Tanzania

Trip Start Sep 14, 2006
1
4
15
Trip End Jan 09, 2007


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Sunday, September 24, 2006

We had a rough start to our time in Tanzania. The immigration desk wouldn't accept their own currency for the visa fee, and Sarah was held at the desk while Mark had to scramble to get US dollars from the closest money changer. After several arguments and a $30 commission (!) on $100 of visa fees, we finally were able to get through immigration and catch our third small flight of the day to Lake Manyara. We met our Tanzanian guide Justin at the airport and settled in for a two hour drive to Tarangnire National Park.

The entrance to the park did not look promising. It was a dusty, potholed road at the end of a small town, and when the first thing that Justin asked us if we wanted to take a picture of was a tree (the apparently famous baobab tree), we thought that there might not be too many animals to see. We went on a game drive but we were pretty tired from the 10 + hours of travel and did not fully appreciate it. We headed back to our home for the next two nights Tarangnire River Lodge. Despite the eloquent name, it turned out that it was not a lodge and there was no river. It was a very rustic camp above a dry dusty riverbed. After the initial surprise, it grew on us - our tent was on stilts, the porch was connected to a baobab tree and without any lights around, you could view the stars from your porch after dinner.

After breakfast, we headed to the park for an all day drive. Not too far into the drive, Mark got bit by a fly. Justin reassuringly told him "Don't worry - not all tse-tse flies carry the sleeping sickness." Since we hadn't previously known that there was any danger of this, his comment did not set us at ease. Mark and I put on more insect repellant and learned that a cure for it was found 3-4 years ago. Moms don't worry, there is a cure and we aren't showing any signs of the disease:)

The park was much better than expected with large herds of elephants and giraffes. We had a picnic lunch overlooking a relatively dry swamp that had dozens of elephants. After days of sitting in vehicles (you are not allowed to walk around the parks for safety reasons), we finally got to exercise by running along a dusty, dirt road just ourside of the park. Since there were no fences separating us from where the elephants, lions, etc., we just saw were, we had Justin follow us in the jeep as we jogged past the Baobab trees and Masai villages.

The next day we drove to Ngorongoro Crater. Our hotel was on the rim of the crater and had great views. We drove down into the crater in the afternoon for an extremely dusty game drive (the dry season is very dusty everywhere). We saw a fair amount of game - lots of hippos in the hippo pools, a lion pride, a black rhino, elephants, giraffe, zebras, wildebeests and warthogs, but the dust, often reaching up 800 feet to the rim of the crater, made it unpleasant to be down there too long.

The next morning we left early to go down into the crater. All of the animals seemed much less skiddish than the animals in the Masai Mara and seemed to be more used to vans and people. This made taking pictures easier but took away a bit from the atmosphere.

We had the afternoon to ourselves and were going a bit stir crazy in the lodge. We decided to go for a walk. There were plenty of Masai (a local tribe) children and herds of cattle on the road and we didn't think the main roads were dangerous. We walked down the road about 2 miles and decided that we shouldn't press our luck and that we should turn around. The entire time various Masai had tried to beg, sell us trinkets/the opportunity to photograph them, or lead us on our walk, and on our way back, when a Masai told us that there was an elephant and that we should follow them, we didn't know if it was truly there or if it was a scheme to get money from us. When we saw the Masai running away, we were a bit more worried, but Mark was still sceptical. Then we saw that that there was a family of elephants about 50 feet away. Luckily a minivan started coming down the road. The driver chastised us and said that elephants were very dangerous and they killed more Masai each year than any other animal. He drove slowly and we walked on the other side of the van out of the view of the four large elephants on the other side of the road. We learned our lesson and we will definitely not try that again!

The next morning we flew to the Serengeti. We drove 3 1/2 hours from the air strip into the Western Serengeti. The landscape was much more green and filled with trees than the Masai Mara and there were more animals - lots of zebras, gazelles, baboons, giraffes and during the last few miles, we saw a herd of 30+ elephants.

The next day we headed down to the river and saw some giraffes running frantically. We stopped and a hippo came running by followed by another hippo. Justin said that they were both males, and one was being chased out of a watering hole. It was the first time that we had seen a hippo completely out of water because they usually come out at night to graze and sit in the water all day. We watched as the first hippo made its way along the river looking for another watering hole. He was chased out of another watering hole before eventually finding a big puddle. There was a crocodile sleeping with its mouth open right next to it.

In the afternoon, we saw an even larger group of elephants than the day before. There were several hundred! We also saw baboons mating on our drive. The camp we were staying out (Kira Wira) was a luxury tented camp and probably the nicest place we stayed.

The next morning (9/30/06) we had our final game drive of the safari, and we saw the southernly portion of the wildebeest migration. The first rains of the season came after our drive but luckily they had stopped before our small plane was supposed to fly to Arusha. We spent the night in Arusha (not a very nice town at all and more warnings not to walk around at night) and the next morning we flew to Zanzibar.
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