Lake Manyara, Tanzania
31.01.2005 - 31.01.2005
The last day of January was the first day of my 5 day Safari adventure.
Based on yesterday’s conversation with my representative at Kilimanjaro Crown Bird Safaris, today’s plan was to be picked up and drive to Lake Manyara. I would be in the car with two young Brits who had both booked their safaris separately, and potentially another couple people in the car, if someone else had booked.
But plans can change, especially when it comes to booking safaris. At 9am, someone from a company called Comfort Safaris arrived at my hotel. “You must be Greg from Canada,” he said. He explained to me that I would be going with them instead of the company I booked with. Skeptical, I asked if there was an additional charge for the switch, but they insisted that there wasn’t.
Already in the car was a couple from Poland. We went and picked up two more people, a German and an older Scottish gentleman. Apparently the two young Brits had disappeared. This, based on my internet research, is somewhat typical when booking group safaris.
A group safari is a safari where you go with other people that you don’t know. A private safari is where just you (and your private group go). For a single traveler like me, booking a group safari can save around $200 to $300 US. However, often companies will book a safari with promises of other travelers, but the other travelers aren’t real. In the worse case, this means delaying the safari until real travelers can be found. Luckily for me, I was getting the best case, where a couple of companies combine their groups to still provide the safari.
John, the Scot, was not happy with the change of companies though. He was promised a different itinerary with no more than 3 people in the car. However, after arguing and negotiations to ensure that he would get a window seat, he agreed to come. The cook, though, was relegated to the back seat with the German and myself.
John was an interesting character. I would guess that John was in his 50s, however he was doing a 7 month backpacking trip through East Africa. John was an “aging hippy traveler.” Hippy travelers are the kind of people who try and spend as little as possible on their trips, and take a very specific pride in keeping the costs down. They are the kind of people you met who say stuff like, “dude, the place I stayed in last night was a cement room, 6 feet by 6 feet. It had no bed or electric light, and there was no hot water, or really water of any kind. I think I contracted cholera, but at least it only cost me $1.50 a night.” Hippy travelers are also the kind of people who will try and make you feel bad for spending more than they do. “I can’t believe you WASTED $10 a night on a place with a comfortable bed and electric light!”
John was constantly complaining about the cost of things on the trip. The sodas and beer in the national parks were too expensive for him. “One US dollar for a soda? I have never paid more than thirty cents for one in the past 4 months!” We were in the middle of a national park in the Serengeti. I was just happy they had cold soda.
In addition to John the Scot, the German gentleman was named Claus. The Polish couple was Beata and Magic. At least, as best as I could figure, his name was Magic. Beata was a linguist of the first order. In addition to Polish, she could speak English, Swahili and Russian. As far as I know, Magic only spoke Polish. Thus, there is not much that Magic and I said to each other after our first exchange.
“Hi,” I said to him, “my name is Greg. And you are?”
“Mathic,” he replied.
“Mathic?” I asked.
“Mattress,” he said back.
“Alright then,” I said, giving up on learning his name. And so for the rest of the Safari I called him Magic. I later learned, upon seeing him write his name for an airplane trip we later booked, was something like Macieck. But that wasn’t until many days later, and frankly, calling him Magic makes for a better story, so Magic he will stay.
Our guide was Joseph, and our cook was Diamond. That is the way with names here in Tanzania. Some of them are good biblical names, some of them are traditional names (like Mikeke), and some of them are just words that most of us wouldn’t consider names like Marathon or Diamond.
The car was a Toyota Land Cruiser with seating for 7. The roof had panels that could come off above all the seats, allowing us to stand up and take pictures and get good views of the animals.
And we were off to Manyara. It took me a long time to get that name right. I kept calling it Lake Marinara. Too much Italian food in my life, I suppose. Even with the name right, doesn’t it still sound like an Italian dish?
Me: “I would like the Serengeti with a nice Manyara sauce?”
Waiter: “Some Ngorongoro to drink?”
Me: “Now this is getting Selously silly!”
(Note, Selous is another game park in Tanzania that I didn’t go to, but it fit with the joke.)
Lake Manyara proved to be an excellent game viewing drive. We saw baboons, blue monkeys, impala, warthogs, elephants, zebras, giraffes, hippos, buffaloes and gnus.
However, by far the most common animal, and lake Manyara and all the safari sites was the fly. Flies were everywhere, and after a while you start to just get bored with trying to slap them away. And so you suffer with the flies.
And now, a couple of notes on the text and pictures. I am not a zoologist, and therefore took everything that my guide said at face value. I repeat some of it in these pages. I assumed that my guide was telling me the truth. He may have been full of hot air though.
Also, I tended to get confused between all the deer like animals. There are impalas and great gazelles and Thompson gazelles and diks diks, and they all look like brown animals to me.
So, if you are an amateur zoologist and find mistakes, here’s what you should do: feel smug about how stupid I am, and keep it to yourself. Really, I don’t care and I am not going to change the text.