Iain Shiels, Head of Travel Product at the NDL Group, inspires with his Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater safari experience
There is something very primal and exciting about setting off on safari. The first time you witness ‘the big five’ with the wide-open Serengeti plains as your backdrop is remarkable. The experience is difficult to put into words – I’ll give it a go.
You feel the vast expanse surrounding you, smell rain before it arrives, and are constantly reminded that you’re in Africa and not a zoo. You are essentially another animal within the animal kingdom and for this reason, have access to some incredible experiences.
Irrespective of whether you visit after the rains when the high green grass provides camouflage for the animals, or during the dry season, when the dusty plains expand all around you, every day is different in the Serengeti.
Whether you’re looking to unwind in luxury with a gin and tonic as the sun sets, or free camp in the thick of it all, Unmissable® (brought to you by the NDL group) can deliver this for you and your customers. Inspired by exceptional experiences, Unmissable® creates campaign prizes, rewards and incentives for brands and media partners worldwide.
Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti is very much a driving national park although you can park up near a watering hole and wait for the mountain to come to Mohammed. I was desperate to travel as deep as I could and free camp out in the wild, away from other humans, to experience every noise and breaking branch.
During my first trip into the Serengeti, I ticked off ‘the big five’ in one day. I have no problem telling you that I almost cried when I witnessed a cheetah up an Acacia tree with its kill. It was a majestic experience and is ultimately the reason why as many people travel and why travel prizes are so rewarding for your customers – the pursuit of perfection.
As we drove around the park, I saw a dead elephant being devoured by a pack of vultures. I passed zebra, cross-necked to survey the area for predators, towering giraffe with their long necks outstretched for the most succulent leaves and lions grazing with cubs by watering holes, learning the craft from their parents. Every direction served up sights, which were equally awe inspiring and marvellous. From the larger animals to smaller insects camouflaged amongst trees, and termite mounds with their intricately carved cities extending above and below ground.
At night I free-camped within the confines of the park but without fences, away from all humans and falling asleep under a blanket of stars to the sounds of owls and night-hunters foraging. Despite thinking I would never drift off with all the after-dark noise, I slept soundly and awoke to an African sunrise, so beautiful that it inspires the day to rise again the following morning. Everything is larger than life in Africa!
Ngorongoro Crater is a huge volcanic caldera with an almost overwhelming concentration of wildlife. The area is lush and has many watering holes which bring the animals to graze, drink and call home. We stayed at &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, a slice of luxury that has earned the reputation of ‘game lodge at the top of the world.’ The lodge features an eclectic blend of teak panelling, Victorian furnishings and earthy African touches to create an atmosphere that is both elegant and unique.
Entering the crater is like when Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb, a veritable goldmine but mainly for wildlife. High grasses and dirt trails paved the way towards the lake, which was awash with a sea of pink flamingo. Black and white rhino stood solitary, whilst zebra and giraffe ambled away from my approaching jeep.
This trip was an incredible experience and one I remember fondly. The term ‘bucket list’ was created with experiences like this in mind and is the type of place one could return to time and time again, each time vastly different to the previous one.
Unmissable® (part of the NDL Group) top tip
Besides travel insurance, your best asset for the trip is a long zoom lens (minimum 300mm) so your photos aren’t grainy and a decent pair of binoculars. Take spare camera batteries, trust me. Finally, download a constellation star finder app because one thing you are sure to find is a magnificent southern hemisphere night sky.
Call the Unmissable® team on 0207 428 3090 to plan your next exceptional prize promotion, reward or incentive.