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Trip Report Tanzania Southern Circuit Report 1

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Well folks, I feel guilty that I've learnt so much from all of you and have not posted details of one of our recent holidays in Tanzania. My husband wrote a great journal while we were away last June so I am going to cheat and copy that in here. I hope it will be useful to you and will persuade a few of you to consider the wonderful remote southern circuit in Tanzania.

So here goes!


Thursday 26th / Friday 27th June
We left Heathrow 40 minutes late, but the pilot made up time and we covered the 4,644 miles incident-free, arriving at Dar es Salaam early on Friday morning. After clearing customs and changing some currency, our driver and Geoff Fox himself met us. The drive to Mikumi National Park took over four hours, during which Geoff whetted our appetites for the holiday ahead by telling us lots of stories about the people we would meet and the places we would see.

The safari lodge at Mikumi is a series of medium-sized tents set on wooden platforms, with steps up to the verandahs, which had a small table and two canvas director's chairs. The views from these vantage points were of wide, grassy plains, dotted with acacia and baobab trees and the occasional elephants. We quickly unpacked a few items from our luggage, washed and then headed off up to the bar to have lunch. There were 105 steps for us to climb each time we made this particular trip and so we made quite sure we hadn't forgotten anything before setting off. Geoff introduced us to Tim, his lodge manager and chief guide.
After lunch, Tim took us on our first game drive. We saw lots of new birds, a small herd of very annoyed elephants and then, Ruth spotted a lioness with its' kill - a giraffe. The kill appeared to be about two days old according to Tim and it was very smelly. We did encounter a few tsetse flies, but they were not as numerous as we'd expected. Their bites however were quite painful, rather like a hot, blunt needle.We drove back to camp in pitch black; Tim had the headlights on main beam and the thirty-minute journey was very eerie. There were strange, hidden sounds and the flickering headlights created shapes that resembled all sorts of weird and wonderful beasts, guaranteed to make the imagination run riot.
As we were the only guests that evening, we sat with Geoff and Tim for a very enjoyable dinner. Once finished at about 9:15pm, we went straight off to bed, as we were both exhausted.

Saturday 28th June
I was woken at 4:15pm by a lion moaning somewhere in the camp, although Ruth managed to sleep right through it. This sound was followed by a cacophony of screeches from some bird. And then, suddenly, total silence. I lay awake for ages, waiting for other sounds, but gradually drifted off to sleep.

We enjoyed a very pleasant breakfast on our own and then we met Tim, who drove us 80 kilometres to the Udzungwa Mountains. We were stopped en route by a policeman who insisted that Tim should have a PSV license in the jeep. Despite the fact that we did not require such a document he still fined Tim 10,000 TSh (about £6). Naturally, he would not issue a receipt. Tim explained that this was a regular occurrence and that the alternative to the bribe was a lengthy legal argument, which the Foxes may lose in any case.

We climbed through 750 metres of rainforest before arriving at the first of three Sanje Falls, where we had lunch. By this point I was drenched in sweat, my clothes clinging to me. Although we drank considerable amounts of water, we probably lost a kilo or two in weight during that climb. A further 100 metres hike took us past a second waterfall and finally on to the highest and most impressive fall of the lot - quite awesome. Our guide and trackers took photos of us and we then spent half an hour or so absorbing the atmosphere of the falls, surrounded by massive trees with overhanging foliage that you could reach out and touch at some points. The walk up to the peak was quite tough, especially when the trail became very narrow and the drop was clearly visible. Still, we managed it without major incident or injury.The descent worried me, since I would be able to see the sheer drop at almost every stage of the journey.However, it wasn't that bad, although it was very hard on the feet and legs, having to hold yourself backfrom running down the hill (no fear of doing that deliberately though). We spotted a few interesting birds (shrike, sunbird, manikin) but no colobus monkey. We could certainly hear them shrieking in the dense tree foliage, but they were not willing to show themselves to humans today.

Returned to camp at 5:30 pm. We are the only guests staying here tonight and dinner was excellent. Once back in our banda, Ruth spent a good deal of time with the torch on, looking for whatever creepy crawly was lurking within the room. Having finally discovered that our visitor was a gecko, we both managed to drift off to sleep.

Sunday 29th June
Following breakfast we set off for a full day game drive with Geoff and Tim. We really are getting the V.I. P. treatment so far. The weather was disappointing this morning, lots of cloud cover and quite chilly. Fortunately we both had warm fleeces to keep out the cold, which is exacerbated by the open design of the jeep when traveling at any speed over twenty miles an hour. We had lunch by a hippo pool then went to have afternoon tea at the attractive Vuma Hills Lodge, another of the Fox properties. This lodge, as its' name suggests, is set high in the hills and has superb views from almost every part of the complex. We were back at our camp by late afternoon and were spared the agony of the 105 steps by being served drinks on our verandah (double G&T for Ruth, bottle of Kilimanjaro for me).

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