30 Days in Africa

Day 1 Kigali, Rwanda

Well day 1 is really a travel day.  And what a day it was.  Let me tell you how it went.


8:00am I’m off to the airport for my 11:10 flight.  It was snowing and I wanted a little extra time in case the roads were slick.  (Thanks Meg for the lift!).  I got through security with time to spare and found my way to the gate. Over the next hour and a half I met up with all my guests, except the two coming in from LA.  Who were expected to land in SLC shortly.  As if turns out the LA guests flight got cancelled sometime in the middle of the night, without them knowing it, so when they got to airport their flight was actually taking off about one hour earlier than they expected, but they get to fly directly to Detroit, our US departure airport.  They barely made the flight!  Back in Salt Lake we’re getting ready to board when the dreaded announcement comes over the P.A.  system.  “Passengers flying to Detroit. The plane has experienced a small mechanical issue and it looks like we’ll be delayed about 30 minutes.” Our layover in Detroit is 1 hour and 15 minutes, so we’re going to be cutting it close. And if we miss this flight, the next flight to Amsterdam is THE NEXT DAY.  Fifteen minutes later comes the second announcement, this time from the Captain. “Passengers going to Detroit, the radar on our plane is out and we’re getting ready to install a new one.  If everything goes well, we should be able to board in  about 30 minutes or so.”  Well, against all odds we do board in about 30 minutes but we’re now about 1 hour behind schedule, leaving us a 15 minute layover in Detroit.  By now we have texted the guests that are on the LA flight, instructing them that we may not make the Detroit flight and they should go on without  us.  Someone will be in the airport in Kigali to meet them.  GOOD LUCK!  About 30 minutes before we land, the captain makes an announcement that because there are so many passengers trying to make the Amsterdam flight, they will hold the flight for short while. Passengers should immediately go on foot to the departure gate. Do not take the tram, because if you miss it, you will be waiting a long time for the next one.”  We land and off we go. We’re at gate 62 and we have to get to gate 24.  About half way to the gate I decide my camera backpack is way to heavy! I’m sure the veins on my face were bulging and I felt like I might keel over at any time.  But I wasn’t going to be the only one that didn’t make it.  Pride is a mighty motivator.  I stagger up to the gate and hand the attendant my boarding pass.  Because I look like I had just run from Salt Lake, he casually asks me, “didn’t you take the tram?” I tell him NO, we were told not to.  He says, “what fool told you that, the tram runs every 3 minutes and stops a couple of gates away”  I wasn’t sure how to respond without making a scene and possibly being taken away in handcuffs, so the politely thanked him  and walked on. My pounding head verbally abusing the person who told us to walk.   Well to wrap up this saga, other than a white knuckle landing in Amsterdam the had the whole plane break out in applause, everything went great. We made all our connections and I’m writing this while gazing out the window of the airplane as we make our way over Sahara Desert.   In 4 hours we’ll land in Kigali, meet our guides, head to the hotel for dinner and a good night sleep and this will all be part of future stories told with ever increasing exaggeration. Tomorrow our fun in Kigali starts.  FYI  When we land in Kigali it will have been about 24 hours since we left Salt Lake.


The pictures will start tomorrow!   Bye for now.

DAY 2 & 3

Hello followers,

I’m sorry I haven’t been able to post anything.  There has been no internet, or cell service for the last 3 full days.  It’s 1:30 am and we just got to our hotel in Arusha, Tanzania.  So let catch up


We spent our first day in Kigali casually taking a city tour. First  we went to the Rwandan Genocide memorial.  I won’t dwell on it, but suffice it to say it was a sobering couple of hours.  It was emotional. I can’t begin to understand why we do such terrible things to each other.   After the memorial, we went to craft village took in the local gift shops.  Then we took off for our gorilla lodge, La Bambou.


At the lodge we were met by the staff with fresh hot  wash cloths and fresh juice.  After settling into our rooms we heard drum beats and singing coming from in front of the lodge.  The local kids, and gathered and proceeded to put on a great show of local singing and dancing.

Local Dancers

At one point they had the guests up dancing with them and Scott Ulbrich put on the long blond straw wig and gave us a great show!  Then off to dinner and bed because tomorrow we wake up early at start our first gorilla trek.


The briefing started at 8:00 am.  We broke up into groups of 6 to 8 and met our guides.  Each group has two guides. A senior and a junior.  Our senior guide was Francois. A veteran guide of 32 years.  He was originally a poacher who after working with Dianne Focey, turned around and has become an advocate of gorilla preservation and conservation.


After driving for about 20 minutes over some very bad dirts trails, we unloaded and started hiking across some fields.

trekking across the fields

At the edge of the fields we were met by armed guides, who’s job is to scare off any wild buffalo or elephants we may come across. We started hiking up the mountain side.

Our guards

Staying of small game trails, until we met the trackers, who’s job is to keep track of the gorilla family as they move daily, from nest to nest. At this point there is no more trail, our trekkers are hacking a path with their machetes.

Hiking up the mountain

At last our guide says “the big silverback is just ahead in the bamboo, he is the leader of the gorillas and weights almost 500 lbs, the biggest silverback in Rwanda.”   We slowly climbed up the hill a few more feet. And there he was sitting up the hill about 30 feet away.  Sue Kowallis was in front of me and the guide was a couple of feet away making sounds to the gorilla.  All of a sudden the silverback stood up charged us, crashing through the bamboo like they were toothpicks. Sue turned and ran into me and I couldn’t go backwards so all I could do hold still remembering what our guides told us. “If a gorilla charges you don’t run!”  The silver back stopped about 10 feet away.

The Big Silverback

Sue eye’s were the size of hockey pucks and my heart was pounding so hard I couldn’t stop shaking! There he was the biggest silverback in Rwanda 10 feet away staring at us. I told Sue “get the shot”  and she did!

Looking into his eyes

Over the course of the next hour we moved with the gorillas as they slowly moved through the bamboo.  They would move and we move. We saw the females, the juvinials, the blackbacks and the babies.  It’s hard to describe the feeling of being that close to the beautiful animals.  When you looked in their eyes, you immediatly felt a connection that I have never experienced with an animal.  At one point as we were photographing the 2nd silverback in the group, he stood up and came right at us. The guide said “hold very still.” I did and the silverback walked right past me brushing right up against me and Scott and Shane as he went past. OMG  (Oh My Gorilla!)



Up close with a Blackback


Yup it's me







Mama and baby





Mama and baby

A big Blackback



Well since it now 3:00am I’m going to call it a night.  MORE TOMORROW!


Sue and the Silverback









Days 4 & 5

Today we did our gorilla trek in Uganda. Crossing the border from Rwanda to Uganda is a 1 hour adventure in itself!  Trekking in Uganda is much different than in Rwanda.  Rwanda was dense bush with large stands of bamboo.  Uganda is a rain forest.  The vegetation is thick, thick, thick!

Crossing a shaky bridge

Our group started up a long dirt road to the top of a pass between two mountains, then down through some potato  fields and into the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.  The name says it all! We hiked a long ways, and it wasn’t easy going.  After 4 hours we finally made it to the gorillas. At that point the vegetation was so thick that you could be 10 feet away from a gorilla and not evan no it.  I have NO idea how the trackers found them.  We were able to make our way to the gorillas and they would move in and out of view.  They would move, we would move, they would move, we would move. You see where I’m going here. We did get some great shots and again being that close to these wild animals is INCREDIBLY exhilarating.  I had some great eye contact with the big silverback for about 30 seconds straight.  I have to wonder what he’s thinking? After an hour, it was time to go.  It took us 5 hours to get out.  We hacked our way through dense bushes, waded through at least 20 streams. At one point I stepped into a hole and sunk up to mid thigh.  It was truly grueling. We went over logs, under logs, slid down slopes. I was filthy.   And here’s the amazing thing.  Jim and Maura Beson.  Made the whole trek.  Maura has bad arthritis in her knees, and Jim has diabetes and a couple more years under his belt than I do.  My hat if off to both of them, because I’ll tell you, there were times I was REALLY struggling. It was wet and muddy and steep.  I fell at least 10 times.





We met our vehicles at what turned out to be an orphanage.  The kids were singing and dancing when we got there.  They all seemed so happy.

It really made me think…..

That night we stayed at a beautiful lake resort.  We had a late dinner, because we barely made it back from our trek before dark, and then had a fairly long drive to the resort. The next morning we had a beautiful cruise on the lake. BUT not without it’s moments.  We got to this other side of this, rather large and deep (1800 meters deep) lake when the motor on the boat quit.  Try as the crew might, the could not get it started. This was becoming our version of the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles.   We were rescued by another boat and  finished our cruise/float. After breakfast we headed back across the boarder into Rwanda for our flight to Tanzania.  We landed In Tanzania and made it to our hotel about 1:00 am.  Thats where I started yesterdays blog.

Today we went for a 1/2 day safari to Arusha National Park. Right at the base of Mount Meru.  We had a beautiful view of Mount Kilimanjaro.   We saw some great wildlife. Zebra, Giraffe, Waterbuck, Reedbuck, Black and White Colobus Monkeys, Blue Faced Monkeys, Baboons, and lots of birds.  Not bad for a short day.  Tomorrow we fly to the Serengeti, and start our camping.  I don’t know what internet access I will have, but as soon as I get it, I’ll update with more photo’s and stories.












Thanks for all the comments from everyone back home!!  See ya next post.

Day 7 & 8

When I hit the bed last night, I knew I had a good nights sleep ahead.  I’m bushed.  As my head hit the pillow and let out a satisfied low groan.  I had to laugh as I realized that this was the exact sound the gorillas make when they are happy and not threatened. That was the last thing I remember thinking until at 6:00am my wakeup call came in.  The sound I made this time was NOT happy gorilla.  I just might know some gorilla swear words!

So we’re off to the Airport at  7:00am for our flight to the Serengeti.  I’ve got a good group of people with me.  They’re always happy and smiling and getting along great.  We board our little 10 passenger plane, and the laughing and smiling stopped when the pilot invited JIm to sit in the co-pilot seat!  Actually the jokes flew from everyone including the pilot.  I think a couple of the passengers were a little nervous about the flight, but that quickly went away as we took off and flew over the beautiful county side. After a short one hour flight we landed at Seronera to let 2 passengers off, then took off for another 15 minute flight to our  landing area, Lobo airstrip. The sights along the flight were great, we saw elephant, hippo and giraffe. I can only imaging how many animals we must have flown over and never knew it.  Upon landing our guides for the next 11 days met us.   Emo, Elson and Inglebert.  We loaded up the vehicles and our first game drive started.  We hadn’t been driving for more than 2 to 3 minutes when we saw our first wildlife. Standing right at the side of the road was an antelope with only one horn. I had to smile to myself as I thought, “it’s a unicorn, and everyone knows seeing a unicorn is good luck!”   We drove across the gentle rolling hills of this area, known as Loliando, the very northern part of the Serengeti. We saw Topi, Hartebeest, Rock Hyrax, Clip Springers, Elephants and Cape Buffalo.  Slowly we made our way toward our camp for the next 2 nights.  At around 1:00 we pulled into the Buffalo Luxury Tent Camp.  I think they miss named this camp.  It should be “Holy Crap, How Could They Build Such A Beautiful Camp Way Out Here, Camp Site.”   This place is awesome.  Can you really call it a tent camp when you have locking doors, two levels, a sitting area, a front porch, 24 hour electricity, 2 sinks, a shower and a bath tub?  I mean really.  I’m sitting here at my desk, typing up the blog and looking out over a fantastic view of the Serengeti as it rolls out for miles in front of me.  I’m going home, getting my wife, selling my house and moving. My new address is: Holy Crap, How Could They Build Such A Beautiful Camp Way Out Here, Camp Site, Tent 12b.


At 4;30 we were off for our afternoon game drive.  We make our way across the foothills of the small mountains of this area.  Our first good sighting of elephants came within 5 minutes of getting to the flat land.  It was a pod of about 25.  There were a couple of big bulls and a couple of very small babies. The cameras were clicking at furious pace.  It sounded like press conference and everyone was excited.   One vehicle had split off and they came across a big lone bull elephant.  Apparently this elephant either took a big liking or a big dislike to the vehicle, because he charged the vehicle and then proceeded to trot down the road after them.  Scott, Sue, Eric and Kylie and now part the very exclusive club of “I’ve been charged by a wild elephant club.”  Next we saw some beautiful topi, some more great birds and some Black Faced Vervet monkeys.  We were  treated with a spectacular sunset complete with Flat Top Acacia and elephants in the foreground. What a way to end the day!


The next morning we left at 7:00am for the Masai village. The generator in camp had a problem, so there was no hot water for morning showers.  Nothing like a nice cold 6:00am shower to get the day started! Swahili for cold shower is brrrrrrr.


The Masai village is quite interesting.  Their life style hasn’t changed much over time.  They primarily raise cattle and just recently have adopted some limited farming.  Their cattle are their most prize possession.  The graze them, they guard them from predators, the eat them, and they still mix their blood with milk and drink it. They gave us the full tour. Complete with taking some blood from a cow, a tour of their house and singing and dancing.  They then spread out a number of colorful cloths, (shuka) and put out their hand make things for sale.  They primarily had carved wood, beaded bracelets and necklaces.  Most things are $5.00 for $15.00 and soon everyone was trying things on and making some fun purchases. Just like their communal life style, all the money goes to the village so all the purchases and the group tip we gave them, benefits the whole village.   This afternoon, we go on another game drive and a night game drive.  So keep watching and I’ll post more as soon as I can.



The internet here at the camp is quite slow.  This update took about an hour to post.  We’re off to our next campsite tomorrow, so if there is internet there, than I’ll post again.  If not it may be 3 days before I can share anything else.  I’ll see you when I can.

Lala Salama  (good night)

Day 9,10, &11

Sorry it’s been a while, but there has been no internet, no cell access, nothing!  (it’s kinda nice).  Well I have a lot to cover so let’s get started.  The night game drive was pretty cool.  There is a driver and a Masai guide up front in each vehicle.  The guide stands up in the front seat and uses a really bright spot light to constantly scan the areas all around us.  As we slowly drive towards camp, we spot antelope, buffalo and a wide assortment of small small critters.  Then suddenly about 100 feet in front of us a large cat slowly crosses our path.  It’s a Leopard, a BIG Leopard. We stay close, watching him weave his way through brush.  I was being pretty lazy, not thinking we would see anything picture worthy and didn’t have my camera ready for night shots.  So try to picture me frantically going through my camera bag, grasping for equipment in the dark. That’s right, I didn’t have my headlamp.   In my mind I’m yelling to myself.  CRAP, CRAP, CRAP….. I finally get my 400mm f/2.8 on my camera body and hoisted up through the top of the vehicle.  Alright… check the ISO. (It’s times like this where knowing where all the buttons on the camera are is so important.) OK…focus…..CRAP, NO AUTOFOCUS.  Find the autofocus switch on the lens, quickly!  Alright I got it.  Focus on the Leopard as he’s slowly walking away from us.  Wait….. Wait….. Wait…..   THERE!  He turns and looks back at us.  One quick shot and the whole evening was worth it!

The next day we get up and continue our journey Southeast through the Serengeti.  We cover the central part and work our way to the Retima Hippo pool.  Retima is a large pool on the Serena river where the hippos live. There has to be over a hundred hippos in this pool. It’s quite a site, and luckily the wind is at our back, because this pool can get quite odorous.  FYI, I’m writing this during a break in between game drives, sitting in the food tent of our private camp site.  As I sit here I can look out over a small valley, maybe 5 blocks wide.  I can look out and see thousands of Zebra and Wildebeest slowly walking by, making their way up the hillside to the flat plains that are about 2 miles from here.

Back to the game drives. We wake up and get started at 5:45.  We see lots of animals and the big moment comes when we find a lone Cheetah.  We stop and watch from about 75 yards away. After a few minutes the Cheetah slowly moves parallel to us towards a couple of Thompson Gazelle (Tommy’s).  It was fascinating to watch the hunt unfold right in front of us. The Cheetah only moved when the gazelle put it’s head down to eat. The cat moved closer and closer to the Gazelle. Then at about 100 yards from the gazelle it took off.  WOW full speed across the Serengeti. It only took about 2 seconds before the cat was at the Tommy.  At the last second the gazelle saw the Cheetah. It made a lighting fast move to the side and the Cheetah turned just as fast to catch it.  The gazelle took off back  in the direction the cat came from, causing the Cheetah to do a full 180.  The cheetah came about 6 feet from taking down the Tommy, but with only one shot and the gazelle going full out in the other direction, the chase was over.


Later that morning we come across a female lion that is just finishing up eating a small antelope.  As we start getting pictures, she gets up a walks off toward a large group of wildebeest that have been making their way down a hillside.  After a short walk, she starts trotting, then running right into the middle of the herd.  The wildebeest scatter in every directions as the lion charges forward. And in a huge plume of dust she takes a small wildebeest down.  It’s all over in a matter of a few seconds.

The afternoon game drive is no let down.  After driving for a couple of hours with short stops for bird shots, giraffe shots and migration shots. We stumble across 3 more cheetah.  This time it’s a mom with 8 month old cubs.  The three cats made their way over to an old dead tree that had fallen over.  We followed them  and watched in amazement as the three Cheetah put on a show.  They posed alone the tree, they posed in pairs on the tree. There were times that all three of them were on the tree together.  They played and fought and tussled with each other for over an hour.  There’s no doubt in my mind that between the 11 of us we took over 2000 photo’s.  It was like what you see on Animal Planet only it was live and just 20 feet away!


The afternoon game game drive proves to be a winner.  We take off around 4:30, just as it’s starting to cool down.  The highlight of this drive is a pride of 12 lions, lounging around in the early evening light.  Lions are so big and so powerful. I’m always amazed whenever I get a chance to watch them from such short distances.  Any time you get 10 feet away from a lion that walks past you, you instinctively go quiet and just watch in amazement.

Days 12, 13 & 14

 Fast forward a few days.  We’re now in Tarangari. We have had really long days and this is the first chance I’ve had to sit at the computer.  So I’m going to sum up our drives through  Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Tarangari.  The Crater is spectacular and our tent camp on the north rim is beautiful. We spend one afternoon and morning on game drives in the crater.  The highlight of these drives has to be when we came across 4 lioness’s and one male lion.  Within a couple of minutes there are about 10 vehicles parked along side the four lions.  The lions stood up and started walking along side the vehicles.  Someone from a vehicle, not ours, accidentally drops his camera on the ground and the big male immediately came over and picked it up!  To everyones amazement and laughter the lion walked off with the camera firmly in it’s mouth.  We all expected the lion  to drop the camera at any moment, but he didn’t.  He sat down and looked around but never gave up his his prize. When last we was him, he was walking off up the hill with the camera still in his mouth. I wonder what camera mode lions like to shoot in…. aperture priority, shutter priority, or manual?



Our short trip to Lake Manyara park was fun. The cameras were busy taking shots of Baboons, Blue Monkeys, Elephants and some fun birds. We only spend about 1 1/2 hours in the park, so we can get to Tarangari before dark.


Our last stop is  Tarangari National Park, where we expect to see lots of elephants.  The morning drive starts out with lots of birds. Little birds, medium birds and big birds.  But the fun really gets started when we come across the elephants.  I’m not talking about a couple of elephants, I’m talking about a LOT of elephants, hundreds of them.  We really enjoy watching these huge creatures make their way across the landscape.  There are quite a few babies, and it’s very cool the way they protect the little ones by always surrounding them with adults. At one point there we 16 elephants in the river, drinking, splashing and cooling themselves off.  When they came out of the river they walked right past our vehicles.  It’s really something to have full grown 12,000 lb elephant walk within a few feet of you.  Tomorrow we’re off to Arusha and the first group fly’s home.











The cool weather brought out the best in a lot of the animals.  Here’s a photo for my buddy Tanner, who really likes Zebras.  These two Zebra were putting on a show as they played with each other, trying to bite each others ankles and ears.









I’ll leave you with a photo of a Leopard we found up in a big Acaicia


I can’t wait to share this incredible experience again with everyone coming in with the second group.  I’ll keep posting whenever I can.  I’ll see you in a couple of days with my next group as I continue “30 Days in Africa”

Days 16 – 21

Hello again,

The next group has arrived!  But not all the luggage made it.  Joe and Tova had a real tight connection in Chicago. They barely made it.  We’re guessing that’s where the luggage got held up.  Our flight to the Serengeti leaves early the next day, so their luggage won’t be with them for that flight.  We’re hoping the next flight from Amsterdam to Arusha, which comes in every night, will have their luggage, and then get put on a flight out to us somehow.  To complicate things, as we’re checking in for our flight to the Serengeti, we are informed that our luggage is overweight.  Something has to stay!  So I leave my duffle bag, my travel bag, (minus my laptop, which I carry on) and the Beson’s leave one of their duffle bags.  We’re told they will be on the next flight out to the Serengeti, tomorrow.  The upside of all this is now that I don’t have any clothes to change into, re-packing is not a problem, and trying to decide what I should wear this afternoon is a no brainer.  So as I write this my clothes are hanging up outside my tent drying from a hand washing.

Now, on with the safari.  Our plane landed on the dirt runway at Lobo airstrip.  We met our guides and loaded up our vehicle.  I told everyone to get their cameras ready, because my bet was we would be stopping within 5 minutes to photograph something.  We hadn’t been out more that a couple of minutes before the cameras were going strong.  Mostly shooting all the great birds we saw.  Then all of sudden as we drove up to a large Kopje, (an outcropping of large house size rocks) sitting right on top of the rock was a big male lion. There are four other lions lounging around him.  I’m thinking to my self “really….. we’re out here ten minutes and we already get 4 male lions and 1 female.  This is incredible” So for the next 30 minutes we take about a thousand pictures of our first big find.  As we’re leaving the lions, Craig looks over to me and casually says. “good start.”  On the way to our lodge we see, besides the lions, Topi, Impala, Giraffe, Elephant, Hartebeest, Cape Buffalo, Waterbuck, Mongoose, Gazelle, and a ton of great birds.  Our afternoon drive was beautiful. We found seven big male cape buffalo our in the middle of this spectacular field of golden grass.  We made our way up to them and got some awesome shots of them in this very pristine setting.  We had one more great stop as two big bull elephants made their way across the grasslands, through a river right towards us.  We watched quietly as the largest living land animal slowly walked towards us.  Dusk was setting and we didn’t have time to see how close they would have gotten to us,  but it didn’t diminish my sense of awe and wonder, just watching them in their native environment.








The next morning it’s up early, because we want to get to the Masai village before the day heats up.  On the way we stop and photograph a large group (tower) of Giraffe.  They are all around us and the light is perfect.  We shoot and shoot and then just watch.    Their grace and beauty is really something to behold. Gene’s sums it up when he says, “I just love watching them. I think they are my new favorite animal.”  We take off, but within a couple of minutes we have to stop to watch some Impala. And then….. “what’s that coming out of the bushes?”  Our guide grabs his binoculars and then cuts loose a couple of sentences in Swahili. No one knows what he’s saying, but he has the same excitement in his voice as I do when I hear that Ben & Jerry’s has announced a new flavor or ice cream.  THIS IS BIG.   It’s the wild dogs.  Wild dogs you say.  YES wild dogs.  To put this in perspective. this is the most scarce animal sighting in the Serengeti.  It’s been four years since our driver has seen them!   And there they are. Seven of them.  We take off across that bush.  Our driver (Pokea) tells us to “HOLD ON.”  He is a man on a mission. Our vehicle goes one way, and the other vehicles choose their on path. The hunt is on.  We spot them again. Up the hill 200 yards away, but they’re out in front of us.  Undaunted Pokea weaves his way through the Acacia bush.  We are definitely going where no vehicle has gone before.  We stop and start searching for any signs of the dogs.  Nothing, we’ve lost them.  We wait and watch for any signs of movement in the bush.  Then someone spots them. They are headed right for us.  They come trotting by, within about 40 feet of our vehicle. Pokea has done it.  He put us right in their path.  This is amazing.  For the next twenty minutes we try to keep up with the dogs, but their steady trot and the thick vegetation make it impossible.  We were just about to give up when we see a herd of impala sprinting through the brush and not far behind them is the pack.  They are going full bore hoping to take an animal down.  But luck was with the impala,  and the dogs had to give up.  We followed them a short distance until they laid down for a rest.  And for the next 30 minutes we were able to get shots from every angle as the pack rested in the shade of large tree.  Our guide told us that earlier in the year a client hired them for 30 days. The only thing he wanted to see was the wild dogs.  For 30 straight days they hunted for the dogs, and never found them.  We are sooooo lucky.


Well our morning visit to the Masai village is shot, so we decide to drive on a while and then anyone who wants to go for a walk, we have arrange to meet a guide from the camp and two local Masai who will take us for a 2 mile walk back through the bush.  It’s starting to get a little warm but seven us us decide to take the walk.  The highlight of the walk is when our guides demonstrate how to start a fire using just two pieces of native wood. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to do this. And it absolutely amazes me to watch them get this fire going.


Our afternoon/evening game drive starts in about an hour. And since my chargers and card readers are in my travel bag somewhere.  I’m going to stop here, and pick up the adventure in a couple of days. Hopefully with clean clothes, this fuzz off my teeth, and more great stories.

The highlight of our evening game drive is 2 male lions.  Everyone always likes to see the big cats.  Here’s a fun photo taken after the sun had set using the headlights from the vehicle.



I’m ba-aaaack and this is the first time I’ve had internet access and I have a LOT to show you.


The afternoon and night drive was great.  We came across two big male lions, and we photographed them until the sun went down. The next morning we did visit the Masai village.  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the visit, and found their life style completely amazing.  No electricity, no running water, living in dung huts raising cattle and they seemed so happy.  It makes me look pretty hard at what’s really important. The shopping of handmade items was really fun, and I felt good that we were able to help the village by buying some of their items. Craig bought a bow, a quiver and a couple of arrows. So if you live by the Ellertson’s you might want to keep your pets in a night!












We left our beautiful Buffalo tent camp early and headed to our next stop, Sametu private tent camp. We stop at a local airstrip and there are our bags. Three days later than we expected.  Ahhh, clean clothes and clean teeth. As Tova put it, “It’s all part of the adventure.” Along the way we saw tons of animals. We took lunch at the Retima hippo pool. This time the wind was in our face.  WOW  that’s a smell unfortunately I won’t soon forget. But it’s still pretty cool to see that many hippos in in the river.  After lunch we made way along the Seronera river.  One vehicle was in front of us and radio’d back that they had spotted a Leopard.  Off we went!  When we got their there were about ten vehicles watching the cat move through the grass.  Two of our vehicles had front row seats.  We couldn’t see the leopard as we pulled up, but we could see where everyone was looking.  It was about 10 feet in front of one of our vehicles. Suddenly two Guinea fowl flew into the air and right behind them the leopard jumped up after them catching one of them in mid flight! The roar from everyone watching was like a last minute winning touchdown for the home team!  I was stunned.  Not only did we see a Leopard but we got to watch first hand as she caught this bird in flight. The stories started flying, with every reenactment a little better than the previous.  At one point I heard someone say “that Leopard must have jumped ten feet in the air.”  Our guide said it was about 6 feet, so I’m going with that.

That night at Semetu was great. It’s really a beautiful tent camp. After another great breakfast we’re off.  We hadn’t been on the road for more than 30 minutes when out of the grass stepped a beautiful Serval Cat!  These cat’s are gorgeous, and I’ve never seen one before!  He walked right up to our vehicles and then walked about 20 feet into the grass. He started to crouch down into a hunting mode and then all of a sudden leapt into the air and pounced on something in the grass.  For the next 5 minutes we were treated to live hunting demonstration as the cat jumped from area to area trying to catch breakfast.  The whole time I’m telling myself, “this is too cool!”


The rest of the day is filled with Topi and Crowned Cranes and Impala and Eagles, and  Gazelle and Bat Eared Foxes, and Secretary birds, and more lions.  At dusk we pull into our private tent camp at Naabi, home for the next three nights. Our camp is up on a hill looking out to east across the flat grasslands. We stand silently staring out across our first real look at the migration.

It’s hard to put the magnitude of what we’re seeing into words. Looking at what must have been a hundred thousand animals below us on the plains is something I’ll never forget. That night as we climbed into our beds the sounds of the wildebeest and zebras mooing and barking never left us.

For the next 3 days we explore the Ndutu area and the Gol Kopjes.  The sights were amazing!  On one day we saw 14 Cheetah and I don’t evan know how many lions.  We were treated to some great birds to. The flamingos on Lake Ndutu were awesome. On one day we came across a pride of lions. Two males, three females and 3 cubs.  We pulled up next to the one BIG male laying the grass next to a lioness. We’re about 25 feet away. He was spectacular, with a full big dark mane crested with golden brown hair around his face.  At one point Joe Arnold stood up in the back of the vehicle and the big male took notice.     Now you have to understand that usually nothing fazes the lions.  You can make any sound you want to try to get their attention, but it never works. But as soon a Joe stand up, it’s immediately apparent that the male does not like Joe.  After about 30 seconds the male snarls, then stands up and charges us, roaring the whole way!  Holy #^&#@ That was intense.  The lion walked back to join his companion as we all stop shaking and tried to compose our selves.  After about 5 minutes I decide to get a little video of this beautiful pair of lions.  I turn on the video and Joe stands up again and puts his hands on his hips.  That’s all it takes! The lion leaps up roaring and charges us again. The driver immediately starts the vehicle thinking this lion is not going to stop until he’s in the vehicle with us,  and Tova, Joe’s wife, commands Joe “JOE, SIT DOWN!” our driver is  laughing (nervous laugh) and also calmly tells Joe to “Sit down Joe”  Joe being the smart man that he is, I think was already on his way to his seat.  It’s really hard to put into words the rush of adrenalin you get when a four hundred pound lion charges from about twenty five feet away and stops about fifteen away!  Joe’s new nick name for the trip is “he who angers lions” and Tova’s new nick name is “she to tells he who angers lions what to do.”  When I get back home, I’m going to post the video on some video site.  I’ll probably send out an email, so keep your eyes open. The highlight of this part of our safari, for me at least, was late one afternoon we pulled up the Gol Kopjes where we had previously seen this pride of lions.  The sun was low on the horizon so the light was nice.  We were the only vehicles there and for about an hour we got some incredible photo’s as all six lions moved from spot to spot on the rocks.

The day we left Naabi in-route to the Ngorongoro Crater we pass one last time through Ndutu.  Before we leave that area at around 2:00pm we get a first hand view as a female cheetah went on the hunt with a full out sprint to take down a small Gazelle.  I was so enthralled watching the whole process, I didn’t evan take a single picture.  On the other hand, most everyone else got pictures that National Geographic would envy. What an incredible morning.

The Ngorongoro Crater is considered by many to be one of the great wonders of the world.  And our two visits into the crater were outstanding.  We did see a Rhino, but unfortunately it was from quite a long distance. The animals in the crater are so used to seeing vehicles they hardly evan move as we slowly drive within a few feet of them.  The lake in the crater had more Pink Flamingo’s than I have ever seen before. And it didn’t hurt that our lodge for the night (Sopa Crater Lodge) was perched right on the crater rim, with a spectacular view of the entire crater.


After Ngorongoro we’re off to Tarangari with a breif stop in Manyara National Park.  While in Manyara we get a ton of fun pictures of Blue Monkeys, Olive Baboons, Black Faced Vervet Monkeys, Elephants, and a grundle of great birds.  How many in a grundle you ask.  Come to Manyara some time and find out!



Our last stop on our journey is Tarangari National Park.  Tarangari is known for great Elephants and lots of birds.  And boy do we see both.  I don’t evan know how many elephants we saw, but at one point we had a bachelor herd (all males) of about 20 large bulls clustered under a large Acacia tree just a few feet from us.  It’s really something to be that close to these huge creatures in their native environment.  Just before lunch we’re lucky enough to find a Chui (swahili for leopard) The big cat started up in a tree and climbed down into the grass.  After about 10 minutes in the shady grass it climbed back up into the tree and posed for us on a large branch.  Everyone got great shots of this elusive and beautiful creature.







We’re back in Arusha at our hotel cleaning up and getting ready for our flights home. We did get some fun shots along the way home.  I can’t wait to start working on some of my shots. This whole trip has been one incredible experience after another.  So, let me sum up a few things.

A little of what we saw:

  • Lions – about 100
  • Cheetahs – about 40
  • Leopards – 3
  • Serval – 1
  • Wildebeest – about a million
  • Zebra – just under a million
  • Impala, Gazelle, Topi, Hartebeast, Waterbuck, Reedbuck, – lost count after 9,000
  • Warthogs – tons
  • hippos – 222 tons ( 2 tons each)
  • Giraffe – hundreds (I could see more!)
  • Elephants – lots and lots
  • friendly people – thousands
  • Awesome safari guides – 6
  • Wonderful guests – 21
  • Memories – more than I ever thought possible

For me Africa is not so much a place as it is an experience.

Thanks for reading.


31 Responses to “30 Days in Africa”

  1. RAy says:

    this is going to be fun !!

  2. John M says:

    I’ve always wanted to go to Africa! This will be great. I can’t wait to see this unfold.

  3. Craig AKA: Lion Bait says:

    For me this is an expedition to the Dark Continent looking for Dr. Livingston. It’s the top of my bucket list.

  4. JJ says:

    Your wife told me about this site. I am interested at what you do. I would love to study animals. Please post lots of pics?(:

  5. Andy Wolcott says:

    Ray, welcome to Africa and tell Scott and Sue that Tarangire is seriously hot right now – but tsetse not bad and it is REALLY green. Hoping to intersect somewhere along the way – Ndutu most likely.


  6. Sue says:

    How was the flight? How long did it take you to get to Kigali? What is you schedule for seeing the Gorillas?

  7. Sue says:

    Sounds like you’re off to an interesting start. It’s good that you have a good sense of humor about your experiences so far. So glad you have an exciting schedule over the next few days to dim the fiasco of the flight. Looking forward to the pictures!!

  8. Laurie lee says:

    Omg…..glad you made it!!! I did laugh out loud thinking of you and sue Ulbrich in handcuffs

  9. Beth Martin says:

    Sounds like you all had a crazy travel adventure. So glad you were able to meet up with Eric and Kylie in Detroit. Can’t wait to begin seeing pictures!

  10. Peggy otten says:

    Phew… You made it have fun can,t wait for pictures!

  11. Lori says:

    Wow, you guys really know how to begin an adventure! Glad it all worked out and we look forward to hearing more.

  12. Craig (LB) says:

    Ray, you always seem to have a good time.

  13. What a way to start your adventure. Excitement plus. Glad you all arrived safely. Betsy & Carl

  14. Meghan Taggart says:

    The pictures are AMAZING!!! So glad you were not trampled by the gorilla dad. Don’t forget you have to walk me down the isle as soon as you get back! Keep up the posts, we are loving them!

  15. Sue says:

    Unbelievable!!! These pictures are amazing. I am so thrilled for you all!!! I don’t think you will ever be the same. Tanner (Ray’s new grandson – 6 years old) was here when we first heard from Ray. He is so fascinated. I sent him home with a picture of a gorilla for him to share with his class tomorrow. I love having this blog. Thanks for sharing with us, even when you were probably exhausted. Looking forward to the next installment. Ray you are amazing!

  16. Beth Martin says:

    So exciting to read your second post. I laughed out loud thinking
    about my brother, Scott donning a blond straw wig and dancing
    with the African children! Too funny! Fabulous photos of the
    gorillas. What a breath taking experience to be so close to them
    In their habitat. Can’t wait to read about your next adventures.

  17. Janie Labrum Moysh says:

    I just got a call from my friend Sue Taggart to check out this site and see what my friends Scott and Sue Kowallis were up to! WOW! I’m happy to know you haven’t been carried off by the big silverback Sue!

  18. Leatham & Tanner says:

    Grandpa Ray,
    We’re loving the blog and pictures! Tanner was beside himself when he saw the picture of you and the gorilla in the background! Looks like a great trip so far!

  19. Doug says:

    Looks like you and crew are having fun!

  20. Craig (LB) says:

    Amazing, fantastic, really really cool.

  21. Bob W says:

    Ray, so very exciting to read up with you all….. Very glad to see, and hear of all the sights, and adventures. Un believeable getting eye contact, not to mention a pass-by that CLOSE! Most EXCELLENT, my friend, MOST EXCELLENT!
    Take care, shoot well– and I await your next installment! My Thanks!

  22. Sue says:

    Ray, where can we get an itinerary so we can keep track of where you are? Your second Gorilla trek sounds like the movie Romancing the Stone and the race through the jungle. I’m impressed that you all hiked that far. What an amazing experience to be in a jungle like that. Love the pictures of the gorilla in the tree and the ones where he/she is looking through the foilage. Great job!!

  23. Colleen says:

    Thanks for the tales of your incredible journey! Eye to eye with a Silverback . . . wow. I can’t wait to see these pictures full screen! Love you Bro!

  24. Craig (LB) says:

    Ray, just remember you have a second group coming over and I hope you save some of your enthusiasm for us. Your postings are raising our excitement level to the max. Can’t wait to see your next posting. Be safe my friend.

  25. Angie Scott Bacon says:

    Ray, we really enjoy reading about your adventures. Isaiah asked me as I was reading, “Do you know this guy?” Yes silly, its your grandma’s brother. That only made the kids more interested in what I was reading. Thanks for sharing this very Exciting journey with us all. We love the commentary and the pictures, especially the one with you and the Gorilla’s. Stay safe and keep the comedy coming! We love you!

  26. Mike Wilde says:

    Holly Gorilla S*** Serengeti man. What a trip. Thanks for leaving us behind! You should have taken a SPOT GPS so we could see where you are on a Google Map! Africa was of our favorite experiences … ever! When we were there with you in 2009, I took more than 15,000 pictures. With my new 1DX, I can double that … can’t wait.

    Enjoy the rest of your time there.

    Mike & Chris, Ron & Ray.

  27. Julie Stockham says:

    Fabulous adventure, wonderful pictures! Thank you for sharing!! Stay safe and continue with the fun.

  28. Craig (LB) says:

    Ray, I hope your not to tired because your next group leaves for Africa in the morning and we’re not going to be easy on you. So dust off your boots, load your camera and prepare to show the rest of us what Africa has to offer.

  29. Craig (LB) says:

    Ray you are offering a MONEY BACK Guarantee if your second group doesn’t see the same or better photo ops, correct?

  30. Beth Martin says:

    Have been waiting eagerly for these last several days of updates. What fabulous pictures and Ray, your stories of the daily adventures are wonderful to read. Thanks for sharing and keeping us involved in this fantastic trip!

  31. Barb Beck says:

    The lion shot is priceless. I am going to use it to explain to Tom why I need to bring THREE cameras with me at all times. I love the blog, stories and especially the photos!