East Africa Trip, April/May 2019

Our recent East African Safari tour to Zambia and Tanzania was a truly amazing trip, under the leadership of Geoff and our guide Tjomps, who represented the South African Tour Company – Landscape Tours.

We ‘morphed’ into a cohesive, happy group, excited about our forthcoming new experiences. Our first adventure together was the exhilarating walk along the Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia. Clad in raincoats, ponchos and hats, we watched in awe as the Zambesi River thundered over the lip of the chasm into Bakota Gorge ‘boiling’ to create one of the greatest natural spectacles of Africa. The locals call it Masi-oa-tunga, ‘the smoke of thunder’.

A series of what became known as ‘National Geographic moments’ had started. The second was in Flatdogs Camp in the heart of South Luangwa National Park, where we witnessed on our second evening safari, a leopard prowling in and around his territory after he’d hidden his kill of an impala high up in the tree. The next morning we silently observed him tracking a younger male up in a second tree and marvelled at this rare sight.

Our three days in Flatdogs consisted of early morning and evening safaris, when we were mesmerised by the following sights –  the giant elephants and their babies strolling across the road in front of us, the Crawshay zebras quietly munching the grass, the elegant Thornicroft  giraffes stretching up to eat from the trees, the playful impala with their tails whizzing around at what appeared to be 360 degrees, waterbucks ‘carrying their toilet seat’, pukus, baboons and a crocodile that had only just taken a baby hippo! These were more ‘National Geographic’ moments.

Crown cranes, egyptian geese, marshall eagles, the weaver birds and the sacred ibis were just some of the birds viewed and photographed. The ‘Birdie’ group was ecstatic and would continue to be throughout the whole trip.  Enjoying a gin and tonic or local beer while gazing across at the glorious sunsets over the hippo filled rivers was a special ending to each evening safari at Flatdogs.  Before leaving the local village, we listened to good stories about the progress of government sponsored antipoaching practices and the improvements in education programs. We were pleased to hear that 20% of our tourism money supports local projects. 

In contrast to the ‘wild life’ theme at Flatdogs, we spent time in historical Stonetown on the island of Zanzibar, in Tanzania. Our local guide, Musu took us to the Manango Spice Farm where we could smell/feel and taste spices. There we were adorned with palm leaf bracelets, ties and crowns.  In a local home, we were treated to a special lunch of pilau rice, yellow fin tuna, an eggplant sauce and tapioca leaves while sitting cross legged on the mat! A trip out to Prison Island for a swim and to see the giant tortoises plodding around was great. The tour of the Slave Trade exhibition was very moving and solemn due to the horrific stories and photos displayed. In Stonetown we learnt to say Hapana Asante – No Thank You – to sellers of wares! We also began using the greeting – Jambo Jambo – Hello.

After a few days on the north of the island at the Kena Beach House from where we visited their Mnarani Marine Turtles Conservation project followed by an unpressurised flight on a 13 seater Cessna Caravan to Arusha, we began our busy tours of four very special wildlife parks – Arusha National Park, Tarangire, Ngorongoro Conservation Park, Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater. It was here where we spied our first lions either perched high up on the rocks, resting up in the trees or lying near the side of the track. Cheetahs, giraffes and more loxodonto africanos (elephants) gliding past or in front of us, became a common sight. 

 It was while staying at Ndutu Safari Lodge in the Southern Serengeti where we witnessed the wildebeest migration – another ‘National Geographic’ moment. These beautiful creatures fascinated us as they ran and ran in lines seemingly to nowhere. Their migratory pattern of moving in a huge clockwise direction through the parks seeking water was something to behold!! They seek protection by living with the burchell zebras who warn them of predators. Our cameras were working overtime during these safaris! Baboons, warthogs, impalas, hippos and cape buffalos were still present. The masses of pink flamingos drinking by the lakes were a picture too. Spying a colombus (a black and white monkey with a long fluffy tail) high in the tree on the way home was another special moment. The giant baobab trees, the sausage trees and many termite mounds dotted the landscape. Catching the sight of a sandgoose, a yellow coloured lovebird, the snake eagle or the lilac crested roller, was mind blowing too. 

Driving through the wide open spaces of the Maasai people as they attended to their herds of goats and sheep or performed their daily jobs was most interesting. They are a tall thin people who dress very brightly, the young men wearing the blue or red cloth once they’ve passed through their circumcision stage of life.

Our guides were happy to report that they had one wife only as more than one was trouble and bearing lots of children was costly! However, most families appeared large and to be living in what we’d call difficult conditions.

All the lodges that we stayed in were set in very beautiful surroundings. The pool at the Serena Safari Lodge looked way out over the Serengeti plains and the balconies were positioned so we could view the beautiful sunsets or rises. Food such as kamulchari,(a salad) mchicha wa kukoanga (spinach), and kuku wa kupaka (chicken in coconut sauce ) was served together with regular western foods.

A trip to the Olduvai Gorge where we learnt of our ancestors’ origins was very informative. The people of Zambia and Tanzania with whom we talked were very proud of their countries and their progress. There is much to be done and a visit to Africa makes one aware of their need for much support.

Tjomps, our Landscape Tours leader, was knowledgeable and relaxed and was always available to help us with our many queries along the way. When flights were cancelled or plans changed, everyone cooperated and worked together. Geoff probably grew a few more grey hairs! Our sincere thanks goes to Geoff for all his hard work both before and during the trip. The overseas practice of tipping was made easier too, thanks to Marlene for collecting our money and then Tjomps tipping the guides and leaders for us. 

On departure day, we scattered to different places – one staying in Arusha to do voluntary work, three flying to Uganda to see the gorillas, one flying to Jo’Burg to see the sights, two flying to Nairobi to revisit a project they’re involved in and others flew home to beautiful Adelaide! Africa does get inside one’s soul and there it will test our thoughts, I believe. As a newcomer to ARPA’s big tours/trips I was very grateful for the chance to join the group and enjoy the ARPA companionship.