Tanzania, travel

Safari in Tanzania

Back in August 2017, I took on the challenge to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with my friend Alicia. And our adventure did NOT just end there! We spent another week in Tanzania visiting a local town to see their various co-operatives, a Maasai village, and the most anticipated of all for me – SAFARI.

If you’re interested in such an adventure, here’s some information on my experience which was one in a small group and living at the safari park campsites. Experience will be vastly different if you have either a private guide, or you live in the resorts.

The Tour Company: Gadventures

The Tour Package: Kilimanjaro РLemosho Route & Serengeti Adventure  (Safari only options are available on the website)

The Duration: 3 half day game drives, and 1 full day game drive (spanned over 4 days)

The Group Size: 14 people split 7 per car (honestly not the most ideal as we had to take turns with the back middle seat which would have no window access)

The Parks:
1) Lake Manyara NP
2) Serengeti  NP
3) Ngorongoro Conservation Area

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The Animals: All of the African Big 5 are in Tanzania Рlion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and cape buffalo. These species made the Big 5 list based on the level of difficulty that would be required to hunt them and also based on the degree of danger that would be involved Рnot based on their size.  I got to see all except for the rhino which are extremely rare due to all the poaching.

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The Ride: A land cruiser type car which has a pop-up roof so you can take pictures from the windows or in the space given when the roof is up.  Probably only meant to be used for us when the car is stopped, but there are handles to hang on to that we managed to stand and look out while the car was on the move. Quite windy and dusty though.

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The Day: The main times for game rides are at dawn and at dusk when animals are most active. As such the morning game ride would start around 7am (wake up would be 6am) and end around lunch, and then an afternoon game ride around 3/4pm until dinner time. Game rides are about 3-4 hours long so it’s quite a long day as it surprisingly takes a lot of energy to try to spot animals (usually the guide finds its first) and then photograph them well. We even got up at around 5am once to photograph the sunrise – worth it!

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The Guide: Our driver was great – very knowledgeable and talkative (Sampson from Gadventures). He was also basically our tour guide and animal expert too. We were lucky he was extremely patient and always stopped for us each time we saw something interesting. He also tried his best to bring us to the best spots or to wherever he hears information that there is a more ‘rare’ animal from other drivers (ex. cheetahs, leopards, lion prides on the move).

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The Living Accommodations: Something in between glamping and camping. The tents itself were huge for just 2 people like a small room, we had mattresses, a pillow, and even a fleece blanket on the colder night to go along with our sleeping bag. But the shower facilities were not the best as you would need to bring your own toilet paper and sometimes the showers did not work, or the water was cold. As I spent 7 days hiking where the washroom situation was worse, it was a major improvement and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

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The Food: Food was always delicious and plentiful. They always ensured we had a balanced meal consisting of soup, rice or pasta with some sort of protein, vegetables, and fruits. Hot drinks were always provided as well as popcorn as a snack.

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The Camera: Canon Powershot G3X. I had an iPhone 5S at the time which was definitely not the best camera out there, but overall I believe having an actual camera would be best for the optical zoom. I picked this camera specifically for this trip and it worked well for me as I was able to zoom quite in (further than most in the group) and it being digital made it easy as I did not have to change lenses. The downside, however, would be the weight of the camera as the superzoom lens is attached. I did use a polarizing filter and a hood to help counter the strong sunlight.

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The Feedback: For me, 4 days was a bit too much since game rides last about 3-4 hours each. I was getting quite tired on the last day from the early mornings, long hours in the car and late nights (I slept at 7 or 8pm the entire week prior during the Kilimanjaro hike). As the days went by seeing the animals became more lackluster unless it was a new species we did not come across before, and there were only so many photographs you can take of a lion. On our last game ride where we tried to search for a rhino, I even fell asleep!

Overall though I thoroughly enjoyed being able to witness animals in their natural habitat and much more up close than at any zoo. It was a great feeling to be able to enjoy them without being too involved and affecting their environment. However truth be told, with the number of safari vehicles going through each day, especially at popular parks like Serengeti, we are definitely still making an impact on their lives. At more special sightings such as a pride of lions attempting to catch prey, there would be about 30 cars parked along the road to catch a glimpse. But still, a bit better than them being held captive I suppose?

Advice on if you are unsure if this trip is right for you: As most of the trip is literally sitting in a car trying to scout for animals, and then spending a lot of time taking photos of the animals from inside the car, I would say you have to be either really interested in animals or really interested in (animal) photography. At times we spent up to 30 minutes to an hour at one spot as we wait for something interesting to happen (ex. pride lions going after prey)  which can end very anticlimactically, or simply because we are waiting around to get the ideal spot amongst other safari vehicles. If that is not really what you are interested in, I would definitely suggest a more private tour so you have more control of how your day goes, or just 1 game ride.

Every Sunday I share an image from my safari adventure on my Instagram – check it out!

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canada, food, montreal, travel

5 Days in Montreal

Montreal is a popular long weekend destination for us in Toronto since it’s only a 6 – 7 hour drive away. I visited Montreal for the first time as an adult over the Canadian Thanksgiving holidays. Here are some of the¬†cool things I did during the 5 days.¬†

  1. Live in an awesome Airbnb. Although your stay indoors might be short, a great accommodation does make a difference.¬†¬†LeQube was chosen for its reasonable price, walking distance to a subway station, beautiful interiors, and let’s not forget to mention a rooftop jacuzzi.IMG_0432
  2. Indulge even at brunch. At Le Passe Compose they serve foie gras eggs benedict Рwhere else can you get that? And it is as delicious as it sounds. From this trip, it was hands down my favourite meal. Be prepared to spend over 30 minutes in line though.IMG_0442
  3. Take in the beauty of Montreal Botanical Garden. I was lucky enough that my visit coincided with their annual Lantern Festival and it was definitely magical!IMG_0380
  4. Dine at the famous Au Pied de Cochon. 4 words: Duck in a Can. As cliche as this restaurant may be as a Montreal staple, it lives up to its name and hype. Remember to make a reservation as they get fully booked fast!

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    Definitely not the most photogenic, but that doesn’t affect the taste!

  5. Squeeze some sort of exercise in by hiking up Mont Royal.  Quite an easy hike as the trail is a slow gradual uphill. Since it was fall, a beautiful view of the city and the changing colours of leaves could be seen.IMG_0507
  6. Discover a secret bar. Atwater Cocktail Club Рswanky interior, interesting drinks, and as a bonus you can order snacks from the restaurant Foiegwa that it shares a kitchen with.IMG_0497
  7. Have a semi-romantic date on The Montreal Observation Wheel. A giant Ferris wheel that gives a panoramic view of Old Montreal and St. Lawrence River. My experience was semi-romantic because we had to share the car with others.IMG_0492
  8. And most importantly, do what must be done in Montreal – poutine¬†at La Banquise.¬†It’s open 24 hours so there is no excuse.IMG_0501.JPG

It was interesting to re-visit Montreal as an adult to appreciate the sights of its landscape and architecture. And of course being able to choose where to dine was a definite plus. Whether you will be in Montreal for a weekend or even just a day, these are some locations that I would recommend to consider for your next trip!

 

Bonus of places I also dined at but did not make the “favourites” cut:¬† L’avenue, Ganadara, Bar Darling, Farberge, Cafe Falco, La Diperie, and Nos Thes.¬† I also ate at MAIS which was delicious and quite reminiscent of La Carnita in Toronto.¬† However, I didn’t have any photographs of the food and as the meal was treated by the owner/chef¬† I am admittedly biased. Do check it out though if you are at Mile End doing some shopping!

 

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Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, travel

Kilimanjaro – The Ascent

A summary of several important conditions for those considering climbing Kilimanjaro. Detailed packing list at the end and separate post on The Summit to follow.

Please note that this is based on my individual experience which can vary depending on the operating company chosen, the route, the weather and of course your personal preferences.

The operating company: G Adventures

The time period: August 4 – 11, 2017

The route: Lemosho route, a 7 night, 8 day hike where summit is starting at midnight of day 7 (effectively nighttime of day 6). This route was chosen because it was the longest and provides the most time to acclimatize, which helps increase the chance of a successful summit. Continue reading

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food, Italy, travel

24 Hours in Rome

With only one day in Rome and so much to see, it was a struggle to narrow down my checklist of things to do. After being in Venice and Cinque Terre for a few days, I was slightly nervous for the bustling city of Rome and its larger population as I had been warned with many pickpocket stories. Thankfully, nothing of the sort happened.

Here’s what I did in my 24 Hours in Rome:

1) Get personalized pizzas.¬†Tasty and cheap individual sized pizzas at Trieste Pizza were perfect for us on the go. You can make your own if you don’t mind a short wait or they have several popular ones already pre-made to be heated up and ready to serve.

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2) Explore Roman Forum. So many ruins to see in just one spot! Would definitely recommend using an audio guide or getting an actual tour guide to learn more about each site. Continue reading

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food, Italy, travel

48 Hours in Cinque Terre Pt. 2

In my first day at in Cinque Terre, I managed to visit 3 of the 5 villages. This second day, I went to see the last two and attended the annual Monterosso Lemon Festival which by chance, we were in town for.

Here’s what I did with my second 24 Hours in Cinque Terre:

1) Hike from Vernazza to Corniglia on The Sentiero Azzurro (The Blue Path). This leg of the hike was quite enjoyable as most of the view was of the ocean. It also gives you a nice breeze as you walk.

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2) Enjoy the cliffside view of Corniglia. Continue reading

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food, Italy, travel

48 Hours in Cinque Terre Pt. 1

Cinque Terre meaning five lands is an area comprised of 5 villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Each one is exceptionally beautiful as they all rest along the coastline and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I had 2 full days to explore all 5 villages by hike and by train. Monterosso was my personal bias because during my 3-night stay it was my home.

Here’s what I did in my first 24 Hours in Cinque Terre:

1) Grab pastries for breakfast. From Wonderland Bakery in Monterosso, I had to try a cannoli!

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2) Hike The Blue Path (Sentiero Azzurro) from Monterosso to Vernazza. Continue reading

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food, Italy, travel

24 Hours in Venice

I planned a 6 day trip in Italy to visit Venice, Cinque Terre, and Rome. It was very ambitious but I believe I pulled it off successfully. Rome was admittedly quite rushed Рmy travel buddy Beatrice said it was a good intro to Rome trip for her and she would like to return to see it in more depth. Regarding Venice and Cinque Terre, she said we spent the perfect amount of time there to experience it fully. 

Here’s what I did with my 24 hours in Venice:

1) Take the Vaporetto a much cheaper alternative to see the cityscape from the canal instead of a gondola.

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Continue reading

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