Thursday, March 13, 2008

Come on and Safari with Me: Episode 1

We spent two days in the small city of Arusha, dodging people who were desperately trying to sell us safaris, batiks, gems, or whatever else in the low season. In short, Arusha has all the lack of charm of that other tourist town, Siem Reap, but none of the delicious fruit shakes. But rather than focus on the glue sniffers, touts, dusty streets, and other negatives, we should focus on the wonderful four-day safari that we booked in Arusha.

Day 1: We drove from Arusha to Lake Manyara National Park, which is famous for its migratory birds and lions that sleep in trees. When we started the safari, we had no expectation of how many animals we would be able to see, so we were ecstatic when we first saw a troop of baboons. Slowly driving through the park, we soon saw vervet and blue monkeys, impalas, giraffes, and hippos. Our driver and guide, Julius, was really great at spotting animals from a distance and then driving up for a closer look. We got very close to some families of elephants, which was really exciting. We also caught a glimpse of an animal we never knew existed--the dik-dik- the smallest and likely the cutest antelope, which we would see many more times along the safari. Although we're not hugely excited about birds, we saw several beautiful varieties of birds, including many herons. We didn't see any famous but rare lions in the trees, but we did see another rare sight--giraffes laying down. From a distance, they look a lot like Loch Ness/ Lake Champlain monsters.

At the end of the day, we drove back to our campsite (did we mention we did the cheapest camping safari possible?), where our amazing cook, Zacharias, had a great vegetarian meal prepared for us. Though we chose the most budget safari option available, we were continually surprised by the variety and creativity of the food and the general comfort of the camping experience. From what we could gather from other, more expensive tour groups, the only difference between our tour and a 'luxury' camping safari is that they get flutes of champagne as they drive around, which generally makes someone look pretty foolish anyway.

-k & d

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