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– The Story of an African Safari, Part II - Lake Manyara
Part II of the great adventure brings us to another amazing venue in Tanzania, the Lake Manyara area…
While traveling last summer in Tanzania, Africa, with a dozen adventurous travelers mostly from the King George and Colonial Beach area, our group had an opportunity to go on an exhilarating bicycle safari commencing in Mto wa Mbu Village (pronounced umto wambu), which is near the banks of the renowned Lake Manyara.
The scenery was stunning as we traveled through an extensive green oasis of banana groves and a thick acacia forest, then finally out into a vast open plain near the shores of Lake Manyara, a shallow alkaline lake. Riding a bicycle where Cape buffalo, giraffe, zebras, and wildebeest roam free is daunting, but also an incredible experience. With no safari vehicle between us and
the game, it was a humbling feeling, and at the same time a feeling of both thrill and trepidation.
Lake Manyara (which means mosquito river) was quite shallow during our visit; the dry season runs June through October. Still, there is always a large array of birds in the area. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded around Lake Manyara.
We could see a beautiful pink haze created by the tens of thousands of flamingos landing and taking off in the far-off distance across the lake. A plethora of marabou storks were much closer to us as we cycled nearer to the water’s edge. These huge clumsy looking birds are plentiful throughout the northern circuit.
As our bicycle safari ended and our bikes were piled into the truck, taking one more look around us before heading back up the mountain to our lodge, we noticed a pair of giraffe lumbering in our direction. There’s really no comparison to being in Africa; experiencing nature first hand is truly a remarkable experience.
The scenery from above this great valley was picturesque. Our accommodations in the Lake Manyara area were high up on a mountain with stunning views overlooking this enormous Rift Valley escarpment, the lake which during the rainy season covers two thirds of the park, and the mountains in the distance.
Taking a safari drive through Lake Manyara National Park at night was an all-new experience for us. The sights and sounds were unique. Bush babies cried out into the night (the name is so fitting!) as they leaped from limb to limb. These nocturnal primates have large ears and eyes to accommodate their needs. We also were able to catch glimpses of nocturnal wildlife such as a South African crested porcupine, spotted genets, nightjar, and even a chameleon climbing among the branches in a large bush.
It’s amazing how the baboons can sleep nestled high up in the tree branches without falling down. We knew there were so many more animals lurking in the dark that we didn’t see. A lone gigantic hippo was sleeping very close to the edge of the road until we came along and woke him up. He was annoyed by our intrusion, got up, took a look our way as we wondered if he would charge our vehicle. Not tonight - he decided to walk away disappearing into the trees.
Lake Manyara by day felt like a whole new place after touring the park at night. There were dozens of elephants and giraffe throughout the Park. We saw Sykes monkeys, also known as blue monkeys, for the first time, and one of the most interesting sights of the day was the collection of hippopotamuses resting in the warm sun near a watering hole. The hippos’ massive bodies play host to the many oxpeckers who enjoy eating the insects off them, in turn helping the hippos in this symbiotic relationship. The path to the watering hole was well worn. We watched lines of wildebeest and zebras marching along this path on their quest to drink from the stream.
Can you imagine walking through what seemed like endless banana groves to get to your house? Our guides Robert and Masha arranged for us to have lunch at Sipora Pinieni’s home, which is deep in the groves. Another magical experience for our group, we enjoyed a fantastic home-cooked meal while taking in the natural surroundings. There were goats and chickens on her grounds in branch-built sheds, a natural canopy of banana leaves for shade, and friendly people. Our scrumptious lunch was prepared on an open fire pit, one like many people in Tanzania use for cooking.
This is where we had the pleasure of meeting our new friend Neema Laurence, who was helping Sipora with the luncheon. We learned of Neema’s desire to become a teacher in her village, but she had no means to achieve her dream. Our hearts were touched by the young woman named Neema, inspiring us to do more for her and other Tanzanians in need. Hence, Friends Who Care, Inc. (an organization started by some of the travelers upon returning to the USA) was born following this unique, moving experience. For more information on Friends Who Care, Inc. visit www.friends-who-care.org.
So many more stories to come from adventures experienced in a faraway place … look for Part III in the series: “An Adventure of a Lifetime” in a future issue of The Journal.