The Great Migration in Tanzania (Why East Africa should be on your Bucket List)

 

2013 was an amazing year for me for travel. It brought me back to my favorite cities in Asia (Hong Kong and Singapore) several times, to Vancouver for my brother’s wedding, and to Milan for Fashion Week. The farthest I been  though, and also the most life-changing, which has allowed me to tick off a new continent– and the fifth– off my  bucket list– was Africa. (I still have Australia and Antartica to go, and then I’m complete!)

My first time brought me to the Republic of Tanzania in East Africa with Asia to Africa Safaris. I went with my very dear friend, fellow Philippine Star columnist, and one of my favorite travel buddies Christine Dayrit.

My mandatory travel essentials included:

1) Yellow Vaccine Certificate

This is first thing they check at the Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania before you can even enter– not even your passport (visas for Philippine passport holders are USD $50 upon arrival). You can get the yellow fever vaccine certificate at the Bureau of Quarantine at Intramuros, behind Manila Hotel. The good news is that it’s valid for 10 years.

Yellow Fever Vaccine

2) Travel Insurance

I got mine from Paramount Life & General Insurance Corporation. Since I have a crazy hectic schedule, I appreciated it being so quick and convenient– and cashless, too! I just clicked on their Global Travel Protect, filled out the information, paid USD $19.75 and was guaranteed over USD $50,000 of benefits! (See below). Easy peasy and I highly recommend it for any of your travels!

Paramount Life & General Insurance Corporation- Travel Insurance- Cheryl Tiu

 

It’s important to remember that the bush planes in Africa that take you to the different camps can only carry a maximum of 15kg of luggage per person. Therefore, it is important to pack light!

Checking in NAIA.. this is the lightest I've ever packed for a trip halfway around the world-- and for a week!
Checking in NAIA.. this is the lightest I’ve ever packed for a trip halfway around the world– and for a week!

15 hours later.. we’re in Africa!!! The city of Arusha, an hour’s drive away from the Kilimanjaro International Airport, is the gateway to the northern African safari of Serengeti. Apart from being home to the highest mountain in Africa, Mt .Kilimanjaro (5,895 meters), and the lowest point in  Africa, the bottom of Lake Tanganyika (1,470 meters deep), Tanzania is also known for their single origin coffee. And in Arusha, coffee lodges are options as five-star accommodations.

The Legendary Lodge and Spa has been touted by locals themselves as the most luxurious accommodation in all of Arusha, surrounded by coffee plantations throughout the entire property.

Legendary Lodge, Tanzania, East Africa 1
The 120-year-old colonial style Farmhouse is the reception and dining area, fitted with Laura Ashley-like printed sofas and an Old World library
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The attentive butlers (and the lady was our driver!) are some of the warmest people personifying African hospitality
Spacious, sprawling rooms named after wild animals in Swahili, are housed in cottages with interiors that are both colonial and rustic. This was where we stayed; my room was on the left and Christine's on the right.
Spacious, sprawling rooms named after wild animals in Swahili, are housed in cottages with interiors that are both colonial and rustic. This was where we stayed; my room was on the left and Christine’s on the right
Legendary Lodge, Tanzania, East Africa 3
A large sitting room with a fireplace makes for an ideal spot to have a nightcap, browsing through coffee table books

Legandary Lodge, Tanzania, East Africa 4

Legendary Lodge, Tanzania, East Africa 7
I loved how they were all local products. Kilimanjaro lager (they say if you can’t climb the mountain, at least you can drink the beer), Amarula liquor, and South African wines like Blacksberg Pumphouse Shiraz 2008 and Robertson’s Winery’s Kings River Chardonnay 2008 were all complimentary
Tanzanian chef
While the lodge serves continental food, we were adamant in trying Tanzanian food. Here, the chef is teaching us how to eat ugali (made from corn and cooked with water into a dough-like consistency)– a staple dish in most areas of Africa.
Legendary Lodge, Tanzania, East Africa 8
While these nets make the room look romantic, they’re actually there to protect you from the mosquitoes at night!

Good morning!!!! Today, we are off to the Serengeti National Park to begin Day 1 of our safari diaries! We are taking this tiny 12-seater bush plane to our first camp, Serengeti Safari Camp (SSC) in Southern Serengeti, an hour from Arusha. The bush planes act like buses where they land at different camps and drop off passengers, then take off again to the next.

There are no "domestic airports" only landing strips
There are no “domestic airports” only landing strips

“This is the real Africa,” one South African native remarked upon visiting the republic of Tanzania for the first time. Unlike many of the other countries including South Africa, Tanzania has no fences between its national parks and cities, only natural borders like lakes, mountain ranges, and thick forests that keep animals confined. There is also no “managed wildlife management” to closely monitor numbers of big game like elephants and sell or cull them once the numbers go above the carrying capacity of the park. Tanzania chooses to leave things alone, believing that nature will make adjustments (possibly in the form of drought or rainfall to control animal numbers.)

There are lots of wildebeests and zebras, birds (there are 608 different birds in the Serengeti alone), lions, giraffes, hyenas, hippos, buffaloes, cheetahs, leopards, storks, impalas, gazelles– and vultures (they are responsible for keeping the Serengeti clean because they eat the carcasses of everything). Witnessing a kill or a mate is all about lucky– being at the right place at the right time. Africa is about witnessing the behavior of animals, and after a safari experience, a zoo will never be the same again.

Our guide at Serengeti Safari Camp (SSC), Emmanuel Njawa. Please book him when you go, he is the best!!!
Our guide at Serengeti Safari Camp (SSC), Emmanuel Njawa. Please book him when you go, he is the best!!!
Tons of wildebeests already just driving from the airstrip. Christine said that the animals aren't this abundant elsewhere in Africa when she visited. The reason why they are so abundant here is that southern Serengeti has the best food-- the best kind of grass that will fatten them . So even when they scatter around throughout the year, they will always make their way back here
Tons of wildebeests already just driving from the airstrip. Christine said that the animals aren’t this abundant elsewhere in Africa when she visited. The reason why they are so abundant here is that southern Serengeti has the best food– the best kind of grass that will fatten them . So even when they scatter around throughout the year, they will always make their way back here
Zebras Serengeti Safari Camp
Such gorgeous stripes. Zebra family members often look out for each other
Cheryl Tiu & Christine Dayrit in Serengeti, Tanzania
We’re really in the middle of nowhere! Here at the Serengeti Safari Camp, there’s no internet, no cellphone signal, no electricity, no nothing!

“A mobile camp is the real wilderness. It’s the type when you share an experience with a lion which is 500 meteres away. You sit here eating your lunch and dinner, and then there are thousands of wildebeests grazing just 10 meters away,” shared our SSC guide Emmanuel Njawa. “The migration is not a static thing, animals are moving in search of grass and fresh water. When they find out it’s short here, they will move to another place but it doesn’t mean they won’t come back.”

The tents are situated within the wilderness but the experience is quite luxurious– considering we were really in the middle of nowhere. There’s no electricity, no internet, no cellphone signal, nothing. It’s amazing to go back to a “time” and remember how world was— just you and nature, your surroundings– as it was before technology took over the world.

Our home for 2 nights. The most important rule in the camp is that guests are not allowed to walk back to the room alone, lest they run into a lion. Shoes must be kept inside at all times, too, in case a hyena decides to make an appearance.
Our home for 2 nights. The most important rule in the camp is that guests are not allowed to walk back to the room alone, lest they run into a lion. Shoes must be kept inside at all times, too, in case a hyena decides to make an apearance
Beds are warm and comfortable. Since there's no electricity, hot compresses act as makeshift heaters to sleep on top. Lamps are charged during the day for use in the evening
Beds are warm and comfortable. Since there’s no electricity, hot compresses act as makeshift heaters to sleep on top. Lamps are charged during the day for use in the evening
Stainless steel pitchers with hot and cold waters are provided to "wash" the hands with. Showers have to be ordered in advance which comes by a pail, with bath amenities from Gilchrist & Soames from England
Stainless steel pitchers with hot and cold waters are provided to “wash” the hands with. Showers have to be ordered in advance which comes by a pail, with bath amenities from Gilchrist & Soames from England
Toilets-- Robinson's Crusoe style
Toilets– Robinson’s Crusoe style
Dinner at Serengeti Safari Camp
Guests all eat together at night.. there’s a max of 16 guests at a time only at Serengeti Safari Camp
Dinner at Serengeti Safari Camp 2
The battery-operated lanterns were our only source of lights. The food– a mix of continental and local Tanzanian- was very delicious especially considering it’s cooked with no running water nor electricity!
Morning coffee is sent to the tent as our "wake up call" at 5AM. We start our first game drive early since it's not safe to end late as well
Morning coffee is sent to the tent as our “wake up call” at 5AM. We start our first game drive early since it’s not safe to end late as well
Breakfast in the wilderness Serengeti Safari Camp Christine Dayrit Cheryl Tiu
Breakfast with the wildebeests! Emmanuel packed omelettes, cereals, yogurt and fruit for us so we can dine while they surround us
 Hyenas are usually scavengers, not really hunters, but they can bring down up to a full sized antelope
Hyenas are usually scavengers, not really hunters, but they can bring down up to a full sized antelope
Have you ever seen 2 male giraffes necking? This is their version of sparring or wrestling, wherein they prove who is the more dominant one
Have you ever seen 2 male giraffes necking? This is their version of sparring or wrestling, wherein they prove who is the more dominant one
A typical elephant day is dominated by 16 hours of feeding
A typical elephant day is dominated by 16 hours of feeding
Buffalo Serengeti Safari Camp Tanzania
Part of the “Big Five”, cape buffaloes sometimes have a malicious streak. They are said to have killed more big game hunters than any other animal in Africa
Cocktail hour in the middle of the Serengeti surrounded by wildebeests! This is such a precious experience!!! The Serengeti is the best "bar" in the world :)
Cocktail hour in the middle of the Serengeti surrounded by wildebeests! This is such a precious experience!!! The Serengeti is the best “bar” in the world :)

Now off to northwest Serengeti to Lamai Serengeti, for part 2 of our safari diaries!!!

Off to Lamai in northern Serengeti

Lamai Serengeti borders Kenya. Opened just in 2012, it was described in Tripadvisor as “By far the most spectacular safari venue in 2012.” It was also chosen by Conde Nast Traveller as the world’s best hotel in Tanzania in 2012, and also the Best New Safari Property in Africa at the Good Safari Guide Awards 2013.  After two days in a mobile camp. it was nice to have electricity, signal, wifi and a real bathroom! 😀

Designed to blend in to the rocks and vegetation of the Koakuria Kopje, the lodge has panoramic views of the surrounding landscape just a few miles from where the wildebeest cross the Mara River.

The reception area at Lamai Serengeti is decorated with colorful throw pillows and looks out to the rolling hills of Kenya
The reception area at Lamai Serengeti is decorated with colorful throw pillows and looks out to the rolling hills of Kenya
The bar is created from native materials
The bar is created from native materials
Olive Oil Lamp
An innovative way to recycle a can of oil!
Lamai Serengeti was chosen by Conde Nast Traveller as the world's nest bew hotel in Tanzania for 2012
This is what my room looks like! So beautiful! Spacious cottages are a clever blend of canvas, plaster and natural poles. They are decorated beautifully with stone walls and native pieces (Photo courtesy of Nomad Tanzania/ Lamai Serengeti)
Agama Lizard
An Agama lizard… doesn’t he look like Spiderman?
Hippos migrate to the water when it's really hot. Today, we are having breakfast with them
Hippos migrate to the water when it’s really hot. Today, we are having breakfast with them
Breakfast by the Mara River with the Hippos
Today’s breakfast date is with the hippos, haha!
Hippos at Mara
Did you know that the hippo can grow up to 3000 kilos? It’s the 2nd heaviest animal next to the elephant
Cheetah! How can you tell a cheetah from a leopard? A cheetah has tear marks on its face and spotted black circles. A leopard does not, and its spots are like flowers
Cheetah! How can you tell a cheetah from a leopard? A cheetah has tear marks on its face and spotted black circles. A leopard does not, and its spots are like flowers
A pride of female lions. The antelope nearby made an alert to all the antelopes that it had spotted the lions and ran as fast as it could
A pride of female lions. The antelope nearby made an alert to all the antelopes that it had spotted the lions and ran as fast as it could
Lion in Lamai
Did you know that the female lion does most of the hunting while the males laze around?
Giraffes Mating Serengeti, Tanzania
My award-winning National Geographic-like shot of two giraffes mating. It only lasts for one second, literally!
Baby Cheetah Cubs in Lamai
Cheetah cubs under the acacia tree– the symbol of “postcard” Africa
God, is that you? Just one of the daily awesome African sunsets at the Serengeti
God, is that you? Just one of the daily awesome African sunsets at the Serengeti
Last Dinner in Serengeti
Our last night in Lamai and Serengeti had a lovely al fresco dinner outside. I enjoyed chatting with the amicable General Mirisho Sarakikya, who has been called “The Great Son of Tanzania.” (See next photo from the previous night)
General Mirisho Sarakikya, Cheryl Tiu, Christine Dayrit
This is the only picture we have with General Mirisho Sarakikya (beside me) who has been called “The Great Son of Tanzania.” He even had an audience with Mao Zedong, and has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro so many times, he even does tours of it (Photo from previous night– it’s not even clear :()

Now back in Arusha with a few hours to kill before our flight back to Manila. We wanted to go souvenir shopping, so we went to the Cultural Heritage Maasai Market (nice and clean but more expensive) and the Mount Meru Market (the real deal– haggling is the name of the game!)

Masai Market, Arusha, Tanzania
Christine and I at the Maasai Market.. last hurrah for souvenir shopping!
I found the paper mache plates, trays and bowls that were being used in the Serengeti Safari Camp, if you noticed in my previous photos. These are made by the blonde girl sitting next to me, her name is Serena :) They are so beautiful!
I found the paper mache plates, trays and bowls that were being used in the Serengeti Safari Camp, if you noticed in my previous photos. These are made by the blonde girl sitting next to me, her name is Serena :) They are so beautiful!
Mt. Meru Market 1
Now this is the real deal. This is Mount Meru Market. It somehow reminds me of Station 2 in Boracay with the way the stalls are set up
Mt. Meru Market 3
Beautiful African handicrafts at Mount Meru Market
Mt. Meru Market 4
Check out how the giraffe was molded to be the handle of this plate.. too cute!!!
Kilimanjaro coffee make great souvenirs! Love the packaging too!
Kilimanjaro coffee make great souvenirs! Love the packaging too!

I need to mention that Tanzania won the best safari country in Africa for 2013, so if I haven’t convinced you yet (haha), that’s another reason to go! :)

Come anytime from August to October because you have the chance to become a spectator of THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH!

Wildebeest Migration - Jose Cortes III
During the great migration season, up to half a million wildebeests cross the Mara River at a time (Photo by Jose Cortes III)

I flew to Tanzania via Asia to Africa Safaris, which does customized luxury safaris. I did 6D/5N (1 night in Arusha, 2 nights at Serengeti Safari Camp, 2 nights at Lamai Serengeti), which costs around USD $4,800/ head in Tanzania alone (including all domestic flights, road transfers, game drives), but they can work an itinerary around your budget. For inquiries, phone (632) 812 2728, email <enquiry@atoasafaris.com>

*Note that this does not include airfare from Manila to Tanzania. I flew Qatar Airways, which was Manila-Doha-Kilimanjaro, approximately 15 hours flight time, not including transfers :) Very convenient!

2 Comments

    • No need! Also no need for visa to go to Tanzania– you get it on the spot when you land– you just need to get the yellow fever vaccine or else they won’t let you in the country.

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