A Travellerspoint blog

Cheetah day

Our next day was a full day in the Serengeti, long enough to head a little away from the high traffic areas, although our first stop was the visitors centre, built around a kopje (rock formation), with an interesting walk and some sculptures.


Then it was off for a long drive, full of the usual antelope and zebra, and a reported sighting of a leopard (although we failed to find it). But not too long after we hit the jackpot and sighted our first cheetah of the trip. There were a pair of cheetah, likely brothers, who were initially trying to get a nap in. But given the number of vehicles they decided that was a bust. There were a herd of impala not far away, but the land was fairly flat and the cheetah couldn’t get a great view. So why not make use of other handy objects?

Probably not for the first time, both cheetah used the safari vehicles to get a better view, although ultimately decided against attempting to catch any impala. And although there were plenty of easily available tourists in the vehicles we obviously weren’t to their taste.











After heading back towards our accommodation we finished the day with a visit to the hippo pools.


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A hyena fan is born

After our two days in the lesser known Tarangire our next destination was the exceptionally well known Serengeti National Park. On the way we had arranged a stop at the Olduvai Gorge Museum. Olduvai Gorge is an active archaelogical site, famous as the location of the discovery of many early hominims (modern humans and closely related extinct species). The gorge is part of the greater Rift Valley, a hot spot of human evolution, including modern humans. In a very real sense, we all came from here. When we last visited 26 years ago the museum consisted of one small room with a window looking out onto the gorge. It’s much bigger now, with multiple exhibits and conference space, but the original small room still exists and has been incorporated into the new space. Our safari organisers had arranged a personalised tour with a very knowlegdeable musuem staff member, and we took lunch in a private room. It was awesome. As amazing as the musuem is there were only a few people visiting. As it is located 6 km off the main road to Serengeti, I think many bypass it in their understandable rush to get to Serengeti. We certainly had to ask specifically to have it included on our tour.

After lunch we resumed our drive to the Serengeti, arriving in the late afternoon. Of course there were lions demonstrating their usual over-sized domestic cat behaviour. And a red letter moment with our first glimpse of hyena. They would become the favourite animal of Mr.10. He liked them for themselves, but also I think felt a bit sad on their behalf when our guide shared that they were one of the “Ugly 5” - similar to the “Big 5” but of course with different inclusion criteria. We’ll meet more of the ugly 5 later in our tour. Our accommodation for the next few days was the Embalakai tented camp in central Serengeti. Sadly I don’t seem to have any photos as I was likely too busy enjoying the bar.




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Who dares to scratch the belly?

The next day we were back to Tarangire for a full day’s game drive. As we were staying fairly close it was fairly quiet when we arrived at the park. The park is divided by the Tarangire river. The only crossing at present is a weir, although a new bridge is currently under construction. Yesterday the river was too high to cross and with overnight rain it remained so today, leaving us confined to the west of the park. A shame, but it still left most of the park to explore. And early on we were lucky enough to spot lions. Better yet, we were the first vehicle to spot them. It’s standard on Tanzanian safaris that all the guides share information of what they have spotted, either by stopping for a quick chat, or more commonly on the radio. This of course benefits everyone as it increases the likelihood you will see the big game. The downside of course is that there is often a crowd of vehicles around the popular animals, like the big cats. So being first gives extra quiet time with them. With lions this is not usually such a big deal, as in many respects they are just very big domestic cats, and are often found asleep. All day long. But this pride, although initially some distance away, decided to pay us a visit and ambled on over to our vehicle. One dared us to scratch the belly:




And although the lions were the highlight we saw plenty of other cool animals




And ended the day with a lovely dinner back at the lodge


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Elephant’s paradise

As you have all no doubt worked out, I am back home and returned to the usual work commitments, slowing the pace of this trip report. But I am determined to complete it, so please stay with me if you can.

So after our two days in Arusha, we have reached the start of our safari, and the last major event of our holiday. As noted upthread we arranged our safari with Lion King Adventures. They came with excellent reviews on Tripadvisor, and were excellent in accommodating our particular requests and suggesting various options. Pick up time was arranged for 8.30am, and our guide, Gilbert, was spot on time. Lion King make a whole theme out of their name, and our vehicle was named “Nala”. Whether word of this use has reached Disney I have no idea. Over the course of our safari we would spot plenty of other Lion King vehicles, including Pumba, Scar, Timon and of course Simba. Mr.10 was a little horrified to learn some of the names were just the Swahili word for the animal in question.

Last time we were on safari in Tanazania, Land Rover (new and used) were king. Now Toyota rules the roost, with Cruisers particularly popular. The interior is set up perfectly, with power, a cooler, and of course a roof that pops up.

Today’s destination was Tarangire National Park, known as the elephant paradise. Our drive took us through Massai country, and around the rim of Ngorongoro crater (which we’ll return to later). Not far out of Arusha we began spotting zebra and wildebeest (parks are not fenced in Tanzania) and once past Ngorongoro giraffe became common too. However, animal density was significantly higher once we entered Tarangire, with plenty of wildlife ticked off the list, including elephants of course. Mr.10 particularly enjoyed the seatbelt free time and the opportunity to stand and look out the roof as the vehicle was in wildlife spotting mode.

At the end of the game drive, we headed to our lodge where we would be staying two nights, the Maramboi Tented Lodge. This lodge was outside the park, close to Lake Manyara, and still within a wildlife protected zone. So around the lodge were plenty of the herbivores, along the paths, near the pool and snuffling by the tent. It was a fabulous place.


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The mystery of the missing travellers

Well the next day arrived, and after breakfast we looked to head into Arusha to do a little banking, revisit the sights of the town, and also do a little shopping. Planet Lodge is a little out of town, but my (mis)reading of the website had me believing there was a free shuttle into town from the hotel. As it turns out they wanted to charge for the shuttle - a princely $15 USD per person (so $45 USD for all of us) for a 6km journey. Mmmm - no thanks. Promptly looked at alternatives, and found Arusha is served by two rideshare apps - Uber and Bolt, with the latter apparently more popular with local drivers. Posted the job on Bolt, with an almost immediate taker of the job for 8500 Tsh (or about $3.50 USD). Much better. Driver was prompt, car was clean and the drive uneventful, and even with a decent tip substantially better than the hotel offer.

After doing the banking, we enjoyed a coffee in one of the many lovely cafes in town, but did find the Arusha CBD nothing at all like we remembered. To be honest we found we could not remember much at all. Some things have clearly changed a lot. 26 years ago as backpackers, we did what anyone did who wanted to go on safari, and walked around town looking at the prices and dates in the many safari offices. In these days of online booking, there are many fewer safari offices in town, and consequently an apparent absence of backpackers or other travellers. So we gave up on the CBD and looked to head out to the Arusha Cultural Centre. The centre is about 6km out of town (on the opposite side of town to our hotel), so seemed a good opportunity to arrange a first tuk tuk ride for Mr.10. After a little negotiation with the tuk tuk driver (ummm - no I won't be paying the equivalent of $30 AUD for 6km up the road), who very quickly came down to a more sensible price once he realised it was not my first rodeo, Mr.10 was able to enjoy the (dubious) pleasures of tuk tuk transport.

The cultural centre turned out to be excellent. It was a large establishment, with an art gallery, multiple knick-knack shops, a restaurant, clothing shops and a new research centre under construction which is named after and endorsed by Jane Goodall. We walked around 6 floors of local art, sculpture and photography, before making a purchase. To this we added some knick knacks and clothing before enjoying a late lunch in the restaurant. Amusingly we were asked by various of the staff which tour company brought us there. Ahhh - we brought ourselves in a tuk tuk. This generated both disbelief and in one case - applause. I have no idea where the independent travellers have gone...are they on safari elsewhere these days? Somewhere cheaper? If they are looking for cheaper they probably are not in South Africa which I gather is quite pricey (not that I know from personal experience). It's a mystery.


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