As always time passed by way too quickly and I had to leave Tanzania. It feels weird that I won’t be coming back before a while. Here are the accounts of my last week in Tanzania that I spent on a safari in the following parks: Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro crater, Serengeti, Tarangire. It was so much more than my friend Anja and I had expected.
Safari for 5 days
We booked our safari with Budget Safari, because World Unite participants get a 15% discount. We didn’t think much about the itinerary and simply decided to do the standard 5 day itinerary in simple lodges, so we wouldn’t be surprised by wild animals when going to the toilet at night. Instead of spending only one night in Serengeti, as most tours do, we spent two nights there. Having full day without having to rush away really paid off (see the leopard pictures on day 3).
Day 1 – Lake Manyara
Much of the first day was spent in transfer and eating (we were quite bad Germans… we weren’t ready on time the morning we left). However, we still got to see a lot of animals in Lake Manyara National Park where we spent 3 hours.
So we played Paparazzi, photographing baboons, blue monkeys, giraffes, hippos, storks, pelicans, wildebeests, and yes, a herd of elephants that walked past our jeep! We also got a glimpse of Pumbaa, not enough for a picture though. We were told there would be loads the next day… More than 400 pictures on my camera alone (not counting cellphones and Anja’s camera) to go through in the evening! But the first day is just too exciting. In real bad travel blogger style half of the pictures in this blog post have actually been taken by Anja and not by me. She likes zooming, I like panorama… But in the end zooming isn’t that bad.
Day 2 – Ngorongoro crater, entering Serengeti
What can I say, an epic day… We talked to people who had been on safari for a few days already and who told us how many animals there were, but we didn’t think it would be that impressive. They are just everywhere and a lot of them came very close, the countryside is beautiful, it was simply amazing. We spent the morning in Ngorongoro crater where we could even spot some black rhinoceros in the distance (they look greyish or almost white because they are covered in dust). We had lunch next to a hippo pool and continued to Serengeti afterwards, which is a few hours drive away. Some giraffes, elephants and migrating wilder beasts welcomed us. We hadn’t even been expecting to see any animals before the next day. Wow. We spent the night in a hostel, where our guide told us that if we go further than 20m away from the car our tour wouldn’t only be considered a walking safari, we would also probably look like nice food for lions waiting to hunt hidden in the grass (this is why walking safaris are accompanied by an armed ranger, they are also more expensive).
Day 3 – Serengeti (schedule of a usual day on safari)
The evening entering the Serengeti was only a small preview of what we would see the following day:
6.45 am sunrise, ten lions playing
More animals along the road: zebras, wilder beasts, giraffes, hyenas, shakal, vulture
A cheetah mum with three kids
10am breakfast with a view of the surrounding countryside, wilder beasts passing by
Hippos, lions mating, wart hogs. ( youtube video of mating lions)
2pm Lunch, writing postcards, chasing baboons who wanted to steal food in the kitchen
3pm to 6pm: watching a Leopard that turned out to be with a second Leopard. We waited until everybody else left. Our patience was rewarded, we saw them from very close… Watch two leopards coming very close to the jeep
7pm to 9.30pm dinner and then sorting out the pictures while charging all devices
9.45pm the quickest cigarette of my life – lions were looking at me while I was smoking outside the hostel… Smoking can kill you!
Day 4 – Serengeti
Animals just everywhere… We left Serengeti after lunch, but could have stayed forever. Here is just an extract of what we saw that day:
After lunch at the park gate we drove to Mto wa Mbu to stay in the same hostel as on the first day (Fig Tree Lodge).
Day 5 – Tarangire
On our last day in Tarangire we started to be a bit worried we wouldn’t see any animals when we realized that most of them had probably gone to some other places that how have water after the rain season started. Usually they are concentrated around Tarangire river that is the main source of water when it’s dry. We were lucky though and could enjoy some nice scenes:
Safari expectations and reality:
-accomodation: we thought we would be in tented lodges some of the nights, but actually slept in hostels (with ensuite rooms 🙂 )
-The Tsetse fly: Two days before the safari we sprayed mosquito repellent at least on the clothes that we were going wear in Tarangire, because of the Tsetse fly that transmits the dengue fever. We thought it exists mainly in Tarangire, but actually there were many more in Serengeti and some in Lake Manyara Park, too. We thought not wearing black or dark blue and insect repellent would keep them away, because we were told that clothes for that part of the trip should preferably be of light colors (which is very hard for me since 90% of my clothes are black or blue). It turned out that probably the only efficient preventionis wearing very thick clothes, which we thought is not an option in the heat. We only put on our fleece jackets when the Tsetse attacks got extreme. Another option is never to stop the car, which is not an option for paparazzis like us. So we just chased the flies away, as long as we were far from zebra and gnu herds we were usually mostly Tsetse free anyway. For emergencies we had a fan that we renamed Tsetse-Zerpatscher (=Bavarian for tsetse flattener).
-Food: we bought snacks in case we would get hungry between meals, but the food was so good and abundant that we hardly touched the snacks
-toilets: I thought it might be hard to find toilets on the way, but all the parks had clean toilets with toilet paper at the entrance and at the numerous picnic points.
-I thought the safari would be really tiring, but actually I don’t get tired at all of watching animals all day long
-Warm clothes for Ngorongoro crater: It turned out that we would only go to Ngorongoro crater in the morning and that it’s only cold during the night. Therefore we didn’t need our fleece jackets, except to keep off Tsetse flies when there were too many of them
-electricity and internet: I didn’t expect much and was quite glad that we had internet+electricity in the hostel where we spent our first and last night in Mtu wa Mbu. However, I didn’t quite figure that in Serengeti we wouldn’t have wifi nor data (I know, it sounds kind of obvious though), and that electricity for plugs was only available from 7pm to 10pm. Probably bringing a multi-plug would have been the only way to charge our devices, if we hadn’t been lucky enough to be alone in the hostel. We also had a plug in the car, but it didn’t work the second day in Serengeti.
-the guide: Before starting the safari I was hoping we would get along well with the driver. We ended up laughing so much with our driver guide John that we were sad we only had 5 days. John told us about a customer who thought everything about the safari he did was perfect, except for the driver who kept “throwing” flies at him. Basically the driver was just trying to kill or chase away the flies. So our running gag became John pretending to throw flies at us and we pretended we were throwing them back with our Tsetse-Zerpatscher. John knew the exact names even of all the birds and we learned a lot about the animals’ behavior.
After the tour we asked John to let us copy the music we had been listening to throughout the trip. We were almost being able to sing along at the end of the trip.
The bottom line
I could have continued forever, everything was perfect: loads of animals and many times really close, a fun driver guide who knew so much about the animals, everything was perfectly organized, nice hostels, very good food (so much of it), … I want to do it again!
Now it’s time for a new episode. I’m already in Istanbul where I’ll spend a few weeks and learn Turkish. My plans after that until the end of my trip in June are not defined yet.