Despite a dive-bomb from a hawk, Tanzania remains one of my favorite countries I’ve ever visited (and that might’ve been in Kenya, anyway). The people, animals, beauty, and experiences were simply mind-blowing.

One of my goals when I was preparing for 2020 was to blog more in general, but also to offer some personal stories about me. I wrote a meandering post awhile back that tied in my photography journey to this incredible Africa vacation, now nearly four years ago. I keep journals every time I travel, so this series will be pulled largely from my notes and photos from then. 

Arrival: Nairobi

Journal entry from the air:

“I’m on the plane I’m really going!

This is going to be the trip of a lifetime!!! Ahhhh!”

Immediately on landing I looked out at the runway and saw zebras just on the other side of a fence. Um, what? Barely arrived and already my mind is blown. Traveling solo but joining a group in-country has tended to be my favorite way to explore new places. On this trip, 18 of us and two brilliant guides camped and toured through Kenya and Tanzania.

I’d been planning and saving for this trip for years and years. Once it was booked, I bought my first crop-frame DSLR camera, my trusty Nikon D3300, and the kit lenses it came with. Next, I took a 3-night course from a local photographer, determined to learn enough to mess with my settings for some solid/creative images. It was a good crash course and I managed one in particular that I just prayed I’d be able to fix in Lightroom once I got back (I did!).

Bus Journey Begins

Whoa! Day 2 was incredible (first real day of the trip). We got breakfast and then got on the road out of Nairobi. We stopped at a lookout to see the Great Rift Valley and Mount Longonot, a volcano.

In Masaai (Oloonong’ot) it means “steep ridges.” We saw 3 mated Bateleur eagles there as well. Near Lake Naivasha there were baboons on the side of the road! Am I really here? This is so cool. Very near Lake Nakuru National Park, we had lunch and wandered the souvenir shop.

First Giraffes

We piled back in the Lando (our bus) and entered the Park in search of animals! Right away we saw impalas and gazelle. There are so many zebras! We turned and saw 2 pumbas and some guinea fowl, and a type of duck. Then we saw lots of water buffalo – who, noticing us, promptly left. We came across lots of baboons, even babies! So. Cute.

It’s still surreal but it was funny how quickly we focused on finding a leopard and stopped pausing for gazelles. Then…our first giraffe! A Rothschild’s giraffe, with legs that look like stockings at the ends. There were two, one sitting and one staring at us. The older ones are darker.

Storks and Monkeys

Next we saw vervet monkeys – they were harder to see but absolutely adorable. A lone water buck meandered our direction, and then we saw some yellow-billed storks. I did up the shutter speed on one just as it started to fly, so I crossed my fingers and I’m hoping to lighten it in Lightroom – it came out very dark. – [this is the one I mentioned above].

We got down to the water and saw flamingos! And koots and other wading birds, more zebras, and a stork on our way out. 

We got back to park center and came across a spotted hyena – very cool and proved my binoculars were a good purchase. We then saw a baby giraffe! Mom in front, baby in middle, and father in back.

Later we saw a baby zebra – wow they can run! Ahh this day! We left the park – no leopard but amazing other animals. Wow. About 10 minutes from the park is our campsite.

Camping Out

Journal entry that night: “Tomorrow’s wakeup is 5:20 to break camp and be ready for breakfast at 6:30 sharp. We do a boat ride tomorrow!”

Next Up?

So what do you think? Interested in hearing more from this trip and travel posts in general? Want to know about the hawk that nearly stole my apple?