“I’m Gonna Pitch Me A Tent”

I was worried, as we rattled along on our 6 hour shuttle bus ride from Nairobi to Arusha, that our African trip may have peaked. How wrong I was. Tanzania has been just as enjoyable, exciting, eye opening and interesting as Kenya before it. The boarder crossing was an experience in itself. It took us about 40 minutes to get through, going back and forth between counters, answering questions that I wasn’t really sure the answers to, handing over dollars without really questioning why, being offered passports of anyone but myself. Just when I thought I would be stuck there forever I was handed my European Union passport back with a new stamp in and we were off. Phew.

New Wheels

Misgivings I had about us being stuck in Arusha without really knowing where to go or if anyone would meet us were completely unfounded; we were collected and wisked off to our hotel next to the the city’s mosque. In hindsight we should have closed our window over night as the 5.15 am call to prayer didn’t leave you with any opportunity to sleep, but at least we were up! We traded in our Nissan mini bus for a Toyota Land Cruiser and set off for Tanzania’s national parks with our new driver Beerman (no, I’m sure you don’t spell it that way and yes we both thought that he was joking at first). My biggest worry was that I would become bored of seeing the animals again having been spoilt in Kenya, but our first stop (Lake Manyara) was completely different, rather than rolling grass land we were treated with a large body of water surrounded by forest more similar to The Jungle Book than The Lion King. And rather than Wildebeest, Gazelles and Zebra, we were surrounded by Baboons, Flamingos and Monkeys. It was a very enjoyable afternoon driving along the dirt tracks through the dense Forrest trying to spot the animals that we could, so clearly, hear.

The aptly nicknamed Blue Balls Monkey

We had been warned that the camping laid on for us in Tanzania would be much more basic  than we had enjoyed in Kenya, but were pleasantly surprised to find a similar (if not slightly more luxurious) camp to call home for the night complete with swimming pool, lounge, fire pit, premiere league football and Wifi. Perfect. The basic was clearly to come, the next morning tents and sleeping bags were loaded onto the roof of the land cruiser and we set off for two nights in the wilderness. Actually what we found were possibly two of the greatest camping nights I’ve ever had (and there have been a few!!) The first was spent in the middle of the Serengeti, less than 5 minutes after seeing our last Lion of the day, we were unpacking the car and setting up camp. A few in the group looked a bit apprehensive about spending the night amoungst the big cats and other rather large animals, but me and Zan were confident we could out run everyone else on the site. After all: you don’t have to out run the 120km-per-hour cheetah, just the slowest in your group! We set up camp with giraffe watching on from a distance, went to bed with torch light flashing on the hyenas, slept through all manor of animal calls and woke up to some odd looks from grazing buffalo. Incredible. The second night was spent on the hill tops overlooking the Ngorongoro Crater, fantastic views from our tents of the 600m deep, 20km wide hole slap band in the middle of the Savannah. Being at well over 2,000m above sea level the second night was a bit colder, but nothing that stopped us sleeping. To make it even better, we had our own personal chef with us who managed to cook up some amazing meals with just one gas stove.

Buffalo outside our tent at sunrise

The camping was topped only by three incredible days of Safari, particularly in the Serengeti. It was very fair to say we had been spoilt by the proximity we had been to the animals in Kenya (the Serengeti does not offer the same number of winding tracks that allow you to drive right up to herds, schools and packs) but what we lacked in nearness, the Serengeti more than made up for in scenery. The vastness of the grass makes the plains look like a browny green ocean, punctuated only by a few lone Acacia trees and the odd rock formation rising from the ground as if they had been added by an artist. In the distance hills break the horizon occasionally to offer a backdrop to the seemingly endless flat. Watching the sunrise over it was almost unbelievable, and definitely worth the 5.30am alarm. The size of the place did not stop us from seeing animals though, we were still very lucky to see 4 of the big 5 as well as animals we were yet to see (Hyenas, Cheetahs and Jackals) and we were treated to more front row seats of prowls from Leopards and Lions.

Cheetah

For our last day in the bush, we descended from our camp, into the Ngorongoro crater in search of the last of the big 5 we were still really to see in full. The Black Rhino. No such luck. I guess you can’t have it all? It is apparently a notoriously shy creature, I am still unsure why, if I weighed a couple of ton and had a few of horns on the end of my nose I think I would be out letting the world know who was boss! We still had a great morning spotting sleeping lions and wallowing hippos before our drive back to Arusha and the start of our journey back to London. Tanzania has be just as good as its East African neighbors, Kenya had the best of the Animals, but Tanzania definitely has the whole Safari package.

The Ngorongoro Crater
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