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Six Kansans on a Tanzania safari


mapumbo
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Six good friends from our rural county in the Flint Hills of Kansas have been planning our Tanzanian safari for one year before leaving in mid August 2019.  One couple has been to Africa on safari once, mother and son had never been,  and my wife and I were on our seventh safari, the third time to Tanzania.  We left dry drought stricken Kansas to head for the Northern circuit of what was supposed to be the long dry season in Tanzania.

We had The Wild Source help plan and organize our trip.  Through the trip reports and private messaging  from @kilopascal  and @atravelynn we acquired the services of George Mbwambo.   This recommendation proved to be a good one.  It didn’t take long before we all knew that we were a good fit.  George’s vast knowledge, good driving, patience and  humor increased the enjoyment we experienced.

We flew from Kansas City to Dulles and stayed overnight to take the 11AM Ethiopian flight to Addis Ababa  with arrival at Kilimanjaro International at 12:55 PM.  This Ethiopian flight proved to be about $900 dollars per person cheaper than KLM and the arrival time was much more convenient at mid-day.

On arrival we rushed off the plane as fast as we could and filled out our visa form quickly so we were near the front of the line.  This strategy proved to be a good move when we were through and looked back to see a long line of passengers waiting to get through the visa process.  It helped that we had seats near the front of the plane, not first class though, sadly.

An agent for The Wild Source was waiting for us and transferred us to Rivertrees Country Inn.  We all had nice rooms in a quiet setting.  After showers we strolled around the grounds and enjoyed the nearby river, birding and monkeys for entertainment.  We had our first meal in Africa that evening and off to bed with great anticipation of our upcoming safari.

 

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GARDEN AT RIVERTREES

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AFRICAN WOOD OWL

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After breakfast we were ready to head out.  George was waiting for us and after introductions we were on our way.  We had to drive through Arusha on our way to Tarangire Park, but we had requested a stop at a cattle market along the way.  We all have a direct connection to cattle ranching and agriculture so this was going to be of interest to our group.

The cattle market was actually just a few miles outside the gate to Tarangire.  We had to walk through the regular market of vegetables, housewares, clothing and everything in between.  We walked about a quarter mile down a hill to where the herdsmen had assembled their cattle, sheep, and goats to trade and sell.  After appraising the stock, we walked up to a friendly looking chap and had George engage him in conversation.  

We had come prepared.  I had a number of snapshots of our own cows and other views of our ranch.  When I pulled these out the crowd began to gather to look over each other’s shoulder.   The photo of our cows eating hay standing hock deep in snow probably received the most interest and astonishment.  We had a hard time explaining that one to them. 

We headed back up the hill to the main market and wandered through, checking out the various wares and some of the unfamiliar looking foods.  One booth that caught our attention was the motorcycle tires cut in shoe length sizes to be assembled into sandals.  Then it was back to the vehicle to start our wildlife safari.

 

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MARKET (photos by JG)

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offshorebirder

Hooray - I have been eagerly anticipating this trip report since @mapumbo mentioned it.   Good stuff so far.

 

Thanks for this TR, Paul - and please give Nancy - Mama Ndege - my regards.

 

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Fascinating start. The connection with local people over cattle must be very interesting- and with snow!

I look forward to the rest of your report.

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Thank you for reading the start of our TR.  @offshorebirder and @TonyQ 2 Safari talkers we met on our last safari in Kenya.  Good to hear from you guys.

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After leaving the market a short drive took us to the gates of Tarangire National Park.  When we started planning this trip we agreed that we wanted to go somewhere that had open plains and large herds of grazers with the occasional predator.   In 2005 Mama Ndege and I with 3 other friends traveled the northern circuit of Tanzania and it was one of our favorite safaris.  So we ended up retracing many of our steps on this trip with more good friends.

Our camp, Ang’ata Tarangire Camp, was in the southern end of the park, so we had a nice safari drive to get there.   To the benefit of those who travel to Tarangire, it is less frequently visited than Serengeti with an abundance of wildlife.  An added benefit is the varied scenic terrain and the large baobab trees.

We saw plenty of wildlife on our maiden drive and our friends were in full on safari mode.  Tarangire ended up being our favorite area on this trip.

 

Photos by Mama Ndege unless otherwise credited.

 

 

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ZEBRA THAT SURVIVED AN ATTACK WHEN YOUNG

 

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OUR TENT AT ANG'ATA CAMP

 

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Our second day in Tarangire dawned clear.  We were not expecting that most of our days were going to be partly to mostly cloudy so the light was not the best for photos.

 

George established our agenda that we were to follow throughout the trip.  Up before daylight, with an early breakfast, and on the road at first light.  No one in our group was complaining.  George had to convince a couple of our camps that we were going to eat breakfast earlier than their standard time.  We almost always took a box lunch and stayed out all day.

 

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IMMATURE SADDLE BILLED STORKS ON THEIR NEST

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We were on our way to the Silale Swamp.  George wanted to get there in good time because the herds of animals come down to drink and spend the day starting around 10 AM.  He took a side road down to the Tarangire river.  We were not seeing a lot near the river when George suddenly says Cheetah.  Sure enough making their way down the river bed were a mother and 2 nearly grown cubs.  No one else was around, and they wouldn't be unless they happened on to our site by themselves.  George had a radio in the car but never turned it on the entire time we were in Tanzania.  This not only kept down the chatter, but in essence kept George off the hook since he was not obligated to reciprocate sightings to others who had shared theirs with us.

 

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The young cheetah would chase each other and play and even mom would get involved with the fun.  We watched them for a good while as they worked their way down the river.  When we decided to leave to head for the swamp, we met another vehicle and George stopped to give him the lead on where the cheetah could be found.

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How exciting. Cheetah in Tarangire. Nice start. Looking forward to more. 

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Yes, cheetah in Tarangire - that's fantastic.  Looking at your photos I get flash backs to some of the pictures that I took when we visited a few years ago.  I look forward to more!

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We headed over to the Silale Swamp.  I was surprised at how many vehicles were touring around the area.  As advertised, about mid- morning the herds were coming down to drink. A large herd of buffalo were seen trailing down in a dusty cloud.  In the distance we could see more approaching behind them.

 

 

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We were stopped and informed that there was a leopard in a tree down the way.  While heading out we encountered another of the large herds trailing down the road.  This group had many young calves and they were on the road and on both sides.  George was very cautious of this group with the cows watching us closely.  He even drove off the road to provide more distance between them and us and revved his motor to warn them away.  Finally we got through the herd and proceeded down the road till we saw several cars stopped under a tree right next to the road.  The leopard was still there and we got a nice view of the young sleeping female with its kill of an impala hanging from a nearby branch.

 

 

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We turned around and headed back to the swamp and had nice views of many other species.  There seemed to be a nice mix of young animals for this being the dry season.

 

 

REED BUCK

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VERREAUX'S OWL

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We headed back to camp for a late lunch.  I think this was the only time we ate lunch in camp during our safari.  We did this mostly because we were scheduled to have a late day game walk and also a night drive.  So we had a chance to rest up a bit.

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On the way back to camp we spotted the only kill that we had on this safari.

 

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Mama Ndege's timing was perfect to catch the LBR tossing the grasshopper in the air to re position it to swallow.  This was after it beat it's prey against the limb to kill it.

 

 

 

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EVIDENCE OF THE VOLUME OF VEHICLES STOPPED AT THE RESTROOMS AND PICNIC AREA BY THE SWAMP

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THE SADDLE BILLED STORK FEEDING THE CHICKS WE SAW EARLIER IN THE MORNING

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Beautiful report so far! I visited Tarangire in the green season earlier this year, so it's neat to see some of the same locations in their dry-season raiment. Love the LBR in action.

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@kilopascal, @TonyQ, @Marks  Yes, we were fortunate to come across those cheetah in Tarangire.  Thank you for following along with this report.  We still are not through the first full day of safari.

 

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We had a brief rest after lunch in preparation for our 4 PM game walk.  When checking in to the camp the day before, the manager went through all the standard precautions and mentioned that we had a scheduled game walk and night drive the next day.

 

When 4 PM rolled around we were all ready and waiting, but no one seemed to know what was supposed to happen.  Ang’ata Camp was responsible for organizing the walk and night drive but it seemed that whoever was in charge had disappeared and no one else knew about it.

 

George pulled up and realized that we were left hanging.  We all got into his car and headed over to the ranger station to try to get the walk underway.  It was clear that the ranger was just as uninformed as everyone else.  He went to get his gun and got in the truck with us.  It was then we were informed that we had to sign forms to release the park of liability.  So we had to drive over to the airport to get those forms and fill them out.  By this time it was getting late and we suggested that we call the whole thing off.  They convinced us that we would have time to get in a walk if we left right from the airstrip. We would walk through the bush and meet up with George and the vehicle somewhere down the way.

 

Allan was the ranger’s name who was to lead us.  So off we go.  After a short walk the grass becomes at least belt high in places.    We see some wart hogs running off over the hill.  A little further, Mama Ndege spots some elephant down the drainage not over a hundred yards away.  She had to point them out to Allan.  Oh my, there are a couple of really small babies with them.  Fortunately, the wind is in our favor.  We skirt around the group and I’m not sure they ever knew we were near them.

 

By this time it is getting late in the afternoon and we are beginning to wonder if we will find George before dark.  There is another group of elephant off to our right.  We get by them and are down near the river.  The road is nearby and there are a couple of safari vehicles stopped up there looking down towards the river.  Someone yells down to Allan that there is a lion on the other side of the river.  A couple of our group spots a glimpse of his tail swishing in the air while he is evidently lying on his side. 

 

In a nearby tree someone else spots a leopard.  What the heck!!!   We all look in amazement but don’t dare to tarry since the shadows are getting pretty long.  As we are walking on we glance back over to the leopard and see him come out of the tree and on to the ground.  He disappears from sight.

 

About this time we can see George’s car down by the bridge over the river and he sees us.  He drives up the road a short way to pick us up.  I think we are not sure whether to be relieved that we made it or elated that we had all these sightings on foot in the bush.

 

OUR RANGER ALLAN

 

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CAUTION!!!!!!

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MAMA NDEGE UNDER ARREST FOR SIGHTING MORE WILDLIFE THAN OUR RANGER GUIDE

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OUR GROUP LEAVING THE AIRSTRIP, LADIES FIRST

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Edited by mapumbo
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After the stimulating game walk we head back to camp for a quick dinner and preparation for our scheduled night drive.  Things seemed to be in order for this event.  The car that was to take us on the walk had arrived from Arusha in time for the night drive.  We had an enthusiastic young camp guide accompany us along with the driver.

 

We saw a huge herd of zebra, a white tailed mongoose, and some bat eared fox.  Suddenly we heard the roar of lion nearby.  The motor was shut off to get the full effect.  The lion was fairly close so the roar seemed to vibrate the vehicle and it sent chills down my spine.  We were able to spot two male lions in the distance.  Our guide said they were a set of brothers who had a pride and that one of them was missing his tail.

 

We stayed out a good while longer since everyone was enjoying themselves.  Suddenly the headlights of the vehicle captured one of the male lions walking down the road toward us.  We just stopped and he continued on right past the front fender, not giving us a single glance.  He continued on down the road behind us illuminated by the spotlight.  What a thrill.

We kept telling our 4 friends how lucky they were to have a day like today.  A "cat trick", and loads of other wildlife.

 

 

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THE LION STOPPED RIGHT NEXT TO THE VEHICLE AND SCENTED SOMETHING THAT PROMPTED THE FLEHMAN REACTION

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@mapumbo, enjoying reading your report, never been to Tanzania so it makes it very interesting for us to consider is it another place to add to the must go to list.

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@CDL111  Yes, Tanzania is our favorite destination closely followed by many more.  You have two different areas you can explore.  The well traveled northern circuit and the less but equally worthwhile, southern area.  Either way you should not miss Tarangire during the dry season.

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The next day we headed out of Tarangire Park on our way to the Ngorogoro Crater.  We did a game drive out of the park and stopped to watch a hammerkop pair building their nest.  This was really fascination to watch them carry beak fulls of material to build their large nest.

 

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We knew when we organized the itinerary for this trip that the timing was not going to be ideal for arriving at the Crater for wildlife viewing at mid-day.  I still wanted our friends to see the crater and we would take what was offered as far as sightings.  The  other reason for going into the crater at mid day was to stay overnight on the rim and do a walk down into Empakai Crater the following day. 

 

The way it turned out the arrival at the Crater was delayed by problems checking out of the Tarangire exit gate.  Those were resolved and we were on our way enjoying the sights of daily life in Tanzania.

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We finally arrived at the crater rim after leaving the hard surface road and what seemed like a long bumpy ride the the viewpoint.  We stopped to look down into the crater from the viewpoint and were heading back to the vehicle when George motioned us back over and pointed out a rhino laying in a bare spot far below.  This was to be the only rhino we would see at the Crater.

 

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The drive down was highlighted by the beautiful acacia trees along the road.

 

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We felt like the time spent down in the Crater was well worth the entrance fee.  We saw plenty of animals and bird life, plus there seemed to be fewer cars than we were expecting.  

There were two different lion prides at a distance.  Lots of very sedate wildebeests, and buffalo.  Due to the cloudy mild weather hippo's were out of the water

 

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With Mama Ndege being true to her Swahili name, "Bird Lady", she had plenty of birds to enjoy.  She even got some of the folks in our group who were less interested in the birds to appreciate some of them.

 

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As we were finishing up we got a close look at this jackal.  Also, a single hartebeest.

 

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We enjoyed our stay at the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge but all of us agreed, there is nothing better than staying in a tented camp.

 

We were up early for breakfast and we were greeted by the fog cloud pouring over the rim of Ngorongoro Crater like a waterfall.  It was really fantastic.

 

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After breakfast we were off to drive through the Embulbul Depression on our way to the Empakai Crater and a walk down to the bottom and hopefully back up.  When Mama Ndege and I were last in this area in 2005 we made this drive and went to Empakai but did not walk down.  We just fell in love with the scenery on the way with the rolling grassy hills and the Masai villages and herds of their animals along with wild animals scattered within.  Again, I was enchanted by the beauty of this area and the activity surrounding the Masai culture in the pastoral setting.

 

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We stopped to pick up a ranger at the gate out of Ngorongoro Crater.  His name was Zachari.  A good looking young Masai carrying a spear instead of a rifle.  When George went to place the spear in the back of the vehicle, he had a big grin on his face.  He said that was the first time he had ever had a ranger armed with a spear to accompany tourists.

 

We arrived at the rim of Empakai Crater and it looked just the way we had remembered it except there was more tree cover on the crater walls across the way.  Mama Ndege remembers making out faces and animals from the rock outcroppings with her imagination while we ate lunch here 14 years ago.

 

Our group consisted of 5 of us over 60 years old and the son of one our friends who is in his 30's, who had just returned from camping and hiking in the Colorado mountains.

George instructed Zachari to go "pole pole", that means slowly in Swahili.  Zachari responded "OK, see you tomorrow."

 

Going down the steep incline was not a problem for most of the group, but I have always had issues with downhill walking, and even with my new bionic knee I was having issues with muscle spasms.  We made it down taking twice as long as it should have due to taking pictures and soaking in the sights.  The reward was the beautiful soda lake with flamingos dotting the edges.  When we arrived we were the only ones down there although another couple arrived about 20 minutes later. 

 

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We enjoyed taking in the peaceful lake and resting up for the climb back up.  The young fellow that was  part of our group is a state game warden back in Kansas.  He really connected with Zachari and it was really neat watching them interact with each other, with Zachari asking questions and JG showing him photos on his phone of some of the animals we have at home.  JG asked Zachari if he could hold his spear and they continued visiting like two long time buddies.  I'm sure neither of them will forget this experience.

 

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Now for the climb back out.  It is about a 1,000 foot elevation rise from the lake to the rim in a little over a mile of trail.  Zachari led the way taking to heart George's instructions of "pole pole".  Most of us got along fine, although the altitude of over 7,000 feet was a bit of a problem for one couple.  Zachari and JG could have gone up, come back down and gone up again while the rest of us were climbing up.  It was interesting though, that we actually went up, in less than an hour, which was faster than our descent.

 

George was waiting for us with a relieved look on his face that he hadn't lost any of the group he was responsible for.  He had our picnic lunch ready for us as a reward.  That cold Serengeti beer hit the spot.

 

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