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Stepping Through Northern Tanzania with Green Footprint: A Report

Stepping Through Northern Tanzania with Green Footprint: A Report

Old Nov 18th, 2007, 11:22 AM
  #1  
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Stepping Through Northern Tanzania with Green Footprint: A Report

The idea of seeing more of Africa began percolating shortly after returning from Botswana in 2006. Even though we had our shots, the safari bug had bitten us.
Narrowing down options for east Africa, I focused on Tanzania. I read the Brandt Guide and Lonely Planet Tanzania and sent away for catalogs from some of the big safari specialists. The prices put me into sticker shock. I wanted to go on safari and not as part of a group. Surely there had to be a better way.

I lurked on Fodor’s for a bit, checked out lots of web sites and requested quotes from a few different types of companies: the US budget safari company that we used last year, the agent who had left that company to become an safari planner, a US/TZ based company and Green Footprint Adventure. Pleasantly, Green Footprint, based in Arusha, put together the most unique safari at the best price. Plus we would have a private tour unless we found some friends to join us. We were preparing to go as a couple but when I gave the itinerary and price to two friends, they wanted in. Aside from bringing down the cost pp, sometimes, no matter how much you love your spouse; there is such a thing as TOO much alone time.

The travel gods were smiling on us when we left Newark Airport on time -a phenomenon in itself and arrived early in Amsterdam. After a brief layover we were on our way to JRO.

<b>24 Oct – arrival Kilimanjaro Airport</b>

We deplaned into the warm night air around 8 pm local time. Somehow we were the last on line to get our visas but luckily our luggage was still spinning around on the baggage carousel when the process was completed. Being last into the arrival hall made it easy to spot our names on a sign with a now familiar logo after months of correspondence: those little feet. Such a relief to know we hadn’t wired money across the ocean to a fictitious company! Elisa was to be our official guide and Albert was in training, along for experience. Introductions all around and we packed our gear into the back of the land cruiser for the first of what would be many times.

Making our way through the darkness to Arusha and barely discerning the outline of Mount Kilimanjaro, we arrived at the gated entrance to Karama Lodge. The restaurant stayed open late to accommodate us so after a nice dinner we headed off to our stilted log chalet. The Arusha street dogs decided to serenade us for several hours and when they stopped, the local owls picked up the chorus. Not exactly a restful night but heh, we’d made it to Africa!
QueenofDaNile is offline  
Old Nov 18th, 2007, 11:48 AM
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Great start. A number of people have recently returned from safaris with Green Footprint--good to hear as we had enjoyed our day trip with them.

Looking forward to more!
Leely is offline  
Old Nov 18th, 2007, 03:15 PM
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So you were a group of 4. Great start.
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Old Nov 19th, 2007, 05:46 PM
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<b>25 and 26 Oct – Tarangire National Park</b>

After breakfast we met at our car and Elisa presented us with Green Footprint ball caps. We then made a quick stop at the GFA office to meet with managing director Mary Rijnberg for a briefing. More gifts: a Tombazzi map of Northern Tanzania and Green Footprint tee shirts. Battling our way through the Arusha rush hour we were soon on our way to Tarangire National Park.

Much has been written about the number of elephants in Tarangire in the dry season and it’s true. It certainly seemed like we saw hundreds as we drove through just a small section of the park on our first day. Also got our first glimpse of the mini migration that takes place in Tarangire: long lines of wildebeest and zebra racing along as if their lives depend on getting safely to the next destination. Oh that’s right...it does. Enjoyed a grand lunch at Matete picnic site, made even more memorable when DH lost a chunk of tooth allowing a ververt to take advantage of the confusion and steal a piece of cake. Saw a few lions at a distance but we still had hopes for more cats!

We left the park around 4:30 pm and headed to Maramboi Tented Camp over deeply rutted roads and driveways. Beautifully situated facing Lake Manyara, our large tent had a huge deck where we enjoyed sundowners and watched the sun set behind zebra, impala and ostrich. Nighttime noises: Munching zebra ripping out grass just outside the tent, gale force winds that I thought would take down the tent and our first hyena howls of the trip. Efficient solar panels were used for hot water and lighting, no electric outlets in the tents but our batteries were still holding their charge.
We returned to Tarangire the next morning and spent a full day of game viewing including a private lunch watching elephant activity in the spectacularly lime green Silale Swamp.

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Old Nov 24th, 2007, 06:53 PM
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<b>27, October - Mto Wa Mbu and Lake Eyasi</b>

Leaving Maramboi behind, we made our way to Mto Wa Mbu. Now at bustling center, this once nearly abandoned “River of Mosquitoes” area is home to people from many different tribes. Albert led us on a ”behind the scenes” tour of the banana farms, hospital, wood carvers, beer making process, granary and a local homestead. We could have sampled the freshly made banana beer but Albert was wary of the water source used in the process. We’ll stick with out bottled Safari and Serengeti beers, thank you. Catching up with Elisa and the car, we went deeper into the forest to a peaceful grove where a village lady prepared an amazing lunch consisting of 12 different dishes all made and served in traditional cooking pots over wood fires. Tilapia was fresh from the adjacent pond. Being a Saturday, the school was not open so we decided to return to Mto Wa Mbu on Monday morning before going to the Manyara airstrip.
At the entrance to Lake Manyara National Park we avoided the roadside begging baboons and took advantage of the park’s immaculate, tiled washrooms – similar to those at Tarangire. Not your usual “pit” stop. Then up the escarpment and past Karatu to the turn- off for Lake Eyasi. To call it a road would be a gross exaggeration. Bone jarring, filling rattling ruts in the earth would barely describe it. The first 1 ½ hours was a killer and then comes the “the better” road. Broken car parts litter the way ala wildebeest bones in the Serengeti. Don’t know how anyone could manage just a day trip to interact with the Hadzabe. You’re a better woman than I, ShayTay! Finally, Kisima Ngeda Camp appeared magically in an oasis at the end of the road, an intimate tented camp set on the shores of soda Lake Eyasi. There are just seven tents, each built almost entirely of local palm with a tranquil view of Lake Eyasi. There were 2 docking stations for recharging in the tent so we made sure to hook up before power cut off at 10 pm (sometimes earlier if the wind really acts up). We settled in for an early dinner and turn in so we could find the Hadzabe by 7 am.
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Old Nov 24th, 2007, 07:03 PM
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I would agree with your comment on 2 days with the Hadzabe. I think your report will start to become very interesting for the mother who wants to take her son to Lake Eyasi this summer.
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Old Nov 24th, 2007, 08:20 PM
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<b>27, October - Hunting with the Hadzabe</b>
The plan was to find the Hadzabe early enough to go out with the hunting party. By the time we picked up our local translator/guide, Assan, and arrived about half past seven, the men were already off with other visitors and their guide. Weakly offering the Hadza word for hello that Assan had taught us, we introduced ourselves to two women and their children. We got the grand tour of the campsite which consisted of shelters made only from sticks, adorned with skulls as trophies from past hunts and the cooking pot. The source of interest in the pot was the result of the hunt from the day before: baboon head! We were offered a taste but declined. Strips of baboon meat were draped over branches to dry into a sort of jerky. Then we were off with a woman who showed us how to dig tubers as a source for water and food. This time we accepted the sample, which was not bad at all. Three young boys returned to camp to catch us up to the hunting party. Right!!! Luckily there was cloud cover to keep the heat down as we tried to keep up with these lithe youngsters armed with bow and arrow. It seemed like we were constantly going up hill over rocky terrain and I kept wondering how we were going to make it back. The boys, while looking for game along the way, were working their way to higher ground in hopes of spotting their parents. In an act of anachronistic desperation, Elisa offered his cell phone to Assan to try to contact the other guide that was with the hunters. Here we were trekking with people who have been living virtually the same way for thousands of years and we were going to try to find them via cell phone. Miraculously, the hunting party appeared and began to prepare a fire to roast the three squirrels they had caught. Starting the fire by rubbing sticks and adding kindling, it was quickly hot enough to throw on the hapless victims. Scrapping off fur and pulling out the entrails, the boys ate first and shared with the seniors, occasionally tossing a scrap with the dogs. Oh yes, they did offer some to us but again we politely declined.
Back at Kisima Ngeda for a brunch more to our liking, we met delightful camp co-owner Nani who gave us family and camp history. It was fascinating to hear of such a self-sufficient lifestyle that includes preparing all the food, even the bacon! Swimming in the upper natural spring fishpond had been going on for years without a problem but one group of guests reported an incident of bilharzias. Everyone in Nani’s family has tested negative but to be safe, the pond has been closed for swimming pending test results from Arusha. Normally Lake Eyasi would be dry in October but because the short rains were so heavy in 2006, it never dried out. There is concern about water reaching the tents if the short rains are heavy again this season. The six remaining hippo of the lake usually lounge around the area if front of the camp because of the springs but this year they were out and about in other parts of the lake. Bird life was abundant and I even caught a peak of the resident marsh mongoose along the shore.
The afternoon excursion was a visit to the Datoga, once fierce warriors, now pastoral raising their cattle in the southwest highlands and around Lake Eyasi. The blacksmiths make jewelry for themselves and tourists as well as arrowheads that are traded with the Hadzabe -all made from melted locks and nails. A short walk brought us to the boma for a visit with the 88-year-old chief and his family. Some of the older women still have decorative facial tattoos around their eyes and wear goatskins. Luckily we were not asked to join their lively song and dance but did try a hand at grinding maize with modest results.
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Old Nov 24th, 2007, 10:21 PM
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I do see- the nasty little drive takes place on day one and searching on day two.
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Old Nov 25th, 2007, 08:25 AM
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Thanks for the details on your day. The cell phone incident is quite hilarious.

Would you see any value in 3 nights at Lake Eyasi?
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Old Nov 26th, 2007, 05:48 PM
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I think 2 nights at Lake Eyasi is fine as there are not too many activities other than the visits with the tribes, hiking, birding, and biking on the soda bed, if the lake is dry. Still, a great experience to stay over night and enjoy nature.
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Old Nov 26th, 2007, 08:15 PM
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Thanks for all the Lake Eyasi info--very interesting.

More, please.
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