Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Spirit of Exploration Continues in Tanzania

On Tuesday we took some time off from our busy schedule and went on Safari to Arusha National Park.

This park is one of the forgotten gems of Tanzania.  It is only about 1/2 hour out of Arusha, but not many tourists make the trip, preferring to go to the better know parks like Serengeti and Lake Minyara national parks, where there is a chance of seeing the "Big 5".  Arusha does not promise Rhino or lion, but it promises a wide variety of environments and stunning scenery.

We left about 8 o'clock and after battling the Arusha traffic we were on the open highway and headed to Usa River.  From there it was a short drive north up the mountain and we were in the National Park.  It only took a short while to do the paper work and we were on our way.  Within minutes of leaving the park gate we were on to our first game - zebra, warthogs and water buck. We were in little Serengeti.  There is so much difference seeing these wild animal in their natural environment, rather than seeing them in a zoo!
The Explorers!
We then went up the mountain, across a new bridge to a part of the park we had not seen before and were stunned by the beauty of what we saw.  We stopped for a break at a viewing point and had a drink and some cake.  We were high up on the mountain and could see most of the park.  We could see where they filmed the 1960's film Hartari!  We could see over to the Momella Lakes.  We could even seen where Mt. Kilimanjaro was, even is she was modestly hiding behind her clouds.

How you get a car through a tree!
We went on from there and drove through a tree!  A strangler fig had attached itself to a host tree and the result was stunning.  We could have gone further up the mountain, but we only had one day!  So turned around and headed downwards.  We soon meet a party of climbers headed to the summit which is 4,566 metres high (14,980 ft) and a three day climb!  I can tell you we were traveling a lot easier than these people.

Once we had crossed the bridge again we headed off to the Momella lakes (those who remember the Hatari! movie will remember the elephants bathing in the lakes).  We had lunch there and were able to see hippos in the lake around an island in the middle. There are several lakes all with different soda levels.  One of them is just right for flamingos and their pink plumage is stunning in the afternoon sun.

We made our way around the lakes and thought we had seen all they had to offer when we came around a corner and a huge giraffe was idling the day away on the road, in the shade of a tree .

We waited for him (we called him Gerald the giraffe) for about 1/2 an hour before he remembered something he had to do and calmly walked past our car.

I had my window down and could have touched him if I wanted to.  This is not something that happens everyday!

Leaving Gerald behind we headed to the Ngurdoto crater.  This is a stunning caldera with wonderful viewing places around the rim.

We went to the other side to where were have been before and after a long and tricky climb with many switch backs and the vehicle in 4x4 low we were rewarded with a breath taking scene.  Even Mt. Kilimanjaro came to the party and showed herself!  We could see here on our right and Mt. Meru in all her glory on our left.  We could see right down into the crater and even over to Arusha town.

Our time had come to an end, but we all agreed it was a wonderful safari.  There were few people and many animals.  We were even privileged to see the very shy columbus monkeys at very close quarters. All around it was a great day.

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