Tanzania, Africa Day 0.5
After a long travel day, we were finally in Tanzania. Seeing someone holding our name card at the arrival gate was a welcome sight. Normally tourists have to clear immigration and customs before meeting a guide. However in this situation we were greeted before clearing the checkpoints. The gentleman introduced himself and asked if we had tourist VISAs, which we didn’t. He walked us over to the paperwork area and showed us how to fill it out. We handed him the completed paperwork and the US$50 fee. He then proceeded to the counter and got us our VISAs. He ushered us to the customs counter and we were cleared. We picked up our bags and were escorted to the parking lot where we were introduced to our tour guide Lucas. By far this was the smoothest VISA process during the trip, if not all our adventures.
Lucas welcomed us to Tanzania and we did the usual introductions. Lucas explained that the arrival and clearance process is something that Leopard Tours and the Tanzanian Tourism Commission arrange to make sure tourist arrival is smooth, it certain worked.
It was getting late in the day, so we hit the road to Arusha for a “layover” night. Upon arrival the lodge manager gave us a tasty beverage and the standard welcome briefing. Then a burly woman who handled our bags like they were filled with helium showed us to our room.
We settled in, took a shower and then headed to the restaurant for a buffet dinner. We were the last table to be seated, so the food left at the buffet was a little underwhelming. However, we were very happy to have a cold beer a quick bite and then we were off to bed. We were heading to Tarangire National Park in the morning and the anticipation was palpable.
Tanzania, Africa Day 1
We arose early and had a quick breakfast. After our coffee fix kicked in we had a quick meeting and expectation check in with our account manager from Leopard Tours. With everything in order, we loaded our bags and jumped in the Landcruiser with Lucas.
Tarangire National Park is a 3hr drive from Arusha. It is the 6th largest national park in Tanzania and famous for its Elephants and Baobab Trees. The park is approximately 2850 km2 and a mix of granite ridges, river valley, swamps and of course Baobab and Sausage trees.
Aside from countless Elephants we also saw: Lions, Zebra, Wildebeest, Impala, Dik Dik, Elands, Mongoose, Baboons and Vervet Monkeys, plus countless bird species. The landscape is archetypal Africa. The bulbous Baobab trees made us feel like we’d been dropped into a documentary. It felt like any minute David Attenborough might start narrate our tour. Some of the key moments that stood out included:
Watching a herd of Elephants having a great time munching down on Sausage Tree fruit. The fruit has a watery, seedy pulp similar to cucumber. The crunching and slurping sounds punctuated with occasional toots of happiness from the younger members of the herd immersed us in their group as if we were part of a Pachyderm family.
After a picnic lunch we pulled up to the river and watched a herd of Zebra and Elephants come to drink. They were all alert to danger down stream. We had seen a pride of lions lounging by the river earlier in the day. It was evident that they were still there as their scent was being carried in the wind. The herd of elephants started the walk down stream. Lucas hit the gas and headed down to the lion pride. If there was going to be a face off, we were not going to miss it. We sat patiently waiting for the encounter. As the Elephants came over the ridge the Lion pride stirred. Lions know better than to mess with a herd of elephants. One step and its, squish, flat cat! We were fascinated to see how, upon seeing the pride of lions the herd immediately re-orientated ensuring the smaller, younger members were positioned in the middle of the group. Presenting a grey fleshy wall of protection. The matriarch trumpeted a warning and the herd headed straight for the pride. Receptive to the less than subtle message, the pride quickly got up and b-lined to a nearby ridge approximately 400ft from the river. The Elephants stopped again and drank from the river. After having their fill, the herd strolled away towards a grassy hill. Before the herd left the river completely, one of the mature elephants decided to send a final message to the pride who had started to head back towards the river. With a bold loud trumpet the elephant charged toward the pride. The pride scattered like a pack of alley cats. The bold elephant triumphantly sauntered back to the rest of the herd. It was time for an afternoon snack, Elephants eat for 16-18 hours a day, so there it little time to waste.
We finished our game drive and headed to Burudika Manyara Lodge. Burudika is built on the wildlife corridor that joins Tarangire to Lake Manyara. The government has restricted development to ensure the animals can move freely. The only other structures are sporadic Maasai huts. These are temporary dwellings the nomadic groups build as they move around the landscape in search of fresh pasture.
By that time we were well accustomed to unsealed dirt roads. As we turned off the paved road to Burudika we prepared ourselves for another “Maasai massage”. Once again Lucas expertly navigated the bumpy road. About half way to the lodge we came across a herd of goats blocking the way. Some young Maasai kids looked at us in eager anticipation. Lucas turned to us and said, “They did that on purpose, they want us to stop and give them treats”. Their plan did not work out; we did not have any treats. But even if we did, we didn’t want to encourage that kind of behavior. They are responsible for their animals, begging from tourist distracts them from that role. It might seem strange to westerners, but it is vital to their culture that they learn how important their livestock is and how to properly care for them.
As we approached Burudika, the friendly staff were outside ready to greet us. The view of the Bandas against the lake backdrop was stunning. The lack of other buildings in the surrounding area made the lodge feel remote yet welcoming. The accommodations were comfortable; a full review can be read in the accommodation review section. The most impressive part of Burudika is the mess hall (restaurant), which is built around a huge Boabab tree.
We settled in and had a simple buffet dinner, before an early night.
Tanzania, Africa Day 2
We left the lodge after a buffet breakfast and drove through the small village (Mto Wa Mbu) our guide Lucas had grown up in. The village made him a little sentimental. He recanted stories from his childhood and his daily walk to school. There is a nice clean little shopping strip with various store fronts, restaurants and bars. But it was obvious that this town took pride in their cleanliness.
Just before we got to the gates of Lake Manyara, we approached a section of trees covered in white, as if a winter snowstorm had passed through. The odor said otherwise. Looking up to the top branches we could see a large flock of Yellow Billed Storks. Their scat had covered the surrounding area and Lucas joked, “Do you like our Christmas trees?”
Lake Manyara is shallow lake, on the Natron-Manyara-Balangida branch of the East African Rift Valley. Ernst Hemmingway called it “The loveliest lake in Africa.” The park is small by comparison to the other parks we had visited, only 329km2. Lake Manyara National Park is best known for their “Tree Lions”. Like you have assumed, they are Lions that climb trees, a very rare activity for lions. We really hoped we would get a chance to see them in person.
When we arrival at the park gates, Lucas went to process our paperwork. Lucas explained there is a lengthy training (apprentice) program to become a safari guide. Part of the training requires beginner guides to tour people around the visitor centers at parks. It helps them cut their teeth at customer engagement and work on their English/language skills. A “guide in training” toured us through the former office complex and visitor center, which had been ravaged by floods years earlier. He did a good job, but needed to work on his English. Who are we to judge, it was much better than our Swahili.
As soon as we entered the park we were welcomed by a large troop of Baboons. There were also velvet monkeys and blue monkeys everywhere. The park is a great habitat for monkeys, it has a continuous water supply and bevy of fruit laden trees. Many photos were taken especially of the cute baby baboons. Next we headed towards the swamp and bird gathering area.
As we drove into the swamp, bird flocks surrounded us. Pelicans, Yellow billed storks, Egyptian geese to name a few. A group of Hippos wallowed in the muddy waters grunting, asserting their hierarchy. You can always smell Hippos before you see them. The act of marking their territory with their faeces makes for a pungent aroma. In the distance we could make out pink Flamingos. Lucas informed us that we would get a closer look at the hot spring further into the park.
We passed more Baboon troops and several Elephant herds, until we left the swamp and came to a small creek. The only way to cross was via a rickety bridge. As we crossed the bridge Lucas spotted a lioness hunting on the opposite bank. He stopped the Landcruiser, which made us a little uncomfortable. The wooden bridge creaked under the weight of the vehicle, he turned to us and said, “Her children must be close”. We safely crossed the bridge and headed down a thin dirt road, until we came to a section canopied by overhanging trees. Lucas slowed the Landcruiser and said with an excited but controlled tone “Look, Tree lions!” Sure enough, above us two juvenile lions were recumbent on an intertwining mat of branches, snoozing while mother hunted for their next meal.
After many photos we continued through the park towards the hot spring. As we rounded the turn we saw the full scale of the lake. It was awe inspiring to see in the sun glistening on the lake. Baboons searched the waters edge eating shellfish and algae. Lucas pulled up to a small parking spot and directed us down to where one of the hot spring seeps to the surface. We snapped a couple photos and headed down to the boardwalk. The boardwalk was a little wobbly, it is obvious the alkaline water plays havoc with the wooden boards. We snapped some photos with the 360 Camera and watched the Flamingos filtering the nutrients from the water.
We sat down for picnic lunch over looking the boardwalk. Then we continued through the park, stopping by the Tree Lions one last time on our way out of the park.
On our way back to the lodge we stopped by the village. We tried our skills at souvenir bartering. Sherriden was much better at it than Anthony.
Dinner was a buffet featuring a nice selection of meats and vegetables. The big surprise was the birthday cake the lodge baked for Anthony. Little did we know Lucas and the lodge management had colluded to make sure he did not miss out on a birthday celebration. They turned out all the lights and the entire staff came out singing happy birthday. It was a lovely touch and certainly made a great birthday even better. A couple slices of cake and a few Serengeti Lagers and we were ready for bed. We had a big drive ahead of us in the morning. We were heading to the world famous Serengeti, to fulfill a life long dream.
Tanzania, Africa Day 3
It had been an active night. Nearby sounds of Hyena and an unidentifiable snarl in the wind, had us thinking some ferocious friends were using our balcony during the night. It was a great morning for the complimentary security escort to the restaurant.
We set off after breakfast, we had a long drive ahead of us. Our journey would take us around Ngorongoro Crater and over a vast dry plain on the edge of the Serengeti. A vast sea of grass, as far as they eye could see. In the wet season the plains are home to the wildebeest we had seen in the Maasai Mara. Now it was almost a lunar landscape. As if a desert, the only sign of life was the occasional Ostrich or Grant’s Giselle. The road was rough. Lucas again showed his driving prowess navigating the challenging road conditions. You’d be forgiven for thinking we had landed on the set of the next Mad Max movie. Horizon to horizon, nothing but dirt and dried tufts of grass, punctuated by safari and freight trucks kicking up dust in billowing clouds. We could only imagine the difference the wet season brings. When the long grass covers the plains, Wildebeest and elephants return, give birth and the circle of life continues.
We made a quick stop at the “Rocky Hill” a tourist stop and the main gates to the park. We walked up a rocky hill to see the view while Lucas processed our paperwork. Our aim was to reach our camp in the middle of the Serengeti National Park, by lunchtime; of course Lucas would achieve that goal.
After passing through the gates, the landscape began to change. The dry barren land made way for plains of knee-high grass. Swaying in the wind it gave the appearance of waves on a golden ocean. Occasional Giselle and Impala heads bobbing, as if, fish or dolphins diving through the waves. But where were sharks of this golden ocean? We knew would see the big cats soon enough.
After 6 hours on the road we reached Mbugani Safari Camp in the heart of the Serengeti. We settled into our lovely tent and sat down for a private open air lunch in the middle of the camp grounds. Lunch was a delicious serving of spaghetti bolognese, salad and a chocolate pyramid cake. It satiated our lion size appetites. We watched a large male Baboon come up from the river and circle us hoping to grab some scraps. The wait staff cleaned up quickly and the baboon gave up returning to the river.
But there was no time to rest, we had a huge park to explore. We jumped back into the Landcruiser and headed out for an afternoon game drive. Many safari vehicles had gathered around a couple of key water holes, all within a short drive of each other. In the dry season water holes are only sure bet for finding predator and prey alike. We had been very lucky at other camps, but Lucas promised us many “bonus” sighting. Can anyone ever say they have seen too many African animals in the wild!
Our afternoon featured two Leopards with kills in their trees, Hyena, Buffalo, Giselle, Wildebeests, Warthog, Hippo and around 40 Lions. Not to shabby for one afternoon.
The highlights were the Leopards, both situations demonstrated the unique symbiotic relationship predators have with other carrion species. The first Leopard was not an obvious find; we were watching a Hyena pace under a tree. We wondered, why the Hyena was behaving so bizarrely. Upon further inspection we noticed it was patiently waiting for the Leopard to accidentally drop its lunch from branches above it. The second was similar; as a leopard rested from a tasty Impala calf lunch, a white backed vulture eagerly waited 5 branches above him. Patience pays off when you are waiting for the scraps.
After a fruitful game drive, we headed back to camp for a few cold Serengeti Beers and chatting around the camp fire. Dinner was a nice buffet dinner of nile perch and slow cooked beef cutlets. We headed to bed early, because we would be rising early in the morning for more adventure.
Tanzania, Africa Day 4
We awoke in eager anticipation. Our guide had promised us a Rhino, the last animal on our big 5 list. Poaching has decimated Black Rhinoceros numbers and their elusive nature makes them some of the hardest members of the big 5 to find. Our guide Lucas was undaunted by the challenge and his energy stirred a fire in us too.
After a hearty breakfast of omelettes and pancakes we hit the dusty road. A short drive and the expansive Serengeti sky unveiled a dawn welcome. The amber glow beckoned the savannah’s residents to rise and start their morning activities. Giraffe strode through the grass in search of prickly acacia breakfasts. The hippo’s plodded back into their water holes to nap after their nightly grazing on the shoreline grass. It was a cool morning, but we were sure that would not last. Even in the dry (winter) season the sun quickly heats the plains. The animals use the morning to feed and do their more physical activities, before finding a shady tree to shelter from the heat.
Our first stop was on a rock formation called Ngong Rock also known as The Massai Painted Rock Site. We walked on top of the rock and got some great photos. A short drive from Ngong was a cave with ancient Maasai painting in it. We erred on the side of caution and did not enter the cave. Lions are known to frequent the rocks and without the Maasai’s fabled ability to communicate with wild animals, we thought better safe than sorry. A Rock Hyrax (a small rodent like relative of the elephant) scuttled around the rocks looking for food.
The morning was frustrating for all. The animals were scares and you could sense the displeasure amongst guides and tourist alike. We travelled over 250km during the day and were lucky to see a group of Lions protecting their buffalo carcass from a group of hungry hyenas. We witnessed a lioness’s failed attempt at a Giselle hunt and a Cheetah’s successful Giselle hunt. But no Rhino…
Our own lunch was a much easier hunt. We stopped at the Central Serengeti visitor center and had lunch with friendly Hyrax, dwarf mongoose and many birds scurrying around our feet. The visitor center has an interesting “walk though” experience with information on the area. It also gives visitor the opportunity to meander through the boulders, which are similar to the other rock formations scattered across the savannah. Normally tourists are advised to avoid these boulders, because they are a favorite haunts for lion prides, having a safe place to do it, was great.
After some more game watching we headed back to camp to wash the dust off and have a nice dinner of Beef, Pork and vegetables. We finished our night with a beer by the camp fire, where the Camp Manager Mary recanted tales of animal encounters in the camp. We headed to bed, secretly hoping we would not be adding to her story book.
Tanzania, Africa Day 5
Leaving the Serengeti.
Our wake up call arrived at 6am. Massai style coffee again and fuel for the trip back to Ngorongoro. We settled our bar tab and said our goodbyes to the camp staff. They made us promise to return one day, hopefully we can fulfill that in the future.
Lucas fired up the Landcruiser and we left the camp for the last time. The radio was a buzz with early morning animal sightings. They lead us to a pregnant lioness we had seen the day earlier. She causally strolled from the waterhole across the plain. Giselle’s did their best to keep their distance. It was obvious they were not her focus.
The radio crackled and excited Swahili blasted out. Lucas suggested we put on our seatbelts and he pushed the pedal to the floor. There was urgency in his eyes, whatever had been broadcast was big, but he was not letting on. Across the dirt roads we traversed like a rally team desperate for the win. Anthony did his best to keep his breakfast settled as we bounced and fish tailed through the dirt. We recognized the scenery from the day earlier. It was where we’d been searching for Rhino. Could it be possible? Was our dream becoming a reality?
Ahead of us we saw a large group of cars with people peering out to the right of us. Lucas turned to us finally and said, “Rhino have been sighted here.” Unsettled stomachs immediately rectified as the adrenaline kicked in. Cameras at the ready, we searched the bush. High grass made it hard to see anything. There was much murmuring and referencing of a herd of elephants. Excited confusion filled our Landcruiser. Where was the Rhino!!! Then through the lens of his point and shoot camera Anthony saw the prize. “There! Between those trees left of the Elephants RHINO!” he exclaimed. With extra digital zoom on the cameras we captured the moment we had been waiting for. A black rhino in its natural habitat, we were exploding with joy. With only 40 individual Rhino in the entire Serengeti Park our chances had been slim, but Lucas had come through with his promise.
Black Rhinoceros are critically endangered and brutally poached for their horn. Which is used in traditional Chinese and Vietnamese medicine to “cure” many ailments. The asking price for horn is now more expensive than the price of gold. The real irony being that the Chinese and Vietnamese who use it could save their money and chewing their own finger or toe nails. The horn is made of keratin, the exact same material that makes our nails and hair. It has zero medicinal qualities and at best brings about a placebo effect for users. Once again human ignorance is causing a loss that can never be replaced.
As the Rhino disappeared into the long grass, we hit the road again. We were now running a little late, but it was well worth it. We were 10min down the road, when the radio crackled again. Lucas turned the Landcruiser around and we backtracked to the river crossing from 5min earlier. We followed a small track down to the waters edge and Lucas said “There you go, another “Bonus” Leopard.” Snap, snap went the cameras again and we headed back towards the park exit. It would be a struggle to make our scheduled 10:30am exit from the park, but we would try.
Just before we hit the main gate, we came upon a pair of Cheetah, sitting on a hill, surveying their territory. We stopped quickly for photos and to say goodbye to the Serengeti’s big cats. The morning had featured Lion, Leopard and Cheetah, all the big cats where covered, we were ecstatic.
We were finally on our way across the dirt track towards Ngorongoro and our last Tanzania destination Acacia Lodge.
Before we completed our journey to the lodge as had scheduled a stop at a Maasai village. It was a chance to learn about their culture. Plus the visitation fee helps to supplement their income from their Goat and Cattle herds. The tribe came out and performed a welcome dance. Our Gear 360 camera fascinated them, they were unsure what to make of it.
They invited us into their village and they performed another dance. Then they invited Anthony to take part in a Maasai jumping contest. Not a great idea for a guy with no ACL from a recent skiing accident, but who was he to refuse. As noble as his efforts were, there is little chance he will ever close a deal on a second (Maasai) wife. Not only was his jumping below par, he does not own enough cattle to cover the dowry.
The village guide then toured us through their junior school. Where their young children are educated on the basics of English and math, before they graduate to boarding school in nearby villages. The last part of tour took us into one of their huts. They explained the construction from tree branches, mud and cow dung. It was eye opening to see how they live, how happy they are with what they have. If you told most westerners that they should construct and live in a mud house made from cow poop, they would think you are mad. The pride the Maasai had in their life is admirable.
We completed the tour, said our goodbyes and headed up the crater for a picnic lunch on the rim. Lucas did not have lunch, because he had given all of his to the Maasai kids. We offered him ours, but he said he was holding out for some African polenta in the village near our last stop. We finished lunch and headed to the Acacia Lodge to check in.
The Acacia lodge is beautiful and very luxurious. A huge difference to the Maasai Village we had just visited. As we pulled up to the reception area the staff were dancing and singing a welcome song for us. Once again the staff were incredibly warm and welcoming. Our private butler Godfrey was great fun. He worked out very quickly we had a good sense of humor. He really enjoyed joking around with us over the next couple of days. A full review can be read in our Hotel review section.
Tanzania, Africa Day 6
The Acacia Lodge breakfast buffet was fantastic, a great way to kick start our day. They had the best croissants we tasted in East Africa. They had a chef cooking eggs to order. Always a bonus at any buffet, but this guy really knew how to cook eggs. They were perfect!
The smartest food thing they do at the Acacia Lodge is their Picnic packing buffet. It allowed guests to create their own lunch packs to take on Safari. The lunch packs had been fantastic at all the camps and lodges. But we often found it was too much food, or we were given items that we were not keen on. With the buffet we could pack a lighter lunch and avoid wasting food or over eating. We had our pick and Godfrey escorted us to Lucas who was waiting for us.
Lucas was not staying at the lodge as he had at the other places. It was a shame, because we enjoyed our meals and conversations with him. The night before he had told us “don’t be late, I charge $20 per minute for waiting.” We knew Lucas was joking, but Anthony promised him we would be early and therefore he could pay us. Sure enough we were two minutes early and Anthony quipped “that’s 40 bucks Lucas.” They both laughed and exchanged compliments on their freshly shaven heads. It felt less like customer and guide relationship and more like friends on an adventure. All formality was gone and we could not have been happier about the situation.
We were excited the day had arrived. We were about to fulfill a dream and visit Ngorongoro Crater. Ngorongoro was given its name by the Maasai pastoralist who were inspired by the sound a cowbell makes (Ngoro Ngoro).
Fossil evidence shows that the crater has been home to hominids (human and human like species) for over 3 million years. The Maasai drove all other tribal groups out of the crater in the 1800’s. They still live and farm their cattle and goats in parts of the park. In the 1940’s the Ngorongoro was combined with the Serengeti National Park. However it causing negative effects on the Maasai tribes. So a new conversancy was enacted in1959 and the Ngorongoro Conversation Area Ordinance was made law. In 1979 the crater and park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ngorongoro is the only conservation area in Tanzania that is classified as multi use. Which means it allows for cohabitation of wildlife and humans. Maasai groups are permitted to live at a subsistence level, without any formal cultivation.
The crater is the world’s largest inactive, intact, unfilled volcanic caldera. It is 260 km2 in area and 610m deep from rim to crater floor. It is estimated the volcano would have towered 4500-5800m high before its eruption and collapse. That height would have made it as tall or taller than Kilimanjaro the highest peak in Africa. In 2013 the crater was voted one of the 7 natural wonders in Africa. As we pulled up to the edge of the rim and the entire crater came into view, it was easy to see why, our hearts too were filled with wonder.
The crater is blessed with a wide variety of habitats in a very small space. On the edges daily condensation from mist and fog creates wet jungle forests. Dry savannahs host year round Wildebeest and Zebra. There is a marsh and fresh water lake with Hippo and many birds. A salt lake with Flamingos and a forested area that is popular with elephants and the resident rhinoceros. The only animals missing are giraffe and crocodiles. Who do not brave the descent from the rim.
All the resident animals live in the crater year round. With such diverse habitat the crater caters to all their needs. It makes for some well fed healthy wildebeest and therefore lions.
We did several rounds of the crater various habitats. Seeing Lions, Zebra, Wildebeest, Hyenas, Elephants, Hippo, Jackals, many Ostrich and countless birds. One of the big highlights was when the call came in that a Rhino had been sighted. We rush to the area where many vehicles had gathered. We put our zoom lens to work. It was hard to find in the distance, but we were eventually successful and seeing it running around in the distant long grass. We tried various locations to get better a shot. After around 30min watching and filming the Rhino, we headed back to the forested area. We heard shortly after the Rhino completely disappeared. They have a tendency to just lie down in the long grass, completely disappearing for view.
The second highlight came in the forest. We were eagle eyeing for more rhinoceros, when we came across a small cat crossing the road ahead of us. Anthony exclaimed in a quiet but excited voice “wwwwhat’s that!” He knew what it was, a Caracal. But he could not believe his eyes, seeing an animal he had only dreamed of seeing. Prior to arriving in Africa, Anthony had accepted the reality that we might not get to see African Wild Dogs, Caracals and that Rhinoceros was a very slim chance. Now we had seen two Rhino and a Caracal. He had never been that excited. His heart was beating a million miles and hour and he was only able to say “wow!” for the next 20 minutes. Unfortunately, the Wild Dog eluded us on this trip. But everyone needs good reasons to return, so maybe next time.
Satisfied with our Ngorongoro experience we all agreed to depart and head back to Karutu and Acacia Lodge.
It was our last night before our return to Nairobi. We arrived for dinner and were escorted to a private table separate from the other guests. What was going on we thought. Then it dawned on us. Upon arrival, Godfrey had asked us if we were honeymooning. We joked “maybe 8 years ago.” It seems they misunderstood the sarcasm and thought it was our anniversary. We happily played along; after all they had gone to a lot of effort. The dinner was another great buffet, we ate our fill, enjoyed some wine and then headed back to the room to pack and get some rest.
Tanzania, Africa Day 7
We enjoyed a mini sleep in and relaxed buffet breakfast. The lodge staff delivered our luggage to reception for our check out and Lucas was there ready for us. As we drove away the lodge staff sang a goodbye song, another beautiful touch. Acacia Lodge was a great way to finish to our trip to Tanzania. We were still very tired, but we were clean (dust free) and felt refreshed.
Lucas hit the road and we made our way back to Arusha. Our final tourist destination was Arusha Coffee Lodge. But before we stopped at a place Lucas promised would “make Anthony cry.” What was it? Would Anthony have to go through a Maasai coming of age ritual (a pain he hoped to avoid). Surely his below average jumping from day earlier, disqualified him from their warrior rituals. We are happy to say, no tears were shed as we pulled into the African Galleria. The large sign saying “Tanzanite” revealed what Lucas was suggesting. “Your wife is lovely, you should buy her something nice” Lucas said as we pulled into the parking spot. Who was Anthony to argue, after all, Lucas had been right about everything else that week.
Tanzanite is a blue and violet gemstone made of Ziosite. It was discovered in 1967 in the Mererani Hills near Arusha and Kilimanjaro. It is only found in Tanzania and is graded / valued like most other gemstones. We picked up a nice set of earing and some other souvenirs for friends and family back home. We could have spent a fortune in the African Galleria. The jewelry, artwork and carvings were stunning.
Our wallets lightened, we were on the road to Arusha. It was an almost silent ride to the Coffee Lodge. We reflected on our experiences, the people we had met and the places we had seen. It had been a life-changing trip.
As we arrived at the Coffee Lodge Lucas informed us we would change vehicles and drivers so he could stay in Arusha to service his truck and return it to the tour company. He also wanted to get home to his family, which we could not fault. We said our heartfelt goodbyes and extended our gratitude. We had experienced so much with Lucas and he had shared so much about his life. We are so grateful for everything he did and heart he put into our tour. He truly made our trip memorable and very impactful. We cannot imagine experiencing it with another guide.
We finished our lunch and headed off to Kilimanjaro airport for our connection flight to Nairobi. It had been a trip of a lifetime. Even though we were physically and mentally exhausted, we were still sad to know it was ending. It is hard to say, we will definitely be back. It’s a big world with many exciting places to see. But there was something very special about Tanzania, so we wont say never!