It’s a beautifully clear day and the alkaline lake on the Empakaai crater floor is speckled pink with Lesser Flamingos. The climb is steep and my pace is slow, but Peter and our accompanying armed ranger, Alais, talk about Maasai life, pointing out pretty but poisonous berries, shy blue monkeys and the strangler fig trees the Maasai revere. When we are halfway up, the cows have taken our place by the lake. The crater hike isn’t the average safari-goer’s choice, but it gives a great feel for the scenery and, coupled with Peter’s village tour of the perfectly toasted Maasai mud huts, a chance to catch a glimpse of an ancient tribe engaged in coexistence with wildlife find their way around .
I had imagined the long drive back to the airport as bleak, but Festo discovered my love for music. On my latest drive through the stunning countryside, he plays his latest favourites, translates Swahili lyrics and talks about the spread of the South African Amapiano music movement across the continent. I’ve had that rare trip where the best of plans turned out better than expected, where each day was so healthy and free-flowing I felt like I’d lived each one to the full, and memories were so vivid I dreamed will return.
Day 3: After months of being locked in, a hammock and pool day in my sea view chalet at Matemwe Lodge was a completely relaxing immersion in nature.
Day 4: The journey is as rewarding as the destination when you take charter flights from Zanzibar to the Serengeti over ancient and immensely diverse landscapes, oceans, lakes, mountains and savannas.
Day 6: Have breakfast with the lions (and nobody else) in the Serengeti — the kind of impromptu safari experience that’s part gift from the bush and part skill from an experienced guide. And witness the first hundreds of the great migration of peoples!
Day 8: Struck and chocked by the echoing explosions of an angry herd of elephants as the only people on site in Ngorongoro Crater – I still get goosebumps!
What made the difference
Susan walked me through the entire trip in her pre-departure briefings. As an Africa travel specialist who was born in South Africa and has often traveled alone, Susan was great at anticipating my needs as a first time visitor to the continent. She gave me details on everything from completing COVID-19 paperwork and taking anti-malarial medication, to carrying soft luggage for the charters, to dressing in neutral shades on safari, to the final COVID-19 test in the Serengeti time for my departure. Also, all the tickets and travel information was on the TravKey app which I could access without a phone signal. All I had to do was show up.
Fascinating Africa offers a 9-day Tanzania tour with three nights each in Zanzibar, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater from USD 8,900 per person, with half board in Zanzibar and on safari full board, guided game drives and treks, park and entrance fees, and airport transfers. The safari route alone costs around $7,900 per person. Alluring Africa is an award-winning team of African travel professionals specializing in highly personalized and responsible safaris. It was founded in 2012 by Sunit Sanghrajka, whose family founded one of the first photo safari companies in Kenya. All entries marked on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you book something through our links, we may receive an affiliate commission.