Lake Manyara, Tanzania
I woke up at about 02:30 this morning and tried to go back to sleep, yet could not. At 04:00, I received my wake up call from the hotel reception and was told that a vehicle from the tour company would pick me up at 05:00; so I got ready, packed my bags, and was in the hotel lobby at 04:30, waiting for my ride; I paid my bill and waited some more; at 05:20, the safari vehicle arrived and I loaded my bags in to the car while it rained outside. Then we drove off to another place to pick up someone else who works for the tour company; this person took a while to get up and out and we didn’t end up leaving Moshi until about 05:45. We then drove westward toward Arusha, passing many Masai huts and villages through bucolic countryside and we arrived at a backpackers hotel at 07:00; once there, I moved to another vehicle that had been waiting for me and joined an Israeli guy, a French couple, and a Belgian woman; we then continued westward to Lake Manyara. Finally, some time after 08:30 (I think, I wasn’t really checking the time that often), we arrived at a campsite adjacent to Lake Manyara National Park; this campsite was more of a resort with a bar, swimming pool, and showers. We then exited the vehicle and were served a pitiful breakfast that looked like leftovers; I had coffee, thin pancakes, and toast and jam. We then waited around for longer than we should have due to the tour company failing to pay the campsite resort and for failing to take care of other financial business (it can’t be that hard to run a tour company, can it?). Finally, at 10:30 (an hour later than scheduled), I joined the Israeli guy and a German couple (that had slept at the campsite the night before) on a safari through Lake Manyara; we met our driver/guide and loaded in to the vehicle; we then drove for about three minutes to the entrance of Lake Manyara National Park; once at the entrance we walked around the dismal and destroyed displays for visitors to see (it looked like a hurricane had been through there recently) while our driver took care of the permits and necessary business. Then, at 11:00, we started our safari; we drove through forests, out toward the lake, seeing warthogs, blue monkeys, hornbills, velvet monkeys, a grey hornbill, kingfisher birds, and guinea fowl. We then came to open grasslands near the lake and saw hippos in the distance, zebras, buffalo (with their Shemp like horns), wildebeest, and a heron. We stopped at a Hippo viewing platform and could see them out of the water and walking along, feeding on the grass; although it was still rather far away (not as up close as I would’ve liked). Back in the vehicle and moving back in to forest, we saw more warthogs, impalas, an elephant with young calf, a whole lot of baboons (they kept coming out of the woods and crossing the road – one monkey broke a tree branch and fell down on to the forest floor; I saw the branch fall but could not tell if it had been caused by a baboon or blue monkey), more elephants (some walked right by our vehicle), more zebras, some giraffes, more wildebeests, more hippos (these were almost completely submerged in the water and looked like nothing more than stones), even more wildebeests, more velvet monkeys, more giraffes, ostriches, a jackal running in the distance (near the giraffes and ostriches), mongooses, and more impalas. We then stopped at a picnic spot for lunch and had our boxed lunches (a diced carrot and butter sandwich, a potato, a plain doughnut, a samosa filled ground beef and onions, a banana, a muffin, cookies, and mango juice). After lunch, at roughly 14:30, we continued on our safari and saw a hyrax perched on top of a large boulder, more baboons, more impalas, red and yellow babbitts, and, lastly, baboons hanging out by a roadside stream. At about 16:00, we wrapped up our safari through Lake Manyara, exited the park, and drove back to the campsite resort. I had a tent set up for me and I put my bags inside and then made sure to lock it based on horror stories other guests had told. I then went to the bar next to the swimming pool and had some beer and peanuts while talking with the Israeli guy; this was his last safari day, having done four before climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – actually, he remembered seeing me on the trail, referring to me as the crazy guy in the orange shirt because of the rapid speed I was hiking (which, was because I didn’t want to get soaked by afternoon rains each day); I found out he was heading to Zanzibar next and told him what I knew about the island and the prices one should pay (and no more) for the dala-dalas. We were then joined by a Scotsman and a Frenchman and enjoyed some more beer together while we waited for dinner and the Israeli waited for his ride back to Arusha. Eventually his ride came, I said goodbye and then waited around for dinner. This night, the cook hired by our tour company was very drunk and we were not certain if we would ever get dinner; I ended up sitting on a table set up outside with an American couple (the man was originally from India and the woman was from Brazil), the German couple from today’s safari, and the French couple I had come with this morning from Arusha. I mostly talked to the Indian-American and he told me all about Ethiopia (having just been through there) and the pitiful and expensive tours they have there; he also told me he is currently working in the Himalayas and that Bhutan is a must-see country despite the high price; we also both agreed that Glacier National park was the most beautiful National Park in the United States. I also met up with the Australian couple I had done the Jozani Forest walk in Zanzibar with; they were now doing a safari as well. When our dinner eventually arrived, we had soup, bread, rice, and a vegetable sauce to put over the rice; when we told the drunkard chef that it was not enough food for seven people he came back with a half-plate of rice for us to share. Apparently, the food servings had gotten worse over the course of three nights and the American couple told me when they had first arrived it was great with Avocado salad and large portions; they also had lost their tent due to our tour company being hopelessly stupid and pulling their bags out to give it someone else (they had many problems and funny/sad stories to tell from their trip through Africa – apparently it is like this almost everywhere). After dinner, we all said goodnight to each other and I retired to my tent to sleep. The next morning, I found out the American couple had more troubles as they were woken up by other campers telling them that they were inside their tent – it can’t be that hard to run a tour company, can it?!