With Kilimanjaro conquered and the safari complete, a very memorable Tanzanian expedition draws to a close and our team bids farewell to Africa as they head home. Lead guide, Rob Smith, provides the final words on the trip:
Many people have heard of ‘the big five‘ when it comes to African wildlife. The term originated from hunters, for the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot. These are lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino. It is heartening that the term associated with hunting these animals is now synonymous with wildlife tourism and conservation.
We did not see the full set of five, but that matters little as we did see so much. It is the diversity and abundance of wildlife that made our safari so memorable.
Of course the safari was after our main event, the Kilimanjaro climb. The hardships of that are beginning to fade, and the good times are becoming more memorable. Standing on the roof of Africa is not so easy, and John, Jaclyn and Kristin all managed to get there. It has been a safe, successful and enjoyable trip which has packed a lot into a relatively short time. Definitely not your average two week vacation. Thanks for following our journey!
Today’s Swahili: Kwaheri – goodbye; Karibu – you are welcome
Today exceeded all our expectations, as Jaclyn said on returning to camp.
Shortly after leaving this morning we saw several vehicles parked at the trailside. This usually means there is something of interest nearby. We pulled up and sure enough, a cheetah was sitting on top of a termite mound near the track. The fastest land animal in the world sat in front of us, just like that. It was sleek with beautiful markings. Black ‘teardrops’ noticeable on its alert and watchful face. The cheetah moved to a closer mound, rested and then crossed the track between the vehicles. It sat on another mound before dropping off, looking right but moving in a leftward arc. We could not see what the cheetah had seen until soon a Thomson’s gazelle bounded through the grass towards the cheetah. A pounce, a flurry of dust, a kicking of legs and it was all over. We were amazed to have witnessed the spectacle. Whatever your views on animals killing each other, this is the circle of life in the Serengeti.
We continued on to a rest stop, where maybe 50 tourists were gathered. 500′ away a tree stood with a rock by its base. The rock turned out to be the head of a male lion, its large mane bulking its head size. At one point, the lion stood up before lying down, now completely unseen. It made us wonder how many animals lay in the long grass out of sight nearby. The day continued, we saw a leopard perched on top of a Kopje, rock outcrop, much larger and muscular than the cheetah. We wondered what was coming next.
Two large lions chasing gazelles across the plain before stopping at a carcass surrounded by vultures. Hippos, crocodiles, elephants, giraffes, a jackal, hyenas, so many birds. A mother and young cheetah sitting in the shade eyeing up ostrich and warthogs in front of them. Two lionesses squabbled and the winner dragged a Thomson’s gazelle into cover and sat virtually unseen as it feasted on the catch. This is some of what we have seen today. It is no wonder it far exceeded our expectations.
We have another night in the Serengeti Osupuko Camp with the birds calling and wind rustling the tree branches. Tomorrow we leave the Serengeti to drive back to Arusha. Fortunately for us, we get to view more wildlife on the first part of the drive until we leave the National Park.
Today’s Swahili: Kiboko – Hippo; Chui – Leopard; Duma – Cheetah; Serengeti – Endless plain
This morning we visited the Ngorongoro Crater, an area more than 180 square miles bounded on all sides by steep crater walls of a former volcano. The fertile base of the crater provides a haven for wildlife, and today it did not disappoint. Despite a misty start limiting views at the top of the crater, conditions were much clearer when we reached the base after a rough, steep descent. Buffalos and ostrich were seen on the drive down. A pool was filled with hippos, most of their bulk underwater with their backs and snouts visible. They shared the pool with pelicans while egrets, sacred ibis, and Egyptian geese sat on the banks. Two elephants stood in foliage nearby.
In the dry season, many animals are attracted to water sources, and it can be a great place to view them. Along the trails secretary birds with their snake stamping legs strutted back and forth. A jackal paced in front of our vehicle for several hundred meters before it cut off the track. Hyenas slinked around in the long grass, looking menacing. We crested a rise, and two lionesses were just off the track, focussed on a group of buffalo. They blended in perfectly with the grass and moved stealthily. With more ground to cover, we left them to it.
Leaving the Ngorongoro, we bumped and shook along the road to Serengeti National Park. Wide-open plains had us wondering if we would see any wildlife, as the area is vast. But after 5 minutes of entering the park, we spotted two more lions. Two became three which became four, and when a half-eaten leg was seen sticking up through the grass, it was clear we had come across the site of a recent kill. A pile of feathers nearby told us an ostrich had been the unlucky catch. It is disconcerting when a lion with a bloody face stares at you from not so far away. Content with their meal, they all lay down in the sun and slept, and we moved on.
So our adventure continues. Tonight we are staying in a tented camp in the Serengeti amongst this amazing habitat. Tomorrow we have another full day of safari. Let’s see what is in store for us.
Today’s Swahili: Lion – Simba — Buffalo – Nyati
We have left Arusha and driven South West to Tarangire National Park. Having descended Kilimanjaro yesterday, today we found ourselves in the midst of the Tanzanian plains, savannah grassland with stands of Acacia trees and lone Boabab trees studding the landscape. Our new ‘ride’ is a Toyota Landcruiser with a pop-up roof that allows great views of landscape and wildlife.
We saw too many animals and birds today to list, but the most popular were definitely the elephants and giraffes. No matter how many wildlife programs you have watched, there is no comparison with seeing these animals in the wild. Large numbers of zebra in their sharp coats, mixed with wildebeest making their way towards watering holes, or later in the afternoon, resting in the shade where available. A ‘dazzle’ of zebras mixing with a ‘confusion’ of wildebeest, to give them their correct collective terms.
This is the dry season here, and the Tarangire River that runs through the park is bone dry. Elephants stood in the middle of its dusty flats and dug their trunks deep down to reach water. It is hard not to become saturated with the sights and sounds here on Safari. Tonight we are in the fabulous Lake Manyara Safari Lodge overlooking Lake Manyara and the Rift Valley. Tomorrow we move on to the world-famous Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. What a way to follow a Kilimanjaro climb!
Today’s Swahili: Twiga – giraffe — Temba – elephant
After our summit yesterday we returned to Kosovo Camp (4870m/15,978ft) and had a couple of hours to rest, eat and drink, and then pack up. We hiked downhill for 3 hours to reach Millennium Camp (3820m/12,530ft) and were glad to reach it. Another early start this morning at 5 am, though practically a lie-in compared to our summit bid, saw us on our final day of Kilimanjaro. We dropped altitude and made our way from Alpine Desert to Moorland to Rainforest.
We were lucky enough to see Black and White Colobus Monkeys leaping from branch to branch high in the tree canopy. When we reached Mweka Gate (1638m/5,375ft), our exit point, we received a welcome that had everyone there looking on. The singing and dancing were well worth the effort that the team made over the last 7 days, and was a fitting end to our Kilimanjaro climb. So now we are back in Arusha before driving West tomorrow to Tarangire National Park, to begin the Safari.
Today’s Swahili: Congratulations. Hongera — Brother. Kaka — Sister. Dada
The sunrise was beautiful and gave respite from the previous hours of climbing in the darkness. Each of us in a pool of light from our headlamps, steadily climbing up the loose rock and scree. The faintest of light on the horizon, grew larger and brighter, transforming through a range of orange, red and pink hues. We reached Stella Point on the edge of the crater rim at 18,800′, and stopped for a hot drink and some shelter from the wind. From there the slope was less steep and dawn made the route finding easier. As the sun rose higher it cast a huge shadow of Kilimanjaro onto the clouds below. It put our presence on the side of the mountain, nearing its summit, into perspective. We reached the top at 6.45am, after a harder than expected climb for some. Kilimanjaro might often be referred to as a to trek, but its 19,341′ should not be underestimated.
Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak, is a beautiful mountain that allowed us to step on her summit a few hours ago, giving us memories to last a lifetime.
Congratulations to our Everest 2019 spring team in successfully climbing the world’s highest peak, but more importantly making it down safely! In contrast to what the media has portrayed, our experience on summit day was a pleasant one, due to a strong and experienced team. Our guides and Sherpas not only installed the fixed lines to the summit, which ‘opened’ the route on May 14th for all climbers on the south side of the mountain but also supported our climbers in a seamless climb of Mount Everest. The challenge of climbing Everest, coupled with the added uncertainty of the weather and other climbers on the route, can create adverse conditions. However, our team of professionals orchestrated a perfect expedition under the circumstances.
In my 12 expeditions to Everest, this was one of the finest teams of hard working, competent, positive, and pleasant Nepal “Sherpas”, many of who I have climbed with for the last 5 years. Big thanks for these incredible guys who helped us make our extraordinary success possible!
Now our attention turns to the world’s second highest peak, K2. Today, our advance team of 100 porters and 2 Pakistan high altitude climbers left the village of Askole to begin the 100 km trek to K2 base camp.
We are excited to meet our climbing team in Islamabad in mid-June and make our way to ‘Chogori’, the savage mountain.
Our autumn Himalayan season following K2 will be action-packed, with our first ever Expedition to Everest in the fall! We also have expeditions attempting Ama Dablam, as well as an unclimbed peak! Previously, we have had very high success on these peaks in the autumn. For climbers looking to climb the highest peak in Oceania, we also have a Carstensz Pyramid climb. We invite you to join us if climbing in the Himalaya or Oceania is on your ‘to do’ list this autumn!
With the Everest season quickly wrapping up, here’s expedition leader, Garrett Madison, with a final dispatch from the 2019 Mount Everest base camp:
Hello, this is Garrett calling in for the Everest team. Today most of our crew helicoptered down to Kathmandu and they are at the Yak & Yeti hotel, relaxing and enjoying a nice comfortable stay and a great dinner. Myself, Conan and Stuart along with Joyce are still here in base camp with our Sherpa team – just packing up the camp and we are hoping to head out tomorrow down to Kathmandu.
But, it’s been a great season for us. We have a very high success and safely all around with our team. It was a challenging season, very windy on the mountain and cold this year with a narrow summit window. And unfortunetly, there was a notable loss of life with climbers the last week on the mountain. But we are happy to be down safe and looking forward to heading home soon. All’s well here at base camp. Thanks for following along!
All climbers, guides, and Sherpa from the 2019 Madison Mountaineering Everest expedition have safely returned to base camp. More details and recap of the climb coming soon…