Thursday, September 13, 2007


We were picked up by TrueAfrica, the name of our Safari company. We met Robert, our guide who had worked formerly in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and at the Crater Lodge in Ngorongoro, and we set off on three days of adventure.

First stop was Tarangire National Park, a few hour-drive from Arusha. Along the way we had a game ride through the park where we not only saw Zebra, Elephants, Giraffes, but also a Leopard reclined in a swamp-side tree. We made our way to Oliver’s Camp, the deepest of the park camps, alone on the far side of the swamp. Oliver’s Camp consists of eight luxurious tents, and all-inclusive food. Alone in my tent, I was given a whistle to signal for help, and guaranteed 5 gallons of hot water and a coffee at 0700 for my outdoor shower. As I washed, I watched three elephants forage 50m away in the bush.

From Oliver’s Camp we made our way back through Tarangire, where we saw two lions reclined in a tree, and a third wandering member of the pride. A truly rare sighting in Tarangire, we believed our luck to be out, and headed for Plantation Lodge, our next stop.

Plantation Lodge lies between Manyara and Ngorongoro to the Southwest of Arusha, and en route to the Serengeti. Because the migration is not this time of year, and because the drive to Serengeti is far, we had opted for closer, comparable parks. Robert recommended the Mara River crossing of the Wildebeest in northern Tanzania, but this required a bush flight and more than the $1000 we had already paid for three days, so we decided to leave something for our 30s.

Compared with Oliver’s Camp, Plantation Lodge was a Euro Pottery Barn meets Africa. My decorations were in German, and the poolside was littered with French and Italians. The food was good, but the South African wine was not included, and amounted to a small fortune in cost.

On Sunday morning we departed for Ngorongoro Crater at 0700. More than the expected drive length, we didn’t arrive into the crater floor until around 0900. However, the wait was more than worth it. Within the first hour in the park we had seen hundreds of animals, and the intersection of wildlife at a watering hole. Birds, Wildebeest, Buffalo, Zebra, and Hippo all mingled at the water’s edge.

No more than 30 minutes later, we happened upon a Lioness stalking her prey in the tall grass. Though a stray Zebra came within meters of the prone lioness, she waited to approach the large group instead. In a moment, she exploded from the grass, and made a swipe at a nearby Zebra. Her attempt failed with the Wildebeest and zebra scattering in a ripple of black dots atop a golden tapestry of grass.

Only the buffalo remained unmoved, casually grazing as though nothing had happened. With the word out, the lioness’ chance was done, and she walked away with a nonchalance of a good but arrogant player who thinks defeat is minimized by the claim that it wasn’t their best effort; “If I had tried harder I totally would have gotten you.” Well, eat me… oh, that’s right, you tried that!

The rest of the afternoon consisted of nine more lions, hippos, two cheetahs, and thousands of other creatures such as elephants, zebra, Wildebeest, buffalo, ostrich, hyenas, warthogs, and jackals. Two post-elephant Ndovu beers at the Wilderness Lodge on the crater’s edge overlooking an incredible landscape, and we set back to Arusha.

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