Our journey into Tanzania was interesting as we were crammed into a tourist bus, which was supposed to be nicer and safer (for our belongings) as the local buses have a lot of theft. So I would have thought this bus was better, but since Amanda and I joined at the border, and everyone else came from Nairobi and already had seats, we were banished to the back seats. I`m not kidding when I say my knees were squished up into my chest the whole 3 hour journey and the man next to me and the other next to Amanda were in the same situation as they were both over 6 feet tall. Regardless, we were happy to get to Arusha.
We had big plans for our one day in Arusha (September 4th)…find a place to get a massage, find the clock tower which is the center point of all of Africa, have a drink and good dinner. Mission accomplished as we found the clock tower (and later were yelled at by a local as I guess we weren`t allowed to go take pictures of it but we didn`t know and there weren`t any signs or anything). I think he was just being a pain as he wanted us to give him a tip to be quiet. Afterwards, we found a great local place for a drink (and when we walked up, there was a UC Berkeley jeep in front as they were doing some archaeological work there). It seemed so out of place to see something from California in the middle of Africa. At the bar, Amanda who is quite the social butterfly, found a nice man that looked like he lived there and asked him for a dinner recommendations. It was a wonderful one called Le Jacaranda. This place was so good, we went back our last night in Arusha as well.
September 5th – Off for Tanzania Safari
We met our new friends, Laura and Chris, who joined our second half of the safari. They were a fun couple from Mississippi and have been traveling together for 4 months or so and together for years. We were so happy they were nice and fun as we were in a small jeep together for 3 days. This was their first safari and they were excited for every animal which got us more excited to see more. As we were driving on the “highway”, we stopped as our guide saw wild giraffes along the roadside, which is rare. Great start!
We headed off to Lake Manyara which is known for Hippos, tree climbing lions and blue balled monkeys. Yes, that is what they are known as and you can see why from my photo. I`m sure there is a more scientific name, but I can`t remember it. The lions were really cool as two of them were way up in a tree hanging on a limb sleeping. I don`t know how they don`t fall. No photos of that as it was so hard to see let alone get a photo of it.
This camping experience was much nicer as we had grass, and the campsite had hot showers, a pool and bar. Camping in style!
September 6th – Back to the Lake and off to the Crater
Back at the lake, we took a long drive to the furthest end where the hot springs were. I`ve felt warm water, but this water was boiling hot, and people go there and boil eggs. Our guide Erwin said it takes 12-15 minuets to boil them. Crazy! At the springs, we saw some white flamingos. I didn`t know there was such a thing, but they like that part of the lake as the water is warmer from the hot spring run off. Smart birds!
A silly sighting – seeing a giraffe drink water. Erwin told us giraffes are awkward when they drink as the front legs are longer than the back so they have to spread them wider and try to bend down. It was a fun sight to see one do it.
Coke Light or Champagne???
That afternoon we were headed to the Ngorongoro Crater, which is one of the highlights in Tanzania. Funny story about getting there. Amanda and I have been desperate for Coke Light. Easy to get in Kenya, hard to find in Tanzania. When we stopped for a grocery run, we went looking with our cook at about 7 stores and no one had it. He said he would take us to the “big grocery store” to look. This store was smaller than a corner store in New York. As we were disappointed again for no Coke Light, Amanda spotted Moet Champagne. We wondered how much it was as it can be $40-50 a bottle in the states. The lady told us 18,500 schillings (I thought she said 80,000 as I couldn`t believe it would be so inexpensive). So that was about $16 a bottle for French Champagne. So after trying to buy 2 Coke Lights, we left with 2 bottles of French Champagne instead. Only the two of us…
Camping at Ngorongoro Crater
We were told it would be cold at the crater, so I finally could pull out the long johns, thermals and hat that I packed and have been carrying around for 4 months. It ended up not being as cold as we thought, but I was happy to have the layers and keep warm nonetheless.
Our first excitement was a visit at our camp ground from a wild elephant. He just walked into our camp and cruised around. After a little walk, he went to a water faucet, and using his trunk, he turned it on and started to drink. Then he turned it off, walked a few steps away and came back for more. Again turning it on and off. When he finished drinking the third time, he left the water running and walked away. That`s how we knew it was a male elephant….(hee hee). But seriously it was so cool to see a wild elephant up close and you can see as we took pictures between the kitchen and dining area. Figured he couldn`t fit in that area if he wanted to charge us, so we were safe to take photos there.
The next morning, this elephant or a friend came back and was walking about 3 steps from the tent that Amanda and I slept in and next door Laura was still in her tent as she came running around when she heard us call for her that an elephant was coming too close. It was funny to see her run out in front of the elephant!
September 7th – Ngorongoro Crater
After the elephant encounter this morning, we were off to the crater. As we were about to drive down into the crater, local Masai were trying to sell us crafts to our keep. I think Amanda won the prize for the best quote of the trip when she said, “I totally would buy one of those Masai blankets (the blanket is wrapped around the body as the only clothing) and all the jewelry and wear it for a Halloween costume, but it`s not sexy!” At that moment, we all started laughing at her as it just sounded so silly.
The Ngorongoro Crater used to be the highest mountain in Africa (taller than Mt. Kilimanjaro), but collapsed years ago or centuries ago and now is a crater 22 miles wide.
Once down in the crater, we saw so many animals including:
–Packs of Zebras that were surrounding our jeep at one point
–Herds of Wildebeests–Families of water buffalo`s
–Lions – oh did we see lions… There were 2 sleeping here, two others there, two more females that walked about a mile step in step towards our jeep and then we followed on that was stalking prey. We later saw more lions. We were told there was over 1,000 lions in the crater and it was so cool. No babies though.
-More warthogs and I still giggle when they run as the little tail is straight up and it prances when it runs. I can`t help but laugh when they go by
–Hungry Hungry Hippos (or we were as this was right before lunch). I counted at least 50 in the pond and we saw one little baby hippos that still could have squashed us. The grunting noises they make also make me giggle.
At this point, we stopped for lunch and Amanda and I decided to have a bottle of white wine with lunch. We thought we`d have a glass and share, but Chris and Laura didn`t want any and we figured since it was cold (from the cold night camping), we should finish it. So we were chugging wine from the bottle in the jeep (as we couldn`t eat outside the jeep as dive birds try to steel food). It was a fun lunch.
Final adventure was stopping at a snake farm near Arusha. This was my second snake farm ever and Amanda`s first. So we learned about snakes and got to hold a little one at the end. We got a little silly, as usual, and played with the snake.
As the sun went down on the drive and we were finally back near Arusha, our guide Erwin said, “do any of you have any food”? September is was Ramadan and locals fast from sunlight to sunset for the month, so all day he can`t eat or drink anything. This must be even harder as he has to concentrate on driving, spotting animals and taking care of us. So we quickly gave him a Snickers and some cookies we had. I didn`t realize most of Tanzania was Muslim, I thought it was just the middle east, but we quickly learned in Zanzibar, everyone is Muslim here and most places to eat are closed during Ramadan during the daylight hours.
So that`s it for safari`s. Amazing experience, saw everything I wanted to see and had an amazing time with Amanda and then Laura and Chris!
Le Jacaranda – Tel 255-29-254-4624. This is part of the Le Jacaranda Hotel. Amazing dinner we had twice:
Safari Company – Africa Travel Waves (firstname.lastname@example.org). We worked with Edwina who was very helpful in planning the trip we needed (either budget or high end). I would recommend her for future safari.