Travels with my Art

Paintings and Photographs inspired by Travels Around the World

A school safari trip and a meeting with a kindred spirit in the Serengeti, Tanzania

My previous school trips both as a teacher and as a student have included some great places (Paris, Morocco, London) but also some really crap places too.

But on this occasion, I accompanied my year six students from Isamilo International School in Mwanza, Tanzania, to the Serengeti National Park… not to Alton Towers or the Old Warden Aeronautical Museum or Bishop’s Stortford or the Yorvik Centre or Verulamium Abbey, but the to the Serengeti National Park, yes the Seren flippin’ geti!

Travelling in up front in the safari jeep, with a group of very excited children in the back, I sat with a permanently smug look on my face as I couldn’t help thinking to myself that I could possibly be on the best bus-man’s holiday ever.

Located in north-central Tanzania, bordered by Lake Victoria to the west, Lake Eyasi in the south and the Great Rift Valley to the east, the Serengeti Plain is world renowned as an ideal location for wildlife and nature photography. Its sweeping vistas cover over 60,000 square kilometres, which is about the size of Northern Ireland, and the area offers some of the most breathtaking and undisturbed natural habitats found anywhere on  earth, with more than two million herbivores and thousands of predators.

Seeing scores of zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, gazelles, buffalos and elephants freely roaming around in the vast space and watching families of big cats lounging around in the sun is a truly magical experience.

In addition to this, I learned about so many new animals, I had never even heard off – the dik-dik, thompson’s gazelle, rock hyrax, secretary bird, kudu, impala, superb starling and my particular favourite the impressively coiffured grey crowned crane.  Although, on one occasion I did let my guard down and blurted out a rather unprofessional laugh in front of my students when the guide said he had spotted a kori bustard in the grass (and if you are curious it’s a bird, if like me you didn’t know!).

I’ve learned so much about the flora of Tanzania too and can now tell the different between an Acacia Tortilis (Umbrella Tree) and an Acacia drepanolobium (Whistling thorn).

In short, the scenery was breath-taking, the animals incredible and my students were impeccably well behaved.

A personal highlight was sharing a boiled egg with a pair of very cheeky mongooses. Ever since I was about 7 and knew that a mongoose could kill a snake, an animal I am a little more than scared of, the mongoose became my favourite creature. So when I sat down to have my lunch in one of the designated picnic areas in the Serengeti and spotted a group of these little creatures nearby, I could hardly believe my luck and sat as quietly as I could, hoping one would come near enough to me for me to get it one film.

A close up meeting with one of my favourite animals ever - a mongoose

A close up meeting with one of my favourite animals ever – a mongoose

I almost exploded with excitement when two of the mongooses came so close that they even shared a little of my food (and I know I was not meant to feed them, but I felt that in the circumstances it was an exception).  Judging from the little glint in this mongoose’s eye, I believe he (or she) too knew that we were kindred spirits.

Here are a few snaps from my trip…

Here I am with my year 6 students, and an old fashioned selfie in the wing mirror of the safari car.

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  1. Ann Curran February 12, 2015

    So pleased you (and your pupils) had such a fantastic trip. What did you bribe the wildlife with to get such fantastic photos !? So pleased you are embracing the whole African experience. Continued enjoyment to you all. Ann xx
    Date: Thu, 12 Feb 2015 20:37:34 +0000 To:

  2. Bill & Joan Dunnell February 13, 2015

    Can’t wait to see it for ourselves. xx

    • alidunnell February 13, 2015

      You will love it Joan… so so much. We can’t wait for you and Bill to come and visit. The children are so excited about it. And we are going to the Ngorogoro Crater, which will be out of this world! Much love, Ali xxx

  3. Natasha February 16, 2015

    Ha! Ha! Serengeti better than a trip to St Alban’s?! Were there any toffs there that you had to tell to ‘Bog off’? Fantastic to see Ali. Love from your old school trip companion, Tash xxx

  4. alidunnell February 17, 2015

    Dear Verulamium Abbey school trip accomplice from 31 years ago… Tash. I did not tell anyone to “bog off”, neither did I kick an expensive lunch box across a mosaic hypocaust floor. But did flout the rules when it came to feeding the mongeese at the Serengeti people’s centre… couldn’t resist! Glad you enjoyed the post. Off to Serengeti again at the end of next month and the Ngorongoro crater. In the meantime I am in charge of the school play and have to get the entire junior school into gear for the greatest performance of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… Miss you loads and thank you once again for the gifts for the children, they were over the moon. Your old school chum, Ali xxx

  5. TheGlobetrotterGP February 10, 2018

    Some beautiful photos! I absolutely loved my safari to Tanzania – I think it was even better than kenya though thats a tough call!

  6. Brianne Miers February 10, 2018

    That sounds like such an incredible experience for you and the students! (and your little friend :-)) Your photos are absolutely stunning, and I hope to see this landscape for myself some day.

  7. Megan Indoe February 10, 2018

    Wow, such amazing wildlife photography!! What an amazing experience for you and the students! We would love to experience a safari one day ourselves!

  8. Kaylie | Happiness Travels Here February 11, 2018

    Wow your photos are amazing! I love mongoose as well!

  9. Gemma Laing February 11, 2018

    This sounds amazing, you’ve really expressed your experience so gorgeously! And the photos are amazing ❤️

  10. sandykul February 12, 2018

    Eee Africa is one of my dream destination! I LOVE your photos. Thanks for sharing <3

  11. MC Adventure Blog July 5, 2018

    That is such a stunning photo of a cheetah! I’ve in Africa for 27 years and still not seen a wild one. Definitely an amazing school trip 🙂

    • alidunnell July 7, 2018 — Post Author

      Thanks so much – they often sit on that rock and watch over the Serengeti plain – just amazing animals 🙂

  12. kamranAwan October 22, 2018

    The way you express experience is great..

  13. Nina Out and About February 3, 2019

    The shot of the leopard on the rock totally captivated me. It’s the reason I clicked on this post and then there were more absolutely brilliant shots!

    • alidunnell February 8, 2019 — Post Author

      Thanks so much Nina – I also love this photo of the cheetah – by the mongoose is the favourite 😉

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