Kristina always lights up a room everywhere she goes, but when she returned from her Tanzania safari and Mount Kilimanjaro trek recently, that light was blinding. Three weeks in the serene central Serengeti and otherworldly terrain of Mount Kilimanjaro will have that effect on you.
During her stay, Kristina wanted to experience as much as she possibly could, and she certainly succeeded. She shared with us some of the trip’s – and consequently, her life’s – top moments.
1. Running with the pack in the Eastern Serengeti Nature Refuge
A group of wildebeest spotted on a morning run.
Even in the middle of the African wilderness, Kristina started her days the same way she always does: with an early morning run. Only this time, the scenery was a little different from her usual urban surroundings.
“My running buddy (one of the camp staff members) and I were so close – I mean 15-feet-away close – to wildebeest, zebras, and antelopes,” she explained. “As we whooshed passed them, they would either stop completely in their tracks and stare, or they would run beside us – out-running us, of course.”
With no other people or vehicles in sight, the pair continued on, running among hundreds of animals and lush plant life, and taking in the most perfect sunrise over the Eastern Serengeti.
2. Tallying the wildlife she spotted with her group
Elephants made an appearance during one of the many wildlife viewing drives.
Zebra sightings were common in the Ngorongoro Crater.
A lion and her cub played under the hot sun.
While Kristina was well aware that she’d see wildlife on her safari, she was still amazed by just how many forms of life she was able to witness at every turn. Throughout the course of her drives and guided walking hikes through the Serengeti and her tour of the Ngorongoro Crater, she spotted countless zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, warthogs, ostriches, gazelles, and all of the Big 5.
Giraffes surrounded the Land Rovers.
“My favorite moment was counting 47 giraffes around our vehicle in the Serengeti,” she recalled. “To be able to see wildlife living together in one area was amazing. The scene was so peaceful and beautiful – it felt like the true Africa you dream about.”
3. Having a world class experience in the wilderness
The staff perfectly prepared the dining tent every day.
When you’re spending full days exploring the African bush – and simultaneously preparing for a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro – comfortable accommodations aren’t just a nice-to-have, but a necessity. Kristina gushed relentlessly about her world class experience in the Nyumbas, noting that she’s never gotten such deep, uninterrupted sleep.
“Service was fantastic at all camps,” she said. “That is what stood out most.”
She also spent a night at Gibb’s Farm and explained that the outdoor shower was the “best she had ever taken in her life,” and remarked that when it came to food, their farm-to-table approach was unsurpassed.
“Every little thing comes from this paradise, and you can walk around the grounds and see how it all comes together.”
4. Bonding with the group
When Kristina left the friends she’d made on safari to start her trek, she didn’t think it was possible to find another group of guests that measured up. But she realized early on that the trekkers in her group would soon become some of her best companions.
“It’s amazing,” she explained, “what you experience with people when you’re completely off the grid with no access to outside communication. You get close very quickly.”
The staff and trekkers may have started out as strangers, but left as friends.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is slightly easier with support from fellow trekkers.
Game nights were a great pastime for the trekkers.
The group passed the time on and off the trail playing many games of Name That Tune and Catch Phrase, exchanging stories, and finding commonalities. The guides and porters were right there in the mix with them, teaching everyone Tanzania songs and making them laugh.
“It’s like everyone became a little family, looking out for each other.”
5. Pushing her body and mind to their full potential
Climbing the Barranco Wall was one of Kristina’s favorite parts of the trek.
A slow pace is crucial to summit success.
You don’t need to be a professional climber to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, but there were two distinct moments where Kristina was able to utilize the skills she gained from her pre-trek training: scrambling up the Barranco Wall and skreeing down from the summit.
During these moments when the trek became especially challenging, she looked up at the monstrous natural wonder in the distance and remembered why she was there.
“From day two onward, we had a clear view of the mountain,” she recalled. “It’s this beautiful, strong, courageous mountain in the distance, waiting to be enjoyed in all of its glory. We could see our destination, and with each day, our prize got closer and closer.”
6. Reaching the summit and standing on the Roof of Africa
How it feels to reach Uhuru Peak.
On summit day, the group started their final push toward Uhuru Peak at 5 a.m. More than 12 hours later, they reached the top, and an overwhelming sense of joy and accomplishment flooded their hearts.
“Being at the summit was breathtaking, uplifting, and relieving all raveled into one,” she described.
Kristina noted that her summit success was largely thanks to the support of the staff and other trekkers.
“The food was incredible, and crucial to powering our trek,” she said, gratefully. “It is mind-blowing what the dining staff are able to do at high altitude. At 17,000 feet, we were served a gourmet meal!”
7. Realizing the true value that Tanzania offers
The people Kristina met along the way made her trip truly memorable.
Reflecting on all of the hours she spent in Tanzania exploring the many different wonders it has to offer, Kristina identified the one thing she valued most about her trip:
“The people,” she answered. “My goodness, the people. It’s the wildlife and the natural wonders that attract visitors to Tanzania, but it is most certainly the people that keep guests coming back again and again.”