There are many exciting ways to start your African safari…
but I think descending through the clouds to find the world-famous Table Mountain and breathtaking harbor of Cape Town, South Africa lying in wait might be my current favorite.
It was also a treat to visit my daughter and her fiancé, and together we traveled just an hour away from Cape Town…
to the wine country of Franschhoek.
Surrounded by vineyards and picture-postcard mountains, we chose to spend a day on the hop-on, hop-off wine tram, and how fun it was.
South Africa is known for producing spectacular wines, and it was interesting to learn about all the different varietals. The tram is very convenient, although we quickly learned to keep track of our watches. Time flies when you’re drinking wine.
Next, we jumped at the chance of spending a few hours in Kirstenbosch Gardens.
Located in the prestigious Constantia against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, the gardens are a fine diversion from the bustling city. While Kirstenbosch is worthy of its place amongst the world’s premier botanical gardens and always have interesting flowers and plants on show, the fynbos is at its best towards the end of winter, in spring and early summer (August-November). My October timing was perfect. The garden was in full bloom with color spilling over everywhere, and whenever we looked up, we could see the clouds trailing down over Table Mountain. Known as the mountain’s “tablecloth” or the devil smoking a pipe, it is quite something to see it in person.
My daughter and I explored the gardens for about 4 hours, which felt like just the right amount of time to take it all in.
With my time in South Africa coming to an end I was off to Tanzania
Although my arrival in Arusha was late, I was grateful for a quick and easy process through customs and immigration. I’m glad I was prepared and had an electronic visa ready to go.
While in Arusha,
I visited three different markets. Each unique in their way, with a great variety of crafts and handmade items. The Maasai Market, brimming with amiable people eager to bargain, reminded me of visiting a souq in the Middle East. The Arusha Heritage Cultural Center has plenty of shops, gardens, and galleries, making it a great place to shop for gifts and souvenirs at the end of the trip (members of the family who don’t enjoy shopping won’t mind whiling away a couple of hours in the lovely café)
Rothschild Safaris have a long history of community upliftment, and I was privileged to visit The Plaster House in Arusha, an organization that supports children with disabilities. I learned all about how the organization takes care of children with treatable disabilities from around Tanzania. It was heartwarming to meet such good people and see for myself what a difference Rothschild Safaris backing can make.
My authentic safari experience began in Tarangire,
where very large herds of elephants immediately greeted me. It is mesmerizing to spend time with them, and I could sit there for hours watching these amazing animals go about their daily lives, eating, drinking, playing, and bathing. The small animals like warthogs and hyenas were just as entertaining, especially the cheeky baby vervet monkey!
What a pleasant surprise to find a delightful breakfast waiting in the middle of the African bush at the end of my game walk. It’s always so impressive to see how camps manage to set up a pop-up meal in the bush. There was even a small washing station to clean your hands.
Throughout my time in Tarangire, I was captivated by the sights of lions sleeping in trees, elephants having an afternoon bath, and so many other intriguing animals. Kuro was my favorite camp. With only six luxury tents, it is wonderfully exclusive, and the hot bucket showers were a marvelous nod to the original East African safari experience.
Top Tarangire Travel Tip for October
Tsetse flies can be a bit of a nuisance at this time of year- closed shoes, long pants, and staying away from dark colors, especially blue and black, are all excellent ideas.
If you are one of the unlucky ones and you do get bitten, dab some vinegar on the bite, and it will ease the itching.
I know you’re thinking… “Right, Ruthie, who carries vinegar with them on safari?”
To that, I say: “You.”
Because forewarned is forearmed and if you are smart, nothing will stop you from bringing some in a small empty liquor vial
(If you happen to take a sip thinking it’s your real stash, don’t worry, it’s just vinegar!)
At Ngorongoro Crater,
I collected some truly unforgettable memories. The view from Entanamu is hands down one of the best I have ever seen in Africa. If you like to stretch your legs, do consider abandoning the long bumpy dirt roads for an escorted crater rim walk or a wild walk to the Southern Serengeti. After an easy four hour walk through the rolling African bush, you will meet your driver who will be waiting with refreshments before completing the last 45 minutes of your journey by vehicle.
An incredible surprise was waiting at Entanamu,
We were visited by Maasai women who had walked many hours to visit a sacred fig tree where they prayed for rain- and wouldn’t you know it, not long after the sky turned black and we were blessed with the rains down in Africa.
As if that wasn’t memorable enough, I also trekked among giraffes and zebra for an exclusive visit to a Maasai village for dancing and singing. We joined the Maasai hand in hand, and it was with the greatest joy that I jumped and sang with them.
All of this and it still wasn’t time to return to reality just yet.
The world-renowned Serengeti migration really must be experienced to be believed.
Hundreds upon hundreds of wildebeest passed right in front of my tent. Each morning I enjoyed my coffee just outside my tent while watching the herds, and at night I fell asleep listening to their grunting. Who needs sound machines when you have wildebeest?
(and if you are wondering how we could pinpoint my location so successfully, we can only remind you that the wildebeest don’t migrate until they have read our Rothschild Safaris guide to the Great Migration.)
In Zanzibar, the safari pace could finally slow right down.
It is the perfect, relaxing bookend to a full safari trip, with beautiful luxury resorts and beaches. My favorite activity from the spice island was a dhow boat cruise with breakfast. I felt like the Queen of Sheeba perched high on the second deck while being served my favorite fruits and coffee. Then we continued sailing and paused to snorkel at a sand bar where I spied a brilliant bright red starfish.
(On my next trip, I will avoid spending much time in Stone Town as I found it crowded and a little rough around the edges.)
When I’m not ready to join in the dance at every opportunity, I love taking long walks on a beach (no, this isn’t a dating ad!), and Zanzibar allowed me to indulge in this hobby fully. The best beaches for walks were in the north at Zuri Zanzibar, with pristine white sand and lofty swaying palms.
And just like that, I found myself, cocktail in hand, marveling at the last African sunset of this safari.
Until next time, “Ishi Vizuri” Africa…
Images ©️ Ruthie Detwiler