Serengetin NP, Tanzania – Part 2

Our camp in the Serengeti was open. There were no fences create a boundary between us and the animals. If they wished to walk through our campsite, they were at liberty to. As we ate our dinner by the campfire, we heard a number of hyenas close to the camp. And the following morning, our tour guide told us that a water buffalo had walked through our camp during the night.

After an early breakfast, we headed out for a sunrise game drive, as the early morning provides good opportunities to see animals before the midday heat urges many of them to take refuge in the shade. It is also the time that the big cats (lions, cheetahs and leopards) are most active.

We did indeed see a few female lions that morning, although they were quite a distance from our truck.  Other animals we saw were zebras, gazelles, topi, warthogs, impalas, dik-diks (small little deer-like animals), to name a few. We were also lucky enough to witness the wildebeest migration. It is incredible how these animals migrate from one part of the Serengeti to another, almost in a perfectly straight line. There was also a leopard sleeping in a distant tree, but due to the insufficient lens on my camera, I couldn’t get a shot of it. Similarly, we saw  a young cheetah eating its breakfast that morning, but it was too far away for me to get a photo of it.

After lunch and a few hours of relaxing by our campsite, we headed out again for another game drive. This time were luckier and saw a number of animals quite close to us.  There was a female lion basking in the shade of a tree, a giraffe almost sticking his head into our truck and a heard of elephants walking across the road right in front of us.

Aside from the animals, the Serengeti landscape is beautiful. I visited in January, which follows the short wet season in November/December, but it did not rain this season. So instead of lush green landscapes, the grasses were dry. But these landscapes were filled with a beautiful spectrum of yellows and oranges, with small flecks of green. The landscape is dotted with small rock formations, Acacia trees, umbrella trees, among others, to create that stereotypical ‘African’ landscape. The opening of Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ was running through my head all day. AHHH ZIBENYA AMA ZEE BABA…

Next stop, Ngorongoro Crater (my favourite place in Tanzania).

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Serengeti NP, Tanzania – Part 1

After a night in Musoma, we packed up our campsite and headed towards Serengeti National Park. To me, the name Serengeti always congers up images of the ultimate safari – vast plains filled with hoards of wild animals. And in most ways, it didn’t disappoint. Due to the size of the national park, over 14,000 square kilometres, the animals are rather dispersed, so there did not seem to be ‘hoards’ of them. Many animals were at quite a distance from our vehicle, and because it did not cross my mind to get a new lens for my camera, I had to put up with my 24-105mm and was rather jealous of my fellow travellers who were taking great shots, even with a simple point-and-shoot camera that had a good zoom. Their giraffe took up three-quarters of the frame, whereas mine was a speck in the distance. So naturally, I was rather excited when the animals were close to our truck. One piece of advice if you’re travelling to Tanzania and into photographer, don’t make my mistake and invest in a decent lens.

We had lunch at the entrance of the park and slowly headed towards our campsite, spending time to look out for animals on the way. To our surprise, the first animal we saw was a young male lion lying in the shade of a tree within ten metres of the road. Our guide told us that it was very unlikely to see a male lion, let alone one so close. So we were extremely lucky. Like most of the animals we saw during our stay in the Serengeti, he was not afraid of us and simply continued to enjoy his afternoon nap, as if we were not there.

Further down the road, we took a slight detour and drove by a small dam filled with hippos, perhaps about fifteen of them. Because their skin is so sensitive to the sun and the heat, the hippos spend their days in the water and only come ashore at night. So it’s quite unlikely that you will see a hippo walking around. We didn’t stay too long, as there is always a terrible smell coming from the water wherever there are hippos and we had to get keep moving towards our camp in order to reach it before the sun set.

As we were nearing our camp, we saw a herd of elephants walking through some broken trees. Again, they were quite close to our truck, about twenty metres away, so we were all very excited about this photo opportunity. Whenever we saw elephants, both in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, they were always in a herd, keeping very close to each other, like a tight-knit family.

We reached our camping spot just before sunset and everyone was very excited about our eventful afternoon. I think we were all impressed by all the animals we saw and it was perhaps our best game drive during our two night stay in the park.

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Wilsons Promontory, Australia

Back in October last year, we spent a long weekend exploring Wilsons Promontory and the Mornington Peninsula. We were initially planning to go to the Yarra Valley, but a friend from Melbourne suggested visiting the Mornington Peninsula, as there are also wineries there and the landscapes are beautiful. When researching the Mornington Peninsula I came across some photos of Wilsons Promontory and thought it looked stunning. I had never heard of Wilsons Promontory, but thought it looked worthwhile visiting. Once we decided to go there, I mentioned it to a couple of our neighbours who are originally from Melbourne. ‘Oh, The Prom,’ they said, as if it was somewhere I should know of. Apparently everyone in Melbourne knows of ‘The Prom’ but we in Sydney have no idea of its existence.

Located about 200km south-east of Melbourne, it is a good 3 hour drive to reach Wilsons Promontory. It’s not quite close enough to do as a day trip from Melbourne and I’d recommended at least one or two nights, either camping or staying in the cabins at Wilsons Promontory, or staying in a town close by. We would have liked to stay in the cabins in the national park, but they were all booked out. So we stayed in Foster, which was about an hours drive away.

There are some stunning walks to do and some beautiful beaches to visit at Wilsons Promontory. Also keep an eye out for the wildlife, namely emus, kangaroo, wombats and a number of native Australian birds. We did a few of the shorter walks, as we only had a day there, but we saw enough of The Prom to be very impressed with it. And I’d definitely recommend visiting if you are in Melbourne and have a few days to spare.

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Essentials

Getting there:
You’ll have to pick up a hire car from Melbourne and drive the 200km to Wilsons Promontory, as there is no public transport.

Stay:
We stayed at Llarrinda Bed & Breakfast, in Foster North, which we booked through Airbnb. It was one of the best Airbnbs we have stayed in. The room was great and the views towards Wilsons Promontory were stunning. Our hosts, Larry and Linda, were great and very chatty, and Linda put on a beautiful breakfast. Ask her for her date scone recipe – they are to die for.

 

Litchfield & Darwin, Australia

We spent our final day in the Northern Territory exploring Litchfield National Park and checking out Mindil Beach Markets in Darwin. After an early start, we sadly departed Kakadu and drove towards Litchfield National Park. Although Litchfield has some spectacular waterfalls and waterholes (all crocodile free), we were somewhat disappointed due to the plethora of people visiting the park. Unlike Kakadu which was sparsely populated with tourists, because of Litchfield’s proximity to Darwin, less than an hour’s drive south, it was busting with day trippers escaping the Northern Territory heat and bathing in the cool waterholes. We stopped briefly at Florance Falls and Wangi Falls, but found more ‘private’ waterholes along Walker Creek and Tolmer Falls. After a few hours of exploring the park, we headed towards Darwin to visit the sunset markets at Mindil Beach. These markets are on twice weekly, Thursday and Sunday night, starting at about 4pm and finishing at 9pm. Although not the best markets for handcrafted goods, there is a huge array of international food on offer, which you can take-away and enjoy whilst taking in the stunning Darwin sunset. We had an amazing time in the top end and would very much like to explore this fascinating area of Australia further. Untitled-23 IMG_5033 Untitled-24 IMG_5040 IMG_5041 IMG_5051 Untitled-25 IMG_5062 Untitled-26 IMG_5080 Untitled-27 IMG_5087 IMG_5102 Untitled-28 IMG_5108 Untitled-29 Untitled-30 IMG_5134 Untitled-31 IMG_5146 Untitled-32 IMG_5136 IMG_5167 IMG_5184 IMG_5188 IMG_5194 Untitled-34Essentials:

Getting Around:
Hire a car. If you’re thinking to take the less accessible parts of Kakadu and Litchfield, make sure you hire a 4WD. Cars can be picked up and returned from Darwin Airport.

Eat:
Mindil Beach Markets. A huge selection and the prices are great – we bought vege laksas for $8 and they were delicious.

Buy:
If you can find some original Aboriginal artworks, the top end is the place to buy them. Many galleries support local artists and art cooperatives. We purchased a bark painting at the Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Kakadu.

Kakadu, Australia – Day Two

Our second day in Kakadu National Park was just as good as our first. After our laid back breakfast in our bush bungalow in Jabiru, we headed out for a long drive to Gunlom – a spectacular infinity pool, free from crocodiles. The majority of the drive was on the nice sealed Kakadu Highway. But from the turnoff to Gunlom, it was 4WD territory. A sedan could handle the first part of the unsealed road, and although the latter part didn’t require the 4WD capacity of the car, the road was extremely uneven, which required the height clearance of a 4WD to pass.

Gunlom plunge pool is located at the top of a mountain, and it’s a steep and strenuous 45 minute walk to the top. But it is worth the hard work and effort, as you arrive at a beautiful waterhole with a spectacular view as a backdrop.

After Gunlom we headed back north to Cooinda to embark on a sunset Yellow Water cruise. If I had to give a Kakadu highlight, this would probably be it. The two hour cruise takes you down Yellow Water were you see a plethora of birdlife and the odd crocodile or two. The river and the surrounding vegetation is spectacular, especially against the orange and purple hues of the top end sunset.

Back at our bungalow we had a BBQ dinner of local barramundi to top off our day.

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Kakadu, Australia – Day 1

So it has been a month or so since we went to Kakadu National Park, but I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had the chance to do any posts. And with a long-weekend in the Adelaide Hills planned for October, and Myanmar over Christmas and New Year, I better get cracking on these Kakadu, Litchfield and Darwin posts.

We spent a long weekend in the top end and absolutely loved it. Neither of us had previously been to the Northern Territory, so it was all new and exciting. We arrived very early on a Friday morning into Darwin, taking the red-eye Jetstar flight from Sydney, picked up a hire car from the airport and drove into Darwin for a few hours sleep. By mid-morning we we up and ready, and after a quick breakfast, we started making our way towards Kakadu National Park. The drive from Darwin takes about 2 hours, but it’s a nice and easy drive. Our first day in Kakadu was spent in the northern part, visiting a few billabongs, the rock painting at Nourlangi Rock and Ubirr Rock, looking out for crocodiles at Cahills Crossing and finally ending the day with a spectacular sunset from Ubirr Rock. We visited in late August – being the dry season, the weather is the most favourable, but this also attracts the tourists. However, Kakadu was not crowded at all – we almost felt as though we had the place to ourselves. We were so impressed with day one, that our second day in Kakadu couldn’t come quick enough.
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Essentials

Getting There:
Jetstar and Qantas fly daily to Darwin from Sydney. The flight is at about 8pm from Sydney and arrives in Darwin after midnight. You can collect a pre-reserved hire car from the airport, as we did, or there are buses and taxies which will take you into town.

Stay:
We stayed at Anbinik Resort Kakadu (formerly Lakeview Park Kakadu) in one of their amazing bungalows. We absolutely loved the accommodation – it was clean and tidy, with great BBQ facilities. Fantastic value for money.

Eat:
We frequented Jabiru supermarket for our meals – picnic lunches and BBQ dinners. You can’t go wrong with that.