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Africa!

The Serengeti Trail and Zanzibar

sunny

15 – 30th May

AFRICA! This trip was high on our priority list and a long time in the planning and, we have to wonder, how could it have been any better? Our trip was divided into two distinct parts: the first with Intrepid (the energetic part) and then a Zanzibar beach break (the relaxation part).

‘The Energetic Part’

Having loved our Egypt trip we decided to use Intrepid again for our Africa trip. We did the Serengeti Trail – an eight day tour:

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Our holiday started by meeting Heather and Lara (Di’s Mum and sister) at Heathrow and taking an overnight flight to Nairobi, Kenya. On arrival we negotiated a taxi to take us to the hotel and having not yet even left the airport we saw out first animals, a herd of giraffes just by the airport road. After a quick coffee at the hotel we headed out to the Elephant orphanage. This was amazing, highly highly recommended if you are in Nairobi. I think the photo’s below speak for themselves:

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That evening we met up with our Intrepid trip leader and the rest of our group. The tour type we chose was an ‘Overland’ tour. An Overland tour is where you are driven around in a big truck and have to participate in preparing meals and setting up your campsite (most nights you are camping in little, 2-man, tents). It was at this meeting that we discovered that, for our tour, there was only going to be 6 of us instead of the usual 18-21. This turned out to be an amazing stroke of luck as it meant we could spread out and get to know the other couple on our tour.

The next morning we were introduced to ‘our’ truck and the rest of the crew. Our group comprised of Heather, Lara, Diana and I. And, Anti and Leo who were a lovely couple also living in the UK. Our crew, leader Ingwe, driver Joseph (Babu) and our cook Kababa completed the group. The group was complete and we were ready for adventure! All aboard we headed for our first destination Kisii. The picture below is of the inside of our truck. We all loved our truck:

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On our way to Kisii we saw, and drove across, the Great Rift Valley, saw the first of many Maasai villages and passed lots and lots of tea and coffee plantations. The Maasai were amazing, it was just like in the pictures as many of them were dressed in their distinctive scarlet robes tending their cattle and goat herds. For lunch on this first day we pulled to the side of the road to prepare our sandwiches to the amusement of a group of local children who, I imagine, see tourists very infrequently (especially tourists in a big truck preparing their own lunch). We spent our first night in a convent and experienced, what would become legendary, Kababa’s delicious soup. The picture below is of our lunch stop. If you look closely you can see the children in the background:

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The next morning we started on our drive to Lake Victoria. On route we stopped at a soap carving factory where we had a tour and purchased some of our first souvenirs. It was on this drive that we crossed the border into Tanzania and it was during this border crossing that I experienced my first, proper, ‘local interaction’ which involved a 10-minute conversation with a local who didn’t speak any English but was extremely passionate about his subject. It turned out, according to Ingwe’s translation, that he was telling me about the problems he was having with some guys up the road. The pictures below are of a town we drove through on the way to Lake Victoria and the soap carving factory:

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We arrived in Musoma on the shore of Lake Victoria in the early afternoon and enjoyed the sun and a walk around the local village and market. The pictures below are of lunch at the lake, Diana enjoying a drink and Lara and Diana teaching Ingwe and Joseph to play ‘hacky’.

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The next day we were due to head to Serengeti National Park for our first taste of safari. But first, we stopped off at the market to get supplies for the three days in the park. The pictures below are of Musoma market and of Diana and Lara in ‘our truck’:

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We arrived at the entrance to the Serengeti National Park at lunchtime. During lunch we met some of the locals………. While preparing lunch a little Vervet monkey jumped up onto the roof of the truck which caused alarm amongst Ingwe, Babu and Kababa as they have been known to jump onto the table and steal whatever food they can. While eating lunch a large male baboon started eyeing up our lunch also and tried to use the cover of bush behind us to sneak up to the lunch table. The pictures below are of the Vervet monkeys, the guys protecting our lunch and the entrance to the park:

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During our first game drive, we travelled the 120km from the entrance of the park to our campsite. During this drive we had our first experience with Tse Tse flies. These look like big house flies but with a big difference: they bite! For a good part of this first game drive we sat jandal in hand ready to swat a Tse Tse fly if it made its way into the truck. After the worst of the Tse Tse flies had passed we did see some animals: lots of zebra and wildebeest (who were in the middle of their migration North to the Maasai Mara), some giraffes and our first lion! The pictures below are of Di in action after a Tse Tse fly and the result, our first zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and lion:

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That night was quite special as we celebrated Heather’s (significant) birthday with a bottle of champagne around the camp fire:

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The next day was our first full day of safari. The day was divided into two game drives, one in the early morning and the other in the late afternoon/early evening; making the most of the times when the animals are most active. Highlights of this day and our final game drive out of the park the following morning were:

• Our first lion up a tree – we spotted a group of lions watching a herd of gazelles. As the gazelles had quite clearly spotted the lions, the lions gave up their hunt and started wandering. We followed this group for about 30 minutes, in which time a couple of the lions got very close to the truck. One of the young male lions then jumped into a tree for relax and we watched from the truck mesmerised.

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• Animals, animals everywhere:

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• Eyeing up a large male lion a mere 4m away – as the day was heating up we headed toward some of the big rock outcrops (‘kopjes’) where the animals seek shelter from the sun. It was as we drove around one of these kopjes that we rounded a corner to find a massive male lion only 4m from the truck. We watched him sit up, stretch, pee on a tree, walk up the road a little, roar, walk back down the road and meet up with his pride who were lying in the grass nearby. Absolutely amazing!

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• Seeing the migration – we were lucky that the timing of our trip coincided with the wildebeest and zebra migrating from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara. We saw 1000’s of wildebeest and zebra run past us in a long line. The black line in the picture below is a row of wildebeest:

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• Getting stuck in the mud – heading for home we started to drive through an unassuming mud puddle which was a little deeper than it initially looked and we got stuck. After 15 minutes of going forwards and backwards but not making a lot of progress we got towed out by another intrepid Land Cruiser who had luckily stumbled upon us. Almost as soon as we parked up to pack away our tow cable and spade the Land Cruiser who towed us out drove into the mud puddle and proceeded to get stuck as well. After 15 minutes of another Land Cruiser trying to pull him out we re-attached our cable and repaid the favour by successfully pulling him out. It wasn’t until a little later in the day that Joseph told us with a small smile that it wasn’t the first time he had gotten stuck in that particular puddle!

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• Cake – on our second night in the Serengeti, the guys had a little surprise for us (well mainly Heather). While we were out enjoying our game drive Kababa was slaving over a pile of coals to make Heather a delicious birthday cake. The cake was accompanied by the guys singing their own version of a local song, ‘Jambo Bwana’.

• Seeing nature in action – during the wildebeest migration it is quite common for some of the wildebeest to get trampled while crossing rivers. Driving by a small watering hole we came across a group of marabou stork enjoying the remnants of just this:

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• Our campsite – It was an amazing feeling, to get out of our tent in the morning, turn around, look into the long grass and wonder ‘what is out there?' The first lion we saw was only a 5 minute drive from our camp:

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• The leopard – If you squint your eyes, you might be able to see him lying in the tree:

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These pictures are of where we exited the Serengeti:

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From the Serengeti our next stop was the Olduvai Gorge, better known as the Cradle of Mankind, where some of the world's oldest humanoid skeletons were discovered. Here we had a talk by one of the local experts. The picture below is of the gorge:

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That afternoon we arrived at the Ngorongoro Crater. We set up camp on the rim of the crater and for the first time during our trip we were cold. That night we had a heard of buffalo walk into our camp as we were just about to head for bed. As buffalo are quite unpredictable they are quite dangerous so we had to wait until they moved away before we went to bed. While we were waiting we had one of the game wardens, with his AK-47, sit by our fire and keep an eye on the buffalo. I am sure he thought he was making us feel safer but with the way he was waving his gun around we were all more worried about him than the buffalo! The pictures below are of the crater rim and of the buffalo (can you see them?):

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The next morning we headed down into the crater for a game drive. Today we had to swap our truck for a Land Cruiser but, unfortunately, the gods didn’t smile on this change of transport and it drizzled most of the day which made spotting animals difficult. The pictures below are of our Land Cruiser (the roof was put back on very soon after this photo) and the animals we saw in the crater:

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That night we spent at Meserani where we had our first ‘warm’ shower in many days. Then, the next day we were all dropped off in Arusha and said our goodbyes to the guys and Anti and Leo. The photo below is of our group, in Arusha:

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‘The Relaxing Part’

From Arusha we flew to Zanzibar where we were to spend the final six nights of our holiday. Our first two nights were spent in Stonetown were we stayed at an amazing little place called Hotel Zenji. Zanzibar is quite a contrast to the mainland, it didn’t really feel like we were in Africa anymore. On the first night we walked to Monsoon, a delicious seafood restaurant just set back from the water. Even though Kababa’s cooking was amazing, it was quite nice to have a sit down meal at a table (including cocktails) and we didn’t have to do our own dishes!

The next day we headed out and explored Stonetown from the main streets to the little alleys. Walking around Stonetown you really get a feel for its colourful past: spice trade centre, major slave trade port, explorer base and tourist destination. The pictures below are of a boat in the harbour, a fishermans catch, one of the dilapidated ‘grand’ buildings on the sea front, Di and Lara chatting to a local, the old fort, Heather getting into the henna, fishing boats on the beach, Tipu Tip’s – a famous slave trader – front door, an alleyway and some locals playing football on the beach:

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That evening we headed to Livingstone Beach Restaurant where we were treated to a traditional African dance show. On the way we passed through Forodhani Gardens where a seafood market is held every evening – with about 50-ish stalls it was quite an amazing sight. After talking with many of the self-proclaimed ‘fishermen’ I decided to try a Tuna skewer as an entrée prior to our dinner, which was then cooked in front of us. The skewer was delicious. The picture below is of our chosen stall and the guys that ran it:

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After another delicious seafood dinner and a fun show we headed home.

The next day we went on a Spice Tour. This tour was actually very interesting. None of the spice farms specialise in a particular crop because they all grow a large range of spices to cover the risk of one crop going bad. On our tour we saw the following spices/fruit: cinnamon, banana, coffee, turmeric, vanilla, pineapple, star fruit, nutmeg, achiote, cocoa, pepper, iodine and ginger (probably more, but it is struggle to remember them all now!). We then proceeded to one of the tour guide’s homes for lunch. The pictures below are of our spice guide with nutmeg, achiote, an iodine tree and the girls with their “spice gear” that some of the local boys made for them during our tour:

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Next stop was the beach! Our plan for the final four days of our trip was to relax on the white sands of Kendwa beach. We stayed at Kendwa Rocks: an old reggae resort which was a laid back place and a lot of fun.

For the next four days we lay on the beach, enjoyed many a cocktail, got sunburnt, dodged the occasional shower, enjoyed our first reliable hot showers of the whole trip, ate a lot, went diving and saw a turtle, smoked shisha, read and relaxed. The pictures below are of our beach hut, the sunset on the beach, some fishing boats, sun bathing, the girls on our balcony and a dive boat (identical to ours) at Mnemba atoll:

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Whew, well done if you’ve managed to read to the bottom of this one. Suffice to say that we all had a fabulous time and hopefully Heather had a xx-ieth birthday to remember!

Love
Di and Cam x

Posted by Di and Cam 26.07.2010 13:40 Archived in Tanzania

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