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The Real Deal on East African Safaris



In my articles, I attempt to give the reader an informative, objective overview, complete with positives and negatives.

Three days into my safari, I finally got the chance to shoot my first lion. She was about 30 feet away, lying motionless… I aimed right between the eyes… And, bang! A perfect photograph.

Taking pictures, or just taking in the sight of Africa’s legendary wild animals, is definitely the priority for almost everyone taking a safari. Make no mistake about it, this is not your conventional holiday of R & R – it’s for the more adventurous traveller. That being said there are countless different options for taking an African safari and not all of them includes "roughing it". When I first began researching my trip, I was shocked to learn that there were hundreds of East African safaris available, from three days to six months in length, with accommodations ranging from tents that you put up yourself (as mine was), to luxury lodges. If you’re looking for less adventure, South African safaris can be less of a shock to the system.

I booked my trip through the very knowledgeable Adventure Centre (1-800-267-3347, www.theadventurecentre.com), which is run by an Australian tour operator called Gecko’s. Eight days in length, it began and ended in Nairobi, Kenya, but most of the trip was in Tanzania. Priced at about $1,500 Cdn (airfare not included), it was one of the more "budget" safaris, providing lodging (six nights camping/one night hotel), transportation, meals, guides and park passes. I travelled with 12 adventure seekers from Australia, Canada and America aged between 21 and 50.

Highlights included the vast savannahs of Serengeti National Park, and the legendary Ngorongoro Crater, a self-contained 20 km-wide "fishbowl", with towering walls. There, the animals are essentially trapped forever. Everywhere you looked, the scenes were straight out of the National Geographic specials that TV viewers have seen a million times.

The parks were teeming with wildlife, and rarely was there a time when at least a few animals weren’t in sight. Often, there were hoards and hoards. Along the way, we were fortunate enough to see "The Big Five", the lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard. We also saw countless other animals including giraffes, hyenas, cheetahs, and zebras. Amongst our group, the favourite animals were the burping, farting hippos and the rather silly warthogs.

Birdlife was also prolific, including circling vultures, should we have faltered countless eagles, and ostriches, which were generally agreed upon to be about 20 per cent cool and 80 per cent ugly.

It was interesting to observe the mindset of my fellow travelling companions during the trip. When one of our campsites had to be relocated because elephants had knocked out the water supply, our group unanimously voted to move to an alternate site where there still was a "chance" of being trampled by elephants, or having hyenas visit in the middle of the night.