Published: November 12th 2007September 18th 2007
Googlemap!! Courtesy of Maria we now have a Googlemap charting the route of our travels, I think you might need GoogleEarth installed to view it. Let us know if the link is working.
Thanks a big bunch o' bananas Maria!! AdnMaz Travel Map
We got the impression that there really isn't that much to see travelling overland from Rwanda to Tanzania. It would have taken us three days at least of just constant bus rides, staying in fairly bad accommodation with the additional hassle of the border, so we decided to fly. For a few dollars more we would get there in about 2 hours and save ourselves the days travelling to get to Arusha. So we flew.
In the waiting lounge at Kigali airport we met a guy from the Rwandan Wildlife Authority, clutching a birdbook. It turned out that they have a problem with large birds of prey flying around the runways catching rabbits and stuff but then flying infront of aeroplanes and getting sucked into the engines. He was there to help sort out a solution that didn't involve shooting them all. Eeerm kill the Rabbits....
The check-in security at Arusha airport was
slightly less strict than we are used to in Europe. Us: "Eeerm I think we are carrying a potentially explosive gas canister in our hold luggage which this sign says we aren't allowed to carry on board and we should tell you about it..." Check in guy: "We have already checked the bags in, you should have told us earlier." Us: "OK then".
The plane was a fairly small twin prop affair, and very luxurious compared to our usual Eezee standards with a pair of impressive military helicopters parked just behind it (Nothing to do with us being there). Before getting on we had to play 'claim the bag', It was tempting to claim half the baggage and let whoever owned it think it had been nicked but it would have just held the plane up.
As it turned out we were delayed anyway by a rather well off and too well fed African Lady who needed to be greased up before she could get through the door of the plane. We've never seen anyone need to use a seat belt extension before but even with the help of the stewardess it took about 10 minutes to shoehorn
her arse into the seat with the armrests sticking up under her armpits and the inflight tray unable to fully unfurl.
We didn't get to see Kili on the flight over as unfortunately the cloud cover was too low. After landing we were to experience our first taste of rip off Tanzania, $50 for a taxi from the airport to Arusha town itself. Fixed price from the airport, which is too far from anywhere else to be able to walk to a local bus. Its quite far but it shouldn't cost fifty bucks dammit. We found our way into town to a nice cheap clean fairly new backpacker hostel called Arusha backpackers with a funky roof terrace bar type thing (strangely the music of choice tended towards the kind played during line dancing contests...).
It appeared to be a wise choice as we bumped into Dan and Dave the two aussies we shared a raft with in Jinja, and met Mat another traveling aussie who was going South to North from SA and had just come from Mozambique. They had just got back from a Safari to Lake Manyara, Ngorogoro Crater and Tarangire National parks so they had
some good recommendations for tour operators. Always good as there are about 2000 registered in Arusha alone so narrowing them down in any way would save us time.
We had a look at around seven or so (too many), a couple of which had been recommended by Claire and Julian, and a couple by the aussies. The aussies had gone with 'Fun Safaris' who use a campsite also used as a stopover by a couple of the overland trucks. During an acrobatic display at the lodge their tents were slashed and all lost i-pods/mobile phones/money etc. they weren't sure if it was staff, performers, overland truckers, or locals taking advantage of the distraction but we decided against that particular one in the end plumping for 'Great Masaii Adventure'. We had met a Belgian couple called Jef and Greet on our rounds of the tour operators who had also decided that Kilimanjaro was too expensive and were looking for a safari to go on so we joined forces.
Unlike our Masai Mara adventure in the back of a converted Toyota Hiace Matatu, this safari was to be undertaken in the 4WD splendour of a Great British Ford Land Rover
110. And we all had a seat to ourselves, fantastic!
Lake Manyara is a national Park of about 500 sq km consisting about 50% lake and 50% forest/savanna abutting the edge of the rift valley. Panorama camp which Great Masai use as their base camp for Lake Manyara and Ngorogoro Crater has spectacular views from the top of the Great Rift escarpment out over the lake and is a tad cheaper than another lodge further round the escarpment with the same view which costs a mind boggling $1000 a night. Righty-Ho then. Maybe on our next trip.
Lake Manyara has Elephant, Tree Climbing Lion, Leopard, Wildebeeste, Giraffe, Hippo, some Water Buffalo and various birdlife, although the chance of seeing each varies. We "saw" a tree climbing lion up a tree as described way off in the vague distance. So vague in fact that it was only upon digitally zooming in on the photograph we took with maximum zoom that we realized there were in fact two tree climbing Lions lounging around in the limbs of the tree. We got a slightly better look at a Leopard in the distance, behind a branch, up a dark tree, but I'm
No intellectual conversation with this chap
not sure we can really tick that one off the list just yet.
The highlight of Lake Manyara for us was the opportunity to get really up close and personal to the Elephants that are there, most are well habituated to the cars and sometimes come safely to within just a few metres of the Land Rover. Many of the herds have very young Elephants with them and the parents can be understandably protective of them. In one stroll-past the mother of one of the calves deemed us to be too close, prompting an adrenaline inducing mock-charge. Disco-Knee all round.
Ngorogoro Crater is a spectacular 100 sq km crater which everyone says is a must see purely because of the number of animals living within its confines and the scenery is amazing. You drive up the volcano in the mist, very atmosphereic, and then drop into the crater. When the cloud lifts you can see the entire edge of the crater stretching around into the haze with the crater floor partly covered in a large lake.
I think we were truly spoiled during our safari in the Masai Mara because we saw far more animals there (courtesy
Never trust a Giraffe
of the migration). What we didn't see however was rutting Lions! Top Drawer! These fellas when in heat have it off about 70-odd times a day! Hang around for ten minutes and your guaranteed of seeing some top notch Lion-on-Lioness action. The Lioness wanders around in front of the Male, wiggling her bottom in his face, they get it on for about 5 seconds then collapse panting into the grass. Chaps, even the king of the jungle sucks in bed.
We did also see a Black Rhino apparently, it looked more like a big rock to us as it wasn't that lively. And it was behind a bush. We really can't cross that one off the list I'm afraid.
One thing we didn't realize about Tanzania is that hunting is legal, if a little expensive. Well, expensive for the likes of you and me anyway. It seems that the worlds uber rich regularly fly everything they could possibly need for a weeks safari and hunting into the country. This includes an air-conditioned marquee sized tent with bedroom and separate bathroom with hot running water, Digital Satellite TV, a blood supply in case they injure themselves plus a private
doctor so they don't have to (god forbid) go near any Africans or an African hospital. They then kill whatever animal they want the dead head of hanging in their house because it looks so much better there, pay someone to stuff it for them (price for an Elephant depends on size. Well Duh...) then fly back to whatever drug-for-everything, over-analysing, deep-fried heaven they came from. With large stuffed animal head in tow.
In one expat bar we saw a pricelist for a taxidermy service on the noticeboard. We thought it was a joke and were looking and laughing until the company owner came over and asked which animal we were interested in. The poor old Dikdik (small antelopey thing that mates for life) was cheapest at a bargain USD500. Poor Dikdiks.
It would appear that if you are a guide as good as ours obviously was, is that you get tipped pretty well by these people (a good animal tracker even more). Godson our guide had bought his Land Rover from the sum of these tips before he went independent and started showing people how to see the living animals instead of leading people to kill them.
Very good money for your average African anyway.
He did also tell us that they appear to have a problem with Italians in Tanzania, apparently they are prone to paying for safaris with fake USD, nicking carvings from curio shops by swarming en-masse into the shop, distracting the owner, then giving themselves a five finger discount amongst others.
It seems their shennanigans aren't limited to Tanzania either. In Kenya we were asked by the waiter of the restaurant we were eating in to pay before we ate. Thinking this slightly odd we asked why and were told it was because they get a lot of large groups of Italians ordering expensive food and wine, running up a considerable tab, then doing a runner without paying. Its funny but I've never met any dodgy Italians. 8 )
The final one of our park visits in Tanzania was Tarangire which provided our first taste of Tse-Tse flies. Little buggers are like horseflies but there's more of them. And they carry some horrible disease. And they particularly like blue and black (guess what colour most of Adam's Tshirts are?). And it was hot.
The only thing we really saw
at Tarangire apart from the ubiquitous Impala (and flies), were more Elephants. It was cool to see them in a very African setting with Baobab trees dotted everywhere, on their way down the river to drink and splash around. We did get quite close to some Giraffes, and saw the beautiful Lilac Breasted Roller (a bird for the non twitchers among us) for the first time, but for us as with Ngorogoro the landscape itself was as much of a highlight as the animals.
After Tarangire it was back to Arusha to sort out a bus across to Dar Es Salaam on our way to Zanzibar, once centre of the worlds spice trade, but now more importantly some awesome diving and beaches!
There are more photos below