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Dawn and Al's Epic African Adventure Part 2 - Tanzania


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Continued from Part 1 - Kenya...

 

We left the Mara at 7:15 AM, got stuck in the mud for almost 7 hours and then drove 4 hours to the border crossing at Issebania. We were through the border with no issues and met our new guide Steven for the Tanzania portion of our safari. We said our goodbyes to Thomas and transferred everything over to the new vehicle.

 

Steven said we'd make it to the Serengeti by 9:30. We thought OK, not too bad considering we were behind schedule by 7 hours, so away we went. The first hour or so was beautiful new, smooth tarmac and we made good time. Ah, the luxury of a good road!

 

Once we turned off the main road towards the Serengeti gate, it was back to dirt roads, single lane, bumpy (maybe not quite as rough as the Kenyan road to the border) and slower. Of course by this time it was also dark, so Steven really had to watch for people, animals and boda boda along the way.

 

We made it to the Serengeti Park Gate at 9:20 (no stops due to possibility of bandits waiting for tourists) and thought Whew! That was a long day! Where's the camp? This is the point when Steven told us our camp still was another 80 KM into the park! Whaaaat?? 80 KM? :o

 

Of course, we knew night drives are not allowed in the Serengeti so we were gauging how much we could stretch out in the land cruiser and were preparing for a very uncomfortable sleep. Maybe the park ranger would share his floor? Maybe Steven saw our looks of concern because he quickly told us we were allowed to continue to our camp. Whew again!

 

Awesome, night game drive!! Bonus! Rather than thinking of how tired and beat up we were with the long day of travel, we were excited to have the chance to see some nocturnal animals. The one picture I was able to snap was a mating pair of lions, rudely interrupted. I was opening the truck window to try and get a better shot when Al kindly reminded me that mating lions are cranky and its maybe not a good idea to hang out the side. 

 

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Other animals we saw during the drive to camp: owls, hyena, hippo with baby, lions, porcupine with baby, dik dik, jackal, gazelle, spring hare, and zebra.

We arrived at Camp Mawe at 11:30, completely exhausted. Mawe staff were still up and waiting for us with cool towels, cold beer and hot food. We had a bit of stew and then were escorted to our tent. Sleep now? YES!

Edited by Dawnvip
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June 11: 7 AM wake up call (who needs sleep? We're in the Serengeti!) and 7:30 breakfast which was very good. Camp Mawe is situated in the central Serengeti, made up of 12 tents spread out in a row on an open plain. Our tent (Twiga) was comfortable, and had everything you'd need for a few nights. 

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It was cold in the morning, but definitely warmed up quickly. The first thing we noticed is how much dryer it is here compared to the Mara and Ol Pejeta. Also a lot dustier and a lot more vehicles driving around to see the animals. The roads here are easy to see and in much better shape than those in the Mara. 

 

We were really glad that the migration had started and we were able to experience it. There were so many wildebeest and zebra, and lots and lots of babies. 90171110_DSC_28392.JPG.b7288283e665e39f7f4c0c0a5601c935.JPG

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Of course, all these babies means that predators are out and about too. The radio was full of chatter about all the different sightings. We took a meandering route towards the airfield because Steven still had to check in with the park (too late at the gate last night). We found this hyena having mid-morning bath.

 

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When Ngorongoro blew its top 3 million years ago, the bits of volcano landed on the Serengeti plains, forming kopjes. The kopjes do a good job breaking up the monotony of the plains, and also provide some excellent hangouts for animals. We found a cheetah taking in the morning sun.

 

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Right away we found two more cheetah with a kill. It was a mom and cub who were having a bit of a break in the shade after working so hard to catch their lunch in the hot sun.

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We watched the cub feed for awhile and then carried on our way when more vehicles arrived. Other animals I was able to capture during the morning were heron, vultures, monkeys and Hartebeest.  We also saw topi, warthog, gazelle, impala, and ostrich.

 

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We had our picnic lunch at the airfield, watching the planes take off and land, while Steven registered us at the ranger office. Afterwards we carried on with the game drive and this became our "lion's afternoon". First we stumbled across this guy who had obviously finished his lunch and was taking an after-lunch nap.

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Then we found these two:

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And would you believe it? We found the mating pair from last night!! At it again!!

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We could not believe our luck. It was an excellent day in the Serengeti.  Time to head back to camp and have a beer on the veranda before the sun goes down.

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Dinner was a strange affair. The tables were set up outside, arranged at a fair distance from a nice campfire. This would be fine if there were candles on the table, but we did have a clear starry night overhead. Then we saw it was a self-serve buffet style, with the chef holding a flashlight to show guests what was in the chafing dishes. We ended up stumbling around in the dark trying to carry bowls of soup (tasty) and plates of food (OK-ish) back to the table. Either the fire needed to be much larger, or they needed to invest in some lanterns. Maybe they were worried about light attracting the bugs?

 

Nobody was sitting around the campfire, either before or after dinner, which we found kind of strange too (who doesn't love campfires?). Instead, the other guests were in the main tent, utilizing the wifi. We didn't really want to be the only ones to drag chairs over to the fire so we just shrugged and decided to go back to our own tent. We had an early appointment with Steven tomorrow morning anyways.

 

 

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Edited by Dawnvip
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What a long day.  You are entitled to a lion sighting at night for all you went through.  7 hours in the mud is longer than I care to be stuck in mud!  Remind us what dates you went.  Also, that's a nice transition between borders.  Remind us who you booked with.  Thanks!

 

 

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Isn't there a song, "Why don't we do it in the road?"  I doubt your lion couple have heard it.  Lions in the tree as well.  Nice find!

 

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Long day indeed! Hope the great sightings during your night drive made up for it.

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Thanks @Atravelynn and thanks for the reminder. We were in Tanzania from June 10 to 16th. The entire tour was booked through Aardwolf Adventures, based in Kenya and they work closely with World Tours and Safaris in Tanzania.  Definitely recommend Steven: he's an avid naturalist and provided excellent guiding and facts about the animals and birds we saw. 

 

The lions in the tree were a surprise to us as I didn't think lions usually climbed. A somewhat unique sighting to go along with the mating pair.

 

@anocn4 the night drive definitely made up for the long day. Especially seeing the porcupines with a baby and the spring hares!

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June 12: Early 5:30 wake up call and breakfast at 6 so we could be on our way by 6:30. We could see elephants in the trees outside of camp, which was a nice way to enjoy breakfast, but we couldn't dawdle. We checked out of Mawe camp with the plan of spending most of the day in the Serengeti before heading to Ngorongoro Crater.

 

Steven wanted to show us some different areas of the Serengeti from yesterday, so we headed south. The skies were clear and looked like it was going to be another gorgeous day.

 

Right away, we came across a Marabou stork.

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As we drove south, we saw several lions, herds of zebra and wildebeest, cape buffalo and crocodile. 

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There were two cheetah scouting for breakfast so we stayed to watch them for awhile. One jumped down off the rock and came back with a snack. Maybe a spring hare?

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The call we were waiting for came over the radio: leopard found! We quickly drove to area, only to find many others had heard the same call. This was the only sighting where I wished I had a larger zoom lens for my camera. There were probably 10 other vehicles circled around the tree and none of us could get any closer. 

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Seeing the leopard was awesome. Such a beautiful cat. We stayed for awhile watching him eat and then carried on. The Masai Giraffe and elephants kept us entertained for the rest of the morning.

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After watching the elephants for awhile, we started making our way to the eastern Serengeti gate. Steven stopped at one of the kopjes where Masai coming of age rituals are held. A quick check to make sure no lions or cheetah were up on the rocks (there was lion poop so had to watch our step), then we climbed up.

 

A large, oddly shaped white boulder with indents formed into the surfaces was perched atop the kopje, along with several other large boulders that had been marked. Steven picked up a small rock and when he hit the large white boulder in the indents, it reverberated like steel drums. Each indent created a different sound. Really cool. The climb up also afforded us a great view of the plains.

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We had lunch at the picnic site at the Serengeti eastern gate and then took a quick walk up to the lookout before heading east towards Ngorongoro. As we climbed up towards the crater rim, we noticed the terrain change again and the air cool. Al said if he squinted, he could maybe believe we were in Scotland! Our first look from the crater rim was amazing!

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Edited by Dawnvip
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I would imagine the long delay was distracting, but getting a night game drive in the Serengeti, and seeing a baby porcupine, must have been fun.  Very cool about the Maasai coming of age kopje, I’ve never seen one of those locations.

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June 12 continued: We were very excited to be at Ngorongoro crater, and made sure we were staying on the crater rim. This was a bucket list item for us and we wanted views and early access into the crater, so went with Sopa Lodge (&Beyond was just too expensive). From the western rim viewpoint, it took about an hour and half to get to the lodge, but we did stop along the way at another viewpoint:

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Those two black spots in the photo are rhino!! So technically, that makes all five of the big 5 in one day!! Unbelievable luck! 

We were almost to the lodge when we rounded a corner and found this guy in the road:

 

 

 

The Sopa Lodge was nice: great views, large room and bathroom, and a nice dining room. We settled into the room and got our laundry sorted before heading up to the main lodge for sundowners. The room was really cold (sweaters and jackets at this elevation needed as it was only 10 degrees C) and we couldn't seem to figure out how to get the radiators working. We went up to reception to ask about the heat and drop our laundry off for cleaning (no phone in the room either) and were told "oh, those radiators don't work". OK then! We were kindly offered a space heater and hot water bottles, which we quickly accepted. We had a few beers and watched the sun go down over the crater rim before heading inside for a nice dinner. The wait staff were very friendly, food was good, and there was a live performance of traditional singers as well. It was a nice ending to an amazing day.

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Edited by Dawnvip
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June 13: Early alarm set for 5 AM so we could meet up with Steven at 5:45 and head down to the crater floor. Gates open at 6 AM, and we were the second ones there. It was really cold, maybe only 3 - 5 degrees C and quite overcast this morning. As daylight crept into the crater, Steven knew exactly where to go and we quickly found two black rhino. We had them all to ourselves for about 5 minutes before another vehicle came up. The rhinos crossed the road and moved into the centre of the crater where vehicles can't go.

 

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Altogether, there are about 30 black rhino living in the crater, and over the course of this day we say 5. So very fortunate to have had this much luck and such a good guide who knew where to look. We moved on from the rhino to find elephants, zebra, hyena, warthogs, wildebeest, buffalo and hippos.

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There were also a lot of birds, including this augur buzzard, crowned crane and kori bustard:

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After a nice picnic breakfast by the lake on the crater floor we went looking for cats. We took a nice drive around some different areas of the crater and were enthralled with all the different biospheres within the confines of the crater. The forest was really interesting and we came across a herd of elephants with babies, but no leopards. We did manage to see some other cats though.

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We sat for awhile and watched a lioness hunting wildebeest. The wind wasn't in her favor though and the wildebeest never got quite close enough. We were doing a running commentary as one wildebeest knew where the lion was and would go up to other wildebeest and say "Hey Joe, you might not want to go over there... I smell a lion". We also saw a jackal heading straight for her, but he also caught her scent and just stood there yapping for about 5 minutes before heading off in another direction.

 

 

 

The west side of the crater floor was a lot dryer, dusty and rolling plains. By 1:30 we were ready to head back to the lodge but not before spotting a waterbuck.

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Burger and beer for lunch was pretty good. Since there are no in and out privileges at Ngorongoro (only one trip down to the floor per day permitted) we spent the afternoon sending emails home and sorting through pictures. Around sunset the clouds rolled in again so it was tough to get a good picture. We were having a beer watching the sun go down when a cheeky monkey ran by, snatching up some cashews from the table next to us. Too quick for me to get a picture, but all in all it was a glorious day. A nice ending to our time in Ngorongoro.

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COSMIC RHINO

good photos  ,interesting 

 

you  might like to know that   Serengeti means an extended  place in the Maasai language  , ngorongoro  means  a cold place

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June 14: An easy travel day planned for today so we slept in until 7. Breakfast was great, with a fresh egg cooked to order station that we really enjoyed. We finished packing up and left the Sopa at 9 AM for the drive to Tarangire. The roads in Ngorongoro Park are pretty rough, but as soon as you leave the park gate (about 1 hr) it is smooth tarmac the whole way. 

 

We stopped in Karatu to hit up an ATM and again at a huge souvenir store/art gallery/restaurant and picnic area to look for some souvenirs and have lunch. Prices were very reasonable and we were able to find some nice stuff to bring back home for the family. After lunch we stopped for the view of Lake Manyara and the great rift escarpment.

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We made it to Lake Burunge tented camp before 3pm. Its a really nice camp with 38 tents that were about 1/2 full, a pool and large, comfortable common area/bar. The tent was beautiful with hot water and electricity always available, a hot and cold drinking water cooler and wifi. We also had a nice deck with view of the lake. 

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After a wonderful swim in the pool, we sat on our deck and watched all the bird life as well as a few zebra and dik dik walking by.

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Dinner was excellent under the stars, and once again I did not think to bring my camera with me so missed the chance to get a picture of a genet!!

The only downside to this camp that we could find is that it is a half hour drive to Tarangire. Now that we know, we'll book longer here next time.

 

Edited by Dawnvip
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June 15: 5:30 alarm this morning after a really good sleep. There were some hyena and baboon calls we heard in the night, but nothing to keep us up for long. Breakfast was excellent, and there was a pick 'n' choose buffet station for our picnic lunch boxes. It was about 40 min drive to Tarangire Park, but the roads were really good so we didn't mind. 

 

Tarangire Park was probably our favorite park of all the places we visited this trip. There is a lot of diverse terrain, vegetation and wildlife.  Right after entering the park we found two cheetah hunting for breakfast.

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The baobab trees in Tarangire are spectacular. I found it hard to get a picture that conveys the awesome size and age of these trees.

Right after the cheetahs we found a lioness lying in wait for a herd of buffalo that were heading her way. Steven was sure there were more lions spread out in the grass but we couldn't spot them.

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Moving further into the central river area of the park we came across large herds of antelope and elephants. We also spotted giraffe, zebra, jackal, hyena and dik dik..

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The bird population in Tarangire was also great, and I was able to get some pictures of kingfisher, pelicans, bee-eaters, ostrich and an African Harrier.

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We had a nice lunch up on a hill with a nice view:

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Afterwards we headed further south in the park to see the old "poacher's hideout". It was a huge old baobab where poachers were able to hide inside to elude the park rangers. There were a lot of tse tse flies in this part of the park (they like the shrubbery) but are attracted to movement so we stopped and let the flies clear out before getting out of the vehicle to check out the tree and crawl inside.

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We started making our way back to the gate, but not before spotting a large troop of baboon and a mob of striped mongoose.

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We were almost to the gate when I heard Steven say "leopard". Where, where is the leopard??? I couldn't see where the cat could possibly be hiding.

Steven pointed right beside the vehicle - and I quickly learned that I had missed  the "tortoise" part of the identification.

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By the time we reached the gate, we had counted over 200 elephant and 50 giraffe. It was an excellent day in Tarangire, and not very busy until later in the afternoon.

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We made it back to camp around 4, had a nice swim and then sat on our deck watching the birds and having a drink.

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June 16: Travel day again. We were up at 6 AM to pack and go for breakfast before checking out and meeting Steven for an 8 AM departure. The drive to Arusha was easy, scenic and well paved so we were there by 11:30 and at the border crossing by 1 PM. It was easy crossing back into Kenya where we met our Kenyan guide Thomas again for the last leg of our journey. 

 

We really enjoyed Tanzania and will definitely go back, especially to Tarangire. After discussing with Steven, we'd definitely like to do Kilimanjaro (only caught glimpses as we drove past) and Ruaha. Not even done this safari and already thinking about and planning our next trip!! :D

 

Thus ends part 2 - Tanzania - of our epic adventure. Coming up: part 3, back to Kenya... What will Amboseli and Tsavo have in store for us? Will the Kenyan roads punish us the entire way? Will we finally be able to sleep in when we get to Mombasa? Find out the answer to these burning questions over in the Kenya Trip Report forum!

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Thanks for sharing, I also have a special love of  Tarangire.  I think it’s because it’s the first park we have gone to on our two trips to Tanzania, and so it really feels like we’re finally back on safari.  I really liked your photo of the ostrich, definitely a different view from the typical shot.

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Some excellent photos and a great report @Dawnvip . You certainly saw a lot of wild life during the short stays you had at most places.

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Thank you @Julian!

Hindsight is 20/20 - We planned a trip of a lifetime, and this certainly was! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves but underestimated the travel times and also forgot that once you get to the next camp, all you do is go back into the vehicle for a game drive! :P   We probably wouldn't do such a long safari again and would like to stay at each place longer. We'd also likely spend the extra money to fly between camps.

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On ‎7‎/‎29‎/‎2018 at 12:17 PM, Dawnvip said:

We could see elephants in the trees outside of camp, which was a nice way to enjoy breakfast

 

:rolleyes:  What do they put in the cereal?

 

On ‎8‎/‎4‎/‎2018 at 10:21 AM, Dawnvip said:

I found it hard to get a picture that conveys the awesome size and age of these trees.

Said below a picture that kind of does that!  Cheetahs and Baobab is a great sight.

 

Epic stuff and definitely Tarangire is worth time. Works really well with Ruaha if you fly... for next time. ;)

 

 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Outstanding photos and an entertaining narrative! Your Tarangire cheetahs were a great find.

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