Sticking to my Dad’s terms and conditions, a week long safari was on the cards, not exactly the typical kind of terms and conditions..
After a much needed sleep in a real bed, we decided that it was best to use our day before the safari to look around Arusha. This is one of the most bustling towns in Tanzania due to the scary amount of climbers, ready to embark on their Mount Kilimanjaro trek or for those climbers even more prepared, a practise climb up Mount Meru which is on the outskirts of Arusha. Me and Dad met up with another member from our climb who was also staying an extra day to have a tour of Arusha by one of our Kilimanjaro guides- Felix. To cut things short, the day consisted of flight booking (for our Zanzibar part of the holiday), along with various extra ‘guides’ joining our tour who were looking for a tip- friends of Felix. We also had an eye opening trip to the local butchers. I’d have to say that the highlight of this day was haggling my way around the Maasai market, where I eventually found myself buying a very dangerous looking spear, Gatwick should have enjoyed that.
The evening was spent once again stuffing ourselves with the most unhealthy foods we could lay our hands on, followed by a peculiar group of gymnasts turning up from nowhere only to jump through fire rings and do various other dangerous stunts before leaving again. Goodnight.
Being the true hardy Brits that me and Dad were, we decided that it’d be best to upgrade from camping safari to semi-luxury camping safari. Clearly the Kilimanjaro part of the trip had removed the novel side to camping. We lugged our various bags over to where we were to meet our safari guide, only to be greeted once again by a gleaming smile. Reggie our guide. We didn’t really know what to expect from our safari, we weren’t sure whether we would be joining part of a group like on the Kilimanjaro trek or not. It turned out that we weren’t joining a group, and that I had the pleasure of just Reggie and Dads company for the next week..
The first national park that we went to was called Lake Manyara, where we saw our first wild animals. It seemed strange that after watching countless re-runs of David Attenborough’s ‘Africa’ T.V series, that seeing a Giraffe or Zebra for the first time in the wild still left you pretty speechless. In the short few hours we were there, we saw various animals- Giraffe, Zebra, black faced Monkeys, Baboons, Hippos, Warthogs, Gazelle, Impala, Flamingos, Buffalo and Elephants. We then had a long drive ahead of us which would take us just beyond Reggies home village- Ngiapanda (means junction in Swahili, why? because it’s built on a junction.. This is Africa after all)
Tonights camp was called Tindiga (dry bush in Swahili). We made a quick call to the UK to speak to family, which was somewhat surreal as we were sitting in the savannah surrounded by cacti and Masaaii men with spears. I guess this just shows the effect of technology on the world and it’s affect upon developing countries, as it wasn’t just us with mobiles, it was everyone we met in Africa including many of the tribesmen. Walking towards our tent, me and Dad couldn’t help but laugh when we saw where we were to be sleeping, when they said luxury camping, we didn’t expect a tent the size of a small home. After finding our way through the pitch black of the night towards the very dimly lit restaurant tent, we were surprised to have a very nice meal. Bed.
Day two of the safari. We got up especially early this day because we were going to meet a tribe and go on a hunt with them along with learning some survival skills. Arriving at a very remote area, we caught a glimpse of a few tribesmen through the trees, from there on we basically chased them through thorny bushes stopping only very few times for our guide to make us chew on some tree bark or seeds. Around an hour later the tribe successfully killed a deer, and almost immediately lit a fire to cook their breakfast on, this was where they put our skills to the test, and made us use a long stick to create enough friction and heat to light a fire. Failing miserably to create any sort of ember, but succeeding in humouring the tribesmen, we carried on watching them cook, of course whilst they passed around a joint.
This experience was followed by some archery practise, where Dad somehow managed to hit the target much to everyones surprise, and after some trumpet blowing we got back into the jeep. We travelled to another small village where we sat in a hut mostly made from dung and talked to a local women about how she mills the wheat to make bread, then we went and watched a skilled blacksmith make an arrow tip of our choice out of a simple nail he had found on the floor beside the road. Quite amazing to see, and only added to our collection of questionable items which we would be flying home with.
We both discovered that we had picked up the jammy skill of being able to read even when the roads were so bumpy that most cars would only last ten minutes until their suspension packed in. Just as well, because we also found that a large part of the safari was spent merely driving from park to park. We were Serengeti bound though, we didn’t mind. The rare stops that we took between destinations we particularly enjoyed, mainly because we were clearly out of place.. An ongoing joke we had was that people would dress all in khaki coloured clothing with typical ‘explorer hats’ to look as camouflaged with their surroundings as possible to get as close up the wildlife as they could. One problem with this, they were sneaking up in gargantuan vehicles that were close to deafening.. Me and Dad stuck to wearing normal clothes. Another activity that kept us amused was getting reggie to over take other Land Rovers that had tourists heads peeping out, only to see them recede back into their vehicle after receiving a face full of dust and sand. We did compensate for this, being the kind gents that we were, by squirting water at them when passing instead, also giving us an equal amount of laughs.
The Serengeti was out of this world, you’d never expect to see such a place, and cannot even imagine what it’d be like to visit here until you’ve done exactly that. Later we arrived at our Serengeti ‘camp’. Like usual we were quickly bombarded with refreshments, and after guzzling them down we were shown to our home for the next two nights. There’s no denying how lucky I was on this trip, spending evenings overlooking the Serengeti plains, watching the distant sun set behind the silhouettes of Zebra and Giraffe, for anyone that has a safari on their ‘Tik List’ I recommend you get that one ticked off as soon as you can, after all who knows how long it’ll be until these areas in Africa will become fully commercialised, and the Serengeti will be more of a zoo then a natural habitat.
The next day was spent driving around the Serengeti, a very successful day it was. The morning began by taking a look at the Hippo pool, where no less than thirty Hippos bathed in the smelliest and dirtiest looking water I have ever seen. Regardless, they were content animals and it made for peaceful viewing even though we knew all too well that if we were in amongst them it’d probably mean almost certain death. But that’s nature. They reminded me of the BBC advert that used to play quite frequently, funny creatures really. We carried on deeper into the heart of the Serengeti, reciting back the names of animals when we saw them to impress Reggie, although most of the time we were probably wrong. One other thing you learn on safari is that a build up of vehicles only means the presence of some type of rare species, mainly a cat. No not a house cat, I know you thought that for a split second though.
One particular backlog of traffic was for a sleeping Leopard in a tree, with its long snake like tail swaying in the breeze. It didn’t move the entire day, and I thought I was lazy. The best part of the day was when Reggie spotted a lion in the distance coming towards us. We were alone on the road, we had the lion to ourselves. It moved closer and closer.. until it was within three metres of us where it walked by us with a placid look on its face and a rather large looking belly.. luckily. Just as well it didn’t pay too much interest as our Landy could no longer start on its own, always needing to ask for a push. One weird phenomena we couldn’t really explain was the presence of rather large ‘whirlwinds’ that looked like a small hurricane, we saw these regularly. Later on we came across a large group of elephants, twenty of them or so. The baby Elephants were very sweet it has to be said, they crossed in front of our Landy giving me the prime opportunity to take a picture of their impression of the Abbey Road crossing. Elephants became my favourite animal to see, they looked happy almost all of the time.
We headed back to camp with the evening sun on our shoulders and our heads popped out of the top of the 4×4, soaking in one of the great natural wonders of the world. After having a shower in the en-suite bathroom, I sat and watched the sunset. We then wound our way around the maze like paths to the restaurant, which we decided would be far too hard to follow in the dark after dinner. The restaurant at this camp like most camps was pretty incredible, the wooden structure held in place the heavy canvas which had lights dangling down from it lighting up the numerous tables and chairs below. It was more like a restaurant you would expect in the UK than in the middle of a savannah. We finished our three course meal (with the common starter of pumpkin soup, which varied in taste and texture at each place we stayed) and walked outside after picking up our phones and camera that were on charge. We knew a far more direct way to get to our tent, which was not along a path, but followed the border between the neatly trimmed grass of the camp and the rough grass of the Serengeti plains. With head torches we began walking. It didn’t really occur to us that walking in the pitch black of the wilderness in the Serengeti, with no protection from wild animals like Lions and highly venomous snakes was actually rather dangerous. It only occurred to us when a guard armed with a huge automatic shotgun came running after us, ushering us towards the path, only to ‘guard’ us back to our tent. Oops. During the short walk back to the tent, we tried to persuade the guard to let us hold his gun, and only after allowing us to feel its weight were we fully satisfied campers. Ear plugs in (to drown out the sound of Elephants) I went to sleep.
We had an early breakfast and headed for Ngorongoro Crater National Park, the crater rim itself was so high that clouds toppled over its edges creating quite an amazing spectacle. Dad wouldn’t stop taking his terribly focussed pictures of this. The crater is 19km wide and is home to 30,000 mammals, loads of Wildebeest, Buffalo, Lions and Flamingos. We went for an early morning game drive, seeing the usual suspects. That was until we saw a few vehicles lined up along the side of a narrow mud track. After some swapping of information- as the guides to- Reggie confirmed that there was a Lioness stalking a weak looking Buffalo. We watched through the binoculars at the Lioness crawling slowly through the grass upon the unsuspecting beast, sometimes disappearing and reappearing a few metres ahead of its previous position. This lasted a long time, and eventually we got bored when the Buffalo rejoined its heard. By now there must have been around a hundred Jeeps and Land Rovers al along a single track road, it was crazy! The park warden had obviously been called in, because they were patrolling the road looking for any vehicles that were on the grass either side of the dirt track, so that they could fine them- we found they were very strict on this. The irony is of course, that the warden himself was driving in the area which he was fining people for driving in.. We eventually left the crowd.
Later on that day as we were heading to the switch backs which would take us to the top of the Crater rim, we spotted three male lions all together walking toward the road. We stopped getting the prize position again. They came closer, and eventually were walking beside us in the shade of the Landy, we followed them up the road, with a hundred jeeps tailing us. I was surprised at how unfazed they were by us humans, especially those who were squealing with excitement and hanging all parts of their body out of their vehicles just to get a better picture- rather keep my arm thanks.
We moved on, sticking to Reggie’s tight schedule, we needed to travel many more hours from here to get to our next camp, Lake Natron. This camp was incredibly rustic, and for once didn’t feel as commercialised as the others, maybe because we were no longer in safari land but on the volcanic plains of Ol Doinyo Lengai, one of, if not the most active volcano in Africa erupting last in 2007. The funniest thing was, we were going to climb it.
Children who were from a local tribe watched us from the boundary of the camp the whole time we were in or around our tent, their version of T.V. After having a rather cold shower in the outside shower which the Masaii receptionist had been so excited to show me, we walked over to the restaurant.
The tribesmen did a demonstration, in quite a comical way, of how to make fire using dung whilst we enjoyed a cup of tea with goats milk in it.. Quite a common occurrence now. Early night, as we were to awake at 11p.m, ready to have a coffee and begin our climb up the second volcano of the trip. This was to be the last day of safari, and didn’t actually include any ‘safarying’ in it. The climb was also special, and an adventure of its own, and you could argue that it was to be a separate ‘Tik’, so I’ll be writing about that day in my next blog post.
Thanks for reading!
P.S sorry about any grammatical errors].