The Climb

The Ndifo Crew Climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro

After months of training and preparation, the Ndifo Crew took to the mountain in April for seven life-changing days and nights.  It was the most difficult thing any of us have ever done.  Gym training and cardio can get your physical body ready for this, but there are few experiences that ready your mind and spirit for the challenges faced on such a long climb.  The feeling of discovering that all the clothing that is currently not on your body is soaked through inside a faulty waterproof bag, and will not dry at any point on the trip, can be overwhelming (more about the rainy season below).  Altitude sickness trying to consume you more and more each day makes you question every step forward.  The experiece could make or break anyone.  And coming down the mountain is almost as hard as going up on slick piles of gravel and snow that feel more than quicksand than a mountain. Steve Ngowi, Ndifo’s owner & lead guide, was born and raised on the southern slope of Kilimanjaro.  Although he’d spent his life gazing at the mountain, he never dreamed of climbing it.  “Climbing was for the foreign visitors to Tanzania,” Steve remembers, “it is not something that many local citizens can afford to do.  Much gear and training is needed for this climb.”  Steve did know young men his age who became porters for the tourist climbs – everyone knew what a hard life that was carrying up to 33lb (15kg) on their backs and heads up and down the 19,300ft (5,895m) slick rock mountain over and over with only the most basic gear.  So like most other Tanzanians, just the thought of making the climb never crossed Steve's mind. But now that Steve is a tour operator himself, he found guests asking his opinion about the climb.  To be able to consult in a knowledgeable manner, he knew that it was time to climb the mountain himself.  And as a Tanzanian, he felt that it was time to claim his own Tanzanian experience on Kilimanjaro.  The crew spent months working out and running each day to get ready.  It was a mission.  Below, we detail more of the experience and recommendations for prospective climbers. Now that he’s done it, this is one more aspect of the wonders of Tanzania that Steve can share with guests when they want experiences beyond safari.  Read more here about what this climb means to Steve.  

Want to do it, too?

Here are some tips for planning your Kilimanjaro climb

  • When you go is VERY important
[caption id="attachment_7357" align="alignright" width="298"] Navigating the slippery rocks[/caption] We did this trip at the height of rainy season, which isn't recommended for many people.  The rain caused the living conditions to be more difficult than the actual climb at times.  It rained inside our tents many nights, so everything we had stayed wet.  Wearing a poncho half the time kills the mood a little as well.  However, there are very few climbers on the mountain this time of year – the place belongs to you, and you move at your own pace.  When you go during the more physically comfortable high season, the mountain will experience incredible traffic jams at places like the Barranco Wall (described in harrowing detail below) where climbers must pass one-by-one.  When there are hundreds of climbers and porters passing through this bottleneck, you may wait for hours just to pass.
  • Rainy season: End-February to mid-May
  • Peak season: June to October
  • High season: Through the end of November
[caption id="attachment_7372" align="alignright" width="298"] Steve having his daily medical checkup[/caption]
  • Getting Ready
[caption id="attachment_7364" align="alignleft" width="250"] Carrying all our stuff![/caption] You don’t have to be an elite athlete to climb Kilimanjaro whatsoever, but you have to be in the best shape of your life and able to climb for hours on back-to-back-to-back days. You’ll be navigating slick mountain rocks and incredibly steep snow packs for up to 8 hours in a day – and in some spots you’ll use your arms to pull yourself over a ledge.  Get your lungs ready for extreme altitude. It wouldn't hurt to check in with a doctor before you go.  Train somewhere at altitude if you have a chance as your lungs will suffer far more than your legs if your cardio isn't there.
  • Know Your Gear & Your Clothing
Be sure you have the right gear. (Full recommended list below.)  Don’t skimp on this step. Test your gear before you come. The first night of your climb shouldn’t be the first time you check the batteries in your flashlight.  Go camping with all your gear at least one night before so that you know what works before you are on the mountain.  Be sure you like the smell of the inside of your sleeping bag - you'll be taking shelter in it more than you can know. Wear your clothes and hiking boots around flat groud for a bit before you wear them on your way up.  Be sure everything is very comfortable.  Your clothing should be as waterproof as possible.  Test everything out - we found out the hard way that there are different levels of waterproof.  This goes for your bag covers as well.
  • Tipping
Bring cash tip money for your guides and porters. When you see these human beings carry all your stuff – clothes, tent, sleeping bag, food, water, toilet, and all your toiletries for a week – up the same implausibly impassible route you are struggling up, you will want to thank them the best way possible.  So little goes so far, and they work so hard for your safety and happiness.  You'll have 6-7 porters and one guide per climber.  Not only will they haul and prepare all your food for a week, they will assemble your tent each day before you arrive at camp and bring you tea in your tent each morning.
  • Route
Pick the Route that is right for you considering length of time you want and one that fits your physical capabilities. We took the Machame Route to the summit. It’s a 7-day route that we took in 6.  We’ll describe our experience by day below.

Machame Route Notes

  This is now the most popular route on the mountain. Compared with Marangu, the days on Machame are longer and the walks are steeper. The Machame route is considered a difficult route, and is better suited for more adventurous folks and those with some hiking or backpacking experience. The route begins from the south, then heads east, traversing underneath Kilimanjaro's southern ice field before summiting. The minimum number of days required for this route is six days, although seven days is recommended. The Machame route is scenically beautiful and varied. However, due to the heavy crowds, it loses some of its splendor during high season.  
DAY 0: The day before our climb, our guides, Martin and Jackson, met with us to review our gear and make sure we had everything we would need.
DAY 1: MACHAME GATE TO MACHAME CAMP (Elevation 5,400ft to 9,400ft, Distance: 11 km, Hiking Time: 5-7 hours, Habitat: Rain Forest)The drive from our hotel in Moshi to National Park Gate took about an hour.  It suddenly occurred to us what we were actually about to do.  A nervous anticipation began to set in.  We left all our belongings with the 12 porters who were going to carry it all up with them – on their backs and their heads the whole way.Then we set off up the mountain with our guides.  We had no idea how many times these guys would save our lives.  The walk goes through the forest on a winding trail up;; a ridge, and the was muddy and slippery.  We ended at Machame Camp where we had our first great, warm meal prepared in the camp over an open fire.
DAY 2:  MACHAME CAMP TO SHIRA CAMP (Elevation: 9,400ft to 12,500ft, Distance: 5 km, Hiking Time: 4-6 hours, Habitat: Moorland)After breakfast, we left the glades of the rain forest and continued on an ascending path, crossing the little valley walking along a steep rocky ridge covered with heather, until the ridge ends then west into a river gorge.     
DAY 3: SHIRA CAMP TO LAVA TOWER TO BARRANCO CAMP (Elevation: 12,500ft to 13,000ft, Distance: 10 km, Hiking Time: 6-8 hours, Habitat: Semi Desert)From the Shira Plateau, we continued to the east up a ridge, passing the junction towards the peak of Kibo. We reached the Lava Tower, then up to the Arrow Glacier at an altitude of 16,000ft. We then continued down to the Barranco Hut at an altitude of 13,000ft. Although we ended the day at the same elevation as when we started, the day is very important for acclimatization. 
NEW Day 4 (We combined day 4&5 of a suggested 7 day climb to finish in 6 days to get out of the rain.) DAY 4: BARRANCO CAMP TO KARANGA CAMP + DAY 5: KARANGA CAMP TO BARAFU CAMP (Elevation: 13,000ft to 15,300ft, Distance: 9 km, Hiking Time: 8-10 hours; Habitat: Alpine Desert) This was a tough day.  We decided to combine day 4 & 5 because the rain was so punishing that we feared that our cold, wet nights of getting no sleep would exhaust us more than pushing through with to shorter days together.  The day begins with a bang – the first thing is crossing a river to go right over to a sheer piece of rock called the Barranco Wall.  This part of the climb is seriously no joke.  This is the part you really need to be fit for as you are climbing slick, narrow patches of rock along a cliffside over to what is called “The Kissing Rock” or “Hugging Wall”. This reference is made because of the narrowness of the trail at this point. When climbing this portion, you need to flatten against the wall to avoid falling off a steep drop. It can be a bit intimidating. Many climbers will kiss the wall as they pass through. Although you do not need to be an expert climber to tackle the wall, you need to be a smart climber. The Barranco Wall is made up of steep and narrow paths that require climbers to use all four limbs to traverse the ascent.Then we passed the the Karanga Valley campsite and continue up to the Barafu Hut. That was the completion of the South Circuit.  Here we made camp and prepared for the summit day. The two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo can be seen from this position. [arve url=""  /] [arve url="" /]
DAY 5: BARAFU CAMP TO SUMMIT (Elevation: 18,600ft to 10,000ft, Distance: 5 km ascent / 12 km descent, Hiking Time: 7-8 hours ascent / 4-6 hours descent. Habitat: Arctic)This was the toughest day hands down.  We began hiking at 1am in the pitchblack with side-ways sleety-snowy-rain pounding us.  It was cold and miserable, and nobody had slept much.  We made our way up to the summit between the Rebmann and Ratzel glaciers.  This is the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek.  Every step was made with extreme effort for the next 7 hours.  The sun finally made it’s way above the clouds as we reached Stella Point (18,600 ft).If climbing Kilimanjaro is the hardest thing we’ve ever done, coming down is the second.  From the very first step all the many hours back to base camp, every step is a mixture of snowy gravel that acted like quicksand with every step – forcing you to remain light on your feet and move quickly or risk being sucked into the mountain.[arve url=""/] 


This is just as important as your own body’s physical readiness.

The right gear will make all the difference in your climb:

Outer Pants
  • 1 pair warm/ski pants for snow
  • At least 1 pair 100% waterproof pants for rain
  • At least 1 pair fleece pants/joggers for camp
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 larger rain poncho to cover everything
  • 1 cold weather/ski jacket
  • 2-3 fleece/sweater during rainy season (1-2 other times)
Under Clothes
  • 2-3 long underwear tops & bottoms
  • 3-4 thermal base layers tops & bottoms
  • 1 pair slightly large hiking boots to give your feet room to breathe & to accommodate thick socks
  • 1 pair warm casual shoes for camp
  • 5-6 pair wool hiking socks
  • 2 pair casual socks for around camp
  • Camel Bag
  • 2 head lamps & batteries
  • Phone charging bricks
  • Gaters to waterproof your shoes in muddy areas
  • Walking Sticks
  • Waterproof bags of various sizes for all your clothing
  • Mountaineer sunglasses
  • Backpack for you to carry your daily needs with you
  • 1 pair light “gripper” gloves for rock navigation
  • 1 pair of very warm winter/ski gloves
Sleeping Bag
  • 15cm for very cold weather
  • Don’t go cheap on this one.
  • Balaclava
  • Warm hat/beanie
  • Sun Hat
Duffle Bags
  • To pack your things for the porters to collect every morning for them to carry.
Sunscreen and Wet Wipes
  • Don't forget to bring tons of sunscreen and plenty of wet wipes. You will not have access to a shower for a week.


A Native Son Conquers Mt. Kilimanjaro

Ndifo’s Owner & Lead Guide, Steve Ngowi on the Meaning of His Climb

Steve was born on the southern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro as a member of the Chagga tribe of northern Tanzania.  Most Tanzanians don’t get the chance to climb Kili, so it’s not something he ever thought he’d do. But now that now that Steve is a safari company owner, he wants to experience every aspect of East African tourism so that he can provide guidance for his own guests when they choose to add on activities to their safaris.  That means getting ready to summit the 19,341ft (5,895m) peak in April. Steve reflects on what this journey means to him: “We call Kilimanjaro the pillar of our strength as the Chagga tribe. The mountain is just next door but unfortunately many of us cannot manage to climb it.  We see people fly across the world to come and record that they have been on the highest peak in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.  But we as Tanzanians we aren't lucky to climb it because it's expensive. Just to invest in the gear to go for the climb people will ask themselves if they can afford it.  So, I am honored to do it as a Tanzanian. I always viewed the mountain as the highest point of the earth. Every morning we would go see it as the skies was clear, looking at the snow above it. It was always a beautiful view.  Now I am going to climb it! The mountain in our community is being viewed as the mountain of strength and survival. Most of our land gets water from this mountain.  The water that flows down the slopes is the same water we will use for our daily use, Now I get to see this source.  Water is very meaningful for us.  My grandmother used to warn us that when we see the water leave and our farm is dry, the end would be very close.  Now many communities will struggle if this water goes away, which there is always threat of.  Now the river only flows in the rainy season and there can be a struggle with water in Tanzania. No one in my family has ever been to the top of Kilimanjaro. We are really looking forward to it, and sometimes now, I dream of it." Follow along with Steve as he gets ready for this journey of a lifetime.      

Maasai Warrior

Why Tanzania is THE African Safari Choice

The Right Country for Your African Safari Vacation

When it comes to choosing which country to visit for your ultimate safari experience, there are many factors to consider.  Many travelers find themselves torn between magnificent tales of Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Tanzania.  Understanding which destination will provide the most authentic and meaningful experience will help you focus on which of these countries is right for you.  After some examination, Tanzania becomes the obvious choice for many.  Here's why we agree. Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania all provide opportunities to see diverse wildlife in protected parks, but Tanzania provides the richest wildlife experience. As its neighbor, Kenya shares many of the same types of wildlife in its safari. However, Kenya has suffered from overtourism, and shrinking wildlife habitat has further limited opportunities to experience its wildlife. More specifically, Kenya and South Africa at the bottom of the African continent have dedicated less than 10% of their land mass as protected parks. In contrast, more than a third of Tanzania's land mass has been set aside as protected parks – and these areas boast spectacular areas of some of the wildest expanses available for your safari experience. Tanzania boasts a richer abundance of wildlife in its expansive natural areas compared to South Africa's protected parks. With numerous diverse wildlife reserves, Tanzania provides a greater likelihood of encountering sought-after animals in comparison to smaller and more congested parks. The prospect of witnessing “The Big Five”—lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants, and African buffaloes—is notably higher in Tanzania. Ngorongoro Crater alone is home to all these species, and they are spread across various other parks in Tanzania.

We've listed some major reasons we believe Tanzania is the place to be for the ultimate African safari.


The Great Migration

The Great Migration is a phenomenal spectacle of the natural world.  The migration unfolds continuously throughout the year, encircling the Serengeti in a perpetual cycle. As depicted in the illustration, most of this awe-inspiring phenomenon occurs within Tanzania, with a slight portion extending into Kenya during the mid-year period. Tanzania offers a plethora of locations to witness The Great Migration, and it stands as the exclusive destination to observe the birth of newborns during the initial months of the year in the southern region. More than two million wildebeest, zebras, antelopes, gazelles, and various other animals embark on a perpetual journey across the Serengeti, all driven by the quest for fresh grass and water. This remarkable migration follows a consistent clockwise pattern around the Serengeti each year. Nowhere else on Earth can you witness this extraordinary spectacle, accompanied by the unique symphony of sounds and the distinctive aromas of the wild. Enormous herds of wildebeest synchronize their movements and vocalize collectively, creating a living entity akin to the synchronized flight of flocks of birds, but grounded on land. It is truly a mesmerizing sight to behold. A visit to the southern Serengeti in January and February offers the unique opportunity to witness the birth of countless young animals. Returning months later, you can observe these same offspring crossing rivers in the northern Serengeti, trailing alongside the migrating herd. The cycle of life and death unfolds daily in dramatic fashion here, providing a riveting and deeply immersive experience. Read more. In contrast to Kenya, where migration can only be observed during specific times of the year, Tanzania offers the flexibility of experiencing some stage of this remarkable phenomenon at any time.  

Tanzanian Culture:

While the legendary Maasai and Bushmen are just a small fraction of Tanzania's extensive cultural tapestry, they stand out as the most globally recognized facets of the country's rich cultural diversity. The Maasai, a Nilotic ethnic tribe residing in Tanzania and southern Kenya, have gained international renown for their unique culture, distinctive rituals, captivating 'high jumping dance,' distinctive traditional attire, and their reputation as courageous warriors. Remarkably, they continue to safeguard their homes, families, and livestock using traditional spears. As nomadic pastoralists, the Maasai rely extensively on the cattle they raise for nearly all aspects of their sustenance, including food, clothing, and shelter. Given their agrarian lifestyle, hunting does not play a significant role in their daily activities. Instead, they periodically relocate their homes to facilitate the movement of their cattle for grazing and water. The wealth of the Maasai is measured by the quantity of cows they possess. Traditionally, they inhabit the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where visitors have the opportunity to explore their villages and enter their huts. The term "Serengeti" is an approximation of the Maasai word "siringet," signifying the expansive plains of the area and translating to "endless plains." Dancing alongside people who are still immersed in their ancient culture in the Serengeti is an unparalleled, once-in-a-lifetime experience. The atmosphere there elicits a unique and indescribable feeling that cannot be replicated anywhere else.   The Hadzabe, commonly known as the Bushmen, is a safeguarded hunter-gatherer tribe located in the southwest Karatu District of the Arusha Region in Tanzania. They inhabit the areas surrounding the Lake Eyasi basin in the central Rift Valley and the adjacent Serengeti Plateau.

As descendants of Tanzania's original pre-Bantu expansion hunter-gatherer population, the Hadzabe have likely inhabited their present territory for thousands of years. Their basic way of life has undergone relatively minimal modifications until the last century. Genetically, the Hadza are not closely affiliated with any other ethnic group. Although initially grouped with the Khoisan languages due to the presence of clicks, the Hadza language (Hadzane) is now considered an isolate, lacking significant connections to any other language. The Hadza stands as one of the last surviving hunter-gatherer tribes on Earth. Renowned for their rejection of material possessions and social hierarchy, they lead a nomadic lifestyle, roaming as required to locate game, tubers, and wild berries. If desired, it is possible to spend a morning with the Hadza, engaging in activities such as arrow-making and bird hunting. They warmly welcome visitors into their daily routine, providing an opportunity to actively participate alongside them. Hunting with the Bushmen is something you can only do in Tanzania.

Natural Wonders of Tanzania

Tanzania offers more than just breathtaking safaris; it boasts some of the world's most awe-inspiring natural wonders. Let's delve into these marvels more closely.

1. Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro stands as one of the seven wonders of Africa, a dormant volcano and the continent's highest peak, towering at 19,341 feet above sea level. Renowned as a world-class climbing destination, Kilimanjaro is a must for avid hikers and likely holds a prominent place on their list of aspirations.

Beyond its remarkable height, Mt. Kilimanjaro distinguishes itself as the world's tallest free-standing mountain, standing independently without any connection to a mountain range. Its considerable height and diverse climatic conditions give rise to a range of ecosystems, from lush rainforests at the base to alpine meadows and snow-capped peaks. The trek through these varied ecological zones offers a memorable adventure, allowing travelers to witness stunning vistas along the way. Mount Kilimanjaro's unique blend of impressive height, ecological diversity, cultural significance, and the challenges it poses to climbers make it an extraordinary and iconic landmark. Mount Kilimanjaro holds immense cultural significance for the local inhabitants residing on its slopes, particularly for Tanzanian indigenous tribes like the Chagga people, who consider it to be sacred.

2.  The Serengeti

Apart from the Great Migration, the Serengeti harbors an astonishingly diverse range of wildlife. The vast plains are home to abundant populations of lions, elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, leopards, buffalo, hippos, and various species of antelope, birds, and reptiles. The ecosystem sustains an intricate food web, offering abundant opportunities for wildlife viewing and safari experiences, exemplified by activities like the balloon safari depicted here. Overall, the Serengeti's amalgamation of exceptional wildlife, stunning landscapes, cultural heritage, and dedicated conservation endeavors renders it an exceptionally unique and iconic destination, appealing to nature enthusiasts and adventurers alike.

3.  Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater stands as a mesmerizing natural wonder, shaped by the collapse of a volcano millions of years ago. Holding the distinction of being the world's largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera, its towering walls reach up to 600 meters (1,968 feet) above the crater floor. Within this enclosed environment, a microcosm of diverse ecosystems unfolds, featuring grasslands, forests, lakes, and swamps. This rich tapestry of habitats supports an abundance of wildlife, establishing the crater as one of Africa's most densely populated areas for wildlife. The crater is home to thriving populations of lions, elephants, buffaloes, zebras, wildebeests, hippos, and rhinos. Notably, it stands out as one of the premier locations in Africa to observe endangered black rhinos in their natural habitat. Beyond its natural splendor, the Ngorongoro Crater carries cultural significance as the ancestral homeland of the Maasai people. For centuries, Maasai pastoralists have harmoniously coexisted with wildlife in this region, and their enduring traditional grazing practices continue to shape the landscape to this day.

4. The Olduvai Gorge

The Olduvai Gorge, situated in northern Tanzania on the eastern Serengeti Plains, stands as a vital paleoanthropological site. Celebrated for its extensive deposits of fossils and artifacts, it offers essential insights into human evolution and prehistory. Here are some key points about the Olduvai Gorge: Often referred to as the "Cradle of Mankind," the Olduvai Gorge has yielded some of the earliest evidence of human evolution. Fossil discoveries, including remains of ancient hominins such as Homo habilis and Paranthropus boisei, have played a crucial role in helping scientists unravel the origins and development of early humans. In addition to fossilized remains, the Olduvai Gorge has yielded numerous stone tools and artifacts crafted by early humans. These artifacts, such as handaxes and flaked stone implements, offer insights into the technological capabilities and behavioral patterns of ancient hominins.

Safety in Tanzania

Tanzania stands out for its commitment to providing a safe and hassle-free safari experience, setting it apart from other African nations. Whether delving into the lively markets of Dar es Salaam or enjoying the tranquil beaches of Zanzibar, Tanzania's overall calmness and stability foster an environment that allows for exploration with confidence and ease. While it's prudent to stay vigilant and heed local advice to mitigate minor inconveniences, our experienced guides are dedicated to ensuring your security and a worry-free adventure Tanzania has earned a reputation for its travel-friendly atmosphere and is consistently ranked as one of the safest nations on the continent. With nearly 1.5 million visitors in 2022, representing a notable 64% increase from the previous year, Tanzania has firmly established itself as one of Africa's leading safari destinations. Widely acknowledged as a secure haven for safari enthusiasts worldwide, Tanzania's appeal is further underscored by its commitment to providing a safe and enjoyable experience for travelers. Certainly, if safety is a priority, Tanzania has you covered. Beyond the captivating wildlife and natural wonders, Tanzania is dedicated to ensuring a secure environment for all those who seek to experience its diverse attractions.

Proximity to Gorillas in Rwanda

If you are seeking the perfect finishing touch, look no further: Tanzania is not merely a safari paradise but Tanzania also acts as your portal to an exhilarating gorilla trekking adventure in Rwanda. The challenge of tracking down gorillas in southern safari countries is effortlessly overcome with Tanzania, allowing a seamless transition from the Serengeti to Rwanda with a quick plane hop. It's akin to enjoying the best of both worlds without breaking a sweat.    

Curious to turn this daydream into reality?

Contact us today!  

With the Hadza People (Bushmen)

Discovering Tanzania Through Native Eyes

The Difference of African Ownership in Safaris

My name is Steven Ngowi.  I am one of the few native-African owners of an African safari company.  Most of the safari companies in East Africa are owned by individuals based in Europe and North America.  I founded Ndifo Safari to help fulfill the multigenerational dream of my family to own and operate a truly African safari company and to share our deep knowledge of wildlife and local cultures with guests from around the world. [caption id="attachment_7032" align="alignright" width="251"] Steven, Sr, as a young safari guide[/caption] [caption id="attachment_7046" align="alignleft" width="300"] Steven, Sr, still enjoys going on safari as a guest[/caption] I was raised by my grandfather, Steven Ngowi, Sr., in the safari life. I fell in love with the Tanzanian and Kenyan wildlife that I encountered regularly throughout my upbringing.  I learned from a very early age about the delicate balance of wildlife conservation and care for indigenous tribes closely sharing their daily existence with the wildlife.  I have a deep connection with both. After I reached adulthood, I began my career at some of the top travel companies in East Africa, and I learned so much from them.  I am one of the few guides in East Africa to have achieved the walking guide qualification. This requires at least 18 months of specialized training in the use of firearms and over 120 hours of supervised experience in the field - with ongoing training throughout my career.  Most guides do not have this type of training - less than 10%. Having a qualified safari walking guide adds something extra for our guests. This means they may choose to experience the feeling of walking among the animals outside the confines of a vehicle. My blood contains the soil of East Africa, and no one from another continent could know it better than someone like me what my country has to offer and how to explore it ethically with maximum impact for the guest.  I know this land like the back of my hand and can position my guest  in a place to see the best wildlife and landscapes.   The word “ndifo” means “footprints” in Chagga,  the native tongue of my grandfather and me.  It’s about me following in his footsteps and achieving his dream and mine.  We are the uniquely African safari company.  See the footprints in our logo?    


[caption id="attachment_7021" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Visiting with the Datooga tribe[/caption] One of my favorite activities is to take guests to meet a tribe of Datooga, Hadzabe (Bushmen), or Maasai people and spend time with them, experiencing a day in their lives.  This is an experience that you cannot have at a lodge or camp.  To go out where these tribes live and hunt - to move among them for a few hours can be life changing for visitors and must be arranged by those with connections to their communities. [caption id="attachment_7053" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Making arrows with the Hadzabe (Bushmen)[/caption] My guests have carved arrows with the bushmen and used those arrows to hunt with them and share the bounty of the kill. I have  seen the Maasai give an impromptu wedding to an already married couple celebrating an anniversary.  The Datooga tribe are the best arrowsmiths in the world.  They collect unwanted metals and make jewelry and trinkets.  My guests watch this if they want to.  It's always such a meaningful experience for my guests and for me.  We all realize together that this is where we all came from. [caption id="attachment_6646" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Group of masai people participating in traditional dance with high jumps[/caption] These cultures face challenges and could be eradicated in the next two decades, so I am working with other Tanzanian professionals to keep guests visiting these tribes and taking interest in their lives.  We are trying to help keep their culture alive. So if the client desires, we take time to stop by these villages and live among the people there for as long as they wish. I have seen connections be made between people from the Western world and the people of these ancient cultures.  Every experience is a transcendent one. Because of my deep connection to the land and the people of East Africa, I can provide a more authentic experience for my guests than an operator located on another continent with my deep rooted connections to these communities.  These are my neighbors. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4="" loop="true" preload="auto"][/video] [caption id="attachment_7052" align="alignleft" width="300"] Jewelry made by the Datooga[/caption]   We also allow for a more local experience for the traveler who wants more than what is prepared at the lodge or camp.  Many foreign-owned safari companies don’t like to take guests anywhere except the camp or lodge and the bush.  They don’t always have the comfort of moving around all these cultures.  Our soul is connected to the animals and people of this land.  This is all that I know.


[caption id="attachment_7029" align="alignleft" width="300"] Visiting the United Nations in New York[/caption] Because of our deep connection with this country, we want to always give back to our community.  Ndifo Safari is committed to wildlife conservation, and we are just as committed to helping our fellow citizens have better lives.  There are several projects we are working on to do just that.  You can see some of what we're working on here: We discussed some of this during our visit at the United Nations in November 2022.  Watch the video here:          

Learn More About Ndifo

Ndifo Welcomes You to East Africa! Remembering Bob Jr. Ndifo at the United Nations

United Nations Building

Ndifo at the United Nations

Discussing Conservation & Community Development

Ndifo Safari's owner and lead guide; Steven Ngowi, had a chance to stop by the United Nations in New York City to speak with Flora Nducha, Chief of UN News Kiswahili, regarding conservation in Tanzania.

He came to New York City to raise funds to help endangered species in Tanzania - specifically for Kili C.R.E.W. (Kilimanjaro Animal Center for Rescue, Education & Wildlife), an organization that rescues animals injured or orphaned by poachers, drought and injury from snares. They provide rehabilitation before releasing them into a protected environment.

Speaking with Flora, he explains how Ndifo is trying to help save the wildlife of Tanzania while helping his local community.  Steve explains how traveling with Ndifo Safari contributes to conservation and community development projects. A portion of each booking goes directly to projects helping the most vulnerable people and wildlife in Tanzania.

From the United Nations:  The tourism sector is one of the major contributors to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) with the United Nations pushing for the sector to be sustainable in the interest of the world and its people.  In Tanzania, young people are contributing to the sector first as a source of employment but also contributing to the national economy and the surrounding communities. Among them is Steven Ngowi, who owns the tourism company Ndifo Safari, who besides being a tour guide is active in various community projects and helping to save endangered animals.  

Watch the full water project video here:


Learn More About Ndifo


Ndifo Welcomes You to East Africa!

Let us introduce you to our nature, wildlife, and people. You will feel like part of the community.

First, we want to say hello and usher you into the folds of our family.

Ndifo means footsteps in Chagaa, the native language of our founder, Steve Ngowi. And, indeed, Steve has followed in the footsteps of his grandfather by becoming a professional guide. Steve was born on the southern slope of Kilimanjaro. By age six, he was glued to his grandfather’s side, a professional guide who was always in the bush. To Steve, being in the bush was, well, being at home. Now, a professional guide himself, Steve wants to share that home with you. Starting with Tanzania mornings.

“The sun is rising over the mountains and a nice breeze hts your face,” Steve says. “There are rainy days, too, during which everything seems to come to life.” As if illustrating this fact, “Lion and bird calls can be heard, as each advertise their territory.”

Revealing these magnificent creatures in their habitat is in order. Witnessing these ever-evolving habitats is an experience unto itself. “Habitat change from time to time depending on what you're looking for,” Steve says. “If it's a leopard, then you'll keep your eyes on the road as that’s where cats like to travel to escape morning dew on their claws.” Something else to be on the lookout for: granite boulders warmed by the sun—just right for napping cats. Open plains call for attention, too. “Cheetahs head for the plains as they start to get active.”

At One with the Land

Steve’s love for the land brings with it a strong sense of stewardship. Ndifo Safaris are packed with information about the wild, including conservation and preservation practices. “We’re eager to share our land’s ancient cultures and hidden gems with you,” Steve says. “And we will always work to protect this wildlife, their eco-systems and our culture.” A saying he likes to instill in visitors, “Take only memories, leave only footprints, and Serengeti shall never die.”

Becoming Tanzania

Because Ndifo Safari is Tanzanian-owned, we offer a unique perspective on our tours. Beyond merely getting to experience the bush, we want our guests to feel like part of the community. “Tanzania has 120 different tribes, each with their own language and culture,” Steve says, elaborating on what each wants to share with visitors. “The Datoga specialize in making iron weapons, the Hadzabe, who are from the bush, still hunt for their food, whereas the elders of the Maasai punish those who kill animals for meat by chasing them out of the village.” Steve stresses, “We don’t have ‘tribalism’ in Tanzania. What’s most important to Tanzania tribes is family.”

Opportunities to visit area villages and schools abound while staying with Ndifo, both of which are touched by your visits in myriad ways. “I grew up seeing schools without desks and classrooms being beneath the branches of baobab trees as a way to provide protection from the sun,” Steve says. “I want to see that change while I’m alive.” Some current community projects Ndifo Safari is working on-- building classrooms for the school of Iikamba, as well as providing sanitary napkins, a scarcity for the women and girls of Tanzania. “It’s important to do something positive for the beautiful people and country of Tanzania.”

An extremely important way Ndifo gives back is by ensuring our team is paid more than fair wages and get profit-sharing. “Not only in Tanzania, but in all of East Africa, everyone is considered family,” Steve says. “If you’re walking along the street, you’re not considered a stranger, as someone will always greet you with a hello.”

Which is why when you embark on a Ndifo Safari, we feel it’s important that you become part of our team, part of our family… you become part of Tanzania.


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Remembering Bob Jr.

Steve Discusses the Real Lion King's Legacy in Tanzania

It was an extremely sad & somber day when we learned of the passing of one of our most respected lions, Bob Jr.  It was one of the most impactful recent deaths in the Serengeti. I would like to take time to remember Bob Jr, who we referred to as the “Real” Lion King of the Serengeti here in Africa.

The news of Bob Jr.’s violent death made headlines in March 2023 when rival male lions came in to seize the territory that he & his brother dominated for years. I would like to share his story from my perspective as a Tanzanian & safari guide since he meant so much to us.  While we are accustomed to the natural order of the death & birth of animals in the wild, the world-wide news  of the loss of Bob Jr. made me reflect on how it has affected me & other guides & how it will affect future safari goers.  Here is my recollection of Bob Jr.’s life, death and impact within the community.

The Story of Bob Jr.

Bob Jr. was born, along with his brother Tryggve, in 2011 in the Southern Serengeti to his dad Bob Sr., who ruled alongside his own brother Ziggy. Bob was named based on his now famous, very apparent dreadlocks.  His son, Bob Jr. followed with his own distinctive mane.  Bob Sr. & Ziggy dominated the prides in Central, Southern & Eastern Serengeti during their prime.  Since Bob Sr. & Ziggy had control of five prides simultaneously, it was unlikely that Bob Jr & Tryggve would be able to dominate the Southern & Eastern prides. So, in 2017, Bob Jr. & Tryggve migrated to the Western Serengeti where they roamed the plains and gained full dominance of the area. They landed in Savannah Grassland on the Western Plains of the Serengeti. This area was previously closed by the park for almost 25 years for cheetah reproduction. These lucky boys discovered it after it was reopened.

What Made Bob Jr. Special?

Bob Jr. was recognizable due to his size and appearance. He looked very much like his dad with the major difference being that his dad’s mane had more prominent dreadlocks. He was arguably the most handsome lion in the Serengeti. The very first time I saw Bob Jr, we had a moment where we locked eyes and he produced his famous growl that I felt deep inside my soul. He was so large that when he would stand beside our vehicle, he could almost reach the window to give us a high five! Bob Jr. played a huge role protecting the pride by making sure it was safe in his territory. Lions growl when they are mating, eating or fighting. Their roars let intruders know whose land it is and to heed the warning not to come into their territory. With this, Bob Jr. only needed one growl, and he could fend off and scare away any predator. One evening our group was out on a game drive exploring as usual when we came across Bob Jr. walking while raising his head high. We could sense that there was something out there that he had seen already so we started following him to discover what was afoot. All of a sudden, we saw the whole pride feeding on Eland, the biggest Antelope in Africa.  He led us to the scene. He walked in and you could just feel the respect that the pride had for him.  The pride had some young ones inside there but they never bothered him.  It seemed Bob Jr. had finished his portion of the meal as we arrived, he stood there looking over them while they feasted on their share - like a proud papa. We were so elated by this amazing sighting. Dark was falling so we had to finally leave to go back to camp, but otherwise we would have stayed there for hours. What I admired the most about Bob Jr, was that he made sure nothing would come and harm his pride. Especially when it came to the reproduction of the female lions.  Some of his females were expecting newborns but with the new males taking off there's a limited chance the cubs will survive. He was not an animal to mess around with, there was this time I was watching him and his cubs were around, with just one grawl the cubs all went separate ways.

The Death of Bob Jr.

Bob Jr. was one of the oldest & largest male lions in the area. We estimate that he was around 12 years old when he died.  The way we determine the age is by the color of teeth from white to yellow (just like humans) and the second is spots on the body of male & female cubs. It is common for males to start losing their spots around the age of 2-3 years old. For females, they generally keep their spots until they are 3+ years old. While Bob Jr. was still strong, he was not strong enough to be the leader of the pride forever.  This was the ultimate reason for his violent death.  This became evident in the summer of 2022.  I noticed that he started scavenging for food & it was clear that he was not capable of leading & participating in hunting anymore. The last time I saw Bob Jr was around July 2022. On March 11th of the following year, I learned of his death from a friend out in the Serengeti who messaged me the sad news.  Shortly after I noticed the news had gone viral on social media & it was spread all over the globe that Bob Jr had died.  Something so personal to me & my country was now being shared with the world.  We were proud to know him.

How did he die?

It was discovered that Bob Jr. was killed by three rival males in the same pride. In the past, these three Lions tried to kill him multiple times with no success.  However, this year his rivals finally won the battle.  This is a common event as more fit lions will fight to take over the pride of a former ruler due to his age & inability to lead. He died exactly as he should, fighting until his last breath. His sons will carry the genes into the next generation.  Perhaps a Bob III will emerge? As far as his brother, Tryggve, there is still no evidence of him being killed, but the last time anyone saw his brother was a few days before Bob Jr. was killed.

How will his death affect the pride?

His death initially did put the pride at risk because other lions would be tempted to kill Bob Jr.'s cubs. However, lionesses are smart & tricky.  Female lions have a way to trick other undesired male Lions from other prides by creating false oestrus.  They fool the rival males while the other Lionesses take the cubs to a secret hideout.  The females of his pride no doubt went into overdrive to protect their cubs from rivals of their father's.

For Visitors of Serengeti: Will anything be different?

Yes & No. On an emotional level, the connection with him is that his story was unique and where his generation came from.  For us, it was like owning a cat, except this was the kind of pet you could not cuddle with. Knowing his story was something we could use to both educate clients and share with honor. The death of Bob Jr. won't have an effect on the experience of safari goers.  However, the death of Bob Jr. provided us with a wider platform to talk about some of the challenges occurring in the Serengeti, So his death may cause change and make a difference.

Lessons I learned From Bob Jr.

Some major lessons I learned watching Bob Jr. the last 12 years: patience, precision observation, being present in the moment & a hands on lesson in the circle of life that is normal amongst all prides. It was an honor to be able to watch Bob Jr. from when he was a cub to his death. We guides are lucky to see the maturation of pride out in the wild, an experience you can't find in books.  One time, I got to experience how he spots and watches his kills.  He was able to locate exact sites based on soaring vultures. We were just watching him, then all of a sudden he raised his head high to look at the sky and began walking. We initially thought that maybe he was for shade. We didn’t know that on the other end vultures were landing.  There were two cheetahs feeding on a gazelle.  He then took over the kill while the cheetahs ran for their lives. [video width="1920" height="1080" mp4=""][/video]

Shifting Wildlife Viewing Priorities

His death has brought up conversations about the changes in wildlife viewing. It has been a challenge in some parts of our national parks, especially the Serengeti. The park authorities have come up with rules that may impact clients' wildlife views. For example, the great migration up north of Serengeti, the parks are implementing rules that will make it harder to get as close up as we used to. This will affect everyone, yet I would say for anyone not taking a private guided tour they will have more difficulties getting closer to the wild life. In most cases, the restrictions are only in some parts, while the walking tours provide a more peaceful environment for the animals, creating an advantage of viewing the wildlife on foot. We have the opportunity to have zones where vehicles are restricted to ensure the wildlife is not disturbed. Since, I am also one of the few local walking guides,  I conduct walks in national parks in Tanzania including, Ruaha, Tarangire and Serengeti national parks in Tanzania. With these changes, my role as a local business owner and guide is to make sure the wildlife is safe for both the wildlife and people coming from all over the world to experience my homeland. I do this by providing the best quality private jeep tours that are more likely to experience top notch viewing, and walking tours that only a select few are able to do in the Serengeti.

Conservation Challenges that Lions in Africa are facing right now

There are issues with neighboring villages and the land itself that put lions in Africa at risk. Due to how earth is changing right now and having lots of dry areas, animals move alot to look for food. This has the potential for other carnivores to move and go outside of the parks to look for livestock in surrounding villages. This puts the lions at risk of being killed by the villagers if the lions disrupt their village. For example, if a lion were to kill a cow on the village territory, the villagers become threatened and feel they need to protect their property and their safety.

What action can you take?

Visit us. Your support alone brings awareness & financial assistance that will help keep the animals safe. Most importantly, I would like travelers to know that the moment you book your safari in Tanzania, you have helped wildlife and tourism in general. What a traveler pays goes towards: paying the park rangers, fixing the roads with bridges, buying cars for patrols inside the parks and internet. Currently, at every gate you have access to free Wi-Fi! You can also check out different organizations that I work with, such as Maasai Steppe Carnivore Conservation trust, formerly, Tarangire Lion Project.


Bob Jr. will always be remembered for his special migration story by taking over with his brother & ruling the pride and being a huge inspiration to the guides, including myself. Being able to watch the life of Bob Jr. was a tremendous gift. To witness such a majestic, beautiful, big and fearless leader will always be fond memories of mine.  Bob Jr. will be remembered by other lions in his pride, and I can assure you that on your visit you will be able to experience just as magical moments with this joy, as I have. Contact me directly! I am a locally owned  business owner and will be happy to chat with you personally about taking a Safari with Ndifo.   [email protected] (All photos & videos taken by Ndifo Safari)  

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Money Lion

Budget vs. Luxury Safaris Revealed

African Safari Adventures:  Pros & Cons of Budget, Semi-Luxury & Full-Luxury Trips

[caption id="attachment_6835" align="alignright" width="400"] Every traveler has a budget.[/caption] You've decided to finally check off that bucket list item and embark on a wild ride for your first African Safari. With so many options out there, it can be hard to figure out where to start.  You'll think about what region, country and parks you ultimately want to visit, and then you must consider what type of budget you'll want to have for the trip.  When it comes time to plan an epic holiday the first thing on your agenda is weighing out the different options.  You may have realized the myriad of differences between a budget, mid-sized and luxury safaris in Africa.  Yet,  you aren't sure what is included and what is worth splurging on or cutting down costs. Or maybe you have an unlimited budget and just want to get clear on the difference between budget, mid-sized and luxury to be sure you are getting the best bang for your buck. To ensure you are making an informed decision, we will disclose the mysteries of budgeting for your safari as we compare the distinct features, benefits, and unique offerings of each budget type.

Price Points of Tanzanian Safaris

Keep in mind that the primary focus of this blog is Tanzania.  Prices elsewhere may vary, however the basic description of amenities offered at level apply across regions.  For general price points, we have estimated the following costs*:

Per Person / Per Night*

Budget Semi-Luxury   Luxury 
$150 – ⁠$350 $350 – ⁠$700 $700 –⁠ $2,200**
*This does not include flights, visas, vaccines, any trip add-ons, and varies inside the ranges from high to low season. **Truly unlimited

What's The Difference?

[caption id="attachment_6858" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Let's get into the details to determine which suits your preferences and budget.[/caption]


"Budget Safari"

When you have a limited budget, it’s helpful to get clear on what is worth spending extra for and understanding what value you will get for your money. Regardless of your budget, you will still have a  great opportunity to explore the wildlife landscapes and awe inspiring wildlife, but may have to forego some extras the less you want to spend. "Budget safaris" won’t provide the same level of luxury as higher-priced trips, but they do have their own unique advantages. 
Pros Cons
 Affordability and Value for Money Of course, the most meaningful positive for this type of safari is being able to afford your dream vacation.  Knowing you don't have to break the bank and still have a great experience is important and will allow you to enjoy the trip even more.  Adventure and Spontaneity The budget option is great for the true adventurer. A luxury trip takes months of planning and locks in tight with deposits and no-cancellation policies.  When you go full budget and embrace a backpacker mentality, hostels and basic camping don't have to be booked far in advance.  For those who may embrace roughing it. You might be able to experience more remote possibilities with the capabilities of putting up a traditional tent and sleeping underneath the stars.  Group Dynamics and Socializing If you love meeting and hanging out with new people who share your interests, this option can at times ensure that you spend maximum time with others. Since budget Safaris are more populated, you will have the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people from all over the world. Being able to share the experience with other travelers can create unique bonding and memories.   Basic Accommodations & Amenities For travelers insisting on maximum physical comfort at all times, this might not be the best option. You may share bathrooms, have a less comfortable bed, and occupy much smaller spaces. At times the more extreme budget options may not have as high food and water standards as pricier ones.  This can lead to food poisoning.  You might be paying for your own food as you go.  Transportation wise, you will find large cramped buses with about 30-50 people. The accommodations are generally tents, with a public shared toilet.  Limited Flexibility and Customization With budget travel and larger groups, tours usually follow a strict itinerary. There is less room for flexibility than you will find with a more luxurious option. You may experience only scratching the surface and it might be harder to flow with areas you want to stay longer or leave earlier.  You may not have time to visit the Maasai, for example.  Higher Tourist Density You will be hitting peak hours with all the rest of the tourists in the same locations. This means you will see more vehicles, more crowds, and hear more noise which can certainly affect your ability to experience the wildlife. Your experience might feel more like a general pass holder at Disneyland vs. Disney’s special VIP invited guests only. 

"Semi-Luxury Safari"

The greatest quality leap between tiers is between "budget" and "semi-luxury".  Much of the "budget" experience is in shared spaces while on the rigid schedule of a large group.  The "semi-luxury" level provides private spaces with overall nicer accommodation – sharing schedules with others many times, but with many more opportunities to customize your experience.
Pros Cons
Comfortable Accommodations While not as luxurious as high-end options, the accommodations and transportation options at this level are leaps and bounds more private and comfortable than the budget option.  These lodges and tented camps provide traveler with essential amenities and clean water always made available. Cost-Effective You won't break the bank.  You are getting a very similar experience to "full luxury", just without the hyper-pampering and designer bedsheets. Wildlife Diversity You will most likely have the chance to see more types of animals than on a budget trip as well as spend more time observing animals you find interesting. More Experienced Guides You will typically be able to find very experienced guides in this category.  They will be much more highly trained than the drivers of the budget safari - most likely only trained drivers, not guides. The guides at this level and above will be able to provide insightful and valuable information that will inform of some hidden gems and assist and point out hidden and tricky to spot wildlife. Authentic Cultural Encounters You will most likely have more opportunities to visit local indigenous tribes and immerse yourself in their culture. Limited Luxury Amenities You may out on features like private pools, spa services, or gourmet dining experiences at this level. Potentially Larger Group Size with Less Flexibility in Itinerary There is a direct link between price and group size.  When you pay less, you may share a jeep with other travelers much like yourself.  You will certainly have less flexibility with things like your itinerary, times you come and go into the park, and taking account for any other specific requests or expectations you might have.  As you pay more, you can secure your own jeep and have complete control of how your day is spent. Limited Time for Wildlife Observation Since there is a cost constraint with a mid-sized budget, the duration of a game drive might be shorter. This is arguably the most important feature of safari. You might not have as much time to observe the wildlife, but will have to stick to a more strict time table.  
See An Itinerary We Put Together For a Semi-Luxury Safari

"Full-Luxury Safari"

It goes without saying that one get what one pays for.  The sky is the limit with the level of luxury available in the safari world - unlimited luxury for unlimited budgets.  The important thing for each traveler to determine is which amenities are worth splurging for.
Pros Cons
Unique Comforts and Exquisite Accommodations  The full-luxury safari offers an incomparable level of comfort and attention to detail that surpasses any other option by leaps and bounds.  Just think about retreating to lavish lodges, private tented camps, spacious rooms, fabulously comfortable beds, en-suite bathrooms, and unbelievable views. After a long day in the parks, returning to a luxurious sanctuary will no doubt enhance your overall safari experience if you can swing it. Exclusive Access to Pristine Wilderness Being on a luxury safari is like joining an exclusive members only club. You may feel like a celebrity, with special access to places that no other budget can afford. This means you will have a more intimate, undisturbed experience. You won’t have the massive groups, potential noise of extra vehicles and people, or any distractions. The animals will most likely be more visible with sensing a more remote group. You will most certainly feel like you are in your own private paradise. Highly Knowledgeable, Local and Experienced Guides  Semi- & full-luxury safaris, like Ndifo Safari, have the most experienced guides capable of taking you to places you might night be able to see otherwise.  For example, we provide walking guide services for those who dare.  Very few guides in East Africa have this qualification, which allows them to take you on foot into the middle of the bush and experience the animals up close and personal. Customized and Personalized Experience Luxury safaris tailor experiences to your preference and create personalized itineraries for your group. They offer flexibility in crafting and designing your safari to make sure that you can have your own bespoke experience free of input from other travelers. Unique activities such as hot air balloon rides, guided bush walks, and cultural encounters with local communities can add extra layers to your experience. Gourmet Dining and Culinary Delights The cuisine at full-luxury lodges and camps is fit for royalty.  You will experience fine dining, with meals prepared by world-class chefs, candle-lit dinners under the stars featuring local and international cuisine.  The experience can rival the best Parisian restaurants. Attention to Detail & Impeccable Customer Service and Care One of the hallmarks of a luxury safari experience is the exceptional level of service and attention to detail. From the moment you arrive, you will be greeted with warmth and hospitality by the staff, and guides to ensure that all your needs are met. Whether it’s a personalized game drive, surprise treats in your room , or thoughtful gestures that anticipate your desires, the attentive service on a luxury safari creates an atmosphere of pampering and relaxation. High Price Tag It is no secret that a Luxury Safari will come with a high price tag. You want to make sure you are getting what you paid for. With luxurious accommodations, gourmet dining, private vehicles and personalized service you will come to understand the cost for your experience. This might not be in everyone's budget. For budget conscious travelers, this can be a major drawback, as it might affect the duration of time spent on a safari. For example 5 days compared to a 2 week stay. Potential Lack of Authenticity Amongst Wildlife  Some people might prefer a more rugged nature experience. It is important to note,  Luxury Safari will offer tents, they will be a 5 star glamping experience that are more gigantic, spacious, havens, as opposed to traditional tents. This might feel like it is distracting from a more authentic experience and immersion with unfiltered encounters with African wilderness. Unrealistic Expectations Luxury Safari companies can often create high expectations. Over promise and under deliver. We highly recommend you go in understanding what you are getting. Since wildlife sightings can be unpredictable and nature may not always conform to our expectations, regardless of the level of luxury or not you may not see all the animals on your list. This is important to be mindful of any size budget. Limited Cultural Interactions Most luxury safari companies will prioritize wildlife encounters and accommodations and will miss out on showing more of the experiences, cultural activities, work within the communities, and the authentic life of the cultural immersion.  You may have to dig for this.

This is what makes us, at Ndifo stand out.

We have married the luxury with authenticity to ensure that you get the best of all worlds.

See a sample Ndifo full-luxury safari itinerary.    

Melanistic Serval Cat

A Melanistic Serval Cat Sighting

The Joy of Seeing the Rare Feline

For most African tribes, seeing a completely black animal is not considered good because many believe these animals to be bad luck. But we know that isn’t true. For us, a small black wild cat brought good luck one day out in the Western Serengeti bush. African serval cats normally have tan fur with small black spots much like a cheetah, but legend is that a small handful with jet-black fur roam sub-Saharan Africa. The melanistic serval cat as it’s known, is often discussed, but rarely seen. To begin with, the serval is a relatively small cat. So small that it is very hard to spot in relation to their vast environment. Their long limbs and big ears that seem slightly too large for their small heads are almost the only way to tell that they are not domestic cats.

The melanism is from a gene mutation that causes more dark pigment to be created than light pigment. It’s present in 13 of 38 known cat species, but is rare in servals. They can survive best by hiding during the day and hunting and night, making spotting them even harder.

We had not seen much of anything our first day out. We’d heard from the network of guides active in the area that some type of black cat had beethisn spotted and we spent the first day looking. However, not only hadn’t we seen any black cat, we hadn’t seen much of anything. So we really had no hope of finding him at all.

Other jeeps we encountered had the same stories to tell - there just wasn’t much going on in our part of the Serengeti that week. We began to believe that nothing was there for us - especially not such a tiny black mystical creature. But what we forgot is that when one is outside in nature, the unbelievable can happen.

When I was a schoolboy, on a class trip to the Aberdares National Park in Kenya, we came across a pure black cat that was too fast for anyone to identify. No one could explain what we had seen. The black cat remained just a flash in my mind, but it lived with me for years. Years later, I heard reports that a melanistic leopard had been spotted in that area. Then another one was spotted at Laikipia National Park, also in Kenya. This one had been photographed with camera traps, so proof of his existence was finally presented - he wasn’t just a myth. The flash in my mind had been real after all. Now, hearing that a black cat was seen in the Serengeti got my attention again. This black beauty would have been more expected in the highlands more than 2km above sea level because of animals living at higher altitudes having a tendency towards melanism. This phenomenon allows them to absorb more heat from the sun. We were well below that altitude in our part of the Serengeti, so this black cat seemed to be a new discovery in our ecosystem. So to say that we woke up on the second day really hoping to see him is a great understatement. All the guides were still all abuzz about the legend of the black cat, but everyone we came across had failed to find him. We went from spot-to-spot following possible sightings. After a while, we really did began to believe it really was just a myth. A black cat shouldn't be here. Then finally! We saw just a speck of black. We slowed and tried to focus to see him. We could feel his presence. After a few minutes we saw something pouncing from the tall grass, and our excitement grew. The little black serval cat was hunting so it moved along purposefully. We creeped along watching him hunt rodents, lizards and birds. It felt like stalking a house cat. This was the rarest animal sighting that I have ever encountered in my career. The black cat that the guides had gotten a glimpse of was a serval cat - very rare and unexpected! No one knows where he came from but we guessed it may have been from the Ngorongoro highlands. The sun was so beautiful in a way that you could see how beautiful his black fur was. We were able to see many magnificent things on this day. We went back to camp being the happiest people in the whole Serengeti.  

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Photos from Our Kili C.R.E.W. Event

Discussing Conservation & Community Development

On November 7, we hosted a wonderful charity auction benefiting: Kili C.R.E.W. (Kilimanjaro Animal Center for Rescue, Education & WildlifeWe were able to raise tens of thousands of dollars for Kili CREW’s life-saving efforts. Thanks for all who attended & bid on fantastic items!

Kili C.R.E.W. is a non-profit* organization helping animals in Tanzania for more than 25 Years. Kili C.R.E.W. rescues animals injured or orphaned by poachers, drought and injury from snares. They provide rehabilitation before releasing them into a protected environment. When an animal in distress in protected areas of Tanzania, a Kili C.R.E.W. team is dispatched to provide rapid response & emergency aid, and, if necessary, arrange evacuation of an afflicted animal to their sanctuary.

Learn more about them & their work:

Thanks Again to Our Fantastic Sponsors

                        *Kilimanjaro Animal C.R.E.W. is a Non Governmental Organization and non-profit making (established under Section 12 (2) of Act No. 24 of 2002, of the Laws of The United Republic of Tanzania, bearing a certificate of compliance No.NGO/00007782 with physical address at Makoa Farm).  

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