Back From Our Third Tanzanian Safari - July 2011

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Aug 2nd, 2011, 07:46 PM
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Back From Our Third Tanzanian Safari - July 2011

For someone who never expected to fulfill a lifelong dream of getting to Africa, this third trip to Tanzania is more than a dream come true. For those of you who are in the planning stages of your “once in a lifetime” trip, be warned that once is never enough (as many Fodorites can attest)!

The planning for this trip began the instant the last one ended The itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive Arusha. Overnight Snow Crest Hotel
Day 2: Drive to Esilalei Maasai Boma to participate in traditional activities. O/N at boma.
Day 3: Esilalei Boma to Serengeti. O/N Lemala Mara Camp
Day 4: Full day Serengeti. O/N Lemala Mara Camp
Day 5: Full day Serengeti. O/N Kati Kati Camp
Day 6: Full day central Serengeti. O/N Kati Kati Camp
Day 7: Drive to Ngorongoro O/N Lemala Ngorongoro Camp
Day 8: Crater tour. O/N Farmhouse
Day 9: Drive to Tarangire. O/N Lake Burunge
Day 10: Full day Tarangire. O/N Lake Burunge
Day 11: Return to Arusha to exchange guides. Drive to West Kili. O/N Kambi ya Tembo
Day 12: Full day west Kili. O/N Kambi ya Tembo
Day 13: Drive to Mkomazi. O/N Babu's Camp
Day 14: Full day Mkomazi. O/N Babu's Camp
Day 15: Drive to Pangani. O/N Emayani Lodge
Day 16: Full day Pangani beach. O/N Emayani Lodge
Day 17: Drive to Tanga. O/N Tanga Beach Hotel
Day 18: Drive to Arusha. O/N Snow Crest Hotel
Day 19: Return home

I was lucky enough to have my daughter Dreezy accompany me again on this trip as I did on the previous two. We share a common interest in/love of East Africa which makes Dreezy the ideal travelling buddy. Having only been home for a few days we are still recovering from those grueling international flights which seem to be slightly more tolerable on the way there than on the way home.

The Preliminaries
With two previous African adventures under our belts we felt we could probably write an instructional manual on the finer points of planning and packing for a safari. So we smugly managed to organize all our essentials plus a couple of non-essentials (such as the books we never seem to get a chance to read while on safari, and the sun screen that never seems to get applied) into one small duffle bag each. Then we not-so-smugly unpacked these into larger duffles when we realized that our cheeky planning did not allow any room to bring home the treasures we knew we wanted to shop for! Alas, the instructional manual is on hold until further refinement of the planning and packing takes place (probably requiring at least 2 more trips in advance of publication).

The Flights
Having flown through London and Nairobi on our previous trips, we decided to mix it up a bit this time and fly through Amsterdam to KIA. From home in Canada either of these routes costs about the same and each has it’s pros and cons:

• Schiphol in Amsterdam is an easy airport to navigate whereas transitioning through Heathrow requires a change in terminals which is an added hassle.
• The connections in Amsterdam are better (shorter wait times) than those through Heathrow.
• In our opinions, the service and food on KLM are not as good
• KLM unexpectedly separated the two of us on the Amsterdam to KIA flight as we boarded the plane (and already had our seat assignments)! Did our reputation as obnoxious passengers preceed us?
• By not transiting through London we missed out on spending time with Kennedy, seeing the sights and shopping in Nairobi

Note: Either route is tough without a stop-over!
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Aug 3rd, 2011, 06:19 AM
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Oh you are so lucky...I have only been to Africa once...Kenya this past spring...I have been obsessed with it since...I can't wait to go back..Hoping for Tanzania spring 2012..keep your fingers crossed for me!
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Aug 3rd, 2011, 06:44 AM
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We touched down in Tanzania on time and endured the long wait to get our Visa’s upon arrival. Our luggage had kept up with us (unlike last time!) and we were eventually off to the Snow Crest Hotel for an overnight.

The Snow Crest is a 2 year old hotel located on the Arusha-Moshi highway about 30 minutes from the airport. It is clean and very bright with an unusual, modern architecture that is full of greenery/gardens and several water features. We particularly enjoyed it because it is quiet and peaceful. In the past we’ve stayed at hotels in town which are nice but noisy. Pricing is reasonable - somewhere between the Impala and Arumeru Lodge (we've stayed at both). We found the staff attentive and the food very good. Our room backed onto a little banana plantation and the only sounds through our screened window - no need for mosquito netting - were a soft breeze and the early morning lowing of a lone cow.

We chose to have a late start to our first day “in the bush”, so after a good sleep to adjust to the time change and a substantial breakfast (and my first cup of Tanzanian coffee – YAY!) we headed out for what would prove to be 24 of the best hours of my life…

Nicholas - our guide for the first leg of our safari - and Clamian - the Masai owner of Warrior Trails with whom we booked our trip, and our fabulous guide on our previous 2 trips - picked us up at the Snow Crest and took us into town to hit the fabric store, bead store, coffee store, art shops and the bank. I don’t think the fellas realized what they were in for when we requested a trip into town, but after the expedition, it was actually time to consider lunch so off we went to Shanga.

The KiSwahili word for bead, Shanga gives meaningful work to profoundly disabled and marginalized adults in Arusha by way of a commercial enterprise that makes and sells beads/jewellery from recycled glass. Situated on a large, peaceful coffee plantation, we thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Shanga and our hot, four course lunch at Shanga’s River House Restaurant. All income from the Shanga workshop, restaurant and shop sales go towards employing more disabled people. Such an inspiring, worthwhile enterprise, and well worth a visit for a tour, lunch and shopping.

Following lunch and on the road again, we headed off to Esilalei Maasai village to spend time engaging in traditional Maasai activities and then spend the night in the boma. The village is located in the Manyara/Tarangire wildlife corridor near Makuyuni, about a 2 hour drive from Arusha. The boma shares space with wildlife that includes giraffe, gazelles, zebras, elephants, leopards and hyenas in particular. Upon our arrival we were greated by lively, fun groups of Maasai warriors and women dancing and singing. Our enthusiasm for the engaging performances seemed to fuel more and more singing and dancing, and we found ourselves completely immersed in this colourful, dusty, participatory event that only subsided when we ran out of steam. Clamian provided translation for the verbal welcomes that followed after which we were presented and adorned with shukas and beaded jewellery made by the village women. Wow! This truly warm reception was not the contrived or rehearsed event of a “tourist boma”, but a demonstration of genuine welcome and joy at the boma of Clamian’s extended family.

The welcome ceremony was broken up with the distant tinkling of cow bells which signalled the return of the herds that had been wandering on their daily quest for water and food...it was milking time. The cattle were corralled and let out in small groups for milking. Their calves were calling endlessly from another corral in a soft but desperate attempt to speed up their turn for a drink. With only a portion of the milk required for human consumption, there was plenty for the calves. The cattle appeared very healthy, and the relationships the Maasai had with each individual was obviously caring and their knowledge of each individual's lineage was extensive - not really a surprise considering the cattle are a symbol of wealth and a source of pride for the people. My pathetic attempts at milking were a source of considerable amusement when “my” cow kicked at me repeatedly. I obviously didn’t have “the touch”. None-the-less, it was fun to try and more fun to watch it done expertly by the local women who moved effortlessly throughout the herd as the light wained and the animals became quiet silhouettes in the stunning orange sunset.

Up next: Sacrificing a goat in our honour!
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Aug 3rd, 2011, 06:47 AM
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Neuman, I truly have been lucky with my 3 trips. My fingers are crossed for you that you'll get to Tz in 2012!
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Aug 3rd, 2011, 08:32 AM
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Calo,
Thx, mine are crossed too, I can't stop thinking about Africa!!
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Aug 3rd, 2011, 09:48 AM
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Welcome home from #3 and thanks for the Esilalei Maasai Boma info.
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Aug 3rd, 2011, 02:33 PM
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Looking forward to reading more!
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Aug 3rd, 2011, 04:28 PM
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Welcome back Calo! Where in Canada are you?

Can't wait to read more about your boma experience!
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Aug 4th, 2011, 12:50 PM
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Thank you, atravelynn. The boma experience was fabulous. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

I hope to have another installment soon, Kavey.

Kath, I met you at Lynda's GTG a few months ago, but you won't make the connection with my "Calo" name on the forum I really enjoyed reading your trip report!
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Aug 4th, 2011, 08:34 PM
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Cathy????
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Aug 5th, 2011, 06:58 AM
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The Maasai Olpul meat eating occasion for warriors is mostly ceremonial. Traditionally an Olpul was to prepare the warriors for raiding other tribes for their cattle. These days the ceremony usually occurs at the time of a wedding or circumcision. Despite many marriage offers to Dreezy (and thankfully no mention of circumcisions), in this case the Olpul was in honour of our visit.

Following milking time in the village we took an early evening walk through the bush with Maasai warriors to their Olpul retreat in a picturesque wooded ravine where a goat was to be slaughtered in honour of our visit. As a vegetarian, I knew I wasn’t going to eat any of the meal, but I wanted to witness the whole event which turned out to be far more tolerable than I had imagined it would be. The goat was dispensed with quickly and humanely, it’s blood was consumed, and the carcass was butchered, scewered and cooked over an open fire. A large pot of soup made over a second fire. I was impressed with the fire making skill of the warriors who had a roaring blaze going in less than a minute using the fire-by-friction method which I had failed miserably during my decades of attempts while camping in the Canadian bush.

Later that evening we enjoyed a dinner prepared by our cook Immanuel who had come from Arusha to supplement “our” goat meat with a lovely meal of tilapia, fresh salads, potatoes and beets. Although I didn’t try the goat, Dreezy ate it and thought it was a little bland but otherwise delicious.

Around a campfire under a pitch black, magnificently starry African sky, we enjoyed story and joke telling Maasai-style. It seems nothing was lost in translation as our two cultures visited and laughed together. Having opted out of overnighting in a dung hut (next time, for sure), bed was a very cozy sleeping bag in a comfortable canvas tent within the confines of the boma. Our chemical toilet was a few steps away in a canvas “outhouse”.

The following morning, after a night of being lulled by cattle bells and the sounds of the bush, we took a short walk before breakfast to determine what animals had been past the boma during the night. Elephant, hyena and giraffe were among these.

When we planned our first Tanzania safari I thought we were going for the wildlife which I had studied for years. We now return to Tanzania for it’s unique wildlife, habitats and landscapes and for it’s indigenous communities about whom we are passionate. I hope that bringing visitors and locals together through unique cultural experiences such as we had, will help ensure the integrity and value of Tanzania’s indigenous communities despite significant (often politically charged) pressures such as loss of habitat and marginalization caused by the evolving travel and tourism industry in Tanzania.

Up next: the mad dash to the Mara River
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Aug 6th, 2011, 07:11 PM
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Very inspiring...thanks so much.
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Aug 7th, 2011, 03:33 PM
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Great account of your visit and ceremony.

Since you mentioned it, does the dung hut appear in your plans in the upcoming future?
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Aug 8th, 2011, 06:28 PM
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Thank you for the nice comments, shouldbewriting and atravelynn.

I'd have to say that the dung hut is in plans for the future, although I don't have a firm date to return - just a burning desire
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Aug 8th, 2011, 06:39 PM
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Lemala Mara Camp had been on my destination bucket list for a while, and because the only booking we could get at this camp meant a l-o-n-g drive from the Maasai boma to the Northern Serengeti, I was determined to fit it into the itinerary for 2 nights. So, shortly after breakfast we loaded ourselves into our fabulous, roomy Land Cruiser and off we went with Nicholas.

We hit it off with Nicholas right away and consider ourselves fortunate to have had him as our guide for the first portion of our trip. We laughed and sang our way through the scenic countryside of Mto wa Mbu at the foot of the Rift Valley and the fertile red farms of Karatu to the Ngorongoro highlands, past the crater and Maasailand to the short grass plains, through Naabi Hill and into the long grass plains, and eventually through the Seronera Valley north to Mbuzi Mawe where we stopped for lunch. We stayed at Mbuzi Mawe on our last trip, so it was nice to revisit it if only long enough for a hot meal.

As I indicated in my previous post, our drive was a bit of a mad dash to get to Lemala Mara in the Northern Serengeti, but we enjoyed it thoroughly and had plenty of time for game viewing along the way.

Situated within easy reach of the Mara River in the vast, remote wilderness of the Northern Serengeti, Lemala Mara Camp is in a superb location for terrific game viewing. We were greeted warmly and enthusiastically by the camp staff upon our arrival, and shown to tent #4. Wow! what a tent – it was spacious and comfortable with 2 double beds, chandelier (!), rugs, storage chests, leather chairs, exceptionally large bucket shower, flush toilet, wooden flooring, 24-hour solar lighting, and running water. The beautifully kitted-out mess tent had separate bar and lounge areas, and there was a lovely firepit for sundowners.

We spent 2 full days at the Mara River chasing the migration around. The region was much greener than when we witnessed the river crossing 3 years ago, so the 100,000 or so animals we saw were not quite at the stage of being ready to cross into Kenya. Rather, we enjoyed watching them muster, re-muster, make false starts at river crossings, and even perform the occassional reverse river crossing. It was quite a study in animal behaviour and endlessly entertaining to watch. Resident game including giraffe, zebra, crocodiles, lions, hyenas and mongoose was abundant and added to the excitement of being in the Mara region at migration time.

Food at the camp was marvelous – quite possibly the best of any camp or lodge on any of our 3 safaris – and our beloved little staffer Jackson who saw to our every need without being intrusive, was delightful. We were pleased to hear from Nicholas that the guide quarters at this camp were excellent - this is something that many safari-goers do not consider when booking accommodations, but it is important to us that our guide be comfortable during the trip too.

For those of you who are able (or have the inclination) to try out a luxury tented camp in the Serengeti, I highly recommend Lemala Mara. Later in our trip, Lemala Ngorongoro became another favourite camp.

Up next: Kati Kati
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Aug 8th, 2011, 07:39 PM
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Sounds a fantastic trip. I was especially interested in your account of Lemala Mara and that area as we have 4 nights booked there early next august. Its our first trip to Tanzania being frequent Zim, Botswana, SA goers. We are also going to Lemala Ngorongoro and Erwajan as we got discounts for over 9 nights so look forward to your report on Ngotongoro. We are flying between which is our choice as we will be doing a lot of driving in Rwanda and we are used to having camp guides anyway.
The boma experience sounds so interesting. Only 11 more months. Do you have plans for your next trip yet?
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Aug 8th, 2011, 09:14 PM
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Very much enjoying your report and your most excellent adventures.
Plum
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Aug 8th, 2011, 09:37 PM
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Any trip that involves a goat sacrifice is a trip worth reading about.

You really visited a lot of places and your itinerary is almost expedition-like rathet than holiday-like, but that is good for us as you have even more places to report on and some very interesting ones in there too. I'm look forward to the rest - especially from West Kili onwards.

Did you dream this itinerary up yourself?
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Aug 9th, 2011, 07:26 AM
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kimac, I envy your trip next year. You will love your Tanzania experience although it will be quite different from Zim, Bots and SA. I'm happy for you that you're booked into Lemala properties. They were our favorites of this trip. I'm already planning my next trip to Samburu and the Mara in Kenya, and to the southern parks of Tanzania. I will likely take the time to overnight at the boma again if I am anywhere near Arusha.

Thank you, Plum. I'm enjoying reliving my adventures while writing the trip report.

kimburu, we decided to make this trip really worth the hefty international air fares by staying a little longer than we have in the past. Yes, we came up with this itinerary on our own with some help from Warrior Trails who pulled it all together. Thank you for reading.
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Aug 10th, 2011, 10:40 PM
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Welcome back Calo & Dreezy! (Tell Dreezy I got the card, will be emailing her this weekend....) I am enjoying reading your report & am dying to hear if you had any luck with my 'urgent' ooops email I sent when you first left....
It's late, just wanted to let you know I'm reading!
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