Monday, March 4, 2013

2013 Safaris in Tanzania

It was part of the plan whereby we would go for safaris upon our return from the mountain. The plan was to spend 4 days on the safaris. 4 days for 3 safaris: Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.

So, upon returning from the mountain, beside busy cleaning up ourselves, we were also busy with unpacking and packing for safaris the following day. For safaris, we chose to camp as well. However, it will be in a canvas tent. Having zero knowledge in camping, I could not differentiate the tent on the mountain and the canvas tent till I actually helped to put it up. hahaha... 

As Swee Chiow did not go on the safaris with us, we were briefed by Lota from the local travel agency. We were told to bring at least 1 set of warm clothing as it would be cold at Ngorongoro Crater. 

Day 1. Lake Manyara
We were told to get ready to depart from the hotel at 9am. However, we waited till about 9.45am. Then,  2 4WD Land Rover came to the hotel for us. To our surprise, we saw Ericky (the cook who went to the mountain with us). The night before, we were told that he would not be serving us as he had another assignment. Due to the change in arrangements, he would be cooking for us.

As we loaded our bags onto the 2 vehicles, we were divided into both vehicles with 5 each. I was in the Land Rover with  KL Chan, David Yap, Doc Wong and Karen. Saidi was our driver/ safari guide is also Lota's son (the boss' son). Wow!!! 

Finally, we started our journey at 10am. We went to a big supermarket in Arusha to get some food before the journey started. On the way, we picked up Ericky as he was in another vehicle earlier. Throughout the journey, Saidi would remind us to be careful with our cameras as we had our windows opened. That's because some of the motorists would just snatch and run off with the valuables. Also, we were reminded not to take pictures of some Maasai who stood on the road, for some of them could be quite fierce. On one stretch, Saidi told us not to take pictures as we were within the military compound. 

The journey from Arusha to Lake Manyara took about 1.5 - 2 hours. We first went to the lodge to unload our bags, the Haven n Nature Lodge. After lunch, we proceeded to Lake Manyara for our first game drive. 

At the gate, while waiting for our permit, we opened the roof-top of our Land Rover. This enabled us to stand up, to watch and observe the wildlife. I started to get excited about it. We were not allowed to go out of the vehicle throughout the entire game drive. 

As it was the dry season, the water level of the lake was very low. There were many baboons here. Hippos were all hidden in the pond due to the hot weather. Flamingoes were at a distance away. 

At one area, we saw a small herd of elephants. We were so close to them (maybe about 5 - 10 meters). One of them got very close to us, walked right past our Land Rover. Spotted 2 giraffes at a far distance too. 

Wildebeest, zebras and gazelles were spotted too. They were enjoying themselves on the grassy plains. We saw a hornbill on the tree. 

We finished the game drive at around 6.30pm. At the exit, we saw a blue monkey holding a water hose drinking clean water from it. A very smart monkey.

We shared tent at the campsite. All tents were equipped with bed and nice clean linen, which was nice. And we didn't had to make our own tent. The campsite has quite some good shower facility too. Dinner was served at around 8pm that night.

That night, I felt that my bed was made up of 2 pieces of wood and sliding to the left. Where sometimes, I felt the bed could be broken into two. Then, I reminded myself, if I can survive 8 days sleeping on the slope on the mountain, this should be fine. hahaha... 

Day 2. Serengeti National Park 
A very sumptuous breakfast was served. Unlike on the mountain where we started before the porters and cook, on the safari, we traveled as a team. While waiting for everything to be packed, KL Chan taught us stretching exercises. And I went to the kitchen to help in packing. This would in turn allow us to depart earlier. :) 

We departed at 9am. We had a packed lunch, picnic under a tree by the roadside for it was a long journey from Lake Manyara to Serengeti National Park. 

We stopped at Ngorongoro Conservative Area which is 8,288 sq km to apply our permit. We had to go through Ngorongoro National Park to get to Serengeti Park.

Serengeti is about 14,763 sq km. It is Tanzania's oldest and most popular national park, also a world heritage site. Serengeti is famous for its annual migration. Serengeti means 'endless plains'. In Masai which means 'the place where the land runs on forever'. 

Before reaching Serengeti National Park, we visited a Masai village. Masai dance and songs were performed outside the village to welcome the visitors. Then, we were invited into the village where more songs were sung. The village was enclosed with a circular fence. The houses were made of sticks, grass and covered with cow dung for waterproofing. We were then separated into smaller groups to visit their houses. The house was very short and small. In here, they cook, eat, sleep, socialize, store food and other household possessions. The family that I visited had 6 people living in there. The owner (son & wife), the parents and the children. A fire place was placed in the middle of the house. Then, we visited their kindergarten. Toilet was placed far on the plains. 

Before we entered into the Serengeti National Park gate, we were told that the engine of another Land Rover got over heated. So, we stopped and checked on them. They seemed fine and we moved on together.

The road leading us to Serengeti was not tarred. It was intentionally left untarred so that vehicles will not be able to travel fast to avoid any accident killing the animals as they cross the road. We saw wildebeest and zebras crossings a few time. Lions, hippos were spotted too on that evening. 

We did not go for a proper game drive that evening as it was around 6.30pm by the time we got to our camp site. We helped to set up tents while Ericky and his helpers were preparing dinner for us. It was my first time setting up a canvas tent and it was heavy. I told Saidi, better to use the mountain tent as it would be much easier to set up. We were supposed to have individual tent, but as it is not easy to set-up the tent, some of us decided to share a tent. All in, I guessed, I set up 4 tents with the help of others. I also set-up the tents for Saidi, Ericky and Georgy (another driver).

There was only 1 ladies' toilet and 2 bathrooms at this campsite. RT and I decided not to shower. If we could survive 8 days on the mountain, 1 day should be ok. hahaha... Serengeti campsite was hot. I can feel the heat from the ground as I laid in my sleeping bag that evening. 

At dinner, I told everyone not to wander further than our campsite at night. If anyone needed to go to toilet, just go straight to the toilet and back to tent as there could be animals near to our tent. After dinner, someone came to tell us should we have any food in our bags, we should put those in the car so as not to attract animals. Then, I remembered I had an apple, brought from Malaysia all the way up to Uhuru Peak, now to safari. So, I told them, I am eating now. gosh... attract animal, that's the least I want to do. And I told RT that night, it felt like Jurassic Park, what if suddenly at night, something (an animal) came and 'wow' at our tent. hahaha... yes.. I started my wildest imagination.

As I was about to fall asleep, RT called me. She asked if I was still awake. She told me that she was not feeling good spiritually. So, I prayed for her. Then, we tried to sleep. Midnight, she called me again asking me to have my headlight switched on as she wanted to go to toilet. I did that and waited for her to return. Not long after her returned, we could hear a wolf howling from far (the bush next to our campsite), I told RT, shhhh.... we better sleep now. It's kind of exciting and yet scary. 

We had an early morning game drive. Just had a slice of bread and a hot drink at 6am, we went out for our game drive at 7am. Sunrise was beautiful. Impala could be seen in the bush. Lions looking out from the rock. Buffalo looking for food. Hot air balloon started the journey with many western visitors. Hippos immersed themselves in the water. Thompson-gazelles and Grant's-gazelles were seen. 

Then, we saw a group of lions. As we drove closer, a few lions were actually eating a buffalo. Every time we stopped, we had to turn off the engine so not to disturb the animals. We spent time observing the lion tearing and enjoying the meat, the bones, pulling the carcass. It was magnificent! 

We saw 2 hyenas running towards another tree. Saidi said, there was a baby leopard on the tree, which could be what the hyenas were looking for. We couldn't see the baby leopard as it was too far on the tree and shaded. We saw elephants and giraffes. 

At around noon, we returned to the campsite for our brunch. At around 1.30pm, after packing everything, we started our journey to Ngorongoro National Park. 

As we approached Simba campsite that evening, we saw many giraffes. We were excited. Those giraffes were big, beautifully standing tall.

Simba camp site was located at a higher ground and thus it was cold. We arrived the camp site at around 7pm. Pitched our tents. I was told hot shower was available and went for shower, but, it was cold water for me. Some said, Lawrence went to shower the same time as me which he might have taken all the hot water. hmm... 

We had a romantic dinner outside on the field, in the cold rather than the canteen/ food area because this place was crowded with visitors. I was glad that we were a team who can be flexible and adapt well. No complaints. :) 

Day 3. Ngorongoro National Park (Ngorongoro Crater Park)
Ngorongoro Conservative Area is a world UNESCO Heritage Site. 

After breakfast and packing, we departed at around 8am. According to Ericky, cooking at safari is more stressful than on the mountain, which I totally agreed. Because we all have to move together, unlike on the mountain. 

Saidi drove very slowly and carefully as we going downhill inside the crater. We spotted a male lion on one of the rocks on the slope. 

As we continued and drove nearer to the lake, we could see a pink border by the lake, that was formed by hundreds of pink flamingoes. We also saw herds of wildebeest and zebra. 

According to Saidi, animals here at the crater do not migrate as there was sufficient food for them. 

We found more hippos here. Then, as we drove, we saw many other 4-wheel drive parking at a distance. As we approached them, we found out there was a large group of lions. One of the female lion was sleeping on the road. As we continued to observe, we realised that there was one male lion actually watching over her nearby. After about 5 - 10 minutes, another female lion stood up and woke the sleeping lion. More lions walked towards the vehicles. There was one which actually walked past our vehicle, maybe 1 - 2 meters away. David was quick to close his side of the window and I just moved more to the center. It was my first encounter that a big, muscular lion walked past us so closely. 

Then, we moved on. We saw a large herd of buffaloes. Then, I told them, I needed to go for a toilet break. Knowing it's open, and could be dangerous, Saidi took us to a safer place, where only 1 or 2 of us could go for a 'pit-stop' at a time. Not just that someone needed to watch our back for animals, also, watch out of rangers as we were not suppose to get out of vehicles as it might attract animals. It was another experience. 

We wanted to look for rhino. And we found 2 black rhinos far away. We had to use binoculars to actually see them clearly. 

I felt a bit disappointed at not seeing any leopards or cheetah though. 

We stopped by a lake side for a picnic lunch before starting the journey back to Arusha. We were told not to eat out or had to be very careful as the birds would come and steal the food. David and I decided to just eat in the car while others went under the tree. There were hippos inside the lake. 

Saidi stopped for petrol at around 5.15pm when we were about another 30 - 45km away from Arusha. Just before we left, we got call from George (Georgy), another vehicle's driver, that they had run out of diesel and needed help. So, we bought some diesel returning to help them. They stopped at military area. The Land Rover couldn't start after we put in the diesel. With some automobile knowledge, KL Chan tried to help. 

Different options were used to start the Land Rover, but still failed. In the midst of that, a few local Masai came to our vehicle and someone gave them some money. Thus, it attracted a few more who came to ask for money. Then, Ericky and Saidi were not very happy and conversed with them in Masai and asked them to go. Ericky was keeping an eye on them and us thereafter. Though we knew it is at a military area and no harm would happen, it was better to be careful than sorry. 

As dusk approached, another member felt insecure asking us to leave that place faster and if all could go in 1 vehicle. This was not possible. 

Saidi had actually called another vehicle to come for rescue and knowing the traffic in Arusha, it would take some time. Thus, instead of waiting there, we pulled the vehicle to the nearby petrol station. Then, we saw the other vehicle was at the petrol station waiting. So, 5 of them got transferred to another vehicle. 

It was a long day. We got back to the hotel at almost 9pm. 

Thus ended our safaris journey and also my Tanzania trip. 

On the day we departed, I felt emotional inside me, as I think I have started to like and love this place. Should another chance arise, I would love to return for the people, mountain and safaris. I would like to understand better on the culture. 

Indeed, I have made some good friends or relationships with the locals and I hope they will last. 

1 comment:

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