Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Monday, November 6

Day 1 - Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara isn’t that far from Arusha so we really didn’t need an early start. We did get on the road before 10:00am with our guide, Naimen, as our escort for the next several days.

Naimen was a fairly quiet guy for a guide. He turned out to be very skilled and pleasant to hang out with, just a little soft spoken. We got into the routine of him revealing interesting information to whoever was in the passenger seat and then that person would turn around and launch the information to the rest of us. It did provide a filter in which the passenger had the ability to decide whether or not the news was worth of passing on.

Our vehicle was the standard green Land Cruiser. We dodged a bullet in that the van that we used to pick up the family, the one that the safari company had anticipated we use on the safari, broke down after dropping us off the night before. The driver apparently didn’t get home until 3:00am. I was sorry for him but would also have been sorry for us if we’d wasted a safari day with a broken down vehicle.

The drive to Lake Manyara is actually pretty

interesting. Arusha is fairly lush but soon after leaving things become much drier. Maasai villages dot the landscape and the brightly colored tribesmen and woman can be seen all along the way. Some are accompanying herds of cattle while others are walking along the roadside. The Maasai are one of the most distinctive tribes on the continent with their colorful and ornamental dress, jewelry, large earlobe piercings and so forth. Their role in this country has become controversial at times as their nomadic way of life has been threatened by reduction in the available grazing land. Their plight rings of Native American-ness. I’ll refrain from spending too much time on them here but they do fascinate me.

Upon arrival at Lake Manyara, the weather was slightly sketchy but Naimen took the top off the vehicle anyway. It was a good thing because the weather got better and the animals became numerous in a hurry. We started off with a colony of baboons who were not bothered at all by our presence. I’d seen them before but never so many.

From then it was one thing after another. The park is rich in animals and aesthetic beauty. We stopped for lunch on an overlook and it was a good opportunity to take it all in – the view and the nice weather.

After lunch we circled around and the park a bit seeing giraffes, elephants, hippos, flamingos (from a distance), impalas, zebra, wildebeest, etc. The weather was comfortable with sprinkles of rain here and there.

It’s always fun to watch people seeing their first animals on their first safari. It’s all new and simply amazing to see these things in their natural habitat. Later you don’t stop for impalas anymore but in the beginning you stop for everything.

We then left the park and went to the Lake Manyara Hotel located on the ridge overlooking the park. The hotel doesn’t look like much when you pull up to it but once you cut through the lobby and get to the back side, you see its merits. It has a nice pool and a killer view of the whole park and lake.

After we checked into our rooms we sat on the patio taking in the view and reflecting on what we’d seen, how much fun it was to do this with family and feeling a bit bad for those who couldn’t be with us.

Dinner was decent. There was a large buffet and we had some Tanzanian guys come in and play some traditional percussion for wazungu (foreigners). Afterwards they moved into the next room and were joined by a team of dancers. I was exhausted and decided to head straight for bed. Within seconds of hitting the pillow I was out.

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