Feb 28 - Off to Safari
We were up early and transferred to the local airport for a gorgeous 25 minute flight to Lake Manyara. Along the route we could see little Masai villages called Manyatas in the traditional circular conical shape. The soil was a rich red which contrasted against the vibrant green of the foothills leading the nearby volcanic chain. We met our cheerful guides, Silva and Emanual, and set off in our comfortable landrovers to a short cultural excursion that included visiting a primary school - the cute kids sang to us and the headmistress explained about the school system and challenges of educating the kids with limited resources. We donated some math flash cards and other school supplies that we had brought with us. Then we went into a village and toured the rice farm, art center, and learned about the architecture and daily life of the locals.
Next it was off on our first safari experience to nearby Lake Manyara. This is a small park within old growth forest set along a large lake. We started with several monkey and baboon sightings followed by lunch overlooking the lake. We could see thousands of pink flamingos out in the center of the lake which appeared like a shimmering pink ribbon on the horizon. We rounded off the drive with a great sighting of our first elephants - a matriarchal herd with moms and juveniles in a magical setting - under the shade of some large mahogony trees in a stream bathing themselves. It was good fun to see how they would suck up a load of water in their trunks and then flick it onto their backs or bellies bith to stay cool and to help cake their skin with mud which effectively kills of parasites. Elephants are some of my favorite animals and I could sit for hours watching them interact with each others. This group was not shy and we were only about 25 feet from the moms and their little babies winding their way under their mothers bellies.
We bade farewell to the elephants and went on a short drive up the escarpment to our lodge which was set on the rim with magnificent views over the lake and park. We enjoyed a swim in the pool and an ice cold Tusker beer. The sun set in spectacular fashion as it often does in Africa - this time bright shafts of light shone through huge cotton ball clouds and the lake lit up with the fading light. A local acrobatic group came and did a mind blowing performance by the pool with flips and balancing acts that showed off their power and talent. We enjoyed some more fine South African shiraz at dinner and tucked ourselves to bed for an early rise the next day. We wanted to be the first at the park gate to enter the famous Ngorongoro crater.