Diary of a 5 day safari in Tanzania

May 29, 2012

When I came back I spent half an hour under the shower, to try to get rid of 5 days of dust. And what actually looked like suntan disappeared from my face. I only have three underpants left, need to do some laundry.

Five days in the National Parks to see some animals. They call them “the Big Five”. Lion, rhino, buffalo, leopard, elephant. No buffalos, but I’ve seen all the others. In particular lions, that walked between the tourists cars in search of some shade.

I’m a bit tired because the last two days we woke up at 6 am. It’s a bit boring for me to write again this diary, I hope it’s not the same for you reading it.

Safari Day One

Friday May 25. 8.52am. I’m at the Naaz Hotel in Arusha. I paid the final balance for the safari. I like the chef. He seems nice. As guide I would have preferred another man, better looking :P. Nevermind. My travel companions seem a bit serious, nevermind neither. I didn’t sleep well, there was too much noise in the dorm. I’m tired. And I woke up with a swollen lip. And one hand itches a lot. I hope I didn’t catch something weird and that it is just mosquito bites.

I must say Arusha is not bad. I always have bodyguards walking with me. Osman and a Rastafarian escorted me from my hotel to here, and Ebo came to say goodbye at the restaurant. I would cut my nails and use the dental floss while I wait. If I had booked with the Crown Egle agency I would have paid 70 dollars more and would have done the same tour. They must have sent the big boss to persuade me, so they were able to fill up the car and without paying commissions to agencies I was able to save some money.

I’m waiting for the others to finish their breakfast so that we can leave. They are planning everything now. Probably we will stop at the market to buy vegetables and meat for the trip. They are handling hundreds of dollars on the table, in front of everyone. I ask if they are not afraid they might be robbed. No, this is a safe place. The only unsafe place in Arusha is after the bridge next to the hotel I was staying at.

9.15 am. We finally get into the car. I buy a small Swahili-English dictionary, for 2.000 tsh from a guy; his friend wanted 15.000 for the same book. It’s all about deciding how much you want to spend here in Tanzania.

1.30pm We are at the picnic area of Tarangire National Park. We’ve just seen a group of elephants crossing the river a bit further down. Nice packed lunch, even too large. Cold chicken, spring roll, fried meat, banana, juice.

The Tarangire is known for the large number of elephants and giraffes. I like it for the giant Baobab trees.

Where there are vultures there are also lions. They follow them because they know that they will be able to eat their leftovers, sooner or later. The car is full of flies. The same flies that a second ago were on that buffalo carcass killed a couple of days ago by lions. Now the same lions are sleeping nearby. They nap for 2-3 days after they’ve eaten. The lioness kills the prey and the male eats first. Like the Maasai, Laureance the guide explains. The woman builds the house, works, cooks while the man watches.

4.30pm We are in Mtombu. Mosquito River in Swahili. Not promising. The camping site is not how I expected it. It looks like a family garden. I was expecting something wilder. When we arrived our tents were already up and hot water for tea and popcorn were waiting on the table. How nice. I took a short walk around the village. There’s an orphanage. There are many in Tanzania. There are many orphans due to Aids victims. They asked for a donation. There was also a nice local pub (not for tourists), where you can find the local specialty: banana wine! Very similar to the banana beer I drank in Moshi. My lip is back to normal.

Safari Day Two

May 26. 9am. White Storks. There are plenty on the trees. I thought they were pink flamingos, but no. The land beneath the trees is white of storks guano.

5pm We are back to the lake, while two of our companions went back to the camping from where they will go back to Arusha. Nice hot meal, very good, as usual. Chicken with potatoes, vegetable quiche, and the always delicious salad with tomatoes, onion, cucumber, mango and avocado. Last night fried fish with potatoes, a similar salad, carrots and peas. For breakfast omelette, pancake, hotdog, and pan fried tomatoes (delicious). We took a little nap after lunch. I went to the village again. It wasn’t as nice as last night, because instead of women and children this time I only met a group of drunk men at the pub. They were drinking their homemade liqueur and it made me sick the way they swallowed it so quickly. We are at the picnic area of the park. With lake view. There’s a lot of noise. Hundreds of birds doing thousands of different calls, and monkeys. If I brought here my cat Cagliostro he wouldn’t survive. My hair is thick with dust. The Land Rover has an extendable roof so that tourists can stand up and look out to take pictures. You can’t get out of the car unless you are at a picnic area. It’s too dangerous, they say.

Safari Day Three

May 27. 10am. They are poor, but they have a good dress they keep for the holidays and Mass. I see them in the street, while we are driving to Serengeti. Maasai with their cows. A lot of Maasai. We pass Ngorongoro to go to Serengeti. Ngorongoro is their homeland. Only Maasai people can live here. Ngorongoro is called “the Eden garden” because they found some of the oldest human remains and because mankind (Maasai) and animals live happily together.

We drive on a rough road at 70 km per hour. I’m not surprised we often cross broken cars. It’s very hot. A huge plain. The blue sky and the white clouds remind me of Tibet. The plain is also similar, but there it was more rocks, while here it’s green.

12.30pm. Lunch at Serenget entrance. We are ready to go to the camping site, set up our tents, leave the chef to cook and then “evening safari”. The Korean son run after an elephant to take a photograph. 6.50 Sunset, not the best. Korean father sits next to me with his cow-boy hat, a mask to protect himself from the dust and earplugs for the music; during the sunset he was sleeping. I took some nice pictures earlier in the late afternoon. I love the acacia trees. And with that light they were really nice. 9pm and the sky looks like a lit Christmas tree.

serengeti national park

Safari Day 4

May 28 2012. 11.35am Brunch. Korean father brought some dried fish from home, that he is eating withe rice and seaweeds to make sushi. 12.45pm We are putting our bags in the car. In a while we’ll go to Ngorongoro. The Koreans needed 30 minutes more to pack. The son wore a nice white shirt, after two days without showering and with all the dust that is around. This morning the plan was quick tea at 6, at sunset, and early safari to see the animals when they are most active. Instead I was woken at 5am by a group of American girls that couldn’t stop laughing. After 5 minutes of laughs, I realised I was wrong. They were actually hyenas. It got quiet again only after 20 minutes. And in the tents we started breathing again. This morning we saw a lot of lions, from close. And zebra, that travel with wildebeest, they are so cute! They are traveling to Kenya, with the end of the rain season

2pm We are going out of the Serengeti. Laurence has gone to pay. I changed my mind about him, I kind of like him. He’s fun and talks to me in Swahili even though I don’t understand a word. I would love a fruit right now. Some tourists are truly dressed up with safari clothes, hat and kaki everything. In the camping sites there’s electricity thanks to solar panels. There are many in all Africa, I think. The park is SIRINGET in Maasai, that means “land of endless space”. You don’t actually see any mountain in the horizon, you don’t see the end of this place.

6.08 pm Camping in the crater of Ngorongoro. It used to be a volcano, now it’s a hole of the diameter of about 14km, with a lake in the middle and a lot of cute beasts. I’m happy. Because this safari turned out as a beautiful experience and because some Maasai offered to take me to a view point where few people are admitted and they let me take a picture of them without expecting anything back. Well, maybe if I bought a bracelet or a leather shield I would have made them happier, but I said I wouldn’t have bought anything and they took me nonetheless. It was nice of them. They were ready to protect me with their spears in case a lion attacked from a bush.

9pm. There’s a wind so strong I’m worried it might take the tent away with me inside! Anyway stars are brighter here than in Europe. And it’s not just the light pollution, because even in the mountains in Italy stars are not like this. Maybe the atmosphere is different. Laurence of Tanzania asked me to go to Moshi with him. If I wasn’t in a hurry to go to the beach and he hadn’t a son maybe I would go. Tomorrow alarm set at 6am. It’s super cold.

Safari Day Five

May 29, Tuesday, 8.50am

It’s so cold! And it’s all cloudy, so I doubt it will get warmer soon. We’re inside the crater, waiting for the cheetah to come out from the grass where he’s hiding. I’m also super sleepy because last night with all that wind it was a nightmare.

6pm Arusha. They brought me chicken instead of skewers. I got emotional when I said goodbye to the others. It was nice traveling with them. The 50 yo American guy, grown up in Alaska but living in Key West for the last 20 years, an island in Florida. He enchanted me with his stories about Cuba. The two Koreans, father and son, that right after the Safari will climb the Kilimanjaro and after Kili they are flying to Zanzibar for 2 days (I will get there by road and boat in about 10 days). They can’t waste any time. They’ve got to be back to work in two weeks and they want to see as much as they can. Emily, a German 21 years old that lived alone in Rwanda for 2 years, the last year teaching in a school. On June 8th she will finally go back home, after more than one year without seeing her parentes. Me, that when I check in at hotels I don’t know what to write as profession and I still don’t know what to answer when they ask why I don’t have children.