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Trip Report Trip Report - Honeymoon Safari in Tanzania - End of July/August 2012

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After an amazing wedding weekend in France at the end of July 2012, we are off to Kilimanjaro via Amsterdam for our honeymoon safari. The flight was somewhat short (about 8 hours) and went fast as we slept most of the way. We arrived in JRO at about 7:30pm. After going through the visa office and customs without much trouble, we are welcomed by our first guide Ayoub.

Upon our arrival at Onsea House, we are greeted with hot towels and a delicious passion fruit juice. We are then escorted by the wonderful staff to our beautiful room before having a delicious dinner with matching wines on the terrace. It was actually quite chilly so they put some romantic charcoal fire buckets on each side of our table which was just perfect. We feel so lucky as we are off to such a wonderful start of our honeymoon.

On Tuesday, July 31 we have an early start and meet our friendly guide Ayoub at 6:30am after a quick breakfast on the terrace. Today, we are driving to Ngorongoro crater which is a caldera (an "inverted" volcano) about 2,200m above sea level. The weather is quite chilly and foggy.

After a 3-hour drive from Arusha, we reach the conservation area's gate and take a little break while our guide fills out some paperwork with the park rangers. After an hour drive along the rim of the crater, the drive down the crater is relatively short, about 20 minutes. Along the way, we pass a troop of baboons including some babies being carried by their mothers.

We have a wonderfully successful day with our game viewing. Even our guide is impressed that we would see the big five (lion, buffalo, elephant, and even a leopard and a rhinoceros which are the hardest to see) on our first day. We also saw a lot of wildebeests, zebras, gazelles, and three hyenas. We could not have dreamed of a better first safari day and feel so fortunate, it is almost unreal to be experiencing such a wonderful show by mother nature.

At the end of our fantastic first day, we arrive at Plantation Lodge which used to be surrounded by coffee plantations and is now in the middle of farm fields, quietly set in tropical gardens. Again the welcoming staff is handing out warm towels and fresh squeezed juice upon our arrival. We are escorted to a wonderful room adorned with fresh flowers where we enjoy nice showers to wash off all the red dust from our game driving. Dinner is quite delicious and plentiful. We enjoy an early night and plan on meeting Ayoub at 8am the following morning.

On Wednesday, August 1 we have a bit of a later departure as we are only driving a couple of hours to the gates of Tarangire national park this morning. We stop to get cash, gas, and some Tanzanian souvenirs on our way. On our way into the park, we encounter a few groups of mongoose.

The landscape is quite a bit different than in the crater. In particular, the altitude allows the baobab trees to proliferate. The elephants are incredibly numerous and put on quite a good show, some fighting, some playing, especially the babies. We also encounter our first giraffes which are quite elegant, especially when running. We are lucky enough to see another leopard, spread out on the branch of a tree to nap.

We are most fortunate toward the end of the day when we stumble across two lions mating. The female is not shy and poses for some incredible pictures. The male is so majestic, it feels incredible to be so close by.

As we didn't think things could get much better than that, more action is awaiting as we drive to our next overnight location. A herd of hunting dogs (15 of them) is quietly resting before preparing and strategizing for their evening hunt. They are slowly disappearing so it is quite rare to see them on safari. A lot of the guides in the jeeps around us have only seen them a few times in their life. We manage to chase them for quite some time as they encounter a group of zebras which successful escape the dogs. It looks like the group of impalas may have escaped them as well although we lose their trace after they very rapidly go running after them.

We drive back under the full moon and arrive to a very warm welcome by the staff at Oliver's camp. This is our first tented camp, true night in the wilderness experience and it feels so incredible. The warmest welcome awaits us in our room where we find a bottle of champagne and a sweet note from the staff and manager couple Ken and Michelle wishing us the best on our honeymoon.

Elephants and other wild animals regularly pass through the camp, so we are not allowed to leave our tent alone after dark. One of the very friendly staff escorts each guest to and out of their tents, first to the campfire where we enjoy pre-dinner drinks and exchange stories from our day with the other guests. We then move to the main tent for an absolutely delicious dinner and local wines. We certainly did not expect to eat as sophisticated a dinner in the bush, which makes it that much more enjoyable.
We are escorted back to our tent a little before 10pm and get ready for our next day after feeling so spoiled to have had such an incredible first couple of days.

On Thursday, August 2 we are awaken by the staff with freshly brewed coffee and delicious almond cookies. After a shower outside as the sun is barely up, we enjoy a yummy breakfast with some of the other guests (one of the best granola ever).

At 7:30am we head out for a walking safari with our young guide Simon, a Masai warrior named Supert, and a park ranger armed with a rifle. We walk straight out of the camp along the river for about three hours. A very nice change of pace after two driving days, and also the opportunity to experience the wildlife in quite a special and interesting way.

Without coming as close to the animals, it is nice to see them interact with us and keep an eye on us as we walk by. We encounter a group of zebras as well as impalas. We also have a rare sighting of a reedbuck. We explore a few different skulls, zebra skin, and many bird varieties. Simon shows us the lair of a trapdoor spider. Back at the camp around 10:30am, it is nice to enjoy a break before a delicious lunch at the communal table.

Our afternoon game drive is not as successful as our prior two days with our incredible luck with wildlife. No new animals but a nice drive nonetheless with a fellow couple of honeymooners. We are back at the camp shortly before 7pm to enjoy some pre-dinner drinks around the campfire and yet another fantastic dinner at the communal table. We enjoy an early night before departing for our next location in Tanzania the following morning.

On Friday, August 3 we get quite a special wake up call by the lions and the elephants around 5am. After a shower in the dark and another delicious breakfast, Alex (one of the friendly managers of the camp) drives us to Kuro airstrip for our bush plane flight at 8:40am. After enjoying a wonderful game drive and seeing a lot of animals, including waterbucks and a Greater Koodoo, our bush plane arrives on time to take us to the northern Serengeti.

Our sweet guide Nathan welcomes us upon arrival. We start with a coffee break and delicious muffins while Nathan patiently waits for the paperwork to be processed.

The plains of the Serengeti extend as far as the eye can see, quite a different and fascinating landscape. Our drive along the Masai Mara river is quite lovely. Lots of hippos, a ton of vultures flying over the river to pick up on the carcasses of the wildebeests who never made it across the river. Of course, extremely numerous wildebeests getting ready to cross the river as they migrate over to Kenya. Lots of warthogs are around, on their knees, digging through the dirt looking for food. We also see a baby giraffe and its mom as well as impalas and a couple of lions lying in the high grass.

We are back at the camp around 1pm where we are escorted to our tent before sharing a lunch with two families who also just arrived. The camp is only semi-permanent so the amenities are a bit simpler and more rustic than we have been getting used to, although still very nice given how remote the camp is. It overlooks the Mara river which will hopefully give us a chance to experience a wildebeest crossing.

We are back on the road at 3pm to continue exploring the plains of the Serengeti. We encounter a group of 7 lions including two which were mating. No luck witnessing a wildebeest river crossing today. After waiting along the river for quite some time, we start a pursuit of a rhino which was recently seen by another guide instead. Also unsuccessful in seeing pembe (nickname for a rhino in swahili), although the quick drive and bush search was quite fun.

Back at the camp, we request showers since the buckets have to be filled with water by the staff prior hand and enjoy a beautiful sunset and pre-dinner drinks by the campfire (which our host Pascal calls "Bush TV"). Dinner is quite good after which we get ready for the night under the numerous wildlife sounds.

On Saturday, August 4 we have an early 7am departure after a delicious but quite chilly breakfast overlooking the sun rising over the Mara river. Our morning drive is quite exciting as we see our first Cheetah.

She is laying a short distance away from her freshly killed Thompson gazelle when we arrive at the site. After enjoying her prey for about 30 minutes, the vultures start gathering around her. Quite a show to witness as the cheetah finishes her meal and goes to rest under a tree while the vultures wipe the gazelle carcass clean.

We spend quite a while by the river around lunch time waiting for a wildebeest crossing in vain. We enjoy an afternoon drive through the Lamai plains all the way to the Kenya border, encountering our second cheetah on the way. We finish our drive with a glass of wine on the truck table on our way back to camp. Such a sweet touch from our guide to organize this bush aperitif for us!

Sunday, August 5 is our last full day on safari. We depart at 7:30am and drive to the Mara river where we are able to experience an impressive wildebeest crossing. Quite an exciting morning as we also find ourselves in the middle of a jackal chasing a baby impala on our way to lunch. The mom mounts quite an impressive defense and manages to chase the jackal away.

After our bush lunch under a tree, we have our closest encounter with a group of hyenas resting by the water. We drive back to the rhino area in the afternoon. Although there is still no sign of pembe, the drive is lovely and allows us to discover yet another landscape, more forest-like than the rest of the Serengeti. Our drive back is interrupted by a second wildebeest crossing of a smaller river. We round out the day by a glass of wine by the river before returning to camp to shower in time for pre-dinner drinks by the campfire.

The staff and manager of the camp Pascal surprise us to a fantastic private romantic candlelight dinner by the campfire while everybody proceeds to the communal tent. Such a sweet surprise, complete with a bottle of champagne. Quite an adventurous honeymoon dinner too, as we see a hippo pass by as we are enjoying our main course!

On Monday, August 6 we enjoy our last breakfast at the camp before slowly driving along the river to Kogatende airstrip where a little bush plane awaits to take us to Zanzibar for the second part of our wonderful honeymoon.

We take off at 10:30am and make our first stop at Lake Manyara. We then change planes in Arusha where an hour and a half wait also allows us to enjoy our lunch boxes. The flight is about an hour and a half, arriving in Zanzibar around 3:30pm where our taxi awaits. He gives us a lovely tour of the south of the island, passing through Jozani forest and numerous fruit and spice plantations.

We arrive at Anna of Zanzibar around 5pm where Nicci gives us a warm welcome while we sip delicious passion fruit juice cocktails. Our villa is huge, set in quiet beautiful tropical gardens by the beach. We enjoy cocktails under a lovely gazebo before dinner and a delicious three-course meal by the pool.

The following four days are pure bliss and relaxation by the beach or the pool. We only have to decide what time and where to have our meals. A three-course lunch and dinner menu is presented to us with choices for each course prior to each meal. The staff is very attentive, offering drinks as we relax on the beach or by the pool throughout the day.

On our last evening, on Friday August 10, the staff and all guests gather by the pool to enjoy a seafood barbecue. The power goes out a number of times, a common occurrence in Zanzibar, allowing us to enjoy the Milky Way and a sky full of stars! A lovely evening to end our stay at Anna.

On Saturday, August 11 a guide from Island Express comes to pick us up from Anna at 11am to drive us to Stone Town for the day before our flight to Dar El Saalam early evening. We take a tour of the Old Palace as well as the House of Wonders. Recently converted into a cultural and society museum, and still somewhat under construction, the House of Wonders is well worth a visit. We end up spending the rest of our afternoon there before our 5pm pick up to the airport.

There starts the long trip home with a bush plane to Dar where we arrive at around 7:30pm. Our connecting flight to Amsterdam departs at 11pm with arrival in Europe the following morning around 7am. Finally, our flight back to New York departs on time at 1:25pm to get us home at 3:30pm local time. Long trip but worth every minute of our fantastic and unforgettable honeymoon!

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