On Safari in Tanzania: The Great Migration in the Serengeti

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Herds of Wildebeest on the plains of the Serengeti

There is good reason why going to Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park to witness the Great Migration is on virtually every shortlist of dream safaris. During the annual great migration, vast numbers of animals including herds of wildebeest, zebra, Thomson’s gazelle and eland and move between Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and the adjacent Masai Mara in Kenya seeking water and grazing land.

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Sunlight on the shaggy manes of wildebeest 

The migration pattern follows the seasonal rains in East Africa, although the dates aren’t precise and can vary slightly from year to year. The sheer number of animals (estimated to be near 2 million total) makes it one of the most visually stunning wildlife events that takes place on the planet.

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A herd of wildebeest crossing the Mara River

The journey isn’t always a safe one. Large crocodiles lay in wait in the Mara river, knowing it’s just a matter of time before a slow or injured wildebeest crosses their paths. Prides of lions are plentiful in the Serengeti for good reason. It’s like living in an apartment located next to a grocery store. I’ve been on a handful of safaris and I’ve never seen such well fed, satiated lions.

A herd of wildebeest crossing the Mara river during the great migration

Wildebeest (also known as gnus or wildebai) are abundant and follow a seasonal map that is generally predictable. That is one of the reasons I chose to stay at the & Beyond Under Canvas Serengeti camp.

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Magic hour skies and wildebeest

&Beyond Under Canvas Seregeti’s camp is semi-permanent and moves locations a few times through the year to follow the migration patterns of the herds and maximize wildlife viewing opportunities for guests. The excellent rangers and trackers at &Beyond Under Canvas helped me capture these amazing images of wildebeest.

Safari Photo Essay: Lions of the Serengeti, Tanzania

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Playful young lion in the Serengeti

My recent trip to Tanzania’s Serengeti was pretty much Lionpalooza. The big cats were so beautiful and impressive I thought they deserved their own photo essay.

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Pink tongue on a young lion

Visiting Serengeti National Park in Tanzania during the great migration, I knew I was going to see wildebeest. The quantity of lions was amazing.

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African male lion in Serengeti National Park

Also known as Panthera leo, lions are giant cats. The males can weigh up to 420 lbs. Adult females can grow to 280 lbs.

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Left: Date night for African lions Right: a young lion in the Serengeti

Lions are very big, roaring cats. Everyone knows cats rule the internet.

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Playful pair of young African lions

During the great migration, when millions of wildebeest and other animals are moving through the Serengeti, lions are plentiful and seem well fed.
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Lion lounging on a rock in Serengeti National Park

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Mama lion keeping her cub in line with swats of giant paws

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Lions lying around

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Love the pink tongue on this lion

Photos in this essay were taken when I was on safari with  & Beyond Serengeti Under Canvas and The Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti.

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Scene from a safari in the central Serengeti

Photo Essay: A Visit to a Maasai Village in the Ngorogoro Crater, Tanzania

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Portrait of a young Maasai in Tanzania

Taking great pictures of safari animals during the Great Migration was my photographic goal for my recent trip to Tanzania. Yet some of my favorite images are from a cultural visit to the Maasai (also known as Masai) village of Ndemwa, located in the Ngorogoro Crater Conservation Area.

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Maasai greeting in the Ngorogoro Crater, Tanzania

The Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti offers a day trip to the Ngorogoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s largest unflooded calderas. Several Maasai tribes call the Ngorogoro Crater home, with small villages dotting the harshly beautiful landscape.

Welcome Dance at the Ndemwa Masai Village in the Ngorogoro Crater

Traditionally, the Maasai are herders. They live off of the meat, blood, and milk of their livestock. They herd goats, cows and sheep. It’s a difficult life and becoming tougher in modern times. Many Maasai now leave traditional village life to take jobs as safari trackers or security guards. These skills come naturally to men who were raised guarding their herds from predators like lions.

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Awash in color, the Maasai are hard to miss 

Like Native People in so many other countries, there are geopolitical issues at play and some want the tribes relocated. For those who stay and continue on the traditional way, additional funds are needed to buy water and supplies for the village.

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Maasai jewelry hanging in a traditional dung hut

In addition to allowing tourists to visit their villages for a fee, the Maasai also sell beaded jewelry they make.

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The Entry to the Maasai Village

The traditional Maasai live in dung huts built by the women tribe members. The huts are rebuilt every two to three years.

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Portrait of a Maasai woman surrounded by jewelry

The Maasai also practice polygamy. Traditionally a man’s first wife is found by his parents from another village, since most of the villagers are related by blood.

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Male Maasai photographed inside a dung hut

After his first wife is chosen for him, a male Maasai is free to choose his own additional wives. Each wife lives in a separate dung hut with her children and the male splits his time between each. If he can support several wives, a Maasai man can start his own village. How does TLC not have a Sister Wives: Maasai spinoff yet?

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The colorful and chaotic Maasai greeting

Maasai are also resourceful. Their footwear is made from old motorcycle tires. The ultimate in upcycling style!

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Maasai footwear made from repurposed tires

I met several Maasai during my trip to Tanzania who did not stay in the village. Maasai work as camp and hotel guards, as well as safari trackers.

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Brightly dressed Maasai in the Ngorogoro Crater, Tanzania

Some visitors to Tanzania dislike the touristic angle of Maasai village visits. Common complaints are about shakedowns for cash or overcharging for jewelry. I did not have a problem it. I understand the business angle and it’s easy to see how the traditional village way of life would require more cash flow to survive in the modern world.

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Adumu: the Maasai jumping ritual

The Maasai have a jumping ritual known as adumu, which is fascinating to watch. Both the men and women can catch some serious air!

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Maasai school in the Ngorogoro Crater

I also enjoyed visiting the school to see the one room where the village children are taught before they are old enough to herd.

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Portrait of a Maasai woman and child

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Male Maasai jumping during the Adumu jumping ritual

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Young Maasai herding goats and cattle in the Ngorogoro Crater Conservation Area

I felt it was an honor to get a brief glimpse into traditional Maasai life and very much enjoyed my visit.

Exploring the Pacific Northwest: Five Fun Things To Do in Portland, Oregon

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The Volcano Bowl at Hale Pele

I recently went on a quick girlfriend getaway to Portland, Oregon. Only three hours away from Seattle by car, the Rose City is one of my favorite Pacific Northwest destinations. Here are five fun things to do the next time you get to the town known as Beervana.

1) Explore the Alberta Arts District

Portland is all about the different vibes of various neighborhood. It’s fun to explore them. We asked PDX natives for their favorite spots in the city. Both our uber driver and a local photographer suggested we check out Alberta Street. We loved it!

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Rose mural being painted by Pablo’s Murals

On the shopping front, Digs Inside & Out  was a standout for its excellent edit of home and garden items. The air plant section was hella impressive.

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Funky bunny street art

The 26 blocks of Alberta Street are known as the Alberta Arts District. They are a great place to see street art, shop in local boutiques, and check out some of the local food carts.

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Meh flag and artsy pillows for sale on Alberta Street

Alberta Arts District

The neighborhood centers on Alberta Street, a thoroughfare stretching through the North and Northeast sections of the city and crossing Interstate 5.

2) Take a Trip to a Tiki Bar

Since the Pacific Northwest’s weather is notoriously moody, you can take an instant tropical getaway by going to one of Portland’s tiki bars. Kitschy, retro and totally fun, Portland has a few notable tiki bars. This time we headed to Hale Pele.

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Zan says “if you aren’t doing this on way out of a Tiki Bar, you are Tiki Barring wrong”

Hale Pele had an excellent staff and a high theatrical factor. We ordered the Volcano Bowl for the table.

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Tiki Bar kitsch on 11 at Hale Pele

Based on recipe from the 1970s from Don the Beachcomber, the Volcano Bowl was made with grapefruit, lime, aged rums, allspice, and set on fire!

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Who needs beer? Behold: The Hale Pele Volcano Bowl

We had already had dinner, but the menu looked pretty tasty and we had a fried dough dessert that was good enough to make us want to come back to sample a selection of Pu-Pus.

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Instagram worthy cocktails at Hale Pele Tiki Bar

Hale Pele proves Portland is about way more than beer.

Hale Pele Tiki Bar

Address: 2733 NE Broadway St, Portland, OR 97232, United States
Phone: +1 503-662-8454

3. Stop and Smell the Roses

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Tending Roses is serious business

One of the many reasons Portland is known as “Rose City” is because it’s climate is ideal for growing the flowers. You can see and smell these floral beauties by visiting the International Rose Test Garden, which is free to visitors.There are well labeled sections for Gold Medal Roses as well as Miniature Rose Test Garden.

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Award winning roses at the International Rose Test Garden

All the roses are clearly named. I did not know there was a Neil Diamond Hybrid Tea Rose until we wandered through this peaceful and beautiful place.

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Busy Bees in the rose garden

Address: 400 SW Rose Park Rd, Portland, OR 97205, United States
Phone: +1 503-823-3636

4. Sample Portland’s Foodie Scene

The Pacific Northwest has one of the most dynamic and exciting food scenes in the country. Chef Andy Ricker has won many awards for his unique Thai Street food served at his restaurants. We ate dinner at Pok Pok‘s original location.

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Pok Pok’s exterior brings back memories of Thailand

We went for Kai Yaang ($14), half of a locally sourced, charcoal roasted, air-cooled chicken, seasoned with lemongrass, garlic, pepper and cilantro.

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Pok Pok’s Kai Yaang chicken and roasted corn.

The bird was served with dipping sauces and sticky rice. It’s served family style. There is even a cool bar in the back of the restaurant.

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Drinking vinegars at Pok Pok

Address: 3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202, United States
Phone: 1 503-232-1387

5. Explore the World’s Largest Independent Book Store

Head to the Pearl District to explore Powell’s City of Books. Powell’s has a few locations but the flagship store on Burnside is not to be missed.

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Exploring Powell’s City of Books (photo by Whitney in Portland for Flytographer)

I love a well organized brick and mortar bookstore and it’s hard to beat Powell’s. We explored it during our Flytographer session which you can read about here.

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How did I not write this book?  (photo by whitney in Portland for Flytographer)

Address: 1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209, United States
 Phone: 1-503-228-4651

Super Flytographer Experience in Portland, Oregon

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Flytographer Whitney shooting Katie in Portland’s Pearl District (Photo by Jen Pollack Bianco)

EDITOR’S NOTE: all other photos in this post are by Whitney in Portland for Flytographer

Trips with my BFFs don’t happen in my life nearly as much as they should. I am incredibly lucky to have great girlfriends with adventurous spirits who agreed to meet me for a Pacific Northwest girlfriend getaway. Since I live in Seattle, that was a logical place to start. We wanted a “road trip” segment so we headed to Portland for 36 hours in the Rose City.

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Just hanging out in the Pearl District

Katie has been my BFF since the first day of Fourth grade in Indianapolis. She was my college roommate and my bridesmaid. When Zan showed up in middle school, we became a power trio. The three of us have had many adventures and a few misadventures together. Now we live in three different cities and don’t get together nearly enough. When planning our PNW girls trip, I realized I didn’t want to be the one behind the lens the entire time. So many of the photos of the three of us have been taken at weddings and reunions. We just did not have enough photos of the three of us simply goofing around and enjoying each other’s company. Enter… Flytographer.

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Our Flytographer experience was Yo, Awesome and Rad

We rocked these Sisters of Los Angeles Baja jackets for part of our shoot

Flytographer is a destination photography company whose motto is “some trips deserve more than selfies.” This was one of those trips. I’ve been wanting to try out Flytographer since some of my fellow travel blogger friends have used the destination photography service. Flytographer offers short photo sessions in most major cities and vacation destinations on six continents. The company works by pairing clients with local photographers. Flytographer shoots are a no-brainer for major life events like proposals and babymoons. I went with Whitney in Portland because I liked her photographic sensibility and thought her love of travel made her the right choice for our girlfriends getaway.

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The yellow VW Microbus we stumbled upon was a great shoot location

After filling out Flytographer’s request form with relevant info, I got a quick response from a Flytographer Concierge who kept me looped in during the whole process and let me know she was checking Whitney’s availability. Then I read Flytographer’s Style Guide. While we definitely wanted candid photos, I did want us to look like our we had our act together. Zan and I recently bought jumpsuits we love at Bleu Clothing, so we convinced Katie to jump on the jumpsuit bandwagon. We drew our fashion inspiration from fashion icons like Charlie’s Angels and The Pointer Sisters. Sex and the City came up as a style reference as well. But there were four main characters in SATC, and no one in my girl squad is the Miranda.

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Chillaxing in Tanner Springs Park

Props to Katie for finding a red jumpsuit online and rocking it like a young Diane Von Furstenberg! Have I mentioned my friend Katie is crazy resourceful?

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Exploring Powell’s City of Books

My Flytographer, Whitney, was great about suggesting locations for the shoot. We decided to star with Tanner Springs Park and then head to downtown Portland. The Flytographer Concierge put all the details together so we knew where and when to meet Whitney. We had a great time during this shoot. Not only did we have an excuse to dress up and act silly, but we got to explore the Pearl District with a Portland native, which was fun. We wound up in Powell’s City of Books, one of my favorite bookstores on the planet. This was perfect because all three of us girls are still book nerds.

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Obligatory Charlie’s Angels homage

As you can see, the inner child in each of us is alive and well.

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Another classic Charlie’s Angels pose

We did a mix of posed and candid shots with Whitney, who was great at given us direction. Going in, my goal was to get three good shots out of the Flytographer session. I think we wound up with a lot more than that, and we had a lot of fun during our shoot. We finished with a round of Cosmopolitans at Pepe le Moko, a funky subterranean bar that felt like a bomb shelter.

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We finished our session with a round of cosmos at Pepe Le Moko

I really enjoyed shooting with Whitney and found myself relaxing in front of the camera for once. The fun continued when I got a preview postcard from Flytographer two days later which included a great teaser shot from our shoot. The link to the final images arrived in my email a few days later.

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 We even got a few quick single shots during our Flytographer session

Flytographer sessions start at $250. You can check out their packages here.

I am so grateful to have such lifelong girlfriends who were game for this. We had an amazing Flytographer experience, and it was worth every penny. These photos will make me happy for many years to come, and I think my BFFs feel the same way. Katie is even thinking about booking a Flytographer session for her holiday cards.

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Love this shot from Tanner Springs Park

I never regret making time to get together with my girlfriends. We laughed non-stop and agreed we need to do trips like this more often. Flytographer’s mini-photo sessions are a great way to get memorable souvenirs from your next holiday or vacation. Since Flytographer also offers prints, I’m pretty sure Katie and Zan know what they are getting for Christmas this year. I’ve had such a great Flytographer experience I am officially a fan of the brand.

Flytographer

Address: 330 – 517 Fort Street, Victoria BC Canada V8W 1E7
Office hours: 9am-5pm Pacific Time
Phone:  1 (888) 211-7178

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Our Portland photographer was Whitney.

 

A Picture Per Day