Monday, August 8, 2011

Safari Zuri

Due to an intense observational campaign and a 4 day Safari, this blog has been found lacking. I'll cover the Safari here, because it is most recent, and will follow later with a post describing our recent observational exploits, including going to sea 8 of 10 consecutive days.

My guide met me at the Kilimanjaro airport, and brought me to a basic campsite with an incredible view of Rift Valley and Lake Manyara. The electricity was out, but still our cook was able to create some delicious spaghetti with meatballs, and an opportunity to meet my (first) Safari partners. A pair of Dutch girls and a middle-aged German couple were going to travel through Ngorogoro Crater with me the following day.

We awoke early, and slipped out after some eggs and pancakes. Before 9am, we got our first view of the crater’s huge plain with dotted lakes as we descended to the floor. We soon saw cumba (warthogs), though gazelles, wildebeests, and zebra were quick to follow.

It was so much fun, just to drive around a look for stuff. Before lunch, I had seen baboons, some far-off lions, ostriches, a cheetah, an elephant, hyenas, and countless flying birds. We actually lunched next to the hippo pool, dodging the hawk-like kites trying to steal our food. The afternoon gave two rhino sightings, some closer lions, as well as all the other above animals. Our car was the first to sight one of the rhinos, which gave our guide something to brag about in Kiswahili to all the other drivers.

We made it back to camp around sunset, with another delicious dinner ready for us and a decent acrobatic show as entertainment. The next morning was Lake Manyara, a heavily forested National Park providing much closer animal viewings. Baboons, impala, and Giraffes were the standard, with some lucky elephant sightings as well; Giraffes are definitely my favorite.

After a stop off at the hippo pool, we left the park and returned for a hot lunch in camp. In the small town nearby, I haggled down some souvenirs and bade farewell to my car. My afternoon was spent on bicycle safari, taking me through herds of zebra and wildebeests before a banana beer in a mud-brick bar.

On the back of a motorcycle, I found my second camp and group. This time only a younger Italian couple woke with me the next morning to travel to Tarangire National Park. It was so nice, to see such different terrains each day, this time with dry hills and dotted baobab trees forcing the Tarangire River to snake through the region. It was that morning that I realized lions aren’t that cool; they’re so lazy, even when delicious-looking zebra are less than 100 meters away. 

Following my own lunch, a group of elephants passed AROUND the truck, prompting me to bring myself down from the moon roof and take pictures through the windows (elephants are HUGE and kind of scary). We followed this group down the river as they dug for water, sprayed mud on each other, and picked at grass along the bank. On our way out, we saw a lion eating a zebra.

I again exchanged emails and said goodbyes, before catching a local bus into town with my guide. He found me a place to stay, and met me the following morning for a walking safari through Arusha National Park.

The hike was beautiful, though sparse with animals. I guess it is a positive the Ranger assigned to me didn’t have to use the rifle assigned to her, but some excitement would have been nice. After some water buffalo, a waterfall, and a tree big enough to drive through, I found the exit and some Nyama Choma for lunch.

The flight back to Zanzibar gave me a beautiful view of Stone Town during the sunset, where I was able to point out to my single-serving friend each of the islands near town.

Somethings Interesting:
-Arusha is very touristy, and going on Safari is very easy. While I believe regions of the Serengetti are still remote (and too far for my few days), the parks I went to had daily visitor numbers comparable with Yosemite or Yellowstone.

-I have taken accustomed to rolling my eyes back in my head to only show the whites to local children who are starring at me (e.g. when entering a restaurant). I figure, give them something to stare at, and they normally find it funny.

-Haggling is an art, and I only have amateur status. My best advice; (1) always be astonished by the first price; (2) hold the amount of money you are offering in your hand; this lets the person see it; (3) realize that you don’t have to buy anything.

-I love the moment while traveling, where I awake from dozing off, and realize, “Oh ya, I’m in a truck returning from Tarangire/a boat returning from Chumbe Island/a dala dala returning from Jambiani.”