Lake Manyara

Trip Start Jul 19, 2007
Trip End Aug 03, 2007

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

After Amy picked her washed clothes off the window (nearly leaving a pair of underwear behind, hanging on the blinds), we packed up our suitcases, then were dutifully escorted by our guide to the lodge for breakfast.  Another beautitful, cool morning.  It's funny, we have on shorts and t-shirts while our guides wear slacks, shirts, sweaters and this morning, light vests!  As we exited the park, we were able to see more footprints of our visitors the night before, elephants.  And, then as we reached the gate, there they were hanging out in the brush along the side of the road...spectacular and scary all at the same time to know they were wandering around us all night completely unheard.

Yesterday as we left the Tarangire park, we swung through Lake Manyara.  This morning, we are here again to spend more time. 

Our first lesson of the day was 'what not to touch.'  A seemingly innocuous pencil cactus type plant turns out to have the ability to blind you with its milk.  How did we learn this?  By having Ndaskoi break a limb off, pull it in the truck and show us the milk that drips out!!

This area is primarily water-ridden, with swampy lake like patches where the hippos hang out.  However, much to our surprise as we proceeded down the road, the rovers in front of us began to back up and back up .... and back up.  Turned out a bull elephant had come down from the hillside and was "pushing" the vehicles back.  Once we were able to stop to see what was going on, we realized he was leading a small herd, with female and calves.  Both the bull and female stood trunk to trunk across the road so the calves could wallow in the dry dirt.  It was an amazing sight to see these intelligent animals "work the crowd" so their kids could play and dust up for the day. 

As we continued down the road, we were then marauded by a troup of baboons, hundreds and hundreds of baboons running down the road at us.  Babies, adults, crippled ones, mothers with babies on back, old, heavily fanged males.  It was quite the site.

Lake Manyara stretches for 50km along the base of the Rift Valley.  During the wet season, nearly 75 sq mi becomes lake.  Diverse in landscape, it has forest, grassy floodplain and endless views.  We enjoyed a relaxed drive through the landscape to see giraffe, elephant, hippos, waterbirds and beautiful scenery of relatively flat plains-like land that lead directly to mountains. 

One of the great things about this experience was getting to see these animals in their natural habitat, and on our way out of the park for the last time, we witnessed an incredible safari moment: a leopard and two warthogs alternately charging each other.  The animals were at least 100 yards from the road, maybe more.  Whoever spotted them had eagle eyes, and the word immediately went out over the guides' CB radios.  Soon everyone in the park knew there was a leopard to be seen, and there was already a crowd when we arrived.  At maximum zoom, Nathan was barely able to see the leopard's head poking up above the grass, and Amy used our Panasonic TZ-1 to record some movies while Nathan did his best to snap "the shot."  We initially thought we were going to see a warthog get taken down, but we think they were too big and the leopard was outnumbered, so all we got to see was posturing on both sides.  Check out the movie clip in our photo album for this entry.

The place we stayed at for the night, we don't recommend.  It was called E Unoto.  It was supposed to be somewhat of a version of a boma.   Amy had a really difficult time here.  It was our first real close contact with any Masaai, and it was completely fake.  Unfortunately, few if any of the attendants had any Masaai heritage, but they were decked out in the traditional garb to put on a show for the tourists.  They were carrying our bags, serving us dinner, and bartending.  Amy had a real problem with it, so much so that when one of them laid her napkin on her lap, she just had to politely excuse herself from dinner and go to our room.  Unsure of what made her completely uncomfortable, all she could say was that it was 'unnatural' and not the experience she wanted in her memories.  She wasn't the only one--one of the Judys mentioned they felt this was their lowest emotional night of the trip.

The rooms were lovely, but we had no lights or hot water to shower with so it was a quick rinse.  The deck off the bedroom was narrow but had a wonderful view and you could hear animals walking through the bushes at night.  There was a fair amount of money put into this place which was out in the middle of nowhere, but unlike the other people we encountered so far, the women sitting at their bomas were unfriendly and waved us away, and the children were beggars.  Seems the money was either not wanted or steered in the wrong direction. Very unfortunate.
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