowl, but in the Steppe, it has been a long time. However, on the first day of the Reidy safari we enjoyed seeing the big herds of wildebeest and zebra out on the Simanjiro plains near Terat and then on our way into camp near the mountain, someone shouted "Stop!". To my right I could see a flash and a tail and at first thought it must be a leopard. But then there was a second animal and I was able to properly view it. Cheetah! And then 2 more…. Making it a beautiful sighting of a mother with 3 healthy teenagers out hunting baby wildebeest in the remote wilderness.
Camp in the Crater Highlands
For the past several years, we've been using a great little camp located high up on the Crater Highlands. Ngorongoro Crater is a beautiful, ecological and geological wonder with exceptional wildlife viewing and one of the very few places to see the endangered black rhino in Tanzania. However, tourism pressures are very big, and with the crater being a small area, it is not uncommon to see dozens of vehicles on the prowl in the crater on any given day. The lodges and camps are also mainly located on the very busy main crater rim road. So, we have had some really nice nights at a more unusual camp located about 30 minutes from the crater rim. It offers true seclusion and is part of a tourism partnership with the Maasai of Mysigio. For us, if we do include the crater as part of an itinerary, it is a preferred place, because one can truly experience the high mountains and glades of the Crater highlands and enjoy a nice walk with the Maasai after a day of game driving in the crater.
The state of the 'Safari'
Since we discussed trends such as the Serengeti Road in our last newsletter, we thought it may be time to discuss how the world of the 'safari' is changing in this newsletter. A couple of us friends were chatting over a bottle of Bushmills in the low season about this. 'Safari' in Swahili means 'journey' and we have tried to maintain this essence over the years. Nowadays everything seems so within reach and we've all become accustomed to instant gratification and having what we need at our fingertips. Safaris have evolved in the same way. Game lodges in South Africa purchase 'Big Five' animals at wildlife auctions so that their guests can tick them off the list in their weekend stay.
A real safari as a journey is when you leave town and head off down the dirt road into the bush. It is when you explore and search for wildlife and not have it given to you on a silver platter. Ironically, instant gratification is not very gratifying! However, the trend even in Tanzania is towards the uber-luxurious hotels (called camps). Of course we all enjoy our G&Ts and luxurious frills from time to time. And we can even enjoy part of this when on safari. But the core of a trip must maintain the essence of journey and exploration. Interestingly, I think the industry is missing the point. I always quote a guest of mine who had been on almost 10 safaris throughout Africa and stayed at the most prestigious camps and lodges. After spending 9 days with us in the bush on foot and using our low key wilderness mobile camps, he said "Well, finally I get to experience a real safari. I'm sick of all that stuff in those fancy camps". And all of our guests feel the same way – they want to truly participate in a journey through the wilderness (sure, with maybe a night or two of luxurious reward at the end).