That warning was stressed when I checked in at reception at the Lake Manyara Lodge and again when the bellman walked me to the room and explained that just shutting the sliding glass door wasn’t enough. It had to be locked when I was in the room.
The other interesting phrase I became very acquainted with is “African massage.” Those of you that know me, know that I tend to indulge when it comes to massages. This is not what you are thinking. The massage comes from being bounced around in the 4×4 constantly because of the roads, if you can even call dirt pathways with huge potholes and rocks, roads. Add in dust that is generated from traveling on these roads and the fact that you often have the roof popped so that you can stand and see the animals, you are filthy by the end of each day. We had the extra pleasure of blowing one of our front shocks. They weren’t able to fix it on the road so the solution was just to take it off and continue. Think hoopdie cars from the mid-90s and that sums up my ride for the last three days.
My seven day safari began with the Arusha National Park, followed by Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, two days in the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and finally Tarangire National Park before returning to Arusha. These parks are often referred to as the Northern Circuit. I arranged the tour through Dik Dik Tour Operator & Hotel. To say they took good care of me is an understatement. I became quite spoiled over the seven days on the road and the few extra days I stayed at the hotel.
As part of the package, I was provided with a driver/guide (Erick) and my own cook (Michael) who prepared hot lunches in the bush. Most of the other operators only provide box lunches. I have to say I could really get used to the idea of traveling with my own cook. Anyone want to volunteer to travel around with me and cook at my beck and call?
Given that Tanzania is currently in the dry season, it makes for great safari viewing as you often find animals gathering around the limited water sources that still exist. In terms of animal sightings, I couldn’t have really asked for more. The diversity and sheer numbers of animals I saw was amazing. And to see them in their natural habitat is quite stunning. The only animal that I didn’t get to see was a rhino. Unfortunately their numbers have dwindled significantly over the years.
Each day by the time I was wrapping up lunch if not before, the baboons always seemed to turn up. Baboons fighting sounds something like cats fighting just magnified about 10 times. I learned so many new things. You can tell the difference between the cheetahs and the leopards by their spots, and because leopards are usually found in the trees. Cheetahs on the other hand don’t climb trees. The zebras rest their heads on each other’s behinds for protection. One is looking off in one direction and the other has the other direction covered. Quick way to tell a gazelle from an impala is the black strip that is on the side of the gazelles. Wildebeest form a straight line and follow one another when on the move. The term big five comes from hunters who defined the five hardest animals to bring down (elephants, buffalo, lions, leopard, and rhinos).
The landscape was incredible. We went from the lush green of Arusha and Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the plains and then woodlands of the Serengeti. Next was the dried up alkaline lake and fresh water lakes and rivers of Ngorongoro Crater. There are a lot of similarities between portions of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti. The big difference is that the Maasai aren’t allowed in the Serengeti whereas they are allowed in the conservation area. In Maasai culture your wealth is determined by how many animals, primarily cows, you have. As you cross the conservation area you see children from the age of 8 plus tending to the herds or flocks. They actually move the animals a considerable distance each day to a water source then back to home. We stopped at a Maasai mobo on the way. Their houses are constructed of sticks and cow dung. There is a tiny hole in the top to vent the fire that is burned for cooking and warmth. The houses are used for about 10 weeks, and then they will move on to the next location and set up house all over again.
Along the way, I stayed in a series of upscale lodges, but given the remote nature of some of the locations, hot water was only available for a few hours in the morning and evening. Power was completely turned off from about 11pm to 5am and during the day from about 10am to 4pm while everyone was out viewing the animals. At each lodge you would have a group of people crowded in the lobby or bar trying to access what little wi-fi was available.
Enjoy the limited photos I was able to get posted. I finished this post before I left for Zanzibar but have been struggling for the past week (actually the past month) with limited internet. And because I’m finally giving up and posting this via my phone the photos are not getting stylized. You’ll just have to wait till I’m states side again to see all the great photos (several 100 from this week alone).