I haaad a tent in Aaaafrica. I haaaad a tent in Aaafrica. I had a tent in Africa, and it was awesome!
Well we had a tent in Africa for 4 nights and 5 days of safaring in Tanzania. The company I had choosen for Safari is a little operation mainly set up for volunteering. They then wanted their volunteers to be able to go on affordable safaris so they started doing that as well. They’ve been doing the safari part for 2 years, so they’ve been going long enough to know what they’re doing and small enough to try real hard. That was my thought process when I found them and it proved to be true. The owners, Jodie (Aussie) and Kalvin (her Tanz hubby) were very helpful. Jodie over email for a month and Kalvin came along on the safari to help move the money through all the gates and what not.
So we were told to expect pick up at Boot’s house at 8 am by our safari driver/guide. Then a different phone call said 8:30, Boots told us they’ll be late expect more like 9 am since this is Tanz time. Peter, our guide and driver arrived at 7:40 am. We were still getting ready. I showered really fast, not hard when it’s cold, and then we hopped into the beast of a truck, our 7 seater Toyota Land Cruiser. It definitely looks like it is 10-20 years old, but it has freshish paint and seat covers and a pop top roof, tyres (as they’re called here), it runs, so we were excited to be going. Peter put our stuff in the back and then we drove into Arusha and went into a northern part of the town to Jodie and Kalvin’s house where we picked up Kalvin, met Jodie and their two kids, and picked up our 3rd safari goer, Sophie from England. It was nice to put a face to Jodie who had been so helpful for a month as I decided whether or not to book with her company, KATZ safaris (Karibu Africa TanZania).
So we left their house/compound and drove back into Arusha into the heart of the market streets and stopped to pick up a lot of food in assorted looking buckets and our cook for the 5 days Maulid. He is a very friendly guy, with a great smile, and as it turns out a phenomenal cook! With one last stop at Shoprite (grocery store) for snacks and a pee break we were finally on our way driving out of Arusha for Tarangire National park. The drive there was long, about 4 hours, but we got to finally see the Tanzanian countryside, and the little towns that we passed. It is quite red along this part of Tanz, the dirt, and little shrubs, some acaia trees here and there, and the occasional baobob tree, but in general rather desert like from our perspective.
We made it to the park entrance, paid the fees, I got out and took pictures, Lindsay kicked a miniature acacia tree making her toe bleed, saw some Vervet Monkeys as our first wildlife and I saw a family of Banded Mongoose. Soon we all got back in the truck, roof up, ready for our first game drive! It was quite fruitful and probably raised our expectations for the rest of the safari days to come. We started by seeing some Impala, Zebra, Warthog, Banded Mongoose family, and storks, all in and around a watering hole. Your quintessential African watering hole experiences, only needed some predators to fill it out. The zebras, 3 of them, waded in while we were watching, lots of photos and video ensued…Next we headed down the road and a few minutes later we saw a herd of zebra running away up the hill, this must mean something. As we got closer we saw all the other trucks watching them. Turns out we just happened upon a lioness that had killed a zebra. We missed the kill, but were there to see here picking it up by the neck and dropping it a few times. Seems she was trying to decide whether to drag it some where or not. We watched intently and then she started to move. Peter had anticipated this and had us driving along right beside her as she came over a little hill on the side of the road and then crossed in front of car. Very cool, very close. She then walked off into the grass across the park.
Thoroughly excited we moved along through the park seeing all sorts of things, some from a distance, some 10-50 feet from the truck. We saw a crapload of Elephants, Gazelle, Impalas, Waterbucks, Hogs of de Wart, Dik Diks and birds. We stopped at a view point for lunch that over looked the river that runs through the park. It was just a trickle at this point but it was a wide muddy trickle and as you looked below you could see a giant Bull Elephant slowly making his way along through the muck, Zebra and Wildebeest herds walking across, Giraffe, some sort of large lizard we never saw again, and so many other things. It was a beautiful view and looked very Eden like with all the animals just below you, there are pictures of course, provided I get all my memory cards back home in one piece.
We had lunch which was a nice and simple box lunch of sandwiches and some of the saltiest potato chips I’ve ever eaten. Salt and Vinegar have nothing on these, you can eat maybe 15 before being very very done. I grabbed some tea biscuits, they like their tea and biscuits here thanks to the British, and was just about to open them when straight ahead of me on the fence rail I saw a monkey in mid leap jumping straight towards me at the picnic table. I wasn’t quick enough, but he was as he grabbed the biscuits and scampered up the tree, opening them on the way. It was very reminiscent of a certain ground squirrel in the Grand Canyon that almost got me killed.
After lunch we headed down onto the river plain that we could see from above. The highlight was a herd of Elephants that were right beside the road having lunch. There were probably about 7 or 8 of them all no more then 50 feet away. We turned off the car and just sat and watched. Slowly bit by bit one large female with long tusks and here calf of quite a few years moved closer and closer to us as they ate. At one point she turned straight at the car and walked 10 feet closer, I had to zoom out with my wide angle lens she was now only about 20 feet away. I said holy crap while filming and it startled her a bit so she stopped, then I remembered to whisper and a few moments later she came closer again until only about 10 feet away or less from us in the truck. We were waiting for here to stick her trunk in and take our food. At the last second she turned away and called the herd to cross the road in front of the truck. It was an unbelievable 10 minutes in Africa, enough to tear me up it was so overwhelming.
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Following saw some Giraffes, and more of everything else. Finally after about 4 hours we headed out of the park stopping periodically so I could take pictures of Baobob trees in the fading sunset light. Perfect start to a safari, if only every day could be that good for animal spotting. We then drove another 2 hours or so to our campsite just outside of Lake Manyara, Sun Bright Campsite. It was a nice little place with a big main building type tiki tent (large triangle roof with grass on it) that was a dining hall, bar, and lounge area. When we got there we lounged on the chairs listening to top 40 country music of all things, while the boys set up our tents. It’s nice to go camping and not have to do any work! Maulid cooked us dinner, which always starts with a silver platter of popcorn, strange, but every safari group we saw had this ‘snack’ before dinner. Then Maulid brought his Zucchini soup. I hate zucchinis, but this was the most amazing soup I have ever had. This guy can cook. Main course was rice and a typical Tanzanian chicken stew with some veggies, also extremely tasty. Finish the meal off with tea or hot chocolate. All this awesomeness while listening to the local pianist/singer play and sing the worst music I have ever heard but boy was it memorable. He had 2 beats he repeated on his keyboard while he played a few sporadic chords and notes and sang about his lost love or later about the people at the tables. There were 3 tables of people. He tried to guess where we were from, Norway, Poland, America,…eventually Kalvin said we were from China, so then he sang about his friends from China. Hilarious.
Then we had some showers which were somewhat warm if not bug filled and then climbed into our super reflective tent which is nice and easy to find in the dark. It was the exact day I have been hoping and dreaming about since I was 8 and watched Lorne Greene’s Wilderness for the first time. Can’t wait until tomorrow where we make our way to the FRICKING SERENGETI!
I haven’t had to use a squatty potty yet.