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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.
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.
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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.