Sunday, December 5, 2010


I'll start off my Tanzania post where I ended my Kenya blog where I mentioned that I had read more positive things about the parks in Tanzania than the ones in Kenya. I would have to agree with the reviews and blogs. In my opinion the parks in Tanzania were better. We saw many of the same animals and a few new ones but we saw many of the animals in greater quantities plus the scenery was better. We toured Tanzania a little differently than Kenya. In Kenya it was a private safari with just Alethea, myself, and our driver. In Tanzania there were seven of us plus the driver in 4 wheel drive extended Toyota Land Cruiser. We were the only Americans in our group with our other travel companions coming from England, Belgium, and Italy.

We had essentially 6 nights but only 5 days of safari in Tanzania which was the same amount of time we spent in Kenya. We visited three parks which were Lake Manyara, Serengeti, and Ngorongoro. We spent the first night in Arusha and traveled to Lake Manyara on the second day. We arrived in the evening and went on a 3 hour game drive the next morning. We saw many of the same animals but saw a couple new ones at this park. We saw vervet monkeys and wildebeest for the first time. We also saw hippos out of the water from a safe distance for the first time in Africa. Lake Manyara was ok but nothing too special. 

Lake Manyara

After our morning game drive at Lake Manyara we took off for the furthest park away from us which was the Serengeti. However, we did drive through Ngorongoro on the way to the Serengeti. We stopped briefly at the top of the crater to take a few pictures. The drive all the way out to our lodge in the Serengeti took about 5.5 hours on some roads that were real rough at times. Our driver referred to it as an African massage. By the time we were through with our game drives on some days we felt a little beat up and even had some bruises. Our English friends even got massages on one day but they may have been because they had climbed up most of Mt. Kilimanjaro for charity before going on safari and were feeling a little exhausted. After a few more days I probably would have enjoyed a massage myself. Anyway, the scenery in the Serengeti is fantastic. The part of the park we entered was full of open plains. During some portions you could look in every direction and see absolutely nothing but grass. I actually thought it was like being in the Midwest or in Yellowstone for a minute until not too long after entered the park we spotted 4 lions on the side of the road which to my knowledge cannot be found in the Midwest or Yellowstone. The lions didn't really pay us much attention to us and once it started raining they would close their eyes and lay down flat in the grass like it would make a difference but it was cute. One funny thing we saw on the way to the lodge was that we saw an adult male elephant chase off a group of 3 sleeping lions. We had stopped to watch the lions when our driver spotted the elephant and he predicted exactly what was going to happen. The lion ran right where the lions were sleeping and scared them off. The lions didn't fight back and the elephant just kept walking.

Lions in the Serengeti

We ended up spending two nights at the Serengeti. We saw many of the same animals but as a I mentioned earlier we saw them in greater quantities. We did see some hartebeest, topi, and a cheetah which we had not seen before on our safaris. We also saw fully grown adult male lions with the full mange. We did not see them in Kenya. By far the most interesting activity that we saw on the whole safari in my opinion was a lion that stalked, hunted, and killed a zebra. Other lions joined in and ate the zebra once it was down. For about 45minutes we watched a female lion scout out and attack a zebra. It was a little gruesome but awesome. The lion would walk then stop for a little bit then move up again. When it moved up for the kill it took off and swatted the zebra then jumped on it and latched on to its windpipe to crush it. The other lions then moved in to help hold the zebra down. Once it was down other lions came in including baby cubs. We never did see the female who performed the kill eat any of the zebra. The younger ones including some of the adult female lions did most of the eating. Our guide who has been a guide for 14 years had never seen a hunt like this from start to finish. He had arrived right after a kill but never witnessed the whole thing. I took numerous pictures and will post them in a separate album. There are a few gory pics so they are obviously not for children. It was a really amazing thing to witness. We actually got to see another episode involving lions where an adult male was guarding another downed zebra and wouldn't let some other female lions eat it until the one that killed it ate. The lion activity was the highlight for me in the Serengeti but we did spot three additional leopards and a cheetah. Both are rare to spot.

Leopard sleeping in the Serengeti

The last park we visited was the Ngorongoro crater which is actually a caldera for those who aren't earth and planetary scientist living in Atlanta, Georgia. Ngorongoro is a massive caldera that is I believe 23 km by around 19 km (the internet is down where we're out in Cape Town, so I cannot verify the exact dimensions). The view of the caldera from the rim is something else. It is pretty both at sunrise and sunset. In Ngorongoro you see nearly all of the same wildlife as in the Serengeti except in the caldera the animals are less shy and don't startle as easy as in other parks mainly due to fewer predators for some animals. Zebras for example don't always take off running when you drive by. One even walked up to us. The only two animals you do not see are giraffes since it is hard to get down into the crater for them and female elephants with young elephants. You see male elephants though. The male elephants at this age separate themselves from the pack and are more solitary. We did see a plenty of lions within the crater including some adult male lions. We also spotted from a long distance using binoculars a rare black rhino. They actually aren't black but can be identified by their mouth. They were essentially hunted to extinction but have been re-introduced. They even have put chips into the rhino's horns to track them. I believe there are only 16 in the park. We did see another cheetah for a few minutes. It sat around and looked at us for a minute before laying back down in the grass. The lodge we stayed out in Ngorongoro was real nice too. The lodge is up at the top of the crater and about 7,200 feet above sea level.


This wraps up Tanzania and our almost two weeks of safari in East Africa. For me it has been the highlight of the trip. I am glad we went to the 6 different parks that we visited. Each park had something different to offer. My favorite park was the Serengeti by far followed by Samburu in Kenya then Ngorongoro. I'm going to miss being pampered and having everything taken care for two weeks such as meals and lodging. We pretty much ate like royalty with three buffet meals a day for the most part. When I last weighed myself in Egypt I was down 16 pounds for the trip but did my best to add some of those pound back. On another note we passed our 4 month mark on the road while concluding the Tanzania portion of the trip. I am doing pretty good and so is my gear for the most part. My main REI backpack has a few battle scars on it but is doing well. My clothes are doing pretty good too. One shirt is pretty frayed and may not make it. I'm getting better at hand washing my clothes. I may not be the fastest at it but I am thorough. It was recommended to wear long sleeved shirts at certain points in Tanzania due to malaria infected mosquitoes, so I would hand wash a shirt after wearing it each night. I haven't had any real side effects from taking the malaria medication either outside of the second day when I took it on close to an empty stomach. The only things that have broken have been my plastic spork which I replaced by buying one in Kenya and Alethea's expensive pair of sun glasses which I replaced in Luxor, Egypt. I didn't break them. A screw came out and is stripped to the point where it cannot easily be repaired. On some days during our travels it seems like it was 2 years ago when we were in Australia getting started but on other days it seems like last week we were driving around New Zealand.

I'm wrapping this entry up in Cape Town, South Africa. We are resting today after having traveled for 24 hours to get here. We had a minor issue in Johannesburg and ended up spending the night sleeping on a bench at the airport next to the check-in counter which actually wasn't too bad. We'll be in South Africa for 10 days before heading to southeast Asia. We will start in Vietnam and end up in Bangkok before flying into India.

Link to photo albums:

Daily Log

Friday November 26th
Landed in Tanzania around 1:45 pm
Showed yellow fever vaccine card to health inspector. He looked at it for maybe 2 seconds.
Waited in visa line. We were led to believe visa was only $50 USD, turns out it was $100 USD, we asked for a receipt to see if they were being honest plus in case we lost our passports or if the stamp faded out. The visa people took the money and just threw it into a pile between them. Looked kind of shady.
Met driver and drove 1 hour to Arusha and our hotel
Met Julius from Ranger's Safaris, they are handling the Tanzania portion of the trip, they are a sister company of Pollman's who ran the Kenya portion of the trip. He went over the itinerary.
Were led to believe wi-fi was free but it isn't. Also, the latest we can check out is noon but our pick up for tomorrow is 2:30 pm
Hand washed clothes since we were advised to wear long sleeved shirts in certain parts of Tanzania due to the mosquitoes and both of my shirts were dirty. Took a hour to wash my clothes

Saturday November 27th
Got to sleep in a bit since we weren't being picked up until the afternoon. Woke up at 9 am.
Ate breakfast and sat in hotel room until 12:00 pm
Hung out in hotel lounge until 1:30. Alethea primarily got online while I read her Vanity Fair magazine.
Ate lunch and was back back in the lobby by 2:35 pm
Met guide but had to wait on a lady from Italy who was flying in but was in route to the hotel.
We are doing this part of the safari with multiple people. There is a couple from Belgium (Hans & Arianne), two women from England (Mimi & Hailey), & a woman name Vincenza from Italy. We eventually left the Arusha Hotel around 3 pm. Took a little bit to get out of Arusha but we eventually made it out. Took 2.5 hours to get to out lodge in Manyara. The scenery was different than Kenya. It is more open and agriculture and less populated. We saw multiple what looked to be Masi herding cattle and goats.
The Serena Manyara Lodge is real nice. It is up a hill at 4,200 feet. It has a great view overlooking Lake Manyara. The lodge also a lot of baboon that we saw at checking. Room is nice too.
This area also has a lot of mosquitoes so we are wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants despite the heat and using repellants in addition to our malaria medication. Very few tourist contract malaria but if you do it was one nasty disease.
Didn't see really any animals except baboons.
Had very good dinner at the lodge. We were supposed to eat outdoors but it rained so ate at the lodge.

Sunday November 28th
Woke up @ 6:00 am. Didn't sleep well at all. Bed was hard, room was hot, & I ate and drank a lot of liquids before dinner.
Ate breakfast & 6:30 and checked out at 8:00 am
Went on game drive to Lake Manyara. We saw numerous animals and some like zebras in large numbers in open areas. The different animals that we hadn't seen before were wildebeest, a different type of giraffe, several hippos out of the water, and some different types of monkeys. We saw elephants and baboons. Lake Manyara is not a big part but pretty neat and different than others that we have been too. We stayed until 11:15 then drove back to the lodge for lunch.
Ate lunch from 12:10 to 1:00 pm.
Began the 5 plus hour drive to Serengeti. The roads were ok until we got to Ngorongoro. There the roads were no longer paved. We drove up the to the top of the crater and took pictures for a few minutes then began our drive back down. Views of the crater were spectacular including the drive down. We saw multiple masi people and villages. We saw cattle, goats, several zebras, and giraffes. The terrain flattened out then we eventually made it to the Serengeti National Park. We stopped and used the bathroom then drove through the park for a couple hours until we got to the lodge. We sort of did a game drive while en route. First the scenery is spectacular but because it is so plain. At various points there is open plane with nothing else in sight in every directions. I've never scene terrain like it before. We eventually ran across three female lions and took some pictures. We saw multiple gazelles, zebras, and other animals. One of the funniest things I have seen is that we came across four lions. One lion was still eating an animal in the bush while the other three were laid out flat sleeping on their backsides . They looked like dogs. All of a sudden a male elephant comes walking towards the lions and charges at them sending them scattering in different directions. The elephant then just kept on walking. Kind of funny. We then drove another hour before getting to the lodge around 6:30 about 5.5 hours after we started.
Ate dinner @ 7:30. Hand washed my long shirt because I need to stick to wearing my two long sleeved shirts while we are in a malaria zone.
Great day for animal viewing and seeing the amazing Ngorongoro (which we'll come back too) and the plains of the Serengeti.
One interesting about our lodge is that when it gets dark we have to have an escort from reception because there is no fence and sometimes leopards, lions, and other animals make an appearance.

Monday November 29th
Woke up @ 6:00, ate breakfast @ 6:30 pm.
Started game drive at 8 am. Today was an all day game drive. We saw many of the same animals in the morning until mid-morning when we began to see some really amazing items. The first was a leopard high up in an acacia tree. Leopards are hard to fine so weren't expecting to see any. This leopard had climbed high in a tree and had just killed a gazelle and had dragged it up the tree. The leopard was on one side of the tree and the dead gazelle was off to the left over 10 meters away. The next thing we saw were two lions up close that had just mated per some earlier spotters. It was a full grown male with the mange hair plus a female. Our guide said that during the one week that they mate they can mate 250-400 times in just that one week. They mate every few minutes for the 1st three days. We waited for 30 minutes but didn't see any activity. The females was just resting while the male was just looking around then he closed his eyes and started to sleep as well. If the female moved then the male would move too. Our driver said the female is the one who allows the mating to occur and if the male starts without the female's permission then he gets scratched.
After seeing the male and female lion we saw probably the most spectacular thing on our entire trip to date. We saw a lion successfully hunt and kill a zebra. We first saw a pride of lions a couple hundred meters north of the road. All but two were laying down. It looked like 7 through binoculars. Over the next 30 plus minutes we saw the oldest female of the group gradually work her way over to a herd of zebras. She would move then sit down then move. Eventually, we saw the lion take off and swat a zebra then attach itself to the wind pipe and suffocate it. While this was going on another 4 adult females came over to help hold the lion down. When the lion was down a bunch of lion cubs came over and joined in the feeding. Our driver guide who has been doing this for 14 years said he had never seen a kill in person. He has seen lions feeding shortly after the kill but not the actual kill itself. It was amazing. We stayed and watch the lions eat on the zebra for a good 15 minutes or so before heading off to lunch ourselves. On the way we drove by where we could see the zebra and there was plenty of it left to eat despite 10 plus lions eating on it. We then went to lunch and came back a hour later and there were still lions eating on it and plenty of it to go around. We then came across another dead zebra as we were working our way on the loop road heading back to our lodge. We then notice in the background a full grown adult male. We then saw three females walk up. Two of them tried to eat the zebra which had already partially been eaten by the male. The male lion got up and chased the females away. Then the female who per our guide did the killing came over and ate. When she ate then the other lion could eat. The male lion didn't care at this point. The other female lion wandered off and got a drink of water before walking away. We stayed for 10 minutes or so and watch the lions eat the zebra. It was kind of nasty.
All in all an amazing day on our all day game drive. We actually got to see another leopard up in a tree and a very big herd of wildebeest and zebras together. We saw some giraffes and a herd of elephants running too. Definitely a day I will not forget for a long time.

Tuesday November 30th
Woke up @ 6:00, breakfast by 6:30 and checkout at 8:00 am.
Tried to pay bill with credit but told we didn't charge enough for the minimum amount. When we tried to pay cash she told us the amount was $19 but when I had her divide by the exchange rate posted on the wall the amount came to $16. Only $3 but you got to be careful when paying in different currencies.
Did an all day game drive plus drive from the Serengeti Lodge to Ngorongoro Lodge. Saw all kinds of wildlife including the last major animal we wanted to see and that was a cheetah. Unfortunately, the cheetah just sat there and was staring at us and all the vans versus hunting something. We saw some baby giraffes close to out lodge.
We stopped at a museum along the way at Oldupai Gorge and read about the fossilized animal bones and human footprints with some being as old as 3.6 million years.
Arrived at our lodge around 4:40 pm about 40 minutes later than expected. Great view of the crater from our lodge.
Lodge is at 7,200 ft. elevation!
Went to bar and had drinks
At 18:30 there was a 30 minute acrobat show. It was better than I expected.
Ate dinner. Went to bed

Wednesday December 1st
Woke up @ 6:30, Breakfast @ 7:00
Today was an all day game of the Ngorongoro Crater. We left the hotel at 8 am. It took about 5 minutes to get the checkpoint at the top of the crater. Stopped and used the toilet. Drove down the crater for around 20 minutes. It is a steep decent on a one way unpaved road. On the side of the crater we stayed out there is one road down and one road up. We saw a wide selection of animals that we had seen before. The crater has everything except giraffes, female, and young elephants. We saw hundreds of wildebeest and zebras. We saw several lions including some females that were sort of scouting some zebras. We saw one pride of 5 lions sleeping the grass. We saw two male older lions and some older male elephants including one 5 legged elephant. The highlights of the day were seeing an extremely rare black rhino from a far distance and a cheetah up close. The cheetah only stood up for a couple minutes before laying down in the grass.
We drove back to the lodge and were there by 4 pm.
Alethea has had headache all day so we decided to rest until a Masai dance @ 1830
I'm sad the safari is coming to an end. I'm glad we got to see so much wildlife in different ecosystems throughout Kenya and Tanzania. It is definitely the highlight of the trip so far.

Thursday December 2nd
Day of travel.
Woke up @ 6:00. Ate breakfast @ 6:30 and left by 7:30 am
Drove until about 9:15. Stopped for shopping. Stayed for about 30 minutes. Didn't buy anything but some of our travel companions did.
Made it the junction around 10:15. Switched vans to go back to Arusha. Numerous people were gathered around the van at the hand off point trying to sell us stuff. One guy introduced himself and Banana Sugar Daddy so I introduced myself as Barack Obama. He tried selling me a t-shirt over and over and would throw it on my shoulder and try to walk away but I just threw it back.
Said goodbye to three of our travel partners as they were going on to another park for at least one more night.
Drove to Arusha. Heard loud banging noise. Stopped and checked it out. Turned out to be the rear bumper guard which was broken on one side. Alethea had some strong string that he used to tie it sort of back together.
Made it to Mountain View Lodge in Arusha to eat lunch around 12:40 pm. Took real long time have food served. We had to leave @ 1:15 pm & took our food to go since it wasn't ready.
Made it to Kilimanjaro airport around 2:15 pm. Took a hour to check in and clear immigration.
Left close to on time around 3:30 pm.
Flew 50 minutes to Nairobi
Spent three plus hours in one of the business lounges drinking beer and catching up on online stuff.
Flew from Nairobi to Johannesburg. Flight left with a lot of empty seats and about 10 minutes early. Flight took 3.5 hours to Johannesburg.
End of Tanzania blog