Joe Goes on Safari
Trip Start Sep 08, 2007
68Trip End Apr 30, 2008
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While I thought the adventure would begin on the Serengeti, it actually started in Zanzibar Airport! So I show up and just planned on buying my ticket for later that day. I go to the ticket desk for ZanAir (a regional airline serving destination as exotic as, well, Zanzibar) and ask if I can get on the next flight. The guy says sure and I ask him what time it leaves, to which he responds 10:30. As it was already 10:15, I figured I was out of luck. But the man confidently corrected me: "The plane leaves when I tell it to." So as I waited in the terminal (after a rigorous security check where the scanner was broken and the guards asked "What is in your bags" to which I responded "Clothes, sunscreen, and shampoo" and away we went) and I tried to figure out which plane was ours (figuring it wasn't there, as surely they were all WAY too small!) I saw my luggage brought to the tarmac and leaned against the terminal door (extending walkway to the plane you ask? I'm afraid not)
I got settled in Arusha at a great hostel and met up with my friend Caolan who is working at the Rwanda Criminal Tribunal there. He showed me the town and we had a great afternoon and evening - went to a great place for chicken and a really nice resto frequented by ex-pats
I then spent about an hour trying to get my frigging insurance papers printed - the safari leader needed to see them (actually he didn't, but i thought he did at the time) and I also booked my ticket back to Nairobi for post-safari. That night the whole Safari gang met back at the hotel for an intro dinner and a review of our itinerary - it still really wasn't sinking in that I was about to trek across the Serengeti! It was crazy! The rest of the group also seemed great (again, they were fab!) and i was super excited the next day when we loaded our stuff into our two 9-person landrovers (with extendable roofs that allowed us to stand and look out) and headed out of town
The drive to Lake Manyara (our first stop) was a couple of hours and gave us quite a taste of the Tanzanian countryside. All of us kept commenting on how beautiful the countryside was. As I got to know my fellow safari-ers, I began to appreciate how lucky I was to have such a great group to travel with (always important when travelling alone!). You also could see the terrain changing as we got closer - the ground was much more fertile and the housing and towns were much more developed than Arusha and surrounds. As we drove down the highway, we got our first game sighting - a big ole giraffe was having dinner on the side of the highway (it served as a border between the parks, and the animals often wander around). The excitement was getting a little crazy (Christine, one of the women who I hit it off with right away on the trip, and I kept grabbing each other and saying "We're on Safari!") We arrived at our camp - very cute area, that was actually quite busy - and then headed off for our first game drive around Lake Manyara.
We were greeting almost immediately by several families of baboons - they were everwhere! We also spotted a blue monkey. Perhaps the most fabulous part of all was when we were driving by a creek and I spotted something - just looked like a brown lump but I thought it could be hair/fur
The next day we set out for Serengeti National Park - which invovled driving through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Olduvai Gorge (the place where they found the footprints of super early man - we stopped for a brief lunch and lecture visit). We stopped at the border of the Serengeti for pics and then headed in! I got to sit (mostly stand actually) at the front of the open-roof truck almost the whole way, just MARVELLING at the plains stretching in every direction - you really felt like you were at the end of the earth (I must also admit that the lyrics to Circle of Life were playing rather loudly in my head - thank you Disney for shaping every special moment of my life)
The two nights we spent there will stick with me for a long time. The first night you could actually hear the lions (the males call to each other - they sounded super close but we were assured we were always safe). The jackals literally played right next to our camp and one evening I watched Zebra walk by as I brushed my teeth. The camp was great - really quiet, we almost had it to ourselves. The group and I were just so excited the whole time - so enthusiastic about being there and getting to see what we were seeing! Definite highlights include the pride of about 15 lions we stumbled upon, and definitely sighting a leopard (one of the hardest of the "Big 5" to spot!) and watching him climb a tree to nap over his very recent kill of Impala. We saw so many zebra, gazelle, water buffalo, elephants, hippos, even a crocodile or two! By the end of it we counted that we'd seen at least 40 lions!! On our last day, as we left the park and headed to Ngorongoro, we hit part of the large migration that brought huge herds of zebra and wildebeest from Kenya into the Serengeti - the plains were just FULL of hundreds of thousands of the animals, spreading sooooo widely! It was amazing!
As we journeyed back to Ngorongoro, we stopped at a Maasasi village - kind of weird since we were paying to enter someone's home and invade their culture, but I heard there was a market there so I felt much better
The camp at Ngorongoro was not as cozy - it's the only one, so is very busy - but it was fun all the same. Best highlight was definitely when I came out of the bathroom and Debbie told me she was staring at an elephant behind the latrine - I told her she was full of shit but she insisted, so I indulged her. Not only was an elephant behind the latrine, but he was trying to mate with ANOTHER elephant behind the latrine! A crowd gathered and we watched for a while, but he couldn't seem to figure things out (men are always the same, regardless of species it seems), so we left them to it. Later in the evening, I went to the bathroom and caught movement out of the corner of my eye - one of them had moved closer up the path, so I watched a bit. He kept coming closer and closer! I got a picture with him right behind me, where I thought he'd stop - NOPE
The next day we did our last game tour through the Ngorongoro Crater area - the oldest cauldera (I think that means extinct volcano) in the world, or so I'm told. The mission was to stop the very difficult to find black rhino - and spot them we did! About 7 of them actually, but from super far away (the pictures, once posted, will illustrate this). Apparently they are very aggressive and the guides are leery of getting too close! So it was then with somehwat of heavy hearts (I think for everyone) that we began the journey back to Arusha and civilization once again! The trip was a bit long, but we did stop at a souvenire shop (our guides suggested this was the best place to buy souvenirs) and I picked up the ever-essential salad spoons with handles in the shape of game animals (zebras for me) and a neat carved bowl. We bot to Arusha in the early evening and I think I had a 45 minute shower - it had been WAYYYYY too long! We all gathered for one last dinner, reminiscing about what already seemed to be a MUCH too distant memory and exchanged emails and invitations to visit (a reminder to everyone - I WILL take up those offers!).
The next morning, those of us who were left had breakfast, chatted some more, said more goodbyes, and then slowly headed out of the city. I shared a taxi with Sue, a woman from Toronto (Dave and Debbie - Sue suggests beers this summer!) to Kiliminjaro airport where I flew to Nairobi to meet Allison -is the adventure over you ask? Not a chance!