Lake Manyara & Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania – by Heather Thistleton
“Jambo” (hello in Swahili). A word that echoes everywhere you go when travelling around Tanzania. The other words used a lot are “Karibu” (welcome/you are welcome) or “Karibu Sana” (you are very welcome) and “Asante” (thank you) or “Asante Sana” (thank you very much).
Having just had the most amazing experience of my life in Tanzania it has opened my eyes to the fact that there is a wonderful and safe world out there. It was wonderful to be amongst people who are gentle, proud of their country and know the value of tourism as well as respecting their environment and all life that depends on it.
Being semi-disabled and dependent on others for help in many ways my family were concerned about me doing this trip on my own. They need not have worried as I was treated like royalty and helped in any way I needed. This assistance was given eagerly, gently and with great pleasure.
The flight on Air Tanzania was wonderful with the steward noticing my hands and just automatically opening things for me. I normally have to ask. Passengers received a warm welcome and an efficient issuing of visas on arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport. My first night was at Kia Lodge on the perimeter of the airport. Early next day we went to Arusha to collect the 2 Canadian couples that made up our party of 5. Having such a small group was a bonus and I could not have been luckier with the strangers who became friends during the next 6 days together.
After a briefing from the tour operator we set off with our driver/guide, Michael, to Lake Manyara National Park – approx 2hours drive. Roads in Tanzania range from very good to really bad.
Lake Manyara National Park is a lovely park overlooking the Great Rift Valley (that starts in Jordan) and the Manyara soda lake where the habitats range from the rocky base of the escarpment to forests, to waterfalls and plenty of the ever present abundance of game on the open grassy flood plains. It is here that the famous “tree climbing lions” are found but alas they decided to hide from us that day. Almost 400 species of birdlife has been recorded in Manyara.
Next morning we set off for the Ngorongoro Crater, all the while driving through open plains offering a feast of wildlife and more magnificent birdlife. First sight of the crater takes your breath away. No words or photos could ever describe the vastness of it. I never knew that the crater is actually a volcanic mountain larger than Kilimanjaro that, after spewing for millions of years, collapsed in on itself, and that the rim of the crater is actually the base of what was once a huge mountain. The crater floor itself is 260square kms and offers sanctuary to some of Africa’s densest populations of large mammals. From the rim of the crater (the descent to the floor is 610metres) herds of buffalo below look like tiny ants. Maybe this can give a hint of the vastness we are talking about. It is not surprising that the game drive around the crater took over 6 hours, stopping just once for a picnic lunch!
Our accommodation was in a gorgeous lodge built into the crater wall and all out of local stone that blended to perfection with nature. Throughout the trip the food was superb and the service slick, efficient and professional but always with a warm and friendly smile. (to be continued…)