I researched safaris and safari companies before we left the states so I was armed with some costs (they’re expensive) and a good idea of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. My first thought was to go into Arusha and shop the safari companies in town. But as we were at the hostel and the owner, Justin, arranges safaris, I decided to see what he had to offer. There were a number of variables that factored into pricing, the key one for us was being able to get up in the middle of the night for a pit stop and not being some predator’s midnight snack! Traipsing around Arusha with a scant few hours of sleep played into the scenario, as well. After all was settled, we paid a touch more than $280 pp/day which $60 pppd less than any quote I’d gotten previously. An expected RTW budget buster, for sure, but I thought I did well and it turned out to be a winning move.
Arusha was one chaotic, crowded, dirty, dusty crap-hole of a city. (And I say that will all due respect). Justin took us into town and helped us get a nicer place to stay in town as well as negotiating our way through the urban morass to get a SIM card for our phone. We were ready to roll the next day.
The road to Tarangire National Park was packed with detours or “diversions” leading off the main road on to the most pot-holed, jarring roads imaginable. Since it’s the dry season the dust from other cars could bring visibility down to a blinding 5-10 feet at times. And in the Tanzanian’s road engineer/administrators’ infinite wisdom, they added speed bumps just to make sure no one sped on these un-speedable highways. In fact, they even had speed bumps on the newer sections of that stretch of highway. Thank goodness for some of these things as on occasion I’d seen and heard things in/about other countries that made the U.S. look third world. Tanzania took care of that.
On the first day of the safari (or game drive, as they’re called, I was sitting at a picnic bench in the perimeter of the area eating a food roll-up of some kind when, before I knew what happened and faster than I could blink, a monkey came down from the tree and grabbed it out of my hand. On the third day, at crowded Ngorongoro picnic area, there were Black Kites (a kind of raptor) flying over head and no one got out of their cars to eat. We were told that if they mistook your hand or finger for something to eat, you could get hurt.
We saw this big guy above on the last day of safari in Ngorongoro conservation area. It was mid-day and he looked very very content. It’s good to be the King!
Our driver/guide, Ibrahim, was excellent. A 15-year veteran guide, he was still interested in showing and describing the wildlife and flora and fauna. He had a field book for detail, too, and he had a couple of funny stories he shared with us along the way.
We counted 11 lions in Ngorongoro.
Ramadan started on the second day of our safari. As a practicing muslim, Ibrahim would wait until beyond sundown to break fast, and then head to the local mosque to pray. Each morning he was with us during Ramadan he showed up feeling refreshed and renewed. It was good to see.
We saw tons of zebra and wildebeest. They were easily the most abundant and visible game.
Every time I’d see a hyena I would think of the movie “The Lion King” and hear Cheech Marin’s voice playing the hyena.
The areas we visited are south of the Serengeti and part of the East branch of the Rift Valley. Here’s a list of the parks/conservation areas we visited and (a fairly complete) list of what we saw in each area.
Tarangire National Park, Savannah Woodland
Lion, Giraffe, Elephant, Thomson Gazelle, Grant’s Gazelle, Warthog, Zebra,Water Buck, Wart hog, Wildebeest, Ground Horned-bill, Superb Starling, Ash Starling, Rock Hyrax
Manyara NP, Woodland
Mammals and birds: Elephant, Zebra, Giraffe, Blue Monkey, Baboon , Black faced monkey, Grey headed Monkey, Guinea fowl, Grey Crowned Crane, Cormorant, Lesser Flamingo, Heron, Egret, Pelican, Stork, Cape Buffalo, Thomson Gazelle, Warthog, Yellow billed stork, Dik Dik, Secretary Bird, Tamarin tree, Sycamore Fig, Pigeon tree, Sandpaper tree, Mahogany, Quinine tree
Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Crater Savannah and Woodland
Lion, Hippopotamus, Black Rhino, Zebra, Jackal, Kuri Bustard, Grant’s Gazelle, Thomson Gazelle, Sacred Ibis, Black Kite, Candelabra Cactus, Yellow Back Acacia
We said goodbye to our safari with a rousing drive home via the same route, diversions, dust and all.