Heading back to the more traditional safari, we started off at Lake Manyara, an unbelievably beautiful place. The park surrounding the lake has some of the most incredible forests and trees I have seen, which makes it an ideal spot for birds. We did also manage to find a pride of lions resting next to the big lake (not up in the trees for which these specific lions are famous for), as well as some elephants, a few male buffalo, and a host of smaller animals. The lodge is built into the trees, and despite being ultra comfortable, makes you feel like you really are in nature.
It is always exciting starting a new safari, but starting it on white sandy beaches on your own private island is very special indeed. Based on a small island just off the coast of Zanzibar (which itself is an island off the coast of Tanzania), we had the Indian Ocean waiting for us to jump right in, and we happily obliged. Zanzibar is well-known for its diverse and colourful marine life, and we managed to fit in a couple of dives as well as lots of snorkelling, but the highlight was undoubtedly swimming with a pod of about 50 common dolphins. They were quite relaxed, and actually came closer to us to investigate, which made for a few nice images. Back on the island, there are several little antelopes running around, and with a little effort, we managed some good images of them as well. It is very easy relaxing in such a wonderful setting, and taking in a brilliant sunset every evening. The open planned rooms maximise the space and the environment, giving you true comfort in a luxurious setting.
On the final day of this wonderful safari, we kept the habit of waking up with the sun, and made straight for the Taj Mahal. The cameras were put to work early, as the lack of crowds and heat, coupled with the fantastic sunrise, made for some wonderful images. Our private guide showed us around the complex, letting us in on all the history of the area. After breakfast, we made our way across to Agra’s Red Fort, which is connected to the Taj Mahal through history, but has quite a unique history of its own. The fort was built in red sandstone, and has a lot of detail carved into it, making for many interesting compositions and images.
After all the tiger fun of the last few days, we tried something a little different before heading off to Agra to see the magnificent Taj Mahal. We climbed up to the 2000-year-old fort overlooking the reserve. This turned out to be a great idea, because the views were spectacular. The ruins themselves were equally impressive, and gave our cameras a new challenge. We arrived in Agra in time to enjoy a wonderful view from our hotel of the Taj Mahal as the sun was setting.
This was the last day we had to search for the magnificent tigers, and it did not disappoint; we spent our last 3 hours of the Tiger Safariphotographing a female tiger and her 2 cubs! They were slowly moving around in the shade of some pretty impressive trees, giving us loads of great opportunities to photograph them. The already amazing sighting was finished off by the more adventurous of the 2 cubs catching an unlucky monitor lizard. The poor reptile was flung around like a plaything, as the cub tried to figure it all out. I am not sure if the lizard survived the ordeal, but the cub soon lost interest, and went back to join his mother. The mother eventually decided that it was time to move on, so she called the youngsters and off they went. What an end to another year of wonderful tiger viewing and photography!