Wanderlust...Tanzania 24x7

Travel Tales

They say it’s like a calling...You know when it’s time. Soul cleansing and spiritual experiences in one’s life do have a life altering impact.

It’s been a while since I seriously toyed with the idea of visiting Tanzania’s wildlife parks. As an avid nature and wildlife lover it’s the ultimate high. Having done the Masai Mara circuit a few times I was all wound up to give momentum to this nagging thought.

Having identified the three that I wanted to visit-- the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater and also the Lake Manyara, I got to work. Immersing myself with research about how to get there, what to see, when to see what, at a cost that would not dent my modest savings was a task in itself.

I took a direct flight to Kenya, then a connecting flight to Tanzania-Kilimanjaro airport and then drove through Arusha. Even though the on route scenery is great the journey is exhausting.

I would recommend that one land either in Ngorongoro or the Serengeti directly. Both these places have an airstrip and when time is of the essence it’s advisable to spend an additional dollar and take the direct flight and additionally, you get to see wild Africa from the top! If you do the balloon ride it would cost you an additional $500, even though they serve you champagne breakfast on descent. But when Nature’s the natural high who needs champagne!

Tanzania is relatively as safe as your neighbourhood, unless of course you decide to leave your camera unattended and flash the dollar to invite attention.

The Lodges where I stayed is in the Nogorongoro, large, modern, comfortable and with breathtaking views. Built on cliffs overlooking the African Savannah Plains they offer some of the most picturesque views one can ever imagine. It’s exhilarating to sit on your balcony overlooking the Savannah watching the sunset over the vast Serengeti Plains with a cup of coffee. And whilst on the subject the African coffee is lovely – remember to drink a lot of it and carry it too. Beats Nescafe and the Columbian versions hollow any dayMost of the Serengeti Lodges are located in the heart of the Serengeti and the wildlife comes to the door, in a manner of speaking.

The cottages offer lovely views over the Serengeti plains from the balcony .Watching the Impala and other animals only a few feet away while sipping coffee is a great high. The occasional grunt of a large cat is a stark realisation that you are now very much in lion country. I heard the roar of lions just behind my lodge every single night. Can’t say that it was music to my ears but it sure did add to the excitement.

At Nogorongoro Crater--Africa’s Eden expect the unexpected.
Unmatched for its natural variety, there are few places on earth where such a tremendous diversity of landscapes exist inside a region this size. Apart from its wildlife riches, it is also of great archaeological importance, with the remains of some of mankind’s earliest ancestors discovered in the area.

The crater, which formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed on itself some two to three million years ago, is 610 m (2,000ft) deep and its floor covers 260 km (100 sq mi) is one of the world's tallest mountains.

The crater is home to the ‘Big Five’ of rhinoceros, lion, leopard, elephant, and buffalo.  
The sheer enormity, the beauty and the stunning landscape of the place hits you whilst you descend into the crater. A day to think inspiring thoughts, write uplifting prose and expect the unexpected. Picture postcard perfect, the landscape’s rich with spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities. Dramatically beautiful and a spectacular concentration of wildlife make it one of the greatest natural wonders of the planet.

One of the most likely areas to see the endangered Black Rhino, as a small population still thrives in this idyllic and protected environment.

Once is not enough at The Serengeti! It’s the incredible mosaic of habitat that makes the heart throb and gasp in unbelievable thrill.
They say Nature’s implacable law applies to all. The spectacle of predator versus prey dominates and unfolds daily in Tanzania’s greatest park.

The name 'Serengeti' comes from the Masai language and appropriately means an 'extended place' or endless plains!Its beautiful, sculptured landscape, punctuated by granite outcroppings known as kopjes are the result of volcanic activity. Small rivers, lakes and swamps are scattered throughout.

As enduring as the game-viewing, is the liberating sense of space that characterises the Serengeti Plains, stretching across sunburnt savannah to a shimmering golden horizon at the end of the earth.

This land is justifiably famous for its huge concentrations of wildlife, especially the big cats, as well as being the stomping ground of the Great Migration, a million wildebeest, each one driven by the same ancient rhythm, fulfilling its instinctive role in the inescapable cycle of life.

Cheeky hyraxes and lizards play on the rocks and a profusion of birds - superb starlings, lilac-breasted rollers, barbets and ring-necked doves to name a few, fill the air with their songs.

But all around is some of the wildest bush in Africa. Giraffes nibble the tender leaves of the thorny acacias, buffalo lumber along, and all manner of game -- Thomson's and Grant's gazelles, impala, topi and kongoni -- graze nervously. The incessant search for food, to survive and live to see another day is their one overriding passion.

A rustle in the bush suddenly reveals a startled pack of hyenas with their cubs. Known as the ‘jaws’ because of its ultra strong jaws it has a lot of resilience in tracking and tiring out a prey and ripping it to shreds.

To the untrained eye what might seem like a placid swamp could easily harbour a famished crocodile …ever smiling, ever hungry, patiently waiting to unleash its power on the unsuspecting gazelle which comes to quench its thirst in the blistering African heat. The African bush shows no mercy and takes no prisoners.

Leopard sightings are rare simply because the animal is very shy and elusive.
I was lucky to see one perched on a tree with his half eaten kill. It truly epitomised the term languid grace. Such a beautiful animal and it looked so content.

There are also the famous black-maned lions of Seronera. No longer hunted like vermin, a pride of up to 20 can often be seen in a tawny heap. On a hot, arid day, the sun bearing down we were trundling on the road in the jeep and suddenly came across this magnificent pride….just lying there with no worry in the world. If ever there was sight for sore eyes believe me that was it, the Kodak moment. For posterity!

The nights are cool and exciting too-- one is not allowed to venture out of the lodges and wisely so. However it’s not unusual to be lulled to sleep by the continuous grunt of a lion, be woken by the cough of a leopard or the whooping laugh of the hyena. Stark reminders that you are in the bush and in the thick of it too.
Metaphorically speaking!
Sanjay Browne
The writer is a Dubai-based wildlife, travel enthusiast and amateur photographer

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