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Published: February 18th 2007
Although we have been in Africa now for 6 weeks, and whilst we certainly know we are in another continent, we weren’t going to really feel like we were here until we had been on Safari. So needing a break from the school and time to recharge the batteries after what has already been a long 6 weeks, we decided to head off to the local Arusha National Park to do a safari and spend the rest of the weekend relaxing in one of the lodges.
Arusha is actually quite close to most of Tanzania’s big game parks with Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara about a 3 hour drive away, and the Serengeti beyond that. Generally you do these over 3 or 4 days in one ‘safari loop’ as its called locally. As we didn’t want to do 3-4 hours each day in the car, plus the safari time, we opted for the local quieter option which would still get us to see some of the animals but being only 30 minutes away, was also going to allow us to relax and enjoy ourselves.
We left early Saturday morning and drove to the Arusha National Park in Dan’s 4
wheel drive (Dan’s the other accountant I work with), which he had kindly loaned us for the weekend. Initially it’s a nice sealed road which is actually the road to Mt Kilimanjaro and Kenya, and at Usa River (which is the site for the new school being built this year) you turn off onto rough dirt roads. The park entrance is about 10kms off the main road at the base of Mt Meru which is actually inside the National Park. It costs about US$35 each to get into the park for the day, and then you simply drive yourself around. This is one of the few parks that you do not need a guide for (another attraction for us) and is quite small with lots of varied vegetation, a small complete volcano crater, and lakes, so it has quite a good variety of climates and geography.
We saw lots of animals including Giraffe, Baboon, Colobus Monkeys, a hippo (submerged in one of the lakes), Zebra, Buffalo, Wildebeest, Eland, Warthogs, loads of birds and flamingos. There was hardly anyone else in the park and at most we saw about 5-6 other cars which all tend to be doing the same
circuit so you never really get in each others way. There are also Elephants in the park but we didn’t see any as they mainly stay within the bush, and are rarely seen. The park is sometimes like a minor jungle with areas of high grass and forests which means you can come across a family of Baboons or Giraffes at any turn of the road. In fact at one point we thought we had taken a wrong turn (something the park rangers said was impossible as there is only really a couple of roads) and then coming round a bend we found a large family of Giraffes on the road. They were not too bothered about us being there although they did move out of the way when we had to drive past, but it was great to have them all to ourselves.
We really enjoyed the day and in total spent about 6 hours slowly driving around the whole park starting and stopping all the time to sit and watch the wildlife. After the park we drove back to the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge which was about 5 km’s back towards the main road. It sits at the
base of Mt Meru (the eastern side of the mountain - the school is on the southern side) with views of Mt Kilimanjaro nearby. This was a really nice resort and we couldn’t believe that we had it nearly to ourselves. After the quietest nights sleep we’ve had since we have been here, in a really nice cottage, we then spent Sunday lying by the lovely pool. On the way back to school later in the afternoon we stopped for drinks and dinner at Masai Camp which is a bar / restaurant in a campsite near the school.
All in all we had a great relaxing weekend and were very happy to finally feel like we were really in Africa.
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