If you’ve been following along on social media, you probably know that Sandy recently took a group of travel advisors and their guests on a journey through Tanzania with Lemala Camps and Lodges. I was a “lucky fish” (to use a South African turn of phrase) and was able to join in — it was a journey of firsts for me, despite it being my sixth trip to Africa and my fourth time on safari!

Unfortunately, one experience that was NOT a first for me was my luggage not making it all the way to my final destination — it was stuck at the airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and it took a few days to find me on our trip through Tanzania!

The bag that didn’t make it!

Travel Tip: If possible, pack your bags so that you can carry them on! My airline had a very low weight allowance (about 15 pounds), so I had to check my bag. Knowing that missing luggage is a tremendous problem in the travel world right now, I packed a carry-on with all of my essentials and a few changes of clothes. It made the three days without my luggage very bearable!

I was met at the airport in Arusha by a driver from Lemala who helped with the luggage situation (so nice to have someone helping!) and then transported me to Safari House, where I’d be spending the night. I settled in a bit and took a little nap before settling in for cocktails around the fire, where I got to meet my fellow travelers and enjoy my first African sunset of the trip!

On day 2 of the trip, those of us staying at Safari House were picked up and taken a few minutes down the road to meet up with the rest of the travelers who were staying at Lemala’s Hamerkop House. A quick tour reinforced that Hamerkop House is really the perfect property for a family or group of friends traveling together — three spacious en-suite rooms with private verandahs and lounges, plus shared lounge areas, all topped off with warm and welcoming service and delicious food. A few guests took advantage of the nearby golf course to play a few holes in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and others toured the area on a horseback safari.

After our quick tour, we headed off to Dolly Airstrip, just 5 minutes away from Hamerkop House, for our onward flight to the Northern Serengeti.

Charter flights are always fun for me! You’re generally flying fairly low, so you’re able to see the landscape from above in a way that lends a bit of perspective to what you see when you’re on the ground. This flight was especially fascinating as our pilots from Auric Air flew us over and around the STUNNING Ol Doinyo Lengai (“Mountain of God” in Maasai), which is an active volcano which last erupted in 2019. It was fascinating to see the crater from above … a real first for me!

Ol Doinyo Lengai from above

When we landed at Kogatende Airstrip — the busiest airstrip I’ve ever seen in Africa! — we were met by our wonderful guides from Lemala Kuria Hills. They had a table set up for drinks and snacks, and since it was my first chance, I indulged in my favorite morning safari drink — coffee with Amarula!

Then it was time to head to camp! Lemala Kuria Hills was our first safari camp of the trip, and it is truly stunning! Located in the Northern Serengeti, Kuria Hills gave us the opportunity to dip a toe into Kenya while admiring the gorgeous landscapes and marveling at the herds of wildebeests and zebras still hanging around the area.

At Kuria Hills we were also given the tremendous opportunity to experience the Northern Serengeti from above in a hot air balloon! This was my first time in a hot air balloon, and I truly believe that everyone visiting the Serengeti should make this a priority. The pre-dawn start guaranteed a view of the gorgeous sunrise, and as we floated over the wildlife-packed plains, it was all I could do not to cry at the beauty and the experience. (I was also still jet-lagged, so maybe that was part of it!) We saw so many animals from above, but perhaps my favorite moment was as we drifted close to the ground and became a part of the herd of wildebeest as they stampeded their way across the Serengeti. What a thrill!

As we came back to earth, we toasted the moment with some (alcohol-free) champagne and then headed off for a gourmet bush breakfast to round out a delightful morning. As I said — this is an absolute must-do for anyone visiting the area.

Well, I’ve barely made it through the second full day of our trip, and this blog post is getting quite lengthy, so I’m adding “Part 1” to the title and I’ll continue the story in another post!

If you’re ready to book your once-in-a-lifetime journey through Tanzania, please reach out! We’d love to share the magic of the Serengeti with you.

To submit a new trip inquiry, just click the button below and fill out either our traveler or travel advisor form. If you have any questions, you can reach us at explore@hillsofafrica.com.

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