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November 16th 2016
Published: December 1st 2016
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Last night around the fire

We had a great final evening enjoying the comforts of Rivertrees Lodge before heading off on our long awaited safari in the morning. We chatted to the mother of the owner who had come over from France for 3 months to help out whilst the Manager of the lodge was away having her first baby. Caroline was originally from Scotland but had lived in France for many years as well as in Tanzania and had completely lost her accent so we had not realised that she was Scottish at all. She and her son had bought into Rivertree Lodge investing money and added more rooms to the lodge and it seemed to be thriving.

We had a lazy supper sat outside around a huge campfire watching the Supermoon rise in front of us. Two Bald Eagles flew into the tree over our heads but it was getting too dark now to see them very well and it was time to retire to bed after an exhausting day!

After a good breakfast at the lodge we waited for our safari guide, chef and vehicle to arrive they were a little late but we were not concerned as we were sure we were already on 'African Time'... ....

We wandered around the lodge grounds watching a large group of Blue Monkeys playing and feeding in the trees they visited the lodge most days along with their cousins the Vervet Monkeys. Rivertrees was a lovely spot to sit and relax and we wish we could have stayed here longer but it was time to move on and to forego a little comfort along the way.

As we were travelling for longer than most safari packages, we opted to keep the total cost of the safari down by not staying in lodges or permanent tented sites, which were so expensive but to ‘budget’ camp and hope that it would not be too basic!! We were hoping that this would enable us to see as much wildlife as everyone staying in those more luxurious places but of course we would not have 4 star service and the luxury of our own en-suite - but we would have the advantage of our own guide and a chef so not all bad … … … Not everyone’s ideal choice but for us it was the best option.

Our mode of transport was an 8 seater 4WD specifically designed safari vehicle which was very comfortable indeed for just the four of us. You could raise the roof and have great views all around which we would indeed grow to appreciate. We had plenty of space as it also had a small trailer for most of our equipment and large comfortable seats with windows which again would be a blessing as there was no air conditioning and temperatures were due to rise as we travelled further into the Serengeti.

Sifuni Amos Mungure, our guide arrived from Duma Explorer, a local Tanzanian company that we had chosen for a wildlife safari around the national and conservation parks of Tanzania. Sufini apologised for being late but had been held up by traffic chaos in Arusha (we would experience this later). Duma Explorer had been really proactive in the planning stages of our journey and we had received an excellent service from them from day one. I would mention that several safari companies we had contacted did not even bother to reply to our emails and we were really surprised by this as it was not high season in the area……

Sifuni was an experienced guide and had explored all the parks in Northern Tanzania and was renowned for his knowledge of wildlife and where to find it, so we were looking forward to spending our time with him. We were also joined by Rammy who was going to be our chef so it would be just the four of us touring around the National Parks for 16 days, camping and going out on game drives with Sifuni during the day.

Once our bags were stowed away on the vehicle we headed off, travelling though the chaotic streets of Arusha. The main highway through the town was being widened causing dust and confusion everywhere. The extremely dusty streets were jammed packed with locals going about their everyday business with people and chickens darting in and out of the side streets just missing the vehicles and disappearing into numerous small shops. People were trying to cross the main
Arusha Arusha Arusha

Shops having to contend with the constant dust not helped by the major roadworks
road between the non stop traffic, whilst others were sitting in front of their small shops covered in dirt and dust from the roadworks - business as usual was more important.

The shops that once had open space between them and the road were now fringing the new road itself. Clothes for sale hanging on rails outside the shops as well as beds, sofas and chairs were covered in dust but still up for sale ..… Sifuni told us that the work was being carried out by Chinese contractors using local labour. We managed to pull in so that Rammy could pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables at the colourful noisy market for our journey keeping the windows tightly closed … …

Lorries, cars, carts and vans as well as numerous groups of young men sitting astride their motor bikes at every street corner was such a typical african scene, mirrored again at every other town we passed through - not that there were many though as we made our way for our first nights stop outside Arusha National Park.

We later
Meru MbegaMeru MbegaMeru Mbega

Overlooking Arusha National Park
stopped again at a small town to pick up some charcoal which Rammy needed for his ‘tin box’ oven, which was just amazing as he used this metal box for everything including making fresh bread and cakes!


We finally arrived at Meru Mbega Lodge & Campsite and were met by the lady manager who was called Marly. She was originally from former East Germany but was running the campsite for two years which was as long as she could obtain a work visa but would like to stay longer. We were surprised that we were the only people at the campsite and she only had one other couple in the Lodge - she said it was the quiet season and it would get busier just before Christmas, although she said that tourism was down this year.

Paul started to help Sifuni put up our tents which were similar to the ones we had in Southern Africa but were slightly larger which was good but they realised that the tent poles had somehow not been packed! Luckily
Our new homeOur new homeOur new home

We were the only campers ...
we were not too far from their Arusha office so they called to have them brought to us later that day. Rammy started setting up his camp kitchen and preparing our first delicious meal using his tin box oven. In the meantime he had already prepared a picnic lunch for us which we carried with us as we headed off for a walk around the camp grounds. On the edge of the campsite there was a tall wooden lookout tower, complete with comfy chairs ideally placed at the top overlooking the adjoining Arusha National Park which we would visit in the next day.

As we ate our picnic we watched a troop of baboons foraging in the trees and bush and also saw many different colourful birds from our vantage point many we could not yet identify. The picnic lunch was huge and we were only able to eat a small portion of it.

The sun disappeared quickly and it started to rain and hundreds of small insects started raising from the canopy enabling the birds to had great fun catching them as they swooped amongst the shrubbery. Some of the birds we saw included the African Goshawk, Eagles, Variable Sunbirds, Swallows, Bulbuls and a variety of Flycatchers - hopefully we would be able to name more later.

On our return to camp we found that the tent poles had arrived and our tent was already up which was a bonus with our bags already placed inside. The campsite manager, Marly told us that she had seen 30 elephants a few days before on the tower but we had only seen a troop of baboons but had enjoyed our day watching the colourful birds. Marly asked if we wanted ‘hot showers’ and that she would have the ‘outside fire’ lit. We were a little confused until she explained that the fire heated a small boiler outside the shower block for the campers. It did indeed prove very effective heating the water really quickly and we enjoyed the luxury that probably would not be an option at some of the campsites we would be visiting over the next 16 days … … little did we know that this was our last hot shower for all of those 16 days!

Spotted Eagle-OwlSpotted Eagle-OwlSpotted Eagle-Owl

Above our tent

We later sat with Sifuni and ate our dinner that Rammy had prepared, vegetable soup with homemade bread, beef stew with broccoli and carrots followed by fresh mango - it was indeed delicious but we were hoping that the meals would get much smaller - if we continued like this we would be very much bigger on our return to the UK … … …

We had quite a good nights sleep although it was very noisy with the near by village dogs howling for part of the night and the morning cockerel making sure we were up far too early. It was good to be up early though as just above out tent perched in a tall tree was a large Spotted Eagle Owl with its bright yellow eyes staring right back at us.

After breakfast (we nearly forgot to take our Malaria Pills) we set off to get the most of a visit to the national park hoping to catch the best time to see the wildlife.


Arusha National Park is quite small, compared to other parks in Northern Tanzania with an area of only 20 square miles, but spans a territory teeming with natural wonders often overlooked by safari visitors to the area who prefer to travel to the more well known larger parks. I had done a little research on the parks and we specifically asked for it to be included and I was so glad that we did. Less than half an hours drive from Arusha it is remarkable for its range of habitats.

There are three distinct areas to be found within this small national park; Momella Lakes, Mount Meru and the Ngurdoto Crater. We really enjoyed the park with its very diverse ecosystems which included mountains, rainforests, open savannah, alkaline lakes and even a volcanic crater so we saw a wide variety of wildlife but also enjoyed the stunning scenery as well.

We stopped for a picnic lunch overlooking Small Momella Lake. We watching many different water birds with no-one else around in such a glorious setting. We also saw Water and Bushbuck as well as Buffalo and Banded Mongoose which are similar to Meerkats.
Coral beachesCoral beachesCoral beaches

Momella Lakes
Apart from the wildlife we hardly saw any people just a few safari vehicles, so it was really peaceful it was like we had the whole park to ourselves - again so glad we travelled at this time.

Momella Lakes consists of seven lakes nestled in valleys and depressions punctuating the post-volcanic landscape. The larger lakes have islands and bays. Their sodium rich contents and the formation of algae make the lakes alkaline, especially the big Momella Lake and Lake Reshateni - therefore all year round a favourable feeding and resting areas for the beautiful flamingo which we were hoping to see. Lake Reshateni has a high concentration of fluoride the most ever observed any where else in the world.

After lunch we had a real treat as we approached Big Momella Lake it was surrounded by what looked like pink coral beaches and even the small islands looked coral coated - once we got near we could see why, hundreds and hundreds of Flamingos both Greater and Lesser. The lesser are smaller than the greater and have pinker plumage and dark red bills. Watching these huge swarms of Flamingoes filtering their food in the shallow waters was a sight to behold and would be remembered a very long time … …

On our drive around the park we had small glimpses of Mount Meru’s bare craggy peaks but alas surrounded by cloud most of the time. At 4,566 metres high, it ranks as Tanzania’s second highest and Africa’s fourth highest mountain. During the colder months and high altitude rains, it’s peak can be covered by snow. Its steep mountain rim serves as the western border of the park. When viewed from the south, Mount Meru shows the typical cone shape of a volcano. However, when seen from the east, it offers a completely different sight. The collapsed eastern mountainside, and the remains of eruptions within the crater, bears witness to the intense volcanic activities which shaped the mountain so many years ago as a part of the eastern Great Rift Valley.

Its great being on safari in a specifically designed vehicle but nothing beats actually walking in the bush. In Arusha you can participate in a nature walk with one of the Rangers present. Sifuni stopped at the Ranger Station and
African BuffaloAfrican BuffaloAfrican Buffalo

With Red-billed Oxpeckers
I jumped out as I did so a Blue Monkey pounced in through the open roof top right in front of Paul, I do not know who was the most startled as they stared each other out! Needless to say we shut the roof quickly as we did not want another guest on our tour……

We signed in with our passport numbers and other details at the station and were joined by a female Ranger complete with a large rifle slung over her shoulder and a young male trainee who would join us on our walk. We set off crossing several small streams and tried to avoid some boggy marshlands grasses.

Right ahead of us were a large herd of African Buffalo blocking our way, so the ranger clapped her hands to move them off, most of them did but one large bull stood his ground and started to look threatening. A large bovine animal with greatly developed downward spreading curved horns the base of which meets on the forehead it was quite daunting being out in the open but you could not do anything - we were literally in
Ranger & PaulRanger & PaulRanger & Paul

Luckily she did not have to fire
the ‘hands of the Ranger’. She slowly raised her gun and the beast moved off but was definitely not happy for being disturbed and kept stopping to look back at us, this would be our first encounter with a not so friendly buffalo … … …

The Ranger told us that she was a bit daunted herself when the Buffalo stood its ground but she had learned to shoot in the Army and hoped she would be able to cope if she had to. She said she enjoyed being a ranger but to become one she had to climb Kilimanjaro and she said it had been really tough and not to her liking but she said she really wanted the job so had to complete it.

At last safely across the savannah we started a climb along the side of a steep hill which had great views of the animals on the marshlands way below. All along the track we were followed by colourful Bee Eaters feeding on the plentiful seeds. The rangers phone kept ringing and when she answered she told us that a couple of German
Arusha NP WaterfallArusha NP WaterfallArusha NP Waterfall

We reached to waterfall at last
tourist had got lost just ahead of us. Apparently they had headed off too quickly from their guide and taken a wrong path and the guide could not find them. They were eventually found but were very stupid as it could have been a very different story.

We eventually came across a stunning waterfall raining the fluoride rich waters down to the savannah below and this was making it a favourite place for lots of wildlife. However even though the water was good for the animals it was not any good for human consumption because of the high fluoride content.

As we crossed back on to the savannah we came across a couple of Giraffe grazing on the thorny bushes and before long we were surrounded by about 16 giraffes males, females and some very young. Our guide was surprised as we were to get such ‘up close’ encounters with these majestic animals. The pattern on the giraffe was like it had been dotted with maple leaves and we later found out that these were Masai Giraffe. Two races of the common giraffe occur in East Africa, the Masai with two sometimes three horns on its head, with jagged-edged pale or dark rufous markings and legs more or less spotted beneath the knee and the Uganda or Rothschild a paler more thickset animal with less jagged markings, three or five horns and the legs usually unmarked below the knee.

This group of giraffe were not in the least afraid of us but also not any threat so we stopped and watched them for ages before heading back to the ranger station where we said goodbye to our guide and the trainee ranger.

We later drove up to the Ngurdoto Crater rim which can only be reach by a steep track through the mountain rainforest. The crater is nicknamed the “little Ngorongoro Crater“, alluding to its forgotten beauty. Like a jewel in a crown, it is a protected area within a protected area and was really quite surreal as we gazed down into its sunken primeval jungle on the crater floor. It is a sanctuary within a sanctuary, open only to wild animals which inhabit it and where man is completely excluded. Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo, and Giraffe roam completely undisturbed and can only be viewed through binoculars from the rim.

Sifuni told us that its fragile but diverse ecosystem cannot be visited as there are no routes by car or even on foot so you can only view the crater from the various viewpoints along the rim to see nature in all its glory. The crater floor, some 300 feet below us measured about 1.5 miles across and is home to interesting fauna and flora. Like the Ngorongoro Crater, Ngurdoto Crater is actually a caldera, a collapsed volcano probably measuring 10000 feet before its last eruption. Today the highest point reaches just over 5000 feet. We would be visiting Ngorongoro Crater later on our journey where there is one road that gets you down into the crater heart itself and we were so looking forward to this but were glad that the wildlife here was completely protected.

As we drove along the steep track rim which goes about half way around the crater there were many birds and colonies of monkeys high up in the tree canopies. As we reached the top of the treeline ourselves we could see many large Raptors sitting proudly on their nests.

Finally we headed back down from the rim and watched a group of Black and White Colobus Monkeys jumping from one side of the track to the other. This troop of monkeys were part of the angolensis group, coloured black with a white mantle of long white hair stretching down its back and continuing to its long white bushy tail. As they jumped across the road right in front of us their mantle trailed down beneath them making them extremely comical to watch, the last one to cross was a small baby which jumped down onto the road then scrambled up the trees to join its family already on the other side.

A little while later we came across a large white albino Baboon - which was living quite happily along with his grey coloured friends foraging on the ground and watching us watching them.

After a very long day in Arusha National Park we finally heading back to camp and enjoyed another delicious meal prepared by Rammy.

Tomorrow we would be moving on to Lake Mantra National Park - see you there.

Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 32


Collared SunbirdCollared Sunbird
Collared Sunbird

The short bill helps identify the Collared from the Variable Sunbird
Lookout TowerLookout Tower
Lookout Tower

Meru Mbega Campsite

3rd December 2016
Lesser Flamingo

They are not lesser, they are more...
I think that's more flamingos in one photo than I have seen in my entire life. How can they be "lesser"? They have to be more... OK, that was a silly joke. It's a nice photo though. I don't think we went to Arusha NP when we were in Tanzania. We went to three NP's on the same tour. One of those was Ngorongoro NP which was awesome. /Ake
3rd December 2016
Lesser Flamingo

Thanks for your comments
Loved your joke - the Lesser & the Greater Flamingos were awesome, we were so lucky to see them but apparently there are even more at certain times of the year on Lake Natron so maybe another trip in the future!! We also spent some time the Ngorongoro NP and yes agree with you it was a very special place.
3rd December 2016
African Buffalo

What a great photo.

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