Tanzania is a one of the East African Countries (there's 20). To the north is Kenya and to the south is Mozambique and to the east is the Indian Ocean. Tanzania (until 1964 it was called Tanganyika) has many of the famous National Parks, Conservation areas and landmarks that I had heard about--Mount Kilimanjaro, the Great Rift Valley, the Serengeti, the Ngorogoro Crater and the Spice Island of Zanzibar. Luckily, I got to enjoy them all. Well, I only saw Mt. Kilimanjaro from the air, and I went to Zanzibar after the safari on my own. (Go to Tanzania, Zanzibar for that story.) I had never heard of Tarangire NP but it was on our list. I had heard of pink elephants though! So surprises were in store.
This trip was arranged by Great Escapes Publishing (www.greatescapespublishing.com) and the safari operator was Topguides Safaris (www.topguidessafaris.com). Soon there will also be Topguides Bush Camps (www.topguidesbushcamps.com). The nine days of the safari was first class the whole way. It wasn't cheap but was worth every dollar and I would do it again with them. We were cared for by everyone.
There's lots of flights from all over world, of course. I chose to fly from Vancouver, Canada on KLM with a short stop off in Amsterdam and then onto JRO, Kilimanjarjo International Airport in Arusha, Tanzania. I arrived one day early which was a great choice since it takes some time for me to recover from jet lag.
Some people chose to use air mileage points and seemed to have a wonderful tour of the world.
At JRO there is the usual customs to go through and you need to get a visa. You can get a visa ahead of time but it wasn't appropriate for my situation. I did travel on a Canadian Passport so my charge for a visa was $50.00 USD. The US Passport holders paid $100.00 USD.
There were a few of us on the flight I arrived on. A Topguides Safari van was waiting for us and whisked us into Arusha. It was about a 45 minute drive on the left-hand side of the road, at night. Yikes. Something to get used to.
Staying in Arusha
The hotel we stayed at was Lake Duluti Serena. There were hotel rooms in the main building or cabins to stay in. We all had our own cabins with oversize king-sized beds, sitting area, private WC's and bottled water. Actually, all of our rooms, cabins, tents throughout the safari were like that. Wonderful. Except for the first night and day for me, because I arrived early, all meals and drinks were included in the package everywhere.
One person arrived during the day. I arrived at night. We'd become friends when we had found out, in our preparations for this adventure, that we lived near each other. So, at arrival at Kilimanjaro airport, I texted her I'd arrived and please have a glass of red wine waiting for me. Got to the hotel and out on the terrace was my friend, my glass of wine, a very attentive waiter and my introduction to the African night. Silky black. The air is gentle, not cold, not hot. Smells of flowers. No flying insects. A few vervet monkeys playing in the distance. Unfamiliar trees. I relaxed into the new peace washing over me.
The next day I did a nature hike around Lake Duluti with a young guide. He was quite sweet and charming and would help me over logs and such. He seemed quite knowledgeable until I tried to confirm some details later while on the safari. His story about the weaver bird making a nest with chambers for visitors was not confirmed nor his assertion that the male vervet monkey's blue testicles was the very young ones. It's the mature males. I did learn from him the saying about 'the big five' animals (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and Cape buffalo) and the little five (antlion, leopard tortoise, elephant shrew, rhino beetle and buffalo weaver ). I did get to see an antlion trap on our walk. It was a fun walk that stretched my legs. I got to see some things up close.
Finally everyone arrived on the evening of the 15th. The next morning there was a lovely buffet breakfast (but I requested a breakfast like our server would have. It was a slice each of baked sweet potato and cassava and 'African tea' - chai tea).
That morning we had our first seminar, introducing our drivers, how to use our cameras, all the housekeeping that needs to be done for a group of 15 people who have mostly never met each other. We were assigned our drivers for the day and then we were off.
Next up will be our journey from Arusha to Tarangire National Park. Along the way we'll stop at a stream and enjoy all the animals there. (there is video of a baby elephant). And then our delightful introduction to the Lemala Groups (www.lemalacamp.com) tented camps. Stay tuned!