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Tanzania Trip Report


PT123

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I just learned of Safari Talk a few months ago and have enjoyed reading other trip reports. Inspired, I wrote a brief report of our trip to northern Tanzania last August.

 

Day 1: Arrived at KIA this evening; off to the Mountain Village Lodge near Arusha.

Fantastic view of Kilimanjaro with the moonlight reflecting off of the snow on the drive from the airport. The lodge is located on a coffee estate next to Lake Duluti and we stay in individual huts. The generator cuts out shortly after we arrive around 11:00 and we are left scrambling in the dark trying to find a flashlight…

 

Day 2: Off to Tarangire.

The grounds of the Mountain Village Lodge are quite lush. We have a good stretch of the legs and I pick a banana off a tree for a snack. Breakfast and than into the Land Rovers for the trip to Tarangire National Park.

 

The landscape in the park in August is arid but tall grass is present all around. We head down a dirt road not far from the Tarangire River and park. I am absolutely taken by the wide-open spaces and the sense of vastness. There are approximately 20 elephants in the fields on either side of us – we stop and observe for about an hour. We can’t stop smiling as this is our first taste of “real Africa”. The adult elephants continually position themselves between us and an elephant calf. We continue around the park for the rest of the afternoon and head to our tented camp near lake Burungi where we are met by the crew with fruit juice and warm wash cloths. Some of the animal first sighted are…

 

- Zebra

- Elephants

- Wart Hog

- Giraffe (Masai)

- Wildebeest

- Egyptian Goose

- Dik Diks (Why aren’t these starters for the big cats…you would think that they could snack on these little guys. How do they survive?)

 

Overnight in our tents we hear the animals going about their business – a porcupine (we hope) brushes against the side of our tent…the “whoop, whoop, whoop” of the hyenas, etc. We are awakened around 5:00 a.m. by strange sounds a couple hundred feet from our tent. It’s pretty dark and we’re a bit nervous as at first we had no idea what it was. It turned out to be elephants grazing in the field in front of our tent. This was a pretty cool alarm clock.

 

Day 3: Another day cruising Tarengire in the Range Rover.

There are only two other couples in our group and two cars so sometimes we get one to ourselves. We catch a glimpse of a pride of female lions who give us the once over and evaporate into the tall grass. We see lots of giraffe, gazelles, baboons, etc. plus a couple of banded mongoose…and tucked away in a tree the backside of a snoozing leopard. The zebra and wildebeest lined up at the watering hole remind me of am LA traffic jam…all in a nice, orderly line.

 

Day 4: Off to Ngorongoro highlands!

En route we stop at Mto-wa-Mbu for a walk about and on past Lake Manyara up into the highlands. The views are spectacular as the landscape changes to a lush mountain side and the climate is pleasantly cool. We spend the night at Gibbs Farm. Pretty upscale yet retains a colonial feel. This is an organic farm that serves mostly its own food in the restaurant. We had a tour of the fields, a demonstration of how coffee beans are grown and roasted (good, good, coffee; we get a bag of coffee beans to bring home). Later we were escorted on a hike through Ngorongoro Conservation Area by a ranger. Lush, and overgrown with well defined paths and good views of the valley. We see signs of baboons and elephants but no actual sightings. We go back to the farm for diner and a nice, romantic evening in front of the fire place. The next day it’s off to the crater.

 

Day 5: Ngorongoro Crater.

We stop at the crater rim to take it all in. The landscape of the crater floor is varied – grassy plains, a small forest, some marshes and a soda lake full of flamingos. Looking down the herds of wildebeest look like ants. We head to our camp for a couple of Tuskers…

 

Day 6: The Crater floor:

After a somewhat steep descent we’re finally on the floor (the reason that I came to Tanzania). We immediately see buffalo, wildebeest, elephants and wart hogs. As we drive around we see plenty of gazelles, impala, ostrich, giraffe and zebras plus a few jackals (golden and balckback), hyenas and some lions in the distance. Game viewing is good but we’re a bit discouraged at the lack of big cats…our guide spots two black dots far off in the distance. We keep pace on the road and the two cheetahs get closer and closer to the road. We follow along as the two brothers head toward a bridge over a small stream (why get wet paws if you don’t have to?). We had some pretty close-up views (within about 25 feet) for about 15 minutes as they stop and lounge about grooming, etc. This by far and away is the highlight of the trip so far for me.

 

We cruise the hippo pools and the lake for some good bird watching (hammerkopf, storks, kori bustard, secretary birds, superb starlings, oxpeckers, etc.). Next we slowly cruise the forest looking for a rhino, (which we never did see). It was pretty cool to see a large elephant silently making his way through the trees – at that time it occurred to me that I’ve only seen elephants in the wild in grassy areas. It seemed totally incongruous to see an elephant in the woods.

 

Day 7: Olduvai and the Serengeti

After a morning in the crater we head to the Olduvai gorge. Leaving the crater floor, we head up the steepest, narrowest dirt road that I ever hope to be on! The view into the Olduvai gorge is breathtaking and we attend a brief lecture to acquaint us with the anthropological work in the area. Now...on to the Serengeti! The plains are just as I imagined after all those years watching Wild Kingdom and National Geographic specials on TV…

 

We see a few large male lions lounging around on kopjes. One in particular looks like he’s been in a few tussles, (scares and a ripped ear). Near by is a pride of lionesses and cubs enjoying a nice afternoon snooze. One cub isn’t interested in nap time and is walking around – stepping on and tripping over the other lions. Finally mom has enough and reaches up and plunks the young one down.

 

 

Days 8 – 11 Serengeti continued:

We stayed for one more day in our camp located in the Serona region. That morning we get up 4:00 for a fantastic sunrise balloon ride over the Serengeti. We glide along silently and enjoy the panoramic views. Although most of the animals have moved north there are still quite a few hoofed creatures about. We glide over three large male lions – one is randomly pacing around, another is sound asleep and the third is looking directly up at us like we’re his room service breakfast order! As we are landing we pass by a giraffe. It was pretty cool to see one from above as he trotted away. Our pilot was fantastic and we had a great time speaking with him. He started out as a mechanic with the company that runs the balloon trips. They sent him to balloon training in California and now he’s the first Tanzanian born balloon pilot. This was a great experience and I hope to do it again.

 

In the afternoon we cruise the central Serengeti one last time. In addition to all of the usual suspects we had nice sighting of a cheetah on a termite mound. Also, we saw an unfortunate black back jackal hanging from a tree limb, (I assume that a leopard did him in…). We had two days in the northern Serengeti and spent a fair amount of time watching the crocks and hippos splash about in the Mara. Not surprisingly, none of the nervous wildebeest would take the plunge. Unfortunately the river was a bit high and we could not cross and get up to the Kenyan border.

 

The next morning we headed to a dirt air strip located next to the ranger station by the Mara for our flight to Arusha. The flight back was pretty smooth with good views of the different topography. From grasslands, to wooded areas and a nice view of an active volcano which has been dormant for a couple of years. Arusha was clouded over so we land at KIA around 11:30 and have a hotel room at the KIA Lodge until our flight at 7:30. The weather clears nicely although Kilimanjaro remains mostly hidden. The grounds are quite nice – lots of tropical plans and cacti. There are tons of psychedelically colored (agama?) lizards.

 

There is a nice pool where we lounge around and have a couple of Tuskers and hope for a brief glimpse of Kili in the daylight which wasn’t meant to be. Soon we’re back on the plane and headed home.

 

 

Epilogue:

We had an Africa party on the one year anniversary of our trip and went through all of the pictures and the journal that we kept. I sit here looking the few keepsakes that I brought back – a Masai stick, a piece of volcanic rock from the floor of the Ngorongoro crater and a rock from outside the Leaky museum, (with a sharp edge and what I believe to be primitive tool marks – or it’s just a rock…), and count the days until we can return to Africa.

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Guest John Milbank
We had an Africa party on the one year anniversary of our trip...

 

PT...a lot of us do that (though we don't usually wait for an anniversary excuse :D ). It says something about what Africa does to us.

 

Re your last pic...I didn't know you saw nyamera on your safari ;)

 

Thanks for sharing.

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Dik Diks (Why aren’t these starters for the big cats…you would think that they could snack on these little guys. How do they survive?)

Maybe our dikdik can tell us how he's doing this... :D

 

 

Re your last pic...I didn't know you saw nyamera on your safari ;)

Ahem, John, this can't be our nyamera... gallery_3403_44_8.gif

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Atravelynn

PT123,

 

So the Ngorongoro Crater was what sent you to Tanzania! It's nice to relive the trip with an anniversary party and with a report.

 

3 male lions from the balloon is a very lucky ride.

 

Nice cheetah pics. You can also include the photos themselves in your report, but first you have to make a gallery. It's not that hard because I can do it, but it does take some extra uploading. Also you may need to reduce the size of your photos.

 

Thanks for the Tanzania report.

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PT123,

Thanks for your report and for promoting closer topi studies here on Safaritalk! The yawning cheetah and the elephant calf were nice as well. Is that you jumping?

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Nice cheetah pics. You can also include the photos themselves in your report, but first you have to make a gallery. It's not that hard because I can do it, but it does take some extra uploading. Also you may need to reduce the size of your photos.

 

 

Thanks Atravelynn..I couldn't quite figure out how to embed the pictures!

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PT123,

Thanks for your report and for promoting closer topi studies here on Safaritalk! The yawning cheetah and the elephant calf were nice as well. Is that you jumping?

 

 

Thanks Nyamera...yes that's me jumping - good thing I wore my trainers! When we first arrived in the Serengeti we drove past Mr. (or Ms.) Topi on the termite mound - this was another "classic" African scene that I was glad to capture.

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  • 1 year later...

PT123

 

That sounds like a great trip had!

 

Did you pre-book everything? I am interested in doing a similar itinerary and wondered how much it cost you in total?

 

I also wonder if I need to pre-book, could I drive myself and find accommodation as I drive?!!

 

Thanks

 

Tarzan

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I did a package tour. As first timers we really had no idea what to expect and wanted a structured program to be sure that we saw the main parks and sights we were interested in. Also, being a fish out of water I wanted the peace of mind of being picked up at the airport, etc. This was a great way for us to get oriented and have a better idea of what we wanted to see in subsequent trips; how we wanted to travel between locations (road vs. fly), and what type of accommodations we wanted to stay in next time: tent (pitch your own at a camp site, or semi-permanent w/ showers) or lodge (luxury, medium range or budget).

 

I can't really envision doing a self dive in Tanzania as the roadways aren’t as well sign posted as in Europe and the US and the roads in the parks aren’t really sign posted that well either, (and frankly, I'm not that intrepid)! There are some other contributors to this sight that live in Africa who have more experience that hopefully will comment on this as they are more experienced than I.

 

It seems that a lot of people do fly to Kilimanjaro and go into Arusha town to book a safari when they arrive. I'm a bit of a planner and this option doesn't appeal to me but many people on this forum have done this. The way I approached planning the trip was to do as much web based research as possible to decide:

 

1. What parks/reserves do I want to see?

 

2. Do I want to stay in a lodge or camp?

 

3. Do I want to drive or fly between camps? Flying is faster but expensive, driving is slower but you go through villages and see the people and countryside which would have been missed if flying.

 

4. What's my comfort level - how autonomous do I want to be? Do I feel comfortable getting from the airport to a hotel to Arusha and booking a safari on my own, etc.

 

5. Price - how can I do as much as I want in my budget: downgrade accommodations for a longer stay or more parks?

 

For me it's all about the wildlife and cultural experience:

- How many game drives a day are included, (some lodges charge extra).

- What type of vehicle (minivan, Range Rover, Land Cruiser)? Will I have a guaranteed window seat?

- Will I get to meet and speak to people in their every day settings?

 

The web sites provided by Atravelynn are great educational tools to decide where and when to go. Good luck and have a great time.

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