#132 Show Notes | Trip Report: Wild Stories from Tanzania

Listen to this episode.

#132 | Trip Report: Wild Stories from Tanzania

Watch this episode.

Read this episode

For the first time since 2019, I had the incredible opportunity to travel back to one of my favorite places on Earth, East Africa. 

The purpose of my journey was to visit my work’s Njozi Camp, meet my wonderful Tanzanian colleagues, visit newly-built camps, and record hours of media for several of our conservation initiatives. 

In case you weren’t aware, on top of hosting and running this show, I’m the Director of Conservation for The Wild Source, a wildlife biologist-owned, mission-based safari company that is disrupting the industry through empowerment.

My last trip to Africa in September 2019 included a Women in Conservation trip across Tanzania with the Katie Adamson Conservation Fund, and then a two-week site inspection with my former employer, Natural Habitat Adventures, through South Africa, Botswana, and Victoria Falls.

I returned from that trip a different person (maybe one day I’ll share with you what happened during that month-long stay in Africa), and ever since then, I’ve been hoping to return. 

Finally, the opportunity came this past March. With a week’s notice, my fantastic boss and mentor, Bill Given, informed me that he found great international flights, helped arranged site inspection visits, and set me up with one of our phenomenal Tanzanian guides, Sosy Maira.

Day 1

I left on a Thursday at 7:00 AM and arrived at the Kilimanjaro Airport the following afternoon. I was transferred to Arusha, where I met Sosy, Deo, co-owner of The Wild Source-Tanzania, and Eva, Deo’s wife. In true Brooke fashion, I started the trip with a Safari Lager beer, and then celebratory gin and tonic with Tanzania’s local gin, Konyagi. (Ah, I always find a way to discover the local liquor. More stories for another time).

After lunch, Sosy and I loaded in his new Land Cruiser, then headed off for the bush. Once we successfully drove out of the city limits, the landscape opened, and I finally got to see why this time of year is so special. 

December through May is the green season in Tanzania, characterized by sporadic showers and thunderstorms. The rains turn the plains bright green with fresh grass and wildflowers. East Africa’s famous wildebeest migration follows the rains, and over one million wildebeest and zebra return to the southern Serengeti to give birth to their calves and feast on the nutrient-rich Serengeti grasses. 

This influx of food doesn’t go unnoticed. Predators have been waiting for the herds’ arrival for months, and also take advantage of the food surplus. 

If you’re keeping track of time in your head, you probably realized that by this point that I’m going on almost 48 hours without any sleep. I am not one of the blessed people who can sleep on planes, and so by the time we arrived at Gibbs Farm two hours later, I was barely functional. I worked up enough energy to eat dinner, shower off two days of travel, then pass out to the sounds of rain and thunder.

Day 2

The following morning, I met the camp manager and took a tour of the stunning property. Gibbs farm was established in the early 1900s as a coffee plantation by a German Duke, then purchased after World War II by James and Margaret Gibbs who turned the plantation into a working farm, and eventually, a tourism destination. Gibbs now includes a 30-acre coffee plantation, and let me tell you, the coffee is to die for, a 10-acre vegetable farm, 5 acres of herbs and flowers, and a resident herd of cows and pigs.

I loved to hear that Gibbs also established an elephant corridor that allows wildlife from the Ngorongoro Crater to move freely in and out of the park and reach water sources, plus mineral-rich rocks called elephant caves. 

After breakfast, Sosy and I loaded up in his Land Cruiser and headed to Ndutu in the southern Serengeti. To get there, we drove along the Ngorongoro Crater rim, stopping for photos and a wildlife check at the crater lookout. 

Ngorongoro was named by Maasai pastoralists as an onomatopoeia of the cowbells they use to keep track of their livestock and has a long geological and human history. The Ngorongoro Crater is one of eight extinct volcanoes within the Pliocene Ngorongoro volcanic group and is “the world’s largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera.” Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area has undergone many waves of strict protection, to removal of human settlements, and now is one of the last remaining places that allows Maasai pastoralists to continue their traditional way of life. 

As we descended the crater’s walls, the plains opened, and for the first time, I saw pockets of the great wildebeest herds that’d become the focal point of my trip. The scene took my breath away. I could see dark rain clouds in the distance, and soon we were driving through heavy downpours. I loved every second of it.

The landscape began to change as our drive continued. The closer we got to Ndutu, the more trees appeared, and the wildlife began to change, as well. We saw a large herd of giraffes, complete with a rare set of twins with both calves trying to suckle their mother. Dripping wet black long-crested eagles, marabou storks, white-backed vultures, tawny eagles, and bright southern red bishop birds graced us from above. 

All of these sightings were spectacular, but the encounter that won the day was with an elephant family just before we arrived at camp. A rambunctious teenager fueled up on hormones was running around like a wild man, going from family member to family member making all sorts of noise. The herd had two little surprises, including a newborn calf that could still walk underneath its mother. As the herd meandered away from us, we continued driving and headed to Njozi Camp.

We pulled into camp with a double rainbow and a tawny eagle overhead. I couldn’t have been more ecstatic. Finally, I was back in the bush, and mother nature welcomed me back with open arms. 

I was greeted by our incredible Tanzania team and had just enough time for a quick bucket shower before heading back to the main tent for dinner and music around the campfire. That night I fell asleep to zebra just outside of my tent and hyenas calling in the valley in front of camp. I hadn’t slept so well in months.

Day 3

Now that I was at Njozi Camp, it was time for the real fun to begin. For the next four days, we departed camp before sunrise and didn’t return until after sunset. The things I saw were straight out of a wild documentary.

The following morning began at sunrise with migratory flamingos feasting on microscopic phytoplankton in Lake Ndutu. Driving further, we heard the characteristic call of an eagle owl, and successfully found not one, but two owls cuddled up together in a tree. Then we were off to find the loves of my life: big cats. 

First, we found two big lion males of the Marsh pride snoozing away in a tall bush. Following, we exited the trees and headed out onto the vast plains in search of cheetahs. During our wanderings, we came across a coalition of five young male lions with manes barely large enough to call them adults. The plains are no man’s land – an area for these males to grow, gain strength, and, in time, challenge the established males with prime habitat tucked within the trees.

One can only watch sleeping cats for so long, and so we ventured off again in search of cheetahs.


Tucked behind a tall bush lay a beautiful female cheetah. The vehicle that found her told us they were almost certain she has cubs somewhere, but she couldn’t seem to locate them. 

Yusuf, one of The Wild Source’s resident biologists at Njozi Camp who studies Serengeti big cats, decided to name the female after me. Little did he know that the landscape in which we found her was the meaning of my name – a brook flowing through a flowering meadow. Tears filled my eyes. I am not an emotional person but I was so moved by the moment that I could barely contain myself from losing it. With the number of hardships that have befallen me in the past year, in that moment I knew I was right where I needed to be, sitting in a Land Cruiser with two phenomenal humans watching a gorgeous cheetah named Brooke. I knew the trip could only go up from here.

Day 4

And holy crap, did it go up. The following morning we left camp the same as the previous day – before sunrise – to see what wildlife was out and about. Not too long into our drive, we found two males and two females from the Backyard pride, out on morning patrol. Yusuf informed me that there were three additional males in this pride that must be out doing patrols in other parts of their territory. 

If only all five males were together because the series of events that happened next was straight out of a BBC film. As we were following the pride partaking in their morning ritual, we looked into the distance and spotted a massive male hippo that hadn’t yet made his way to the lake. A dangerous decision. We weren’t the only creatures in the bush that spotted the hippo – the two lion males did, as well. The behavior of the pride flipped on a dime, and they switched from casually meandering along the lake shoreline to hunting mode. I hope one day scientists will understand non-verbal communication, because the males were clearly communicating to the females who were a quarter mile away, asking them to join the hunt. Sosy and Yusuf inferred that the lead female was pregnant, and the hunt was too risky for the future of the pride. So, she and her daughter kept their distance and watched.

At this point, the hippo had spotted the lions and knew he was in imminent danger. The two males began to stalk and slowly approach. Male lions have the rather undeserved reputation of being lazy and relying solely on females for their meals. As I witnessed time and time again, this just isn’t true. The males are vital for taking down prey of this size and protecting their pride from other males.

It was a standoff.

The hippo carefully emerged from the tall grass and stared at the lions only a few feet away. In what seemed like a moment of courage and determination, the hippo bolted with both male lions springing after it.

Fortunately for the hippo, only two of the five males were present, and he dragged both full-grown lions all the way to the water’s edge, a distance of at least 300 meters. The hippo crashed into the water, looked at the lions, and started spraying his poop in a territorial display. 

After the lions accepted defeat, they went off in an apparently great mood, giving each other head butts, splashing through water, and licking each other’s manes.

After this rather impressive show of strength and dedication, Sosy and Yusuf officially named the coalition of males Wakazi, which means residents in Swahili. They made it obvious to us, and I’m sure all other lions in Nudutu, that they were here to stay. We also decided it was time to move on and see what else the bush had to offer this morning.

Next, we found the Marsh pride male lions panting in the sun, and taking long drinks at the creek that flowed through their territory. Sosy and Yusuf received reports that this pride’s famous matriarch, Laura, had a newborn cub tucked away in a den nearby. Yusuf had seen her moving at least one cub during a previous safari, and so we knew if we stayed with her, we might see her tiny babies. David, another of our team’s biologist guides, was with us, and he and his traveler stayed with Laura to see if she would lead us to her den while we went off in search of interesting sightings. 

Nothing of note appeared, and David radioed Sosy and informed us that Laura had indeed led them to her den. We joined David’s vehicle on the side of a ravine covered in thick bush and trees. I could barely see into the den and used all of my flexibility and strength to hold myself on the roof. Then, for one brief moment, I saw the spotted noggin of a newborn lion cub, and I gasped. I had never seen such a tiny cub in the wild before. Laura was clearly a well-seasoned mother, as I couldn’t tell if she had any additional cubs and could only see her foot inside. We decided to leave her be and depart the area before any other vehicles saw where we were. 

Next, we found a rather fun critter – a leopard tortoise making its way from one side of the woodland to the other. We stopped for some photography shots, although the tortoise refused to cooperate and would turn away from us, even though we were very far away. After a few shots, we continued on our day.

As we were driving around, Laura emerged from her den and began scanning the area. Clearly, she was hungry and needed to hunt. Sosy, Yusuf, and David immediately recognized her behavior and parked several hundred meters away near a wildebeest herd that offered her the perfect opportunity for a meal. Our guides are some of the best in all of Tanzania at identifying cat behavior, predicting their course of action, and never impeding the cat’s actions. While we were watching Laura slowly move from bush to bush nearer the wildebeest, countless other safari vehicles came up to us to see what we were looking at since it wasn’t obvious at first. Each vehicle stayed maybe five minutes and left. When it comes to predators, patience is the name of the game.

The three of us talked about everything in the sun, laughed a ton, ate our lunch, and sat through two massive thunderstorms as we watched Laura stalk the herd, silently moving from one form of cover to another.

Then, after the second thunderstorm, the herd moved up into the woodland and Laura followed. We knew we needed to follow if we were to see her hunt. David and Sosy found a safe passage across the now-raging creek and ventured up into the woodland.

It took us only a few minutes to find her. In the little amount of time it took us to cross the creek and drive up into the trees, she had taken down a grown wildebeest, killed it, and already had its belly open. This lady was a professional killing machine! We stayed with her until dusk as she feasted on her kill. As with all of our cat sightings, Yusuf wrote down the sighting data, including GPS points to return to the next day.

As the sun set, we left Laura and her meal, knowing that tonight her cubs would also eat well.

Day 5

The following morning, we departed before sunrise, loaded down with breakfast, lunch, and boundless enthusiasm after yesterday’s incredible sightings. 

Today was about the plains.

On our way out of the woodlands, we found the three other massive Wakazi out on morning patrol. Well, two of the three didn’t seem that interested in patrolling. They preferred playing and buddying up with each other, while the lead male, a gorgeous lion with a light blonde mane, kept the two moving forward and marking their territory as they went. Once they arrived back at the water’s edge, they laid down for a morning rest after what was probably a long night. Lions are mostly active at night and we caught them at the end of their patrol. After they bedded down, we headed out to the open Serengeti.

Back in cheetah country, we all had our binoculars at the ready and began scanning the endless plans for signs of activity. We spotted a small cluster of safari vehicles and headed that way. Once we arrived, we saw the interest of the group – a newly independent female cheetah had taken down a Thompson’s gazelle calf and was devouring it as quickly as she could before others spotted her. When she had finished, she bedded down in the tall grasses for a well-deserved rest, and we went off looking for more cats.

In our quest, we took dramatic photos of stunning thunderclouds over the plains with zebra in the forefront, endangered East African crowned cranes, and, once again, found the coalition of five young lion males. After so much photography and no additional cats to be seen, we headed back towards camp.

Day 6

On Day 6 of my trip, I was supposed to leave Njozi and head to a camp that our US team hadn’t experienced before. Unfortunately for them, the recent rains had flooded the river so high that their main tent was under water and the crossing to their camp was impassable. While I was disappointed to no longer be able to visit the camp, the change of plans meant we had another full day in Ndutu before moving on to the central and eastern regions of the Serengeti. We took full advantage of the opportunity.

The day afforded us another unforgettable big cat experience. We were still in pursuit of more cheetah sightings and ventured out onto the plains. Sosy contacted one of his close guide friends who had already spotted a cheetah, which was rather impressive considering we left before sunrise, as well. We met up with him, and much to our delight, he had found a super mom cheetah with three healthy, 9-month-old cubs. This super mother had somehow raised and protected her cubs for almost a full year, and now that her offspring were easily two-thirds her size, they could outrun any predator that might wish to cause them harm. 

While these cubs were in the clear of hyenas and lions, they had not yet developed the ability to hunt. Judging by their narrow stomachs, our super cheetah mother needed to catch some food soon. After a couple of romp sessions, morning stretches, and drinks in a nearby puddle, Super Mom got up to look for a meal with her three boisterous teenagers in tow. 

Sosy and Yusuf scanned the plains for any potential meals and found a group of Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles (or G&Ts, as coined by the team), and positioned our Land Cruiser completely removed from the group of cheetahs, so as not to alert the gazelles of their presence. Unfortunately for the cats, the wind changed, and the gazelle saw the approaching danger and moved off. Super Mom had to continue her search for food.

Scanning the horizon once more, Sosy spotted a second group of G&Ts that were not aware of the cats’ presence. As before, he positioned our vehicle to watch the scene unfold without disturbing the cats’ behavior. 

Super Mom slowly made her approach and melted into the tall grass. It was afternoon by this point, and all of the other vehicles had returned to camp for lunch, leaving this entire incredible sighting to ourselves.

With some unknown cue, Super Mom told her cubs to wait, and all three crouched down, safely out of view of the gazelles. Super Mom approached the small herd until she was about 100 meters from a Grant’s gazelle and its calf. Then, in an instant, she sprinted towards the gazelle at full speed, tripping the mother gazelle, and somehow grabbing its throat in midair as it tumbled to the ground. The three cubs leaped with excitement and ran over to their mother to celebrate the kill. As Super Mom was asphyxiating the kill, she gave the gazelle to her cubs to practice their killer bite. While these scenes are always brutal to watch, I found it fascinating and endearing to see this dedicated mother actively teach her babies how to be proper cheetahs. They didn’t quite have their kill bite figured out, and so Super Mom had to step back in to finish the job. Then she sat down to rest, panting heavily while her cubs dove into the fresh meat.

Just as the cheetah family started eating, a powerful thunderstorm came rolling through, drenching the cats and affording me some of the most dramatic wildlife photos I’ve ever taken. Four cheetahs devouring a gazelle on the bright green Serengeti plains, surrounded by wildflowers, soaked by rain, and lit up by flashes of lightning. I was blown away.

Once the rains departed and the cheetah family had their fill, we let them be and headed back to camp knowing that tomorrow would be full of new adventures in new areas.

Day 7

This morning I said goodbye to my wonderful colleagues at Njozi Camp, and then Sosy, Yusuf, and I headed northeast through the famous Serengeti National Park, searching for wildlife as we went. Since we had to get to the next camp, we didn’t have many opportunities to go out of our way looking for animals, but we did have a surprise serval sighting right next to the road in central Serengeti.

Moving onwards, we arrived at Lemala Nanyukie Lodge just before sunset. Nanyukie is a camp within Lemala’s luxury collection, and boy, is it luxurious. It reminded me of some of the luxury camps I stayed at in Botswana. The lodge was beautiful. The main tent had a fully equipped bar, lots of comfy couches to mingle at, a walkout fireplace, and a pool. The dining area was also luxurious and huge, much bigger than the small camps I was used to. I was escorted to my tent by a Maasai guardsman, as Nanyukie has a resident lion pride that loves to bask on the kjopes surrounding camp. My tent was huge, complete with a private plunge pool and outdoor shower, both of which I was sure to use.

Sosy, Yusuf, and I ended the night with cocktails at the bar, then I sat down for an indulgent meal and passed out hard that night.

Day 8

For Day 8, we had one goal – a cat trick. A cat trick, coined by my boss and founder of The Wild Source, Bill Given, is when all three African big cats are spotted in one day. If you follow hockey or soccer, then you’ve probably heard of a hat trick, which is what inspired Bill to come up with the term cat trick. With three big cat biologists in the vehicle and Sosy’s years of experience spotting leopards in this part of the park, we knew we had a decent probability of succeeding.

The first ones out of camp, we ventured off into an area with scattered tall trees, tall grasses, and lots of open land – the perfect leopard habitat. Much to our delight, we found a gorgeous male leopard in his prime, going about his morning routine, checking out his territory, smelling who might have come through in the night. I had never seen a leopard in tall, green grass and gorgeous wildflowers, and had a blast photographing him as he went about his day. 

Then, his behavior abruptly changed and he became more excited. We thought that maybe he had smelled a female in estrous and was trying to locate her. His movements became more erratic, and then he looked over the tall grass and started running away from us towards whatever he had seen. Looking through our binoculars, we thought he saw another leopard and followed him in excitement. Maybe he sniffed out a female and had plans on copulation.

We couldn’t have predicted what happened next. As we dashed parallel to his movements, we quickly realized that he wasn’t running towards a leopard, but to a mother cheetah and her sub-adult cub! My heart leaped out of my chest. Were we about to witness this leopard kill one or both cheetahs?

Much to our surprise, the mother cheetah and male cub saw the leopard approaching them with an aggressive posture and they went after him! Not only did they not run away, but they stood their ground! What were we watching?! The mother began circling the leopard to keep his attention away from her cub. Once the leopard realized his surprise attack didn’t work, he laid down, and the two cheetahs began lunging toward the big male, trying to harass him away. The harassment worked because the leopard stood up and began walking back to where he came from. Then, the cheetahs started chasing him! They ran him all the way back to his tree and then dashed away once they knew they were safe. Ego slightly bruised, the male went up into his tree and gave me some classic leopard shots, then we left in search of lions to complete our cat trick.

Much to our delight, we found a lone female lioness hanging out at a watering hole a few minutes away. By 10:45 AM, we successfully had a cat trick, which might be the earliest our team has ever gotten one. We were over the moon and could barely speak between, wows, omgs, and laughs of disbelief. 

After lunch, we found a large pride resting in the sun after gorging on a buffalo, followed by playful hyenas swimming in lake, and a flashy corey bustard showing off his best strut for the local females.


Phew, are you still with me? I’m a long ways into this trip report and I haven’t discussed getting stuck in the marsh near lions, two additional camps, Lions Paw Camp and Olkeri Camp, Tarangire National Park, or the Ngorongoro Crater. Maybe I’ll save those for another time, or schedule another happy hour with you all to swap stories. 

I wanted to move on to a few questions submitted by Katie Propp regarding the trip. Katie is the Conservation Education Director for Penguins International and introduced me to Michelle LaRue, so thanks again for that connection, Katie! Michelle’s episode did really well. 

Okay! Katie asked (answers are in the audio and video formats of the episode):

  • What surprised you most?
  • What animals did you see that maybe the average tourist might miss?
  • How did the people you worked with (Sosy and Yusuf) get into their jobs and what crazy stories did they have to share?
  • Best part of being in the bush?
  • Worst part of being in the bush?
Conclusion + Announcements

The moral of this story is to go. Just go. Create a budget and make travel a part of your, especially to wild places where your money will go directly towards conserving our natural spaces. If you want tips and tricks on how to be a conservation traveler, I conveniently did a whole episode on the topic (Episode #91) which I have linked in this episode’s description and, of course, at the website.

I want to give a special thanks to Sosy and Yusuf for giving me one of my best wildlife trips yet, and to Bill for sending me to Tanzania. If you have any questions about my trip, where I went, wildlife behavior, or anything else, please reach out and ask me either via email at hello@rewildology.com, comment below, or asking your question in the Rewildologist Facebook group.

I have a couple of announcements before wrapping up today’s show. For the month of June, I’ll be releasing Rewildology’s Wildest Hits Volumes 1-5, based on the show’s most popular episodes. During that time, I’ll be doing lots of work behind the scenes adding new countries to the show through new voices, making important updates, and, hopefully, creating more ways for you to engage with the show and help conservation directly. 

Until next adventure, friends. Together, we’ll rewild the planet.

Wild Moments

More Information
Places Visited
Other Useful Resources

Want to help us keep these stories on the airwaves? Support the Rewildology Podcast

Sign up for the Rewildology Newsletter!

Want to stay up-to-date on the latest podcast shenanigans? Sign up for the Rewildology Newsletter! (We promise – interesting emails only!)

Success! You're on the list.

Check out other Rewildology Posts.

#147 Show Notes | Persistence: The Key to Saving Brazil’s Lahille’s Bottlenose Dolphin with Pedro Fruet, PhD (Repost)
What is Episode 147 all about? Today’s conversation is a repost of Episode 31 with Pedro Fruet, PhD, world-leading Lahille’s Bottlenose Dolphin researcher in Brazil. Why did I choose …
Meet Mia Bosna | Conservation Illustrator
Featured Rewildologist: Mia Bosna Hi, Mia! Thanks so much for sitting down with the Rewildology community today. Tell us, what do you do? I am an illustrator that has …

Follow Rewildology

Leave a Reply

Scroll Up
%d bloggers like this: