Head for heightsA giraffe enjoys the foliage in the Selous Game Reserve; (right) the view from the room at Sand RiversTime zone: GMT +3Flight time from UK: 9 hoursWhen to go: Jun-Oct is the main dry season; Nov-Mar (during the short rains) is also fi ne. In brief: Tanzania showcases some of Africa's most prolifi c wildlife set amongst famous national parks such as the Serengeti and also remote parks like the Selous. A string of tropical islands including Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafi a line the coast, making it the ideal place to combine safari and beach.
There's a lion in camp - that's what I thought when I awoke in my tent at 3am to a loud cat-like purring. Sitting bolt upright, my heart beating with alarming intensity, I anxiously surveyed the landscape around me as it was illuminated by the full moon. It's fair to say that my first safari had started with a baptism of fire.I'd been in Tanzania for less than ten hours prior to my camping experience, arriving in the morning at Dar es Salaam q and then transferring via light aircraft to Kiba airstrip in the Selous Game Reserve w - a wonderful journey where I watched the landscape shift from urban sprawl to lakes, forests and vast yellow plains. I even managed to do some wildlife viewing from the air, spotting the odd tower of giraffe poking their heads above the trees. At the airstrip, we were met by guide Mussa in a 4x4 who took us to our lodge and on our first safari drive en route.After seconds in the jeep I had my first spot - impala, as much a part of the landscape as the trees and bushes. Then a dazzle (such a great collective noun) of zebra and a troop of baboon. The highlight though was a lioness lazing on her back under a tree with her legs sprawled out. On your first safari, everything is new and beguiling, and you spend your first few hours cooing 'Ooo' and 'Ahh' like an excitable child.The lodge was a welcome sight after a day of travelling, as were the refreshing homemade glasses of lemonade and cold flannels that greeted us. Surveying the lodge's main area, I could only muster a "Wow" which in fairness is a succinct descriptive word for Sand Rivers e. Set on a bend in the Rufiji River, the views are mesmerising, as are the noises from the hippo that wallow below. The rooms manage to be luxurious (big comfy beds, stunning views) but are Epic landscapes, amazing wildlife and exciting accommodation. Safari newcomer Angela Taylor falls in love with the wild experience awaiting visitors to Tanzania Seduced by safari www.audley.co.uk/tanzania | AUDLEY TRAVELLER | 27also in keeping with the environment (understated, with furniture made from locally-sourced materials). There was just time for a quick shower - where I watched a couple of monkeys eyeing me suspiciously from the trees - before I was told to pack my overnight bag for fly camping. A night with the crocs"What is fly camping?" I asked our guide - being more of a 'boutique hotel' than a 'back-to-basics' kind of girl. "Sleeping out under the stars" he replied. Well that's a nice idea I thought, that was until I was told where we were camping - Lake Tagalala. It sounds rather innocuous until you know that the translation is 'lake of 10,000 crocodile'. It's not a name chosen without reason, which I soon realised upon seeing vast numbers languidly bobbing among the resident hippo.I surveyed our homes for the night - structured mosquito nets to give you even better views of your surroundings, with canvas tents alongside for your belongings or to dive into during the night should it rain. The tents were about 20 metres from the edge of the lake, prompting another pertinent question: "So what's to stop the hippo and crocodile from paying us a visit during the night?" Mussa then patiently explained the habits of the animals. Yes the hippo do leave the water every night when it gets dark to forage for food, before returning to the water around sunrise, but they simply walk around the tents. And being ambush predators, the crocodiles will wait for prey to come to the water's edge before attacking. So he reassured me that we were safe, although I was still grateful for our ranger who kept a watchful eye through the night.And it was conversations like that with Mussa that made me realise the importance of a good guide, because the more I learnt about the animals and the environment around me, the less I feared it. So at dinner I relished the opportunity to find out more, and Mussa didn't disappoint. He could not only identify any animal by its call, he'd also provide you with the Latin name, tell you facts and do the most uncanny impressions. "Do a hyena", "a leopard", "a bushbaby" - the requests from the group became more and more obscure. looking for leopardWhen I awoke in the middle of the night, after a few hours' sleep fuelled by a couple of gin and tonics and a delicious three-course meal, I dearly wished that I could remember all the different animal calls. Instead, my imagination went wild deciphering the noises I was hearing. If I'd known that the incessant whoop was actually hyena, I'd have been less afraid. As the night drew on, I became all too familiar with the hippo noise and somehow found it comforting rather than alarming. The adrenaline in my body meant that I didn't sleep from 3am and waited for sunrise. That morning in camp was so serene - the hippo were back in the lake, the birds were full of song and I was just grateful to be alive. In fact, I'm not sure I had ever felt more alive.Tanzania & Zanzibar