Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Back from Tanzania and Zanzibar

I'm just back from East Africa with this happy greeting from the Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, which is not on Tanzania, but in Kenya. Having your breakfast with the giraffes can take several hours.

I flew into Nairobi and spent one night here on my own before I joined my group in Arusha, Tanzania. The Giraffe Manor has changed ownership since I was last here with a group of clients a few years ago. It has been uplifted with many new features and additions that I was anxious to see and learn about. There's even more to come and I found out what's in store.

After spending one night at the Arusha Coffee Lodge, a wonderful gem of a hotel, set in a coffee plantation, we flew to Lake Manyara in the morning. Here we were met by Malley, our guide from &Beyond for the next several days. Our home for 2 nights was the Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, located at the bottom end of the park. Nobody else comes down here, so you have the entire area to yourself. Elephants don't hesitate to check you out on your deck! What a thrill!!!

The next day, we visited Lemala Camp during a game drive. Lake Manyara is known for tree-climbing lions, but I never saw any do that here. What I saw was lots of flamingos, elephants, buffalo, hippo, zebra, jackals, klipspringer, dik-dik, water buck, mongoose, leopard tortoise, baboons & monkeys, warthog, red-headed agama lizard, many different kinds of birds, including ground hornbill, little bee-eaters, long-tailed fiscal shrike, red bishop, issabelline shrike, silvery-cheeked hornbill, white-browed coucal (aka rainbird), African Harrier Hawk and Augur Buzzard.

Travel Agents on a working safari!
From Lake Manyara we drove to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge for lunch on the way to Serengeti Under Canvas, an &Beyond seasonal tented camp in the Ndutu area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is part of the Serengeti Eco-system, which includes the Masai Mara in Kenya. On the way we visited Shifting Sands in the Oldupai Gorge.

This crescent shape dune travels 17 meters a year around this area and has done so for 3 million years, at least. The sand is magnetic and always comes back to itself even when the wind blows it away from the dune. I found this to be a bit eerie!

We reached Ndutu by dinner. We spent 3 nights exploring this area, which I had not been to before. I was amazed at how big it was. This is where the Great Migration comes to graze and birth their young from December to March. There were wildebeest and zebra everywhere. I've never seen so many animals and with them the lions and cheetahs.

From Ndutu, we flew back to Arusha, where we met Jackson from Asilia. He was our guide for the next week. Asilia is rebuilding their Olivers Camp from the bottom up, so we stayed at Swala, a Sanctuary lodge owned by A&K. Swala is located far away from any other camp, so you have the entire area to yourself down there. Swala has also recently been rebuilt and it is gorgeous.

Tarangire is know for its big baobab trees and elephants, but this is where I got my best pictures so far of a lilac-breasted roller with its wings out as it just landed on a bush in front of me. Here you see all seven colors in its wings. What a beautiful bird! No wonder, it is everyone's favorite bird in Africa.

The next day, we visited Olivers Camp as they were re-building it to get an idea of the location and what it will offer when ready to accept guests in June.

From Tarangire we drove to Mto wa Mbo Village for a local lunch.

After lunch, we paid a visit to my old friend Charles Bies, the Makonde wood-carver. He carves, so you feel his passion in his pieces and they live forever in his work. This little ellie reached out his long trunk to me, so I had to have it. The beautiful ebony bowl also went home with me this time.

We spent the next morning in the Crater, before proceeding back to Ndutu, where we spent 2 nights at Asilia's Olakira tented camp.

No off-road driving is allowed in the Ngorongoro Crater, but what can you do when there are lions in the road?

From Ndutu we entered the Serengeti NP at Naabi Hill Gate. These cute little Love birds were sitting on eggs in their nest in the tree and he was feeding her or is it just a kiss?

Coming down the hill I witnessed something I will never forget. WOW!!! The entire southern plains of the Serengeti were covered with wildebeest, like a black carpet. It went on as far as the eye could see, for many miles in all directions. I thought that I had seen the Great Migration at Ndutu, but this was amazing! There must have been millions of animals here all spread out forever. This scene cannot be photographed, it has to be seen in person. There's no way I can describe it or you can comprehend it unless you were there. Here is my meager try at showing you just a glimpse of what I saw.

From Seronera we flew to Kogatende in the Northern Serengeti as driving will take an entire day. Here The Mara River flows through the Serengeti before it enters Kenya and The Masai Mara.

Here I am sitting on the marker locating the border between Tanzania and Kenya. Fortunately, I had a valid visa for both countries!

The time to be up here is in early summer to late fall when the wildebeest pass through on their way to and back from grazing in the Masai Mara. Many animals stay here all summer. Some spectacular river crossing can be seen here then without the crowds often encountered in Kenya at the Mara crossing points. But hurry up, the area has been discovered and many new seasonal camps and permanent lodges are being built up here. We stayed at Asilia's Sayari. Bushtops is an hour away. The seasonal camps will be open by June 1st and stay until October 31st to catch the migration coming and going into The Masai Mara.

Exotic Zanzibar

Our first stop on Zanzibar was at Matemwe Bungalows & Retreat, located north of Stonetown. Then we stayed at Breezes, Baraza and The Palms, located south of Stonetown. To end the trip we stayed 3 nights at the fabulous Serena Inn in Stonetown located right on the water.

From here we made several tours and lots of shopping! We visited the Jozani Forest, Prison Island and took the Spice Tour. Did you know that cloves is the principle spice for export from Zanzibar? I didn't until now.

The Jozani Forest is Zanzibar's only National Park. It's most famous for its Red Colobus Monkeys. They also have very long tails!

This was my first visit to Zanzibar, so I needed to see a lot and learn a lot. I can now highly recommend a visit here for you too.

I will end with a nice shot of a Dhow, the name of the boats used in Zanzibar and the Swahili Coast of East Africa.

Next, I'm off to Southern Africa from May 4-25, 2011.
I'll be visiting Zambia after the Indaba Conference in Durban.