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  • Exploring Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater
  • Hiking in the Usambara Mountains
  • Relaxing on the topical beaches near Pangani




For the Serengeti "timing" is crucial. To be precise: there is a "window of opportunity" in which one can expect to see all the natural beauties of this magnificent landscape. Unfortunately there is a significant risk to see nothing but rain, fog, and very much mud ... in the very same window. In Tanzania the "small" rainy season ends in December. The next "major" rainy season starts in March. January and February are the two months in between that should be more or less dry. The Serengeti is supposed to be fresh and green, huge herds of wildebeest and zebra are expected to migrate into and through the big plains. We chose the last week in January and the first week of February. 




25.1.2009: Arriving in Nairobi
Arriving in the Jungel Junction in Nairobi is once again easy. On the next morning we are on the road to Namanga border post. Crossing the border to Tanzania is no problem.

26.1.2009: Heading towards Serengeti
We arrive in the Meserani Snake Park, our first camp on the way to the Serengeti National Park. They have neat baby aligators (appr. 2 years old) and quite a few Pythons and Cobras.

The grass snake is absolutely harmless.
A little strange, though.

27.1.2009: Manyara National Park
The one thing we will remember about Manyara NP is the fact that I made a picture of a small monkey and the picture was totally pink. All pictures that I make from now on are pink - monochrome pink and I start getting nervous. I had cleaned the lenses and the camera a little earlier and now I am afraid that I somehow damaged the mechanism. No way to get normal pictures. I call Klaus in Germany and ask him if he can look in the Internet for a technical sevice number. A few minutes later I talk to a service technician of SIGMA and explain him the problem. He asks if the dust protector (a tiny small glass lens between camera and the lens) is intact. He does not need to say anything more. I know that I must have lost this tiny glass lense somewhere in the middle of the bush. We try to analyze the situation: there are 3 potential sites where I could have lost the lens. The most likely place is somewhere in the middle of the rain forest, where I tried to make a picture and opened the door. We drive back to find the place. After some 10 km we suddenly see the place - the lens lies in the dust between the rocks - absolutely undamaged!



Hornbill in Manyara NP



Sweety!



Giraffe - relaxed!



Elefants just blocking the track with a tree when we tried to pass by.


There is a lot to say about the beauty of Manyara NP. For us the most stunning thing was to find this tiny little lens without which our camera would have been absolutely useless for the rest of the trip.

We continue to drive to Karatu, the gate to the Serengeti and stay in the Kudu Camp (OK) where we meet Stefan and Josefine a German couple on a BMW motorbike that we already met in the Meserani Snake Park. The thing that starts concerning us is the weather: grey and rainy. Visiting the Serengeti NP or the Ngorongoro Crater is quite expensive (see: Costs of National Parks in Kenya and Tanzania). It is OK to pay this once in a lifetime. But should we do it when everything around us is grey, wet and muddy?


28.1.2009: Serengeti National Park
The next morning - the same weather. We decide to pass by Ngorongoro Crater and go straight to the Serengeti.


Memorial and grave of Prof. Grzimek and his son Michael who died here 10.1.1959 in an aircrash (+/-50 years before we arive at this spot)


On every km that we drive out of the mountains and into the plains of the Serengeti the sky gets clearer. Our secret wish in this National Park is to finally see a Cheetah. In years of travelling through Africa we have seen all big mammals - but never a Cheetah. We could hardly belief it's true when we saw a Cheetah only 15 minutes after we had entered the park.





The landscape is magnificent. The Campsite is an open place in the middle of the bush - really nice. A lovely day that we conclude with a Gin Tonic.


29.1.2009: A day in the Serengeti
We start early in order to explore the area around the Moru Kopjes, an assembly of "Inselbergs". The landscape in the early morning is like in a dream. We pass by a lion which is almost invisible in the grass. Then, we see a strange black band stretching from one horizon to the other. Getting closer we recognize it's a migration of wildebeest and zebras, all walking in one line 100m broad and more then 10 km long.



Serengeti: Migration of wildebeest (Gnu)



Hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebras slowly following the rain






Inselberg - here they call them Kopjes




Waterbuck


Unfortunately there is quite a population of Tse-Tse Flies in the park. Tse-Tse Flies are really hard stuff. They follow big moving objects, like... our Landy. When they come in through the open window the first thing they do, is hide away in the niches of the car - preferrably somewhere in the floor area. Much later you feel a very strong stich. All attempts to kill the beast fail: you smash it against the windscreen - they survive! Tse-Tse Flies may transmit the "Sleeping Desease" - no good fellas.



Spotted Hyena



29.1.2009: Ngorongoro Crater
We leave the Serengeti NP via a side track through the Simba Hills. There are lots of animals that we can spot in the spectacular plains that we are now crossing for about 2 hours. We see 20 lions on that day 8 hyenas and a group of bat-eared foxes, just to name a few. At around noon we reach the crater rim and yes (!) the weather is better. We check in at the main ranger office and have to take a ranger on board for our afternoon tour into the crater. All in all the costs are massive. We have to pay 340 US$ for this afternoon (find more under "Costs of travelling in Eastern Africa" below)


Back at the crater rim. the Massai try to sell a foto (of themselves)




The bottom of the caldera lays 1.700 m above sea level, while the rims are about 600 meters higher. The diameter of the crater varies between 17 and 21 km.




Flamingos are predominant in the temporary salt lake (Lake Magadi) down in the crater.




Little Switzerland, down in the crater (just the cows are missing)




The Black Crowned Crane: huge numbers in the crater




Lions: many and massive ones




And than again: zebras - most have just given birth to their cubs during these days



It is a fascinating trip down in the crater. Late in the afternoon we climb up the rim agaiin (which is not very pleasant because the dirt road is quite steep and a mixture of rocks and mud. The worst thing is that the track is very narrow with a sharp drop-off -sometimes hundreds of meters on the passenger's side. We finally make it and arrive at the gate of the conservation area just 1 minute before they close. The rule is: they close it at 6:00 PM sharp. When you arrive a few minutes later, you have to pay the entrance fee for another day....So we are quite lucky for the moment. Soon afterwards we have to realize that the speeding over the rocky tracks was not so good for our tyres:


one of the rear tyres is completely destroyed. It keeps the pressure but is completely deformed. So we carefully "hop" back to the camp in Karatu (Ngorongoro Camp) where we change the tyre.



30.1.2009: Maintenance day in Arusha

We arrive in Arusha the other morning. Our travel book says that there is a garage operated by the German Manfred Lieke. We decide to go there because we had seen that all our tyres need to be replaced. We have 2 spare tyres on board and thus need 2 new ones. We get everything organized in Arusha



31.1.-3.2.2009 Peponi Beach Resort
The fascinating thing about Northern Tanzania: within 5 hours one can reach either the Serengeti or the tropical coast of Tanzania. Opposite of Pemba and Sansibar the coastline is not (yet) effected by mass tourism. There are small lodges and camps blended with small villages in an unspoiled nature. We spend 4 days in the Peponi (Paradise) Beach Resort.





Day 1: Arrival




Day 2: Do nothing but a walk on the beach: to the left side = Mangroves




Day 3: We sail out to a coral reef. The water temperature is 30°C




Still day 3




Day 4: Do nothing but a walk on the beach: to the right side = village




Still day 4







Still day 4




Sunrise on day 4 in Peponi Beach Resort




Driving back to Arusha we make a detour to visit Anja and Frank who are managing the Lutindi Mental Ill Hospital in the Usambara Mountains. This hospital has been founded some 100 years ago and takes care of mentally ill people from all over Tanzania. We were deeply impressed by the institution which is a branch of the Bethel organization in Germany. Anja leads us through the compound and describes us the way through the mountains to Lushoto. Normally one would take the main road. But in this time of the year with no rain having fallen yet, the 80 km long track right through the mountains is drivable. It is a fascinating panorama route through rain forest, banana and tea plantations with incredible views. In Lushoto we camp on Irente Farm from where we start our hiking tour to Irente viewpoint. The spectacular thing about the Usambara mountains in this region is that they drop off sharply from 2.500 meter altitude opening views over the masai plains from horizon to horizon.


Views in the Usambara Mountains




Tea plantation in the Usambara Mountains




Our Camp at Irente Farm




On our hiking tour




Chameleon on Manfred Lieke's compound





TFSC Garage, opposite of Cultural Heritage Center. Operated by the German Manfred Lieke. Provides service for Landcruisers, Landrovers and Mercedes. Excellent opportunity to store the car in a container garage (30 €/ month). Manfred arranges transfers to/from Kilimanjaro Intl. Airport. The first/last night can be spent on his big private compound outside of Arusha (either guesthouse or camping). Individual service arrangements can be made while the car is stored. Tel: +255(0) 272548587, e-mail: tfsc@habari.co.tz

Manjis BP Tyre Center. Big selection of all common brands of 4x4 tyres. Fair prices, good and professional service.

Honey Badger Lodge/Moshi: an alternive place to park the car. Contact: Mama Lucy Renju;
http://www.hbcc-campsites.com/introduction.htm



Eastern Africa is not an inexpensive region to travel, especially when you want to go and visit National Parks with your own car. The state seems to restrict this kind of individual tourism to the absolute minimum by a high-price-policy.

Entrance Fees National Parks
The entrance fees vary from 150 US$ to 200 US$ per day for a car with 2 persons including one night on the public campsite. Costs are split up like:

  • Entrance: 35-50 US$ per person (depending on park)
  • Car: 40 US$ (for cars with foreign number plate)
  • Camping: 20-30 US$ per person per night (depending on park)

All parks apply the 24 hour-rule: when you enter at 10:00 AM you are supposed to leave at the same time on the next morning. Driving into the Ngorongoro Crater with a private car costs 200 US$ on top of the 140 US$ that are charged for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (340 US$ in total). A Ranger is supposed to go on board of your car.

In 2009 entry fees in the major parks of Kenya were increased by 100%. The system is comparable to the Tanzanian one. Now the range for entrance fees is between 40 and 60 US$ per person (plus car plus camping).

Other  expenditures
1 liter diesel costs 1.320 TSh (0,77 €)
1 bottle of beer (Shoprite Arusha) 1.400-1.600 TSh (ca. 0,90 €)
1 BF Goodrich Tyre 235/85 R119 N: 200 €



Masai Camp/Arusha: Very nice camp that turns into a disco on fridays and saturdays. Overlanders. They have a very good garage that fixed our alternator.  http://masaicamp.tripod.com/

Meserani Snake Camp/Arusha: Comparable to Masai Camp with a very nice exhibition of snakes and crocodiles. Disco on weekends.
http://www.meseranisnakepark.com

Honey Badger Lodge and Campsite/Moshi: Camping either on dedicated campground or in the garden of the lodge (Neighbours will wake you up in the early morning when they start their daily business),
http://www.hbcc-campsites.com/introduction.htm

Serengeti: Public Campsites are nice

Kudu Camp/Karatu: slightly overpriced camping, no thrills.
http://www.kuducamp.com/

Ngorongoro Camp/Karatu: Ngorongoro Lodge and Camp are two different places at the same road (town center of Karatu). Fair price, camping with rooftent only possible on a small lawn in front of the place (safe), For normal tents there is a nice garden area. In case of rain a little muddy. No thrills. http://ngorongorocampandlodge.net/index.htm

Peponi Camp/Pangani: (Peponi means paradise) is certainly the place one wants to go. Bandas, and Campground - a place to get lost for a couple of days. http://www.peponiresort.com/

Irente Farm/Lushoto: Very nice farm with guesthouses and a small campsite. Spectacular views. Fresh bread, marmelade and muesli are sold in the farmstore. Discover "Raintrees" and "Spitbugs".





Serengeti: Sky, Horizon, and Cheetah




Serengeti: Sky, Rocks, and Road




Serengeti: Rocks and Plains and Sky




Birds of Serengeti: Lilac-Breasted Roller




Birds of Serengeti: Lovebirds




Birds of Serengeti: Secretary Bird




Serengeti: Zebras Crossing




Serengeti: Traffic




Serengeti: Tired Hyena (early morning)




Serengeti Campsite





Ngorongoro: Wildebest with cab




Tanzanian Kids on the Beach




Breakfast in Peponi Resort



Carpark in Arusha