Our Safari Vehicle
We had booked a four-day safari with Zara travel. They had a similar arrangement as with the climb, calling us out the day before for a debriefing with an agent, who reviewed our itinerary and went over what we needed to do to get ready. It was at this point that we decided that we were going to spend our last few days after the safari in Zanzibar , an island in the Indian ocean. The logistics of this was a flight from the nearby town of Arusha , and this would mean a modification of our itinerary so that we could be dropped off at the airpot in Arusha on the last day of the safari.
Vinh joins us
A green turbo-diesel powered Land Rover and a blue Toyota Land Cruiser picked us up at the Springlands hotel at 9am (on time, this time!). We met our drivers, Robinson and Issa, and our cook, David. We had chosen a camping safari, where we would be staying at various campgrounds (using our own tents - but Zara would have provided them, had we not had our own). Zara also added an extra member into our Safari group - a young guy named Vinh. Vinh is a microbiologist from California, and on his own touring in Africa.
Kiswahili, means journey or, perhaps more appropriately, expedition: We
will be covering hundreds of kilometers and three parks on our 4 day
trip. We set off westwards, duffel bags packed onto the top of the two
trucks. We travel west through Arusha, where we get a better look at
the crowded and mostly poor-looking streets of the city. Robinson stopped
at a location in the city and got a duffle bag and a hug from a lady
on the street who is waiting for us. "My wife", he said. Perhaps he was
getting some travel items for himself from his wife. She seemed like
a nice woman.
out of town to the west, the route continued through countryside much
like before: some acacia trees, lots of brushland, herds of cattle
tended to by maasai, and the occasional little road-town. We stopped
at a tourist rest-stop, and we were presented with a box lunch that
was almost identical to the ones given us on the climb of Kili. I wasn't
sure if this was a "Zara
standard", or if this was always the kind of thing one had in lunches
Transporting food by head
Robinson's Land Rover is a crude beast - no power windows, locks, mirrors - well-worn cloth seats, a wobbly speedometer, speakers cut out of the doors, sliding windows that are always stuck fast, and canisters of gas in the back. A very utilitarian vehicle. The roof has had major conversion work, with bars and railings inside and out, and a large sort of sunroof thing that slides up and rests on four supports. Clients can then stand up and do wildlife viewing from the vehicle, with the additional bonus of rain protection.
We arrived at our first destination, Lake Manyara national park, on the afternoon of the 11 th of January. The area around Lake Manyara is different to me - it seems more lush, more bountiful. A small town is located near the entrance to the park, and it is again a bustle of lively activity. Robinson seems to know many of the locals here.
Our spot for the night was right in this little town - Twiga Campsite. It was actually a nice spot - bathrooms and showers and nice wide lawn-type campsites. There was a designated eating area off to the side of the campsite, and this is where we parked and the drivers and cook busied themselves with unpacking our stuff. After that was done, we were told to hop in for our first safari segment.
Vinh turned out to be quite a nice fellow. He had studied Microbiology, and had an interest in exotic animals. Sounded like quite a good guy to have on a safari. Divided 3-4 into the two trucks, we set off for Lake Manyara 's gate.
Lake Manyara is situated at the base of one of the great fault scarps of the Great Rift Valley of Africa. The area is lushly vegetated, and, bordering Lake Manyara itself, there are extensive open areas of grasslands and swamps. We entered the park just outside the town and waited a few minutes for Robinson and Issa to obtain the necessary permits.
Lake Manyara Entrance Sign
The shady roads of Lake Manyara NP
We drove into a beautiful cool, shady woodland. Gravel roads snaked everywhere. It wasn't long before we saw countless baboons, preening, playing and fighting. Not having really seen much of primates in the flesh, I found their human-like movements quite interesting.
in the Land Rover with the top up was quite neat. The only problem
was that there was limited floor-standing space - the rows of seats
tended to get in the way. Robinson had a sign that said "Please
do not step over the seats ". This actually meant "Please
do not stand on the seats", as Pu soon found out!
A young elephant popped into view right next to the road. Another first for me! We were certainly getting a good start to our wildlife viewing, I thought. I thought wrong; it was to be even better than that. Soon we were driving through an open grasslands/swamp area, with a huge receding swath of the escarpment visible, and the thin line of Lake Manyara's lake water receding into the distance. The late afternoon sun bathed everything in a soft glow. In the foreground, tall graceful shapes glided across the landscapes: Giraffes! Further off in the disatance, a group of adult elephants. A thin pink line on the horizon marked huge flocks of Pink Flamingoes, thousands upon thousands of them. Impala and gazelles also were visible. It was an awe-inspiring place.
Giraffe on open grassland
Burning through much digital film was the next order of business! I had never really been a zoo person, and so most of these animals I have never seen, ever. I was so impressed with the safari so far. Even on the first day it was exceeding expectations.
Lake Manyara NP grasslands
Our safari ride continued along the winding paths of the park. We saw several more interesting monkeys, birds, and lots of interesting trees. Finally we headed back to the gate, quite satisfied.
Video: The First Safari Day
A video clip of our first Safari Day, including sequences from Lake Manyara National Park. (2 minutes, 15 seconds)
Dinner at Twiga Campsite
Back at the campground, we set up our tents and had dinner - again it was much like our dinners on the climb. To our surprise, we met up with Courtney and Julia again (the two Canadian med students who we encountered on the Kili climb). It seems that our itineraries were very closely matched. We were all like a little family, traveling across Tanzania.
Lake Manyara NP
Want to see many more pictures of the animals and scenery of Lake Manyara NP? Click Here
to go to the Lake Manyara 'In Focus" section....
A lively bar emanating lots of interesting and fun African music lulled me to sleep that night. We were back in a hot climate, and I had a hard time keeping cool at night. Worse still was the fact that I seemed to have caught Pu's cold (the cold he had at the start of his Kili climb).
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