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Savuti Sundowners

… as experienced by our valued clients – the Shipley family: “On our last afternoon gamedrive before we left Savuti, we came around a bend in the road and looked out onto a large grassy area – all golden in the sunshine. In the distance we could see what looked like a table, complete with white table cloth with nothing or no one around it. As we got closer we could see that it was set with all sorts of drinks and some appetizers but no one was around. I could not imagine what was going on because the “sundowners” that we were accustomed to meant that our guide pulled a small fold up table from the safari vehicle, opened up a cooler and produced something for us to drink.  The big table, the white table cloth, as well as the variety of drinks were really over the top – especially when our guide  said this was all for us.  A minute or two later, another truck pulled up beside us with two men from the lodge who came out to be our bartenders. It was just a fantastic and wonderful sundowner, so much fun and like nothing that has happened to us before or since.  It was hard to believe that we were out in the middle of Africa sipping chilled white wine (my choice) from a table covered with a white table cloth. As I told our hosts, I liked their style!  Hats off to Savuti and the wonderful people who made our stay so memorable and so much fun.” Contact Christine Boecker for your own African...

Zanzibar, Tanzania: Spice Tour

Chris B, one of our colleagues, recounts an East African experience: We awoke early this morning to low lying clouds and some rain, although it was already very warm and humid. Despite the heat I woke up shivering because of the air conditioning. I threw open the doors to the verandah and immediately my senses were bombarded with the warm, salty air and the smell of fresh rain. After enjoying a delicious breakfast, while watching the early morning swimmers and beach joggers, we all jumped into Abdul’s air-conditioned minivan. Here we met up with our day’s guide, Ramadan, impeccably dressed in a yellow, collared shirt, black pin-stripe pants, and tailored Italian shoes. We never saw one African man in all of Tanzania wearing shorts, only ever pants, and we only saw a few shirtless. Then we headed off towards the centre of the island for a tour of the famous spice plantations. We passed from old Stone Town to New Town (during the Sultanate, when the rich Arabs and Indians lived in Stone Town, the “sub-class” of Africans lived in this area) and out to the shaded corridors of big leafy trees in the country. We drove along the coast, Ramadan giving us very informative descriptions of the local history, our view to the ocean occasionally broken by beautiful and enormous Swahili-style mansions. We also stopped briefly at a spiral-trunked palm tree, its curious shape due to the use of its baby palm leaves for moonshine. We eventually arrived at the spice plantation, a government display farm that had all the various types of spices and fruit that are...

Zanzibar, Tanzania: Stone Town Dinner

Chris B, one of our colleagues, recounts an East African experience: For dinner I decided to take the family to the local night market, which I remembered fondly from the last time I was in Stone Town. Before we arrived I said that most important thing to remember when we haggled for food was to pay for it before we ate, a lesson I learned from my previous trip. The market, set in a grassy square near our hotel overlooking the sea, was like a hallucination from something out of a Baz Lurhman film. Lit by gas lanterns, about 10 barbeques were set up in an L-shape, with other drink and craft stalls in-between, the grillers all wearing elegant white chef’s hats and seemingly thousands of papasi swarming around, grabbing hold of any tourist and imploring them to eat at their stall (the trick was to give you a paper plate, because then you would just have to consume their product). It was absolute, unadulterated madness, and I loved every second of it. We battled our way along the line; our eyes surveying the vast amounts of freshly caught and prepared skewers of fish, shellfish, crustaceans and other denizens of the sea. Each one had a price tag in front of it, stating the name and price. We debated between the exotic “paracuder” (barracuda) and “wite sharque” (White Shark), the saliva-inducing fully-shelled “chremps” (shrimps) and the red-spiced lobster (the only one spelled correctly). Eventually we settled, choosing our favourites, whereupon they heated it up on the barbeque and handed it back to us on a paper plate. The food...

Zanzibar, Tanzania: Stone Town

Chris B, one of our colleagues, recounts an East African experience: The flight to Zanzibar was largely uneventful until we came to the coast, the white sand glistening far below us and the sight of Zanzibar off in the distance. We flew over little islands surrounded by turquoise water and suddenly Stone Town was below us, tiny dhows lining a harbour encircling a veritable maze of low-lying buildings, broken every now and then by tall minarets and church spires. We landed at Zanzibar International Airport and the minute we disembarked we were instantly drenched with sweat, the humidity and heat quite a shock after the air-conditioned plane. We made our way through the throng of people to meet our new driver, Abdul, a tiny man with a big smile and a sharp sense of humour. We drove through tropical forests of palm trees and big leafy foliage towards Stone Town, the island’s capital and a UNESCO World Heritage SiteHerHe. The place was alive with activity and the sounds of honking cars and shouts of hundreds of voices filled the air – the constant pulsing mob a reminder of my humanity. There is no possible way to describe Stone Town to someone who has not experienced it; there is something so incredibly unreal about it, as though such a place could only exist in films or someone’s potent imagination. As the origin of the Swahili culture and language, this tiny spot on a tiny island off the east coast of Africa has played an enormous role in world history. Stone Town has been the starting point of famed European explorers...

Tanzania Safari – Day 8: Serengeti, Grumeti

Chris B, one of our colleagues, recounts an East African experience: Our day began a little later than usual, and as we headed out into the park we concentrated mainly on the Grumeti River, which criss-crosses this part of the Serengeti. We were attempting to spot leopard, who prefer bringing their kills to the long, low-lying branches of the trees overhanging the river, but we were stymied in that respect. We did see many other interesting animals, however, including our favourite blue vervet monkeys. These funny little primates get their colourful name from the male’s very prominent, and very blue, testicles. Driving along, we came across a gigantic herd of over 60 elephants, big and small, young and old. The bigger elephants were on the outside but every once in a while a sightline would open up and we would get a view of a tiny baby elephant, walking beside mum, all eyes, ears and trunk. We watched enthralled for 20 minutes as they slowly made their way across the road, taking their time, pausing to peruse this bush, or snap that twig, or gently caress each other with their trunks. On our afternoon game drive we stopped beside a weir in the river, a favourite haunt of Marabou storks and huge crocodiles. The crocs sit and wait at the base of the little waterfall, their snaggle-toothed jaws wide open, waiting for unsuspecting fish to fall right into their gaping maws. It was an absolute hoot to sit on top of this weir (in our land cruiser, of course), counting dozens of crocodiles and watching them as they silently...

Tanzania Safari – Day 7: More Serengeti

Chris B, one of our colleagues, recounts an East African experience We continued into the Serengeti National Park, and literally two minutes from the park gate we came upon a pride of lions relaxing under the shade of a nearby tree. Well-fed and dozing, they had not a care in the world, and we watched as one rolled around on its back, blissfully exposing its distended belly. We stopped at a rest spot a little later in the afternoon. This area has a very informative self-guided walk around a kopje, complete with cast iron statues of different animals, detailing information about the migration, animals, conservation, and the history of the Park. As we were wandering around, a huge group of banded mongooses (maybe 30 in all) came rolling through the picnic area, stopping only to beg for food or stand up on their hind legs and look around. Then, just as we got back into the vehicle, the skies opened up and within minutes puddles were already forming on the now-reddened dirt track, and the trees and plants glistening with fat rain drops. I found it very exciting and wonderfully refreshing, as just moments earlier we had been overheating in the powerful sun. There’s nothing quite like the smell of fresh rain, the moist air mixing with the hot soil, although it only lasts for the briefest of moments. Suddenly, as lightning flashed in the distance, we came up to two topi (a type of antelope) fighting, two big males running at each other and locking horns, loud, sharp cracks juxtaposed with the low, booming, all-enveloping thunder. We drove...

Tanzania Safari – Day 7 continued: Serengeti

Chris B, one of our colleagues, recounts an East African experience: We continued on our drive and the landscape became flatter and flatter, and drier and drier, until all we could see was an endless barren horizon, dotted every now and then with zebra and  wildebeest. Also appearing were lone Masai, seemingly apparitions in the empty expanse, no apparent origin or destination, but as natural as the ground and sky. Finally we reached the border of the Serengeti, where Mosses took us on a detour to see the massive migration of wildebeest, an annual affair wherein millions of wildebeest systematically move around the vast Serengeti/Masai Mara (in Kenya) ecosystem in search of fresh grass. Surrounded by these ungainly creatures we couldn’t help but laugh as the juveniles chased each other around while the adults unabashedly continued chewing. As we were driving, we came upon an area empty of animals save for a multitude of vultures in a large circle. This could only mean one thing: a fresh kill! Approaching, we saw two hyenas aggressively chomping upon a young, and very dead, wildebeest. We were maybe 20 feet away from the carnage, allowing us to hear the crunching of bone and joyful yelps of the hyenas, the putrid smell of exposed meat and entrails wafting in waves to our nostrils. We stood and watched, enthralled, for over half an hour. While the hyenas were busy gorging themselves, the mass of vultures were quietly biding their time, some preening, some staring blankly, some resting on their haunches. One particularly cheeky one slowly and surely inched his way closer when the hyenas...

Tanzania Safari – Day 7: Olduvai Gorge

Chris B, one of our colleagues, recounts an East African experience: We awoke this morning to an absolutely stunning sunrise, possibly the best one I have ever seen. The lodge is situated on the western side of the Ngorongoro Crater, which so happened, on this morning, to be the only part not enveloped by thick fog. We breathed the crisp, early morning air as we sat and took in, from our unspoiled panorama, a veritable artist’s palette of reds and golds and yellows and pinks, as the sun slowly marched upwards from the tops of the distant peaks. As the sun came higher and higher it illuminated the crater below us, the huge soda lake shimmering with the golden reflection of the sky. It was a truly magnificent event and a glorious reminder of Mother Nature’s aesthetic genius. Later that morning we departed Ngorongoro, weaving back and forth as we descended from the crater rim. Along the way we spotted several Masai boma, or homesteads – little thatched mud huts surrounded by a ring of thorny bushes, populated with goats, cattle, and colourful washing drying in the sun. Our next stop was Olduvai Gorge, known as “The Cradle of Humankind”. The museum is situated on a plateau overlooking the gorge, where we sat and listened to a fascinating account of the geological and archaeological history of the area. Several fossilized remains of early hominids have been discovered here, including Paranthropus boisei, which dates to 1.7 million years ago. Also in the museum are skulls and bones of extinct animals of the region, including a giant antelope, and a cast...

Tanzania Safari – Days 5 & 6: Ngorongoro Crater

Chris B, one of our colleagues, recounts an East African experience: After a delicious buffet breakfast we jumped into our Land Cruiser and bounced our way back to the main road. We stopped briefly to watch a lone dung beetle battling its way across the uneven road with its perfectly spherical ball of dung. We continued on to the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, a magnificent park set in the caldera of an ancient extinct volcano. After spending a few interesting moments in the visitor centre, we continued on to a vantage point right on the lip of the crater. From here we could see the entire crater, and if you squint (or have a powerful pair of binoculars) you can see tiny ant-like herds of buffalo and elephant 2,000 feet (610m) below.  We drove along the rim, alternating between views of the crater and dramatic views of the surrounding countryside. Eventually we arrived at or lodge, nestled right on the lip at 7,800 feet above sea level, complete with magnificent views down into the park. We had a wonderful dinner, thoroughly entertained by our bubbly and talkative waitress, Diana, and then headed off to a well deserved rest. We awoke the next morning to eerie fog and a very cool temperature, which is apparently the norm for Ngorongoro due to its altitude and location. After breakfast we proceeded through the fog and along the long and twisty road down into the crater. As we drove along, the fog became lighter and lighter until we had passed through it and were able to see the whole caldera below us. We...

Tanzania Safari – Day 4, Lake Manyara National Park

Chris B, one of our colleagues, recounts an East African experience: As we continued along the winding road upwards to the Rift Valley escarpment, we caught our first glimpse of Lake Manyara National Park. Divided from the surrounding lush, tropical forest by flat marsh, we could just make out tiny flocks of flamingos and herds of buffalo from our lofty perch. We passed little huts with meticulous gardens, fields of maize and other crops, and Masai herdsmen (or rather boys – some of them couldn’t have been more than 4 years old) caring for the goats and cattle. We headed down the hill to the Park entrance gate and were transported once again into a totally different ecosystem than before. Indeed that is one of the major draws of Tanzania’s National Parks – each one is so unique. We drove under the tropical forest canopy, eventually coming to the flat marshy area beside the lake. From our vantage point we could see thousands upon thousands of bright pink flamingos, cavorting among the shallow waters of the soda lake. Other highlights included several giraffes up close, a Nile monitor lizard as it basked in the sun, and a rather melancholy dik-dik sitting beside the road. This delicate little creature is the smallest of the antelopes and also, undoubtedly, the cutest. As the sun began to set we headed back to camp, where we arrived in the dark. Still quite overcome with jet-lag, we polished off yet another delicious meal, and went quickly to bed. Contact Christine Boecker for your own Tanzanian...