Across the globe there are a few destinations that simply need no introduction. At some point you would have spoken about them in conversation, seen them in a movie, sung about them in a song or dreamt of checking it off of your bucket-list.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the Serengeti fits perfectly into this mould. It’s one of the only places in Africa that needs no introduction and when spoken of, the majority of people across the world will have images of lions, cheetahs & great herds pop up in their mind.
The Serengeti is iconic in every possible way!
Guest Interviews & Thoughts
The experience starts before you even land! As you fly over the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro, you know that there’s a special adventure ahead of you!
I’ve never kept count of exactly what we’ve seen, but my guest Henning decided we should keep count of the predators we encountered over the next 11 days. As you’ll soon discover, we saw 101 individual lions on this Serengeti Photo Safari.
That’s alot of lions by any standard and a very special feature of a safari to the rich pride-lands of the Serengeti.
We started our Serengeti Photo Safari at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. We were met by the familiar & always friendly faces of our two local guides – Boko & Mudi. After a short labour to get the cars packed up, we were off on our 11 day adventure which would start 3 hours from the airport at Tarangire National Park, a wildlife-rich region adjacent to Lake Manyara.
Tarangire is large, covering almost 300 000 hectares in surface area. The best game viewing period is within February to July, as many animals from the surrounding ecosystem flocks to the Tarangire River during the driest time of the year.
As this was our first visit as Wild Eye to Tarangire, we were excited to see what this well-known destination was all about. With immediate effect we were struck by the sheer beauty of the landscape. It was breathtaking!
Large open grasslands, massive flat-topped Acacia’s, a large river, palm trees, baobabs, what more could we ask for – it was perfection! It was certainly one of the most beautiful African landscapes I have ever encountered.
As we only had this one afternoon on safari in the park, I was a little worried over what we would see. We always want the very best for our guests. It would soon become obvious that this should not have been of too much concern for Johan & I.
Apart from giraffe, two species of waterbuck, impala, warthog, zebra & more, we saw 3 lions pretty early on in the safari. It was an adult lioness & her two sub-adult cubs, and they were on the hunt & stalking a small herd of impala. They were unsuccessful but it was still fantastic to see.
Soon afterwards we found a coalition of 3 male cheetahs lounging in the shade of a tree. They were not showing too much signs of activity, and we then explored some more of the park.
I can’t recall ever seeing so many elephants on a single safari outing. We saw herd after herd after herd.
On several occasions we would have elephants all around us, literally in every direction. We spent some quality time with the elephants & watched them in some beautiful landscapes & environments! It was majestic & a wonderful first-time visit to Tarangire National Park.
We spent that evening at a wonderful lodge on the edge of Lake Manyara. Our guests ended the day with a gin & tonic overlooking a setting sun. A perfect first day. As the next ten days would require alot of time from everybody we decided on an early night.
We left early the following morning & on the way to the Serengeti enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the Ngorongoro Crater. I will personally never forget the very first time I saw this iconic place, it’s far more breathtaking in person & something you’ll remember forever! More photo’s of the Crater to come below…
We continued our journey on a winding road along the edge of the crater & eventually slipped away towards our next camp in the region of the Moru Kopjes. The drive takes you down the slopes of the crater & through traditional Maasai lands. It slowly turns wild as you approach the Serengeti and soon cows & goats are replaced with gazelle & zebras.
Instead of heading directly to camp we decided to stay out on safari. We found ourselves in one of Africa’s most striking landscapes & decided to make the most of it. It certainly was a good decision, safe to say there were some lions on rocks waiting to be photographed 😉
Moru Kopjes & the surrounding open plains are well known for producing incredible wildlife sightings. The word “kopje” is an Afrikaans word & basically means “little or small hill”. Predators and in particular lions favour these rocky outcrops for many obvious reasons.
It gives them a fantastic vantage point, able to both spot prey & other potential predators from a long distance away.
There’s often a cool breeze up on the rocks & this enable them to cool down during the heat of the day.
After a bit of rain, water collects on the flat surfaces of the rocky boulders, an easy opportunity to drink.
It even gives them an opportunity to escape the relentless biting insects further down below, although flies very often do follow the lions right to the top.
The kopjes in Moru are simply spectacular. It’s the kind of rocky outcrops where you’d certainly be thinking to yourself, “Imagine seeing a lion on top of those rocks”!
The best part is that this is exactly why we come here. Lions DO love these rocks & constantly enjoying spending time on top of them!
The area surrounding the Moru Kopjes is home to atleast 3 lions prides seen on a regular basis.
We spent time with several male lions. One in particular gave us an incredible show!
After enjoying some breakfast at a designated ranger-outpost, we left in search of more lions.
One of our guides – Mudi – brilliantly spotted a male lion fast asleep on top of a massive rocky slab. It was an impressive scene & all we needed was for that male lion to stand up, and walk. That’s it, not too much to ask, right?
It was getting hotter & I assured my guests that it was only a matter of time before the heat would force the lion into the shade at the base of the large rock. We patiently waited & soon enough he was up & ambled across the top of the rock and into the shade. He paused for a few seconds, as if giving all the guests the opportunity to take his photograph. What a magnificent photograph it was, a sight I’ll remember! So unique, so grande!
A sighting the guests thoroughly enjoyed was when a lioness grew tired of the hot sun. We were with the a pride in the region of the kopjes, and shade was not abundant. Not a problem for this savvy lioness.
She ambled over to the side of our game viewer, and collapsed in the shade of our vehicle, right below the windows of my guests!!
To show just how close she was, safari guest Henning kindly stuck his head out of the window to show you the proximity! It made for a great photograph & we made sure she was well asleep before attempting this 😉
These very lions also love climbing trees. You’ll read more about tree-climbing lions further below in Ndutu, but it sure is a sight you don’t get to see al that often, very special indeed!
Another region we love exploring whilst staying in Moru, lies a little further north around Seronera. There’s endless open plains & you often encounter large herds of wildebeest, zebra & buffalo. There’s also a strong chance of seeing a leopard or two.
On the way up north we spotted a leopardess lounging in a tree. It was mid-morning & she likely had an active night out & enjoyed some quality resting time where few could reach her or bother her. She lifted her head for a brief moment and afforded our guests a great photo opportunity and view of her beautiful face.
In fact, a particular strip of tree’s known locally as the “valley of 16 bends” is home to several leopards. Tree’s are hard to come by in these open plains & leopards take cover in this particular strip of trees daily. A simple drive in the area will often yield 2 or 3 leopards sightings, and this not very far apart.
As in nature nothing can ever be guaranteed but heck, this particular strip of trees arguably gives you the best possible chance of seeing the elusive leopard.
We enjoyed a magnificent sighting of a mother leopard & her 5 month old cub here.
Fortunately for us it was cool weather & the two of them were very active. She kept moving along the edge of the treeline, stopping frequently to play & interact with her cub. They climbed up several fallen trees along the way & provided our guests with very special photographic opportunities. She eventually settled on a large fallen tree & the cub moved a small distance away & climbed to the top of a sausage tree.
I have enjoyed many leopard sightings in my career, and let me tell you that this was certainly one of the most memorable. To see them within such a beautiful, breathtaking environment is something money can’t buy.
When there are a few clouds about & the weather is not too hot, you can expect to encounter just about anything in the Serengeti. It’s an exciting safari experience, one where you should never settle down to rest because if you look hard enough, you are sure to spot something special & of interest.
Large herds of zebra & wildebeest were out grazing & enjoying the cooler daytime temperatures. Seeing such vast numbers of wildlife still boggles my mind to this day. When you take out your widest lens and STILL all of them don’t fit, you know there’s alot of animal out infront of you.
What this particular herd was not aware of, was that they were being stalked!
Just to the other side of the road we found a sub-adult male lion in the tall grass!
Apart from the fact that it was epic to see a lion on the hunt, the setting was magnificent! A male lion in tall grassed with a stunning sky behind. He was on the move & we left him hiding in the tall grasses, not wanting to disturb him whilst he waited for the bulk of the herd to move closer towards him.
You always need to have your wits about you when on safari. Often the most incredible things take place when we least expect it.
Between Moru Kopjes & Ndutu lies a series of small rocky outcrops called Simba Kopjes. At first they may seem rather insignificant & small, but when a lion pride of 12 decide to rest right on top of one of the boulders you’ll no doubt stop & take interest!
This is the scene that greeted us after leaving Moru for our new camp in Ndutu. It was mid morning & the pride enjoyed the warmth of the sun as well as the water collected on top of the large boulder.
Needless to say, we were rather happy that they were satisfied with the rock as the scene before us was classic East Africa – our guests could not have asked for anything better!
We spent about 2 hours here as we were in no rush to go anywhere at any kind of pace. The scene kept changing, clouds kept coming and going & our guests were just happy to watch as much as they were keen to take photo’s. It’s certainly not a sight you get to see everyday and it was the perfect ending to our Moru safari experience.
Ndutu is always an exciting safari destination. It has to be without doubt one of the most exciting areas within the Serengeti as it’s home to several lion prides, a strong number of cheetahs & many other species.
On top of that, the diversity of landscapes will always leave you with something special to see. There’s incredibly beautiful woodlands filled with flat-topped acacia trees, two large lakes, open valleys, marshes, vast endless grasslands and more.
This is what makes Ndutu such a diverse wildlife haven. The diversity is exactly what draws so many different animals and the year-round water is an important aspect. It’s hard to believe that the 4 pictures posted above are all within a short driving distance from one another, yet so completely diverse & different.
Ndutu always delivers fantastic lion & cheetah sightings.
During the months of February & March, plenty of migratory herds arrive in the region. This is eagerly awaited by the resident predators. It’s also relatively cool during the daytime & generally cloudy. These conditions mean that predators enjoy being active throughout the day and this presents our safari guests with the perfect opportunity to watch & photograph these animals out & about.
The pride of lions around Lake Masek really enjoy climbing trees. This is my fourth year visiting Ndutu & we’ve been fortunate enough to see lions up trees on every visit.
It makes complete sense.
From up high they enjoy cooler temperatures – escaping the heat at ground level.
They also make the most of the cooler breeze up in the higher branches.
In this breeze there are also less biting insect, something that’s a constant annoyance for lions in the Serengeti, especially when the large herds arrive & bring with them millions of flies & biting insects.
Another definite advantage is that they get to spot prey far easier from high above!
We enjoyed a quality sighting of one such lioness in the top of an acacia tree. She enjoyed a wonderful view & even spotted some zebra not too far off, something that really caught her attention.
The resident male lion coalition also spent alot of time around camp. They were 5 in total, but we only got to see 4 of them together in the same sighting. I say “only”, as if FOUR male lions together’s not enough, ha ha.
One male lion in particular stood out to our guests, and to me too. He was a handsome character & caught everyone’s attention. He had a large mane, very light in colour & even had some grey’s in there. Very unique & picture perfect!
His brothers were not bad-looking either & we enjoyed quality photographic opportunities of them.
We would also sit up every night and listen to them as they roared around camp. Sometimes close, sometimes far, always awesome! It’s without doubt something I hope for on every safari, especially when I host guests that are visiting Africa for the very first time. There’s something so primal about hearing a lion calling in the deep dark night. It connects with your inner-most being, it’s something totally inexplicable & simply needs to be experienced.
Enjoy this video capturing some of the fantastic lion sightings we enjoyed in Ndutu.
There are two marsh-systems close to camp & lions can always be found within close proximity of the marshes. We’ve always enjoyed fantastic sightings here and this year was no different.
One of the lionesses hid her brand new litter of cubs within the dense “big marsh”. Our goal was to photograph her within this incredible marshy environment, just as we had done on previous safaris to Ndutu. She would visit the cubs several times a day indicating that they are still very young & need her constant attention & a steady supply of milk.
Two male lions also spent a time around the marshes before joining their brothers on the last day.
One male lion in particular had a nasty gash on his forehead. It looks worse than what it actually is and these animals have the canny ability to heal from severe wounds, wounds far more threatening than what this male lion had.
The drainage line leading into the marsh is also filled with water & to navigate their way around these areas the lions need to go through the water. The water level was a little low for them to actually feel the need to jump across, but seeing them calmly amble through the blue water was special enough for our guests.
I absolutely love spending time with elephants. They are incredible creatures! They exude an energy like no other creature. If you allow them some time & patiently sit with them, you’ll be amazed at the emotional connection made between you.
One afternoon in particular stood out in Ndutu.
We found a massive herd of elephants, well over 60 of them feeding together in a dense thicket. Fortunately the thicket was lower than shoulder height & all of their upper bodies protruded from the undergrowth.
We spent almost 2 hours with this herd, just watching them. Some photography was certainly done, but I recall the bulk of the time my guests were just watching & enjoying the company of these giant animals. There were several babies in the herd & their antics made for some fantastic photography.
The great herd eventually split into 3. It’s very common for herds to join up for periods of time. They are incredibly intelligent & highly social. They form bonds with other elephants, the complexities of which are still not fully understood by us. They enjoy seeing old “friends” and relatives & young elephants absolutely love catching up with other calves.
The bulk of the herd moved up a hill and right past where we were parked.
Boy was that a special view! I took a quick snap with the wide-angle lens, and what a scene it was!
This again relates to what I said about Ndutu’s & ultimately the Serengeti’s diversity. The sights & landscapes you get to see animals within here, will completely blow you away!
They day before we found a small herd of elephants. The two oldest females in the herd both had incredible ivory. The one in particular carried tusks longer than any I’ve ever seen on a cow before. It was an incredible thing to see, certainly a highlight of this safari for me!
The small herd was amongst this large herd & I was so excited to see them. The day before only the vehicle I was with got to see them, and I vowed to find the herd again for the guests who missed out. I was delighted to see them again the following day allowing the other vehicle of guests to see these two special elephants.
Elephants like these are becoming increasingly rare!
Shockingly, a 100 elephants are killed by poachers every single day across Africa. It’s a ridiculous thing, almost hard to believe but sadly true! Fewer & fewer of the large-tusked elephants walk Africa today and it will become far worse without solid & effective conservation & anti-poaching efforts.
If you see an elephant with large ivory out on safari, pay tribute to them and spend the extra time, it will be completely worth it.
On the last full day we spent the entire afternoon with two brother cheetahs. It was their territory & they seemed squarely in charge.
This is the rainy season in the Serengeti, and it’s important. It’s what nourishes the surrounding landscape & ensures the large herds have food to graze. What it also does for wildlife photographers, is to provide you with the opportunity to photograph animals in the rain, in particular predators.
An image all of the guests really wanted, was a cheetah shaking off the rain from its coat. This – as it sounds – is not easy task. That said, on that glorious last afternoon in Ndutu, it all came together.
Not five minutes had passed from the time we found the 2 cheetahs the heavens opened up & it started pouring with rain. Fortunately the vehicles are created to keep the rain out & to keep everything else inside dry & functioning. We positioned the vehicles correctly & all we had to do, was to wait it out.
The rain eventually seized & the two cheetahs emerged from the shrubbery.
They sat up & then it happened!
They both took turns to shake the water from their thick fur amidst a chorus of camera shutters. It was beautiful & a special moment that we as guides live for. We were tasked with this shot, and through patience & hard work it all came together on the last day in Ndutu. Yes, there certainly was a little luck involved too 😉
This special afternoon did not end there.
We followed the 2 cheetahs once they started moving, and soon noticed that their demeanours completely changed. They want from walk-mode to stalk-mode!
Up ahead was a herd of zebra and in their midst, a young foal. I had no doubt that this foal had caught the attention of the brothers.
Zebra are not easy prey. With the exception of lions, it’s real hard work for predators to get past the defences of adult zebras, especially the stallion. He is extremely protective of his harem & will not hesitate to see off smaller, light-weight predators. This is exactly what happened here.
One of the cheetahs took the lead & sprinted after the zebra herd. He had no problem whatsoever to catch up to the zebras, but that’s pretty much where the story ended.
The cheetah could not risk being kicked by the stallion. In the video below, you can clearly see the stallion slowing down & presenting his hooves to the cheetah. One kick from those powerful hindquarters could spell a tragic end for any predator. It was never worth the risk & the hunt was abandoned.
It was however a thrilling show & one enjoyed by all of the guests.
We kept up with them as they moved from tree to tree, scent-marking as they went. They passed by the vehicles on several occasions but for the most part, we just viewed from a distance away so as to give them their space.
An hour or so passed & the cheetahs were at the hunting game again, this time watching a large procession of wildebeest with deadly intent.
Once again one of the cheetahs took the initiative & set off after the herd of wildebeest. Once it got into the midst of the herd, it seemed a little confused, as if it did not know which wildebeest to tackle.
What could very well have been the case, is that the cheetah ran through the midst of the herd in an attempt to flush out any very young wildebeests. It was the birthing season after all & these predators take full advantage of the abundance of available prey.
Then it really started raining! We had no choice but to let the cheetahs be. The muddy plains would soon be a complete mess & we would likely get stuck.
What an afternoon it was! It was one my guests will remember for a very long time to come.
Our last morning in Ndutu yielded yet another memorable safari for us. The male lions started calling during the early morning hours. They were active & they kept going throughout our morning coffee in camp. We left camp & headed in the direction of the lions.
Not ten minutes from camp we came across two male lions, seemingly on their own. Then the larger of the two started walking & did so with his nose to the ground. He was tracking & this meant he was on the trail of some more lions.
We followed not far behind.
The male lion soon found the rest of the pride – 3 lionesses & 2 more male lions. We spent about an hour with them as they moved around, greeted, scent-marked and more. What a fantastic way to end our last day in Ndutu. It was picture perfect!
As we left Ndutu an incredible cloud formation rolled in over the plains & across the entire woodland. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen and once again just cemented why I loved the Serengeti so much! It’s a magical place where so much is possible and where surprises find you around just about every corner.
Since I was a young child I’ve dreamt of seeing another world, a place of many colours, of magnificent beauty, a wilderness different to what we have here on earth. I have a vivid imagination as many guests who’ve joined me on safari will already know. Being all grown up now I obviously know that this dream is rather unobtainable & I am “stuck” here on earth, ha ha.
Then I visited a special place in Tanzania many years ago. It was as close as possible to the kind of place I saw in my dreams, the kind of place that I never grew tired of dreaming about. It leaves you in awe & completely spell-bound upon every visit. It’s beauty can’t be captured in a photograph and it’s magnificence not portrayed in a series of words.
This my friends, is the Ngorongoro Crater.
The Crater is special beyond words. It’s literally the floor of an old volcanic crater. The Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera. The crater, which formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself two to three million years ago, is 610 metres (2,000 feet) deep and its floor covers 260 square kilometres (100 square miles).
The best part about this is that it’s inhabited by a wealth of wildlife. Apart from the Big 5 being found on the Crater floor, you could also see wildebeest, zebra, hyena, gazelle, warthog, baboon, hippo and much more!
I believe it’s the closest thing to the garden of Eden, simply unreal!
It certainly is a highlight on this Serengeti Photo Safari of ours. Most guests have only dreamt of visiting this iconic destination and to see it with their own eyes is an incredible feeling. We spend almost two full days on safari in the Crater, and this allows us to see much of what the Crater has on offer.
And forget about all of those rumours you may have heard about the Crater floor bustling with safari jeeps. I’ve found it to be much the opposite as I’ve spent time in the Crater over the past 4 years.
We try & showcase a variety to our guests when visiting here and once again on this year’s Serengeti Photo Safari we managed to do that, and some.
We spent some quality time with a couple of large zebra herds. The animals within the Crater are very relaxed & don’t mind being within close proximity of the vehicles. This allows for special photographic experiences, often finding yourself reaching for a wider lens. It’s something I very often try and do when in the Crater. You find yourself within a place of great beauty, and it would be a shame to spend too much time trapped behind a telephoto lens. Many wildlife photographers fall into this trap!
Instead, keep your 70 – 200mm lens close, and also know where that wide-angle lens is as you may need it throughout the day.
Lions were plentiful! We saw 39 individual lions on the Crater floor! They put on a great “show” for my guests, and we even found some mating with the green plains & the blue escarpment as a backdrop.
The Crater lions are accustomed to being in the sun all day. There’s very little cover around as most of the Crater floor is covered by short-grass plains. Therefore the lions here make for excellent photography. They’ll spend the bulk of the day in the open, and due to all the biting insects & flies around they are often unsettled.
We again got to spend time with a large male lion coalition of 5. They are big lions with impressive manes. If you couple this with the incredible scenery surrounding you, you end up with some pretty special photographs & memories.
They were constantly interacting with one another. The bond between male lions is incredibly strong. You would have seen this if you’ve spent a decent amount of time with active dominant male lions on safari.
They face massive challenges on a regular basis. Once they hold territory they’ll be vigorously challenged for the rights to the land. They need to trust one another 110%, they need to have each others backs and they need to stand together as a united front whenever adversity rears up its ugly head.
Seeing male lions lying close to one another, grooming & interacting more often than lionesses do is not an uncommon sight at all!
We also spent some time with them during a downpour of rain. They were caught out in the open & did not look as if they were enjoying it all that much. Unless it’s a fixture of their environment, such as lions in the Okavango Delta, lions are not too fond of water in any form.
I always enjoy spending time with baboons. They are far too often overlooked because they are a relatively common sight when out on safari.
That said, if you find a troop that seem comfortable with the presence of the vehicle, do spend some time with them. You will be rewarded with not only great photographs, but also with some sore abdominals from all the laughter!
The baboons on the Crater floor are particularly used to vehicles and will go about their business as if you were not present at all.
The Lerai forest – a dense Fever Tree woodland – is a great place to see them. There’s a large troop inhabiting this spectacular forest & are always good company! We spent about an hour with the troop as they enjoyed the bare branches of an old fallen tree.
Be sure to check out the video below, get to see their antics on film! It’s such quality & I have no doubt you’ll get to laugh a little as you watch it!
There are several layers to the Ngorongoro Crater, as if certain animals enjoy certain elevations.
Once you start heading back to the camp you’ll almost always see herds of eland on the slopes. It’s Africa’s heaviest antelope with male eland weighing as much as an adult buffalo bull. That’s impressive!
We spotted a powerful eland bull on top of a hill & he was beautifully framed by the escarpment colours & dark moody clouds from behind. He stood there, proud & strong. It just beckoned for a photograph to be taken, such a strong moment!
As you climb higher & on to the rim of the Crater, best you keep your camera close.
Elephants absolutely love spending time up on the rim, and in particularly amongst the large acacia trees. As we drove up to our camp on that first afternoon we came across a large elephant bull along with 2 smaller bulls. What a special sight that was! They were very relaxed, even with our presence, and just kept feeding.
As mentioned earlier in the report, I just love spending time with elephants. They are such special animals and in particular elephant bulls carrying large ivory such as this one.
The forests up on the rim must contain some of the most beautiful trees in Africa.
The view from our camp was not that bad either, and it perfectly overlooks the setting Africa sun after a long day of safari.
This is Africa, quintessential Africa.
As always, these safaris would not be possible without those who come out to join us in the field. I am proud of what we’ve achieved within Wild Eye and even more so of the kind of quality humans from across the world that we attract!
To each and every one of you, thank you for contributing in your very own special way to what was a fantastic Serengeti Photo Safari experience. It was action packed, non-stop from start to finish! 12 hour safari days, every day! All of the hard work paid off & everybody walked away not only with fantastic wildlife images, but also with memories & friendships to last a lifetime!
To each and everyone of you, we thank you for your continued support! What stood out & was extremely satisfying for us, was that each of the 6 guests on this safari were multiple Wild Eye safari goers and a firm part of the Wild Eye family. I believe that speaks volumes & as you could hear from their testimonial video, most of them rated this safari as their stand out best to date!
Few natural places in the world can compare with the Serengeti. It’s iconic. It’s what you imagine Africa to be, it’s the real deal!
The sightings here are endless, it just never seems to stop.
There’s never a dull moment & because we spend all day out in the field taking breakfast & lunch with us, we put you in the best possible position to capture all that this incredible safari is about, the essence of the Serengeti.
If you’d love to join Johan & I in the Serengeti in 2019, simply check out the link below.
Serengeti Safari Info
Find out more about this incredible safari experience and how to join us here in 2019.Info
Thank you so much for reading along! We hope to see you out on safari some time soon!
Until next time,