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Friday, March 2, 2012

Your place in the circle of life - Tanzania Migration

As the seconds trickle by, legs set to leap at any moment, waiting for the perfect opportunity. In a split second he leaps from he’s crouched position, concealed between grass.. Leaping into the air he capture’s he’s prey, tearing through the gazelle’s gullet he’s finally satisfied, he now drags his lunch to a secluded spot where he will be able to satiate he’s appetite…

Hakuna matata. What a wonderful phrase. Hakuna matata. Ain't no passing craze. It's a problem free..philosophy. Hakuna matata!

Jumbo Tanzania.. ! Jumbo Kilimanjaro! During the 45min flight from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro I could not wait to get my first glimpse of the mighty Kilimanjaro.. and as luck was on our side we had a perfect clear view of Kili.

I must admit I am not a nature person and anything that crawls and slithers will make me run a mile, so for the first day I did not know what to expect and had horror visions of snakes and bugs.. But as the trip went on I forgot all about the city girl and truly started enjoying natures best! And so the adventure began

“You have forgotten who you are and so forgotten me. Look inside yourself. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the circle of life.”
-- Lion King, The

The first night we spent at Kia Hotel at Kilimanjaro hotel. This hotel is only 3min drive from Kilimanjaro airport. You will get a fantastic view from their pool area of Mount Kilimanjaro and we were very lucky as we had a crystal clear view. The lodge and rooms are very clean but basic and offers you a very nice tranquil atmosphere set in the midst of their lush tropical gardens.
The next morning we started our journey to Lake Manyara. On our way we drove through Arusha town, which is about 1 hour from Kilimanjaro. 

When we got to the gates of Lake Manyara National Park, I was so excited as this was my first official game drive ;-) So all decked out with my sunglasses, Hat and fully loaded camera, we took of in our 7-seater open roof land rover.

Lake Manyara, I think should definitely be a stop before heading off to Serengeti or the crater. You will pass Tarangire National Park and the snake park along the way. 

Here you will find a very diverse sight where lush green foliage hides some of nature’s best predators in comparison with the endlessly dry land of the Serengeti. This is a painters dream as you get picture perfect views of Giraffes, Flamingos, Antelopes and Buffalo lounging along the shores of the lake, while in the distance you can visit hippos in the water pools. 

You can be rest assured you will feel nature’s infinite beauty especially after a game drive, relaxing on the deck at your lodge; you are overcome with serenity as all you observe is nature at its finest.
On our game drive we spotted Elephants, buffalo, Giraffes, hippos, Antelope, Zebra and LOTS of monkeys. This was actually very entertaining.. Everywhere you go you would find the monkeys grooming themselves in very odd positions, which had me in giggles most of the time, and of course if you lucky, you will spot mountain lions which Juan heard calling him that night at Lake Manyara Wildlife Lodge.. ;-)

Lake Manyara Wildlife Lodge is strategically located on the very edge of the vertiginous western escarpment of the Rift Valley, affording magnificent views down across the whole Lake. This lodge was not what I expected and I was very much surprised by the excellent service and layout of the hotel. Just be warned, Mosquitoes are in abundance here so please make sure you are well protected. We also visited Serena Lake Manyara which has the most awesome infinity pool overlooking the lake.

The next day we set out for the Serengeti via the Ngorongoro Crater.
We visited Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge which has a lovely view of the crater. We then set out for Serengeti, stopping for a picnic lunch along the way at Olduvai Gorge.
Olduvai Gorge has a small museum which you will be able to visit after lunch which includes fossils of both human and animals that were dug up from the gorge.
The drive to Serengeti is very long, dry and dusty. When you finally enter the Serengeti National Park, you can’t wait to look out for animals; we spotted plenty of antelopes, Giraffes, birds, ostriches, LOTS of Zebra’s and Wildebeest. 

Please be alert for the troublesome Tsetse fly, the government is trying to get this under control by putting up black and blue nets that attracts them. Try and wear light colors as the tsetse fly is attracted to dark colors mainly black and blue. 

Serengeti is very different from Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro crater. Here you are surrounded by color and vegetation. In the Serengeti all you see is dry parched terrain. In the Serengeti we stayed at Seronera Wildlife Lodge and then we spent a night at Lobo Wildlife lodge. Both these lodges are outstanding and the staff makes your stay a memorable one. We got to see “Mufasa” and “Serabi” (Lion and Lioness), both of them lounging in the middle of the road right next to our vehicle.. Looking at them, all you want to do is cuddle them.. Fortunately I controlled myself otherwise I would have been the nibble of the morning ;-)
After this encounter we often spotted lions lounging on the branches of the sausage trees, looking sooo adorable!
Throughout the drive in Serengeti you keep on imagining where the artists for the lion king got all their backgrounds, as every second rocky outcrop could be the one Simba would be held over or where the stampede ran through..
On the last day in the Serengeti we got to see a Cheetah and her baby cubs having breakfast on a gazelle and we were very lucky to get very close to this.. What an experience.

On the drive back to Ngorongoro Crater you leave behind the hot dry weather to cooler conditions. The crater is very cold and this is no exaggeration.. 
From the top of the crater you wonder what could possibly be down there… doesn’t look like much but once in the crater you will be very amazed. 

Here we saw a very lonely, injured hyena.. my sympathies really went out to him, watching him walk next to a lake, so depressed with his head bowed and all the troubles in the world on his head, whilst all the animals just took flight as he stepped in there direction. 

On the other side of the lake were a few lion and lionesses huffing and puffing by the waters edge. A lioness looked wounded as she had a cut and blood on her body. Nearby were more zebras, Wildebeest, buffalo, Antelope and Flamingo’s just waiting for movement from the lion’s in order to flee for their lives. 
Here you will mostly find old elephants with huge tusks that are almost dragging to the ground as this is what we’d call the elephant graveyard or the old age home. We also saw 2 black Rhinos in the crater, which was the highlight of the crater experience for me.  
My overall thoughts on the accommodation are as follows; we visited all the Serena and Sopa Lodges, Gibbs farm and 2 tented camp sites. I would recommend the Serena lodges as the quality is very good. The wildlife lodges were a huge surprise; I did not expect quality accommodation as the web sites do not have very updated pictures. The lodges have just been renovated and are now in excellent conditions. They were also one of the first lodges in the area so they have excellent views and are situated in prime spots. We received excellent service from the staff and we were made more than welcome at the lodge, it’s definitely a lodge I will try sell more of.
Me looking over the Ngorongoro crater

The ground operator we use is based in Aruhsa and is only a radio call away from all the drivers that take you on safari; you are always in contact with the main office so you can be rest assured you in good hands.
All the safari vehicles have open roofs and small fridges for water and any other drinks you might want to keep chilled.
Our guide was very knowledgeable and always willing to go the extra mile to make sure we got the most out of our safari experience.
Along the way there are rest stops with public toilets so don’t worry people, you do not have to stop in the middle of the bush for a rest stop ;-)
Meals are generally buffet unless the hotel is running on low occupancy where they will then have a set menu with 2-3 different meal options.
Your lunches are generally packed picnic boxes which the lodges will give the driver when you leave in the morning. I did not particularly like these picnic box lunches and would rather suggest you take hot lunches at the lodges but this would mean extra driving.

I was very fortunate to be chosen to go on this awesome, once in a lifetime experience visiting Kilimanjaro, Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater and this is something I will remember with great awe. Asante Sana .. Squash banana .. to African Encounters for adding a memorable tick to my bucket list!

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