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We’re very fortunate to partner with some of the most stunning camps and lodges across East Africa. Part of the beauty of an African experience, though, is getting entirely away from the tourist trail and, while all our trips offer unique experiences, there’s nothing better than packing up your kit and heading off in search off real wilderness.

At Capture, we work with specialist operators running treks across eastern and southern Africa. I’ve recently returned from a trek with ‘Nature Discovery’, our adventure partners who run expeditions across northern Tanzania. For me, it really hit the trekking nail on the head, offering a great sense of adventure, challenge, achievement, and, importantly, showcasing some incredible sites and locations that made for great photography.

In a bid to share our ever-growing enthusiasm for this type of adventure, I thought I’d give some highlights.

The trek in the far north of Tanzania ran from the Empackai Crater, to Lake Natron, heading north along the Great Rift Valley, and involved three nights camping with two trekking days. It was led by a guide from Nature Discovery and a local Masai, both of whom clearly know, love and understand the area uniquely. Empakai Camp Site

To reach the crater rim – where the trek begins – we headed to the Ngorongoro Crater and followed the crater road east. The road splits at the ranger post and, where 99% of people turn left, we turned right. Immediately you feel you’re doing something entirely unique and that’s the beauty of these trips.

The road to Empackai saw us pass scattered Masai villages and the Olmoti Crater and we reached camp in the late afternoon. The camp itself is designed to be lightweight; suitable to be packed up and transported by donkey to our next site the following day. Dome tents and hot bucket showers just add to the feeling of adventure and expedition.

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The trek proper began early on the second morning. We’d had tantalizing views down into the Empackai Crater with its beautiful lake the evening before. Now we were working our way through the forest – a path, of sorts, guiding us downward. The foliage is thick at this altitude and the emergence out of the jungle is sudden and striking.IMG_7634

The lake was just as beautiful as we’d hoped, and magnificently surrounded by a wall of forest, hundreds of feet high. After some time to simply enjoy the scene, as well as the resident flamingo, geese and baboons, we tackled the upward climb on the far side of the crater. The climb is manageable but challenging and progress was slow and steady. Any decent trek will offer some physical challenge and the sense of achievement is part of the joy.

The afternoon stretch was more relaxed and having time to speak with and learn from our Masai guide was fascinating. Our camp for the second night was set in a beautiful acacia forest and, many miles from other tourists or even other roads, we spent the evening around the campfire, simply listening to the sounds of the forest and enjoying an incredible night sky. It really was magical.

As per most safari experienc es, early starts are in order for these treks and shortly after sunrise we were up and catching the beautiful morning light. Before long we were through the acacia forest and climbing up onto a ridge that would start our descent down towards Lake Natron.

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As we walked, the scenery opened up in front of us to offer mind-blowing views across this vast, volcanic landscape and onwards over Lake Natron and the Great Rift Valley. To our right was ‘Ol Doinyo Lengai’, ‘The Mountain of God’, with almost sheer vertical walks rising up to its cone peak (these can be climbed for those who are after a serious challenge). This active volcano had blown just a few years earlier, covering the mountainside in ash, choking any life that was underneath. Today the grasses are growing back, offering a lovely contrast against the dark black volcanic soil. Each corner we turned offered more staggering views that we had to stop and admire.

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By lunchtime we reached the pick-up point, just a few miles short of Lake Natron, at the base of Ol Doinyo Lengai. It was staggering how much hotter it was down here and it was nice to get to camp and have a dip in the river than runs by the side of our private campsite. In the afternoon, we took a short walk up the river to a small waterfall where you can swim. The amazing day was topped off by a visit to our Masai guide’s home village to meet his family before heading down to the shores of Lake Natron to see the flamingos and toast one of the most amazing days with a well-deserved sundowner.

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Treks such as this one, easily built into other safaris, I just can’t recommend highly enough. From the moment you take that right turn at Ngorongoro you feel you’re taking your own track. The distance you put between yourselves and others gives a unique sense of isolation and adventure; the physical challenge adding to the feeling of real achievement.

For ideas on other treks or for more information on this particular one, do get in touch. tim@capturesafaris.com

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