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A 4-day, 3-night Safari in Tanzania

© By Janet Hepburn
  Campground above clouds Arusha, Tanzania, has become the home base of many safari operators because of it's proximity to Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro as well as Lake Manyara and Tarangire, the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.
     We arrived in Arusha the day before our safari was to depart. We had been in Nairobi, Kenya and so had traveled by bus from there to Arusha over rough, poorly maintained roads, passing through the Namanga border crossing. Crossing here took patience and a sense of humour as we moved from one line-up to another and ducked the constant barrage of hawkers trying to sell their beadwork and food. More than an hour later, we were back on the road, arriving in Arusha six hours after our early-morning departure from Nairobi. Landscape and people-watching from the windows of the bus afforded a great introductory overview of this fascinating country, however Arusha and nearby Kilimanjaro both have airports so it is possible to get there by a more direct route.
     My daughter, Jordi and her husband, Gavin and I had booked a private safari with Roy Safaris. We met our driver/guide, Eleone and our cook, Daoude and set off in a Land Rover packed full with tents, equipment and food. Mid-day we arrived at the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. We entered the Simba Campsite, passing a guard armed with a rifle at the entrance to the site, and dropped off all the supplies. Daoude gave us each a simple box-lunch and set to work erecting our tents and preparing supper. We left with Eleone in the Land Rover, the roof elevated well above our heads to allow us to stand and view the animals more easily. The crater as seen from the rim had shown no signs of animal life but when we descended - along the worst road I've seen in my life - there were animals at every turn. And not just amazing, glorious, regal animals but exotic trees and plants as well. Eleone was brilliant, honest, informative, genuine and a courageous driver. He was patient - we wanted to stop often and photograph everything. We saw numerous birds, from flamingos (greater and lesser) to egrets, lilac-breasted rollers, and grey crowned cranes; warthogs, baboons, elephants, waterbucks, hippopotami, Cape buffalo, different species of gazelles, zebras and ended our day sighting a pride of 8 lions. At the end of all this, Eleone succeeded in the hair-raising ascent out of the crater and we returned to a fabulous meal of homemade soup, fish, roasted potatoes, avocado salad, vegetable stew, bread and fresh mango. In addition to preparing all this food, Daoude had also erected a dining tent with folding table and chairs. We invited Eleone and Daoude to join us for the meal. Eleone agreed and proved to be a great storyteller as well as purveyor of a wealth of information and insight into the tribes, history and religious beliefs in Tanzania. We slept in tents under the watchful eye of the armed guard whom we surmised was there in case hungry animals wandered amongst the drowsy tourists.
     Day two began with a huge breakfast of coffee, toast, pancakes, fresh fruit, eggs and tomatoes. Looking down from the campsite on the rim of the crater, clouds hovered below us and across the sky was a brilliant red streak. Everything was packed once again into the vehicle and we headed for Serengeti National Park. On the way we saw literally tens of thousands of migrating wildebeests. There are 1.7 million wildebeests with 400,000 born each year. There is now an annual cull done in July. Along the same migratory path there are zebras, though in smaller numbers. The enormity of the Serengeti is breathtaking yet as far as we could see along both sides of the road to the horizon, the land was dotted with these animals on the move.

Giraffe  Hippopotamus  Lion Pride  Wildebeast  Zebra guard position 

     After once again dropping off Daoude and the supplies, we traveled out again. We saw a cheetah stocking a gazelle. We watched a group of vultures feeding on a wildebeest carcass, fighting over the remains and their place in the hierarchy. We were fortunate to see lions again. These were in a shady stand of trees very near the road, savouring the flesh of a recent kill. Eleone said that lions will eat up to one quarter of their body weight before leaving the carcass for the jackals and buzzards and other scavengers. On these plains of shorter grasslands, the animals mentioned above were plentiful, once again providing a feast for our eyes and cameras. Sometime during the day we moved into areas of longer grass and this is where we found giraffes and elephants and in the 'hippo-pool' many enormous, rolling hippopotami in all their thick-skinned, hairless glory. The giraffes were majestic, so peaceful, gracefully snipping the ends off the top branches of the acacia trees and munching them noisily, slowly moving about with their easy gait. The elephants, not so gracefully, broke whole branches off trees and stood munching. We watched a herd of elephants cross the road in front of us, the largest leading, followed by twenty others including a couple of very young ones who were guided and assisted by their mothers immediately in front and older siblings behind to help boost them over obstacles.
     When we returned to our campsite, which this time had no armed guard and only a couple of other campers, Daoude had prepared another exceptional meal and set up the dining tent and a shower tent, complete with water heated over the fire. There was a latrine at the campsite with an outside sink attached to the wall, the water fed from an overhead resevoir. In the evening as I was bent over the sink brushing my teeth and my daughter stood behind waiting her turn, she said in a very calm voice, "Mom, move back from the wall." When I looked up, toothbrush still in my mouth, there was a scorpion inches above the sink, its tail pointing where my face had just been. Lying alone in my two-man tent later that evening, I could hear the lions roaring and I prayed my bladder would be kind to me so I wouldn't have to get up in the night, then fell immediately into a deep, restful sleep.
     Day three began before sunrise. We devoured a quick coffee and biscuit before heading out to watch a few animals waking, including another cheetah - a prized sighting, sitting on top of a huge boulder, head slowly turning back and forth, surveying the land for prey. There were animal footprints everywhere in the dirt, telling tales of the nocturnal hunt that occurs while the human species sleeps. The sunrise was gorgeous across the vast grasslands. We returned to the camp around 9:30 for a feast of crepes, fruit, toast, eggs and then back out for another game drive. The temperature continued to rise under the mid-day sun and most animals took shelter in the grass and under trees. We visited the Serengeti National Park Visitor Centre, an architecturally modern building with beautiful sculptures, walking trails, viewing stations and interactive displays. We returned to our campsite to ... you guessed it, eat more fabulous food.
     We made one more drive from 4:00 until 6:30, during which time there was a light, cooling drizzle and our most amazing sighting was a full spectrum, distinct, vividly coloured rainbow, rising from the horizon on one side, arcing up into the grey sky and finishing, unbroken on the other side. Perfect!
     Back to the campsite, more scrumptious, ambrosial food, more fascinating, engaging stories, ya-da-ya-da. Another night in the tent, sleeping as close to nature as you can get, and oh yes ... a call on my cell phone hours after sunset, somewhere deep in the Serengeti, from my husband back in Canada - miracles of nature and modern technology blending into a perfect night.
     On day four, after another hearty breakfast, we packed the Land Rover (and by "we" I mean Eleone and Daoude), piled in and made the five-hour drive back to Arusha, stopping to admire and photograph more of Africa's wildlife and the communities and huts of the Maasai people along the way. I never dreamed that I would enjoy the safari so immensely. The thrill of standing in the Land Rover with the raised roof, searching for the next herd or pride is exhilarating. The animals' grace is beyond imagination and their power and intelligence astounding. Back in Arusha, it was difficult to say good-bye to Eleone and Daoude. They had generously shared their talents and knowledge and showered us with African hospitality and we were much richer for having been their guests on this four-day adventure.

Janet Hepburn lives in Port Dover and writes regular articles in a weekly newspaper as well as poetry and fiction. She is an active member of Canadian Authors' Association and the Ontario Poetry Society.

Photo Credits
Janet Hepburn

If you go
Tanzania
as seen on
YouTube
African Websites:
www.go2africa.com/tanzania/arusha
www.tanzaniaodyssey.com/dar-and-arusha-hotels/arusha-hotels.htm
www.roysafaris.com
Wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arusha
Wikitravel:http://wikitravel.org/en/Arusha

What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.arabji.com/Jordan/media.htm
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/

Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Maps (Mapquest) U.S. & Canada: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp
Maps (Mapquest) World: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp?country=GB
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/


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