K2inCanada's Blog

November 3, 2014

Day 1: Arusha – a little gem not to be missed

Filed under: Africa, Animals, Travel — K2 in Canada @ 10:25 PM

Aug 29 – our first day in Africa and we were woken up by fighting dogs well before the sun was up. Not what I had hoped for as the first animal in Africa. But as the sunrise got closer the birds started up as well and that sure sounded more like Africa :-). We were up by 6:30AM with the sun, although it was a cloudy start to the day. We checked out the L’Oasis Lodge now that it was light – it was made up of many little huts, two like ours on stilts but most of them were round with thatched roofs. Very cute. The restaurant was an open area with only a roof. Breakfast was mostly North American with your eggs or omelette, pancakes – both freshly made by the cook – sausages, bacon and toast. Mind you the selection of fruits was tropical for sure – pineapple, papaya, mango. The pancakes were more like crepes and were delicious! I was amazed how hungry I was.

We had a good hour to kill before Mike was picking us up. So we went for a walk through the neighbourhood. First along banana gardens and some shabby looking huts. Very few people on the road until we hit a cross-road which was busier. The road was dirt and mud. Little shops along the side. Chicken and dogs and goat and cows in between the shops. We were the only white people but never felt like people were staring at us. Everyone was friendly, many said hello like home when you go for a Sunday afternoon stroll in a city park and greet people you don’t really know. The shops themselves were just small little stone huts with a door.

Mike was waiting for us when we got back by 8:30AM – he had the same big truck as last night. Off we went to Arusha National Park. It was much greener than I thought on the drive there. The parks biggest landmark is Mount Meru which is the 5th highest mountain in Africa at over 4500m. When we first arrived it was hidden in the clouds but later the sun came out for great views. The mountain is surrounded by forest and grassy plains – all looks green and beautiful. It took about 1min of driving into the park and we saw our first African animals – Zebras and Water Buffalo in an open grassy area. So cool! Water buffalo are part of the “Big 5” next to elephant, lion, leopard and rhino – one down. Not long after we ran into a whole bunch of Baboons with little babies blocking the road. I was in heaven! There were other monkeys in the trees but we were heading to the ranger hut at the foot of Mount Meru to start our walking safari.

Here we met our ranger guide, Shaban, while Mike waited at the truck for us to get back. Shaban was carrying a gun – mostly because of the water buffalo as there are not many predators in Arusha NP – too wet for cats. First off we walked into an open grassy area and voila there were the Water Buffalo up close and personal. Apparently they are not very smart animals and are easily angered which results in them charging. But today they were quite happy and enjoyed the sun just the same we did. Our guide said he was lucky and never had to shoot an animal in the park. Next we started to climb a bit and entered the forest. Here we got out first glimpse of the Black&While Colobus monkeys. They are as beautiful as they are difficult to take pictures of. Living high up in the fig trees they kept moving around all the time. We saw more later and I finally managed to get a good shot. While looking at the monkeys I wasn’t paying too much attention to the ground and got stung by the stinging nestle our ranger had warned us about. I have been stung by the German kind a million times and yeah it hurts a bit but not for long. This one was brutal! Instant hot pain which lasted for hours. This was the last time I was wearing shorts on safari! We didn’t see many animals on the walk but it was great to stretch our legs for sure and enjoy the flora in the park. Near the top we came across a horde of baboons who were eyeing us suspiciously. On the way back we walked underneath the Bridge Fig Tree. Here we saw our first antelope a Bush Buck, as well as the first Warthog. And more Colobus along the way as well as a couple Hornbill hidden in the leafy trees. The hike took a bit over three hours and was well worth it!! I started to regret that I decided against the Mount Meru hike (3-4d) but one can’t do everything in 13 days.

Back at the ranger station we had our box lunch. Box lunches almost ALWAYS consist of baked piece of chicken, cheese sandwich, an egg, a juice container, mini muffin or cookie, chips or nuts, fruit and some candy – sometimes there is some baked sweet potato in it as well. We had quite a few of those during the 13 day trip – one does get tired of them eventually but I was always hungry and always ate most of it. After lunch we continued on with our game drive – the roof of the vehicle pops up and you are standing while driving to look around the whole time. Very cool!!! We complained to Mike that we had not yet seen a Giraffe and he grinned at us and pointed to the left saying “Like that Giraffe?”. Three of them – quite far away but for the first giraffes this was awesome. We saw many more on the drive through the open grasslands towards Momella Lakes. At the lake we saw two Crowned Cranes and our first Flamingos. There were hundreds of them but apparently that classified as only a few. During the wet season, the lakes are visited by thousands. We thought this already looked pretty awesome. These are lesser flamingos which are smaller but also more pink in colour than the greater flamingos. Along the lake we also saw a beautiful African Fish Eagle sitting in a tree right along the road – similar to our Bald Eagle but the white goes down the chest quite a bit further. Near the end we drove up to Ngurdoto Crater – beautiful scenery but no animals that day. It was late afternoon by then and I started to feel tired. As soon as we left the park 15min later we both fell asleep on the drive home.

Back at the lodge we actually had a nap before dinner – just for an hour but it worked wonders. We were just about ready to get up when someone knocked at the door to let us know that Achmed, the owner of Basecamp and Mike’s boss, wanted to meet us. He gave us the rundown of the do’s and don’ts for the trip. Originally from Britain, he still has their sense of humor and over a couple of beer – Achmed was buying – we talked for at least 2-3 hours. The lodge owner Anders, an ex-Swede, also joined us and between the two of them they had a lot of stories to tell. I tried a traditional dish for dinner that night – beef with cooking bananas and it was awesome.

For a full account of all the things we saw check out this link: https://google.com/ArushaAug292014

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1 Comment »

  1. Hey – I saw about 300 of your pictures, but yet, some of these are new to me! Great storytelling – I like to live vicariously through you two.

    Comment by Krista — November 4, 2014 @ 9:50 PM


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