After 18 months of planning we finally begin our African Safari in July-August of 2012.
We fly in to Nairobi International Airport and immediately connect with our Kenya safari guides from Rhino Safaris who take us to the Ole-Sereni Hotel. It borders the National Game Park and its name comes from the Maasai ‘place of tranquility.” The hotel is beautiful and gives us a great introduction to the continent. The building was the old American Embassy before it was moved for improved security.
The next morning we go to the nearby smaller Wilson Airport for a light airplane trip to Tanzania. Some of the signs let us know we’re not in Kansas anymore…
We board a 20 passenger plane
And fly past a cloud-crowned Mount Kilimanjaro
As we head to the Killy International Airport outside Arusha, Tanzania.
Our first night in Tanzania is at Serena Mountain Village Lodge. Individual huts surround a great old house with the dining area.
We are in the middle of coffee plantations and have our first wildlife encounter as we watch vervet monkeys steal limes from the tree outside our window.
The lodge is decorated with Bouganvilla of all colors, along with other beautiful flowering plants like the Traveller’s Palm.
At night, Mt Meru is impressive in the distance.
In the morning we meet the rest of our group, fill our photo bean bags with rice and begin our safari with Cheeseman Ecology Safari’s. Doug and Gail have led trips to Africa over 30 times and know this area like their hometown. They have chosen first class lodges where we can eat all the foods, including fresh vegatables, and bottled water flows freely. They also know most of our Tanzanian Wildersun Safari Guides for over 20 years. We are in for a real treat. We ride in specialy-designed Toyota pop-tops with a guide and four passengers.
On the road, colors are everywhere…from fruit and vegetable stands
To city streets
To impromptu roadside markets
Coffee and banana plantations
And the Maasai. These proud people herd cattle and carry the traditional spears used to ward off lions. They dress in red and bright blue and we are told the lions know these colors… and stay away.
Every few years, young Maasai warriors go through the circumcision ceremony at puberty. We are here during one of those times!
Young men wear black and paint white patterns on their faces for 3-4 months while they exist on their own—without families—to heal and become a man.
(While young women are no longer supposed to go through this process, we are told it is still common.)
We arrive at our first safari stop, Lake Manyara, at the base of the escarpment that is part of the great East African Rift Valley. The Rift Valley is a massive fault line between continental plates. The rift appears to be a developing divergent tectonic plate boundary of East Africa. This rift plate was considered part of the Great Rift Valley that extends north to Asia Minor around the Dead Sea. The Rift Valley is the home of some of the most exciting wild animal viewing on the planet! We can’t wait.
We spend the night at Manyara Serena Lodge and are greeted by fruit bats sleeping under the eves of some of the bungalows.