Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Aug 27, 2010

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Lake Manyara Wildlife Lodge

Flag of Tanzania  ,
Friday, May 28, 2010

The shuttle bus (think 15 seater minibus) arrived on time, with the hopeful name of "Impala", and after loading up passengers then luggage onto the roof (luggage that is not passengers) we were on our way to Tanzania (interestingly pronounced tan-zan-ya by the Kenyans?). Relieved to see that there were more seats than passengers, we settled in for a smooth and comfortable ride…..unfortunately it turned out to be anything but! The Nairobi-Arusha cross border road has been under construction (Chinese built) for a year and a half already and by the looks of things is not going to be completed anytime soon. The journey was bumpy and dusty and by the time we reached the border Sarah's black t-shirt had turned a curious orange-brown colour! Despite the visa fee of $200 for someone to scribble a note in our passports (would’ve been more if we were American) and getting shaken to bits along the way we made it to the Outpost Lodge in Arusha only an hour late.

It was a brief overnight stay in Arusha before getting picked up at 8am in the pouring rain by Joseph, our new friend and tour guide/driver for the next five days. Joseph works for Safari Makers and our first stop was their office to pay for our safari, hotels in Arusha and flights to and from Zanzibar. Barbara (co-owner) has done a great job at getting things organized for us and we’re feeling confident about our decision to use her company. With office arrangements complete we set off on our safari, heading west of Arusha in our specially modified Toyota Landcruiser and with more than one or two other similar vehicles in convoy.

Despite the rain, our journey from Arusha had plenty to see, the Tanzanian countryside is much lusher than we imagined and the regular sightings of the Masai people going about their daily duties was neat. After a couple of brief stops, we made it to Lake Manyara National Park by about midday and stopped at the gatehouse to open the roof of our jeep – now it feels like we’re on safari! Lake Manyara National Park is a fairly small park by Tanzanian standards and is sandwiched between Lake Manyara and the escarpment of the Rift Valley. Not a minute into the park we saw our first wildlife….Baboons, and lots of them! These monkeys were fun to watch, but after just a few minutes it was time to move and not long before we spotted our first of the “Big 5” – ambling through the bush was a very large bull elephant! We spent the next three hours driving/bouncing around the park on dirt roads stopping in excitement at every new animal sighting, which turned out to be a lot of stopping due to the frequency of animals in the park. By 3pm everybody was getting pretty hungry and we stopped for a picnic lunch…we were just setting off again when we met another jeep that had just passed through the same dip that we had and had encountered a black mamba… one of those large black snakes that can strike fatally at will and can “leap” into an open jeep…luckily we didn’t see it or Sarah would have probably required medical assistance for the fear-induced panic attack!

We continued on our way and left the national park late in the afternoon happy with the variety of wildlife we were seeing on our first day of safari, though not before a most alarming encounter with some elephants. Rounding a corner in the track with bushes all down the right hand side we came across a herd on the opposite side of a small stream (to our left). There seemed to be about twenty five of them, including one whose backside was protruding from the bushes into the road, blocking our path. Not really a problem as we were quite content to watch the elephants; at least until we noticed a rather large male that seemed to be heading in our direction under quite a head of steam. He was approaching from the rear, the path forward was blocked by the aforementioned elephant backside (plus a baby bum that had since joined her), and to the right and left were the bushes and herd respectively! Needless to say those tusks were suddenly beginning to look sharper and the charging male larger by the second and the small stream between us proved to be no obstacle for an elephant…..luckily for us he seemed to have a last minute change of heart and swerved to a halt behind a large bush just a few metres away (water from the stream must’ve cooled his jets). The next few minutes were a bit nervy, but when another jeep arrived our driver was kind enough to maneuver to let it take a first run past the elephant obstacle. Eventually the one with its head in the bushes plus baby decided to move into the bush a little and we were able to continue on our way without incident.

In addition to seeing 36 elephants, many of the creatures we saw were too numerous to count, but our tally for the day included Buffalo, Bush Duiker, Baboons, Impalas, Giraffe, Zebras, Vervet monkeys, Hippos, Blue monkeys Saddle-billed Stork, Pelicans, Ground Hornbill, Superb Starling, Red and Yellow Barbit and Tsetse flies! Final destination of a fun filled first day was Lake Manyara Wildlife Lodge, situated majestically at the edge of the rift valley escarpment, overlooking Lake Manyara. The safari we booked is a “budget safari” but there is nothing budget about this grandiose hotel and so all in all, we went to bed feeling pretty good about our first day. For day 2 the Serengeti plains are calling…..
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Shirley Johnson on

So cool !!! I'm very jealous.

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