Adit Jain, 46, MD of IMA India, a business information company, travelled to Ngorongoro and Serengeti last August with a bunch of friends. It was his nth visit to a wildlife sanctuary, but the spirit of the wild still captivates.
You seem to be quite a wildlife buff?
Oh, yes. I visited a park for the first time in 1982, when I was still in college. This was the Betla sanctuary in Palamau. Ranthambore followed in 1989 and then others in India and abroad. Initially, I was like any other tourist. Then came an interest in photography and a sincere interest in birds and animals. Forests are now my greatest fascination, so much so that my friends say I work in between holidays. I can spend weeks in forests—in fact, I’m building a house in Kanha solely for this purpose.
So I suppose it was only a matter of time before you visited Tanzania and Kenya.
That’s right. In fact, last August was my second visit to the Serengeti. I went there with a group of friends, 10 in all. I have initiated my friends into wildlife appreciation, and now we travel together each year, often to parks in Africa. But I have a sneaking feeling they go more for the resort.
How did you make the bookings for the trip?
We flew Emirates, with a stopover in Dubai. We spent a couple of days in Dar-es-Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, before flying into Arusha, in the northern part of the country, for a drive into the Ngorongoro. We stayed with Conservation Corporation Africa, which runs the best—and possibly the most expensive—resorts in Africa; they also took care of local flight charters and ground transport. All told, we had three days in Ngorongoro and four in the Serengeti.
Serengeti refers to the entire stretch of the savannah between Tanzania and Kenya; Ngorongoro is the Tanzanian part of the landscape.
You’re familiar with wildlife sanctuaries across the world, including Denali in Alaska and Madikwe Hills, South Africa. How were Ngorongoro and Serengeti different?
Ngorongoro is located in the crater of an extinct volcano. There’s also a large lake in the crater and, in a way, it makes for an eco-system of its own—apart from making for stunning visuals. The crater tip is cold, at 8,500ft, although the pit is warm. The vegetation changes from tropical to temperate as you climb up towards the rim of the crater. The animals usually don’t migrate out but, apart from that, there is nothing really unusual here—unlike Lake Manyara, where lions climb trees.
Were you in time for the annual migration?
I saw the migration in 2002 and again in 2004, but not last year. One has to be lucky to see the actual river crossing. The film crews from National Geographic, Animal Planet, BBC and Discovery have to wait for weeks and often miss out on the actual crossing as the animals can use several different points in the Mara river.
The migration specifically involves the movement of hundreds and thousands of wildebeest and zebra from the Serengeti to the Mara. The river-crossing is the fun bit to watch, with crocodiles and lions lying in wait to grab unsuspecting prey. The scale of the migration is amazing.
What were the animals you spotted? Any particularly memorable sightings?
Oh, we saw them all, from lions, leopards and rhinos—both black and white—to zebras, Thompson gazelles, giraffes, hippos…several times over. The rare sightings are the birds: I managed to spot various raptors and also the secretary bird.
The best sight we saw, though, was four cheetahs—mother and three cubs—on a kill. It was about 8am, we were in a jeep about 150 yards away and for over half an hour, as we watched, the predators set about polishing off their prey.
Any downside to holidaying in the wild? As in water, safety, or were there other dos and don’ts to watch out for?
No, not really. I guess that depends on the hotel you use. We usually stick with CC Africa, which has cracked it in every way. Their lodges are excellent, 25 rooms are part of a large property for them, usually they offer six or eight rooms. Their choice of food and wines is superb. And, most important, they have excellent guides and naturalists. There is no comparison to services available in India—so I’m glad they have now decided to launch in Pench and Bandhavgarh.
About the only ‘downside’ lies in the spend (rooms range between $540 or Rs22,237 and $925 for a night). A safari in Africa is quite expensive; we often charter small planes.
As told to Sumana Mukherjee. Share your last holiday with us at firstname.lastname@example.org