Lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhinoceros are the most sought after and dangerous of the world’s big game. In previous centuries it was these five species that drew hunters to Africa to experience the blood pounding thrill of hunting and shooting the ‘Big 5’. Thankfully these animals are no longer hunted, but the exhilaration that one experiences when spotting the ‘Big 5’ from a safari vehicle is as thrilling as ever. Our March 2014 conference offered delegates a well paced safari program that included accredited conference sessions led by Professor David Castle.

Conference participants were met on arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport by the driver guides who would be leading our African adventure over the next 10 nights. The first game drive of the tour in Arusha National Park with a highlight being the opportunity to hop out of the vehicles and do a 90 minutes bush walk allowing us to get up close to some giraffe, baboons, elephant and other wildlife. Lunch was enjoyed at the beautiful Hatari Lodge.

From Arusha we headed to Tarangire National Park – home to the second greatest concentration of wildlife in Tanzania. The beautiful baobab trees were a stand out as were the large elephant
herds. We also managed to see some migratory wildebeest, zebra, buffalo and impala. It was then onto Maramboi Tented Camp for the night. Located on the shores of Lake Manyara, it is on the migratory corridor of the Tarangire and Manyara ecosystem. It is a permanent camp offering endless vistas of the Manyara National Park, Rift Valley and Ngorongoro highlands. The area was rich in wildlife, wile the camp offered spacious tents built on raised wooden decks. With private en-suites… this was ore glamping than camping!

We set out for Lake Manyara National Park the following morning. The compact game-viewing circuit here offered us breathtaking views and a number of different habitats including woodlands, water forests, algae-streaked hot springs, swamps and of course the lake itself. Manyara has the largest concentration of baboons anywhere in the world and we saw out share. We missed out on the pink-hued flamingos but were very fortunate to have our first sightings of Lions. A delicious picnic lunch was arranged for participants.

It was then onto Ngorongoro Farmhouse and visits with the Hadzabe and Datoga tribes. The Hadzabe people, of whom only around 1000 remain are still true nomads so it was with some delight that our local guides were able to direct us to their temporary camp. Once there, we visited inside their tiny huts, follow them on a gathering foray and accompanied some of the young men on a hunt for rabbit in the wildlife rich woodland area. The group then enjoyed an archery lesson and was treated to some traditional dancing and singing. We then visited a Datoga community and learnt about their traditional pastoral way of life. They are skilled craftsman and we saw them making metal jewellery.

One of the highlights of our itinerary was Ngorongoro Crater – quite possibly the most famous of all Africa’s conservation areas. It is the largest intact volcanic caldera in the world and home to a permanent population of more than 300,000 animals including all of the “Big Five”. It was near the crater that we also met and shared in the daily life of the local Masai people.

The vast grass plains of the Serengeti became our home for the the remainder of the safari as we followed the migratory herds of Wildebeest pass through the area. With many young calves being born at this time of year, the large number of predators that follow the herds were a site to behold. Lions, cheetah and the elusive leopard were all sighted as were the more common hyena and wild hunting dogs.