A Travellerspoint blog


Tanzania Day 5 Part 2: Let's Rock and Roll

A little over an hour later, we arrived at the gate to the Serengeti National Park.

We were met at the gate by two Maasai boys, wearing all black, with white painted faces. Their clothes and face paint meant they were newly circumcised. They must dress like this during the healing process. It seems they hang out at the gate so that tourists can pay them to take pictures of them. I have a personal policy that I refuse to pay people for pictures so I was not interested and wouldn't take their picture. Brenda, however, wanted to give them something anyway so she gave them the leftover fruits from our lunchboxes.

Just inside the gate, we were welcomed by a curious giraffe.

We stopped at the welcome center so that Maningo could pay our entrance fees and get us registered. I don't really know what all is involved in this process but in every park we entered, this process seemed to take forever. It was especially long in the Serengeti. Brenda and I had time to walk up to the gift shop where I purchased some additional phone minutes and she purchased some souvenirs including a leopard bookmark, hippo magnet, various postcards of cheetahs and lions, and a beaded Tanzanian flag bracelet just like the one Maningo wore.

After that, we walked up to the overlook so that we could have an unimpeded view of the Serengeti before us.

Serengeti means "endless plains" in the Maasai language

This is the road we drove into the Serengeti

Finally, our paperwork was in order and when Maningo returned to the truck he said, "Let's rock and roll." This is always what he said when he was ready to go. He had a funny way of rolling his r's but not in the Spanish way. So we set off into the Serengeti. Along this stretch, we were constantly having to dodge the suicidal Thomson's gazelles who would suddenly leap in front of the vehicle with no notice whatsoever.

A couple of shy female reedbucks were grazing on the side of the road

A secretary bird was stomping some prey further down

We saw a car stopped up ahead on the right and we pulled in behind it to see what they might be looking at. A lone lioness was drinking from a large puddle of water by the side of the road. It was so quiet that we could actually hear her tongue lapping at the water.

She got up and walked around some, checking out the surroundings.


She took one more drink then sauntered off into the grass.

Shortly afterwards, someone contacted Maningo on the radio and they had a conversation in Swahili. This was a pretty common occurrence and we had no idea what had transpired. Maningo was being very secretive. Brenda pressed him for additional information so Maningo took the leopard bookmark she had just purchased and placed it across his forehead. We knew then...leopards had been spotted.

A mom in a tree

And her cub climbing up


We watched for a while until both leopards came down the tree and wandered over to a nearby dead tree on the ground.

Mom climbed to the top limb where she was most likely surveying the land to plan for dinner.

Pretty high from our lion and leopard sightings, we headed towards camp for the evening. On the way, we passed an area with some tall grass. Maningo suddenly stopped and yelled "Lions!" Brenda and I were looking around and looking around and we didn't see them. Maningo motioned that they were on the right. So we looked again and sure enough, we could see black ears sticking up out of the grass. There was a pride of lions lying in the grass just off the road to the right. One lioness stood up to take a look at us.



A little while later we finally made it to Serengeti Wilderness Camp. We were greeted by Claudio, the manager, who showed us to our tent for the next four nights and gave us a quick orientation before dinner. The Serengeti Wilderness Camp is a seasonal camp that moves within the park every three to six months. By moving, it can follow the migration and have less of an impact on the environment.

Our tent, powered all by solar panels, bucket shower is in the back

Inside our tent



View from our tent of the bar tent (left) and dining tent (right)

Inside the bar tent

Inside the dining tent. At this camp, each group and their guide dines at a separate table. It was great to have Maningo join us for meals.

After the tour and a wonderfully warm shower, we joined Maningo in the dining tent for dinner (served every night at 7:30p sharp). Dinner was always a three course affair at this camp--soup, main course, and dessert. Our first night began with celery soup. Now this chef knew how to make soup; it was creamy and tasty like soup should be. The main course was lamb with vegetables and dessert was a vanilla mousse. We washed it all down with a bottle of red South African wine. It had been a very long day so right after dinner, Brenda and I went straight to bed.

Posted by zihuatcat 20:38 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania serengeti brenda Comments (0)

Tanzania Day 5 Part 1: Cruisin' in the Crater

Morning came and it was very cold and very windy. We were up early for breakfast because Maningo was picking us up at 6:30 so we could get down into the crater before it got too crowded with other vehicles. Plus, we had a long drive to our camp in the Serengeti afterwards. The Sopa Lodge had a large breakfast buffet set up with everything imaginable including my favorite, the omelet station. What it did not have, however, is the most important breakfast treat of all - my Coke. Apparently the Coke was all in the bar and the barman was not on duty at 6:00 in the morning. Not good! Maningo arrived right on time as usual. The poor guy was so cold that he had two blankets wrapped around him when he picked us up.

The Ngorongoro Crater is a volcanic caldera that was formed two to three million years ago. It's about 2,000 feet deep and covers around 100 square miles. It sits at 5,900 feet above sea level (thus the reason it is much colder here). The Sopa Lodge where we spent the night sits on the rim of the crater and is conveniently located by the descent road into the crater.


Right away there were three black-backed jackals on the side of the road. Two of them scattered immediately but one stuck around, continuing to chew on a small snake of some kind.


As we descended, the scenery inside the crater was simply beautiful.


A hyena family was squabbling over a wildebeest skull.




Some cape buffalo and zebra were also hanging around nearby.



A couple of vultures were roosting up high

A Kori bustard, the heaviest bird capable of flight

We drove to the top of a large hill to get a nice view and check the lay of the land.



Specifically, we were looking for rhino as this would be the only chance we would have of seeing rhino in Tanzania. There are very few left in the crater and the few that are there make a rare appearance. They did not appear for us. Instead, we saw some Grant's gazelles, hartebeest, flamingoes, and cape buffalo.





A flock of grey-crowned cranes flew overhead.

They landed next to a golden jackal who was finishing off his flamingo lunch.

Nearby, a couple of grey-crowned cranes and a chick were pecking around some kind of animal dung.

We watched a long line of wildebeest and zebra walking along the lakeshore.



A lone elephant bull came wandering through.

We drove on and found some lions lazing around on a slight hill overlooking some hippos and zebra in the distance.


By now it was around noon and about time to head out of the crater. On the way out, some olive baboons were crossing the hillside.

After we ascended, Maningo stopped so I could take a picture from the crater rim.

Just outside of the gate we stopped and ate our lunchboxes in the truck. The Sopa Lodge lunchbox was pretty good--a beef pattie sandwich, Lay's Thai Chili chips, apple, banana, and juice box. We then drove through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area where a lot of Maasai tribesmen still live. This is also the area where a lot of trip operators take tourists to visit Maasai villages.




A typical Maasai village

Maasai herding their cattle and donkeys

From here, we drove to the Serengeti National Park.

Posted by zihuatcat 20:37 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania ngorongoro brenda Comments (0)

Tanzania Day 4: Monkey Business

We slept in a little bit today and had breakfast at the lodge. It was a slight improvement over lunch and dinner since there was an omelet station (yay!). Brenda tried a local dish called African millet which is some type of grain. It was brown and soupy and kind of oily. I couldn't bring myself to try it so early in the morning.

Our plan for the day was to leave Tarangire and head towards Lake Manyara, game drive in Lake Manyara National Park then drive to our overnight lodging at the Ngorongoro crater rim. On the way, we passed through the town of Mto wa Mbu, which means "river of mosquitoes."




The town is a big banana export center and there were many different kinds of bananas available for sale on the roadside. We saw several signs advertising red bananas. Brenda wanted to try some so Maningo pulled over and bought some for her. Other than the red peel on the outside, they looked like normal bananas. Tastewise, they were a bit sweeter.

Not far down the road we came to the entrance of Lake Manyara National Park. This park was vastly different from Tarangire. Whereas Tarangire was dry, Lake Manyara was lush with red dirt.

A few months prior, the park was devastated by a severe flood. Some of the buildings at the entrance had been completely washed away. There were piles and piles of huge boulders everywhere and lots of evidence of road repair.

We came upon some blue monkeys.


A klipspringer, the rock jumping antelope.


And some olive baboons.


While watching the baboons, suddenly a female bushbuck came bolting out of the bushes with a fawn. The fawn stayed hidden in the grass while the normally shy mother came up right next to us, as if she were trying to distract us.

On down the road we saw a warthog family, an African fish-eagle, and a grey-headed kingfisher.



We stopped at the hippo pool.

The forest-type surroundings then changed and we came to an open field. A lone black-backed jackal was running across the field as if on a mission.

Some grey crowned cranes were pecking around.


A herd of cape buffalo were hanging out by the water.

As were a few flamingoes.

We stopped for lunch at a picnic area with some other guides and their guests. Our TSL lunch boxes were, as expected, truly awful. There was a boiled egg, some kind of unidentifiable sandwich, an apple, a banana, peanuts, and a juicebox. The egg and the peanuts were the best part. We were so glad to be done eating TSL's food!

After lunch we drove through a heavily treed area with a lot of undergrowth. There were numerous monkeys up high in the trees making lots of noise. To us, it sounded like alarm calls which could mean a predator was around, most likely leopard. We searched and searched in this area but never did see anything.

On down the road a lone wildebeest was standing in the middle of a field, looking nervously out towards something on the lakeshore. We got out our binoculars and could see a pride of some six or seven lions feasting on a kill right on the lakeshore. Our guess was another wildebeest. The crazy wildebeest kept walking and walking right towards the lions. Somehow the lions either were too busy to notice or didn't care because they let him walk on by.

By now it was time to turn around and head out of Lake Manyara since we needed to make it to the crater before dark. We came across this monitor lizard sunning on a rock on the way back.

A large troop of olive baboons with lots of babies kept us entertained for a while, especially this little kung fu guy.








There were more olive baboons at the entrance to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. One little baby was especially being a brat. He kept trying to climb the concrete wall the baboons were sitting on but was too short to make it. So he would grab on to the other baboons' tails. He would use their tails to make it up the wall then jump down and do it all over again. His mother finally had enough of that so she dragged him by his own tail into the middle of the road. He was screeching the whole time.


We arrived at the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge before dark and were greeted with juice and warm towels. The lodge sits on the rim of the crater and at about 7,500 feet above sea level, it was cold and windy. Unfortunately, there is no regular heating here. The hotel is kind enough to turn the radiators on each evening between 7:30 and 9:30. After that, the only heat you get comes from a hot water bottle they place inside your bed. By sleeping in every piece of clothing we brought, we stayed pretty warm. The guides are not so lucky. Maningo said they are not provided heat or water bottles of any kind.

Inside our room #3


The walkway to the rooms

The main building, restaurant, and bar

Since it was cold in our room, we thought we'd head to the bar for a drink or two and some happy hour snacks. We settled ourselves in front of a huge fireplace and ordered our rum and cokes. A fire had been set in the fireplace but it was barely burning, as in a slight flame. I asked if they could do anything about it and they acted like I was crazy. The fire was lit they told me. See the flame (that would be that tiny little orange speck just to the right and above the candle flame). OK, whatever. I grew up with bonfires in the country. A couple of coals of charcoal does not make a fire to me.


We then moved to the even colder dining room for dinner, a four course affair. Mr. Goodluck was our waiter. The first course was a salad nicoise.

The second course was chicken soup.

The main course was a filet mignon with carrots and broccoli.

Dessert was supposed to be apple pie with coffee ice cream. We told them we didn't like coffee ice cream so they brought us mango ice cream instead but no apple pie. I guess that's what we get for being difficult.

Dinner was very good, the best we'd had so far. Afterwards, I called Mike from the lobby and we were able to talk on the phone for a bit before bedtime.

Posted by zihuatcat 19:17 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania manyara ngorongoro brenda Comments (0)

Tanzania Day 3: Lucky Boys

The damned spurfowl woke me up about 4:30 this morning. Noisy birds! We got up at 5:30 to begin our game drive at 6. This is the earliest game drives can begin in Tarangire and there were lots of people leaving at this time. But TSL only turns on the generators between 6-10 a.m. so you have to get dressed by flashlight. You would think they might adjust those times to 5:30-9:30 so you can have some electricity in the morning. Brenda thought it was a good idea to take a shower. There was not much hot water so her shower was pretty cold. I passed on that idea and just put my hair in a ponytail.

Our first sighting of the day were some helmeted guinea fowl. In the coming days, every time we saw these Brenda would say, "Guineas!" And every time she said that, I thought she said, "Denise" so I would say, "What?" And it would take us a while to figure it out. We never learned.

And then these vultures in the top of a palm tree

Around the corner, some Southern Ground-hornbill were walking along the road. This guy had something wrong with one of his feet.

Nearby a vervet monkey was sitting in a tree.

A female Defassa waterbuck was not happy with our presence. She snorted her discontent several times.

Her male counterpart looked like he was lying in the grass, until he started walking, and we realized he was standing and the grass was just that tall!

The rock hyrax were scurrying all over the rocks. They froze when we drove by.


By this time we were getting hungry so we stopped at the picnic site for breakfast. A giraffe was there to greet us.



We had breakfast boxes from our lodge. I couldn't wait to see what delights these included after last night's meal. I was not disappointed (wink, wink). There was an apple, banana, juice box, salami/cheese sandwich, and a sweet roll. At this site it was the squirrels and the starlings that tried to pilfer our food. The food was so bad I considered giving it to them.


Afterwards, our breakfast giraffe was still hanging around just down the road.

And a warthog was nearby.

A male Dafassa waterbuck was hanging out with some Impala girls.


A couple of dik-dik were hiding in the bushes on the roadside. They always looked so terrified, poor things!


Around the corner a large herd of impala girls and babies were grazing with their male leader. Maningo always called these males "lucky boys" because they usually appear as one male with a large herd of females. One boy with a group of girls to himself. Impalas are very territorial and the males spend a lot of their time shepherding the females and keeping them within the herd, fending off rival bachelors, and cutting out the juveniles with antlers.





We spotted a couple more dik-diks.

Brenda then spotted what looked to me like a big rock way off in the distance. So Maningo patiently stopped the truck and got out his binoculars. Turned out it WAS a big rock...with two cheetahs lying on top. Maningo was very excited. Cheetahs are a pretty rare find in Tarangire. I don't know how she saw them with her naked eye. They were so far away I couldn't even get a decent picture with the zoom lens. Maningo said it was a mother and cub. The only picture I could get was of the mother.


Maningo got on the radio to tell the other guides about the sighting and before long, a ton of trucks were there. It's amazing how fast the word spreads. Unfortunately one of the other guides who showed up laughed really loudly at one point which caused mama cheetah to decide it was time to move on. She led the cub out into the long grass until they were out of sight.

Moving on to a male impala, more ostriches, and giraffe.




A herd of female elephants and calves came walking by.



Another guide called us on the radio to tell us about a lion sighting. Three lions had gone down to the river after a warthog. The warthog got away but the lions were resting on the other side of the river. This was our first lion sighting!


We returned to the lodge for a hot lunch and a break. Lunch was another buffet (yuck) which included honey chicken, meatloaf, rice, spaghetti with mushroom sauce, and veggies.


After lunch we browsed the gift shop a bit. I bought some black and white safari coasters and my usual Christmas ornament. I took some pictures around the lodge while Brenda rested in our tent.


White-bellied Go-away bird
Apparently this bird sings a song that sounds like it's saying, "Go away, go away." Brenda wanted one to take home. I would have liked one, too, but my bird would have to know Spanish to be effective.

We went for a short game drive in the late afternoon. We saw the usual suspects--zebras, warthogs, and impalas. We stopped by a termite mound and found a troop of dwarf mongooses, Africa's smallest carnivore. Of course, Brenda and I had a discussion as to whether the plural of mongoose is mongoose, mongooses, or mongeese. You'll be happy to know that I have looked that up and according to Webster's online, it's mongooses. I know everyone can sleep at night now.



We watched them scurry around and wrestle with each other for a while. They are busy little things. Brenda was happy to find them. She named one of her cats Goose (after Mongoose) because he's such a good snake killer.

On the way back to the lodge, we stopped to watch the beautiful sunset.

We continued our sunset watching on the terrace with more vodka tonics and chips and salsa. Dinner at TSL was truly horrible. It started with potato soup that looked like dishwater. I expected it to actually have potatoes in it. No such luck.

The buffet contained some kind of crusted chicken that almost made me physically ill. I ate a lot of white rice instead.

After the previous night's applesauce pie fiasco, I decided to go with the ginger cake for dessert.

Brenda ordered the pie again. This time it was a lemon meringue. The meringue was burned completely black.

We were both thankful this was our last dinner here.

Posted by zihuatcat 18:48 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania tarangire brenda Comments (0)

Tanzania Day 2: Elephant Crossing

The next morning was basically a repeat of the previous morning: lukewarm trickle shower and omelets for breakfast. Maningo was there at 8:45 a.m. sharp to pick us up for the drive to Tarangire (pronounced Tar un gee rah, with a hard g) National Park to officially begin our safari. We were so excited!

We drove through Arusha again. This took a long time; morning traffic was pretty stacked up. Once outside of town, we passed lots of Maasai tribesmen herding their goats and cattle and lots of people using donkeys to carry water and goods.


These hollowed out logs are hung in trees to attract bees to build their hives. Honey can then be harvested from the logs and used or sold.

We drove through a large military zone where pictures were not allowed. Surprisingly, there were camels in that zone. While driving through a small town just outside the park gates, we met Michael, the Tanzanian owner of A2T. Finally we arrived at Tarangire around noon.


Maningo did the required paperwork while Brenda and I stretched our legs a bit.

Elephant skull at the welcome center

Tarangire is known for its large baobab trees.

We stopped just inside the gate at a picnic area to eat our boxed lunches. A word on boxed lunches....not good. Some are better than others but most are not that great. This was one of the better ones, containing a fairly overcooked piece of fried chicken, samosa, crepe, donut thingie that wasn't sweet, meat pie, juice box, and cookies. Several vervet monkeys were hanging around at the picnic site trying to pilfer everyone's food and climb inside the safari vehicles. Maningo calls the monkeys troublemakers. He and the other guides took turns running them off.

After lunch, we were off on our very first game drive! And just a minute or two later we were rewarded with a herd of bull elephants right on the side of the road. They were standing in a semi-circle, cooling themselves by flapping their ears.



A few minutes later, a mom and baby wandered over. They were part of a female herd passing through.

The baby must have had an itchy ear.

Mom and baby greeted the oldest elephant of the bull herd, the one standing behind her.

This guy got himself pretty excited over mom. He pulled out his "5th leg."

But in the end, she rejected him and he went off to pout by himself.

The rest of the female herd crossed the road to go to the watering hole.



Suddenly, a small herd of zebra came running across the road. They joined the elephants on the other side.


We saw a few birds on our drive.

Superb starling

Ashy starling

Red-and-yellow barbet on a termite mound

Crowned lapwing (or crowned plover)

Yellow-necked spurfowl. These damned birds would start making all kinds of noise about 4 a.m. Apparently they don't realize the sun is not up and they should still be quiet at that hour!

A couple more elephants and another herd of zebra.



We came upon one male and two female ostriches. Suddenly, another male came running up and ran off the first male and one of the females. He was left alone with his female.

Male ostrich

Female ostrich

We found these zebras hanging out at a watering hole just off the road. They kept spooking themselves every few seconds--drinking, running away in a panic, coming back down to the water, repeat.



After our game drive, we drove to our lodging for the next two nights, the Tarangire Safari Lodge.


TSL is a permanent, tented camp with an awesome view. We had tent #34.


Inside our tent, the bathroom is just behind the zippered part


The view from our tent

The main building

Each night before dinner, TSL offers a happy hour on the terrace where they serve vodka or gin tonics, popcorn, and homemade salsa and chips.



The view from the terrace is the only reason to stay here. We saw this elephant picking fruit or leaves from a tree down by the river.

We enjoyed happy hour until it was time for dinner. Dinner at TSL begins with a soup (of course) and then consists of a buffet for the main courses and a dessert. The soup was carrot and coriander which was a little watery but decent.

The buffet had beef stew with rice, poached fish, green beans, and carrots. These were edible.

But then there was dessert. It was supposed to be apple pie. It was essentially applesauce poured into a frozen pie tart. Ick!

A good laugh later and we were escorted to our tent for the evening. The generator is turned on each evening from 6-10 p.m. Outside of that time, there is no electricity in your tent. You can't really leave your tent after dark since there are no fences or anything. Wildlife can and does roam through at any time. This was not a big deal since we were pretty beat and ready to go to sleep by the time the lights shut off anyway. It's amazing how tiring it can be riding around on those dirt roads all day long, not to mention the excitement of not knowing what you'll see next.

Posted by zihuatcat 20:37 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania tarangire brenda Comments (0)

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