Hiking the Trails of Arches National Park in Utah

There is no doubt that Arches National Park in eastern Utah near the town of Moab is one of the most beautiful parks in the United States. With so many fascinating geological features, there are literally incredible sights around every corner as you drive through the park. There is one road that will take you through the heart of the park with a couple of side roads that lead to specific attractions and you can certainly see a lot that the park has to offer by simply driving through the park and pulling over at certain viewing areas. To really enjoy everything that the park has to offer, though, we’d highly recommend that you get out and hike a few of the trails.

Landscape Arch – One of Our Favorite Arches
Pine Tree Arch

Devils Garden Trail – This trail is one of the most popular trails within the park because of the diversity of the trail as well as the number of arches that can be seen on the trail. The first part of the trail is considered easy and also provides views of three arches, including the Landscape Arch, which was one of our favorites. After reaching the Landscape Arch, the trail becomes more difficult as you head toward Double O Arch and then the second half of the loop is extremely difficult where you need to rock scramble and there are steep slopes. For obvious reasons, many people only go as far as Landscape Arch, which was what we did as well.

The Famous Delicate Arch
Hikers Heading Up an Exposed Rock Face in Utah

Delicate Arch Trail – There are viewing areas that you can go to by car to see the famous Delicate Arch (which is seen on the state’s license plate), but to see it up close, you should take the popular Delicate Arch Trail. The trail is listed as moderate and, with the exposure to the sun, steep rock faces, and some narrow ledges towards the end, it is definitely not an easy trail. The views are definitely worth the effort as you gain a little over 600 feet in elevation with panoramic views in all directions. The highlight, of course, is Delicate Arch where people take turns having their pictures taken in front of the arch.

Sand Dune Arch
Broken Arch

Sand Dune and Broken Arch Trail – This is a relatively short trail that can be found near the Devils Garden Campground. The trail first goes by the Sand Dune Arch, which gets its name from the sand that surrounds it. It then turns into a loop that will take you by Broken Arch and Tapestry Arch. If you want to keep it really short, you can visit the Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch and then return without doing the full loop.

Getting a Sense of the Size at Windows
Various States of Erosion

Regardless of which trails you choose, you will truly appreciate the size and beauty of the many arches if you take the time to hike amongst them. Seeing how nature has carved the rocks through wind and rain erosion is certainly a wonderful experience whether you hike the trails or not. Arches National Park is certainly one of our favorite national parks and if you are a photographer, the variety of images that you can capture are truly endless.

Magical Experiences in the Serengeti National Park – Part I

After spending the day in the Ngorongoro Crater, we continued north to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. We would spend two nights in the park where we spend two full days driving around and seeing so many amazing sights. We would see the one missing animal to complete the Big Five as we would have several incredible encounters with Leopards that was the only animal missing as we’d seen lions, water buffaloes, rhinos, and elephants already. We would see much more than just the big cats and we would have many encounters that were up-close and personal. The Maasai word Serengeti means “land of never ending plains”, which is certainly apt as you can see the endless grasslands in every direction that you look.

We Were This Close to the Male Lion
The Zebras Aren’t Snuggling, It is a Defensive Mechanism to See Both Directions
Elephant in the Grasslands
A Pride of Lions to Start Our Day
Giraffes on the Move
View from the Camp

We stayed in the central part of the Serengeti National Park, which made it easy for us to get out and spend full days exploring the park. The sheer number of animals that live in the park is at times almost overwhelming. We were there as the wildebeest began the migration north towards Kenya, so there were times when thousands of wildebeest and zebras crossed the road in front of us with a distinct mission to reach their next destination. There were so many incredible experiences with wildlife that it is definitely a place that we will remember and cherish our time there forever.

The First Leopard Sighting
Hippos Charging Into the Water
Called a Sausage Tree Because of the Seed Pods
Lion Relaxing by the Road
Elephants and Beautiful Scenery
Leopard Climbing Down the Tree

We started seeing giraffes as we neared the park, but since the giraffes eat the leaves of trees, seeing them inside the park is limited to when they go from one location to another. We also saw a variety of elephants in the park, which didn’t use to be the case, but they have naturally migrated to the Serengeti over time as the populations in surrounding parks increased. It was, however, the encounters with the large cats that would be the highlight of our first day in the park. At one point, we saw a lion so close to our Land Cruiser that we could have literally reached out and petted him, but that would not have been a good idea. For the most part, the animals could care less about the people who drive up around them to take their photographs, but occasionally they shy away from our presence. We spent about twenty minutes admiring the lion before any other vehicles arrived, at which point he decided to wander away into the tall grass where he disappeared.

The Dik-Dik is One of the Smallest Antelopes
Secretary Bird on a Tree
Hippos Charging into the Water
Watching the Leopard was Fascinating
Red Hartebeest and Thompson’s Gazelles
Our Tent in the Serengeti

We saw leopards at two different points on our first day, the first being relatively far away and the second that was relatively close and was eating the Thompson’s gazelle that he had killed. We spent about an hour simply watching him climb around the tree and eating his dinner. We often describe some of experiences as being like a National Geographic special, but instead of watching it on television, it was taking place right before our very eyes. In addition to these encounters with the big cats, we also had a very unique viewing experience of hippos charging down a river bed and splashing into the deep water. Seeing the hippos out of the water was always a unique experience, but seeing them running down the river bed was truly fascinating and it was amazing to see how fast they actually can run.

Lion Walking Away
Very Unique Landscape
Hippos in the Water
Relaxing at the End of the Day
Regal Giraffe

Our first day ended with a wonderful sunset as we enjoyed a glass of wine at the Thorn Tree Camp in the heart of the Serengeti National Park. Being in such a remote location, our access to WIFI was limited, but that was perfectly fine with us as we left the “real world” behind and simply enjoyed the natural beauty of the savannahs. Although we don’t have any photographs of the night sky, it was absolutely stunning with so many stars that spread across from horizon to horizon. Once again, we were not allowed out at night without an escort as there were many animals that wandered amongst the tents. Our days started before sunrise at 6:00 am and usually ended around sunset at around 6:30 pm. We slept better than we have in many years as we drifted off to the sounds of animals all around the camp.

Sunset from Our Camp
Olduvai Gorge Monument Near the Serengeti National Park
Baby Crocodile
Glass of Wine to End the Day
Leopard from the Distance
Maasai Children at a Viewpoint Near the Park

As incredible as our first day in the Serengeti was, it was actually only the beginning of our time in the park. We know that because of the current travel conditions, many people either only visit Kenya or only visit Tanzania, but based on our experiences, we’d highly recommend doing the full safari circuit that takes you through both wonderful countries. We were definitely in the heart of our safari at this point and we had become experts at changing lenses quickly, learning how to use the telephoto lenses for both the camera and the iPhone. All of the photographs that we’ve shared here were just from our first day in the Serengeti. The Serengeti National Park definitely lived up to every expectation that we had as we investigated going on safari and was truly a magical experience.

Amboseli National Park, the Land of Giants, in Kenya

We arrived in Nairobi about 15 hours later than we were originally scheduled to due to a variety of cancellations and flight changes. So, instead of arriving Sunday evening and getting a night of sleep before starting our safari, we contacted our guides, Perminus and David, and had them meet us at the airport to take us straight to our lodge at Amboseli National Park. Since we had been awake for over 48 hours at this point, we couldn’t have been blamed for drifting in and out of consciousness during the drive from Nairobi to the park. Since we didn’t leave Nairobi until early afternoon, it was near sunset when we approached the Zebra Plains Amboseli Camp where were to stay two nights. As we got close to the camp, animals could already be seen along the road, especially some wonderful views of giraffes as the sun set behind them. This would be the last time that we would not have cameras at the ready to capture every possible image, but we did take a few photos as we drove toward the camp.

Baby Elephant Sniffing Us
African Crowned Cranes Snuggling
Our Tent in the Zebra Plains Amboseli Camp
Standing at the Park Entrance
Mommy and Baby Elephant in the Water
One of the First Lions that We Saw
Elephant in the Road Staring Us Down

As we checked into to our tent at the camp, we were informed that we must always be escorted by one of the camp staff and Maasai warrior guards if we were to leave our tent after dark. This would be true at almost every place we stayed during our safari and it became very evident as to why on our very first night as we heard an elephant trumpet near our tent and even heard a hyena on the porch of the tent. Although we were up early every day and stayed out until dusk, we really enjoyed the places that we stayed. Our days always started with some wonderful African coffee and a warm and hearty breakfast. The lodges also provided us with box lunches to take along as we spent the day driving throughout the parks.

Eagles Taking Flight
Thompson’s Gazelle – They Were Literally Everywhere on Safari
Male and Female Ostrich
Giraffes on the Plains
Blue Heron
Elephant with One Tusk
Outside of Our Tent

Amboseli National Park is one of the smaller parks that we visited, but we literally seemed to come across different wildlife around every turn. The park is known for the elephants, hence the nickname “the Land of the Giants”, which are not only large, but also have some of the largest tusks that we would see on the safari. It was also the place where we would have our up-close interactions with the elephants and even had a playful baby elephant lift his trunk and try to smell us. We understand that the park can get quite busy because it is close to Nairobi, but due to the pandemic, there were not many other tourists or other Land Cruisers (the “official” vehicle of safaris) around us as we traversed the park.

Elephant Walking Away
Pelicans in Flight
We Saw Hundreds of Elephants at Amboseli National Park
Baboon on a Tree Trunk
One of the Many Types of Antelopes and Gazelles that We Saw
Birds Often Ride the Elephants to Eat the Insects That Get Stirred Up
Warthogs or Pumbas as We Called Them

In addition to the many different encounters with the elephants, we also saw hundreds of giraffes, zebras, and wildebeest. Amboseli would also provide us our first opportunities to see lions, of which we saw several times during our day and a half in the park. We also saw many different birds in the park including the ostriches, African Crowned Crane, pelicans, flamingos (which there are two types known as the lesser and greater), and hamerkop (also known as the hammerhead). As the sun set after our first full day on safari, we asked our guide, David, to drive us back to the area around the lodge where we had seen the giraffes at sunset the previous night. We wanted to capture them with the camera since we didn’t pull it out during the drive to Amboseli.

Ready for Bed
We Played with Our New Fisheye Lens in Amboseli
Sunset on Our First Full Day
Colorful Duck
The Large Tusks on the Elephants
Hamerkop or Hammerhead Bird

By the time that our first day and a half was over, we had seen three of the Big Five, elephants, water buffaloes, and lions, just leaving rhinos and leopards to be seen later. It truly was an incredible start to our safari as we so many different animals and we especially enjoyed seeing some of the baby animals. It was also mating season, which was quite interesting as well. On the second day, we drove through Amboseli National Park to see many more animals before making our way to the border of Kenya and Tanzania to continue south on our safari. The full safari is a giant loop that starts south, then heads west, and eventually goes north and finally back east. We can certainly understand why people might make this one of their only destinations on safari, but we would recommending extending it through the many other national parks as we did.

Another Unique Bird
Adorable Baby Elephant
Bar at the Camp Restaurant
Hundreds of Baboons
Just Relaxing
Sunrise On Our Way to Tanzania