This year's annual adventure began on an Airbus, the latest in
technology with individual movie screens allowing each passenger control
over the movie of their choice - sweet. After stops in Detroit and
Amsterdam we arrived at Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania.
The aerial views of the coast of Italy, the blue Mediteranean, and the
endless sands of the Sahara Desert were awe inspiring. The airport we
arrived at is halfway between Arusha, the take off point for the
Serengheti, and Moshi, the closest point for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
We spent our first night at the Outpost Bed & Breakfast, just
outside of Arusha. Even though we thought we were visiting during the
dry season, we experienced a couple of strong downpours during the first
Day 2: We visited the town of Arusha which
had a large tourist market down one long alley, where I bought a
beautifully hand-carved wooden giraffe. While in town, we scheduled an
8-day safari with a company called Shidolya Tours & Safaris. We were
fortunate to book a private trip which provided us with more trip
control and flexibility in taking photos. Hesbon was our guide and
Emanuel our cook. The next 2 nights we stayed at Colebus Inn at the foot
of Mount Meru (second in height in Africa to Kilimanjaro). It was very
pleasant and we got on well with the German couple who ran it.
Arusha Park At dusk we headed back to our campsite at Camp Twiga
(Swahili word for giraffe). This was a log-walled campground that was
nicely landscaped. Emanuel had prepared a lovely four course dinner for
us, served on a folding table with a cloth table cloth. We had soup, a
stew and rice, and a wonderful banana dessert.
The safari began with a visit to Arusha
National Park. This is a small park near our Lodge, which has a wealth
of animal populations, including Maasai giraffes, Black
& White Colebus Monkeys (endemic to this park), water buffalo, bush bucks, warthogs,
zebras and much, much more.
As we drove through the park in
our vehicle we oohed and aahed at our first glimpses of the animals. In
the afternoon we took a walking safari. The park guide who led us had a
rifle, which he said he had only rarely used in the past to fire warning
shots in the air. We saw giraffes and their calves, water buffalo (up
closer than I felt comfortable), and a pretty waterfall.
Manyara Park & Lake Flying above we saw West Nile Kingfisher, and on the
ground, the plentiful Maribou Stork. Later we drove to the hippo pool
and watched as the hippos, opened their mouths wide, then rolled over to
cool off. As we left the park, we observed a family of lions in a tree.
They prefer the trees at this park due to the ants/termites that infest
the ground. Very tall (6 feet+) termite mounds were common.
Day 3 we
headed out toward the Serengeti and took a driving safari through
Manyara National Park. In addition to African elephants, we
saw many new animals here, including the retriculated giraffe (their
coloring is different from the maasai giraffe), impala, banded mongoose and a
troop of guineafowl. crossing the road. An unusual form of
vegetation here was the sausage tree. Apparently the baboons like to
eat these vegetable sausages.
The Serengeti Just before arriving at camp for the night, we encountered
a pride of female lions with a few cubs. It was amazing how close they
would allow the vehicle to approach - within a few feet. Back at camp we
pitched our tent under the nests of some weaver birds, who provided
wake-up music in the morning.
morning (day 4) we arose early and hit the road for a long drive to the
Serengeti. On our way we drove along the rim of the Ngorongoro crater,
which we visited more closely later on. All the views of the crater were
impressive as it is 20 kilometers wide. The Serengeti, on the other
hand, is a very flat plain. On the way to our camp we caught a glimpse of the
migration which was relatively thin at this time of year. All the same
it was impressive to see thousands of wildebeest (aka gnus), zebra, and
other animals running together. Another sight on the drive in was a
secretary bird, which has a headpiece reminiscent of a bun with pencils
sticking out. Other birds seen this day were the tawney eagle,
yellow-billed stork, and the kori bustard.
Day 5: We took a game drive
after breakfast. We saw several female lions kill a stork (see video on
main web page). We also saw a leopard sleeping on the branch of a large
tree. It was fairly distant but you could make out the limbs of the
leopard dangling from the branch. The sighting of a pair of Crowned Cranes (the national
bird of Uganda) made for stunning photos and viewing. Next we spent some
time at the Serengeti nature center which had some interesting exhibits.
We made the interpretted hike around a kopjie (pronounced ko'-pe) where
we saw some cute hyrax which are medium- sized rodents. I posed for a
photo by a Candlelabra tree.
In the afternoon we traveled to
Ndutu, a more remote section of the Serengeti. On the way to our
campsite we saw a saddle-billed stork among thousands of pink flamingos.
Our campsite, described as "special", was what I would call primitive,
but it was actually both. Aside from our guide and cook, we were alone.
We pitched our tent under an Acacia tree and had a romatic dinner while
viewing a spectacular sunset. We also had a full moon at night, making
flashlights unnecessary. During the night we could hear the braying of the zebras as they
traversed the migration path. They were close enough for ambience but
far enough away to allow us to rest without the fear they would trample
the tent. Regarding zebras, I must say they are a most unusual beast.
When seen in the daylight, you would swear that their stripes are
painted on - but is it black on white, or vice versa?
The morning of day 6 brought us a couple of unexpected surprises. First,
Emanual brought us a bowl of deliciously warm water to wash up with. It
is amazing how good clean hair feels when you are out in the dusty bush
for several days. Then after breakfast, just as we were packing up, a
newborn gnu came wandering into our campsight, clearly lost. He bleated
loudly as he made the rounds to each of us asking "are you my mother?"
After determining in turn, that none of us were related to him, he
We spent the remainder of the morning exploring the area surrounding
Lake Ndutu. There were several sets of lions pairing up. This was the
first time we had seen a male lion. Afterwards we headed back out into the
migration trail where we saw hyenas, jackals, Thompson gazelles, elands, a pair of
cheetahs, and a leopard tortoise crossing the road (really!). We had
lunch at Olduvai (pronounced old-u-pie) where Louis and Mary Leakey did
archeological studies for 50 years.
the afternoon we paid a visit to a local Maasai village called a boma.
It is a village consisting of mud huts built in a circle with an Acacia-thorn fence
surrounding it to keep the wild animals out and the domestic goats in.
Many of the villagers are artisans (who of course, sell
their wares), but the young man who escorted us around was a student at
Arusha University. By sunset we arrived at the rim of the Ngorongoro
crater where we camped for the night. We had to share the campsite with
several Maribou storks and one loner elephant who munched trees at the
We spent day 7 traversing this
large crater. It contains a nearly isolated animal population who do not
migrate like their Serengeti counterparts. Our first sighting were
several ostriches (yes, the females are the more drab ones). We also saw lots of zebra, wildebeest,
warthogs (they kneel to eat), and an occasional hyena. At one point
we stopped at the Hippo pool and were amused by the antics of these
large beasts. The crater also contained several prides of lions and we stopped
to watch them, too. We had lunch on the shores of Lake Magadi in the
crater bed. It seemed like every other safari vehicle was stopped there
too. In fact the birds liked it also, as one large hawk swooped down to
grab a piece of chicken out of my hand. I felt his claw but would not
relinguish my food! Another more friendly type of bird was also there -
Later in the day we had a spectacular sighting of a group
of four cheetahs. At first they were off in the distance and we had
little hope that they would move. We watched through our binoculars as
they slowly rose and methodically ambled in our direction. They came
right up to the five vehicles whose passengers had their eyes glued on
the large cats as they strutted a path through the vehicles to the other
side of the road. Wow!
After a full day of animal watching, our
vehicle climbed the crater walls to camp for the night at a remote
location at a higher (and colder) elevation (~9000 ft). Day 8, I took a
guided hike to the rim
of another crater to see the Munge River. I hiked to the edge of a very
pretty waterfall. From that vantage point I could only see the first
part of the drop which was very scenic. Back at camp Emanual made the
Tanzanian version of pizza for lunch. It was mostly vegetables
(mushrooms, carrots, onions, a little cheese, but very little sauce).
After lunch we headed to our next and last campsite, the Wild Palm,
which was located near Tarangire park.
Day 9: This was the last park we
visited on our safari. Built within the last year, the visitors center
was very beautiful. It included a viewing platform built around a Baobab
tree which provided a good vantage point to observe the surrounding
plains. We did not see any "new" animals here, but did observe some old
favorites, the elephant, maasai giraffe, impala, dik dik (small antelope),
water buck, and baboon. In the afternoon we headed back to Arusha where we spent
another night at the Colebus Inn to regroup for the next portion of our
trip. The next 2 days were spent traveling. First we took a day-long bus
trip to Dar es Salaam (the capital of Tanzania). There were many stories
of bus accidents, but our trip was thankfully uneventful. After spending
the night at the economical "Jambo Inn" not far from the harbor, we took
a ferry ride to the island of Zanzibar.
Zanzibar is a magical island. We
spent the first few days on the east side of the island (a two hour cab
ride) in the village of Jambiani. We stayed in a little hut at Oasis
Inn, a little place right on the beach. We could see the ocean from our
window! One day we took a ride in a dug-out sail boat out to the reef,
where we went snorkeling. Two locals were the boatmen, and they provided
us with coconuts to eat when we surfaced. Being near the equator, the
sun was brutual.
In the afternoon we visited the local park where we saw red Colebus
monkeys. They were not as large or furry as their black & white
cousins, but they were playful and would allow us to get close. We also took a hiking tour through a
That night, to commemorate my stay I had a henna design applied to my
hand by a local woman, who was quite an artist.
After a few days on the beach, we
headed back to Stone Town. We took a couple of independent walking tours
of the old city during the two days we were there. The streets were
narrow, twisty and lined by old stone buildings with massive carved
doors. We got lost once or twice, but overall managed well. One
afternoon we went on a "Spice Island tour" and saw, tasted, and smelled
many types of spices. I brought home some samples. This island was a
center for slave trade, and we toured some of slave market locations. At
one site there was a very moving memorial.
We opted to fly back
to the mainland in a puddle-jumper which allowed for great views of the
land and sea below. When we neared Dar, we ended up flying in between
two thunderstorms. It was a unique experience, as was this entire trip.
Later that night, I flew back to the States. I thoroughly enjoyed my
trip to Tanzania, with all the culture, history, and natural beauty,
which I experienced with the help of the knowlegdable and interesting
people who live there.
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