Sunday, May 13
We boarded the van at 7:30am en route to the Tanzania border. Before departing, Hayley who had grabbed a banana for the drive had quite the shock when a monkey jumped into the van and onto her lap trying to steal her banana. When she realized the monkey was after her snack, she promptly threw it at Nana. Luckily the monkey jumped out and Hayley was able to save her banana. Hayley: 1 Monkey: 0 James successfully got us across the border to Tanzania where he introduced us to our new guide, Wolfgang. After we piled into our Land Cruiser, we drove to the Arusha Hotel where we had lunch before departing for an afternoon drive en route to Lake Manyara Serena Lodge. This park is known for its foliage, baboons and birds. Very early on Wolfgang wowed us with his knowledge of birds, trees, flowers and animals.
Monday, May 14
We left for the Ngorongoro Crater (GORO GORO means the sound the cow bells make as the Masai move them down into the pasture). After arriving at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge late in the morning, we enjoyed some R&R while playing cards and admiring the views of the magnificent landscape.
Tuesday, May 15
Happy 30th Birthday Tara-Lyn At 6 am, we departed to descend into the crater through very dense fog. In the crater, we saw hippos, cape buffalo, lions, hyenas, honey badgers, elephants, wildebeests, zebras, jackals, warthogs, flamingoes and rhinos.
We had a bush breakfast by the hippo pool and were awed by the hippos while being ambushed by various birds for our breakfast.
It is difficult to describe the crater coming to life as the dense fog lifted. This whole journey has been a trip of a lifetime and no words will ever do it justice.
After our 7 hour game drive, we headed back to the lodge for lunch and another afternoon of relaxation.
Wednesday, May 16
We left for Serengeti National Park (meaning endless plain) at 7, entering the park at 10 am. On the way, we spotted 2 cheetahs along the side of the road and we had the unexpected treat of witnessing the wildebeest and zebra migration of hundreds of thousands. Approximately 1.8 million wildebeests take part in this migration.
The game drive was spectacular with our sighting of 2 ever elusive leopards and a total of 22 lions. We spotted 5 lions sleeping in a tree and were relieved they did not fall out of the tree and into our land cruiser. We enjoyed lunch at a picnic site and interpretive center, where we sat with hyrax and mongoose. We were taken on a tour where we learnt more about the area and the annual migration.
We arrived at the Serengeti Serena Lodge in late afternoon and were greeted by wonderful staff and lots of Tse Tse flies! Because this lodge is located within the Park, they are not allowed to fence around the lodge and, therefore, you must be escorted to and from your rooms after dark. We enjoyed some wine in our room before being escorted to dinner. After dinner, the staff entertained us with their singing and dancing.
Thursday, May 17
We departed for our game drive shortly after 8 minus one as Hayley was ill and spent her day at the lodge where she was monitored by the doctor and staff. Wolfgang took us to an amazing hippo pool where we were entertained for quite some time. Our view of these hippos surpassed our views of the hippos on our boat cruise in Kenya.
We enjoyed another picnic lunch before continuing on our afternoon game drive.
We returned to the Lodge to find Hayley feeling well enough to join us around the pool for a cocktail before dinner. After dinner, the staff performed amazing acrobatics. They should really try out for Cirque de Soleil.
Friday, May 18
We enjoyed an early morning bush breakfast before departing for Tarangire National Park.
We had to depart the Serengeti by 10 AM as our stay was limited to 48 hours. Before leaving the Serengeti, we were fortunate to come upon 3 male lions feasting on a wildebeest. A mom arrived with her 6 cubs but the males were not about to share. This is typical for males to eat first and the females and cubs to wait their turn.
For anyone who watches The Amazing Race, we even located the Hillary Clinton Shop!! We had lunch at the Lake Manyara Lodge where we were able to enjoy our meal with Wolfgang. This was the first time for us to be able to dine with him. There seems to be different rules for dining with the tour guides in Tanzania than there were in Kenya. On our game drive through the Tarangire National Park, Wolfgang pointed out the large Baobab trees which poachers use to hide from the elephants. Because this park is somewhat new and the elephants are not completely protected, the elephants are agressive and have been known to charge a vehicle.
We thought the Tse Tse flies were bad in the Serengeti, but they were nothing compared to Tarangire. They are attracted to blue and black which are popular colors worn by our group.
We arrived at the Tarangire Sopa Lodge around 6. The vast marble-floored reception area was a welcoming sight. Because this was our last night of our Safari, we chose to take advantage of their beautiful circular pool with a central island. We realized our pool keeper was staying overtime so we cut our swim short. We enjoyed a beautiful outdoor B-B-Q before retirng to our rooms.
Saturday, May 19
After enjoying a delicious breakfast, we made the drive back to Arusha where we were met by Emmanuel at Mount Meru Hotel. 4 of our group had a day room before catching an evening flight home. Shelley, Sandra and Jordyn were overnighting in Arusha and checked into the possibility of staying at Mount Meru but at $315 US, we opted to stay at Planet Lodge for $110 US. We enjoyed some Tuskers and burgers while having our laundry done. Our few items of clothing cost $60 US. It was a high price to pay but well worth it. Wolfgang very graciously offered to drive us to the airport at 4 am to catch our 6 am flight to Kigali, Rwanda.
NOTE: For anyone who is considering an African Safari, we highly recommend Vintage Tours. All 3 of our drivers (Raphael, James and Wolfgang) were very knowledgable and enthusiastic.