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Trip Report A family safari in Tanzania

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I think it’s time for me to review our second family safari in Tanzania. I must admit we have often benefitted from the precious information posted on this forum by other users, but most of the time we have been way too lazy to share our experiences: I have only posted a Zanzibar trip report a few months ago… shame on me!

I am Italian, my wife is Tanzanian-Swedish (born in Sweden by Tanzanian father and Swedish mother, but she is more Mzungu (=European) than I am as she came to Africa for the 1st time at the age of 25) and we are based in Nairobi with our 2 kids (Malcom - 12 y.o. and Marta – 10 y.o.) since 2013. My job led my to Africa for the last 15 years, so I’ve the chance to visit the Tanzanian parks several times in the past. (I last came to the Serengeti for a few days with a friend in the beginning of December).

One of the positive aspects of living in Nairobi is that some of the most amazing places in Africa are on your doorstep: you can drive to the game parks for the weekend, you can fly to the Kenyan coast in less than one hour and to Zanzibar in one and a half hour; Arusha – Tanzania safari capital – is just 270 km/170 miles of good road away (about 3 hrs drive).

We have just come back from a fantastic week spent in Tanzania. We had a similar experience last year (same time, end of January) for 12 days when we visited Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro and Serengeti and Western Kilimanjaro and we had so much fun that we decided to come back again, to visit Lake Eyasi and to go back to the Serengeti, simply the best park I’ve hever been to.

Lake Eyasi is an incredible place, out of time. It is home to the Hadzabe people, the survivors of a civilization that knows nothing of agriculture, livestock, pottery, and metals. They live by hunting with bows and arrows, and gathering wild berries and fruits. They are the last heirs of the homines sapientes who took their first steps right here, along the Rift Valley, about 200,000 years ago. Their way of life has remained unchanged over the millennia and they live in small wandering groups of about twenty individuals. They are the purest example of anarchic society with no chief, no rules, no dont’s. Early that morning, before dawn, we left Lake Eyasi Safari Lodge (simple and comfortable) on our Toyota Land Cruiser and together with Hubert – our guide - and Qwarda, a local guy from Mang’ola village - and took a two-rack road which soon turned into a river bed. After 40 minutes we reached a plain dominated by huge baobabs. Here we left the car, Hubert remained behind. We started walking in the bush with Qwarda then we heard the “clicks” dinstinctive sounds from Hadzabe language. The young men of the tribe were sitting around the fire, warming up themselves before the morning hunt. They wore colourful beads, baboon skins and were passing each other a pipe made of animal bone in which they smoked spontaneous weed. All in a sudden they stood up, the blond, skinny dogs followed them immediately: the hunt was on. We spent the following 3 hours with them out in the bush, trying to keep peace with them while they ran, shouted, nocked their arrows to whatever moved. Following them was not easy, except for Malcom who had immediately found a new friend and kept on cheasing him all the time. On that morning they cought some small birds, some parrots a bush baby and a vervet monkey. Eventually we headed back tho their camp where they started roasting the catch of the day. The women and little children were all sitting about 50 steps away, around another fire. A Hunter gave them a bush baby and some birds which they started cooking immediately and shared the meat with the kids. Qwarda explained that gender interaction is reduced to the miminum, men and women do not eat together, there is a very sharp division of labour, women make the small huts, gather roots and berries, while men hunt. This is all authentic not staged for tourist purposes, it was all real. Meeting the Hadzabe has been the kind of experience that I desperately was hoping my kids would have had in Africa. Unfortnately their ancient way of life is slowly slipping away, severely threatened by encroaching farmers and herding tribes.

It was around 11 when we started our drive to Mang’ola village, where we said good bye to Qwarda before heading to Karatu. We spent that night at Country Lodge, clean and comfortable, nice garden and pool. The staff was friendly and helpful, and the free WiFi was a definite plus.

We decided not to include a game drive within Ngorongoro Crater this year: sure, it is unique, there is no other environment like it in the world. But it is the kind of place you need to see once in your life, compared to other parks it is way too crowded, I would not compare it to a zoo as others have done but it is not our favourite for game viewing (one can say that only after having seen it, if you are on your first safari in Tanzania Ngorongoro is a must). We therefore stopped at the viewpoint on top of the rim then proceeded towards the Serengeti. The Serengeti ecosystem is, between January and March, simply the best place to be: the plains between Seronera Valley (central Serengeti) and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area become the scene of “the greatest show on earth”: 2,000,000 ungulates congregate in this area, the savannah is covered by wildebeest and zebra as far as the eye can see, it is calving season and the newborns attract many predators who cannot wait to feast on them. We spent 2 nights at Kati Kati Camp in central Serengeti and 2 nights at Mbugani Camp near Lake Ndutu, in the north-eastern sector of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area which is actually part of the Serengeti. Our camps were simply superb, right in the middle of the bush and right in the middle of the action. During these days we saw a live kill by pack of lions, a failed attempt by a cheetah, and the highest quantity of animals one could imagine. Seeing the Serengeti migration is just the best you can expect from your safari.

After 4 amazing nights spent in the Serengeti we went back to Karatu for our last night in Tanzania at Country Lodge.

The morning after we were back to Arusha where we collected our car and drove back to Nairobi.

The tour operator we chose for our safari was simply perfect. Having travelled with them last year we had no doubt about which safari company to book through: Safari Crew Tanzania, and once again they proved to be extremely professional and great value for money. I had previous experiences with the upscale companies you hear of with fancy brochures and websites that regularly do business in Europe and the U.S. and I can tell that with Safari Crew Tanzania you can get a more personalized service at a much lower price. Our expectations were definitely high after last year’s experience but were fully satisfied. We cannot thank them enough.

Everything went like clockwork, thanks to Robert, one of the owners of Safari Crew Tanzania. He worked closely with us to understand what we wanted and offered us several options in terms of itinerary, accommodation and budget. The result was a perfectly tailor-made safari for our family.

Our vehicle had seating for 7 (in addition to the driver), although there were only 4 of us.

While the tour operator does the back end work, it's your guide who does the rest on the ground. Just like last year, we had the pleasure to be accompanied by Hubert, a gentleman in his 50’s with 25 years spent on the wheel. He was able to spot things beyond the scope of the human eye, he was knowledgable about animal behavior, extremely kind to our children, very conscientious driver and turned to be a great travel companion. His ability to position the jeep for prime location happened time and time again. His ability to find the animals and read their direction was incredible.

Overall, a fantastic trip. We hope to be back again next year.

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