Safari, in Swahili, means journey. You can take a safari to the grocery store if need be. But our 2 day, 1 night safari was to see wildlife! We left Arusha at a leisurely 9AM in our safari jeep. Our group started with just myself and two British lawyers and later a very aggressive Chinese girl and two very shy Japanese boys joined our ranks. However, with a three-hour drive and a full day of safari with just the lawyers, I became fast friends with the delightfully wacky Rebecca and Fflur (That’s not a typo. It’s Welsh – pronounced fleer) who were in band together and couldn’t stop singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight. We had a lot of fun.
Our first day took us to Lake Manyara National Park. Now, most of my attempts to see wildlife on this trip have been along the lines of “I know there’s an an elephant in this pictures, it’s just really small!” This is completely different. Our first encounter was with bushbuck, a rare deer like animal. They kind of eyed us suspiciously as we kept going. Just around the corner was a group of baboons, baring their asses to us as only baboons can do. The next corner presented us a giraffe, peacefully munching on a nearby bush. Five minutes couldn’t go by without an animal sighting. At Lake Manyara we saw: bushbuck, giraffes, zebras, kingfishers, land hornbills, wildebeests, baboons, vervet monkeys, impala, dik-diks, and elephants. Some of our sightings were at a distance in the beautiful scenery, lush with greens, blues, and golden browns. Others, were incredibly close.
Our driver Ben had a slow and steady approach to spotting the animals. He would drive slowly and when we would come across a couple of monkeys, we would stop, take tons of pictures, and then by the time we grew bored with the monkeys, the elephants only Ben could hear in the distance had lumbered toward us through the jungle. It was very effective and we had a lot of quality alone time with the critters. Lake Manyara definitely seems a little less traveled than some of the other parks although I can’t imagine why. It’s beautiful, the wildlife is right there, and maybe I shouldn’t let the cat of the bag, but it was so nice getting to be the only truck with a herd of giraffes right next to the vehicle. Each time you stumbled across a herd of zebras, it felt like a personal discovery.
That night, we made our way to our campsite. The tents were propped up for us in little wooden lean-tos that provided great protection from the wind. We had a quick dinner and went to bed nice and early for our next morning of safari.