A 1,300km Tanzanian Safari
I have the privilige of riding ‘The Beast’ Arthur's Honda 750 'Africa Twin' from Tanga, where Anjea is anchored, to Lake Natron in the Great Rift Valley, at the edge of the Serengeti.The crew for this trip consists of Arthur the Tanga Yacht Club Commodore, his wife Miriam and two girls Malaika and Marina, plus Roy and Gene, both crusty old single-handers like me. We are all indebted to Arthur for arranging this trip and including us in his wonderful family. I ride The Beast and everyone else piles into in Arthur's 4WD.
Along the way we stay a few days in the cold, wet, lushness of the Kilimanjaro foothills to visit Simon Mtuy at Mbahe Farm, from which we explore the southern foothills of Kilimanjaro, up to Marangu Gate, one of several gates leading to the official trails to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro. Simon is a force for good in this area and quietly plows his energy into many projects around his community. Mbahe Farm is a wonder of permaculture principles. Plots of vegetables mix cabbages and onions with banana plants and hydrangeas for a border. The green almost hurts and it extends as far as the eye can see, with all his neighbors having adopted the same permaculture principles. Coffee is a major crop, with avocados, stawberries, bananas and vegetables of every description. I was amazed to see the most lush Eucalyptus of my life, far greener and healthier than the stunted speciments in Australia.
After a few days with Simon we head north-west to Lake Natron Camp, and are welcomed by the owner Årke Lindstrom. Årke owns the business but not the land, which belongs to the local Maasai village, Ngare Sero, from which many of the staff come. Although it is a traditional village it is permanent, unusual for the nomadic Maasai. The tents at the camp are luxurious, with comfortable beds and ensuite. Despite the luxury Årke's philosophy is to tread lightly and the whole place can be returned to it's natural state in a few days.
Lake Natron is 25km long but only a couple of metres deep. It is close to full, meaning we are right on the shoreline. The birdlife is fantastic – gulls, terns, greater and lesser flamingos, pelicans, spoonbills, ibis and many others. Roy and Arthur are twitchers and very happy. We also see and hear a lot of other animals, from scorpions to hyenas.
In counterpoise with the lake is Ol Doinyo Lengai, Mountain of God, and it is truly spectacular. This is no ordinary mountain – it's an active carbonatite volcano spewing sodium carbonate based lava instead of silica based lava, and it is the ONLY such volcano on earth. The carbonatite is alkaline, giving the lake its extreme alkalinity. You can swim in it but it feels like laundry detergent. Despite this, fish are plentiful, birds come for the fish, and even the local animals can drink the water if they have to, so it's a magnet for wildlife.
Every evening Årke, Wilson, Gideon and the rest of the staff arrange sundowners at a different place. Some of these are quite remote and they go to a lot of trouble to arrange for cold beers, wine and nibbles when we get there.
Our few days at Lake Natron Camp are over and we head back to the outskirts of Arusha where we stay overnight at Timothy’s Ngare Sero Lodge on the slopes of Mt Meru. The name of the lodge is no accident as Timothy and his family also have strong connections with Lake Natron and the village of Ngare Sero – it is all connected.
Ngare Sero Lodge is colonial splendor. The grounds are a botanical wonderland set around a private lake. I swim in the pool before drinks on the patio and dinner. My bed is a four-poster in a private room overlooking the gardens, with a huge window to let in the view.
Next morning, after the best eggs benedict ever, I climb aboard The Beast for the last leg back to Tanga.
This has been a unique experience for me. I have Corona Virus to thank for the depressed state of the tourist industry in Tanzania making it possible for me to afford this safari. The people I met were all very special and were all truly African, no matter what color they were. If you have not yet visited this magical land, then do yourself a favor and come here. Only then will you truly understand why it is the cradle of mankind.
Please visit the Gallery for some stunning eye candy.
If I've managed to excite you about visiting, here are some extra links: