We met up with our wonderful guide, Derick, and gourmet chef, Waziri, at their office in Arusha and headed out towards Lake Manyara National Park. Once we arrived, we popped up the roof and were in true safari spirit with our binoculars and camera ready for any and every animal we might spot! We saw many animals on our first day including monkeys, zebras, giraffes, hippos, and a few different antelopes.
By far the highlight of my day was when we came up on a large herd of forest elephants! We had been on the hunt all day and just as we were heading towards the gate, we spotted them. There must have been at least 15 elephants, young and old, all around our truck!
After a fun first day, we headed back to camp to a delicious meal and entertaining "acrobatic show" before heading to bed. We woke up early the next morning to a beautiful sunrise, met up with a French couple who joined us for the day, and off we went towards the Ngorongoro Crater. Ngorongoro Crater is the largest unbroken caldera in the world and is home to over 30,000 animals - almost half of which are zebra and wildebeest. Just as we pulled in we came on a herd of zebra and wildebeest as far as the eye could see. We also spotted water buffaloes, a lonely male elephant, a few lionesses napping, hippos, and hyenas.
As we were eating lunch, Derick heard a few other guides talking about a rhino spotting. Seeing a rhino on your safari is kind of a big deal - there are only 30 left (due to severe poaching) in Tanzania and those 30 are all in the crater. So we hurried back in the car and Derick took off towards the long line of safari vehicles in hopes that we could spot a rhino for ourselves. He was a little ways off but still awesome to see.
After a little animal spotting that afternoon, we dropped off our French friends and headed back to camp. The next morning we woke up in the clouds and left early for our trip to the Serengeti National Park. "Serengeti" means "endless plains" in the Masai language and around 35 different species of animals - including the "Big 5" - can be spotted here. Not long after we entered, we came across a beautiful cheetah followed by a few giraffes, elephants, gazelles.
We later came up on the most amazing part of our entire safari! We noticed a long line of cars watching a lioness who seemed to be stalking something. Derick took a short cut through a mud hole and made a way right up in to the middle of the action. The couple in the car behind us shot us a few dirty looks for interrupting with our loud truck. The lioness was tucked down in the grass stalking a little thompson gazelle. The gazelle moved out of sight towards the watering hole and the lioness slowly creeped right past our truck. The gazelle then tried to make a run for it between our truck and the one in front but missed and ran smack dab in to the tire of the other truck. This stunned the gazelle just long enough for the lioness to come in and take the last swing to grab a hold of her snack. Although not a thing I normally like to see, this was absolutely incredible to watch - and only 3 meters or so in from of us! I'm sure the couple behind us were really sending a few ugly looks our way after we blocked their view of the entire show - but we didn't turn around to check!!
We took a siesta that afternoon at camp and then headed back out for a sunset drive in hopes of finding more big cats. We first spotted a few giraffes and then came across a lioness laying on the edge of the road. After watching the gorgeous sunset over the plains, we headed back for our last supper with Derick and Waziri.
The next day we went for an early morning drive in hopes to spot a leopard but no such luck. But 4 out of the 'Big 5" makes for a very successful safari! We had an absolute blast and would recommend Jackpot Safaris to anyone interested in going - just ask for Derick and Waziri!!