Dar es Salaam, home to almost 10 million people and an infrastructure simply not coping with urbanisation, can play havoc with one’s state of mind – especially if like Kobus, you are a farmer, used to the wide open expanses of farmlands. And so we made a snap decision last week to take a week out of sitting in traffic, ferries, potholes, people and noise, and head to the wild frontiers of Tanzania. We did some homework, asked around and set off to see two of Tanzania’s parks, Mikumi National Park and Ruaha National Park.
Friday morning we got up with the roosters, hit the ferry with no queue at around 4.15 am, and by first light we were well ahead of the early morning madness on the city roads. By 8 am we pulled up at a tourist rest spot for a cuppa coffee and a toilet break, before heading further along the road to Morogoro. With wide-open eyes on the road full of trucks and baboons, the drive was not too stressful except for the immense pain the sight of miles and miles of burnt land caused my soul. Some hills looked like spooky, moon-landscapes, with some embers still smouldering. And I am not talking about just a spot here or there, I am really talking of vast spaces of burnt or burning land. I wonder if someone living in Tanzania and reading this can shed some light on the reasons why? Kobus has experienced similar situations in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa when he farmed there years ago. But studies and statistics have proven that it is not the correct procedures to follow to keep the natural habitat healthy and it may just be that Tanzanian farmers have got to catch up to this information?
We finally pulled into Tan-Swiss, an overnight campsite comprising some rooms, bungalows and camp sites. Owned and run by a couple made up of a Swiss man and a Tanzanian wife, it is the only reasonably comfortable rest site on the way to Iringa. The rooms are spacious, the beds large and clean, enough warm water in the spotless bathrooms, BUT oh dear, the food really a disaster! As I had booked us in for one night on the return trip from Ruaha again, I was so NOT looking forward to the fair on offer again, I almost convinced Kobus that we should do the return trip in one go – thankfully we did not, as the concentration needed on the road is too tiring to do it in one day. So I had to face the food again on the way back – same tasteless dishes. A pity, for sure!
As we arrived at Tan-Swiss before lunch, we decided to take a drive into the park already that same afternoon, especially since our appetites were thoroughly wet from seeing some of the game so close to the highway that runs right through the area. It was well worth it, we saw many species of birds, small game as well as the larger ones including elephant, hippopotamus, crocodile, giraffe and the cherry on top, the most beautiful lion and lioness couple I have ever seen. They were sleeping on an open stretch of veld close to a dam, and through our binoculars I could not count one tick or scratch on their beautiful fat, gleaming bodies. They stretched lazily at us gawking and making some noises to rouse them, and unlike the Kruger National Park, Pilansberg National Park in South Africa or the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya, where a lion sighting can attract hordes of tourists in their vehicles, we were the only two watching these two creatures ambling to each other, yawning and preening themselves for at least an hour. Pure bliss. On the way back to the gate, we stopped at the dam and were quickly surrounded by around 200 buffalo coming to drink at sunset. And the highlight of the afternoon was when a herd of elephant came down to drink, little ones absolutely delighting us with their frolics in the water and mischievous behaviour all round – just like human toddlers. We left thoroughly satisfied, and returned early the next morning to a full day of more of the same.
The devil decided to play a dirty trick on me and my camera “lost” at least 200 magnificent photos, so my gallery shows some of the ones that were thankfully left – I added captions to them, and the others I borrowed from my wonderful Facebook friends from the parks in Tanzania – I hope you benefit from the post and get loads and loads of new tourists!
That night we sat and played Scrabble under the stars, giggling like kids ourselves after drowning the food misery with a good bottle of South African Chenin Blanc, and tucked in looking forward to our next stop – Ruaha National Park. But more about that in the next post, as it needs a full post to itself to do justice to its magnificence!
Enjoy the photos, and if you feel inclined to come see this for yourself, don’t hesitate to ask me for assistance in getting you booked everywhere and to share tips with you.
- Somewhere old somewhere new (mikumimusings.wordpress.com)