When a friend of mine asked me if I would like to join him for some “off the beaten track” camping in Tanzania, the first thing I told him was: “I can think of better ways to die than getting eaten by a lion!” This may have been a bit dramatic, but for someone who had never gone camping, let alone been to Africa, the idea of pitching a tent in the middle of the Savannah filled me with dread. But insistent he was, and after showing me stunning photos of Tanzanian landscapes, I slowly warmed to the idea and finally agreed to join him.
Having no clue what to pack for such an adventure — other than the rather obvious tent, sleeping bag and wild cat repellant — my thoughts turned to which watch would best suit an adventure across the plains of Tanzania. Ralph Lauren’s Safari watch immediately sprang to mind. I remembered the brand’s Safari advertizing campaign with the models cuddling lion cubs and suddenly felt more reassured!
I chose the RL67 Safari Chronometer 39mm, with an anthracite dial, a black-aged stainless steel case and a khaki textile strap. The watch was actually designed for men, but it looked so fabulous on my wrist — and there is a larger 45mm version too — so I really feel that this one should be left for the ladies!
It was extremely comfortable on the wrist and went perfectly with my new wardrobe of adventurer clothing. The watch is powered by a Sellita SW-300 movement and has a 42-hour power reserve. The finishing is rather nice too, with both Côtes de Genève and circular graining on the movement. A closer look at the dial reveals a beautiful stamped circular pattern, easy-to-read beige luminescent Arabic numerals, a railway track and a striking orange seconds hand, making it both attractive and practical for my upcoming adventure.
Flying from Geneva, Switzerland, we arrived at Kilimanjaro Airport late at night and went directly to the Rivertree Hotel, a delightful lodge nestled in the foothills of Mount Meru with a view of Kilimanjaro itself. The next morning, after filling up the car, we left directly for the bustling safari town of Arusha, where our adventure would begin. The drive from Kilimanjaro to Arusha was my first taste of Tanzanian landscape, and for someone who comes from Switzerland, a small country surrounded by mountains, the sense of vastness was at first a little unsettling.
Our first stop was the supermarket for supplies, or at least that was what my friend had called it. The supermarket was in reality an old refrigerated shipping container filled with pieces of meat; it looked more like the setting of a horror movie than anything else. After picking a selection of sausages, bacon and chicken we left for the Ngorongoro crater where we would be spending the night before heading off the next morning into the park.
The following morning we were up at 4am and drove directly to the Lodoare Gate, where we bought our tickets to access the Ngorongoro conservation area, a UNESCO-protected site with vast expanses of high plains, savannah and the spectacular Ngorongoro crater. It was still dark on our way up to the top of the crater but just as we arrived I got to see my first Tanzanian sunrise and, I have to admit, it might just be better than the sunrises in Switzerland.
The Ngorongoro crater is a magical place with over 25,000 large animals living within its borders; I can truly understand why some people call it “The Garden of Eden.” Apart from the elephants, most animals are not able to leave the crater, meaning that the number of animals in one relatively confined area is huge, and unlike the big national parks where you might only see an animal every once in a while, it is almost impossible not to set eyes on one inside the crater. On our first day alone, we saw four of the big five: A lion, an elephant, a rhinoceros and a buffalo. The only one we were missing was the leopard. Later, one of the park’s rangers explained to me that the term “big five” came from the hunters of old. They chose to name this list of animals the “big five” because they were the most dangerous to hunt as they always fought back.
That afternoon we left for Serengeti National Park. I could attempt to describe the park, but its name says it all. The word Serengeti comes from the Maasai tribe and it means “the place where the land runs forever.”
The part of the trip I feared the most was sleeping in the “bush” as the locals call it. “Don’t worry,” I was told. “When you hear a lion, you’ll think it’s right next to you, but it really isn’t,” or “You get used to hyenas after a while, you’ll see.” It was one of the most exciting yet terrifying experiences I have ever had.
The next couple of days felt like we were playing a huge game of hide and seek with the savannah animals. Some days they won and some days we did. Overall, we were definitely the winners as we got to witness one of Africa’s natural wonders, the Great Migration, where around two million wildebeests, zebras and gazelles migrate around the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara in search of grass. We were extremely lucky to cross paths with them in the Ndutu area, which was breathtaking and I will remember it for as long as I live.
The Ndutu area is not as dry as the rest of the Serengeti. The forest replaces the flat fields of dried grass and the most beautiful lakes welcome the animals. Driving along the lakes you can see hundreds of pink flamingoes just standing in the shallow waters like statues. There are also hyenas playing in the water like children. Only the noise of our car’s engine disturbed the tranquility of the place.
After a couple days of camping, my friend had organized a surprise for my birthday — a stay in the Ndutu Safari Lodge, the oldest lodge in the Serengeti. It was previously home to Hugo van Lawick and his then-wife Jane Goodall, as well as leading wildlife filmmakers and photographers who were attracted there because of the exceptional wildlife viewing.
My judgement may have been biased after sleeping in a tent, but this place was just paradise. We stayed in one of the lodge’s cottages and enjoyed every moment, from the great hospitality to the delicious food, an unforgettable after-dinner glass of wine around an open fire under the stars and a comfortable bed.
The Tanzanian people were so welcoming and I would have quite liked to stay another night or two, but our safari adventures were calling. The Ralph Lauren Safari fitted in perfectly wherever we went, from the luxurious lodges in Kilimanjaro and Lake Ndutu to exploring the plains and meeting the Maasai people along the way. Its tough yet elegant design made it the perfect partner for such an adventure, keeping us on schedule as we made our way across northern Tanzania.
I’m so glad that my friend persuaded me to go. Every time I look down at my watch, I remember the great experience we had, and I feel just a little bit braver than I did before… and truly grateful that I didn’t get eaten by a lion.