Looking for beautiful places
On March 2, 2022 we – Ellen, Marjolijn and Paul -went on a study trip to Tanzania and searched for new beautiful places.
In this blog we will share our experiences and discoveries with you.
Wednesday March 2
We get in the car early in the morning. The time has come, we are on our way to our colleagues in Tanzania. The only traffic jam we encounter is in front of the check-in desk at Schiphol. It’s spring break! That immediately gives us a good feeling; traveling is possible again and is done! Lovely to see. The KL569 takes us to Arusha / Kilimanjaro in less than 8 hours. We arrive at 8:36 PM local time. It is in our winter time 2 hours time difference. After the formalities at customs we are picked up by Baboe who takes us to Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge. Our first night in Tanzania this trip. The weather smells so good and the air is soft, warm and full of stars. As I write this the power goes on and off and on and off… Breakfast at 7:30 am tomorrow!
Thursday March 3
Up early today. Seize the day shall we say. After breakfast at the pond of the former trout farm, we are guided through the site. A lovely green place to stay longer than 1 night. The spa and swimming pool are located in the middle of the tropical garden. On the way to Amini Maasai Lodge we stop at Rivertrees Country Inn where the rooms are spread out in the tropical garden. The river cottage is beautifully situated on the river, as are the garden rooms with their verandas at the back. Here too you can acclimatize with activities such as a (village) walk, coffee tour, canoe trip. You can also book these on site via the reception there.
Once we arrive at the Amini Maasai Lodge, we are welcomed by the Maasai with a traditional drink. The whole setting is super authentic and we go out with Lesse and Elias. They show us the whole lodge and we take a nature walk. It is a super inspiring and photogenic place where you are one with nature. We are lucky to have Christina Wallner at the lodge. What she has already accomplished in her life for the Maasai is admirable. We discuss new collaboration opportunities.
Friday March 4
March in northern Tanzania. West Kilimanjaro is beautifully green.
The route from Amini Maasai Lodge to Arusha goes through green area with many stones and small streams surrounded by acacia trees. In which grazing goats walk with their goatherds.
The grass is green and the flowers are blooming. We also soon encounter wildebeests, who stare at us and tell their babies what to do if they see a jeep. We see giraffes and zebras.
West Kilimanjaro is not a National Park, but there is a lot to see here too. After all, there is no fence around the National Parks, so animals in Tanzania are free to migrate.
On the way to Tarangire Safari Lodge we pass our colleagues in Arusha. It’s great to see everyone in real life again, healthy and full of energy for the upcoming season. We look at the new workplace and chat for a while.
After entering the Tarangire National Park we immediately see a leopard in the baobab tree. According to our guide George, that’s a sign of good luck! Who looks like a leopard?!
Tarangire Safari Lodge has the most beautiful terrace view over the valley through which the Tarangire River flows. In the dry season this is where elephants, buffaloes and zebras drink. After lunch we drive on to Sanctuary Swala Camp, but we are stopped by a chirping elephant. Just drive a little slower…
Tarangire is also green, fresh and with plenty of food for impala, waterbuck, ostriches, vultures, secretary birds, elephants and giraffes in the distance. Near the swamp we see about a hundred elephants. Mothers and babies look at us calmly, lift their trunks, smell us, and continue eating grass.
Then they quietly walk to the lake to drink and wash. The elephants now live in such a large group because there is enough food for everyone. Every day an elephant eats 4-7% of its body weight.
Raphael, the manager of Sanctuary Swala Camp gives us a warm welcome.
Saturday March 5
We bombard the various managers with our sustainability questionnaires from Travelife. It leads to fun conversations to a deeper level. Is the policy pursued to date aimed at preserving nature and the environment? Fortunately, we always find a solution or stimulate awareness when it comes to working conditions, training opportunities, plastic use and waste separation.
Once back in the Safari Landcruiser we soon see buffalo and Maasai giraffes. This species has a pattern of leaves, unlike the reticulate which has a rectangular pattern. Guide George tells a lot and again, so that we see up close that a male giraffe has an extra bump on his forehead and less hair on his horns because of their fights. Furthermore, we see relatively little game on the way to the exit. They sit by the lakes and swamps. On the way to Lake Burunge Camp we pass through a WMA area (Wildlife Management Area), of which we have not paid the concession fee. Despite the fact that it is Saturday and all offices are closed, we are still allowed to drive through the gate and further. Our tightly planned program has been delayed and so we drive straight to Tarangire Simba Lodge and a little later we are on the sundowner terrace of the lodge with a beautiful view over Lake Burunge. Job the supervisor started here as a student of Jobortunity, one of our own sponsorship projects. How nice is that! The tent houses have a glass front and a nice outdoor shower. We preferred the front row rooms.
On the way to Lake Manyara we come across the new lodge we are looking for; atmospheric, beautiful view, small-scale, lovely people and good food. More on this later ;-)
Lake Manyara is well stocked, so much so that Manyara’s Secret is right on the lake. You can hear the waves of the lake from the beautiful modern rooms. Zebras, dikdiks, gazelles and Maasai goatherds walk by. We drive on to Mto wa Mbu (pronounced: Mto Wàmbu) and pick up our colleague and partner Jean there. At the entrance of Lake Manyara National Park you can do a treetop walk … very nice, but given the time we continue. Soon the first group of baboons blocked our way. We see elephants, cranes, buffalo in the lake and zebras and gazelles along the shore. We’re lucky again; five lions hang contentedly on different branches in a tree. They choose to rest in the tall grass far above the flies.
At the Green Camp Lake Manyara we are warmly welcomed by the staff. A truly idyllic spot on the River Endabash to relax.
Sunday March 6
After a night full of jungle sounds and running water, we have breakfast on the bank of the river. Baboon’s play across the street. Luckily they don’t see us. If they knew that there was something to get from us, they would react differently. Better this way. Marjolijn tells that she saw an elephant next to her tent in the middle of the night.
On the way to Migombani Camp we come across an ‘Elephant Roadblock’; dozens of elephants large and small block our way. The huge black male apparently likes the grass around our car very much or he is playing around with us, because in peace he just keeps grazing around our car. We are as quiet as a mouse and could touch him. Impressed and happy for the moment we drive on to the camp near Mto wa Mbu, at 1150m altitude. The five tents in the camp are simple, but everything is very spacious and clean and with a beautiful view over Lake Manyara. You do have to walk a bit to a shared toilet block. We have lunch on a banana plantation; 2 kinds of rice, fried banana, eggplant, coleslaw, beef… in total about 12 delicious local dishes with our host Haji.
After lunch we check two more lodges (Karatu Simba and Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge) before arriving at the lodge we plan to include in our program. The reception is super warm in any case, we are enthusiastically sung to. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable, the cottages are spacious and the food is fantastic. We eat at the campfire in the garden, under a clear starry sky. The lodge shows itself from its best side. We feel very spoiled. When we leave, we are again warmly sung goodbye. Of course we also grant that to our customers.
Monday March 7
Today is our office day. We had come up with the idea to process our notes halfway through the study trip and to do the urgent e-mails. And where better than at the Plantation Lodge in Karatu. On the way there we pass two new lodges that we would like to include in our program. Both small-scale lodges consist of various nicely furnished cottages with their own fireplace. The lodges have their own vegetable garden and provide fun activities. More on this later.
Arriving at the former coffee farm Plantation Lodge, we are received by Renate the owner and after a tour of the grounds and the really super tastefully decorated rooms, we get to work.
The food at the Plantation Lodge is delicious and the wine cellar impressive. It is possible to do a wine tasting. We opt for a South African rosé.
Tuesday March 8
We drive along the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater in the Ngorongoro area, a protected area where Maasai are allowed to live. Because wild animals also roam here, they can only keep goats and cows and grow no further products. The wild beasts would then hang around those agricultural products. Not convenient. To keep the number of Maasai limited, it is customary for the two eldest sons to go to school and leave the area with an education.
We drive up the crater wall and from 2050m altitude we look into the crater. Actually it is not a crater but a caldera. With binoculars we see a rhinoceros in the distance. A little later we visit the Rhino Lodge where they have a beautiful terrace with a view of the Oldiani mountain. Buffalo lie lazily in the grass. Too bad the leopard doesn’t show itself here now. The Rhino Lodge is undergoing a soft upgrade. This nice place has a good chef.
Further north we encounter many Maasai boma and shepherds. We see the first giraffes, zebras and wildebeest. It is clear that we are approaching the Serengeti. The migrating animals are here! What a great time to be there. Countless ungulates with their calves in a green landscape. We leave the Ngorongoro area (NCA) and enter the Serengeti National Park. We visit the Ndutu Safari Lodge. This lodge belongs to the Dutch Aartje and has been around since the middle of the last century. Very logical considering the place. You want to be here. You can take nature walks around the lodge or with a ranger also outside.
We take a short route to the Green Camp Wilderness Zone or the hiking camp, right through the large green plain. No roads in sight. Only a few lions, many wildebeest and a single abandoned young, lonely in the grass. Wise owls think their own. The location of the hiking camp is sublime; in the middle of the wilderness, right next to a couple of ‘Kopjes’. The tents are very comfortable and have a Swahili shower (hot water bag with a spray head) and toilet. We are a bit too early for the wildebeest and zebras, because they are not expected until next week. Now it is still quiet. It is a place for lions, elephants and the rhinoceros. We eat and sleep luxuriously in the wilderness.
Wednesday March 9
Marjolijn and Ellen set off with the guide and an armed park ranger for a two-hour walk around the camp. Paul chooses to climb the ‘Kopjes’ behind the camp. What a place and what a view. Truly unforgettable.
We say goodbye to our hosts and leave for the Dunia Camp for lunch. On the way we immediately see a lion with her cub on a small cup near the hiking camp. He must have kept an eye on us and chose this lower ‘Kopje’ anyway. They are not interested in people. After all, the countless wildebeest, zebra and gazelles will soon come to satisfy their hunger. The fact that the zebras travel together with the wildebeest (=wildebeest) is because one has good sight (zebra) and the other has good hearing. In terms of food they are not competitors either, because the zebras eat the top of the grass and the wildebeest the rest. In addition, it is also safe to travel in larger groups.
We drive on and suddenly see a dangling leg in the tree. It turns out to be a lioness with her three cubs. Tree-climbing lions in the Serengeti. We are as quiet as a mouse. Apparently they have not seen people for a long time because they are very suspicious. In the end, they take turns leaving the tree. What an unforgettable game drive.
At Dunia Camp we are welcomed very enthusiastically. The lounge and restaurant overlook the Moru Kopjes in the Serengeti savannah. The tent houses in the wilderness look tip-top. We drive on to Green Camp Naabi. Two giraffes walk between the large and neatly furnished tents. After dinner we are neatly escorted to our tents and Vincent shines his flashlight straight into the snout of a hyena. Very nice to see, but also nice that he is going.
Thursday March 10
We snap a few photos for our 20th anniversary coming up soon and hit the road again. Towards the east we enter the migration again; gazelles, wildebeest and zebras feed on the green grass. Close to the Gol Kopjes we see several hyenas. Like wild dogs, these eat their prey alive. The felines kill their prey first. Sounds a little less cruel. We see four lions on a cup. Three young males and a female for the strongest of the three. It’s a great safari day anyway. We see topi, elk, hartebeest, Thomson gazelle, buffalo, ostrich and the corry buster, but also jackals (both black backed and golden) and a Serval cat up close. We are spoiled because we see four more cheetahs at the Barafu Kopjes and eleven lions and wart hogs at the Nameri Plains. Driving to our next accommodation Kubu Kubu Tented Lodge we see the landscape change from a vast steppe to an area with more trees and bushes. So the number of animals we see is increased with giraffes, elephants, buffalo, baboons, mongooses and even another leopard in the tree. We are at Seronera and a smelly hippo pool with dozens of bubbling bathing hippos should not be missed. What a day.
Friday, March 11
Our last day already. Time flies so fast when you’re having fun.
We enjoy the beautiful panoramic view over the Kubu Kubu plain and visit the last two last accommodations of this trip. The second in particular looks perfect. Neat spacious tents, drinking water neatly in glass bottles, solar energy, an attractive lounge tent and a great view in the middle of the Serengeti. Happy with this latest addition (more about this later) we drive to the Seronera airstrip. We still have plenty of time, so our guide George stops frequently to take in our last wild animals of this trip; baboons, elephants, giraffes, warts … See you soon!
We climb into the plane and below us our entire journey takes place in reverse order; we fly over the Seronera in Central Serengeti, the Ndutu area, the grey-green Ngorongoro Crater, over the plantations at Karatu and the expanding Lake Manyara to Arusha Airport. We make several stops and see below us the villages, the bomas, the accommodations and the migrating animals that we have seen up close over the past nine days. It was a very pleasant and instructive study trip, full of new beautiful places and ideas, in a truly wonderful period of the year when nature grew and bloomed luxuriantly.
We drive to Cultural Heritage in Arusha for some gifts to take home. And after a short stop at Rivertrees Coutry Lodge we have our (corona) rapid tests just before the entrance of the airport and we fly back to the Netherlands via Dar es Salaam at night. Mission more than accomplished! Tanzania asante sana and see you soon!