Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Day 2 and 3, Tarangire National Park and Ngorongoro Crater

On the way to Tarangire National Park from Arusha, we passed by many herders tending to their goats and cattle. Nicely paved highway with little traffic all the way to the park's entrance.
                         Herds of goats- A common scene on the way to Tarangire National Park
Villagers with sticks in their hands walking to a fight because someone stole their livestock according to our driver. It seemed like the whole village came out looking for the thief/thieves.

The first animal we saw on our safari trip was the resident wildebeests in Tarangire National Park. We got so excited that we kept snapping away on our cameras. Little did we know that these herds were much smaller than what we would encounter in the Serengeti a few days later. We saw fearless lions, cautious zebras, smiling giraffes, adorable elephants, cute gazelles, playful hippos, distant cheetah, monkeys, birds, mongoose and many more. We also met lively elementary school kids on their field trips, over a hundred boys with just a handful of girls. We had a nice lunch box picnic at a scenic point overlooking the Tarangire River. Cheetah sighting was exciting but we were not close enough to get a nice shot of the family with cubs.

                                     Zebras in defensive mode looking out for each other.
Cute Thompson gazelles.
The baobab tree looked as if it was uprooted and planted upside down. Some animals will dig into the huge trunks (9 meters or wider in diameter) to make homes for themselves in the tree.
                                    Families of giraffes and zebras frolicking together.
 First pair of lion and lioness on our safari trip. They rule! Unafraid of all the safari vehicles around them.
The happiest kids I've seen in a long time. Smiles all around. Very friendly and not shy in introducing themselves to me.
Safari vehicles and elephants on opposite banks of Tarangire River- who's watching who? 

A family of elephants enjoying their bath. So adorable.
                                                Our tent at Isoitok Camp.
Accomodations for the night was Isoitok Camp at Lake Manyara. Very nicely built tent with emphasis on being eco conscious. The wooden bathroom door in the tent adds a nice touch. Water had to be trucked in to the camp so we were cautious not to be wasteful. Two small bottled water were provided in the bathroom for brushing our teeth. I took a chance and used their open air outdoor shower- again nicely built but the winds made the whole experience too cold to enjoy. Had a lovely dinner with soup, salad, meatballs, coconut rice, baked cauliflower and dessert. Howling winds at night kept me up most of the night. Morning tea was brought to the tent with teabags and sugar but no hot water. I guess, the staff forgot. Liked the cookies that came with it. Enjoyed taking pictures of colorful birds getting their baths and drinks at the water bath. Breakfast was great with fruits, pastries, cereals, toasts, eggs cooked to order, juices, milk, tea and coffee. Of course, the lunch boxes to take with us were the best of this trip with beef salad, pasta salad, a sandwich, cookies and water. Complements to the chef.

                    Migratory cranes busily building their huge nests from twigs and leaves.
Dried up carcass of a cape buffalo's horn with views of a saltwater lake at Ngorongoro.

Day 3 took us to the Ngorongoro Crater- scenic drive all the way to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area bypassing Lake Manyara. We saw many herds of migrating cranes building their nests on treetops. Endless plains with wild animals and cattle tended to by the Masai people. Nice, cool temperatures on the highlands provided for very refreshing air. Came face to face with huge cape buffaloes on the roadside. What a sight to be had.

                                   Grey crowned cranes. Never seen these before in my life.
Birds hitching a ride on a zebra.
Kori Bustard- the largest bustard of Eastern Africa.
Hippo pools- stinky but hippos are fun to watch. Rolling on their backs, yawning, splashing water on each other but hold your noses.
Not afraid of people or vehicles.

                                Crafts and souvenirs for sale including the masai fly swatter.

We were coerced by our driver to visit a Masai village in the conservation area- paid US$60 entrance fee. The villagers performed a welcome dance for us. We were told all the villagers were related as they share the same father (village chief) but different mothers (27 of them if I remember correctly). The son of the chief showed us the inside of the huts that the villages lived in. The huts were made out of sticks, wood, and cow dung. He made us walk around a "shopping bazaar" of souvenirs and crafts (bought US$30 worth of a necklace and a porcupine spike) and visited their kindergarten as well. Children ranging from 2 y/o to 12 y/o were in the same class doing alphabets, simple math, English and Swahili. We donated US$50 to the kindergarten teacher. Not sure if the money will benefit the children but I hope they do. As we were leaving, we saw another safari vehicle pulling up with a family- another cha-ching!
Masai village.
 School kid reading off the blackboard.
                                                   View from the lodge's balcony.
Stayed at Sopa Lodge on the rim- huge rooms with bedding that reminded me of the Best Western motels in the States. Bathroom was nice and updated with a huge shower. Rooms had enclosed balcony overlooking the crater rim. Unfortunately, it was foggy and visibility was poor during our stay. Dinner and breakfast buffet were just alright as the lodge caters to large tour groups. My kids could tell that the fried potato slices for breakfast were actually recycled from previous night dinner's whole baked potatoes. Overall, the green and cool Ngorongoro area is a nice change from the dry Tarangire National Park.

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