Tanzania is one of my favorite countries. Home to 22 national parks, including the world famous Serengeti, with its vast diversity of wildlife; the Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa; and Zanzibar, birthplace of Freddie Freakin’ Mercury! It’s also adjacent to Lake Tanganyika, the second-oldest, second-largest and second-deepest freshwater lake in the world (after Lake Baikal in Siberia). Two other African Great Lakes are also partially in Tanzania: Lake Victoria and Lake Malawi.

We first went to Tanzania in 2011 as part of an expedition offered by Exclusive Resorts (of which we were members at the time.) Firelight Safaris Tanzania arranged the entire stay in Tanzania and it was an absolutely amazing experience. We flew into Kilimanjaro International, then spent the first night in Arusha before heading north by bush plane to the Ngorongoro Crater, an enormous unbroken caldera and UNESCO World Heritage site. More than 30,000 animals live on the crater’s floor. We spent the night at the legendary Gibb’s Farm in Karatu.

We then transitioned to a mobile safari camp in the heart of the Serengeti. Its mobile nature allows it to reposition according to the location of the Great Migration of wildebeest. Here we participated in morning and evening game drives. Our first safari experience, seeing the massive diversity of animals there just blew us away.

Another bush plane took us west to Lupita Island. Undoubtedly the most remote place we’ve ever been, Lupita Island is a private island on Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania. Previously deserted, it is now home to a massive thatched lodge and bar, a shimmering pool, a spa, and open-air cottages built into the hillside. The cottages have expansive views of the lake, and we were treated to a boat ride and swim. It was a thrill to launch ourselves into the 4,820-ft deep waters, then return to the boat for a sundowner and a fabulous sunset.

I fell so hard for Africa that I went to work for this safari company the next year, helping with marketing and promoting their company to the U.S. travel industry. I returned to Tanzania the following year to learn more about their operations and to observe a medical mission that they sponsored. This time I flew into Dar es Salaam, then took a bush plane west to Sumbawanga. From there I was collected and driven to Lupita Island, where the owner had assembled a small group of doctors and surgeons who would spend the next week visiting local villages and seeing patients. It was absolutely fascinating.

After the work was done at Lake Tanganyika, we drove from there to Katavi National Park and stayed in at Palahala, their safari camp. This park has the largest concentration of crocs and hippos in all of Africa. Meals in the bush, game drives, and sundowners made for such a great time. I didn’t want it to end!

Afterwards, we returned to the Serengeti for the last leg, then it was back to Arusha to prepare for the long journey home.

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