Tanzanian safari – Tarangire, Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater

The success of any holiday experience is very much down to the operators and, in the case of safaris, the drivers.  They get you to the parks and then show you the wildlife.  This was of course the best part of our safari as we had such a superb and experienced driver – Martin.

Our operator, It Started in Africa however, was a big disappointment as tour organisers – there were minor issues on a daily basis.  Yes, there was the caveat “But it’s Africa”. It was clear however from the visitor numbers we observed that safari tour operators and national park fees are BIG business in Tanzania.  They should all know better.  I have a thin threshold when you pay top dollar and get poor results.

For example, day three of our safari was delayed again due to ongoing operational mis-management.  We had to stop off at a bank to arrange transfer of our park fees for that day.  Clare and I didn’t expect to be sitting for nearly an hour in a locked land cruiser with no air conditioning – looking at armed guards …

Not the sort of holiday pictures I expected to be taking…

Trying to buy us a few gin and tonics on our last night didn’t restore our confidence in “It Started in Africa” as tour organisers.  What saved the holiday for us was our driver, Martin. He made right all that was wrong and shared his love of his country and its amazing wildlife.

Our main man…and what he showed us

Martin is a gentle, funny and caring man who had a big family, including four grown up children.  He is especially proud of his son who is studying medicine in Dar Es Salam.  We found him fascinated with the fact he was looking after two women that lived in the Middle East, and he often tried to engage in religious debate.  I just kept mentioning that I had lived in Bosnia and that we should all live in peace.  We did however really enjoy his company and his knowledge.  He was such a nice man.

Martin on our last night. I should have taken the picture after we tipped him!
Martin knew the area we toured very well and was full of little gems of information.  Most importantly, he loved the animals and he loved his country and this came out.  He always knew where to find the wildlife. So to cut to the chase, here are the best of what we saw…

Lake Manyara

Unfortunately we only had an hour here – light was fading hence lack on pictures.  But I did see my first ever impalas and zebras here.

Tarangire

This was my favourite park visited – mainly because we got there early, saw absolutely loads  and of course the cheetah kill, which I reported in my last blog entry.  So here is a selection of the rest….

These Americans had iPadded arm rests and were taking pictures on their iPads…..

Ngorongoro Crater

Described as a “Noah’s Ark, Ngorongoro Crater was pretty special – there was certainly an abundance of incredible wildlife.  We did see rhino’s, but unfortunately they were too far away to capture any decent images.

Not such “wild” life, although it was thrilling to get so close to these beautiful big cats.
The classic resting pose for Zebras – so they can literally look out for each other.
I love hippos!
Masai village near Twiga

As we had a bit of time on our hands the last day, we took a detour to a Masai village en route back to Arusha.  This was another special experience.  The Masai are lovely people and really do live simple, happy lives.  We were treated to a welcome dance, a dance with the ladies, a fire making demonstration, a tour of a hut and the obligatory visit to their craft market.

Yes, we too had a wee dance.  It really did feel quite sisterly – and all that soft stuff!

Where we stayed

After a lot of debate during our research, we decided to increase our budget and not opt for the cheapest overnight accommodation – camping a la Carrfour style.  We are glad we didn’t go for this option and were generally happy with the places we selected.

The first two nights we spent at Twiga Lodge, which was essentially a campsite with some “luxury lodges”.  These were clean and comfortable and the food was more than adequate.

Our third night was spent at Rhino Lodge, inside the Ngorongoro Crater National Park.  This was the best of the three places we stayed at – the food was excellent, the staff very friendly and the accommodation very comfortable. We were even treated to some wildlife close up as we were checking out!

Our last night was spent in Arusha at L’Oasis Hotel.  This was adequate – nice “hut” rooms and a lovely peaceful pool area.  The food however was pretty poor and the service was appalling – over an hour before it arrived.  We were also treated to a nocturnal choir of wild dogs from about 1am onwards. So all in all, it didn’t quite live up to its name.

And finally, we hope you have enjoyed reading about our “Great Ramadan and Eid Getaway 2012.”  We packed a lot into two weeks and we have some terrific memories.  Doing a safari really is a once in a lifetime experience and I am glad to have done it as part of my 2012 50th birthday celebrations – and with such great company.

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