Published Dec 31, 2011

I’m writing this blog entry on my third flight out of Arusha — we keep leaving, but we can’t seem to stay away. Even after yesterday, after we drove out of there.

We overnighted in Arusha after leaving the Mahale Mountains, the easiest convenient flight being, of course, to the city we can’t leave. The next day, we drove out in a big Toyota Land Cruiser under the watchful eye of Christopher, our Maasai guide for the next two days. (Note to Rover executives: when Toyota replaces the Range Rover as the safari vehicle of choice in an image-conscious former British colony, you’ve made a lot of bad moves.) He drove us out through Arusha’s busy, seedy downtown, into the Maasai steppe and even past his own hometown, into the little Manyara reserve, for our first vehicle safari.

In general, we’ve tried to avoid the Northern Circuit on this safari holiday — it’s migration season in the Serengeti, which is supposed to be astounding, but also apparently brings with it as many tourists in Land Cruisers as it does antelope and lions. Rather than fight the lines to see a lounging lion, we’re headed to the Southern circuit, where we’ll be much more alone. (If the fact that we’re the only two people on this flight means anything, much much more alone!)

Manyara was a great introduction to the vehicle safari: easily accessable and with many animals that were generous enough to come close to the road. The park started us off right with an elephant who tentatively stuck his head out and then walked across the road right in front of us. 

We then were introduced to antelope and giraffe, both as graceful as on tv. The giraffe somehow a slow-motion version of a horse, gliding over the landscape almost like a special effect. But I think my favorite hooved animal in Manyara was the zebra:

The hooved animals had a lot of competition from the monkey side of things, and the monkeys were really representing at Manyara. The small, cute side of things was held up by the blue and the black-faced vervet monkeys:

Meanwhile, at the large, mischevious end of things, the baboons were moving around in large packs. (Make sure to lock your doors and close your windows! Apparently they’ll reach in to steal your stuff!) With their long, silky-looking fur and inquisitive nature, they pretty much stole the show:

And they had backup in the cute department too, what with their young’uns:

At the end of our first game drive, we drove up the outer escarpment of the Ngorongoro crater to stay at a working farm. And, when I say “working farm” I mean “place that grows the vegetables it serves at gourmet meals, while having luxurious huts for dozens of guests.”

First thing in the morning, it was onto a flight to the vast Ruaha game preserve in the south. Or so we thought: it turned out to be another flight into Arusha, where our local carrier, Coastal Air, would drop us and then figure out how to get us to the Ruaha. And I can’t complain, because, as I said, I’m writing this on my third flight out of Arusha, and we’re the only two people on this sleek, silver Pilatus streaking south high above the clouds, rakish French pilot speeding us towards our next stop: a tented camp in the middle of the bush.