As a former editor of travel magazines I have been to many places and I still look forward to every new journey. However, there is something very special about seeing the world anew through the wide, clear eyes of a much younger person.
My 13-year-old granddaughter and I have recently returned from a marvellous trip to Africa. It’s been a hopeful dream for Lulu since I took her sister Rose to Paris several years ago. But Lulu didn’t have ambitions to see the Mona Lisa – she wanted to see wild animals! The “big five” were on her wish list.
We chose Tanzania for its wealth of wildlife, travelling with Abercrombie & Kent and Sanctuary Retreats, who planned our itinerary and provided much helpful information in advance.
It was a long flight via Doha to Zanzibar and from there we travelled on small planes to three very different Sanctuary safari camps in various parts of Tanzania. At each tented camp we had our own knowledgeable local guide and driver to take us game spotting each day.
Tarangire National Park: Sanctuary Swala
Arusha is a small city in the north of Tanzania. Lunch in a coffee plantation was our first taste of real Tanzanian food. Ugali, the beloved local staple, is a sort of maize porridge. Lulu is an adventurous eater. She liked the spicy local greens and the bananas with beef, but decided the Ugali was a bit too bland.
On the long drive from Arusha to Tarangire we had our first exciting wildlife encounter as a huge Tawny eagle landed on the road clutching a writhing silver snake in its talons.
Africa is the perfect place to play the collective noun game. By the time we arrived at the camp we had spotted many dazzles of zebra, a tower of giraffes, an elegance of impala and many warthog families. We grew fond of these ugly but amusing little creatures strutting in line with radar tails erect and an air of bustling self-importance.
A local guide shows Lulu the best of Sanctuary Swala at Tarangire National Park
Our luxurious safari tent had cosy beds swathed in mosquito netting with a separate bathroom and outdoor shower. To Lulu’s delight, there was unlimited, if erratic, wifi.
At a briefing from the staff we were told to “keep your tent zipped up or naughty monkeys will play with your things”. We were warned never to go outside after dark without the company of a Maasai warrior. “Just wave your torch and he will come”. The dignified warrior, who escorted us to dinner, wore the traditional red checked blanket and big green gumboots.
Ngorongoro Crater Camp
This camp is located on the rim of a vast extinct volcano. Towering walls frame a natural enclosure that contains an abundance of wildlife.
Here we visited a Maasai village, sat with a family in their smoke filled mud hut and admired the colourful beadwork worn by shy young women. We’re told that the Headman currently has 15 wives, 70 children and that girls are still sold in marriage for cattle at a very young age. Lulu and I can only reflect on our own privileged female lives.
Lulu ticked off an encounter with a leopard from her bucket list
On the early morning drive we come so close to a big tumble of lionesses and cubs feasting on the remains of a zebra that we can hear them crunching. From here we tick off a long list of different species from hippos and hyenas to wildebeest, buffalo and dozens of brilliant birds. “It’s like a Noah’s Ark with the whole crater full of animals,” says our guide Gilbert.
The Serengeti National Park: Sanctuary Kusini
This permanent tented camp is built around a massive rocky outcrop. In the evening huge cushions covered in bright Swahili fabrics are set out on the warm rock for guests to view the sun setting over the Serengeti Plains.
Seeing the big cats in Africa is not always guaranteed, but at Kusini our skilled guide Emanuel finds us a leopard posing in a huge tree (pictured right). We parked almost underneath it for the perfect view and some quality photography.
We followed a cheetah family for several hours watching the mother stalk a young gazelle. She brought it down with a sudden dash of speed and a flurry of dust, then we drove up close to witness her four cubs move in for a rather bloody feast.
Lulu and I will remember our special time together in Tanzania for the rest of our lives.
It was a connection between two generations. Perhaps something Lulu experienced will influence her future studies. I’m sure she will go back to Africa one day, but for the moment there are the photographs, videos and a diary. And yes, she saw that “big five” and much, much more.
Have you travelled with your grandchildren? Where did you go?