Serengeti Safari

Serengeti Safari - Elephant Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

We knew we wanted to make our way east across Tanzania (we had a flight booked out of Dar es Salaam) so we booked our 2 night 3 day camping Serengeti safari from Mwanza through Serengeti National Park around the edge of Ngorongoro Crater (you’ve gotta pay extra to go down into the crater where the rhinos are) and then catching the bus to Arusha.


Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

We saw almost everything you possibly can see in Serengeti. Lions. Giraffes. Elephants. Hippos. Heartbeasts. Cape Buffalo. We had a cheetah walk around our jeep and monkey that practically jumped into our jeep. We saw a number of leopards and even saw one with a fresh kill up in a tree. We got some great videos and amazing photos, despite not have any kind of a zoom lens. We spent two nights camping in the middle of the park waking up to giraffes walking less then 50 yards from our tent.

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Serengeti National Park, Tanzania Serengeti National Park, Tanzania Serengeti National Park, Tanzania Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania Lion Cub Serengeti National Park, Tanzania Monkey - Serengeti National Park, Tanzania Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

From there we made our way over to Ngorongoro Crater but on the way we crossed through the endless plains (Serengeti means “endless plains”) and the great migration. We’ve heard of the great migration, we’ve seen the National Geographic documentaries, “Planet Earth” etc. but it’s impossible to capture it. It’s wildebeest and zebras as far as you can see in every direction. There is a hill on the edge of the park and from the top you can see what almost looks like a single file line of wildebeest and zebras from one horizon to the other. We drove through the plain for over 2 hours and saw big herds and little groups, just as far as you could see everywhere. It was pretty epic.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Eventually even the “endless plains” ended and we made our way up the hills to the crater. We past Maasai villages and saw Maasai tending their herds and flocks among the giraffe, zebras and wildebeest as we made our way up to the rim of the crater. From the top you can see all the way across the crater and it’s looks like scene from Jurassic Park or something like that.

Ngorongoro Crater Ngorongoro Crater Ngorongoro Crater We came to the end of our Serengeti safari at the “bus station” in Karatu where we said goodbye to our guide and then got in a “minibus” to Arusha. It was a standard mini van that was filled way over capacity. And of course the mozungos get put in the way back. You know the little seat in the very back of a mini van that has 3 seatbelts and barely holds 2 adults? We sat 4 wide back there for 3 hours. We spent the night in Arusha then made our way to Moshi at the base of Kilimanjaro.

Our Guide Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania


Kilimanjaro Journal: Day 5 – Summit Day!

Kilimanjaro Summit Day Uhuru Peak

Day 5 (well kinda, starting at midnight on Day 4) — Jan 28, 2015 

I didn’t sleep too much before our midnight wake up call, but I still felt wide awake to begin our summit. Our guides told us that you have to start around midnight and climb the 4,000+ feet in the dark, so you make it to the summit right at sunrise… because as soon as the sun comes up the wind starts up. The wind is extremely strong, basically it’s blowing from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic with nothing to slow it town at that elevation on the whole continent. We had also heard that the clouds start to move in soon after the sun is up, and based on what we’d seen so far with the weather, we had no doubt.

Kilimanjaro Summit Day

We had been warned that it would be cold and windy and COLD! We probably didn’t have the best attire to summit Kili, let’s review. I had:

  • a very cute trenchcoat rain jacket from REI (it’s from REI, yes, but let’s just say it’s not exactly “technical alpine wear”)
  • a nano-weight down jacket that we’ve been carrying everywhere, it’s lightweight… it’s the lightest weight down jacket they make
  • nano-weight down vest (same deal)
  • lightweight hiking pants
  • pair of leggings
  • charming charlie’s cheap-o cotton scarfy thing
  • 2 tank tops
  • 1 t-shirt
  • 1 thin long sleeve t-shirt
  • Buff to be used as a hat like thing
  • My ole reliable hiking boots
  • A pair of borrowed gloves from a porter

And I wore every single piece of clothing I could…. Kinda felt like the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Rick had:

  • Hiking shorts
  • Lightweight hiking pants
  • Ski pants (yep, he wore all three!)
  • 2 Icebreaker t-shirts
  • 1 long sleeve Icebreaker t-shirt
  • Marmot nano-weight, very well loved down jacket
  • rain jacket
  • Merrell trail running shoes
  • Buff to be used as a hat like thing
  • A pair of borrowed gloves from a porter

Basically, we proceeded to put on EVERYTHING we had with us and hoped for the best!

Turns out that almost all of the other groups left at midnight. But thanks to our guide’s amazing confidence in our speed hiking abilities, or more likely his lack of desire to get up any earlier, we left at 1:15 AM. He assured us that we would have plenty of time to make the summit by sunrise… he failed to mention that was conditional on us basically doing a light jog up the 4,000+ feet to the summit. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a jog, but it felt like a powerwalking death march, as we passed group after group after group. More on that later…

We started up by the light of our headlamps. We could see other trekkers far ahead of us on the mountain, like a small trail of ants shown only by their headlamp light. Marching up the mountain in the dark only being able to see the back of the person in front of you and about a 4 foot circle of rock illuminated by head lamp gives you a lot of time to think… or sing. I sang the only song I’ve found that I know all the words too, Roger Creager’s, Everclear. Thanks, college. Thanks, Anne Jenkins Roberts. Rick was thinking “Strong Like Lion. Slow Like Turtle. Gassy Like Antelope.” Did I mention it was freezing cold and dark? Turns out we don’t take many pictures when it’s freezing cold and dark.

Luckily the sun does come up eventually to and way before you see the sun you can start making up the ridge line and then rocks around you and then finally the glacier and crater. We’re almost to the summit.

Kilimanjaro Summit Day

Kilimanjaro Summit Day


There is another peak “Stella” of sorts that is on one side of the crater that stopped at briefly before climbing the last hundred meters past the glacier around the edge of the crater on the way to Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro, the highest point on the continent of Africa and the highest freestanding mountain in the world!
19,341 feet above sea level (5985 meter).Kilimanjaro Summit Day

Kilimanjaro Summit Day


Kilimanjaro Summit Day Uhuru Peak


We made it! We tried to keep up the tradition of “Airplane” on the summit, unfortunately we didn’t get a great photo of it. It just looks like Rick is kicking me in the stomach WWE style.Kilimanjaro Summit Day Uhuru Peak Then it was Down. Down. Down.

Kilimanjaro Journal: Day 4


Day 4 — Jan 27, 2015

We woke up on day 4 of our Kilimanjaro trek to quite a bit of ice on our tent this morning, definitely a cold night. But we have clear skies and bright sun.

Kilimanjaro Kilimanjaro Kilimanjaro
After breakfast we tackled Barranco Wall, the wall that had been ominously staring at us all evening. It ended up being really fun! Rick and I agree it was our favorite part of the hike. It was more of a rock climb than a hike really, as we scaled the volcanic rock wall. At the top we took a quick break to acclimatize to the 1,000+ feet we had just ascended, and got to take some awesome pictures with the peak in the background.



Barranco Wall, Kilimanjaro


From there it was a lot of ups and downs through canyons and ridges, as we made to our lunch spot at 12,900 ft. The landscape started to get really sparse, even more that before with just gravel and perfectly round stones from softball to tire sized.



Kilimanjaro Kilimanjaro
After lunch we had 3 hours of hiking to make it up to base camp. The morning hiking wasn’t bad at all… But in the afternoon part of the hike I started to feel the altitude, lack of oxygen and fatigue a bit. We dipped down pretty far into a valley, so the last hour and a half push was straight up the steep mountain side. But when we made it to base camp we got a fabulous view of the summit, especially at sunset, we felt well rewarded.

Barafu Camp, Kilimanjaro
Base camp, called Barafu Camp, is over 15,300 feet. With only 3 days of acclimatization under our belt we could definitely feel the lack of oxygen when we moved around. The 400 ft walk to the outhouse from our tent was was quite an undertaking — the outhouse was far town a steep, scree covered hill — I’m embarrassed to admit the return uphill trip may have required a breather break midway for me!

Barafu Camp, Kilimanjaro
We will leave at midnight tonight to start the summit!!! CRAZY!! So we ate dinner as soon as we arrived into camp just about and were told to go to sleep at 6:00 while it was still light out. We knew we were in for a cold night, plus getting up at midnight to start the summit would be tough, so we got everything ready and slept in the base layers of clothing we would hike in the next day.

Barafu Camp, Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro Journal: Day 3

Day 3 — Jan 26, 2015
We woke up to a beautiful clear blue sky and amazing view of the Kibo Summit of Kilimanjaro, which is the highest point and where we will summit… assuming all goes well.

P1110903We were well above treeline at this point, just tons of rocks and boulders, and these really cool little ice formations everywhere. P1110902There are lots of lichens and moss, and a few little succulent looking plants that are really cute. No more animals though.

P1110923We had been told that today is our first really hard day. It was supposed to be 8+ hours of hiking, but we did it in 6 1/2 hours! To acclimatize we hike up to over 15,000 feet, but we are sleeping at 13,000 feet tonight. (Hike high, sleep low) The peak we went to today is called Lava Tower.


P1110906 It had some really impressive rock formations… Which we only got to see for about 2 minutes of the hour and a half we were there, because of the massive clouds/fog that rolled in. Man it was COLD!!! Seriously, look at the clouds!!

P1110916 P1110918The crew had a tent set up for us to eat lunch in and we pretty much stayed in there the whole time and were still cold even wearing all of the layers we brought in our day packs.


We were excited to head off the Lava Tower for our mostly descent to camp. It was probably one of my favorite sections of the hike so far. It was otherworldly with the clouds speeding across in front of us, revealing glimpses of huge bowling ball shaped black and grey volcanic boulders. We soon started following a hidden creek bed that was only revealed by the Silencio Trees growing in a line; they are water indicators and beautiful. We soon saw a small waterfall and plants that looked like outer space succulents.

P1110924The color palette around us could have inspired designer decorated house or impeccable wedding – heather gray, mossy green, lichen blue-green, highlights of bright thistle purple and sunny yellow. And the Lobilea Plants! These were once of our favorites.

P1110926We made camp at Barranco Campground.

P1110931 P1110921We can actually see Moshi from it when the clouds clear. And again we are fortunate to have amazing views of the summit! As we look up at it we what our guides tell us is the start of our trail for tomorrow, The Barranco Wall.

P1110942 P1110945The name wall is not an understatement! It is straight up!! I’m intimidated. Their sage advice was “just don’t think about it and it will be hakuna matata” (as you know from the lion king, hakuna matata means no worries. Yep, that’s actually Swahili and they actually use it!) well, comforting strategy, huh? Climbing 1,000 ft in an hour. Eek

P1110957Another Swahili saying we learned today was “ahh! mama yangu” meaning “oh my mother!” Kinda like “aye yay yay” or “mama mia” It’s pretty much the answer to anything, from a steep assent, to a funny joke, to another one of the porters running past us up the mountain.

P1110965Here’s a pic of our dinner set up. I will say, this is not our typical hiking experience, having plates and a full dinner and someone else cooking it, but it’s pretty nice. Of course, comes with a price tag… Which, as I said before, we wouldn’t have paid, except that it’s required that you have all these people to climb Kili. It has it’s pros and cons. My favorite part is having a tent set up and ready for us when we get into to camp and not having to break down camp in the mornings. I’m not such a fan of someone else determining the speed at which we hike, where we stop and which route we take. I’m leaning towards I’m an independent hiker… and our budget agrees with me.

Kilimanjaro Journal: Day 2

Day 2 — Jan 25, 2015
Today was the “easy day” only about 4 hours of hiking. As soon as we left camp, there were no more trees. We learned new Swahili today – we were told “Pole, Pole” (sounds like the Polly in Rolly Polly bug). It means “Slowly, Slowly”. We got in trouble from our head guide for hiking too fast yesterday (errr, talk to your assistant guide). So we hiked very “pole, pole” today… and still passed all of the other groups… but it was more enjoyable. I have a feeling we’ll be getting more and more “pole, pole” as we get higher up!
P1110851P1110858The day started off nice and sunny, but a few minutes after we got to camp the clouds rolled in with the wind and it got quite cold! So we spent most of the afternoon hunkered down in the tent. Especially when it started to lightly rain for a few minutes.

Just before dinner we went on a short little hike up to the ridge above camp. Passat when with us, showing us some really cool caves along the way, and then an awesome view. But really we went to help with acclimating, it was 200M higher than the campground, and tomorrow we have some really big elevation gain. Altitude sickness is the biggest risk here. Tonight we are sleeping around 12,000 feet at Shira Camp. The summit is over 19,000 feet and that will be the highest we’ve ever been… And 4 days is pretty fast to go from sea level to that high.


The food has been pretty good. We have a cook (required to have on the trip), and we eat in our tent since we took the cheap plan and didn’t pay for a mess tent. We get fruit, rice or pasta, some kind soup at every meal, and so far we’ve had meat at every meal. The first night was fish – which if you’re gonna have fish on a 6 day trek, you wanna have it on the first night! Today we had chicken… Which feels like it’s starting to be a little sketch. I mean it’s not like there is refrigeration, it’s cold at night but not thaaaaat cold during the day. I’m suspect, hoping that’s the last of the chicken we see. Our sweet porter “Manny” we called him because we couldn’t quite get his name, brought us hot water, tea, coffee and all of our meals to the tent. It was quite nice, especially when the temps dropped and the wind picked up, we could snuggle up in our sleeping bags and eat our meals.

P1110837The night was quite cold. It was ok in the tent (I did much better with the borrowed sleeping bag, Rick was a little cold with the knock off from Nepal, but he said with the bag liner and a bottle of hot water it wasn’t too bad). But when we had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom it was downright miserable!!! It’s pretty much unavoidable though… We are supposed to be drinking 5-6 litres of water a day, plus the Diamox meds we’re taking to help with the altitude make you have to pee. I was up 3 times and each time I thought I might freeze to death!


Kilimanjaro Journal: Day 1

Day 1 — Jan 24, 2015

We met our guide Francis and assistant guide Passat at the hostel, we were running late because we had been scrambling to find the things we needed in town like cash to pay, air tickets to get us to Zanzibar since we wouldn’t have time to go by bus now, 6 water bottles, a sleeping bag.  We got a quick briefing and we were off to the base of the mountain. After about two hours of hanging around the ranger station, waiting for paperwork, permits and payments to get worked out (TIA “This Is Africa” meaning it will be done in a languid, jovial, but extremely inefficient manner), we were off!
We are taking the Machame Route up the mountain. It’s considered, according to our guides, the 2nd or 3rd most difficult of the seven routes up to the summit. The easiest and most popular is the Marangu Route, nicknamed the Coca-Cola route because so many tourists do it and because there are huts that sell soda at most of the campsites on the way up. We learned as we started hiking that our route is nicknamed the Whiskey Route… we didn’t get a clear answer on why exactly, something about because it’s difficult, something about because it’s for the adventurous… I kinda think maybe because that just what goes with Coke? Will Jacobus, I see a branding opportunity here – The Jack Daniels Kilimanjaro Route!!
Day 1 was going through rain forest with these huge, beautiful trees… But it was unlike any rainforest we’ve ever seen! (And at this point we can say we’ve been in a few, from Costa Rica to Thailand to Brazil to Nepal) The rainforest here must be what Dr. Seuss used to inspire his illustrations! There were so many crazy looking plants, from right out of his books. There were giant fern trees, spindly spiky topped trees, stick trees covered in bright bluish-green mosses. It was pretty cool.
We hiked with just our assistant guide for this part, and quickly learned how he got his nickname Passat. When he was a porter, he was always the fastest up the mountain, like a car, so they named him Passat. We were passing everyone – all of the tourists and all of the porters! I’m proud to say that we kept pace, but it was a work out. We went from 1,800M to 3,000M.

Camp the first night was at 3,000M. We got great Kili views and to see a chameleon! Our guide found him and brought him to show us… An only in Africa science experiment, our guide told us to watch his color as he moved him from his dark-skinned hand to my light-skinned hand, and of course the chameleon adapted to our skin tones within seconds.

I did not sleep too well that night, I was cold most of the night. My knock-off “Narth Foce” sleeping bag from Nepal was not quite up to standard. But I made it through, and Rick says he’ll switch bags with me tomorrow night.


Kilimanjaro Journal: Pre-Trip

Kili: Pre-Trip Planning – Jan 23, 2015

Well, this part should be a short entry! Before we even left for this round the world trip, people kept mentioning Kilimanjaro and how we should totally climb it. Like a strange number of people, and as we were on the trip it kept coming up. So Rick and I had talked about it long and hard, and researched it. We learned that it’s mandatory that you have a professional guide and porters, required by the government no way around it. And the park fees about $50 per person per day!! We decided it was just WAAAAAAY WAY too expensive, and we wouldn’t really have time to do it, and after much debate, agreed that it was stricken from the list of possibilities.

…..Yeeeeaahhhh… so, you can see how well that went. P1120097After a day in Arusha, we decided that town wasn’t for us. It was a town of two extremes, either you were in the really rough African town part with nothing to do, or you were a VERY wealthy Westerner getting ready to leave on your luxury safari with your 5 butlers and caravan – we did not fit in. So on a whim we went to Moshi, the town at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. We figured it was smaller, would have better scenery, and mostly, well “why not?” and “let’s just get the heck out of dodge”. So after a few hours in a dala-dala we were there and wandering the dusty streets in search of a place to stay.

Our first lead from AirBNB was Hibiscus Guest House, but after we walked over there, there was no room in the inn… which turned out to be a good thing, because the price was crazy high and out of our budget! Plus the atmosphere was not so friendly. We were pointed to Karibu Hostel, and the moment we arrived we knew we were home! It’s a hostel that benefits a non-profit school Born to Learn, run by Spaniards. Not only were they incredibly welcoming, friendly and transparent about costs/prices (rare to find, we’ve learned), they spoke Spanish!! Sam, the owner, mentioned she had a connection with a guide service that was honest, gave a low price for her guests and gave some proceeds to her non-profit.We blew it off, since we had already made out decision not to go.

….but as it got to be evening, and after catching astounding glimpses of Kili’s summit, and after, perhaps more importantly, after a lovely bottle of South African Sauvignon Blanc, we looked at each other with the look we’ve come to know well, the “so, I’ve got a crazy idea” look…. What if we could, what if it was affordable, what if we cut our trip a little short to make it work, when else are we going to be in Tanzania…? And off we went to get more details from Sam about hiking Kili, but saying to each other, we won’t decide tonight, we’ll just get some information.

P1110838As soon as we mentioned it, Sam looked at our timing (flying to Argentina on the 2nd and hoping to go to Zanzibar before that), and pronounced that if we were going to go it had to be TOMORROW! She was on the phone with her guy before we could get another word out, and he was on his way to meet us “just to give us more information”…. It was 9:30 at night. Things moved quickly from there and around 10:30pm we were booked on a trek to summit Mount Kilimanjaro… that started the next morning.


We went in for dinner at the hostel (Spaniards eat quite late) and announced our plan to our new friends. We were, un-shockingly, met with shock. “You go MANANA?!” Another of the volunteers, from Canada, told us that she had been training for months in British Colombia, she had booked her trip months in advance, she had gotten all her gear already and asked quite concerned if we had gaiters, a light rain suit, a heavy downpour rain suit, alpine sleeping bags, our summit jackets, etc. Clearly we did not. She was flabbergasted – “WHAAAAA?!? But how can you….!? I mean, you can’t…. But you need…. I just can’t believe” let’s just say that didn’t exactly put me at ease.

Fortunately, from my quick post to Facebook that night, you guys gave me great encouragement! A HUGE Thank You to Anne J-Roberts, Patrick O’Neil, Gavin Davis, Esteban Delgado and Jimmy Abrams for the much needed encouragement! I’ll admit, on some of the tough moments of the summit I repeated “Always excited, never nervous” and “Crush it, Liz!” to myself. And of course, Dad, your email was awesome…Rick and I repeated it often during the trek “Sounds like a bunny climb. Bernard Goosen made it in a wheelchair… Twice! Just sayin’” 🙂


So around midnight we finished packing our trek pack and hoped for the best!


Seed Effect: South Sudan

Seed Effect

Seed EffectAs many of you know Liz and I are big supporters of Seed Effect a micro-finance ministry that we’ve worked with for the last few years. One of the “pillars” of our trip was to spend some time working with Seed Effect in South Sudan and our trip is right around the corner! We’ll be there in January spending about 10 days meeting the the local staff, collecting stories, learning and seeing what God is doing in South Sudan. We plan to document these stories of life change and share them through Seed Effects various social media channels (as well as right here of course).

Many of you have partnered with us to support the work Seed Effect is doing in South Sudan before but we’ve got some exciting, timely news … matching donation through the of the year!

So while many of you are considering your “End of Year Giving” please consider partnering with us and Seed Effect and you’re money will go even further with a matching gift.

You can read more about our heart for South Sudan, the work of Seed Effect as well as donate directly at You can hear more about the work of Seed Effect and stories of hope from the South Sudanese themselves below: