An other world

29 April 2024 | Family Braars

As soon as you step off the plane you notice that you are in another world: the typical African smell – a mixture of wood-burning fire and the smell of the red earth, the moist air that wraps around you like a warm blanket and the cicadas that audibly fill the night.
After the first night in the cozy Arusha River Trees Country Inn, our safari guide, Haji, was waiting for us in the morning. Haji was the perfect guide. He immediately put us at ease, spoke with great enthusiasm about his country and its people, was professional, punctual and cordial.

We immediately left for the first park: Tarangire National Park. The rainy season was just coming to an end so nature couldn’t be greener and more lush. The drive to the Tarangire Safari Lodge was already a safari: we saw elephants, warthogs, mongooses, jackals, baboons. Among the real animals we also regularly spotted (with shame on our cheeks) an ‘ALT’, or an ‘Animal Like Thing’, such as a remarkable baobab tree that was not a giraffe or an ant hill that was not an elephant. The view from the Tarangire Safari Lodge is phenomenal: for miles you see nothing but nature, acacia trees, the slow-flowing river and, if you look closely, giraffes, elephants and other large game. The rest of the lodge is also great, there was a delicious buffet for every meal, a beautiful swimming pool and friendly staff.

In consultation with our guide, we went on a game drive early the next morning and at “seven o’clock sharp” (according to Haji) we were ready with our binoculars. We soon came across a gigantic herd of buffalo. Not far from there we saw a group of lions that were very interested in the large grazers. Unfortunately, the lions disappeared into the tall grass after a while, but we spent a long time watching the buffalo, which also crossed the road just in front of us. A few minutes’ drive further we came across five young lions playing in a typical lion tree and two adult lions in a higher tree further away. A successful game drive!

After Tarangire we drove to Lake Manyara National Park. This is a somewhat smaller park, but special because of the rainforest that lies against the ridges of the African rift valley. Soon after we entered the park, a medium-sized elephant came across the road and walked so close to the car that we could touch it. To the great amusement of the children, we also saw monkeys there, the males of which had body parts with a very special blue color.

At Lake Manyara we stayed at Migombani Camp, a spacious campsite where we slept in safari tents and had a fantastic view from the infinity pool over Lake Manyara (see main photo). The next day we booked a tour in tuk-tuks through the village, Mto Wa Mbu. Two enthusiastic guides told us all the ins and outs about how rice and bananas are grown, how to drink the best banana beer and what is for sale on the local market. At the primary school we received high-fives from the children on their way to lunch in their neat uniforms.

The next day we started the journey to the Serengeti early. To do this, you first have to drive over the rim of the Ngorogoro crater – halfway up you have a beautiful view of the crater at the viewpoint – and then through the Ngorogoro Conservation Area.

During the first part of the Conservation Area you drive past villages of the Maasai whose tall, stately figures you see walking along the road with hordes of goats, cows and donkeys. Then the cattle slowly make way for zebra, wildebeest and gazelles. What started with a few loose tufts of animals turned into an abundance of game after half an hour: we had ended up in the ‘great trek’. As far as the eye could see you saw animals, an incredible number of them. The guide estimated their numbers at hundreds of thousands of animals. There were wildebeest and other prey animals all around us and of course they bring predators with them. Right next to the road we came across two hyenas sleeping in the mud, just a few dozen meters away from the wildebeest and zebras.

In the Serengeti we slept in Hippo Trails Camp, a camp with spacious, luxurious tents where you can hear the hippos ‘grunting’ from the terrace and you have to be taken to your tent with a guard in the evening because there are lions, elephants or hippos. can walk through the camp. Lying in a tent while hearing the lions roar and hyenas howl in the African night is an experience you will never forget.

We ended our trip at Africa Amini Hillside Retreat. This was a pleasant surprise because we didn’t think we would have an entire house at our disposal. The Hillside Retreat is part of a non-profit institution founded by an Austrian mother and daughter. The mother still lives near the Hillside Retreat. We were also given a tour of schools and a clinic where we saw how the children lived at boarding school and how patients were helped with ‘mainstream’ medicines but also with medicinal herbs. It was the perfect place to relax for a few days to recover from all the impressions before we boarded the plane again.

We had an unforgettable trip. This is partly due to the friendliness and hospitality of the Tanzanians, but also largely to our guide, Haji and the flawless organization of Explore Tanzania.

Family Braars – May 2024

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