Whenever I am on my way to Africa, my heart beats faster with anticipation. Just about anywhere in Africa -- where the trip includes some time on safari -- is amazing, but this time my trip focused on Tanzania, Eastern Africa, to places I have never been.
Book ended by a few days in Nairobi, Kenya on either side, I was on my way to three safari areas:
- The Selous - a wilder part of Tanzania and largest national park, located in the southern part of the country.
- Greystoke Mahale on Lake Tanganyika, to see the chimpanzee population in the Mahale Mountains.
- The Southern Serengeti, where the great migration passes through this time of year.
Nairobi was hot and traffic was a challenge, but I was able to have lunch with a longtime Africa friend at the stunning new hotel, Hemingway's. Everything about this place is gorgeous: 45 rooms, lovely grounds, views of the Ngong Hills.
I also stopped in to see House of Waine, an 11 room gem of a property. Both these properties are in the elegant suburb of Karen. I took the opportunity to stop in at Kazuri Beads, take a tour of the facility and shop for their necklaces of handmade beads. Kazuri employs about 350 disadvantaged women, most of whom are single mothers, so it is a “feel good” stop to meet some of the women and buy their creations.
My traveling companions arrived later and we took off first thing for the Selous...
Our flight took us from Nairobi over Mt. Kilimanjaro, then to Dar es Salaam. From Dar we took a small prop plane to Sand Rivers Selous. The lodge has eight open-fronted stone and thatch cottages facing the river. They are on raised wooden platforms with a sitting area, panoramic views, ensuite bathrooms with hot showers, flush loos, and fans over the beds. The common area has a swimming pool, open sitting area with bar and an open dining area. The rooms have “monkey boxes,” which are secure wooden cabinets in which to keep things that otherwise the Vervet monkeys will come and steal!
Upon arrival we climbed into the vehicle, and our guide gave us the option of going to see some lions he spotted that day or going immediately to the lodge. We chose lions, of course! We drove as quickly as possible until we came upon two young males, lounging around. For me, lions are always one of the main attractions of Africa, even though they spend much of their time resting. It takes a huge amount of energy to hunt, so they lie around a lot. However, one of the lions stood up, walked over to a tree nearby, put his big paws against the trunk and suddenly with a few movements similar to my house cat, he climbed the tree! I have never seen this happen before, so I was thrilled. He stayed up there for quite some time, perhaps surveying the landscape. Nothing more to see, so we headed to camp.
We spent a full day the following day out on safari. The landscape was gorgeous with baobab, acacia, palm trees, rocky terrain and a swollen river. There were hundreds of impala - the McDonald’s of Africa, or “lion potato chips” as one guide called them. There were families of giraffe, lots of babies, many following in the path of the mother, who would walk quite a distance ahead seeming to ignore her offspring. A group would be a Tower of Giraffe, which is so appropriate!
There were many zebra along with wildebeest, (the “spare parts” animal - horns of a cow, stripes of a zebra, neck of a buffalo, head of a warthog, tail of a horse.) We saw warthogs with their baby piglets, beautiful carmine bee-eaters flying along side our vehicle as the tires stirred up insects for them to eat, Cape buffalos with their huge horns and ominous looks.
We heard the hippos in the river as they barked to each other with their deep throaty grunts. Also in the river were crocodiles as well as many birds. I never paid attention to birds until I came to Africa, where the variety, beauty, as well as the oddness of some, became fascinating.
The heat of the day grew in intensity - this part of Tanzania is low in elevation, so it does get warm. Evening brought cooler temperatures and we explored by boat as the sun set. We had sundowners on the boat as hippos popped their heads up to spy on us and the monkeys played in the trees along the edge... (see Tanzania, part 2, a chimp story)