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Trip Report Back From Our Third Tanzanian Safari - July 2011

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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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    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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    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 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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    Eagerly awaiting your Kati Kati post as we'll be there in a week and a half (flying out in 4 days)! Not much has been written about it so I'm quite curious; it's probably the most downscale of the locations we're staying in so we're a little concerned.

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    Hi Lynda! I did have luck with your "urgent" issue, but in a much different way than we thought ;) I'll email you later today.

    OrangePekoe, my next post will go up later today so that you can read about our Kati Kati experience before your departure. Stay tuned.

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    We drove southwest from the Northern Serengeti exiting the park at the Tabora B Rangers post and continued our drive through the Ikorongo Game Controlled Area. We drove back into the park at the Ikoma Gate Rangers post. Our time outside the park was really enjoyable, with lots of picturesque farmland and quaint villages to be seen along the way. There was also a surprising amount of wildlife including many, many migrating animals making their way up north.

    Our next 2 days were spent exploring the vast Serengeti. The weather was clear, sunny and dry with daytime temperatures hovering in the low 70’s F. The game drives were very rewarding, with sightings that included:

    • a pride of 13 lions hunting
    • many smaller lion prides hunting
    • several lion prides with cubs
    • several lion prides on recent kills
    • a tree climbing lion
    • 4 leopards including a cub
    • 4 cheetahs hunting
    • 2 cheetahs on a recent kill
    • many herds of elephants with babies
    • abundant resident ungulates
    • a zebra killed by crocodile at watering hole!

    Kati Kati camp is a seasonal, mobile camp owned by Tanganyika Wilderness Camps. Of the 4 TWC properties we stayed at on this trip, Kati Kati was the only disappointment. We arrived at the Makoma 1 campsite (away from the core busy area of the Seronera) where Kati Kati is located, only to be told the camp was full! What? Nicholas produced our confirmed booking sheet, but there was nothing to be done but be waved off to Makoma 2 campsite, about an hour’s drive away from the main camp. This in itself was frustrating, but we were met with further disappointments at Makoma 2….

    Tent #4 was very basic. It had 2 beds, a “flush” toilet and a bucket shower, but no wash basin inside the tent. Washing up was done outside the front of the tent in 2 canvas buckets on tripods. No problem – we can deal with very basic. The toilet had no water in it – something that was remedied when I reported the situation, however I ended up hooking up the toilet myself. Our bucket showers were okay, but we could have done without the somewhat noisy staff meeting area behind our tent.

    I am a vegetarian, but that message obviously did not reach the kitchen, and in the end I was served everything on offer except the meat course – in other words, no efforts made for special dietary requirements. The main course was served item by item at a snails pace, and by the time everything was finally on my plate it was all cold. There were fairly obvious issues in the kitchen that did not allow the meal to be ready all at once, and we did not particularly care for the meal plans. Breakfast was a self serve arrangement that included an omelette bar which was acceptable, but the vegetarian lunch boxes which Nicholas had to fight tooth and nail for were not good. The 2 canvas water buckets at the front of our tent were not emptied the first night, and we had lions drinking from them in the middle of the night, only about 10 feet from our beds. Hmmm…

    We consider ourselves quite flexible on safari, but we would like to have had our original booking for Makoma 1 honoured. As things ended up, we feel that the Makoma 2 site was kind of thrown together as an overflow site (along with Makoma 3 which we did not see), and as such, the quality of our experience diminished from what we feel it would have been at the original Makoma 1 camp.

    Up next: West Kili

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    Thank you, KathBC. I'll have to work on the photos - I worry that my poor old computer will croak if I upload them all, but I expect to be the proud owner of a new laptop next month so maybe by the time I get this flipping report done I'll be able to work on the pictures!

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    Following breakfast we took a leisurely game drive south toward Naabi Hill and I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be my last trip to this incredibly wonderous part of the world; fantastic in its natural beauty and unequalled for its scientific value, experiencing the Serengeti leaves me speechless.

    Although fewer in number than in the Northern and Central Serengeti, we continued to see lions, elephants, giraffes and various species of antelope into the short grass plains. Eventually passing through the Malanja Depression towards Africa’s Eden – the unique Ngorongoro Crater – we drove through a sandy brown landscape punctuated by hits of red worn by the Maasai custodians of this beautiful region.

    Our destination for the night was Lemala Ngorongoro Camp. Set in an ancient acacia forest on the rim of the crater, we were assigned to tent #9 in this pristine forest environment. Fitted with huge beds, wooden flooring with rugs, 24-hour solar lighting, flush toilets and huge bucket showers, our tent was on par with our Lemala Mara experience. One added (and much appreciated) feature in our tent was a gas heater! As with the Mara camp, laundry and beverages were included. The mess tent was beautifully decorated and very comfortable, meals were lovely and the staff was delightful. An added bonus was the impromtu singing and dancing put on by the camp staff following dinner. What a joyful experience it was! We went to bed to the sounds of forest wildlife and birds and woke up to the sound of Maasai cow bells.

    After a very comfortable sleep, a quick breakfast, a look at the breathtaking views from the crater wall, and only 15 minutes in the vehicle, we were on the crater floor! I highly recommend Lemala Ngorongoro for its charm, luxury and prime location on the crater rim allowing quick and easy access to one of the wonders of the natural world.

    Our vehicle had barely become horizontal again after the steep descent into the crater when we spotted our first lions. Two huge black-maned males were lazing around in the early morning sunlight. The large grazing animals including wildebeest, zebra, gazelles and buffalo were everywhere in the open grasslands and near the swamps seeking water. In turn, these attracted the lions, hyenas and cheetah. The Lerai Forest was dotted with huge elephants, black rhino, monkeys and waterbuck. We saw it all! The crowds that are reportedly in the crater at times did not seem to be where we were, or maybe Nicholas knew where to take us in order to avoid the crowds. At any rate, the crater is a wildly beautiful place and it is not surprising that it has been called the Garden of Eden.

    We left the crater with some sadness, but enjoyed the gorgeous views of the highlands and Lake Manyara on our way to Karatu for our overnight at the Ngorongoro Farmhouse.

    We had stayed at the Farmhouse on a previous trip to Tanzania, and looked forward to another comfortable stay and great meals. We had a bit of time to put our feet up and enjoy the lovely views over the 750 acres of local farmland. Built in the style of an old colonial farm, our spacious room was in a semi-detached cottage with stone fireplace, lounge, writing area, large ensuite bathroom, and veranda with extensive views over the farm. We enjoyed dinner made from farm-grown produce and had a very restful night.

    Having experienced the wonders of Tanzania west of Arusha, we were now preparing for some of those east of Arusha. We had been to West Kilimanjaro on our previous trip and looked forward to being in this rugged, dusty, uncrowded region again. Beyond that were the much anticipated visits to Mkomazi National Park and Pangani on the Indian Ocean.

    Up next: West Kili

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    Well, after a short absence from the forum, I’m back to finish my trip report. I guess being under the radar for a few months isn’t as bad as those of you (who shall remain nameless, ahem) who owe reports from 2010 ;)

    Correction from the end of the previous posting: we didn’t head to West Kili after the Crater - we headed to Tarangire!

    It was odd when we first entered the park…we drove for what seemed like ages – probably more like ½ hour - before we saw any animals other than the dreaded tse tse flies (are they animals?), but it didn’t really matter because I am in love with this park for it’s scenery alone, and I was quite happy to drive around for a bit, enjoying the diverse landscapes. In the end, we saw an amazing array of animals in Tarangire, probably more than we'd seen in our two previous trips, including lions and leopards who were taking advantage of the migrating herds of zebra and wildebeest that had made their way into the park. Tarangire is the park where I found a passion for bird watching. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed spotting many different species and varieties of birds throughout this trip, and I would encourage those of you who haven’t really considered Tanzania’s amazing array of 1100 bird species, to include at least some birdwatching in your plans.

    As an African elephant naturalist, I find Tarangire a great park for observing and photographing individual and group elephant behaviour. However, the elephants of Tarangire are becoming quite a problem. With 1 elephant for every 2 square km of parkland, the elephant population in the park is at a historic high and during the dry season (when we were there) the park is home to over 2,500 individuals. The bark of the baobab trees is consumed by elephants as a good supply of food and water during the dry season, and with decades of intense utilization by elephants, the trees are experiencing tremendous damage. Needless to say, baobab trees are very important to the Tarangire ecosystem. As with all precious ecosystems throughout Tanzania, and indeed the world, it is important to examine what effects the increasing elephant population may be having on the ecological community in Tarangire!

    The Tarangire River flows northwards through the park before discharging into Lake Burungi, which lies adjacent to the northwest park boundary. From the park gate, it is a 45 minute drive through the Maasai Steppe to Lake Burungi Tented Camp which is where we stayed for 2 nights. Lake Burungi Camp is situated in a sandy woodland grove on the shore of Lake Burungi, with very pretty views over the lake. The food was excellent, and the staff was attentive and friendly. Although some might argue that the camp is situated a bit far from the park, I think it is a great alternative for those with tighter budgets. Bonus: the drive takes you through some fascinating countryside and little villages with opportunity for roadside shopping.

    After 2 days in the park, and 2 nights at Lake Burungi Tented Camp, it was off to Arusha for a pizza at Pepi's :) and to change guides before heading to West Kili, Mkomazi and finally, the Tanzanian coast. Stay tuned.

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    A Garden of Eden without traffic is great luck in the crater.

    Great account and stats on Tarangire, including your comment, "I am in love with this park for it’s scenery alone."

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    "A Garden of Eden without traffic is great luck in the crater."

    It was nice to get into Crater when the gate opened, 6am I think, using Sopa road. Our guide said during most of the day there are around 200 vehicles in Crater. Here is snap in mid afternoon of over 11 vehicles lined up waiting/hoping for a black rhino to cross road. It did, but we did join this que.

    regards - tom

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    Great report! I am really enjoying it and looking forward to the rest. I am just starting to plan my first safari and was thinking of enquiring with Warrior Trails. It sounds like you had a great experience. I wasn't sure if the village visit would be too touristy (I would love to visit one but don't want it to be one of those phony "let's dress up for the tourists" experiences.)

    It sounds like this is your third trip with Warrior Trails which is a high recommendation for them. If you have any other comments about this agency, I would be grateful for your advice. Thanks!

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    Thanks as always for your nice comments, lynn. Although I can't pick a favourite spot to visit in Northern Tz, Tarangire holds a special place in my heart.

    Tom, we managed to be the only vehicle around as a black rhino crossed the road behind our vehicle. I'm with you - I'd never join a queue such as the one in your picture. We tend to move off to look for something else and return to the busy site when the others have moved off. For example, there was a cheetah in the crater that had attracted a huge number of vehicles, but we went off in the direction of a herd of buffalo and watched them for a while. Upon returning to where the cheetah had been (and where there were now no vehicles), the cat was lying down right on the side of the road!

    Hodma, planning a safari is very exciting! I don't know whether you've investigated Warrior Trails yet, but the owner/operator (Clamian) is Maasai. As such, he has close ties with several Maasai communities and has set up visits/overnights to bomas that are truly authentic. So, this is definitely not a "let's dress up for the tourists" experience. It is an opportunity to learn about a different culture by taking part in their daily activities. I highly recommend you consider including a night in the boma if you can.

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    Thanks for reading, Femi. I hope to post the next installment tomorrow. Although I struggle to write what I think might be of interest to readers, it is fun to recall our wonderful experiences.

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    We left Lake Burungi Tented Camp after a delicious, generous and varied buffet breakfast. Why is it that food always tastes better in Africa? Maybe it’s because someone else is making it for me ;)

    Heading for Arusha, we drove through the very pretty, but painfully dry, Maasai Steppe. The Great North Road has been newly paved and is in excellent condition. Although this enhances transportation to and from villages in the region, it bisects the Tarangire/Manyara wildlife corridor. This, along with growth in settlements and agriculture means that animal movements are being threatened and blocked. I read that the corridor was once vital to 25 large mammal species, some of which (including elephant) move between Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks via the Lake Burungi area. It is known that eight large mammal species – eland, hartebeest, buffalo, oryx, lesser kudu, cheetah, leopard and lion - are locally extinct, and as of 1998, only 3 of the 5 historical migratory routes in the corridor existed. Disturbing and saddening, but not surprising.

    Back in Arusha, we had the chance to see Clamian’s (owner of Warrior Trails) brand new baby! This was added excitement to our trip, as Clamian had been our guide twice previously, and would be again on the last leg of the trip to Mkomazi and Pangani. Our pizza lunch at Pepe’s turned into quite a celebratory meal. Sidebar: Pepe’s has a reputation as the best pizza joint in Arusha. I haven’t eaten pizza anywhere in East Africa other than at Pepe’s, but it was excellent pizza, cooked in an outdoor stone oven. The restaurant is located on a lovely, treed street in a quiet neighbourhood. Dining is outdoors in a very pleasant, treed environment. I recommend it for anyone looking for a meal in Arusha.

    Off to the Warrior Trails office where we debriefed with our beloved guide Nicholas and said our farewells to him before meeting Jackson, our guide for the next portion of our trip. Jackson has an online reputation for being another great Warrior Trails guide, so I was thrilled to meet him. He is a gentle soul with a great sense of humour and yes, he turned out to be an awesome guide. We loaded into another beautiful Warrior Trails vehicle, this one with a bank of outlets for charging our batteries enroute. Although it had never been a problem to charge our batteries at any lodge or tented camp we’d stayed at, it was really nice to be able to do so while in transit in our safari vehicle.

    We were headed to West Kili – a favourite region of ours from our previous safari. The drive to West Kili is a delight. Little farms and communities along the way provide lots of scenic things to look at if you can tear your eyes away from Mt Kilimanjaro as you drive through it’s very scenic foothills. Leaving the “main” road we headed toward Kambi ya Tembo on a track that, at times, engulfed us in dust. Ah, the dust of Tanzania in the dry season! We were very warmly greeted at Kambi ya Tembo, and as two of only four guests at the camp for 2 nights, we were treated like royalty.

    Kambi ya Tembo is located in a region called Sinya, a private concession of 75,000 acres bordering Kenya at Amboseli National Park. This “off the beaten path” camp offers very special landscapes, decent game viewing and close interaction with the local Maasai. These Maasai, like those at the boma we had stayed at previously, are very friendly and unexposed to the commercial relationship with tourists that some have in the more visited tourist areas. The land on which Kambi ya Tembo operates is leased from several local tribes which helps preserve the land for wildlife while generating funds for local schools and a clinic.

    Our tent at Kambi ya Tembo faced the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro, although other than our drives to/from Sinya, the mountain was clouded over and you wouldn’t even have known it was there! We did have lovely views of the foothills from the tent veranda. The camp consists of 20 tents which are simply kitted, but kept in good shape. The mess/lounge building is very pretty in design, with soaring rafters, and gorgeous views overlooking the Amboseli plains. The sunsets were spectacular! Meals were good and very generous in portions. I think the cook was exuberant about working hard for his 4 clients, and he certainly didn’t disappoint.

    We visit this area of northern Tz in the dry season in the hopes of seeing the big bull elephants that migrate into the region from Amboseli. Many of these animals are upwards of 60 years old, and have huge tusks. Luckily for us, as with on our last trip, we saw them. Images of these elephants on TV don’t give you a true sense of how huge they really are. With a shoulder height of 12-13 feet, the bulls are truly magnificant. Other wildlife in the area is shy and not particularly abundant at this time of year, but we did see zebra, a few varieties of antelope, giraffe (including brand new babies) and some hyena. The largest troops of baboons we saw on this trip were actually in West Kili which surprised me a bit.

    For those of you who want something a bit different on your next dry season trip to Northern Tanzania, you might want to think about including a few nights in West Kili. Although not a region known for it’s dense animal populations, it isn’t as “touristy” either; go for the Amboseli elephants!

    Up next, we had the entire Mkomazi National Park to ourselves for 2 days!

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    Thanks for reading, Raelond. yes, Warrior Trails came through again!

    KathBC, 'homesick' is a good word for the way many of us feel when dreaming of our time in Africa. Having such happy memories of the people adds to that feeling!

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    The staff at Kambi ya Tembo came out in full force to send us off; lots of singing, dancing and hugging which is fairly typical of greetings and farewells at many places in Tanzania, it seems. Once again, we were on the dusty road through the camp concession and back to the paved road. The journey through the foothills on Kilimanjaro kept us enthralled with rolling hills dotted with busy (at a snail’s pace) little villages and small productive farms. And then, of course, there are the vistas of Kili – words fail me!

    We headed back to Arusha to pick up Clamian who joined us for the last few days of our trip. It can be said that Dreezy and I love to laugh (as those who attend the Canadian West Coast GTG every year can attest), and we had really great, memorable times with both Nicholas and Jackson, but adding Clamian into the mix meant that there was even more spontaneous laughter, singing, joking and storytelling…such fun!

    I’ll go into some detail about our next destination - Mkomazi - because it is a stunningly beautiful place with very few visitors, and I think it is on the brink of breaking out of it’s shell to become a very important tourist destination in the northern circuit.

    History: Although Mkomazi was established in 1959 as a reserve, it didn’t get the financing as did the better known wildlife destinations including the crater and the Serengeti, and subsequently went into steep decline. Heavy poaching had wiped out it’s herds of elephant and rhino, and overgrazing by livestock and illegal burning for cultivation made the reserve a degraded wasteland. However, in 1989 the government re-examined the reserve’s status and designated it as a National Priority Project with a vision to rehabilitate the land and reintroduce lost animal species. The George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trusts have been the Tanzanian Government's main partner in this unique and important endeavour, and today, “The result has been one of spectacular success. One of the most fragile, threatened and beautiful parts of Africa has been reborn.”

    Location: Mkomazi is located 200km east of Arusha - about 2.5 hours - along one of Tanzania’s busiest highways which connects Arusha and Dar. It is a contiguous ecosystem shared with Tsavo immediately across the border in Kenya. To the south lie the Pare and Usambara Mountains.

    The road to Mkomazi passes through Moshi and Same. Although it is one of the busiest in Tanzania, we lucked out and really had a fabulous drive, with heavy traffic never an issue…although the dala dala’s and privately owned buses that were racing to Dar had me white-knuckling it a few times. This is an incredibly scenic drive, with the browns and greys of the dryer regions to the west being replaced by fresh green valleys and intermittently terraced and forested mountains, little ramshackle villages and productive red-soiled farms. Locals who were not attending the colourful roadside markets were on their way somewhere else, always pole pole. All of this make for an eventful, never-a-dull-moment drive with something fascinating and memorable to see at all times.

    The park: Sometimes referred to as Tanzania’s last frontier, Mkomazi is the country’s newest park. In 2007, the government of Tanzania ratified the upgrading of Mkomazi Game Reserve to National Park status. The park covers a vast 3,245 sq km. To give you some idea of it’s size, Tarangire covers 2850 sq km. Mkomazi is a unique hilly, semi-arid savannah habitat for over 75 species of mammals. It supports several dry-country species that are rare elsewhere in Tanzania including the fringe-eared Oryx, lesser kudu and gerenuk. The park boasts over 450 species of birds. Black rhino/wild dog breeding projects that exist within Mkomazi are run by an independent, not-for-profit that allows visitors at times – this opportunity was not available to us on the days we were in the park.

    Because this park is so newly rehabilitated, the animals are shy and not habituated to vehicles. We struggled to find the species we had hoped to see but in the end, we did get glimpses (and pictures) of lesser kudu, gerenuk and oryx. Clamian and Jackson absolutely shone for their game spotting talents – these animals were hard to find!! There were the “usual” giraffe and zebra, but these were also very shy, and we were never able to approach these animals from anything but a distance. We didn’t see any predators at all, but saw footprints of lions and hyena. One of the highlights of this park has to be the birding – such an array of birds that didn’t seem to mind our vehicle as much as the elusive mammals, and our game drives included lots of time spent birdwatching. The best bird shots of our entire trip are from Mkomazi.

    Accommodation: Babu’s Camp is the only accommodation within the Mkomazi park boundary. Set on a pretty hill studded with baobab and acacias (and sunsets to die for), we were the only visitors to the camp for 2 nights. In fact, we had the entire Mkomazi National Park to ourselves for our entire visit! The park is a gem worth visiting just for that reason alone….there was no other vehicle traffic, and there were no other visitors – we couldn’t believe it!

    Because we were the only guests at Babu’s, we were given the royal treatment. The camp staff was friendly and made quite a fuss over us, and the food was very good. This was our first experience with an outdoor bucket shower and flush toilet, and was fun until the requisite trip to the loo in the middle of the night - the frog in the toilet just about sent me into the middle of next week…I can only imagine that the frog wasn’t too pleased either.

    Babu’s has aging tents that need some attention, although the overall ambience is quite nice. It is probably the most run down of any camp we’ve stayed at, and I feel that their “luxury” tented camp fees are too high for what we got. By far our worst experience at the camp were the geckos that completely overran the tent at night. They came out by the dozens and had no qualms about running over everything – including us – all night long. Bleh! I used to like geckos.

    Our overall experience at Mkomazi was great, and we’re really pleased with our decision to include this little-known/visited park. Although not a park for high volume sightings, it does offer the chance to see some rarely seen species. It has a delightful remote feeling, diverse habitats and great birdwatching.

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    On Tanzania’s northern mainland coast is a 300km swath of virtually undeveloped white sand beach. One of the most beautiful, coconut palm-fringed stretches of tourquois water in this diverse region is Ushongo Bay – a beach holiday destination for visitors who want to truly relax. There are no nightclubs, no beach boys, no traffic noises, no souvenier shops, no hawkers…this was our next destination.

    Our 436km drive from Arusha to the Tanzania coast continued from Mkomazi. Banana and coffee plantations gradually gave way to sisal farms and coconut palms. Everything was green and lush. There were street markets and social gatherings at every turn in the road, miniature mosques began to pop up everywhere, and of course we had to avoid the usual potholes, pedestrians, bicyles, wheelbarrows, dala dalas, motorbikes, goats, cattle, dogs, chickens and hoardes of watoto. The turnoff at Segera (I think?) meant dirt roads for 40+ km. Now things got really interesting! Add to the above: undulating roads, red dust, dilapidated wattle and daub, inquisitive stares, piles of maize. Then, finally we arrived at Pangani.

    A small town on the northern mainland coast of Tanzania, Pangani is situated where the broad, silty Pangani River flows into the Indian Ocean, about 170km south of Mombasa (Kenya), 180 km north of Dar. Once one of the Swahili coast’s main trading ports dealing mainly with ivory and slaves, the town of Pangani seems to be well past its prime, with crumbling houses that don't appear to have been maintained since the time of the German rule in the early 1900's. And then there is the ferry…

    Pangani town straddles the Pangani River, with the old buildings and the present-day market on the north shore, and the farms and small houses on the south side. Emayani Beach Lodge – our home for the next few days – is located 16km south of Pangani town, which meant boarding the quaint(?) passenger and vehicle ferry for the 5 minute river crossing. Poor Jackson and Clamian…they had never been in or on water in their lives, and they were a little panic-sticken at the sight of the Pangani ferry. This loud, open-air boat left either side of the river only when the ferry “master” deemed the boat full enough to warrant a crossing. We watched it depart from the south shore at an awkward, being-carried-away-by-the-current angle before scraping onto the concrete dock in front of us. Then, having paid our 2 cents each to board, Jackson drove onto the ferry while the rest of us walked on as foot passengers. The fun we had with each other on the ferry seemed to be frowned upon by some of the locals, but we didn’t let that stop us from laughing and enjoying ourselves.

    Upon disembarking from the ferry, we continued down the bumpy dirt track through lovely, extensive fields of sisal interspersed with gorgeous tropical forests and grasses in search of Emayani Beach Lodge. Tucked away in a lush coconut grove, on a pristine white beach, Emayani is made up of 12 huge bungalows facing the Indian Ocean. We had the entire place to ourselves for the 2 nights we were there!
    On the outside, our Emayani bungalow looked rough because it was built of natural wood, thatch and rope. There were no windows in the room, just huge openings with rolled up woven blinds to bring down in the evening. The bungalows have large verandahs with comfy chairs and day beds. The beds inside were completely protected by very well fitting nets – a true necessity here because of the mozzies that come out in the evening and find their way into the bungalows through the windowless window openings. Fans were a welcome item at night, keeping the heat and mozzies at bay. The food at Emayani was very good, with lots of fresh fish and local vegetables and fruit. Breakfasts were really generous, with a ton of choices. The lodge manager had an arrogant air with Jackson and Clamian, and seemed to like to talk about himself, but otherwise the staff was very friendly and efficient.

    Although we chose not to do any diving or boating, we enjoyed a few dips in the Indian Ocean, and relaxed on the beach which we had entirely to ourselves with the exception of a couple of local fishermen who spent an entire day up to their waists in the water catching fresh seafood to take to the market - such a huge effort for so few fish!

    We did a historical walking tour of Pangani town with “Hot Hot”, or little local walking guide. The town is steeped in history, with perhaps the most fascinating buildings being the old slave trade edifaces that are now crumbling into heaps of stone and being smothered by vegetation. It’s sad that the town is unable or not willing to spend the money to preserve these important historical relics – they really are a national treasure. The day of our town tour was the hottest day of our entire safari. Between the two of us, Dreezy and I probably dripped several gallons of perspiration onto the cobbled streets. “Hot Hot” is apparently known by every person in town, and hence was a little distracted from his task at hand, but it was a fascinating walk through the streets of this ancient place with it's beautiful but sadly neglected architecture. We had to be sensitive with our picture taking, so as not to offend the locals. This was more apparent on the Swahili coast than elsewhere in Tanzania.

    Overall, the Swahili coast provided us with a relaxing beach experience at the end of our fabulous safari. We thoroughly enjoyed the serene, secluded location of Emayani and the opportunity to become immersed in this historically significant region. The sisal farms, coconut palms and rice fields all added to the feeling that the traditional safari experience was far behind us.

    Up next: Our return trip to Arusha via Tanga

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    We departed from Emayani for one last ferry ride to the north shore, and then we were off to the most northern seaport city of Tanga, Tanzania's fourth largest city. I’m not a fan of large cities, but I have to say, Tanga is quite beautiful; it is a thoughtfully laid out city with lots of green space, traffic is organized (by Tanzanian standards), the history and culture are rich, and the city has a quiet, laid back feel to it.

    Once again, we sought the help of the local tourist board for a city guide. We ended up with their sole office worker who just locked up the office and came with us to explore the city. I don’t know what happened to anyone else coming to the office that day. Oh well. Our little guide appeared to be about 12 years old, but did well in making sure we saw some interesting sights. For a 12 year old, he good knowledge of the history of the area ;)

    In the older sections of Tanga we saw influences of explorers like Vasco da Gama, Arab and Indian cultures, the slave trade, and German and British Colonists. What a fascinating place! Unlike Pangani, Tanga is working at restoring their period architectural structures, many of which are being used as government buildings, colleges and schools, hotels and stores. I was keen to see the Urithi Museum, but it was inexplicably closed the day we were there. We had to settle for taking in it’s remarkable, imposing structure from the outside.

    The daily fish market on the beach was about the busiest place we saw in Tanga. Fishermen were displaying their catches of the day and locals were there with their baskets to purchase the fresh fish. Squid seemed to be a hot ticket item when we were there.

    One of the highlights for us in Tanga was a visit to the Amboni Caves. The caves form the most extensive cave system in East Africa, and cover a remarkable area of 234km². One of the 10 caves is open for guided tours. I was a little skeptical about going into the cave; I get a bit clostrophic in tight situations. Well, no need to worry – these caves are huge and I only had to crouch and crawl in a few places. The caves are very dark, very hot, and full of bats which were an added bonus for us, although I know some people would cringe. Their exit from the caves every night at sunset must be quite a sight. There is a fair amount of climbing up and down rock ledges and tight spots which, despite my age and lack of athleticism, I found quite manageable. There are ceremonial caverns and shrines in the caves, with offerings such as pottery and obsidian.

    The Amboni Caves have been subject of local legends and a number of mythical and awe-inspiring stories. To the local people, the caves are seen as supernatural formations where supernatural powers are believed to reside. Some believe that there is a powerful god which can alleviate sickness and suffering, and increase fertility.

    Millions of years ago these caves were flooded by water. Erosion has since created the beautiful limestone landscape that exists today, with fascinating stone prominences, eerie caverns and structures in the shapes of: a sofa, a ship, a crocodile, an elephant, a map of Africa, the Statue of Liberty and the head of a male lion. The 12 year old seemed to be particularly keen to point out the male and female genital shapes. There is a myth that a dog and his master got lost in the caves and that, although the master didn’t make it out and was never found, the dog came out of the caves near the base of Kilimanjaro!

    We spent a very pleasant night in Tanga at the Tanga Beach Resort – a very welcome place after a hot, sticky day exploring the region. Built in 2009, the resort is a lovely, bright full-service hotel and conference centre right on the Indian Ocean, and includes 2 restaurants, 2 bars and a swimming pool. The flame trees were in bloom = gorgeous! Our room was huge, with 2 gigantic Swahili coast designed beds and a gorgeous bathroom with very modern décor. The food was excellent and the staff very helpful; the ancient little doorman was keen and even able to carry our bags, although I was a little concerned for his wellbeing.

    The following morning, it was back to Arusha by way of the gorgeous Pare and Usumbara Mountains, the sisal and coconut farms, the dusty little villages and the tiny green farms. The drive was memorable for the gorgeous countryside that revealed itself to us at every turn, but also for the great company we had in Jackson and Clamian. What a wonderful pair of fellows – so accommodating and willing to see to our every need, want and whim. And such fun, too. We had chosen to stay at the Snow Crest Hotel for our last night in Tanzania. I’m glad we did, because we had enjoyed it so much upon our arrival in the country.

    The day of our departure we spent doing some shopping before heading to the airport. First stop was the shuka and bead shop where we bought Maasai romboi (sp?) Although not for the faint of heart, the Maasai Market is a great place to shop. We were lucky enough to meet some of the local artisans at the market when we went behind the scenes to see some ebony carving and painting. It’s always so much nicer to visit with the artisans and make purchases directly from them. We came away with paintings, ebony bowls, jewellery, banana leaf pictures, scarves, etc, etc. I am now surrounded by these treasured items in my home and am reminded of our wonderful trip. And so…the countdown to trip #4 is on. I have no date, no itinerary and no money, but I do know that I’ll go back.

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