I teased Amon that I’d forgive him for not finding a rhinoceros (one of the big five) if I could stop somewhere to get a photo of a Maasai woman.
He did much better than that. He took us to a Maasai village called an Enkang! I had to pay $20.00 for the experience (Bill sat this one out). The money goes to buy drinkable water.
The Maasai people are a nilotic ethnic group that live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. This village sits about 6,000 feet, and as the photos show the rainy has not yet arrived.
A finely beaded wide necklace was draped around my neck and a group of women and men serenaded and danced their welcome. I was then encouraged to join the women as we bobbed our way into their fenced camp.
Two pairs of glasses and a camera around my neck trying to keep up:
Let the jumping competition begin. The men and women separated, sang and competed in a jumping contest.
WOW! The music. Dancing. Experiencing another culture. I’m grinning from ear to ear.
After the ceremony I was invited into a home to meet a young family.
Their cow dung homes are called bomas. I had to duck down low to enter and wind through the opening much like the opening of a snail shell. The first small area is sectioned off for their calf. The sleeping area is a raised bed of dried mud with a cow hide scraped clean of its hair top. It probably measures 3′ by 4′ feet. Next to that is a tiny area for a child. The raised beds also provide seating. In the middle a small fire on the floor. The only light comes from a 6″ x 6″ hole in the ceiling above the fire. There is no electricity and no running water.
Sandals are made of motorcycle tires.
Children’s sleeping area.
120 people live in this completely fenced village called an Enkang. The elder male in this Enkang is 92 years old, has 12 wives and 72 children. The children go to seven years of government school and walk miles and miles to get there. Young children were being schooled in another boma right outside the fenced area. Nearby is another boma outside the fenced area where single men take turns guarding the Enkang.
I was able to watch the children doing their school lesson. A young boy guided the classroom in saying numbers and the alphabet in English. I then sat with them and taught the kids closest to me to fist bump with a finger explosion.
School house for little kids.
Look how the kids in the back have their hands in a fist or the explosion. Yes!
The men are herders. They own cattle and goats. They are everywhere in the countryside grazing their herds. The women make beaded jewelry, placemats and animals to sell to tourists. Their diet consist only of cow meat, goat meat and blood/milk from the same animals. That is it! No veggies, no fruit, no starch.
In researching the Maasai I learned that genital modification of both sexes initiate children into adulthood. Click on the Maasai in the previous sentence to read about their unique lifestyle.
The whole experience was fascinating. I could have done without the hard sell on the beaded items but I get it….. (and got it- HA!).
Ah the Serengeti (Maasai – meaning endless plain). 12,000 square miles – flat and sprinkled with stunning acacia trees. It’s everything I dreamed it would be.
As we entered the park they were doing a controlled burn to get rid of overgrowth to keep the floor of the plains healthy. Burns are done sections at a time and the results are clearly visible. Lush green grass was growing in the areas previously burned.
It’s remarkable how different the flora, terrain and wildlife are in Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and in the Serengeti. Even Tsavo for that matter. It is LUSH!! Tanzania is the place to live if you’re a hungry animal. Poor creatures in Tsavo, Kenya are starving.
We had hoped to see hyenas and cheetahs in Tsavo so it was a real treat to see them here. The gazelles were the bunny rabbits – prolific and everywhere.
Day one we saw:
Secretary birds – they peck with their feet like typing
Topi antelope Serval cat like a cheetah Cokes hartebeest Cheetahs Hippos
Lots of different birds
Click to enlarge photos…
We went with the beer budget safari and it was perfect. However, I was thrilled to see a Micato Land Cruiser pull up next to us. It was the same vehicle that we had and it had six people in it! Same car and ours was just the two of us. Score one for us. I did notice a tiny difference at lunch time. The park had designated eating areas with bathrooms. We had boxed lunches packed by the hotel and French press coffee made by Amon. The chichi tours had a wicker basket with food, drinks and wine served on plates. They sat at the same tables as we and peed in the same toilets. I’ll give that one to them. I can’t speak about the accommodations. Ours tent camp felt like we were one with nature. Tents surrounded by zebras. Rustic but with everything one could need (I didn’t say want). We left with money to live on for the next six months so I’d say we won. Here’ our rustic…
Our tent was approximately 50 yards from the mess tent (reception, lounging and dining area). We were given walkie talkies and were told not to venture from our tent in the dark. “Call for an escort.” We made it to dinner in the daylight but it was dark when it was time to go back to the tent. One of the workers grabbed a flashlight and started leading the way. “Where’s your gun?”, I asked. “Oh we don’t need one. We’ve been doing this for a long time and know what to look for.” Say what??? Hello, we know from the Great Walk of Africa that guns are essential. There were many times that the workers were armed and protecting us. It reminded me of un-armed security guards back home.
Breakfast and dinner were served buffet style. No Covid here.
New animals on the second day:
Cheetah and 2 Cubs eating an impala
Lion laying on top of a huge rock
Leopard in the mouth of a big rock formation Mongoose Superb starling (blue and Orange bird) Monitor lizard Guinea Fowl
Parrots – One tree full of beautiful yellow birds
Ground hornby (big bird)
Dik Dik Lion with a big mane
Leopard walking in the middle of the road! Again, so lucky. They are nocturnal.
Leopard gets its own gallery:
On our second night at camp – out cold and sleeping. A zebra bumped up against the tent right by our heads and woke me up. For the next 20 minutes it grazed. I could hear it pulling the grass out with its teeth and chewing! It was very cool.
Day 3 on the way out the most majestic and beautiful male lion walking in the field near our camp.
Impalas have one male that rules the herd. They fight for this position – retain it until they are challenged. We watched younger males being trained to fight with their horns by the ruling male. We also watched the ram gather the females to cross a road. He was quite impatient with the flaky females who lingered. He actually wrangled each one individually until they were all in a group again.
Gathering the girls.
The whole safari experience was tremendous. We thoroughly enjoyed it. At the pace we went we were glad it was only 4 days. It was exhausting!
When we were on the island of Manda in Kenya I bumped into a group of young women from Barcelona. They were still on a safari “high” having just left Tanzania. They were stoked about Lake Manyara and even better yet Ngorongoro Crater. “You have to go there!”
To be fair, our day before at Lake Manyara was wonderful but not earth shattering. It’s not Disneyland even though at times it feels like someone in the background says “Cue the lion”. It’s pure luck. The wildlife are in their natural habitat and you see things when you do.
Off to Ngorongoro Crater – the world’s largest inactive caldera and another UNESCO site.
Per Wikipedia: A caldera is a large cauldron-like hollow that forms shortly after the emptying of a magma chamber in a volcanic eruption. When large volumes of magma are erupted over a short time, structural support for the rock above the magma chamber is lost. The ground surface then collapses downward into the emptied or partially emptied magma chamber, leaving a massive depression at the surface (from one to dozens of kilometers in diameter). Although sometimes described as a crater, the feature is actually a type of sinkhole, as it is formed through subsidence and collapse rather than an explosion or impact.
This crater collapsed on itself two to three million years ago! Today approximately 25,000 animals roam on its floor.
We drove down into the crater on a windy narrow road with steep drop offs. It was a one lane road handling cars traveling in both directions. Lovely….
Tourism is down 80%.
Imagine safari vehicles roaming every which way over the 100 square miles of the caldera. This is what 20% looks like in one tiny part of Ngorongoro. I can’t imagine what it would be like when tourism was at 100%. We are very lucky to be here now when it is relatively quiet and we can help provide income to those who desperately need it. There is no unemployment from this government. They’re on their own.
Click to enlarge photos…
The drivers use radios to tell each other if they have spotted something extraordinary. Although we couldn’t understand Swahili we knew something special had been spotted. Amon would put it in gear and dart off. The safari vehicles grew en masse as everyone vied for a spot.
The wildebeest and zebra numbered in the thousands. A lioness walked calmly next to the shoreline and upon spotting her the wildebeest lost their minds and ran in every direction. I had a glimpse into what the “wildebeest migration’ would look like. The zebras stopped and watched closely seeming to be plotting out their escape. A few gazelles followed closely behind as if they were toying with her. A full belly must have kept this lioness disinterested.
It was unexpected but I did get to see flamingos.
Here’s the tally for today:
Vultures Water buck
Guinea fowls Pumba warthogs Thompson’s gazelles
Flamingos Zebras Caracal – cat family Gray crowned cranes
Wildebeest Ostriches A lioness
Marubu stork Giraffe
We stayed in the crater about three hours then headed to the Serengeti – another three hour drive to get to camp. Some on pavement and the rest of the drive was on dirt roads in the Serengeti Park.
More about the Serengeti in the next posting….
Heads up – the first video loaded is the one I posted. The one you see after viewing that are ones YouTube wants you to see….
We had a flight from Dar es Salaam to the Island of Comoros (north of Madagascar). Comoros closed to tourism and our flight was not cancelled! I tried to change our ticket online and their site was down. I tried calling using the English option to only have them hang up on me (I was told that was because I did’t speak Swahili). So our super Dar es Salaam hotel driver/business center manager went to the airport on one of his pick-ups to change our flight (change fees included).
We had to come up with a plan since Covid and civil fighting were closing off previously planned options. I said, very much to Bill’s dismay. “Let’s go on another Safari! We’re here in Safari Land let’s not go home and wish we had done it.”
Bill’s thought, “We walked the ultimate safari and saw animals in their natural environment why do another???”
Because the princess wants to……
Tanzanian safaris start in Arusha. So I, in my delirium, asked the driver to change our flight – Dar es Salaam to Arusha. He was able to do that for us. Great! We had a plan.
Onward to Zanzibar and now you are caught up.
Zanzibar was just what the doctor ordered.
We hired our same taxi driver to drive us back to Stone Town so we could to take the ferry back to Dar es Salaam, spend the night and fly to Arusha the next day.
The departures screen told us the Arusha flight gate number. However, the gate said Zanzibar. I inquired and learned the flight went from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar on to Arusha. Yes, Zanzibar. We paid for a ferry ride, hotel stay and one extra leg of a flight to only to go back to where we started.
I did that! I was so proud that hours before we were to take off to a place we couldn’t go I saved the day by changing our non-refundable flight only to find out we wasted all the money we saved changing the flight by picking the wrong departure town.
Check out the casual airport in Arusha. How about that baggage claim? Now that’s efficient!
Click photos to enlarge….
I searched the web for private safaris. A gal from Australia blogged about a company called Wild and Me, the company that she used to do a solo safari. She said she spent hours researching to find the one that fit her needs. Luckily, our needs aligned with hers.
For years I wanted to go on a Micato safari. The magazine quality multi page pamphlet they send out had me drooling every time one showed up in the mailbox. The price told me I could buy a car with the money. This girl has champagne taste and a cheap gene!
I messaged Wild and Me and started a dialog. The owner said all the rights things. I told her we’d let her know but it might be last minute.
Since we were unable to personally verify the safari company we figured the tourist office in Arusha could give us a recommendation and an opinion about Wild and Me.
The tour “rating” booklet listed thousands of licensed safari companies. The good news was Wild and Me got an A. The worker said they were not allowed to recommend a company but if I reached out to him personally he would connect us with a quality tour. They ended up being more expensive so Wild and Me it was.
Then you have to choose a budget, mid-range or luxury safari. Our wallet wanted budget. I wanted luxury but not willing to pay for it. So we settled on mid-range.
Many tour companies have their own vehicles as well as lodges and/or campgrounds. Wild and Me has their own guides and modified 4×4 Land Cruisers and then they book hotels, lodges or camps depending on their client’s needs and price range.
We decided on four days and three nights. We go from morning to night. No lounging around like you do at those luxury lodges.
This gave us a couple days to hang in Arusha.
What’s up with these shoes? Is this some type of cleaning?
Jacaranda trees were everywhere
How do they bend over like this?
Our driver, Amon, picked us up from the hotel at 8 am. and we drove 3 hours to Another UNESCO site – Lake Manyara. A shallow, alkaline lake. Known for having masses of flamingos – a photographer’s dream.
It is so stimulating driving out of the city. The burbs had many rundown moldy concrete “Russian type” housing projects. Many hosting government workers and teachers who are provided free housing, water and electricity.
The countryside is riddled with Maasai men and boys herding cattle and goats. More about that later…
It was a hazy day at Lake Manyara. The lake was overflowing its banks. Wildlife were plentiful if you’ve never been on a safari before (tee hee). The flamingos were non-existent. Waaaa. It was a lot easier to keep track of what we saw:
Springer antelopes Baboons Silver bill Horn bills (big beak) Elephants are called Tembo Impalas Zebras Ververt monkeys Egyptian geese Worthogs Bush Buck – Antelope Giraffe Water Buck
So just a heads up. I’m sure you don’t need me to explain but my pride makes me. My camera lens is only 20-70mm. That means unless the animals are real close they will look like dots on the horizon. I believe that wildlife photographers (which I am not) use something close a 200-600mm lens.
Super thankful to be out in the fresh air seeing animals in their natural habitat but it had us wondering… Was Bill right? Was the walking safari the best? Should have left it at that?
We stayed in one night Karatu. Our hotel was fabulous. The room was huge. The grounds were well thought out. A pool, fireplace area and veggi gardens. The lounge area and dining room were open air, rustic and comfy. We could have stayed an extra day.
After our relaxing time in Shella we decided fly to the city of Mombasa.
I personally wanted to visit Mombasa (as well as Tsavo and Malindi) to see places that had been the setting for books that I’ve read. It also has two UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Mombasa is a bustling large city with a population of 1.3 million. It’s the second largest city (Nairobi the first) in Kenya populated with locals, Arabs, Asians, Portuguese and the British. Normally our goal is to stay away from big cities but there’s always exceptions.
In so many countries around the world tuk tuks are a popular means of travel. If we aren’t walking to our destination we’re in a tuk tuk. Blurred photos as we whizz through the town.
We spent time at Fort Jesus, built by the Portuguese in 1593-1596 to protect the port of Mombasa and the surrounding Old Town (both UNESCO sites) with buildings dating from the 18th century. Like Lamu and Shella they too have exquisite old carved doors. The old town is crumbling but part of the attraction.
Mombasa rests on the Indian Ocean and we dined each night at the water’s edge feasting on large lobster dinners for only $15.00.
Tioko showed up in fancy sandals way too small for his feet. He must have borrowed someone’s clubbing shoes!
Today we walked 17 miles.
Click to enlarge photos.
Our campsite. Zoom in.
A large group of elephants were spotted on the ridge line. Iain headed in their direction but the wind was blowing our scent towards them so they started to turn in a different direction. We changed course and ran across the plain to meet up with them. This time undetected. With the Henry Mancini “Baby Elephant Walk” playing in my head, we followed them towards the river. Walking briskly to keep up then running around the saltbushes to watch them at the water.
It seemed strange in our given environment of not seeing another human or non-wild animal on this journey to walk into a huge herd of cattle and goats shepherded by children appearing to be 6 to 14 years old. They are from the Orma tribe near the Somalia border. Supposedly rich Kenyans own the animals. It was fascinating to watch. The kids were bathing and cleaning their clothes in the river. Their life is dreadfully hard and often short lived.
At lunch time we crossed the Galana to a grove of palms where the crew had set-up a tent and brought lunch while we walked. To relax, cots had been placed under the palm trees. We rested and then headed out again.This time we walked to the finish line! 100 miles in 10 days.
Stephen and Kim
Barbara and Rick
It was an adventure of a lifetime. The crew at Tropical Ice has this down to a science. We were so lucky that the three additional walkers were fantastic, lovely people. A couple from Colorado and a 84 year old retired doctor from San Francisco. We giggled so much.
What you don’t know won’t kill ya. Apparently that’s not the way in the bush.
This morning I felt like Emily Blunt in the The Quiet Place movie.The predators are out there….There’s no Jaws movie music Da dant da dant da dant.Not only have we taken the oath of silence so have the predators.It’s a quiet killing grounds in Tsavo. The only things making noise are the harmless birds. HA!!! The stuff I think about…..
Lots of game sightings today – zebras – elephants – gazelles…
Click to enlarge photos…
It was a peaceful day with no heart pumping events.
Until we were about to cross the Galana River back to camp. Toiko and Washii started into the water when a crocodile’s tail took a swing at their ankles. Both jumped back to the shore quicker than a Kenyan runner. Toiko minus a sandal. He returned to camp shoeless. Poor guy. It will be a long time before the guys stop teasing him about this one.
The surface beneath our feet is a bit of a conundrum – harsh, dry, and barren like the surface of the moon and closer to the shore there’s beautiful fine white sand. There are a few springs of greenery sprouting. Otherwise, food seems either non-existent or inedible. How any animal forages and lives in this area is baffling