Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Last Day

Arusha to Nairobi – The last day of the tour.

We departed Arusha early in the morning in order to reach Nairobi mid afternoon.  We crossed the Tanzania/Kenya border at around 9:00 a.m.  After entering Kenya we ran into several kilometers of road construction.  Progress was slow and some members were getting concerned that we might arrive in Nairobi too late for them to make their evening flight connections to home or other destinations.  The concern was unfounded, as after a couple of hours we hit good roads and made up for any lost time.

We arrived at the Boulevard Hotel in mid afternoon as planned where Tony and Jacqueline, myself and a few others were dropped off.  After saying our goodbyes, the balance of our members were ushered off to yet another campsite located on the outskirts of Nairobi.  I could have opted to stay at this camp as well but when booking my trip, I had decided that by the time I made Nairobi, I would be tired of camping and a hotel stay would be much appreciated.

I spent an additional two days in Nairobi before returning home via Cairo, Egypt - Frankfurt, Germany - Toronto – Regina and arriving back in Moose Jaw on November 8, 2010.  I had plenty of time to mull over my adventure and what I had seen and done over the past 40 days or so.  Wow, mind boggling!  This is an adventure that I will never forget.  At times it was tough going and tiring, but all-in-all, I would do it again, for in my mind, it was the only way to really experience Africa, the country, the land and its people.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area

Crater Sunrise
Last night we camped on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.  This morning we again got an early start and descended 600 meters to the floor of the crater.  Ngorongoro is the largest unbroken caldera in the world.  The natural amphitheater covers an area of about 260 sq km. (100 sq. miles ) and is home of up to 25,000 larger mammals.

Again, like the Serengeti, we were treated to a large array of animals and birds.  Unlike the Serengeti, many of the animals spend their lives in the crater and don’t migrate as much as those on the Serengeti.  Also, the various species of animals and birds in the crater are more concentrated, not as spread out as on the Serengeti.  We saw large groups of flamingos wading which we had not seen anywhere else on the tour except on the coast of Namibia.
Descent to the Floor

Photography opportunities here were fantastic with a minimal amount of driving.  I asked our guide if any of the animals located in the crater are genetically different form the same species outside the crater.  Apparently not, that there is sufficient flow of animals to and from the crater that mutations have not taken place.  It’s hard to believe that this is the case, as the walls of the crater are quite steep and great effort would be required for the animals to migrate in/out of the crater.  The effort to enter the crater would not be as great as required to leave the crater as the climb to the rim from the Serengeti is more gradual, but just as much elevation gain if not more.  Of course, for the bird species, this would not be a problem, although some smaller bird species might find the flight over the rim a bit grueling.
 Safari Vehicle Lookout

We spent about four hours on the floor of the crater before ascending steeply to the rim opposite to where we entered the crater.  Our driver had to place his vehicle in four-wheel drive in order to make the steep ascent of loose gravel and stones.

After reaching the rim we headed back to our campsite in Arusha where we were treated to our last supper together.  The campground owners had slaughtered a lamb earlier in the day and were roasting it over an open fire when we arrived back at the camp.  After supper many of us celebrated our last evening together in the campground bar.  A good time was had by all.  I got to bed about 11:30 p.m. but many others were still going strong until the wee hours of the morning.


Secretary Bird
Serval Cat

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hippo Scare

Serengeti Day 2.

Whoa, missed the excitement last night!  About 2:00 a.m. I heard a crunching sound coming from outside my tent.  I didn’t think much of it, thinking that it was some small animal munching on the grass – NOT.

It turns out that Patricia and her daughter, Shauna, who were camping next to me, heard the sound and got up to investigate.  It was pitch dark, as their story goes, and they couldn’t see anything.  One turned her light on and aimed it in the direction of the sound.  As they described it, it was as big as a tank.  They shut down the light and headed back into their tent shaking with fear.  What they found was a huge hippo grazing about five metres from my tent.  Hippos spend the daylight hours in the water and then at night they head out to graze.  Damn, the next time I won’t surmise what is going on, I will investigate.

This morning at 6:00 a.m. and after a quick cup of coffee, we headed off for an early morning safari drive.  We saw and photographed a huge array of animals - zebra, wildebeest, lions, hippo, gazelles, cape buffalo, ostrich, just to name a few, plus all kinds of birds.  After about three hours we headed back to camp for brunch and then packed up our belongings and headed back to Ngorongoro Crater to spend the night there.

The following collage is made up of pictures that I took on the safari drive this morning.

Until then.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Serengeti

The big day is here.  This is it.

Four 4-wheel-drive, 7-passenger safari vehicles pulled into our campsite at 8:30 a.m.  By 9:00 a.m. we were on our way to Serengeti National Park.

After about a 2-hour drive we arrived at the entrance to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area where we stopped for a toilet break and to view the museum.  A short while later we arrived at the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater where we stopped for 15-20 minutes to view the crater and take pictures.  We then carried on, descending from the rim of the crater to the Serengeti Plain.  We passed several Masaai villages before we stopped at one for a tour of the village.
On the Rim of the Ngorongoro Crater

The Masaai first entertained us with singing and dancing outside the fencing that surrounds the village and then they invited us into the village where they continued to entertain us with their jumping/dancing skills.  The villages are fenced to keep the wild animals out.  After the entertainment we broke into smaller groups (2 or 3 to a group) and were given tours of their small mud-walled, thatched-roofed homes.  After the tour of the homes the group leaders pressured us to purchase local crafts.  The tours and selling of local crafts appears to be their main source of hard cash while most of the domestic animals appear to be raised for the consumption of the villagers.
After touring the village we carried on to the Serengeti National Park entrance where we took another break before carrying on further into the park.  We arrived at our “UNPROTECTED” campsite in the early afternoon.  The tour staff had our lunch ready for us and the tents all set up ready for us to move in.

After lunch we climbed back into the safari vehicles and headed out to find the "Big 5" - lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino.  This, our first foyer after arriving at our camp, produced, among other animals, a glimpse of a leopard and some fantastic shots of a pride of lions gorging themselves on a recent cape buffalo kill.  It was starting to get late when we found the pride of lions, so after about a half hour of taking pictures we headed back to our camp for a twilight supper.

Later in the evening we all sat around the fire and discussed the day's activities and sights.  We all retired early as we are going on an earlier morning photo hunt tomorrow before heading back to the Ngorongoro Crater.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

On to Arusha

We got off to another early start today.  I am getting anxious to get to Arusha, the start of our three-day game drive into Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The drive today took us past Mount Kilimanjaro, but the weather did not cooperate and we didn’t get any good views of the mountain.

Near Moshi
We passed through the small city of Moshi around 10:00 a.m.  Moshi is situated in the heart of a major coffee growing region and is an attractive small town of about 150,000 people and lies at the base of Kilimanjaro.

We arrived in Arusha around 1:30 p.m. and stopped at a mall where we had lunch and then stocked up on supplies, used the internet and did a little banking.  Arusha, also known as Tanzania’s “safari capital”, is undoubtedly the most important center in northern Tanzania.  With many protected national parks, reserves, and mountains nearby (on a clear day, you can see Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance), Arusha is a modern town, and with its markets, services, and fine location, it is a great base for starting our safari trip.  We will be setting up camp just west of Arusha.
Bananas on their way to a Moshi Market

We arrived at our campsite at about 4:00 p.m. and got all settled in, had supper, put my cameras on charge and had a few beers with the others, while I watched them charge.

I am looking forward to tomorrow and the next few days as we will be heading into the Serengeti and Ngorongoro for three days of camping and game driving.

Until tomorrow.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Traffic Jams

Stone Town to Korowge.

We left the Garden Lodge at around 7:00 a.m. and headed for the ferry dock where we cleared Zanzibar Immigration and boarded the ferry to Dar es Salaam.  The whole process took about an hour.

The ferry ride to Dar was about 2 ½ hours where we met our truck and headed off to Korogwe.  The first hour on the truck was spent clearing Dar traffic jams.  I don’t really mind the traffic jams as there are all kinds of interesting activities taking place along the streets.  Watching people running to and fro, vendors trying to sell their wares and just watching the interaction of people on their daily routines is always entertaining.

Around 11:00 a.m. we finally cleared the Dar traffic and broke into the ever-changing countryside.  It’s interesting - we pass through areas that are bordering on being a desert and suddenly everything changes and we find ourselves travelling through lush productive areas and then back into arid areas.  I don’t know what causes the wide swings in the climate, but I suppose that higher elevations and mountain ranges which catch the Indian Ocean trade winds would be part of what causes both dry and wet areas with the leeward side of the mountain squeezing the moisture out of the clouds before they reach the windward side.

The heavy traffic through Dar es Salaam resulted in us arriving at our campsite a little later than we planned.  We had a late supper and I bedded down for the night.

Tomorrow, if we are lucky and the weather is clear, we will get a good view of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Forgotten USB Flash Drive

We headed back to the Garden Lodge in Stone Town today.  After arriving and settling into my room, I decided to walk to the old Post Office in centre town where a local internet shop with reasonable internet rates was set up.  When I arrived at the internet shop, I reached for my Flash Drive – NOT THERE!...  Oh, oh!  It then dawned on me that I left it at the internet place in Nungwi.  Panic set in, as there was all sorts of personal, private information on it, as well as a list of passwords.  The stick was secure and required a password to access it; as well, once you got past the first password, then another password was required to access the list of important passwords, so the stick was pretty secure.  However, this still didn’t alleviate my concern; as well, it was a 16mb stick so was worth $ to get it back.  I immediately checked with a local cab to see what it would cost to drive me back to Nungwi (about a one-hour drive).  $50 was the quote.  However, before hiring the cab, I had to go back to my room to fetch some money as I was not in the habit of carrying large sums of money with me.  On the way back I came across the GAP guide and explained what had happened.  He immediately got ahold of the local GAP agent and arranged for a driver and vehicle to take me back to Nungwi for the cost of fuel ($30).  That was great of GAP, so anyway I got my flash drive back and everything is now cool.
The rest of the day I spent walking the narrow streets of Stone Town and browsing the markets, and for some reason got the idea in my head that I wanted to photograph some of the old doors and windows in  the many older buildings in the area.

A group of us had supper at an Arab restaurant where we had to sit on cushions on the floor.  The food was slow coming and sitting on the floor was really uncomfortable for me, so I didn’t really enjoy it that much.

Tomorrow we are off to an early start as we have to make the ferry to Dar es Salaam where we will meet our GAP truck and head off for the two-day drive to the Serengeti.

Talk to you tomorrow.