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Safari for Photography with Roy

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Thank you all for the immense help before our trip to Tanzania the middle of November, 2007. After making the arrangements with Roy Safari, I realized I would be celebrating my 60th birthday in the Serengeti! We had two long layovers in London and Dar es Salaam before arriving in Arusha, 36 hours later (from LAX), but since we followed the anti-jet lag diet we were in great shape. So here's my report: At the Dar es Salaam airport, a taxi driver came over and sat beside my husband, Bill and began to explain to us why Tanzania is better than Kenya. "Tanzania is better than Kenya, because from Kenya, you don't see Mt. Kilimanjaro right. From Tanzania, you see it the right way. It's more beautiful!" Later he added, "You should learn Swahili, it's easy. Two weeks and you'd have it. Two months and you'd be really good." And so we were introduced to the gracious Tanzanian spirit and way of seeing things. As the heat sat heavy in the airport courtyard, several men strained to push a huge file cabinet with boards underneath, by rolling it on three steel tubes that they kept moving around front, the boards cracking under the strain--introducing us to the ingenuity here. We talked with a lovely Zambian couple, the wife swathed in oranges and browns, blacks, white, who were traveling to Arusha to their daughter's MBA graduation. When I asked where she would work, the father responded, "We don't know what bombshell she will drop on us next--where she will work, live..." reminding us of the similarities in parent-child relationships everywhere.
In Arusha, Baraka met us and took us to the headquarters of Roy for a briefing, to exchange money and to the Kibo Palace for two nights--a lovely place with a working hair dryer and a restaurant where we could eat herb-encrusted tilapia outside for about $ 20.
The next day, Baraka picked us up with a local guide Herry for a cultural visit to N'giresi. Herry grew up in the village next to it and knew many of the people. We drove over muddy, deeply rutted roads to the village a bit above the base of Mt. Meru. Ladies in colorful kangas carried loads of bananas, piles of towels and blankets on their heads--a trick taught them beginning at age 3, Herry says. In the village, we met with the mayor and his wife who brought us tea and we learned how some of the money helped the village to build schools and how tourists also choose to donate a bit more. 1000 primary students and 600 secondary students use the simple benches and plank tables. Along the way, we met Herry's wife and two children. She is "white," he says, a lighter black and is CHagga from around Mt. Kili. 300 guests came to their wedding, with 50-75% of the cost paid by family and friends. Herry has 9 sibs and since he is in the middle, he has no inheritance of land. He laughs. He had wanted to be a doctor. In the village we saw banana trees, corn, terraced mountain sides, elephant grass used both to nourish animals and to mark boundaries, hibiscus, bouganvilla, trumpet flowers,....
We visited a Maasai boma and the widow inside invited us to take pictures. As we walked back from the several kilometer walk, we saw the beginnings of about 600 villagers assembling to discuss school needs and ideas.
I can tell I need to shorten my descriptions--so I'll try! Back in Arusha, we asked Herry to continue with us to explore Arusha a bit and ended up walking to a Maasai market (bought some things, of course) and then to a circled area of grass where 10 wedding parties came to take pictures. Group after group, with their entourage of musicians and dancers who could move their hips in unbelievable ways, trombones. I was thrilled to take pix both of the parties and of the people watching, including a few Maasai. Three young girls patted and tousled my hair and asked me to take photos of them.
Next day, Baraka picked us up in the Land Cruiser for our safari. We drove first to a local market to buy beans for my Kinesis safari bag (a camera support) as Andy Biggs recommends. Also bought extra water. Then we were off on the first of our bumpy rides to Tarangire. Once there, we stopped at the entrance where they had informative signs and very clean toilets with TP, to my surprise. And then the animals appeared and it was worth the trip and the money. From zebras, to hawks, to elands, to water buck, to orribe, impala, incredible birds that Baraka could always identify, velvet monkeys, sausage trees with pods hanging like sausages, silver-backed jackals, etc, and of course the elephants and the baobob trees. Tarangire means "wart hog river," Baraka said, and we saw those also.
Lunch at a picnic stop with velvet monkeys and toilets--again! On and on and more fabulous animals until it was dark and we arrived at Kikoti tented lodge. Men appeared with hot washcloths and pineapple juice in sugar-rimmed glasses. A lovely netted bed awaited us--we were the only guests that night. Two guards escorted us to our room with flashlights. A kerosene lantern stood on the post before the steps leading up to our wood-floored tent. Hyenas serenaded us during the night. Dinner was lovely and I want to go back there! We learned more about our driver and the sacrifices he has made for his family--truly a man of character.
Okay, okay, I'll try to shorten this more. (The baobobs look either like monsters or as wise elders in a tree movie--living up to 2000-3000 years.) More wonderful animals, including a "bare-face-go-away bird, lions, and some Kimbunga, or whirlwinds. Then we were off to Ngorongoro Crater. Rutted, deep holes, mud, horrific ascent then descent into the crater (but it's worth it).
What can I say about the crater in November, except that we kept seeing more variety, including a hippo pool, flamingoes, lions, leopards, black rhino in the distance (but close enough for a picture with my 100-400 lens, herds of cape buffalo. We had box lunches and later exited the crater at 6 PM (we had a 24 hour pass). Raindrops pattered a soft music that night--one of the few times we had brief sprinkles during this time of "short rains." Good night at the very large Sopa Lodge--quite nice.
Back to the crater the next morning and learned that wart hogs are "very delicious" for lions and cheetahs. We saw the third black rhino and quite a few lions. For lunch (of my 60th birthday), we stopped at a picnic site and ate our boxed picnics on tree stumps where zebras munched and moved. Quite a memory. (Sorry ladies, only a toilette arabe there). On to the Serengeti: a grueling 3 hour drive as I kept wondering when we would get to the highway. We never did. We saw a pink lizard at the top of the look-out over the Serengeti entrance.
The bumpy roads were so rattling that the gearshift vibrated like a cobra doing the watusi. (On the way we visited the Olduvai Gorge--not our favorite--and the Maasai village where they wanted $ 50 and we didn't want to pay that. After MUCH negotiation, they allowed us (to make a LONG story short) to take pix for $ 20--that's all I wanted. The people assembled and the men asked Bill to match their jumping--about 10 times--and he did. Then their attitudes towards us totally changed and they embraced us herding us into their homes, schools, and markets and bargained very low. I could have taken photos there all day, but of course we needed to move along.
Serengeti--we spent three nights at the Serena and for some reason, we ended up with the suite! Don't know why, but we loved it. (didn't pay extra). You all know the animals we saw there--including more leopards, crocodiles, lionness with cubs,huge buffalo herds, etc, etc. On all but one day, we took box lunches and drove all day, returning at night. Our driver, Baraka, was a walking encyclopedia, and a perfect guide for us. He could not have been better. Can't say too much good about him.
Left the Serena after the third night and a breakfast of omelettes, sweet biscuits, pineapple, papaya, mango, sauteed mushrooms. Elieta, the greeter at the restaurant, who had learned our names the first day, had a package of Tanz. coffee for Bill and the front desk girl had shiny coins for our granddaughter. We usually travel in less expensive places, but we LOVED the Serena and the service.
Drove one hour to the airport and flew to Zanzibar. Baraka stayed with us until our plane lifted off and we had great conversations about families and Tanz. life.
Zanzibar was not the highlight for us as it was so humid and hot and our hotel, the Tembo, had AC that wasn't great at all and very small rooms. Normally we would have been very happy with the Tembo, but we had just come from the Serena, so it was a hard switch. Still, I had gone to Zanz. to photograph the carved doors, so were off wandering around Stone Town. Also took a tour there (helpful) and a spice tour--which was great. Zanzibar is a good place to buy souvenirs also. We liked the simple Monsoon Restaurant, a simple Swahili rest. and also the Serena outdoor restaurant.
Okay, I'm sure you are very tired of all this detail, so I'll just say you must see the slave market. I found tears in my eyes as we looked at the monument to the slaves and learned the history and walked in their quarters. Truly horrible.
One thing we loved--the ginger carbonated drink made by Coca Cola. I also liked the Zanzibar Secrets and the Memories stores and a couple other stores near the Tembo as well as Fordham gardens.
Flew back to Dar es Salaam and stayed one night at the Holiday Inn--very nice. We finally felt cool after Zanz. Took a taxi to the Mwenga wood carving place and loved meandering there and picking a few things we could carry home.
Okay, I think I've written enough and it's time to cook dinner--I can answer questions if you have them. Forum answers to my photography questions were invaluable. Just a couple of quick suggestions:
3 kilos of beans is not quite enough for the safari bag. 4 kilos would be better.
2 cameras is a huge help. The 100-400 lens (Canon) was great.
The Lowepro mini trekker was fantastic for me.
The cheap 50 cent rain ponchos from a dollar store actually work great and are very very adequate.

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