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TRIP BRIEF

 

This is my first trip report, so please bear with me. The photography, while not spectacular, is slowly improving, although I do need to take more landscape/scenery shots and some on the road pictures too. The ramblings may get out of hand at points in the report!

 

The initial plan was 4 nights in Tarangire at Oliver’s Camp over New Years 2015. We were going to drive from Nairobi and back. As we started planning, we decided we wanted to see more of Tanzania, but our time was limited, so the final self-drive trip looked like this:

 

1 night Kibo Palace Hotel, Arusha

2 nights Oliver’s Camp, Tarangire

3 nights Dunia Camp, Central Serengeti

 

Although we drove into the camps ourselves, once there we used the camp vehicles and guides on safari. I always prefer this, as the camp guides tend to have great local knowledge of their area and of the wildlife. This usually lends itself to superb and unusual sightings.

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PART I: NAIROBI TO TARANGIRE, VIA ARUSHA

 

We left Nairobi at 6:00am, hoping to avoid the rush hour at the Namanga border crossing. Catching the sunrise as we left Nairobi, it was smooth sailing on a well-tarmacked road upto – well – almost upto Namanga. A few kilometres before the border, the road just seemed to, well, disappear. Not deteriorate or anything, just disappear. There was a huge dirt mound blocking the road, which we, naturally, went around, and after following some sort of track, we reached the border, blocked off by container-trucks, and somehow made it through the barrier into Tanzania.

It was only when we parked the car that we realized we had to go back into Kenya and clear through immigration and customs for the car. We were told to bring the car back into Kenya, and clear through the police check first… wait!! There was a police check – how did we miss that? All said and done, we got our documentation cleared and drove back across into Tanzania – about half a kilometer into the country before finding a U-turn and back to Tanzanian customs and immigration. I would guess we could have avoided all the lines and passport stamps and driven straight through without anyone even noticing!

The guy at Tanzanian customs was baffled by the carnet – basically a car passport, that effectively should speed up the border crossing process. Anyhow, he took around half an hour with the ladies in front of us, who were overlanding from South Africa. By that time, the queue started building up and when he was finished, it was “too much work” to process ours as well, so he gave it back and told us to wait until the rest of the queue was cleared (most people were simply dropping off the vehicle logbooks to be collected upon re-entry). Luckily, one of his colleagues came in then and showed us how fast the process actually is. 5 minutes and we were off to Arusha.

 

The drive to Arusha was good – great roads and beautiful scenery, although the elusive Kilimanjaro stayed out of view our entire trip. Coming into Tanzania, the human population seems to drop-off, as does the traffic. Our overnight in Arusha was Kibo Palace Hotel, a last-minute addition to our trip – an attempt to break down the drive from Nairobi to Tarangire.

 

Arusha turned out to be a bustling border town with a couple great little cafes and restaurants. We stopped by the Asilia offices to get our special campsite passes for Dunia and then the next day, we were off to Tarangire. The plan for dinner was to check out a few restaurants nearby, but we settled into wine and cheese at Le Patio, and we had to stick around, as it started pouring down. It turned out to be a great evening with a couple of bottles of wine and rain!

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look forward to reading the rest of your african adventure :D

 

Hope to do a similar trip in 2016

Edited by theplainswanderer
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PART II: TARANGIRE – SILALE SWAMP & OLIVER’S CAMP

 

Again, a little more on the road conditions, as I wasn’t to sure before the trip if it was a bright idea driving this route – so hopefully this helps anyone who’s thinking about it! From Arusha to the turn-off for Tarangire was a great sealed road – good scenery to boot and a short two hours to the gate. 7km to the gate on carpeted dirt, which wasn’t bad. We were advised by the camp to leave early from Arusha, as they had rains the past few days, but we made good time to the gate, reaching around 10:00am. As soon as we entered, you can see the great baobab trees that Tarangire is famous for. We kicked into safari-gear and started slowly ambling our way to Oliver’s, stopping for everything along the way. It was only when we reached the sign for Tarangire Safari Lodge an hour later that we realized that we had only done around 5km, and still had around 70km left to go to reach camp. We made (slight) haste, ignoring the warthogs, but still stopping for elephants, kori bustards and monitor lizards along the way. Eventually, we made it to camp around 1:30pm, just in time for lunch at the beautiful viewing deck at Oliver’s.

 

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In the afternoon, we set off for our game drive around Silale Swamp. In fact, we had arrived in Tarangire around the time of rains, so most of our game drives took place around the swamps, as the roads to other areas were almost impossible to pass. As we reached the swamp, we passed an acacia to the left, and I caught a brief flick of a tail. I hesitated for a second – was it a cheetah or a leopard? Sure enough, two large cheetahs stuck their heads up to see what was passing by. We sat with them for quite some time, with no other vehicles coming by, except for another 2 Asilia cars. The rains were coming our way and we closed up the canvas and made a move. The rains came down heavy and it was difficult to see anything around us. We came across a huge herd of buffalo, probably 500 strong, crossing the road. It was difficult to estimate the size, as there were large groups on both sides of the road, and they kept crossing for around 5 minutes.

 

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The next morning, we decided to go plodding through the wet bush by foot. The last walk had produced lions, but no such luck this time. We did however get some interesting small creatures below – dragonfly, leopard tortoise and a strange purple crab in the middle of the bush – alas, it moved too fast to get a picture!

 

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After a quick stop back at camp to switch out of the wet clothes, we headed back out to Silale Swamps with a packed lunch. In December, when the rains come, the animals tend to disperse into the hinterland around Tarangire, making game viewing quite difficult. The birdlife, however, was quite superb. So we got out our bird book, and pretended like we knew a thing or two about birds (which clearly I don’t!). On the way back, we stopped by the two cheetahs again, and they had barely moved.

 

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At night, we tried our luck with a night game drive. We did go in the opposite direction of the swamps, so the road was very tough. We saw a Verreaux Eagle Owl, although it was quite dark to get a picture. The only other highlight of the night drive was getting stuck in the middle of the bush…and I didn’t get pictures of that because we were too busy pushing!

 

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Lovely photos of the baobabs in leaf and you are so lucky seeing cheetah in Tarangire. The park is looking lush and beautiful.

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Thanks @@twaffle - from such an accomplished photographer, that's encouraging! It really was very lush with all the rains that had come through. It is apparently a different world in the dry season though...

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Might you have been better further north in those conditions maybe? (asking, not rhetorically)The area around Olivers is pretty leafy and woody even at the end of the dry season. Classic safari country though and a beautiful camp.Still, cheetahs and the grass doesn't look too high in your photos, compared to how it can get in some places.

 

It's like a completely different park after the rains.

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@@pault - Yes I think you are right. There did seem to be more game in the northern sector as we were driving in and out of the park. With the rains and road conditions, you are left with one route out from Oliver's while on safari, which could become monotonous if you're there for a few days. Since we were going to Serengeti afterwards, we took this as an opportunity to brush up on our terrible birding skills! Also, the ability to do walks and night drives in that area changes up the experience.

 

From what we gathered, in dry season, the area around the swamps is usually pumping with game, as it one of the only water sources at that time of the year. I think a return trip is warranted!

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I love the photos and report.

The road report in the beginning had me laughing as returning from my first trip from Africa back in 2003, I somehow walked right passed two armed guards and the airport scanner and right into the Nairobi airport while my travel group was all at the entrance getting scanned. ooppss.

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PART III: TARANGIRE – OLIVER’S CAMP

 

Number of Tents: 10

 

Location: Spectacular. Located deep inside the park – about a 3 hour (70km) drive from the main gate. The location was fantastic, over-looking a vast plain down below. The fact that this area was inaccessible during our trip due to weather conditions made it seem even more mysterious. The camp has a stunning dining deck overlooking this area, which they typically use for lunch.

 

Food: Superb. The food was fantastic morning, noon and night. The guests and managers dined together at lunch and dinner which was a great time to hear everyone’s safari stories.

 

Hosting: Justin and Jackie - the Camp Managers at Oliver’s - are fantastic hosts, from the time we arrived until we left they did everything to make sure all of our needs were tended to, whether it was organizing the night game drives & walks, to our sundowner drinks to lighting up the camp fire at night after it died. One really awesome thing they did at Oliver’s was set up camera traps to see what comes about at night. The next morning, he would play the slideshow at breakfast. During our stay we had some honey badgers, hyenas, genets and civets strolling through camp at night.

 

Tents: Huge and spacious. The “tents” have a thatched roof cover, and are spaced far apart, so there’s added privacy. This is most definitely needed since they only have outdoor showers. The outdoor shower experience was brilliant – and given the hot climate of Tarangire – it was preferred. At night, they don’t close up the tent flaps, so it gives a feeling of being out on a fly camp.

 

Overall: We loved the camp. The food and hosting were superb, and the remoteness of the location meant that we barely saw any other cars out on safari.

 

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Seen on the way to the tent...

 

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Lovely!

 

Haven't been to that area of TZ and am interested in the look; so happy to see pics of the camps...your photos are great. I have catching up to do on TR's and will be enjoying and saving the specific information provided. Your birds are beautiful

 

Thanks :)

Edited by graceland
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Wow lovely start! I visited Tangire in March 10 years ago - it was very very dry, not like your wonderfully lush experience! Awesome to be seeing cheetah there. Looking forward to more!

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PART IV: THE LONG DRIVE TO DUNIA

 

The drive to Dunia Camp was slated to be a full day excursion, so we were up and out of Oliver’s by 7:00am. We ambled out of the park, stumbling upon some interesting characters along the way.

 

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Once out, the tarmac runs smooth all the way to the Ngorongoro Crater Gate. Approaching Lake Manyara, the huge wall of the Rift Valley seems to almost slam up to you. As we climbed out of the Rift, we looked back and saw the view out past Lake Manyara and towards Tarangire, which we had left almost 4 hours earlier. Karatu is pretty much the last town on the road to stop for fuel. After that, approaching Ngorongoro, the scenery goes through another change, shifting from fertile farmlands to a dense forest. Driving through the forest leads to this spectacular viewpoint of the Crater:

 

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On a quick side note, if you are doing the drive into Serengeti, I would recommend spending a night in Ngorongoro, if not for any other reason than you have to pay the NCA Conservation Fee for transiting through the area. It does make a decent stopover point as well, being around 5 hours or so from Oliver’s.

 

The drive through led us around the rim, and as we started descending, the scenery took one more dramatic turn, as it shifted to the green, grassy plains of the Serengeti – or so we thought. We saw clusters of wildebeest and thought “ This drive wasn’t too long, or rough!” – we still had another 100km or so to go! I think the whole drive from Tarangire to Serengeti was one of the most scenic I’ve been on. The landscape goes through really abrupt and dramatic changes, and looking out towards Serengeti, there’s a real sense that you’re entering an amazing wilderness.

 

The last 100km to the park did become quite difficult though. The road was quite corrugated (although the CAT was already working on re-grading – the return journey was much smoother), and the car started to take a beating. On the other hand, we had been on the road for 6 hours or so, and the final stretch is a straight road, so we felt we’re almost there, but it took a while. We couldn’t go very fast on the corrugation, and the car windscreen started to move in place.

 

As we approached the park, huge throngs of wildebeest lined both side of the road, and we approached a sign “Serengeti National Park”. This is very deceptive, as it is still around 20km between the sign and Naabi Hill Gate. Approaching Naabi Hill, we came across a pride of lions less than a kilometer from the gate.

 

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Naabi Hill entry gate is an absolute disaster. There’s hundreds of cars going into Serenegti, and in the opposite direction into Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and only a few people manning the counters for both. It was chaotic – you wonder how those lions put up with it!

 

It took around 45 minutes to clear through Naabi Hill, and we were in the park by 3:45pm. It was another 40km to camp. The challenge came next. Asilia had given us directions from Seronera in the North, and we were coming in from the South. Google Maps couldn’t quite pinpoint the camp, but it managed to get to within around 5km from camp – from there it just draws a straight line across a river expecting we can drive straight through.

 

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We kept looking for a main road on the left, wondering if the smaller paths we passed could have been the turning. Eventually, we found it, and carried on to the point where Google Maps disappeared. We were in the right area – Moru Kopjes – but where was the camp? Do we go straight or turn? Luckily, another car came by and was en route to Dunia, so we followed and after a long day’s drive, we reached camp by 5:00pm.

 

A few photos en route to camp...

 

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Finally reached Dunia...

 

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Glad you enjoyed My old camp. It's a wonderful area in the 'green' season. I enjoy the birds of course but so much is going on, being born , being raised. Everything is growing. Tarangire in the 'wet' ? Yes please.

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That's a long drive and well done finding the place. So was there a bridge where Google maps sort of told you to go?

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@@Olivertz - great to hear from you! The camp really is quite special. They have photos of your original camp from the 80's up in the mess area and rooms. That must have been a true explorer's camp. The history of the camp is an interesting read.

 

@@pault - the bridge was in a similar area - we went slightly further up the road from the map, crossed the bridge, and then followed a path back on the opposite side of the river. Sitting at home on the computer, I managed to pinpoint the exact location of the camp, and wrote out directions and had it printed. It looks pretty easy, but on the ground, there are so many tracks that don't show up on the map, that it becomes confusing whether you should have taken the track or keep going and look for something that resembles a larger road. And a fork in the road is doubly confusing!

Edited by ravipatel888
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  • 1 month later...

PART V: SERENGETI – DUNIA CAMP

 

Number of Tents: 8

 

Location: Excellent location in a quiet part of the Moru Kopjes area. The camp rests against the bottom of a large hill and has a lot of wildlife passing through.

 

Food: Superb. As with Oliver’s, it was usually an early breakfast before the start, a light lunch and a more elaborate communal three-course dinner.

 

Hosting: The hosting was excellent. The staff at Dunia (including the manager) are all local Tanzanians, and mostly from the local Kuria and Maasai tribes. A great help for us was the in-camp mechanic who was able sort the windscreen, and the front bumper, which came loose on the way in.

 

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Guiding: Absolutely fantastic!! The guides at Dunia are extremely knowledgeable about the area and the wildlife. They go out of their way to ensure that the experience is memorable. Most guests however tend to drive in and do their game drives with their tour guide.

 

Tents: The tents are large, with a huge comfortable bed and a couch and some chairs out in the entry area. The bathroom is very spacious and complete with 20-liter bucket showers; it really gives a sense of being out in the wild. The camp leaves no visible footprint, so the structures are all tented canvas.

 

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Overall: Dunia was excellent. The area around is teeming with wildlife, and with a bit of good planning and guiding, it is possible to avoid the large crowds and still get excellent sightings.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

@ ravipatel888

 

Thank you for sharing this with us, and congratulations on your first trip report. I hope many more will follow.

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PART VI: GAME DRIVES IN SERONERA AND MORU

 

Starting off at a slightly more relaxed pace (7:00am), we headed towards Seronera in search of game. Right outside camp, we came across a family of Bat-Eared Foxes.

 

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As we reached the Seronera area, we first came across some cars looking at a tree. We caught a glimpse of the leopard, but it was so well camouflaged that we didn’t stick around for too long.

 

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We continued on in search for a lone lioness that our guide had heard about over the radio and not looking too hard we found about 50 safari vehicles all lined up on the side of the road - one lioness stalking a wildebeest!

 

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After a failed hunt, we told our guide, Ernest, we didn’t mind not seeing any game, as long as we didn’t see so many vehicles together. He understood, and we set off in the opposite direction and towards the Moru Kopjes for the next few days. A few kilometers down the road from the traffic jam….

 

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It’s surprising how the majority of vehicles tend to cluster around certain areas, especially in the Serengeti, which so vast and teeming with wildlife. I feel there’s also a lot of pressure on the guides to deliver on the big cats, especially in famous parks like the Serengeti.

 

In the afternoon, we set off in the direction of the Moru Kopjes and Lake Magadi. It definitely was more challenging, as we didn’t just stumble upon cast as we did in the morning, but it was more rewarding – especially when Ernest swerved, kick the car in reverse, and pointed at this guy….

 

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The commotion must have spooked him, as he darted off towards a termite mound trying to get into any hole that he could fit into. What a spectacular sighting! A few more interesting sightings from that afternoon included a Marshall Eagle with a kill and a cheetah chase off in the distance.

 

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In the night, there was a cacophony of roars coming from all sides of the camp – it must have been 2, maybe 3 prides of lions announcing their presence in the distance. So, in the morning, we decided on an early start to go find some of them. Along the way, we passed a few hippos getting back into the river, and the Marshall Eagle from the previous day, still hanging onto his meal.

 

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We finally caught up to four huge male lions hanging out by the edge of the water. We waited, and lions settled down around the car – and then the roaring began. When you can hear the roar clearly from a few kilometers away at camp, from 10 meters, it is absolutely terrifying.

 

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On our way out, we spotted the cubs in the shrubs nearby basking near the buffalo carcass that must have been dinner the night before. The lionesses were there too, just extremely well hidden in the thicket – we only managed to catch a vague outline of a tail and leg.

 

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Continuing down the road, a pair of mating lions. This poor guy looked so tired and weak…

 

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The rest of the morning we drove around the Moru Kopjes, taking in the dramatic scenery and a few small sights along the way.

 

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That evening signaled our last game drive of the trip, and it turned out to be the perfect end to our safari. Heading back out towards Seronera, we came across some elephants and giraffes.

 

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With a few cars sitting around near the tree line, we went to see what it was:

 

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Ernest suggested we go around the tree line to the other side to get a better view. We were the only car on the other side, and as the leopard jumped down, she disappeared into the thicket, emerging a few minutes later walking towards us. She sat with us for a few sundowners and then disappeared off into the night.

 

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Wow, a very impressive python sighting. How big would you estimate was it?

 

Love the Bat Eared Fox Family!

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@@michael-ibk I'm guessing it was around 4-5 meters, but I could be way off! It was huge though - at one point, it climbed over the mound, and the tail was still dragging on the ground behind.

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Almost too many highlights to mention...I will start with the panoramas! I'm always a sucker for them.

 

Really enjoyed the foxes, python, and leopard, too. I also like your attitude about avoiding the vehicles. I'd rather have a quiet and comparatively uneventful (though really, is there such a thing?) day than have a "major" sighting ruined by a crowd.

Edited by Marks
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I have really enjoyed seeing the wildlife against the lush green background. The bat eared foxes are beautiful animals - as is your leopard. Excellent photos throughout -thank you.

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