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Saturday 25th February 2012 Day 10

 After an excellent nights sleep we woke to begin our other African experience, a safari.  Hopefully this one will be a little less exhausting! 

After a buffet style breakfast we packed our bags and met our new guide Patrick, who was going to look after us over our three days of safari.  He was very pleasant and polite and spoke very good English.

We loaded our bags in the back of our vehicle and set off on a two hour drive to our first stop Lake Manyana. 

The roads were good (for Africa) all the way and our journey passed quickly.

 We passed through a village called Mto-wa-mbu which unfortunately means ‘Mosquito Creek’, and so named because it stands on swampy land. 

The government has made a lot of improvements here and the mosquitoes are no longer a problem but unfortunately the name remains.

It was then into the National Park which was created by the tectonic plates separating and causing a sunken rift (Rift Valley).  It is said to still be moving and is 10km across at its widest point.

 As soon as we entered we came across baboons and the grey velvet monkey. 


The baboons were entertaining to watch and were soon arguing and fighting, attracting more of their kind to come and watch.

 After a while we came across giraffe that were reasonably close. 


Looking through the binoculars we could see every detail of them.  They are very laid back and graceful creatures even though they are a most peculiar shape.  They had birds on their necks and backs; these help rid them of unwanted parasites.  There are two different types of giraffe in Africa, the ones we see today have the normal square shaped markings and the others, the Masai giraffe have star type markings.

 They gave us a good demonstration and we see one drinking and one go from standing to lying down.  In these positions they look very ungainly and seem to have trouble with their exceedingly long legs.  Patrick said drinking is the only time they are susceptible to predators (only lion), as they can be knocked over quite easily.  The rest of the time their height gives them the advantage of being able to see any predators and move out of their way.

We then moved on to the hippo pool where they were all lying down together, more or less on top of each other. 

Patrick said this was quite unusual as they normally like to wallow in the mud in the heat of the day.  They were quite boring and hardly moved at all, but at least we had the pleasure of seeing them.  We got out of the truck here to get a better look and we could see a long pink line on the edge of the river in the distance.  As we looked through the binoculars this turned out to be flamingo's on the edge of the river. 

There were thousands of them all crowded together creating a stunning pink line on the horizon.

 Back in the truck and on a bit further and we came across wildebeest, zebra


 and a family of ground cranes.  These are beautifully coloured birds and quite fascinating to watch plus we saw a Cory Bustard

 After a while of many more zebra and wildebeest,

they seem to get on well together and stay quite close to each other, we stopped for lunch. 

This is provided by the hotel we stayed at the night before.  We sat in a designated picnic area where Patrick said it was safe and ate our lunch whilst admiring the fabulous view.

 Patrick said occasionally the baboons can be a problem in these areas, they seem to know the tourists are vulnerable but behave themselves when the guides are around.

 After lunch and back in the truck we had no sooner turned the corner when we came across some elephants! 

They were just there right in front of us and were really close.  We got some great pictures and video and there were quite a few of them.  They just wandered straight past the truck without a care in the world. 

They looked all different ages and sizes, Patrick said the ones just getting their tusks are around 6 or 7 and one was really tiny, apparently only a few months old!

Elephant’s teeth are very different to ours and quite complex but basically they grow a new set every ten years.  This happens six times (occasionally seven) and then once this set wears out the elephant can no longer digest enough food and they literally starve to death! 

 After spending some time admiring the elephants we drove on and amazingly came across a lion standing in a tree. 

Patrick said this is extremely rare to see so we felt very privileged.  Although we couldn’t see properly we knew the rest of the pride was at the bottom of the tree hidden in the undergrowth.  This lioness seemed to be on lookout but she obviously didn’t sense any danger as she soon lay down and made herself comfortable!

Next we came across a family of warthog,

what funny looking creatures they are!  Around the corner were more baboons, they are certainly plentiful but extremely fun to watch.  They never seem to sit still they are always fighting, jumping on each others backs or grooming each other very intently.

 Just as we were leaving the park we saw some blue velvet monkeys, they are extremely cute with gorgeous little faces.

 That was our first day of safari over and we headed off to our hotel, which was set very high (around 2200 metres) at the top of a hill, reached by a very rough dirt track.   On the way it started to rain and by the time we got there it was pouring down.  After a quick reception of hot towels (they were cold) and a glass of mango juice we scampered to our room under the protection of an umbrella.

The hotel was lovely but when we got inside we panicked. 

 All the plugs were continental which meant we couldn’t charge anything up!  A common complaint apparently and we soon had a couple of adaptors to save the day!  The hotel had been built by a German and he’d used his own continental plugs rather than the local 3 pinned variety!

 Dinner was at 7.30pm (no choice) and after a few beers we were served avocado salad, pumpkin soup, chicken and pilau rice and orange tart for desert.  As normal, all washed down nicely with a bottle of wine.  Back to the bar for vodka with ‘safe ice’ and a beer and then it was off to bed as an early start in the morning.

 There was a massive storm

and we watched the lightening for a while which was very impressive especially as we were up so high.  It was constant and you could see it flashing all around.

 The hotel looks straight across to the Ngoronoro crater where we are going tomorrow and are very excited about – that’s if it ever stops raining!