Published: March 3rd 2007February 1st 2007
After a longer break than planned for in UK we were fully recharged for more travelling and a new continent for the both of us - AFRICA! It was nice for a change to stay in the same bed for more than 3 days.
A very average British Airways overnight flight from Heathrow (which saw only minor delays amazingly) arrived early morning on the 23rd January in a tropical (aka vely hot!) Dar . Again San's star performance on accommodation research came in and like old hands we grabbed a cab, negotiated the hell out of the poor guy, grabbed two tickets on the way to Arusha for the following day with the better of the coach companies in Tanzania (Scandanavia Buses) and pitched up at the Safari Inn in downtown like regular guests. The place was very basic for the price but clean and safe. After spending the day walking around the centre of Dar (amazingly simple and small for a capital city) we settled down for some authentic Indo-Arab-African style curry. Whenever we eat curry with our hands San is always amazed how I manage to get curry coated rice grains above my wrist line - one of
my many skills fine tuned while travelling, I reply....
A 10+ hour comfortable journey on the airconed Scandanavian Bus got us to Arusha in the North of the country and 'organisation central' for trekking and Safari. We settled in to the very friendly 'Center House' run by the Catholic church and proceeded to look around early the following day for our safari amidst the many friendly touts around town. Although there are so many all talking at the same time, their friendly nature makes them far more tolerable than other places - friendly people just trying to eek out a living in this land where the string has been shortened by corruption and is often too short to make ends meet. Our first stop was the well set up and informative (excuse the pun) tourist information centre. While there we started chatting to a German couple who were also hunting a good deal on a safari and so we agreed to do 'the rounds' of the many companies together.
By about 3pm we had seen enough and had narrowed things down to 2 potential agencies for our 4 day/3 night Manyara/Serengeti/Ngorongoro camping safari (Northern Circuit) - one more
costly listing in the lonely planet and a cheaper one that was not - Shidolya
. The latter was offering it at a respectable 500USDpp all in. After personal guarantees from the manager that we would be taken care of, we chose the 'riskier' cheaper one - as it turned out they did us proud and we can highly recommend them!
So all there was left to do was to stock up on a variety of Tanzanian beer at the store on the way back (Serengeti turned out to be the best in the taste test!) and the following day we headed off in a spacious Landcrusier with Marc, Nicole, guide Doto and cook Peter to Lake Manyara National Park. The variety of the animals amazed us and being in the jeep we could get right up close to some of them! With the canopy roof up, we got a full 360 degree view as we travelled. Richy was so happy he had brought his 80-400mm lens - thanks for sending it to the UK Ted! Hope the photos reward the effort.....
Lake Manyara was spectacular enough but despite a long bumpy drive the following day we were presented
with two unforgettable game drives in the Serengeti National Park, one early evening and another starting at 6am the following day. Dinner was al fresco under a canopy of starry constellations in Dik-Dik campsite - named after a small deer type animal just in case you were wondering. Towards dawn, the roar of the lions could be heard from our tents as if they were telling us about their sucessful kill or lamenting a hungry day. It was difficult to distinguish this from the snoring that came from both Richy and Mark but after some quiet careful listening, the majestic rumble was unmistakable.
The final night was spent on the rim of Ngorongoro crater overlooking stunning views, at Simba 'A' campsite. With abundent hot water, mushrooms growing on the door or not, one can get a nice hot shower after 2 days of not washing. We rose before sun up, push started the cold 4x4 up a hill, had a quick brekky and then headed into the crater were we spent pretty much the whole day game driving. The density of animals here surpassed anything we had seen to this point. Driving happily along with no incident so far,
the car came to a halt in a soft spot... (The roads throughout the parks were in very poor condition in parts.) Doto revved till the wheels started smoking... we were STUCK in mud!! How exciting!! Everyone dutifully trotted out of the car, initally weary of predators. The men stood by assessing the situation and looking for a possible solution. Within 10 minutes, other 4x4 drivers have also joined in with the first one telling Doto what he should have/ could have done - thanks... really useful! This conglomeration of men, discussing in Swahili, tried the pull-out method and got more stuck instead. The 2 tourists (Mark and Richy) had suggested digging from the beginning but to no avail until all other methods were exhaustedwas it tried. All this while, Nicole was getting fried under the mid day sun and San was trying to act like a lady and not join in with the digging but eventually made herself useful by looking for stones to place in the hole in front of the wheels to improve traction. We finally did get the car out after 2 hours. Yeah! An addition to the adventure in hindsite. Thanks to all those that
stopped to help, providing muscle and the 2 indispensable spades.
Over the 4 days we caught glimpses of lions, a leopard, giraffe, buffalo, warthogs, numerous birds, hippos, elephants, hienas, jackels, different types of impala, the list is endless - check out the photos. Other highlights were:
* Coming face to face with a male bull elephant who jumped out of the bush in front of the vehicle.
* A leopard stalking an impala in the long grass - poor fella missed his meal this time.
* A female lion sat proudly on a rock within 10 meters of the 4x4 - these guys are big!
* Seeing zebras and wilderbeest on their mass migration - magnificant animals as far as the eye could see.
* Lions over a fresh kill in Ngorongoro.
* Sounds of lions close to the unfenced campsite at night in the serengeti and several shooting stars in a crystal clear sky and fullmoon.
* Giraffes so close to the 4x4 in Serengeti and Manyara.
* No less than 8 Rhinos, albeit at distance, in the crater.
* Doto, Marc and Nicole's company.
* Within inches of Marobu storks at the Ngorongoro campsite.
us could believe how close we were able to get to the animals and the variation of topography from park to park - from the wide open plains of the Serengeti to the density of animals in the Ngorongoro crater. We can recommend it to anyone!
On arrival back in Arusha we met with Marc and Nicole for a final bye bye at Pepe's restaurant *sob*. Thanks for your company guys! It was great to share the experience in your laid-back company although you had not planned on a camping trip in the first place and did sacrifice the luxuries of the lodges. hehe... You liked us that much to have come along huh!! ;0)
Leaving Arush was not without its drama! An early start the following day saw a U-turn taxi ride back to the lodge after Rich forgot his mobile phone (whoops!) but we still made it in plenty of time to the bus station to catch the Simba Video bus (with no video by the way) all the way to Tanga (7 sticky hours).
Well that's it from Safari Sam & San. Next Tanga, Pemba Island and Zanzibar Island. It's
now half way into the trip and we are missing those folks in Malaysia along with the food (what we would do for a bowl of laksa and fishball noodles!), so hearten our spirits with a comment here and there - its great to hear from you all!
There are more photos below