Tag Archive: Tanzania



It’s a wrap! Done with my blogs on my recent trip to Kenya and Tanzania. And here’s the blog summary. Just click away.

 

Nairobi

Treetops Lodge in Aberdares

Lakes Nakuru and Bogoria

Hippos of Lake Naivasha

Balloon Ride Over the Maasai Mara

The Day My Camera Jammed

Not Exactly Roughing It

A Visit To A Maasai Village

The Great Migration

Safari Woes

Ngorongoro

Lake Manyara

 

Twelve blogs? I was on a roll πŸ˜‰

Here’s more. Mi apologia, but can’t resist waxing poetic πŸ™„

 

I drifted through my Safari dreams

Long-kept, nurtured and cherished

Stayed awake through the long flight

Landing like a Zombie in Nairobi.

 

From Treetops Lodge to the famous lakes

Nakuru, Bogoria and Naivasha

We finally reached the savanna

Stretching from Maasai Mara to Tanzania.

 

Stopped by to huddle with Maasai Villagers

Just as well to jump with the lion slayers

Then off the next morn for a balloon ride

Over the plains, before another safari drive.

 

Lions feasting on a wildebeest

And another with a zebra foot

Circle of Life may seem harsh

But such is the nature of life.

 

Ngorongoro is so refreshing

Animals too happy to be migrating

Exactly how I felt in our luxury camp

It’s just too good, I wish not to move.

 

But alas, there is one last game drive

Not just off to the plains nor the lakes

Manyara has a little bit of all, around

Plus a swamp where hippos abound.

 

Maasai Mara and Serengeti

Jambo, Jambo can’t forget thee

Dusted and wasted we felt

Asan Masante, these memories won’t melt.

 

 

Kwaheri, Africa! πŸ’•


No big deal, really. But if I were to do this again, I’d likely do this just a little differently. Like I’d concentrate on just Maasai Mara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara to save on those lonnnng, bumpy rides. In my book, the first 2 are what Safari dreams are made of. Bite the dust and enjoy the game drives! The last 2 is like “safari the easier way” because Ngorongoro area is such a vast expanse the animals are in plain view! Hide and seek kept to a minimum. The animals happily co-exist here. Well, for sure, there are predators but there are nearly no tall grasses where they can hide. Manyara on the other hand “completes” the deal, in a lush vegetation way. It’s good for tired nerves and limbs. No regrets waking up early for these animal sightings. Except that the tree-climbing lions went into hiding. Such a glorious experience. But a safari holiday can surely benefit from more time spent in the camp and lodges we’ve stayed in in the last 3 places. These are my woes. Would have relished more time spent here.

Ole Serai Luxury Camp

(Turner Springs, Tanzania)

This is clearly our favorite. Newly-opened actually, part of the Wellworth Collection, a chain of luxury camps and hotels. It is a luxury camp with all amenities except a bath tub. Acacia trees all around, an impressive bar lounge and perfectly-designed semi-permanent luxury tents with both sunrise and sunset views. Beautiful during the day, even more beautiful when the African sky bursts into starry nights and the walkways to the lounge are dimly lit. I only wish they had steak or veal or venison for dinner πŸ₯© to go with my cab sav on those cool nights. For more details and photos, check out this link to my earlier blog.

Ngorongoro Oldeani Lodge

Tented cabins, is that what it’s called? Not really roughing it, considering the opulently-designed main hall where breakfasts and dinners were served. Plus the bar lounge and pool area overlooking the crater rim. Fabulous view. If you’re lucky, you’d even enjoy a cultural performance by young Maasai adults — get ready to be floored by a la Cirque du Soleil acrobatics! Not to be outdone, our cabin has a huge balcony with magnificent views too. The sunsets viewed from here are particularly enchanting and relaxing. There’s a tub, again with a view, and an outdoor shower for those brave enough.

Lake Manyara Kilimamoja Lodge (Tanzania)

Another Wellworth Collection Hotel. Another tented cabin. The room’s layout can be a bit confusing but just like the previous hotel, there’s the tub, an outside shower and a huge balcony to enjoy. On a clear day, you can spot Mt. Kilimanjaro beyond the gorge. If not, you won’t feel cheated enjoying a stunning view of Lake Manyara or Mt. Meru, nestled right on the rim of the Great Rift Valley. The best balcony views we found here. Such a pretty sight to wake up to. I can get used to this 😊

So there. Three great hotels/camp but not much time to enjoy them. The itinerary can be tweaked to skip the lesser attractions, save on long road trips and spend more time in luxurious environs after a game drive. Or, if you’re a smaller group and you’ve got money to burn, take the small planes to shuttle you from camp to camp! And yeah, spend more time in those balconies. Front seats to stunning views. Have a flute of champagne, enjoy late breakfasts, go use the outside shower or just soak in the tub. The dinners in this part of the world can be improved but they’re not bad. Maybe I was looking forward to more African dishes, or better carvings, but they’d do. If only for the view πŸ˜‰ Make time to do NOTHING!


We’re on the last leg of our trip. And I thought that somehow, I’d miss the “aroma” of Africa, the iconic red-garbed, jumping Maasai men, the distinct chirps, groans, snorts and roars of wild animals, and the savannah dust! Ernest Hemingway once said Manyara is the loveliest lake in Africa. Perhaps because Manyara is more intimate compared to the vast expanse of the Serengeti Plains, and more green, more lush as compared to the open spaces in Ngorongoro Crater. Consider this: Laka Manyara is 127 square miles vs Ngorongoro’s 3,205 square miles and Serengeti’s 5,700 square miles. In fact, it feels more like a jungle. Also, it is home to the tree-climbing lions of Tanzania. Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky to spot even a single tree-climbing lion. Instead, we saw more or less the same game from the previous safari drives plus an abundance of baboons and monkeys swinging from tree branch to branch, or feeding on the abundant grass.

The bird lovers will love Lake Manyara. The “jungle” adventure here guarantees many bird sightings including pelicans, cranes and other waders in the very shallow lake which easily dries up certain times of the year. But hardly any flamingos. At least not as much as we saw in Lake Bogoria. Or even in Lake Nakuru. But this is Africa. Each park is unique. I’d venture to say this one is for the birders and tree lovers. There is a “treetop walk” where you can walk on hanging bridges between trees. And if you’re lucky, you may find the tree-climbing lions. Now that would really be one for the books.

(Bird photos from my friend Ernie Albano)

The baboons were everywhere. I’ve never seen so many in one morning. Unli-grass buffet for these baboons. The small ones looked so cute busily feeding themselves. And there were velvet monkeys too, busy swinging in the trees. Since this was our last outing, we weren’t too keen anymore to see more wildlife. You can say we’ve had our fill especially with the last 3 parks — Maasai Mara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro. And since the tree-climbing lions were a no-show, we were underwhelmed. No Matata! The Lake Manyara Kilimamoja Lodge with its balconies overlooking the lake and gorge were enough to give us a restful night on the eve of our departure from Africa. Asante Sana, Tanzania!


We came to Africa for the Great Migration of wildebeests, zebras and other wildlife from Serengeti Plains of Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. The Migration is an annual spectacle following a cycle where animals search for greener grass, risk lives and limbs crossing the Mara River where their predators lurk to spot the weakest among them. It’s a “food trip” for all of them migrants and predators. So Ngorongoro is a breath of fresh air as we spotted happy, fatter wildlife who seem like they found their “happy place”. A Paradise. No one is moving from here. No migration. The animals co-exist, seem playful and no kidding, they’re fatter!

The ancient name of Africa is Alkebulan which translates to “mother of mankind” or “garden of Eden”. The Egyptian word “Afru-ika” literally means “motherland”. There is a conservation area in this important prehistoric site where the discovered fossils are claimed to be earliest known evidence of the human species. After the discovery of human footprints here, it’s plausible that humanity was born here! I leave it to you to debate in your mind if this is likely the Garden of Eden. But there are more interesting facts to consider. Ngorongoro Crater is in Northern Tanzania where lies the Eastern Great Rift Valley. The area is actually an extinct volcanic caldera — the largest in the world — resulting from a volcanic eruption πŸŒ‹ where the cone collapsed some 2.5 million years ago. It is believed that the former volcano was as big as Mt. Kilimanjaro – the highest in Africa — before the implosion. Today, it is a mosaic of grassy plains, swamplands, forest, and lakes which act as one big playground for an assortment of wildebeests, rhinos, hippos, lions, cheetahs, leopards, flamingos, Egyptian geese, gazelles, hyenas, warthogs, waterbucks, elands, zebras, elephants, vultures and many species of migratory birds. Birders would love it here. Maybe they can name the countless birds we found. There are no giraffes as they can’t enter from the steep sides down to the crater lake, but they litter the volcanic rim.

If you’ve watched the epic film “Out of Africa”, you’d recall the scene where Denys (Robert Redford) flies over the Maasai Mara and Ngorongoro Crater. That breathtaking scene from the air while the soundtrack of Out of Africa was playing — remember? Unlike the Maasai Mara and Serengeti Plains, wild animals here are in plain view. As we drove from the rim down to the crater lake, we found so many things going on it’s almost insane. Wildebeests at play, mommy and baby ellies out for a leisurely stroll, hippos grunting and snorting, some zebras playing “dead” on the sun-kissed ground, the cape buffaloes don’t seem as threatening, ostriches a-strutting, impalas, gazelles and other antelopes looking like they’re just waiting to be photographed by strangers. The area sure looks like some Membership Club or playground. If you’re only visiting one park and limited to one safari drive in as little time as possible, try Ngorongoro. The Big 5 is here. There are rare black rhinos here. And the densest population of lions in the world is here. It may not even require as much effort to find these cats. Besides, it’s cooler and less dusty here!

A permit is required to enter the crater and gorge. Mercifully, responsible tourism is observed here. Is it the Eight Wonder of the World? Frankly, I still couldn’t grasp the idea that a mighty volcano the size of Kilimanjaro once stood here. Even mind boggling is the fact that the volcano erupted and collapsed inward! Do volcanoes do that? And what were the animals that may have gone extinct with that volcanic eruption 2.5 million years ago? Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yeah, we’re both thinking dinosaurs. They did find some Dino bones here, along with stone tools used by humans. Now, I’m thinking Fred and Wilma. You guessed it. The Flintstones. On a more serious note, the beauty of Ngorongoro is truly remarkable. But even more intriguing is the mystery it held. For now though, I’m content with what I’ve seen and experienced. I’m happy the animals are happy. I’m hopeful the Tanzanian government maintain the “sanctity” of this site and not compromise for the sake of tourism bucks. God bless Africa!

The Great Migration


Just. Keep. Moving.

This annual spectacle involves up to 2 million wildebeests moving between the Serengeti Plains in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. You may call it a “food trip”. After all, them wildebeests and zebras traveling, migrating together are seriously in need of greener grass such that they move from one side to the other, and then back. The herd crosses the Mara River where predator beasts lurk, searching for the weakest amongst the migrants, ready to pounce on its prey. We didn’t see any of such NatGeo drama where a lion 🦁 actually chases and kills and feasts on one poor wildebeest or zebra, but we had close encounters with some lions guarding its prized kill, calling on the rest of its pride to join the feast, and a junior simba dragging a zebra foot.

Animal tracks visible from a hot air balloon.

The Grand Migration follows a cycle. And those who wish to view this magical wildlife in its annual journey must heed certain rituals. Like waking up early. At sunrise, you stand a good chance of seeing a “kill” involving these nocturnal hunters. At the very least, you can catch them eating their prey with a vulture or two waiting for the leftover carcass. It’s not easy especially for the late risers, but the sacrifice adequately rewards. We spotted quite an assortment of these lionesses with her cubs but only a few of the alpha males with their glorious mane.

πŸ“Έ by Ernie Albano
πŸ“Έ by Ernie Albano

From the hot air balloon, we shrieked in delight watching the wildebeests and zebras running or just hanging around. So many of them, that it looked like colonies of ants from a distance. The animal tracks were so visible too from the air. The Maasai Mara has acacia trees looking like giant bonsai plants where we spotted elephants, lions, cheetahs and even a lone sleeping leopard hidden up on its branches. I’m sure you’ve seen many photos of these Safari animals. My iPhone cam shots are not bad but I didn’t pass up the chance to borrow some photos taken by a friend who is a hobby photographer. But what I want to share here are photos of how we went about these game drives. Like how about waking up at 3 am, leaving your hotel at 4am to arrive before 5am where your hot air balloon is being prepped for flight? Or eating tons of dust following land cruiser safari vehicles who responded maybe just a few minutes earlier to radioed alerts on animal sightings in the vast expanse of the savannah. And mind you, radioed animal sightings don’t mean you can get there in a jiffy. Some drives can be a half hour to an hour of bumpy rides along dusty paths.

The land cruisers have no air conditioning. With an open sun roof, this is understandable. The early mornings are fine but it gets warmer towards noon. And so you’ve got dusty, bumpy and hot by midday and it’s not a good combination especially if there are no animal sightings. At one point, someone in our group told the guides we’ve seen enough antelopes, wildebeests, zebras and birds. This is so so our guides can skip these searches and instead focus on more lions, cheetahs, elephants, leopards, rhinos, hippos and even hyenas. It was our 3rd day of game drives, and we were tired despite all the excitement. Besides, it made lotsa sense to restrict the game drives to the Big 5. If at all, we’d change the rules only if there’s a kill, a mating or some animal in labor to give birth. Fancy that?

Here’s more. I’m a coffee lover and days don’t start with me without a good cup of coffee. But you need to watch your take of this fine liquid brew if you care not to do your business in the bush. In fact, you can’t actually pee in the bush! There are spots where there are toilets but while on a game drive, you just can’t tell your driver guide to stop so you can pee. No way, JosΓ©. If you think your bladder is not in good condition, skip the morning coffee. 😭 Then of course, there’s the packed lunch. Unless you start very early and wish to get back to your hotel for a decent lunch, you need to make do with a packed lunch. There are designated picnic grounds (with toilets) where you can eat — sometimes with the dust πŸ˜”. Whether you’re in Maasai Mara or Serengeti Plains, enjoy the dust. It’s on your jacket, your shirt, your pants, your HAIR! I hardly touched nor ran my fingers through my hair after that first time that it felt hard and thick with dust. Yay! Finally, do remember that the hotels and lodges know exactly what should go into that lunch box that won’t spoil till noontime. I’m talking boiled egg, a piece of fried chicken, a simple sandwich, a banana, an apple, juice and water. If you’re in luck, there may be a small bag of potato chips in your box. One hotel packed us a really good lunch — a choice of a veggie burger, or noodles with stir-fried veggies or something I had for 2 straight days: mixed rice and stir-fried chicken with veggies. It may be a cold lunch but certainly better than a boiled egg and fried chicken. Only issue is you’d eat it in a picnic area infested with “pets” looking like giant rodents. I don’t know what they are, but here, have a look. I found a couple cavorting right under the table beside my foot.

Soooo, have I managed your expectations well enough? 😊

Going on a safari requires that one keeps an open mind. There are a lot of surprises, hopefully pleasant surprises more than disappointments. The animal sightings are not guaranteed. You may not see what you like to see, and then see what you’re not interested in. Everything is sooo natural, unscripted, spontaneous and even unexpected. There are rules to follow, safety procedures to observe. You may cut short your game drives but such are decided “in the field”. If you’re the type who easily get bored, I suggest you don’t go. Those NatGeo documentaries watched from your Lazy Boy may be good enough for you. Plus you can have your hot meal while watching. As our Safari guide Joshua would say, you need patience to truly enjoy this. Hakuna Matata!


I’ve had Safari dreams. The Big 5, witnessing a “kill”, perhaps a mating, or even just watching the Great Migration. Every year, some 2 million wildebeests travel from the Serengeti Plains in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. This annual spectacle in these animals’ search for grass , lasts from July through October covering nearly 3,000 kilometers. To see all these wildebeests with zebras as their likely travel companions from a hot air balloon sounds mind blowing. And for good measure, a champagne breakfast in the bush after that awesome ride won’t hurt. 😊

https://youtu.be/Pc07D7si6ts

πŸ“Έ by Ernie Albano

We were a party of 12 pax. The 12-seater basket held all of us comfortably, 6 to each side, with Captain Peter right in the middle. Peter is a most amiable man who just happened to love his job taking tourists up in the air over the Maasai Mara National Park. He gently reminds us about the rules while acting as captain, spotter, narrator and even photographer. Every now and then, he’d point to the balloon shadow on the vast Savannah and the Safari cruisers following our flight on the ground as we drifted quietly over the plains. He navigated the balloon right up to the Tanzanian border and pointed out the animal tracks for the migrating animals, the rivers and even joined us briefly for the post-ride breakfast in the bush. He was gone before 9 am. He did warn us while up in the air that he’d make a quick, quiet leave in keeping with his “5 to 9 job” πŸ‘Œ

Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley is contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Wildlife viewing during the dry months when the wildebeests and zebras migrate from Serengeti to Maasai Mara starting in July is simply magical. Named after the Maasai tribe who lived in the region and using the Maasai word “Mara” which means “spotted”, this reserve is home to the Safari Big 5 as well as to many other wildlife animals. Up in the balloon, Capt. Peter spotted some zebras and wildebeests seemingly playing “follow the leader” as they either moved in a line or as a pack or herd. He likewise spotted a lion but only one of us saw it. I wasn’t quick enough. He lent us his binoculars but I just knew I couldn’t build a career as a spotter. Amazing how these animals expertly camouflage themselves on trees or in the vast wilderness of the Savannah fields. Zebras make a breathtaking sight too when spotted from the air — white animals with brown or black stripes. Yes Virginia, brown. We’re told young zebras have brown stripes which turn black as they mature. I know. I didn’t know that too before coming here. What a spectacle seeing these striped animals run along with their wildebeest buddies!

This experience is absolutely worth waking up to at 3 am. Cold and sleepless, we left our hotel like zombies by 4am for a bumpy one-hour ride towards the “take off” spot where several other balloons lay on their sides before being inflated. It was very cold. And very dark. I went back to the Safari van to keep myself warm while the sun began to peek out before rising. Then the hot air balloon was readied for flight. Take off and landing were smooth. And I do like the pilot’s calm demeanour and modulated voice as he gently prepped us for minor bumps upon landing. The excitement made us forget we’ve been without nourishment since we woke up at 3am. Bush breakfast came with flutes of champagne. We can’t complain. Even the loo with a view was literally “with a view” because there is a huge gap between the flaps so that one sees the vast fields while doing his/her business.

Hot air balloon rides don’t come cheap. But I’m glad I did this. Would have wished to see zebras or wildebeests running and crossing the Mara river while predator lions and crocs lurk, eyeing the weakest among them. But the Great Migration is all there, running or not. Truly G.R.E.A.T. This natural phenomenon is just magical. Fantastic memories stored forever in my heart and mind ❀️