We leave the Manor around nine the next morning, waved off by Margaret and some of the other members of the staff. We don’t have to fly to our next park, this time we drive from Karatu to Tarangire National Park. It is supposed to be about an hour and half drive. We pass the town of Karatu and Lake Maranyara. We see more amusing signs driving thru the towns. The people at the Manor must have talked to Moudy as his driving style has improved.Before we know it we enter the gates of Tarangire National Park and after Moudy has picked up the passes we enter the park. We can expect all the usual animals in Tarangire, but it is best known for its colony of elephants, over 4,000. Moudy explains that we will do a game drive before we go to Treetops for lunch.
It is chilly this morning and partly cloudy. We have barely entered the park, after passing a couple if zebras, when we meet the first elephants hanging out under the trees; a couple of big bulls, quietly eating away. A little further down the road we come across several elephants lying down to sleep. I have never seen elephants lie down and we watch in fascination when one of them starts getting up
Next we pass a family of black-faced monkeys jumping and fooling around in a tree next to the road. More elephants follow. They are on the intersection of the road just ahead of us. It’s a big herd, mostly mommies and babies. We are so close that we have to switch from our zoom lens to our normal lens to take pictures. I am happy, I had wanted to come to this park especially for the elephants and to have this many this close is a dream come true. We snap away. I take close-up after close-up of the babies, who look at us with their droopy, and – what looks to me – unarming and somewhat sad eyes. The adults don’t seem to mind us. They are alert and keep an eye on the babies, but stare into the camera too. They have eyes that are soulful, in them it is almost as if you can read “we have seen too much, we remember everything.” And from what we have been told, they do have an amazing memory and know that people have killed them and their babies for centuries, so they have every right to be wary. Reluctantly I agree to move on. If it was up to me, I could sit here and watch them all day.
We pass our first baobab, or “upside-down” tree. They are very big and in their own way beautiful. The landscape in Tarangire is different again from the previous parks. More bushy than the plains of the Mara and although there are mountainous areas, it’s also different from the Serengeti. The color of the soil is redder, giving it a more rugged feel. We cross a river, which at this time of the year is not a big deal as the water is very low. We cannot imagine you could cross here in the wet season. We watch a lioness sunning herself on a rock in the distance and several more groups of zebras, giraffe and elephants. The sun is starting to burn of the clouds and it looks like it will be a warm afternoon after all. After having driven around for a couple of hours, Moudy tells us we will soon leave the park and go to our next camp, just outside the park, for lunch. After we leave the park ( we don’t see any difference except that we passed a gatehouse where Moudy showed our papers) we pass several Masai settlements. When they see the car coming, the kids all come running and beg us for money.
About half an hour after leaving the park, we arrive at our destination: Treetops Hotel. We are welcomed by Lauren, the manager, who tells us lunch is ready for us as soon as we are settled in. We sit down in the open lounge area and Lauren serves us drink from the nectar from the baobab tree while giving us an introduction. Like the other 2 camps, the whole camp is built from tents. The lounge and restaurant area is built around an enormous baobab tree, with a terrace and swimming pool in the front. Lauren tells us there are a hundred bats living in the tree, which come out every night at sunset. She explains to us the daily routine of the place: breakfast from 6.30, lunch – if we are not on a game drive – pre dinner drinks at 6.30 followed by dinner. She tells us we can walk around freely during the day, but at night we need to be escorted. By now we are familiar with the routine. We are dying to see our accommodation; we still don’t know if it is a tent or a tree house, so when Lauren tells us to follow the 2 Masai that will carry our luggage to our room, we eagerly follow them. We follow a narrow gravel path and see the first glimpse of the accommodation: an individual tent constructed as a tree house. We can’t hide our excitement and by the time we climb up the spiral staircase of tree house number 10, we can’t help but giggle. We enter our tent through a solid wooden door and we enter a room that is half circle/L-shape. The floor is wood and the whole room is surrounded by a deck, with chairs overlooking the wilderness from just outside our tent as far as our eyes can see. The outside is made of tent material and completely open, except for the screens to keep out the insects. There are 2 beds, a shower, an antique desk. It is absolutely stunning. Quoting Mandi: “one of the advantages of being an adult is that you can make your childhood dream come true…..I always wanted to sleep in a tree house.”
We quickly unpack and walk back up to the restaurant for lunch. It is 1.30 by now and we are hungry. We are greeted by Charles our waiter who shows us our table in the open air restaurant. Our 3 course menu is displayed on the table. We start with a tomato mozzarella salad and for our main course we decide to have the African wrap, which is delicious: a wrap with minced beef in a light spicy sauce. Although we had promised ourselves we wouldn’t eat everything, we cannot resist. Trying to make up for it we skip dessert. After lunch we happily settle ourselves at the pool for some r&r.
Moudy insist on doing an afternoon drive. We try to convince him that we are perfectly fine relaxing by the pool until dinner as we already have a night drive anyway, but he won’t hear it. So we drag ourselves back to our treehouse to change in our safari gear, plaster on a new layer of insect repellent and get back into the jeep. It is still early and hot and as we feared, no animal in sight. They are all hiding in the shade taking their afternoon nap. If we would have been smart like them we would have too. Back at the camp, we are just in time for happy hour. Lauren brings us a glass of wine and we relax while watching the sun set over the pool and bush behind it. They have set up tables for dinner around the pool, so from the lounge we move to our table for dinner. We enjoy another excellent meal but are eager to finish as we have our night drive tonight. When we get to the car we realize it is just the two of us, our guide Ndossi and a Masai. It is pitch dark by now and in order to see the animals, we have a big flashlight with us. We have barely left the camp when Ndossi points at a small animal on the side of the road. It is a striped hyena and apparently very rare to see it. A little further we spot something running along the road in front of us. It’s an African fox. We stop at a clearing and Ndossi turns of all the lights and points out the different stars. We are in the Southern hemisphere and the sky is completely different from what we are used to.
We see several gazelle and dick-dicks before we return to our camp. It has been another long day and after a nice and hot shower we roll into our beds and are asleep within minutes, but not for long…. I wake up in the middle of the night by a sound. I listen and realize something is shuffling around our tent. Curious I put on my glasses and get up. I carefully walk towards the deck and try to make out what is outside in the dark. I see a silhouette and initially think it is a tree, but then I realize to my excitement that it is a giraffe. She is right outside our treehouse, calmly eating from a tree overhanging our tent. I shake my head in amazement before I carefully tiptoe back to bed as not to scare her.
The next morning we leave again for a game drive. The morning is slow. We drive along a big swamp and see tons of elephants but all far far away. I am getting irritated. I had hoped to see some more animals and not miles away, but some more up close and personal encounters. This is our last day of safari and I don’t want it to end like this. Luckily after another 45 minutes or so, Moudy seems to get tired of the swamp as well and we head towards the river. My prayers must have been heard: soon after leaving the swamp we run into a big group of elephants. They are at the side of the road, eating away and don’t seem to be bothered by our presence. We manage to take some amazing close-ups again.
Moving on we run into an eagle on the side of the road. At closer look we realize that he is sitting on his prey, a dick-dick, that is still fresh and bloody. We can hardly believe that a bird can kill an animal that size, but he did. We contemplate that being a dick-dick or a squirrel, means being at the absolute bottom of the food chain. Our next encounter is a group of black-faced monkeys frolicking around in a tree, before we stumble upon a dazzle of giraffe, next to the road and on the road. Another great close-up moment. As bad as the day started, things are definitely looking up and the smile is back on my face. It is not a wasted day after all. We meet some zebras on the road in their funny line-up that by now we have become used to. These animals have been growing on me during this trip and I really think they are beautiful and elegant. We see several herds of wildebeest and notice that they are different coloring from their brothers and sisters in the Serengeti.
Almost as if arranged as the grand finale of the day, we run into another big herd of elephants. A couple of bulls, mommies, children and a couple of really young babies. First they are next to the road, on one side of the car. We have to be quiet and careful. The females are definitely trying to shield the babies from us. It’s a very big group and part of them start crossing the road behind our jeep. Now we are surrounded by them: they are on both sides of the jeep as well as on the road just behind our jeep. It is magnificent. The babies and young elephants are adorable, the adults impressive and majestic. I am taking pictures but also just sit and watch them. This is a dream come true. Elephants have always been one of my favorite animals but this trip I have fallen in love all over, especially with the babies, they are so innocent and unarming, I wish I could bring one home.
I could not have wished for a better ending of last game drive and although I don’t think I will ever get tired of watching the animals and I could drive around all day, I am happy and don’t mind that we are driving back to Treetops for lunch. We decide to be good today and don’t have the starter or dessert, but we both can’t help finishing the whole Chappati wrap they serve us again. After lunch we sit down on our deck. Time to reflect and continue to write down all the experiences from the past couple of days.
This evening before dinner we have a walking safari. We are accompanied again by Ndossi and the same Masai. Ndossi carries a big rifle, the Masai only his spear, but according to Moudy, Masai warriors can fight like wild animals and lions are scared of them. We feel safe. Ndossi drives to the river, where we are greeted by a colony of baboons. Ndossi points at the elephant tracks and fresh dung and tells us they were here not too long ago. We walk in the dried up river bed following the tracks for a while and after that we watch an amazing sunset fall over Africa and we understand when Ndossi tells us he loves his country and never wants to leave. We don’t want to leave either but unfortunately this is the end of our safari. Our last night we have cocktails in the bar with Lauren and after that there is a special African night with buffet dinner and Masai dance performances. I wake up again in the middle of the night, this time the sound is not as gentle and it feels like an army is trashing around our treehouse. Quietly I get up again. This time it is not a giraffe, but an elephant, tramping around in the bush next to our tent, breaking off twigs of trees eating her way through the bushes. I like to think that we got a special goodbye from my friends on our last night and this gets confirmed further when in the morning we have elephants just outside the pool when we arrive for breakfast. After breakfast, we say goodbye to Treetops. It has been wonderful. Moudy drives us to Arusha where we board our flight to Zanzibar.
Compared to our safari adventures our last 2 1/2 days on Zanzibar are quiet and uneventful, but nevertheless beautiful and just what we need for a couple of days. We agree with CondeNast that the beach at Breezes resort is spectacular and for the next 2 days we are happy sitting there, reading, writing, dreaming. We have never seen sand so white and water so clear green and blue. Our hotel is a bit disappointing. The room is ok, but nothing spectacular, but then we have been spoiled in our previous 4 accommodations, who were all spectacular. We were promised views of the ocean, instead we look out at a small garden and a wall from the next door buildings. But the trip we make to “the Rock” makes up for it. I had seen a picture of this restaurant called “the Rock” on Pinterest months before and we had decided that if possible we would go eat there while in Zanzibar. The restaurant happens to be only 10 minutes by taxi, so we have the hotel make reservations for lunch and we were on our way.
What a fantastic place it is. From the beautiful location and settings, to the relaxing service we receive. We are greeted and guided to the outdoor terrace for cocktails. When our starter is ready we go inside to our table at the open window. After our starter we go back outside and relax until our main course is ready. After lunch we linger some more on the deck, reluctant to leave. We finally drag ourselves up and climb down the stairs and wade back to the beach. Instead of taking a taxi, we decide to walk back along the beach. It can be a bit tricky with the tide, but we are lucky, it is low tide today so we can make it back without having to swim. It takes us an hour and half, which is perfect as we are walking of the calories we consumed during lunch.
Our adventure has come to an end and with a sad heart we leave Africa the next day, but the memories remain in our minds and hearts forever. I am sure I will be back as I know now that I have Africa in my blood.