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At Simba Public Campsite in Ngorongoro Crater we were staying in a tent and bush pigs sniff around looking for food at night and can eat through the tent to get anything that they smell. We had to place all our lotions, toothpaste, anything with slight odor into the car so that they would not be attracted to our tent. Once in the night Bonnie felt something pushing from outside the tent but our light could not see the outline of an animal. After some figuring we think it was the wind since the top of the tent was pushed in also.

After a hurried breakfast of boiled egg, toast, coffee, fruit at 6 a.m. in the chilly, humid, open dining area, we set off to drive the precarious, winding, two-lane, rocky road into the heart of the crater. Birds sing from deep below us, and we peer through the eerie fog as the sun climbs over the crater rim, too misty for photos.
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The Maasai villages surrounding the crater outside the rim were awakening. We saw a few adults, wrapped in their brilliant red plaid blankets, waiting beside the road for transportation. In villages of round clay houses with straw roofs we saw the herds locked into their brush and stick barricade corrals for the night and herders getting ready to take their flocks to pasture.

Cactus-like trees, euphobia candelabria, and yellow, tall grass mix with brown deciduous shrubs are beside the road and up the steep volcano sides, and acacia trees are below. We see a lake and winding stream deep in the heart of the crater where we are headed to see the animals.
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As we reach the bottom of the bowl of mountains it is dry-looking with short, sparse grass, grazed down during the long dry period. In the rainy season and for a few months afterwards this entire crater is teeming with literally millions of animals of various species. We find only stillness and total quiet, and we fear we will see nothing today, but Manase, our guide, knows there are thousands of permanent residents of the crater, which he will find for us.
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The crater floor 600 meters below the rim is flat with black lava soil in places and gray sand in others. Now near the end of the dry season it still has thousands of acres of short, thick grass across the nineteen kilometers of the diameter. Its 294 square kilometers are criss-crossed with animal tracks, which look like motor cycle paths. Man has intersected the peaceful crater with five roads, which wash away in the rainy season and must be regraded in the same place again.
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As we drove farther into the vastness we saw crown cranes, zebra, and antelope. Lake Magadi is a salt lake within, and the flamingos love it. Other animals drink only at the inlets where the fresh water flows into the lake from Munge River. The air feels and smells so fresh and pristine. At another place we watched steam rise from the hot waters and mud whose waters come from hot volcanic springs deep below. Here we saw a big secretary bird and a spotted serval cat with a tiny head prowling stealthily through the tall grass.
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Then we came upon huge herds of zebras, then wildebeests, then herds of both together stretching as far as we could see, going to the fresh water river to drink. Some hundreds waded in while the others waited, and suddenly all galloped back from something that threatened them near the water. Down-river right beside the road we saw a pride of female lions and one cub watching the drinking place, perhaps planning a kill.

On the other side of the road a male and female lion sat facing each other. Manase says they have paired off to mate but will sit together like this for six or seven days away from other lions before actually mating. A wedding ceremony!
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The picnic area was very nice with a clean bathroom (real, flush toilets and running water for sinks) and was by a lovely blue lake, edged with huge cattails and tropical vegetation. Hippos lolled about with noses, eyes and little piggy ears sticking out of the water. An elephant in the distance up the hillside started our way, and as we watched he sauntered into the picnic ground, past our car, and on through. I was not afraid to be out taking a picture, but the guide made me get into the car.
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We spent all morning looking for the elusive rhinoceros who live here, some white and some of the nearly extinct black ones, but we were so disappointed …the last of the Big Five for our safari, and they are usually here, but it seems we will miss them.
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We saw many other interesting sights including two male wildebeests fighting. We passed the hot volcanic waters steaming their mist past animals who came to drink for salt and minerals. We traversed the five roads in the crater with no rhino sightings, so we headed to the picnic area and bathrooms at Monkey Pond. Little vervet monkeys greeted us, and another guide told us he had found the rhinos! We drove straight to the traffic jam of eager tourists with binoculars and cameras and spent about 20 minutes trying to locate them. Finally Manase found one far across the field in a group of trees, and she and her baby walked out for our photo. We were so thrilled! The Big Five!!! Manase felt very happy and successful as a guide, completing his work to perfection and far exceeding our expectations.
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Our tent the men setup for us here at Simba Public Campground is the same as last camp and they have to load and reload it each time we move. It is really spacious. Last night was very cold, but we had plenty of warm layers and our own sleeping bags over the clean ones Abrojaley provided.
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Then Fulgence prepared a delicious meal of steak shish kabob and fried vegetable pies in crisp, handmade pastry, prepared all by lantern light and baked in foil beneath hot charcoals. For toast he devises a grill top with a fence wire of two-inch squares as the grill surface. For frying and boiling he uses a large propane burner inside a big basket! How does he do it? Our meals have all been totally fresh, varied, really delicious and healthful. Planning and packing for a week of camping must have been horrendous, but Abrojaley Africa Ajabu Tour Company can take groups up to 80 people, using a large staff and several vehicles and a truck for provisions. They have cheerfully provided for our every need, even ones we had not anticipated like ginger tea for stomach problems. Ours is the budget tour, the cheapest of any in Tanzania, but this is the most authentic way to see the natural setting and animals up close in early morning and late evening. Abrojaley Africa Ajabu Tours can also arrange middle priced or elaborate tent set-ups. In the public campgrounds we were in, the animals roam freely but seldom pose a danger. Abrojaley can also offer accommodations in the elaborate hotels and lodges near each park. However, those are removed, and the travel back and forth into the Parks makes the best viewing of animals, early morning and late afternoon, impossible. It is the choice of each travel group. For campers, the food, by Abrojaley’s private chefs, is all freshly prepared and can meet any dietary needs and preferences. In the lodges and hotels the food is more institution type, often from frozen foods.
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We were so glad we roughed it in the public campground and tents, but really who can call the excellent guide service, provisions, and wonderful private chef a way of “roughing it?” And had we not been in the campground we would not have had the aggravating thrill of running out of water during a shower, only to see an enormous elephant lift the top off the cistern with his trunk and drink the bath water supply dry!!! We were almost close enough to touch him as we took photos. We asked why the guides didn’t chase them away and the reply was, “The animals own our National Parks. We are the intruders here.” Wow! That’s wonderful Tanzania!!!
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Oral History Of Ngorongoro and Serengeti:

HOW THE MASAI DISCOVERED NGORONGORO (by Abdul Meena):
Masaai lived along the Nile valley with their livestock in Kenya at a place known today as the ‘’Maasai–Mara’’ area. At about 200 years ago, there was a heavy drought and no green pasture for their livestock. One day in the afternoon ,elders were resting under an acacia tree discussing issues about the drought that was going on and that they had to sacrifice a sheep and a goat for their God ‘’Engai’’to pray for rain as their cattle were seriously affected by the drought.

While deep in thoughts, one elder saw a weaver bird with a green leaf carried in its mouth for weaving a nest. This was arriving from south and heading North. This was really amazing to him and drew the attention of the other elders to observe that bird with a green leaf in its mouth. The bird disappeared to the north leaving the Masai elders in a surprise and with a question mark as to where did the bird get the green leaf?

The elders agreed to send the warriors to the south to survey for his country in the south with green grasses.The morning of the next day, summoned by the Laibon (Maasai chief),the elders decided that in the south there must be a country with rainf. After a long discussion, they all agreed to contribute one goat each as food for the warriors who were to go south for unknown days and months to discover this country.

Families sent their sons for this expedition and prayed for them not to fall into hands of their enemies. Expectation was to see them back alive with good information about that unknown country in the south. Before starting the journey to the south, they performed a comunual scarifie to their God ‘’Engai’’ seeking purity and guidance from him, for their warriors going south. The following day all the villagers gathered at their meeting ground to say farewell to the warriors. Prayers were said ,and after that they shook hands and they were warned of two things.:one, in the first two days they should not look back ;and secondly, in case one goat or sheep escaped and ran off, they should not run after it and bring back to the herd, as that is needed by God ‘’Engai.

The warriors started their journey quietly and silently without looking back. They had with them big herds of goats and sheep as they were the only means of food. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. They counted a week by using red beads and black beads to represent months while white white bids represented days. For example, when you had put a side one black bead with two red beads mixed with fours white beads meant, one month, two weeks and four days. In this way they could know the number of months, weeks and days already traveled.

At one black bead, one red bead and three white beads, they arrived at Serengeti .It was an endless plain with a lot of game. They named it ‘’Siringit,’’ which in Maasai language means ‘’enormous endless plain’’ It was wet with still some semi-green grass, probably in May–June. They saw big herds of a wild black cows with beards and named it ‘’eng” (meaning a Plain cow which is always in motion.) The warriors continued south, arriving at Ndutu at ‘’one black bead, two red beads, and one white bead “… one month, two weeks and one day.

They were amazed for seeing a lake ‘’magat’’ and water in the plains. They thanked ‘’Engai for showing them this nice place and named it ‘’endut,’’ meaning a place with a lake with water in the plains. They did a sacrifice and continued south following a gorge which brought them to ‘’oldugai,’’ meaning a country with sisal plants. It was now ‘’one black bead, two red beads and three white beads’’. While grazing their decreasing herd of goats and sheep, to the south they saw a heavy cloud like a heavy smoke. They did not know what it was. They thought of a heavy bush fire but had no flames and the bottom of the cloud was black-greenish. They decided to follow that direction which, to their surprise, brought them to Ngorongoro highlands. As it was foggy and cloudy they could not see the volcano crater at their arrival. It was chilly and cold so they stayed in caves in the highland forests.

For them it was a miracle, a wonder that their God will to show them that cold ever-green country. They thanked their Engai for that great discovery which was the purpose of their journey south and did a sacrifice. The next day was a clear sunny day. They walked around in the forest and with a surprise they came into an open place and saw a flat country with white, dusty soil way below the deep walls around. This country at a distance looked barren with no living creatures. They then struggled to get a way leading down into this new country and later they found what looked like an animal track going down. They then followed this track and come to the floor of this new country. To their surprise, this was a flat country with no trees, except a small forest of yellow-fever acacia (acacia xanthophloea) which they named the ‘’Lerai.’’ They called the lake the ‘’magat lake,” which in maasai meant lake full of sodium bicarbonates. They surveyed the whole crater floor naming areas of interest by using Maasai names with life meanings. They named the whole area of ‘’Ngorongoro’’after their age group in Maasai language, which was the age group of “cow-bells.” They did this deliberately because of their great age group discovery of the area. It was now one black bead and three red beads exactly.

They were now tired after walking for one black bead and three red beads (one full month and three weeks) and needed a rest before starting a journey back home. They looked for a suitable place for that rest and only found a cave at the crater rim, which could accommodate sixteen people and not enough for the goat and sheep. They therefore built a boma (Kraal) for their animals outside the cave. They needed a cave as it was terribly cold, chilly and foggy. They rested for ten white beads which were equivalent to one red bead and three white beads meaning one week and three days. It was now about two black beads zero red beads and one white bead, meaning two months and a day since they left home. They then started their journey back, following the same route, which they had marked when coming. This time it was a slow journey as they were tired and exhausted. They had only five goats left as their means of food. They were around hilly naked rock outcrops, which they named Moru meaning old men, as they looked like bearded old men standing in the plains. They found a nice warm cave in which they stayed for a couple of days resting. They painted it as a sign of recognition on their way south with their herds of livestock. The rock paintings are still seen there to date at Moru Kopjes. They are now known as Maasai rock paintings. For them two black beads and one red bead had passed. They headed north for days, sheltering themselves in caves for nights until they reached home at two black beads, and four white beads. They were worn out. They needed a complete rest to recover from such a long journey on foot.

Before being allowed in they had feet washed out so to get rid of any disease carrying bacteria to affect their livestock. This is now a common custom with Maasai for strangers and people who have come from a safari. They were allowed a rest before telling a story about their journey and their findings. They told the elders about the great river that never dries, which they named Mara after their elders; about the endless plains in the south, which they named “Siringi;’’ about the wet highland forests, which they named Ngorongoro after their age group; and about the lowland with a lake surrounded by the wet forest, which they named ‘’engitati’’ after the wide waist belt worn by elders’ women. This lowland country was later called the ‘’crater.’’ A day of starting the long journey there was fixed, and each family was asked to prepare well for it. Donkeys were equipped to carry their possessions and the old people and the babies. Sacrifices were performed to ask for Engai’s guidance.

The organization was like this, half of the youths with spears to be ahead surveying and looking for enemies. A day’s interval after them followed herds of livestock driven by youths. Calves and some of the goats and lactating cows followed behind them, and these were under the control of the women children elders and whoever got tired or sick. As this journey to the south was very slow because of many stops to allow livestock to rest and graze, days became weeks and weeks turned into months until they finally arrived at the Ngorongoro highlands, where they settled and are there still, saying ‘’Engai is great for his guidance.”

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We could have chosen to balloon ride over the vast Serengeti National Park of Tanzania and taken it easy, just floating along, but how much we would have missed! As Abdul Meena, owner of Abrojaley Africa Ajabu Travel Company, who planned our whole trip for us, said, “You write Real Travel Adventures, so I’m giving you a Real Travel Adventure. If you stayed in the beautiful hotel lodges or fixed permanent tentcamp sites you would miss so much, because these are outside the parks and you would spend half of each day just traveling in and out to find the best viewing areas to see the animals.” And he was SO RIGHT! We had the most wonderful adventure, and here is how we slept: in the middle of the National Parks in public campgrounds that had adequate restrooms (some even better than primitive camping in the United States.) Although our experience of sleeping in tents prior to this were quite limited, we were so tired and happy by the time we hit our sleeping bags in early evening we went sound asleep, not even afraid of the animals that roamed freely through the campgrounds in the darkness.
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We traveled in a very comfortable and completely outfitted Toyota Land Cruiser Safari SUV, with our superb and knowledgeable personal driver/guide, Manase, and our excellent cook/chef, Fulgence, who work for Abdul.
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90,000 tourists visit the Serengeti each year. It encompasses 30,000 square kilometers, the size of Ireland or Connecticut. The flora and fauna are some of the oldest on earth and have remained virtually unchanged in millions of years. The boundaries of the park itself, some of which extends beyond Tanzania into Kenya, was set by the migratory route of the Wildebeests, who have made this their home and remained the same in body structure for over two million years. Archeologists have discovered evidence of humonids who walked upright and made stone tools three and a half million years ago in the Olduvae Gorge, which is also part of the park.
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The Serengeti was the original tribal home of the Maasai People, who still have grazing rights for their flocks, and their stick and mud hut villages dot the Conservation Area nearby. Two World Heritage Sites and two Biosphere Reserves are in the Serengeti, truly one of the most treasured places on earth. We were in awe throughout our entire stay.

The migration of herds is one of the things that makes the Serengeti so fascinating. Over a million wildebeest and about 200,000 zebras move from the northern hills to the southern plains for the short rains every October and November, and then they migrate west and north after the long rains in April, May and June. But any time of year you can see hundreds of these animals because some are permanent residents of the plains, which can support them even in the dry periods.

Tanzania is one of the most stable and safest, though one of the poorest countries in Africa, and they take their tourist safety and the preservation of their wildlife and land just as seriously. They have worked hard as a nation and as individual tour companies to be sure that the tourists help them protect this wondrous place, Nature’s gift to the earth. Safari cars can only go on designated dirt roads, and people can only get out of the vehicles at designated picnic, restroom, and campground places. Though poaching still happens sometimes, the animals own the Serengeti, and people are just guests, who must help the locals honor and protect their environment and its wildlife.
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Even though it was near the end of the dry period when we were there in October, the huge herds of wildebeest still found plenty of food and looked healthier than the domestic animals we saw in other places. These strange looking animals are well adapted to the climate and migrate over a thousand kilometers when necessary to find food. The herds we saw live permanently in these plains, where the small river is enough for them in the dry period.
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One early morning we were privileged to happen upon five cheetahs surrounding a herd of gazelles and carefully stalking and singling out one weak one to kill and devour. It was a gruesome site to witness the actual kill, but this is the survival of the fittest, the law of Nature. However, it was fascinating to watch the cheetahs work together because alone, a cheetah cannot outrun a gazelle. Our guide explained that the meat-eater animals in the wild never kill except to eat, and when they are satisfied they go long periods before another kill. They only kill the weakest or oldest animals, which keeps the herd strong. We saw one dead fawn, which had been hit by a car, and the mother was standing by it in obvious mourning. Manase explained she will stay there about 24 hours, until the vultures arrive. Other predators do not eat animals they have not killed themselves; they somehow know it could make them sick. Thus, the carrion-eaters play an important role.
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Even in the dry period there are lakes and mud holes abundant in the Serengeti plains, and the hippos were by the hundreds. It was amazing to watch them as they fought over territory, but never really hurt each other, just declared power like the above photo. Hippos cannot swim; they merely loll in shallow water and mud. There so many they appeared to be big rocks when we saw them in their favorite spots.
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The easiest way to tell a leopard from a cheetah is leopards climb into trees with their kill, so no other animal will steal it from them. We saw several leopards, some awake and alert in the branches, others sleeping soundly after being sated, with the remains of their kill beside them on a limb.

We saw a huge herd of over 600 Cape Buffalo wandering along together in search of water. Since we are used to Texas cattle country, we could not help likening it to the movemnet of a herd of domestic cattle. It couldn’t quite register in our minds that these are some of the most feared and deadly animals in the bush. Their mighty horns are lethal. But while we watched they appeared very docile, some lying down to rest while munching grass, or hundreds ambling slowly along in a cloud of dust.
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“Life has meaning only in the struggle. Triumph or defeat is in the hands of the Gods. . . So let us celebrate the struggle!” Swahili Warrior Song. And surely the people of Africa, we learned first hand, struggle in a way that is almost incomprehensible.

After eight fantastic months of humanitarian work in South Africa and Botswana, we returned home to America with sobering thoughts of these wonderful people — and with many marvelous memories of working with them and of living in their beautiful land.

It has been written that Africa liberates the mind and, in a mysterious way, the continent certainly does heighten the senses. During our time there, we constantly saw the natural, bounteous beauty of this immense place juxtaposed against the intense sadness caused by poverty, crime, and disease. It is indeed a continent of contrasts.
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The Africans themselves, meanwhile, are a resilient people; they have to be to survive.
The capital city of South Africa, Johannesburg, is a city that captures all of this. It is said to be the city with the largest urban forest in the world. Once a grassland, now millions of trees add much beauty to the city, especially the jacarandas with their lovely lavender blossoms in the spring (our fall). We often walked to a nearby park that reminded us of a Monet painting with beautiful trees arching over the walkway. Nearly every day, glorious cloud formations overhead are like dense, white lambs wool resting on a blanket of pale blue. Much of this kind of beauty we found to be overwhelming.

Seeing the rich, rolling farmland of South Africa made it seem small wonder that the Dutch and the English settled here in the 1700’s and 1800’s – that they came and stayed. Some have called South Africa “the garden spot of the world.”Meanwhile, we learned that, if the opportunity arose, over 75 percent of South African blacks would emigrate to America (their #1 choice of the countries in the world where they might hope to live one day).

During a lunch break in our work there, we met and talked with two brothers, ages 14 and 12, who walked by our office each day. They attended one of the better Catholic schools in the city. They wore spiffy school uniforms and were definitely well-educated and “sharp” young men.
The older of the two said to us, “We see lots of American movies; is that what America is really like?”

We wish we could explain to the whole world, as we did to those two boys, that very little of what America is like is reflected in much of the “garbage” we export to other countries – and to our own people — in the way of films. We told them, “No, that’s not what America is like,” and they replied, “We didn’t really think so.”

Much of our welfare/humanitarian work involved helping people get jobs and/or improve their work-related skills, as well as efforts helping an orphanage run by the Salvation Army.
When we had some time off, we took the opportunity to see what we could of the country, including a trip to the beautiful city of Cape Town.One of our most delightful experiences was a day on safari in Kruger National Park. A safari has been referred to as a journey through a zoo without bars. We would define it more as trip through an immense tract of land set aside to protect Africa’s incredible wildlife.

Named for the famous Dutch settler, Paul Kruger, the park is the size of the state of Rhode Island and is totally fenced. Inside that protected area, nearly every wild animal indigenous to South Africa roams freely and can be observed in their wild habitats by visitors from around the world.
Other popular game reserves include Pilanesburg, the closest to Johannesburg, and several others near Cape Town.

During our Easter weekend visit to Kruger (about 5 hours east of Jo’burg), we had to leave the town of Nelspruit at 4 a.m. in a heavy rain storm to drive an hour and a half to the gate, then queue at the entrance along with several hundred cars. Once inside the park, we were thrilled to drive along the well-maintained roads in what we called “poop loops” because of all the animal droppings along the way.

Within a short time, we saw a big brown elephant about ten feet off the side of the road feeding in some dense bush, several giraffes gnawing on nearby trees, herds of zebra and wildebeests grazing together along with a hippo, a wart hog, and even a family of baboons (15-20 of them) that crossed the road right in front of our car. The old “papa” of the clan lumbered along behind the mamas and babies, none of them in any hurry at all.

We drove off on one of the many dirt roads to see the largest baobab tree in this part of Africa. The baobab is also known as the monkey bread tree. It has an enormous trunk, sometimes measuring 36 feet or more in diameter and can grow to 75 feet in height. Baobabs are among the oldest trees in the world, living 2,000 years or more. They have been revered for centuries by the African people.

There is simply something unbelievable about seeing and being close to the some of the most exotic wild animals in the world. Another reserve we visited was the delightful Elephant Sanctuary at Hartebeesport just north of Johannesburg. Here we had the fun of taking an elephant for a walk – if you can imagine leading an elephant around by his or her trunk. At this place we came to appreciate how these huge creatures live and how they react so gently with humans.
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All in all, we feel blessed beyond measure to have had this almost surreal, yet wonderful opportunity to serve in a land so far away, among a people whose lives are so much different from our own. We feel we did some good and are grateful to feel we have touched many lives for the better. We also feel blessed to have seen a land of such great beauty, and we will always count this experience as one of the greatest and most rewarding of our lives.

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Can you even imagine living in your car at this place and conceiving and rearing three children here? That is how dedicated Louis and Mary Leakey were to their archeological research for the British Museum. They came to this site in 1923 and spent most of the next 70 years here, finding fossils 150 million years old, stone tools, animal and human signs. In 1960 their son Johnathan found a sabir toothcat fossil next to what Mary recognized as humanoid fossils.
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Ultimate finds in this Laetoli layer brought about their making one of history’s most important discoveries: The foot prints shown here were discovered in volcanic ash which had turned to stone. This find showed that humanoid beings, homo erectus, walked upright 3.6 million years ago. The Leakeys also found tools made by these humanoids.
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We picnicked at the crest of the plateau overlooking the Olduvai Gorge, which is a 30 mile long and 295 feet deep ravine in the Rift Valley in Northern Tanzania in the Eastern Serengeti Plain. The site is named for the stone tool technologies, called Olduwan, which were made 2,100,000 years ago until 15,000 years ago. These are among the oldest stone age tools ever discovered. There is even a stone dwelling 1.5 million years old. We owe much that we know about the Cradle of Civilization to the work of the Leakeys. The archeological research continues today and you can visit some of the sites.

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The little museum here has some interesting displays of fossilized animal and hominid remains with good explanatory signs in English and many photographs of archeologists at work. Discovery of wildebeest skeletons show that these animals have not changed in two million years. Although they are funny looking they are perfectly adapted to this environment.
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Just outside the museum are tables of crafts made by the Masaai tribe. It is a good place to make your purchases, as the prices are much cheaper than in some of the other places we saw the same designs for sale. And you can bargain with the native sellers.

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We left Haven Nature Campground in early morning to spend the day at Lake Manyara National Park. Our excellent guide/driver Manase, and our unsurpassable cook Fulgence, both from AbrojaleyAfricaAjabu Tours, were our leaders throughout our Tanzanian safari, and they are the BEST! This National Park is interesting because of its three different topographies: a tropical rainforest, the rift where the remaining very salty lake was once a sea, and the escarpment (600 meters high cliff mountains which rise straight up in a sheer rift that goes from Jordan to Mozanbique). The animals we saw here are in unique environments and some adapt to the very alkaline lake, which could be compared to the Great Salt Lake of Utah in the USA. Although the birds and animals must have fresh water to live, they come to the salty lake for minerals, so it is not unusual to see them nearby.
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We found more than 100 families of baboons to be the subject of much laughter, as they moved with their families from place to place, stopping to eat lice from the backs of each other or leisurely taking up the road for some playful fun while they blocked our car. The babies ride on the mother’s stomach or her back, depending on the terrain the mom is passing through. Vervet and blue monkeys swing through the ancient mohogany trees of the forest here. Compact enough to drive through it one day, this National park is 127 square miles and is a vignette of all the vast safari-scapes and animals of Tanzania.
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We saw shy water buck and bush buck, cape buffalo, and wildebeest, mostly in copses of trees. Giraffes and zebra could be seen in more open spaces of grassy plains that stretch eastward to the blue Masaai Steppes. Big warthogs and their families were often seen rooting about in the high grasses.
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Manase pointed out beautiful birds including silver-cheeked hornbills, little green bee-eaters, gray hornbils, laughing doves, spuri-winged plovers. This is an ornithologists’s delight because the park has over 400 species that migrate through here each year, and even the most amateur birders can spot many different kinds with brilliantly colorful plumage. You can’t miss the thousands of flamingos that flock through here. But the most fascinating to us was the hammerkup, who makes a huge nest with three compartments: one for adults, one for babies, and one for visitors!
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Have you ever been told that lions never climb into trees? Wrong! We saw three lions sleeping in acacia trees near the great floodplain, stretched out on the lower limbs but still about 25 feet above the ground. There are very few places in the world where one sees such a sight! There were also the adorable, tiny deer called dik-diks, usually curled up at the base of a tree and so camouflaged you had to look carefully to spot them. There were also many mongeese wandering around this area.
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Here we found our first hippos, and we counted fifty-three! They loll lazily in the muddy shallows of the rivers, which are now at the end of the dry season and provide a genereous location for such huge animals. Many had babies. A large group of local school children were there also taking in the wondrous sites at Lake Manyara. We had fun trying to be brave enough to dip our fingers into the nearly boiling hot springs that bubble out of the hill and lead to the lake.
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The visitor center here has wonderful displays with pictures and explanations about both plants and animals in the Park. The forest along the river has a board walkway so we could enjoy walking under the canopy of green. That was different from many of the parks, where the dry grasses compose much of the vegetation. The displays were very informative and beautifully done, making a captivating place to enjoy some time and to picnic. Within the National Parks no one is allowed to leave their vehicles, in order to protect the animals and the visitors.
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We took a September trip to Tanzania, Africa, for a wonderful week of safari in National Parks with AbrojaleyAfricaAjabu Safari Company, which we HIGHLY recommend. On our second day of safari Manase and Fulgence, our guide and cook, stopped in Arusha to buy food and water and fuel, so we got to see the town of about 400,000 people. It was a busy, colorful sight, with everyone smiling. With our Land Cruiser packed full of supplies, we headed to to Tarangire National Park, about two hours away.
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We saw small villages along the way with women dressed in brightly colored kangas and men in Western style clothes. At the entrance to the park we found modern restrooms in little huts that resemble Masaai village homes. I held my breath to go in, but what a surprise: spotless, western style toilets, tissue, and soap, and no one begging for money!
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We arrived at picnic time and Fulgence brought out an excellent, fresh lunch from the refrigerator built into the car. A little vervet monkey followed us into the picnic area and searched for crumbs, while we enjoyed the beautiful birds that came to drink in the puddle nearby. Manase could be an ornithologist, as he knows all the birds’ names and habits and calls, so he kept us learning throughout this meal.

We began our drive through the park and came to a field of many different kinds of animals, including wildebeests and zebras. Zebras stand side-by-side in pairs, each one facing in the opposite direction, so that they can protect each other by watching both ways. Each zebra’s stripes are unique marking from all others! The stripes act as insect repellent and sun protection. As we started our venture into the park I said, “Today I hope we see an elephant and a lion,” having no idea which animals to actually expect in this park.
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We rounded a bend in the road and immediately saw four pairs of elephants in the trees very near the road. One mother was fanning her baby with her huge ears to keep him cool in the noon heat. We had expected the temperatures to be oppressively hot, but we were delighted to find that for most of the day it was only in mid eighties Farenheit, comfortably warm. A very short drive farther we stopped an an overlook of a valley where 32 elephants were drinking from the Tarangire River! Wow! Talk about wish fulfillment!
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During the drive the road was fine dust but very smooth. We were at the end of the dry season, but the dust was not as bad as I had expected. Drivers are considerate and do not follow closely, and even with dust, the fresh air in the parks is much fresher than any city on any continent. Our afternoon was full of thrills at every turn: hundreds of zebras, thousands of wildebeests, over 200 elephants, groups of warthogs, many giraffes, adorable little dik-dik’s, a few waterbuck, many impalas, and on the only rocky ledge we saw a family of rock hyrax ground squirrels.
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Then I remarked to our driver/guide, “Manase, you have satisfied all our wishes except cats. I hope we see a lion this week.” Unbelievable, around the next bend were two female lions asleep in two trees, right across from eight elephants! We teased Manase that since these were right on cue they must be fake, like a Disney prop! One elephant sauntered across the road right in front of our car and stopped beneath t he lion in the tree, who was just awakening. I said, “The elephant must not see the lion. I’m afraid she will pounce down on him.” But Manase assured us that we could see the fear in the lion’s eyes and her stance. Lions are afraid of elephants!
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At sundown we drove to Haven nature Campground just between Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Park, where we’ll journey next. There were about 15 other campers there also. Each group had its own cook and table. We had a delicious dinner, freshly cooked by Fulgence while we took hot showers in the well-equiped bath house. Tired and happy we headed to the permanent tent of the campground and slept soundly in twin beds made up with fresh sheets and blankets and comfortable pillows. During the night we stepped out of our tent with flashlights to head for the restroom and were immediately quite frightened by a Masaii warrior who loomed what seemed to us seven feet tall in his read blanket and holding his stick, just behind us in the walkway. We were relieved to discover he was the night guard! This campsite and restrooms are clean and run very efficiently and conscientuously. The staff are friendly and warm. They understand and speak English and other languages, but when we asked a general question, they always answered in one or two words of Swahili, so we could learn basics…
Hello-sijambo; Thank you – asante; Good morning – habari za asubuhi; Good night – lala salama
and Goodbye – kwa heri

This campground was clean and comfortable with spacious tents and good beds. We recommend it for the budget traveler. The kitchen, which all the cooks shared, was clean and had several permanent staff to help. We slept well and peacefully until the whole campground started awakening with daylight about 7 a.m. Then we were off to Lake Manyara, which will be next month’s story.
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At the end of our photo safari to five national parks in the northeastern area of Tanzania we flew to Zanzibar, a popular place for tourists to relax after a safari, mountain climbing, or mission trip in Eastern Africa. It is an Island off the coast of Tanzania in the beautiful blue-green Indian Ocean with white sandy beaches. After we arrived we had car service to Nungwi Village, the resort area at the North end of the island, about an hour and a half from the airport.
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The drive is fascinating because you see the normal way of life of these island people as they walk along the small, narrow highway, carrying loads of produce to market or walking to school. Little houses and huts made of banana leaves or concrete are all along the road interspersed between areas of farmland and banana and palm groves. Women are dressed in colorful kangas and many are carrying heavy loads on their heads, walking leisurely and regally erect.
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This island was one of the ancient holdings of Arabs, and the Moslem influence is evident throughout, with women and young girls in head scarves and modestly dressed. The male dominance is sadly evident with women and children sitting on the sandy ground in front of houses or doing much of the manual labor while men languish in the market centers. But everywhere we saw big smiles on faces of every man, woman, and child. They are extremely friendly people and appreciate the many tourists.
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There are many hotels and resorts from which to choose, surrounded by walls to keep the tourist area contained and secure. Guards are evident within Nungwi Village because extreme heartbreaking poverty is just beyond the walls. We highly recommend the beautiful resort we chose, Z Hotel, with a beautiful, sandy, white beach and two excellent restaurants and bars which overlook the azure sea. The hotel is built on the extinct coral reef and beautifully located in Nungwi tourist area.
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The food at both restaurants is so tasty, and the presentation is lovely. We found all the hotel staff to be most accommodating and friendly. Our room was such a welcome place with our private garden patio. Fresh flowers were daily arranged on our bed, and the marble and stone bath and room were new, modern, and Western style. You’ll find the spa services so very relaxing.
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We loved our stay there. The Arab style Internet lounge is a restful place to relax and read magazines or visit with friends. The island is famous for SCUBA and snorkeling, and Z Hotel staff can arrange the best tours for this. Do not just take any boat on the beach for these experiences because some do not maintain their equipment well. A sunset cruise on a Dhou is really beautiful.
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A walk through the native village to the Mnarani Natural Aquarium is eye-opening to people from the Western world. The rustic way the poor people live is shocking, but they appear to be happy all the time. Children playing in the sandy streets with no toys at all, homes with no windows and doors, are drab in contrast to the colorful clothing and the beauty of nature all around. The Aquarium, which is beside the lighthouse, is in a natural tidal pool and is a haven for rescued Hawksbill and other sea turtles which have been injured in the nets of fishermen and would have died in the wild. They are nursed to health and restored to their birthplace when they are deemed safe.
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We enjoyed our visit to a spice farm in the Kizimbani area of the island, to see what the island was famous for. The interesting and informative walking tour taught us about many spices grown here. They are products of trees, bushes, vines, roots, and fruit. Cinnamon, garlic, tumeric, nutmeg and vanilla are among some we learned about and saw growing. Our guide gave excellent explanations of each variety, and as we walked, a young man followed making little baskets and other trinkets for us, weaving them from banana fronds. The tour ended with a young boy climbing high in a coconut palm with bare feet tied with a cord to get us a coconut, which he cut open with his machete so we could enjoy the sweet coconut milk. Then we had the opportunity to purchase packets of the fresh spices for ourselves and gifts. They are nominally priced and easy to pack in your suitcase.
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The other most famous tour in the island is the Jozani Forest National Park, the world’s only home of the red colobus monkeys. There we were guided through a beautiful mahogany forest, planted nearly a century ago, and then on a boardwalk through the mangrove forest, whose weird roots crawl out into the water in an eerie, horror movie sort of way. We had to watch for venimous snakes on the tour. To our delight, the next forest tour was the home of the strange, friendly monkeys: blue sykes and red colobus. They were adorable to watch in the trees, mothers and young together. Some even came down to the ground close enough to be petted, but safety of the visitor as well as the monkeys you should only look and not touch.
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Stone Town is the center of everything from government to market, and you’ll want a guide to lead you through the impossible maze of narrow streets dating centuries back to the time when the Arabs controlled the island. The entire town is a World Heritage Site with doorways that have prongs to keep elephants from pushing them down ages ago, gorgeous entry gardens, and scores of unique little shops. A huge local market, which is always bustling with hundreds of people buying their food for the day, is a colorful mess with foods of every type fresh from the sea, gardens, groves, and orchards.

Along the seafront is the old colonial center and a palace museum and a new park. The must see is the Anglican church built over the old slave market where East African natives were marched overland in shackles to be sold to Arabs.
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These people were cruelly treated and many died before reaching the market. It is a heart-breaking memorial. David Livingstone, an Englishman who spent many years teaching and exploring Africa, worked diligently to end the slave trade. He requested that at his death his body be returned to England but that his heart be buried in Africa, which he loved. A cross in this church signifies where his heart is buried. Near Stone Town you can tour the house where Livingstone and Sir Richard Burton lived.
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We left Zanzibar from the area of the new park where the ferry terminal is located. We returned to the mainland at Dar Es Salaam, the former capital of Tanzania, where most people enter the country, by air or by ship. It is the largest port city in Tanzania. We found Safari Solution Tour Company to be very helpful for all our needs in Dar, and we highly recommend our guide and driver there, Abel Clement Mpondo, who speaks good English and is smart and accommodating. The company manager, Joseph Esperansa is very efficient and helpful. Dar is a large city with many levels of hotels and restaurants. The ferry was a relaxing, two hours on the Indian Ocean on a modern ship filled to capacity. There are bathrooms and snack bar on board.
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As we circled to land at Kilimanjaro Airport, seeing the famous 19,341-foot (5,895 metres) high snowy peaks above the clouds was thrilling. The city of Arusha, about a half-hour away, has about 400,000 residents and a second airport for small planes. We were surprised by the choices of modern hotels, restaurants and shopping facilities, obviously serving many western ex-patriots and tourists. The city also has charming buildings and parks from the time of British colonial leaders, as well as many little shops and a huge market for the Tanzinian locals, many of whom come from surrounding tribal villages. The colorful mish-mash in the busy city streets made us wide-eyed with fascination. The women wore lots of beads with their two colorful, printed cotton kangas, the typical African dress of a shawl and skirt. As they walked along, erect as soldiers, chatting happily with their friends or holding a baby, many were balancing huge loads on their heads. Some men wore jeans and T shirts, but the most interesting ones were wrapped in bright blankets of different colored plaids, which indicated their tribes. Our main impression was the huge white smiles on the happy, black faces. Tanzanians seem to be perpetually happy as well as very welcoming to the thousands of visitors who flow through this interesting city each year to get supplies for safaris of all kinds. Of course, as in any city, one must be careful for pick-pockets.
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Our first day in Tanzania was a long one, having flown overnight from another part of Africa, but this first day of Safari was so very exciting. We went immediately from the airport to nearby Arusha National Park, the smallest of the National Parks in Tanzania and often missed. Abrojaley Africa Ajabu tour company, which planned our entire trip, provided the two of us an EXCELLENT guide, Manase, who drove us in a well-equipped and comfortable Toyota Land Cruiser very carefully over the bumpy terrain, which climbed quite high so we could have good views of the crater valley and the 4,500-metre peaks of Mt. Meru within the park. This park covers 137 square kilometres (52.0 square miles.)

The park is surrounded by thick forest reserves, which are soon to be protected within its boundaries. These consist of many ancient cedar trees, which serve as good cover for the herds of mountain elephants who eluded us all day, although we saw their tracks. These are smaller than the savannah elephants of other parks. But we did see many species of African wildlife as we traveled all day through this special preserve.
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We loved watching the black and white colobus monkeys, who resembled skunks, swinging through the trees. And our favorite was to laugh at the antics of the families of baboons who travelled the road with us and picked insects off of each other and ate them by the roadside. September was the season of many nursing babies, attached to their caring mothers. The interaction of the families was so similar to that of humans.
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Arusha National Park is in a densely populated area of Tanzania and is a great treasure to have been set aside as a preserve for the native animals and their natural, undisturbed habitats. The park includes the Meru Crater, an extinct volcano, where there are several lakes and the area is swampy. This attracts thousands of birds and over 400 species have been identified here, either residents or on migratory journeys. Manase could spot birds that we never saw until he carefully pointed them out, telling us all about their habits and having us listen to identify their calls. At home I can never seem to photograph a bird because they are too swift. Here they must be on the African pace of “pole-pole” (slowly, slowly, arrive home happy… a wonderful slogan to remember and follow!) We were able to get many good photos of the various, beautiful species because they seemed to pose for the shots.
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After riding all morning and seeing so much wildlife, I was getting hungry and realized we were miles from any store or restaurant and wished I had brought a candy bar and soft drink. Since this was our first safari day, we didn’t know what to expect, but no sooner than the idea had crossed my mind silently, Manase stopped at a nearly hidden picnic table and brought out individual picnic boxes of home-cooked and specially prepared meals for us. We had a delicious lunch of bar-b-cued chicken, a large sandwich, cookies, candy, fresh fruit, vegetables, hard-boiled egg, and bottled water! Each box held about twice as much food as we could eat, but it was delicious!

As we ate I spotted a yellow hornbill bird, which I had learned about in a TV documentary and was fascinated to be able to see it in person. I think it was a male, and as we watched this weird bird, he either brought food to place into the mouth of his mate who was sitting in the nest closed up within the hole in the tree, or he was cleaning the nest from the droppings of babies. We could not tell which, but he repeated the motions with his mouth the entire time we watched and photographed him along with some other tourists nearby. He was so intent on his job he never seemed to notice that he was the fascinating subject of many huge cameras pointing at him!
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We visited a small museum within the park and were able to learn the names of many birds and animals we could see here. The restrooms at the park entrance were amazingly pretty, clean, modern with western style flush toilets with paper, running water and soap. These are details every tourist can appreciate!
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As we bounced along through this park all day we saw herds of Cape Buffalo, giraffe, zebra, warthogs, and bushbucks and many other individual animals. We came to the Momella Lakes, which are highly alkaline and salty. Flamingos love the fine smorgasbord they find here and we saw literally millions of them. The flocks line the edges of the lakes, making a pink border. In one place we saw white flamingos swimming serenely like swans. This was a lovely scene to end our day, and Manase returned us to the city to meet the head of Abrojaley company, Abdul Meena. We found him to be very personable and friendly, as well as thoroughly knowledgeable of his country and all its wonders.
He shared with us his exciting plans for our week of Real Travel Adventures in Tanzania, and we were so keyed up we could hardly fall asleep. A wonderful beginning for our week of Safari.
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We fulfilled a long-held dream this year by going to East Africa for a Wildlife Photo Safari, and it was, perhaps, THE most amazingly memorable trip in all of our thirty-plus years as travel writers! We chose Abrojaley Africa Ajabu Company as our travel and safari planners, and Abdul Meena, founder and owner of the company, took complete charge of the planning for this exciting experience. Abdul grew up in Monduli, Tanzania, and is a well-educated and prosperous descendent of the Chagga tribe, which originated on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. He knows all of his country thoroughly from many trips throughout. He has traveled extensively around the world, speaks several languages fluently, and is an experienced travel arranger, as well a having a thorough knowledge and experience of being in the wild bush of Africa, sleeping under the stars and hiking mountains, rivers, plains, and valleys on foot. This extensive knowledge gives him the ability to plan African trips and safaris of all kinds for others in the most expert way.
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Abdul explained that he named his company Abrojaley, a derivative of the names of his family members, and Ajabu, which is Swahili for “surprise, wondering.” We asked Abdul what type of photo safaris he could arrange and outfit thoroughly. He explained: “We at Abrojaley Africa Ajabu are located in Arusha, Tanzania, a city of about 400,000 near Mt. Kilimanjaro. Our country is our specialty, but we can make all the arrangements for any type of safari our clients desire, not only in Tanzania, but also anywhere in Africa. We make plans over the Internet, by email, by phone, or by Skype, for clients all over the world, for any time of year.”

After carefully perusing his website, AbrojaleyAfrica.com , we selected the photo safari tour for Northeastern Tanzania, but we decided climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro was a little too strenuous for us (although his team has helped people older than we to reach the over 19,000-foot summit successfully.) We left the specific planning and execution entirely up to him, as long as he stayed within our designated amount of money for the trip and planned it for the dates we could go.

When we arrived at Kilimanjaro Airport we were greeted by his driver who took us to our special guide, Manase, who would become our expert leader and lifelong friend during the next exciting eight days and nights. A little later we met our chef/cook, Fulgence, who also traveled all week with Bill and me in the Toyoto Land Cruiser, specially built and equipped for African safaris, and became our special friend also.
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When we met Abdul Meena, he greeted us warmly and explained how he had planned our trip. ” We can plan and outfit any kind of safari for one to eighty people for any length of time. We can arrange the grand safari lodges and tent-camps for the most pampered and expensive stays, but these are outside of the National Parks and you don’t get the real African experience. You write Real Travel Adventures.com, so I’m going to send you on a REAL TRAVEL ADVENTURE that you will remember forever. Although this is the kind of safari that budget travelers can experience, it is the most exciting and, we believe, the most authentic way to know Africa. We will tend to your every need while you take pictures and memories to your heart’s content. You will enjoy the incredible African skies, day and night, and you will see the animals up close. You will have excellent meals, all individually prepared from fresh ingredients, specially cooked for you and according to any dietary needs or preferences you have. We guarantee the trip of a lifetime for you, and for all our clients. We have planned for you to go to five National Parks in Northeast Tanzania: Arusha, Manyara, Tarangire, Serengeti, and Ngorongoro Crater National Parks, and to the Oldavae Gorge where the Leakey’s discovered humanoid remains from about 3.5 million years ago, and to the Conservation Area where you will visit an authentic Maasai village.”
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Wow! we could hardly wait to get started. For the next few months these articles about Tanzania will tell all about these wondrous places we experienced. The first president of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, recognized the importance of Africa’s wildlife, not only for the future of all Africans, but also the rest of the world. In September 1961 at a symposium on the conservation of natural resources, he gave a speech that has become known as the Arusha Manifesto.

 

 

‘’The survival of our wildlife is a matter of grave concern to all of us in Africa.”

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“These wild creatures amid the wild places they inhabit are not only important as a source of wonder and inspiration, but are also an integral part of our natural resources and our future livelihood and well being. In accepting the trusteeship of our wildlife we solemnly declare that we will do everything in our power to make sure that our children’s grand-child will be able to enjoy this rich and precious inheritance.

The conservation of wildlife and places calls for specialist knowledge, trained man power and money .And we look to other nations to co-operate with in this important task, the success or failure of which not only affects the continent of Africa but the rest of the world as well’’.

 

 

VISION
To ensure sustainable conservation of National Parks’ resources and values for the benefit and enjoyment of the present and future generations of mankind’’

 
MISSION
To sustainably conserve the park’s resources and values for the benefit of all mankind through:
Protecting and regulating use of areas designated as National parks.
Selecting and recommending for gazettement areas of ecological, cultural and significance
Strategically managing a National system of parks that protect outstanding example of key ecosystems in collaboration with local communities.
Developing, managing and promoting tourism and other revenue generating activities for the benefit of all Tanzanians, the Africa continent and to the world at large.
Conservation for sustainable Development
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