Happy New Year Imaginative Travellers!
To kick start your inspiration to travel in 2009 Blog mole stumbled upon this fantastic review from a pax travelling on our Safari and Spice tour.
An African Adventure...
Vast savannah plains, prides of lions, wallowing hippopotamuses, the towering Mount Kilimanjaro, blissful white sandy beaches…..amazing landscapes and wildlife, which any visitor could not fail to be impressed by. This is what I was looking forward to on my 12 night trip to this amazing country.
An eight and a half hour flight after leaving Heathrow I arrived into Nairobi in Kenya, the entry city for my safari tour. Nairobi is the most populated city in East Africa with an estimated 3-4 million occupants. I think a fair number of them were at the airport! I saw a board with my name on it amongst the masses and made a beeline for my transfer representative. A smooth half an hour journey later we had skirted the city centre with its cluster of skyscrapers and arrived at the Jacaranda Hotel. Who would have thought sitting on a plane watching films for 8 hours could be so exhausting, I went straight to bed for a good nights sleep in anticipation of the start of my adventure the next day.
The shuttle bus and local guide who would accompany the group to Tanzania arrived at the hotel and after meeting some of my fellow travellers we bundled onto the minibus and took our seats. The shuttle bus service between Kenya and Tanzania is a well established mode of travel, with many locals and tourists using this as an alternative to flying. I was impressed that we should be arriving into Arusha just 4 and a half hours later. After a few stops to pick up tourists at other hotels we were on our way out of the city heading towards the border. Unfortunately as is often the case when adventuring in Africa the journey was not quite as smooth as I had anticipated, some work on the road and what seemed like hundreds of trucks slowed our progress and we arrived into Arusha in the dark. We headed to our rooms to savour our last night in a bed before the camping began!
Early the next morning we woke to a decidedly chilly Arusha – as it was the cool season everyone was surprised by the temperatures. A common misconception that it is hot everywhere in Africa all of the time was quickly dispelled! Our safari vehicle roared into the hotel car park to meet us along with our guide, Kiko and cook for the trip, Ali. After a quick briefing and stop to buy essentials we moved off through the bustling town of Arusha towards the expanses of Tanzania. We all made ourselves very comfortable in our safari vehicle, which can often feel like your second home in Africa, as the distances can be long and the progress slow on bumpy roads! I relaxed and enjoyed watching day to day life in Tanzania go by.
We arrived at the Ngorongoro Conservation area and progressed through the gates into the park. The largest intact caldera in the world, and one of the most spectacular sights in Africa, this 260 square kilometre crater has been featured in countless television documentaries and its status as a wildlife sanctuary barely needs stating. As we moved along the dirt tracks I noticed how lush the landscape was, the green of the trees only eclipsed by the orange dust kicked up onto them by the passing trucks. We climbed to the top of the crater rim before arriving to the public campsite and setting up our tents – our home for the next 5 nights. An elephant trundled up to the camp and we watched it as it stood in front of the never-ending view over the crater floor. As the sun set behind it I thought that would be an image that stays with me forever.
The next morning the crater rim was shrouded in mist. As we descended to the base for a days game viewing the clouds gradually disappeared, the sun shone over the amazing landscape, with the wisps of cloud just curling over the top of the surrounding peaks. There were zebras, wildebeest and buffalo as far as we could see grazing on the flat plains and a pair of mating lions that were attracting a large audience! We ate lunch by a lake, eating our sandwiches whilst the hippos poked their eyes up every so often. The wildlife was amazing, but made all the more fantastic by the astounding scenery backing the herds. That night we saw zebra munching their way past the tents and as I warmed myself by the camp fire a hyena crept up behind me – I felt my heart leap into my mouth when I turned around and saw its eyes lit up by my torch. Luckily it decided to turn and run the other way!
We left the heights of Ngorongoro behind and travelled towards the savannahs of the Serengeti. As the temperature rose so did our anticipation of yet more once in a lifetime wildlife viewing. This and a slightly nervous expectation of our campsite within the Serengeti National Park - the campsites in the Serengeti are not fenced and I’d heard plenty of stories about lions wandering through at night. I thought I’d be sure to zip my tent up nice and securely and hope not to hear any roaring! When we arrived at the clearing we relaxed and enjoyed another one of Ali’s three course meals, and stared out into the grasses hoping not to see any eyes staring back at us!
An early start, just after sunrise to make the most of the morning game drive. Kiko drove slowly around the kopjes looking for any animals that might be hiding. Nothing yet…we started to feel a bit despondent until in the distance the bushy mane of a male lion appeared. Moving closer an African drama started to unfold – a pride of lions, a cheetah and a number of gazelles, who seemed surprisingly complacent about their predators being nearby. Not for long! The cheetah started to slowly move towards a solitary gazelle. We sat and watched for close to an hour, as the cheetah made a move and then froze until the grand finale – the cheetah sprinted through the grass and picked off its prey, and we saw the gazelle collapse into a cloud of dust. Not much could beat that but our afternoon game drive also provided some brilliant wildlife – the highlight being a leopard curled around its evening meal in a tree and some huge herds of elephants.
Our time on the northern safari circuit of Tanzania ended in Lake Manyara National Park, famed for tree climbing lions. After the renowned parks of Ngorongoro and Serengeti we worried that we might be disappointed. However, although the wildlife is not as easy to spot in this park the views over the lake are beautiful and everyone in the group was happy to enjoy the facilities of our more developed campsite for our last night on the road. I seem to remember the bar was the most popular facility! Well, we needed to taste all the different East African beers!
Back to Arusha and after a farewell dinner the group split and everyone went their separate ways. I headed off to Zanzibar for the next part of my Tanzanian adventure.
One very delayed flight later I arrived into Stonetown, the capital of Zanzibar Island. The minute I arrived I could tell that Zanzibar was very different from the mainland – a tropical island with a carefree attitude that was easy to absorb.
My full day in Stonetown was spent wandering through the small alleyways, visiting the many historical sites with their Arab and colonial influences and sampling street food – some of the freshest seafood I had ever eaten. A drink whilst the sun set over the Indian Ocean in one of the beachside bars demonstrated a different kind of Tanzanian sunset to the ones I had seen in the national parks. No wildlife here, just the traditional dhow fishing boats framing the scene.
The last stop on my adventure was the beaches in the north-east of Zanzibar. The beaches all around the island are stunning but the ones in the north-east are reputed to be the best of all – with wide white sand beaches and sparkling clear blue seas. They are also meant to offer the best nightlife on the island – and there were lots of restaurant and bar options if you did want to leave the hotel, but in keeping with the laid back vibe of the island they were not intrusive and you could as easily go for a quiet beachside drink as stay up until the early hours.
Very sadly leaving the beach behind I returned to Stonetown to catch my flight into Kenya and onward to the UK. Just when I thought all the incredible sights were done and dusted the captain announced that Mt Kilimanjaro could be seen to the left of the plane and there it was, the peak poking out of the cloud just beside us! I felt full of admiration for the people I had met that had climbed that imposing mountain. The last highlight of the trip fulfilled I settled back into my seat ready to go home.
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