Published: February 28th 2010February 28th 2010
Alright all, what’s occurring? Now I won’t lie to you but we are doing great and continuing our big trip across the African continent. The stark realisation that the biggest trip of all awaited us to get across Tanzania - as it is surprisingly bigger than we originally thought - was a bit of a shock to the system for us…. Having spent four weeks travelling across Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda we suddenly realised how far we had actually NOT travelled around Lake Victoria and that it was going to be a big ask to try and get across Tanzania in two weeks with a five day safari in the middle!
The Odyssey Begins…
So it is cheeky, but at most border crossings, we jokingly suggest to the immigration official that, as we are Irish citizens, our Visas are free. There are two reasons for this:
1. There might be a border where we actually do get in for free (a pleasant surprise occurred in Uganda where us Irish are one of the few nationalities that are actually free), and
2. They generally laugh, have a joke with us, and are therefore more likely to
Our Safari Group
Niall, Msafiri, Lena, Stef
Mylo, Dee, Nils
charge us the actual amount, instead of some ridiculously inflated figure.
So when we crossed into Tanzania, despite us arriving in the full knowledge that the visa should be $50, the conversation went like this (after the typical African introductory hello, how are you? how is your family? and your mother? and your father? and how is work? etc. etc.):
Niall: “It’s actually free for Irish people you know. Check your book there.” Big smile, bigger laugh.
Official: “I will check, and I think you’re right, there is something special about Irish.”
Niall: “Yea, people love us the world over, we get in free to so many countries like Uganda for example, and the Irish and Tanzanian alliance goes back centuries you know.”
Official: “Ah here it is, yes, $100 each, that’s right”
Niall: “You are having a laugh? Mylo, check this guy out, what a joker. Tanzanians are so funny. Now, jokes aside, here is $50 each. A quick stamp there on the ol’ passport, any page will do, and we will be on our way. No worries.”
Official: “Sir, I am afraid it is $100 each. Every country is $50 except
Irish and Americans. So that will be $100 each, and $50 for Miss Estefania from Spain.”
Niall: “Mylo, I think this guy might be serious here……got any more dollars?”
And indeed he was. Unreal. Apparently the Irish got tough on Tanzanians for a visa, and then the Tanzanians returned the favour. So much for the Irish passport being the best to travel on. A quick text to Richie back home to check (he was just home from honeymoon to Tanzania) and then we were rooting out every last dollar to stump up the $350 for the four of us just to get into the country. We even had to haggle with the money changers to make up the last bit. It will be rice and beans for the next few days Dee, our budget did not include bonus payments for the Tanzanian government. Just wait until we get home and let Michael Martin have a piece of our mind.
But then we were into beautiful Tanzania. The west of the country is very remote, and for the first couple of days we found ourselves off the map in towns not mentioned anywhere in our trusty Lonely Planet
guide. To begin with was Benako, where we stayed in the tiny and pretty grim Silent Night guest house. From there we got on a 6am bus - which actually left at 8am as per Tanzania Bus protocol - to Mwanza on the south coast of lake Victoria. Next backwater was Lamadi on the western side of the Serengeti; where our guide, Msafiri, and our chef, Damian, collected us the following day for our five day Safari.
It is all improbable, incredible. As if one were witnessing the birth of the world, that precise moment when earth and sky already exists, as do water, plants and wild animals but not yet Adam and Eve. It is this world barely born, the world without mankind and hence without sin, that one can imagine is seeing in the Serengeti.
Again our favourite Polish-African author, Ryszard Kapuscinski, has managed to incitefully describe the wonderous sights that the Serengeti has to offer. At the end of the day, our trip here was truly amazing. On honeymoon we were lucky enough to go on a safari in southern Tanzania, and the Serengeti was one of the main reasons that we came back to Africa on this trip. Before we came out here we knew it was going to be one of the highlights our trip; but when we actually got here we were completely blown away by the beauty, diversity and quantity of animals to see. To name but a few we were lucky enough to see
antelope (loads of kinds), elephant, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, hippos, lions, leopards, a cheetah, serval cats, hyena, jackals, bat eared foxes, crocodiles and so many birds.
To mention some of the highlights:
• Spotting a leopard little over an hour inside the park, and literally metres from the road just strolling along. Five minutes later and he would have been gone.
• Seeing a wildebeest give birth, and the baby taking just seven minutes to stand up and walk. Amazing.
• A male lion sat on his own enjoying the morning sun; and no one else there but us to enjoy it with him.
• The awesome beauty of the Ngoro Ngoro Crater, teeming with migration animals. Photos or films just could not capture the vastness, the variety, the splendor of so many animals and all in one area. But that did not stop us from taking hundreds of photos of course!
• Finally, on our second last night camping in the wild, we awoke to hear a Buffalo (Dee initlally thought it was an elephant…) eating just outside the tent. No bother, he is not going to do anything we just need
to be very quiet and still. So Niall went back to sleep. Next morning, Dee had convinced herself that the Buffalo had walked into the tent as she was sure it was shaking when she woke up…. Clearly Niall told Dee that she was being a bit crazy and there was no way that a buffalo would be that clumsy, it was probably just a bat. You can imagine Dee’s satisfaction when we discovered that the tent poles were broken! Tidy!
Pride Rock, Serengeti
The Odyssey Continues…
After the Serengeti, we headed to Arusha where us four separated from our German safari friends, Nils and Lena. We stayed on here for a brief respite from all the travelling, and spent our time investigating pubs, bars, hotels and embassies. Finally, it was in the Greek Club that we found someone showing the Irish French rugby match. Not that it was worth it to be honest.
We also managed to find a rosemantic hotel doing a lovely Valentine’s dinner. After five nights camping with the animals, Dee deserved a little luxury. Not that I minded the ice cold gin and tonics either.
From Arusha we made a beeline
for Dar, put Stylo on the boat to very sunny Zanzibar, and headed for the train to southern Tanzania and the Malawian border. The train journey through the Selous Game Reserve in the south was a suitable end to our Tanzanian adventures where we managed to keep spotting animals until nightfall from the train. Next stop Malawi, we hear there might be some rain acoming…..
All the best,
Niall and Dee
There are more photos below