10.02.2013 - 18.03.2013 30 °C
We arrived back in Nairobi after 2 weeks on the road to begin the 2nd leg of our journey where some of the people from the first group continued onwards, while others left and new ones joined. It would be only days before the wild of the Serengeti and the beaches of Zanzibar welcome us.
After having our briefing, we were set to leave early the next morning. This of course did not happen without some “T.I.A” (This is Africa) drama. We hit the road to meet our guide...only he didn’t show up. With all the new people in tow with questions to boot, Steve our driver on one phone calling our missing guide and John our cook on another, calling head office for answers, we baked in the sun waiting patiently in the shop parking lot. During this time, we had pry open the safe on the truck to see if all the money was all intact (which it thankfully was) and organize a classy parking lot lunch. It wasn’t until a whole 4 hours later, Christie the replacement guide arrived to begin the journey south. A few hours later than expected, we finally crossed into Tanzania! By this time we were hoping that something would give and still wanted to catch a glimpse of the beautiful Kilimanjaro. Sadly we had no such luck as Africa’s highest mountain stayed hidden behind the clouds for another day.
With dusk just beginning to fall we arrived at the Snake Park campsite in Arusha. Camp would usually be quite easy to set up, only with new people just starting out on the tour, not many of them had an idea of how things worked. Christie was already in holiday mode and nowhere in sight, so all of us from the previous group tried to help out the "newbies" as much as possible. Not a great way to start but at least we had the Serengeti to look forward to the next afternoon. Only before we set off on our next adventure, we headed into the third largest city in Tanzania to stock up on supplies and pay a visit to the Maasai cultural centre. This modern building houses thousands of pieces of art depicting Maasai life & culture.
With culture out of the way...the 4WD jeeps were packed ready for our 3 day/2night safari. Our first stop landed us at the Rift Valley Escarpment in the village of Karatu. This would be our base camp for the night. To our surprise, upon arrival, our tents were already set up for us. What made it even better was the electric Wilfred. This experienced guide had the biggest heart and smile which could only make us more relaxed than we already were.
To ensure we had the best game spotting opportunities, we all agreed to wake up at the crack of dawn and enter the lush Ngorogoro Crater. The crater expands over 260 km2 (100 sq mi) and 610 m (2,000 ft) deep. And holds upwards of 25 thousand large animals including lions, rhinos, wildebeest and flamingos!
After spending most of the day in the crater we started making our way to the Serengeti. It was all going fine until the first hour when our jeep had a punctured tire. That didn’t stop us but the state of the roads almost did. We somehow all managed to fall asleep, yet it took another 4 long hours on one of the bumpiest dust laden roads we have ever traveled on before we reached the entrance of one of the most well known national parks in the world. And it certainly lived up to the hype!
Now if you weren’t already animaled out by this time, we made our way back to the Snake park for one more night before heading to Zanzibar. The stories that come with the legend of the spice island certainly resonate through the cool blue seas, white sand beaches and the scorching sun. Only before we could get ourselves cozy on the beach, we had to deal with the ghost of our walkabout tour guide. Since none of our accommodation had been confirmed whilst we were away on safari, our rooms were snapped up very quickly. It also didn’t help that a music festival was going on the same weekend we were there to make things that bit more complicated. With all that going on, our new guide Moses (who joined us after the Serengeti) did his best to make a bad situation good.
Even after a bit of a strop that our hut wasn’t beachfront (25 metres away, life is so hard) we realised that Paradise was now upon us. Being as excited as we were, that night we all thought there was some sort of food market around the north part of the island. After a fruitless search, it wasn’t too long before we figured this imaginary market was only in Stonetown. Luckily enough, we happened to stumble upon the perfect beachfront seafood BBQ pop-ups. Even with the food having been slightly overcooked the surroundings were impeccable. Come on...where can you go wrong for a “fruits de mer” platter at $15!?
For the next couple days we downed cocktails, filled our bellies with more seafood all before settling on a well deserved beach rest. By this time we had discovered there was a beach party happening that night. That afternoon, Natalie and I got ourselves in a high tide pickle. We walked the length of the beach before realizing the water had gone up too high to turn back (after a drink or two of course). We did try, whilst holding our possessions above our head safe from the water, to tackle the high tides, only we failed miserably therefore turned to local hotel security for help. Surprisingly we were rejected by resort security and sent straight back in the water. Thank goodness there was a local painter on the rocks a little further down who led us the way to the nearest available route. That was only after he yelled at us to get out of the ever rising water. Eeks. We finally made it back in one piece ready to party the night away.
After 3 days in the north, our last night was spent in Stonetown. The south side of the island is a lot more populated than the north but this is where the character of the island came out. Starting early in the morning, we were led by a very odd Cockney accented local guide exploring the history of the spice island and slave trade that made Zanzibar what it is today. After being cultured, we walked the cobbled streets stopping in shops along the way and finally topped it off with the most overcooked seafood in the Forodhani Gardens market. And just before bed, we had to squeeze in a nightcap at the famous Mercury’s bar in honour of Zanzibar’s most well known personality – Freddie Mercury, to bid farewell to Zaidee & Hayden who would be leaving us the next day.
After all that, Dar-Es-Salem was calling us for one last night in Tanzania before starting the 3rd leg of our African adventure.