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Published: September 13th 2018
lioness in tree - look closely!
Not easy to capture at a distance with a phone
Today Glyn and I were totally blessed by the Safari Fairy. Although Lake Manyara was famous for lions in the trees, it is extremely rare to actually see them these days. Our ranger, Mhara, has been a ranger in the park for 5 years and only seen this phenomena 4 times, so his disbelief was as strong as mine and I had mentally prepared myself for disappointment. But we saw a lioness in a tree!! Having a nap!! It was amazing!! So anyway, from the beginning:
I awoke to the sound of a persistent cockerel that was even earlier than the alarm. It was so good to have the first hot shower of the trip and Glyn even left me some of the hot water. Our driver from yesterday appeared and we saw that the marks on his vehicle from yesterday's drunk driver hit weren't bad compared to various other scrapes he already had.
We had a breakfast of eggy breads which I always loved as a child, Glyn was feeling a bit sick so I got his too. Our driver showed us all the trees in the garden that included banana, mango, passion fruit and avocados which taste
so much better ripe from the tree.
Our safari pick up got lost despite many phonecalls with our driver; how on earth are tourists meant to cope when locals struggle? There's not street signs or signposts and no one has a satnav as many of these areas aren't mapped as I found when trying to use google maps.
Eventually we were picked up and taken to Barclays. Now this is annoying because Glyn had paid for the safari trip a long time ago and for 6 days, it's quite a lot of money. Yesterday he received an email saying that the agent hadn't been able to get the money across so we would have to pay on credit card and they would reimburse as at the end. However neither of my two credit cards let me have any money, the Nationwide probably because I forgot to tell them I was travelling and I usually do. The Ssinsburys card I only got for a one off purchase as it was interest free for 12 months and so I got the PIN wrong. Glyn and I got as much as we could on our debit cards from the ATM and
Lake Manyara, Tanzania
hope the cards will work when paying entrance fees to the parks.
After a brief stop at a supermarket for safari essentials such as beer and wine, we head off in a jeep. There will be 6 of us on the trip but the others had gone already and so Glyn and I have our jeep to ourselves and a driver called Mhara who loves the UK despite never visiting there, but he is a Manchester Football supporter - I don't know which team though!
We headed west to Lake Manyara National Park, passing Massai lands and saw many Massai. I've seen them in photos before and wondered if they dressed up in traditional clothing for tourists these day, but I was completely wrong. Quite a few were wearing extremely ornate jewellery and some young boys and men were in black, with clear crystals stuck to their face in a mask. I'm curious as to how they stick them on and why as they were all decorated exactly the same.
Eventually we arrived at the park and the first animals we saw were two baboons getting jiggy. It's no coincidence that there's lots of baboons in this
Lake Manyara, tanzania
park and we saw a lot more further along. Next we saw a type of vervet monkey, also known as a blue monkey as the males have blue nuts. And believe me they are true blue, not a bluish-grey as I'd assumed, but proper bright blue. There was no mistaking that it was a male we were looking at.
Obviously we saw various birds and Mhara told us their names, little did we know there was a test at the end and we didn't do so well.
Next we saw wildebeest, buffalo and a hippo in the distance. I got a brief glimpse of an elephant's arse but Glyn missed it. There was a monitor lizard crossing the road and a bunch of zebra. There were only a handful of jeeps in this small park which is 127 square miles, two thirds water and covered in dense jungle. Mhara said it was harder here to see animals as they have a lot of places to hide and the jeeps must stick to the roads.
When you see another jeep parked up, it is good to see why because the chances are they found an interesting animal or
a crappy bird. It's always worth the risk, so when we saw three trucks pulled up, I was hopeful. And OMG in the distance was a lioness having a nap in a tree, she was a bit faraway but Glyn refused to get out of the jeep to lure her nearer because apparently there were probably other lions nearby. Whatever. Another jeep revved by and the lioness turned to look and I got a photo of this. I have a 500mm lens, but I still could not get a close shot, but I got a few distant shots! (Please note the photo with this blog was taken on the phone as I can't sort my proper photos until I get home). We spent a while watching her, occasionally moving a leg or twitching an ear. It's the females that climb the trees as the males are a bit too heavy, so the females climb to look for prey and avoid insects.
It was late in the afternoon so Mhara took us to a picnic site for lunch that overlooked the vista and as we were late, it was only us and a baboon. A park worker passed by and
I was told that he was 53 years old and had 12 children! Apparently it is deemed odd that white people tend to just have two and Mhara also has two young girls and wants to stop there. Now the Massai men can marry many women depending on how many cows they own. If they get a new cow, they marry so that their wife can tend the cow. I say, if you can't tend your own cows, don't have them! Some local Massai leader is said to have 300 children but no one really believe that they are all his.
After lunch we went back to the lioness safe in the knowledge that she'd still be in the same spot and in the hope of getting closer. Now safari etiquette is that if there's not enough space for more than one jeep to get a clear view, then you take turns and don't hog the beast. But just our luck there was already a truck there with two of the most obnoxious Americans I've ever come across, who loudly proclaimed that they were staying in that spot as long as they wanted. And so they did whilst Glyn
and I discussed how selfish they were, loudly, like true passive aggressive Brits. They spent ages looking through tiny binoculars and one tried to take a photo through the binoculars. Mhara wouldn't ram their jeep as requested and after a decade, they finally shifted. We got to view the lioness without too many branches and twigs blocking our view, she didn't move a lot but she was gorgeous. Mhara loves cats too and thought mine were lovely - yes I showed him photos of Cosmo and Astra!
At the lake we were looking at non-pink flamenco and other birds when Glyn spotted hippos in the distance. Again, my super big lens was required and Mhara counted 10 despite having no binoculars. I could hear the rapid fire of Glyn's camera and saw that he was capturing a gaping yawn.
Other animals we saw included a few giraffe, a lot of mongooses, impala and finally a fleeting glimpse of a hyena. Mhara said we'd been extremely fortunate as due to the thick bush, it was hard to view so many animals in one day and he was very impressed at the hyena sighting.
At 5.30pm it was time
to go, the only ones staying had paid a fortune to stay overnight. After picking up a friend of Mhara at the gate who needed a lift to the campsite, he headed uphill, stopping to look at a wide view of the whole park whilst Mhara tested us on places we had seen and identifying the birds, which we didn't fare to well on.
Panorama campsite wasn't far away and as the name implies, it has a panoramic view of Lake Manyara Park and further afield. Upon arriving I was worried we were staying in the crappy dome tents I spied when we arrived. But no! We were led to igloos, solid small building that I'm not sure what they're made of but they were solid and permanent. Inside were two beds and a small walkway in between, with light and one electric socket. The bathroom area was communal and a small walk away.
Nearby was a dining area with kitchen and bar. We both asked for vegetarian food as Glyn didn't fancy the state of the kitchen and didn't want to risk eating meat. So of course we were served fish. Sigh. But there were rice and vegetables too that were fine.
After admiring the panorama, we used the free wifi, where we found out the devastating news that my dear little Astra cat had been hit by a car and died. It was heartbreaking but at least she had Georgie our cat sitter looking after her and had to go through the awful process of finding out what had happened to her. I'm so glad she's there to look after Cosmo, Astra's brother and give him lots of love. Astra was an adorable cat with no road sense and this could have happened were we home, but it's still hard to be away at this time.
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