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Posts Tagged ‘giraffes’

” Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  ~Mark Twain<!–, The Innocents Abroad, or, The New Pilgrims Progress, "Conclusion," 1869; CTO–>

A tree grew through it. A parting look at the Tarangire Treetops Lodge's main building.

African Safari: Photo Op

It was with regret that Kim and I left the Treetops Lodge the next morning. We both would have loved to have spent more time in this place where childhood fantasies were a reality. All too soon, it seemed, a guard was outside below waiting for us to descend from our trap-door entrance so he could walk us to the main lodge for breakfast.

Elephants and giraffe's shadowed us for our final wildlife drive with Bilal. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Later, looking at the lodge’s website, I realized we couldn’t have afforded it. One night’s stay at the lodge, which has only 20 tree-house suites, cost over $600. It had been one of the luxuries that we had included in our African Adventure Company package. I’m glad we hadn’t known the cost it added to our trip or Kim and I might have forgone staying here.

As it was, our tree-house night will forever be part of our Africa memories. And so would Bilal.

Cheetahs, like this mom with three youngsters, were frequently seen on our wildlife drives with Bilal. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

The macho, dark-skinned man had looked out for us for a whole week. He treated us with respect and professionalism in all his actions, and we came to respect and care for him.

Today, we would have one last wildlife drive with him, before he deposited us in Arusha, where we would have lunch at the Flame Tree Restaurant, a dropping-off place for various safari companies, and where we would be met and driven across the border into Kenya.

Giraffe, elephants, zebras and other wildlife shadowed us for the usual bouncy journey. While they, like the superb starlings and cattle egret, had become familiar sights to us this past week, their antics were still awesome to watch.

Kim and I say our good-byes to Bilal in Arusha, where he handed us off to a Ranger Safaris' driver who would take us to the Kenya border, where we would continue our safari. Just for the record, we tipped him well.

We arrived in Arusha early, and Bilal drove us around the busy downtown area, where I kept seeing images of Elsa Martinelli being chased by baby elephants in the 1962 John Wayne film “Hatari.” The town was quite a bit bigger these days, with lots of hustle and bustle and color. But my imagination had grown bigger over the years, too. And so I could still see the town as it might have once been.

Both views were exotic and strange and wonderful, and expanded the mind.

Arusha Market -- Wikitravel photo

Then all too soon it was time to say good-bye to Bilal. Kim and I both hoped he had enjoyed his time with us as much as we had with him. He posed with us while another guide took our picture.

It’s one of my favorite photos of the entire safari.

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Overview of Lake Manyara -- Wikipedia photo

There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson.

African Safari: A Morning of Firsts

These tall fellows that eat leaves shape the acacia trees so they look like umbrellas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Our morning agenda, according to the carefully arranged plans detailed in the booklet of our journey prepared by the African Adventure Company, was a two-hour drive to the Serena Lodge at Lake Manyara for lunch.

Such a terse description now seems obscene.

On our way there, we saw our first lions, a mating pair, which made the sighting more special, even if it also made us voyeurs. We also got our first view of giraffes and cheetahs, the later being a mom with three youngsters.

New life birds, meanwhile, were coming into view so fast that I truly couldn’t keep

The Serena Lodge as viewed from the compound's pool. -- Photo by Pat Bean

up with identifying them. Bilal helped, but I later realized that while he was great at putting a name to the larger and more common birds, he was not quite as good at the smaller, obscure birds of interest only to crazily addicted birders like myself.

Lake Manyara, located along an escarpment of the great rift, and called “the loveliest … setting in Africa” by Ernest Hemingway, provides habitat to over 400 bird species, including marabou storks, which when I saw a flock of them in some overhead trees thought were the ugliest birds I had ever seen.

White-headed buffalo weaver -- Wikipedia photo

They were hanging about an outdoor market just outside the Serena Lodge compound. As we passed it, my attention was taken away from the birds to an exhibit of colorful African paintings. When I expressed interest in them, Bilal quickly cautioned us not to visit the market unescorted.

As we passed through a fence and guards to get to our accommodations, I realized that our safety was important not just to Bilal, but the country’s entire tourist interests. Harm to any one safari participant would mean bad publicity for business.

As beautiful as this superb starling is, it soon list its glamour because it was so common. We saw them everywhere. -- Wikipedia photo

The Serena Lodge, where we were to spend the night, was owned by India businessmen and staffed by local natives – as were most of the places we stayed at during our trip. It was a grandiose eye-popper.

Our rooms were circular, situated in tall, white-washed roundavels with thatched roofs. The structures sat on a cliff that provided panoramic views of the landscapes and wildlife below. A large swimming pool went right up to the edge of the escarpment.

Taita fiscal -- Wikipedia photo

Lunch was served in an outdoor setting, with birds frequently flittering about. It made for very distracted eating, but a perfect meal, especially with the bottled Coke we ordered to go with it. It was so much tastier than the ones we get in America.

Everything about the Serena Lodge was delightful, and everyone catered to our slightest needs. But the real Africa, both Kim and I knew, lay outside this guarded sanctuary where Bilal didn’t want us to go without him.

I had that decadent feeling again – but I was enjoying every minute of it.

Bird log of New Lifers: Augur buzzard, gray heron, yellow-necked spurfowl, black-shouldered kite, white-headed buffalo weaver, African gray hornbill, superb starling, northern white-crowned shrike, taita fiscal and marabou stork. (August 22, drive from Arusha Coffee Lodge to Serena Lodge near the main entrance to Lake Manyara National Park).

We also saw lots of cattle egrets, is a bird now common in North America, having first migrated to the United States from Africa in the 1940s. I would see many more of them on our wildlife outings while in Africa.

Next: An Afternoon in Lake Manyara National Park.

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