Sam on a bridge during a Tanzania Safari

Sam is back from her Tanzania adventure where she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, and then headed off on African safari for relaxation and wildlife viewing.

We asked her to recap her favorite moments from the trip – from other-worldly landscapes on Kilimanjaro, to the immersive wildlife experiences in the Serengeti and across Northern Tanzania. Here’s a few of the life-changing experiences she’ll forever carry with her.

The jungle-like landscape on first day as we began our Mount Kilimanjaro trek was unforgettable. We saw a beautiful amber-eyed Sykes monkey at forest camp, and were awoken in the morning by bunches of boisterous, wailing Hyrax.

My guide urged me to call it a night, but I was in total awe of the star show at Shira 1 camp. Hundreds of stars illuminated the sky in a way I’ve never experienced. I lay on my back and watched the brilliant colors of the Milky Way streak across the night sky.

kilimanjaro viewsView of Kibo from Shira Plateau

The landscape shift as we trekked from Shira 2 to Lava Tower was impressive. The terrain was a bit more challenging, but worth every step. Huge volcanic rocks lined the horizon, and little caves dotted the mountain. Fog rolled in during the trek, adding a mysterious atmosphere to the climb.

Waterfall at base of Mount MeruWaterfall at base of Mount Meru

Though most who climb Kili don’t make it to Mount Meru, it’s a trip addition I highly recommend. While the trek is a lower altitude climb than Kili, it’s still a challenge worth pursuing. Mount Meru is located in the center of Arusha National Park and is teeming with wildlife – I even saw a couple of giraffe up close during my trek. On the descent  down through the park we had the opportunity to walk right up to the Tulalusia Waterfall — hidden between two large rock formations. One fun moment: a Sykes monkey plopped down onto the table during lunch and stole my banana. It was a hilarious and lighthearted moment that reminded us we were guests in their territory.

Mount MeruMount Meru

Gibb’s Farm was the ultimate recovery destination post-Kilimanjaro. The garden walk with a Maasai guide through the lush coffee farm was very much appreciated after a challenging trek. The Tembo fire at night with a drink in hand, and Maasai healer regaling us with traditional stories, added a deep relaxation. I can’t say enough good things about the food! It’s a true farm-to-table experience. The produce is grown on site, and meals include: warm rolls with butter churned at the farm, delicious red beet soup, roast chicken with vegetables, and mashed potatoes.

Garden Walk with Maasai guide at Gibb's farmGarden walk with Maasai guide at Gibb’s Farm

gibb's farm overlooking coffee estateGibb’s Farm overlooking the coffee estate

Serengeti National Park did not disappoint. Growing up I watched nature documentaries featuring wildlife roaming the plains, and this is exactly what I saw in the Serengeti. There was an abundance of lion, cheetah, baboon, leopard, and large herds of elephant with babies in tow. It was an unforgettable few days!

Elephants grazing in the SerengetiElephants grazing in the Serengeti

Ngorongoro Conservation area may be less famous than the Serengeti, but the wildlife was unmatched, and the lush, green landscape was a pleasant surprise. In the Ngorongoro Crater our group had the fortune of seeing two rhinos, and lunch at the hippo pool provided a little downtime to enjoy the surroundings. Nearby Oldupai Gorge was incredible for the sheer fact that we were so close to where the oldest human ancestor fossils have been found. It added so much historical context to the trip.

safari selfie in Ngorongoro Crater

#SafariSelfie in Ngorongoro Crater! 

The Nyumba Camp is gorgeous, and really feels like home – from the bed which is more comfortable than my own, and the great time I had just sitting on the veranda and taking in the vast sky. The lively staff and group meals made for perfect socialization time with everyone on the trip.

Nyumba camp sunsetSunset over Thomson’s Serengeti Nyumba Camp

The balloon ride was worth getting out of bed early for! Floating just above the earth and over the tops of acacia trees, you get a unique bird’s eye view. We caught a glimpse of a male lion just below. On the game drive following the balloon, we spotted not one but two cheetahs, which I’ve dreamed of seeing in the wild since childhood. Champagne and full English bush breakfast following our flight was superb.

hot air balloon over the Serengeti

Soaring above the Serengeti in a hot air balloon

mimosas after the Serengeti balloon rideMango mimosa after a balloon ride above the Serengeti

The Eastern Serengeti Nature Refuge was a dream for this nature lover. We took several walks with guides, learned about the landscape, spotted animals and plant species I’ve never seen before, and came upon animal bones – such is the nature of predators and prey in the wild. I even saw an ostrich nest. The night game drive was the highlight of my stay here. I spotted so many animals, including white-tailed mongoose, bat eared fox, and spring hare (which look like a little kangaroo).

serengeti nature walkNature’s lifecycle in Tanzania

While I had been most anticipating the Kili climb, and the wildlife on safari, the cultural moments will definitely stay with me the rest of my life. During a boma visit we had meaningful conversations with a Maasai guide and the villagers. We spoke about each others culture, our marriage traditions, and how we spend everyday moments at work, school, and home.

The school visit in the village was really delightful! I could have stayed all day with the kids, and asked and answered questions. They asked me about the wildlife we have in America and why we choose to visit Tanzania, and I had the opportunity to ask them about school. Guess what, they love school and enjoy both math and reading!

school children in tanzaniaKids at school in Tanzania

Want to create your own similar adventure? Sam trekked the 9-day Western Approach and added a 8-day safari extension.