As most of you know, Hilds and I planned a week long safari with Phil and SheilaSparkes, a great Australian couple who were fellow CCS volunteers. Our Safaribegan with a “7 hour” bus ride to Arusha from Dar Es Salaam. 7 hours is inquotation marks because it was actually almost 10. True to Tanzanian Culture,the bus ride was subject to TFT-Tanzanian Flexible Time. But, we made it andgot checked in to the Impala Hotel. The next day we were scheduled to bepicked up for a Maasai Village tour at 830. We were actually picked up at10:10, but who’s keeping time! The tour was great, it was a really authenticexperience and the Village was located in the foothills of Mount Meru. It wasgorgeous. We got to see inside a Maasai Boma. The houses were tiny and arereally just used to sleep and escape from the rain. Some people even keeptheir cows and goats in their house at night. The kitchen is in a separatehut, but it was so smokey that we didn’t enter. Our guide took us to thevillage’s traditional healer who showed us some of his medicines and for asmall price and with some communication difficulty, told us our fortunes. Letme just say it is hard to take someone seriously when they are asking you toask a question into a Calabash filled with stones! It was a great experiencenone-the-less and we had a lot of fun.
The next day brought us to Terangire National Park which was one of thefavourite stops for both of us. This park was FULL of animals! They were allso close to your car that at times it was a little scary. At one point, we stopped near a family of elephants and one of the big ones started walking toward the car shaking its head and tusks at us! Besides the hundreds ofelephants, we also saw giraffes, zebras, ostriches, impala, water bucks, waterbuffalo, lots of birds, little deer called dikdik, baboons and monkeys. Speaking of monkeys, there were tons at our picnic site! They were so unafraidbecause they are so used to seeing tourists and know that they might be able tosnatch some food from them. One monkey jumped onto our picnic table andsnatched a doughnut from Sheila’s lunch box while she had her head turned forjust a second! It was pretty funny to watch, but we all kept our lunch boxesclosed after that! It was such a great day and Hilds and I were riding on theroof of our safari vehicle for most of the day which really made theexperience.
At the end of the day we were taken to a place call Mosquito River, where westayed in probably the dumpiest room we had ever seen (see the picture) in ahotel called the Fig Resort Centre. However, it was only one night, so wesurvived.
The next day we went to Lake Manyara National park. This park is located alongthe Great Rift Valley. After the hour and a half wait for our tour agent toprocess the money for our park fees, we finally entered the park. We didn’tsee as many animals as the day before, but this park was so beautiful becausethere was so much lush forest! We did see more zebras here, and some giraffesand elephants. One of the highlights was stopping at the Hippo pool where wesaw hundreds of hippos lazing in the water. We also caught our first glimpseof a lion at Lake Manyara. We just caught it with its back turned to us,heading back into the forest.
We came back to the Fig Resort for lunch and were informed that we wouldprobably be staying there another night, rather than at the luxury NgorongoroWildlife Lodge which we had all been looking forward to as the highlight of ourtrip. After about an hour of angry phone calls we had our driver take us to thelodge despite many protests. We arrived there just before the gates closed at6, and we suspected our safari agent was trying to weasel his way out of ourstay at the expensive lodge by delaying our arrival until the gates closed andwe couldn’t get it. However, our persistence paid off and we made it to thelodge. However, it was about 4 hours before we were granted our rooms sincenothing had been organized or paid for by Mr. Kennedy, the safari planner. All’s well that ends well however, and we stayed the night in this great lodgeoverlooking spectacular Ngorongoro crater.
The next morning we checked out without trouble and headed into the crater. Itwas such an amazing thing to see. The crater is huge and flat, about 20km indiameter. Inside there were thousands and thousands of animals all coexistingrelatively peacefully. We saw our first hyenas here, and our first wildebeest,there were so many of them! They were really funny to watch too. We say plentyof zebras, more hippos, a rhino in the distance, really cool birds and thebiggest elephant in the world I would hazard to guess! On top of this, wespotted a rhino in the distance, along with 3 lions, one cheetah and oneleopard.
We stopped for lunch at a gorgeous lake with some rhinos and lots of birds,including the dreaded Black Kite. They look much like a hawk and there were somany of them circling the picnic site. Our driver warned us to eat in the carbut I’m not sure if Hilds heard the warning because she stepped outside the carwhere she unwrapped her sandwich which was immediately snatched out of her handby one of the birds. I think the whole crater heard her scream!
The day in the crater was unforgettable. No amount of detail will adequatelydescribe it, and the pictures do it little more justice. No wonder our driverseemed to think this was one of the 8 natural wonders of the world.
After this long day, we were taken back to the Impala hotel, but not before westopped at the Safari Planners office in Arusha. At the office we all got tospeak our mind to the Arusha Rep. – Mr Loy - about the glitches in our safari;it got a little heated to say the least. For all our speaking our minds to Mr.Loy, things did not seem to be resolved as our booking at the Impala that nighthad not been secured, and the next day our ride to the bus station did not showup! But, we took it upon ourselves to get a taxi and we made it just in timeto catch our bus to Moshi.
This brings us to the end of our animal oriented Safari. In Moshi we partedways with Phil and Sheila and headed off to Marangu Gate on Kilimanjaro to start our hike.