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Nairobi - Kilimanjaro - Arusha

Safari time!

View The Greatest Show on Earth? Wildebeest Migration in Serengeti 2014 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Having ascertained we were leaving really early today, the guy on reception last night offered us a “packed breakfast” to take with us to the airport this morning. I am seriously impressed they were able to rustle up a pack containing egg, bacon, fried potatoes, baked beans, cake, croissant, roll, doughnut, banana and yogurt before 6am, considering we checked in at past 1am.

Precisionair Flight
Initially we had booked the long distance bus from Nairobi in Kenya to Arusha in Tanzania which takes some seven hours, but with the recent troubles in Kenya along with a high threat of terrorism, we decided to fork out a bit more (we usually go for the cheapest option) and fly from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro Airport near Arusha to minimise the amount of time spent on the ground in Kenya. Although more expensive, flying has effectively given us an extra 24 hours or so in Tanzania, which is where all the action is – the RIGHT kind of action that is: involving animals, not bombs.

Confusion reigned at the departure gate in Nairobi, with three flights apparently departing from the same gate, both the others before us. It was our flight that was called first, however, with the lady on the desk seeming somewhat annoyed that we were all waiting outside the gate rather than having gone in. “But it’s boarding” she complained. We were led outside on to the steps, where we were kept – in the baking sunshine – until two people were sent back (they were about to board the wrong flight). Eventually we were bussed out to the plane, where we faced another wait as one of the crew had not turned up! Her car had broken down on the way to the airport apparently.

With the missing stewardess in place, we eventually took off. The highlight of the flight was seeing Mount Kilimanjaro reasonably clearly from the air – a fairly rare occurrence apparently. This is undoubtedly the nearest I will get to Africa's highest mountain, as I have no desire (and certainly not the required fitness level) to do the popular climb to the top. Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5,895 m (19,341 ft) above sea level. It's a dormant volcano with three distinct volcanic cones, two of which are extinct, the third one dormant and could erupt again. The name means the Mountain (Kilima) of Greatness (Njaro).


Despite leaving half an hour late, we still arrived early at Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania. We’d been told our driver, Wilson, would be picking us up from the airport, so we were looking out for a sign with our names on it as we exited the terminal. Nothing. Suddenly Tillya himself (the owner of the safari outfitters we have booked through the last three times in Tanzania) appears out of nowhere with Wilson by his side. Or is it Wilson? He looks awfully familiar... It turns out that Wilson has become sick pneumonia, so Tillya had to find a substitute at the last minute, and called on Dickson, our driver for the last two safaris. We were delighted to see him, especially as he no longer works for Calabash, but agreed to stand in at short notice.



First stop: the supermarket to stock up on pre-dinner drinks and snacks for those sundowners in the bush.

Arusha National Park


As the entrance to Arusha National Park lies between the airport and our lodge, it made sense to start the safari straight away rather than go to the hotel and chill – despite the fact that it was 31 hours since we left home by this stage! Nothing says “Holiday with the Howards” like hitting the ground running with match sticks to hold your eyes open.

Arusha National Park seems to be popular with local school children – a slightly more exotic school trip than Portsmouth for the day!


This small park near the town of the same name if often overlooked by safari goers in favour of the four main parks – Tarangire, Manyara, Ngorongoro and Serengeti – which make up the well-known “Northern Circuit”; and to be honest, we would probably not have ventured inside the park if we hadn't suddenly found ourselves with a spare day in Arusha. Tillya suggested we made a visit, so here we are!

A large troop of baboons (also known as a flange or rumpus) cause quite a traffic jam while passing through. There were around 70 or 80 of them, and many sat down in the middle of the road to groom, play or just rest.


Baboons live in a matriarchal society, with females leading the troop and males changing troops every few years. Members of a troop travel, forage, and sleep together. Olive Baboons spend the night in trees, or on cliffs, and the activity of a troop is often dictated by the availability of appropriate places for all members to sleep.


One of the most famous inhabitants of Arusha National Park is the Black and White Colobus Monkey – a species not easily seen elsewhere in Tanzania. Dickson knew of an area where they usually hang out, and took a loop through thick forest (their preferred habitat) on an extremely rough track. No sign of any colobus monkeys however. Maybe they are camera shy? The presence of Maasai villages in this area, with their cattle and human activity, makes the animals rather shy.

On our drive through the forest we did however see a couple of red duikers, a first for us. Unfortunately they were far too quick to disappear into the forest cover for me to photograph them.

Arusha National Park is a bird lovers paradise with almost 400 species recorded in the park.

African Hoopoe

Green Bee Eater

Augur Buzzard

Brown Hooded Kingfisher

White fronted bee eater

Long Crested Eagle

For us, the main highlight was the Big Momella Lake, which at this time of year is home to literally thousands of flamingos – mostly the Lesser Flamingo. We could see the birds from a distance as a shimmer of pink on the lakeside and as we got nearer we could start to make out individual birds.



What a sight! And sound – the racket of 30,000 grunting flamingos is something I will never forget. This has to be the best picnic site ever!


As well as grunting, feeding and just generally socialising, large flocks of flamingos- known as stands – would fly across the lake to join friends and family in a different feeding area. The whole scene was nothing short of spectacular. I could have stayed there watching – and photographing - these colourful birds all day, but we had other animals and birds to see.


Not just flamingos congregate in this area, we also saw a number of other shore birds.

Black winged stilts

Having given Dickson my wish list of animals I wanted to see, he set off – again – into an area known for its Colobus Monkeys. This time we were lucky. The colobus was previously hunted excessively for its beautiful fur, with its skin being used to make dance costumes, hats, and capes, leading to extermination in many areas of East Africa. We've only seen them once before, in Kenya way back in 1993. I was therefore particularly keen to see – and photograph – these monkeys when I heard they were found in Arusha National Park.; but this was the best I got!


They are arboreal and seldom come to the ground, except occasionally to pick up fallen fruit. The word "colobus" comes from a Greek word meaning "docked", and is so named because the thumb is a stump.

We were also very excited to see the Sykes Monkey - a new species to us.


In order to attract new growth, many controlled fires are seen around the national parks of Tanzania. I find them fascinating and a little frightening all at the same time.


Known as Little Ngorongoro, Ngurdoto Crater is 3 km across, and from the rim its size is rather deceiving - the black dots you can see on the crater floor are in fact buffalo.



Moivaro Lodge
It was time for us to leave the park and head to our lodge where we were greeted by a very welcome hot towel and a welcoming drink of baobab juice. After a briefing about the lodge, its grounds, mealtimes etc, we were shown to our room.

Baobab Juice


Moivaro Lodge is built on a 40-acre a coffee plantation and the rooms – individual cottages – are dotted around the plantation grounds, hidden within tropical trees and coffee plants. The only downside to this is that it is quite a walk to the room from the reception, restaurant and pool. We didn’t really have any time to enjoy the grounds this evening, as by the time we’d had a shower, drink on the balcony and dinner, it was time for bed.


Thank you to Calabash Adventures for all our safari arrangements.


Posted by Grete Howard 15:01 Archived in Tanzania

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This was great!

by stephen

Looks like you have got off to a good start. Jealous as usual, but Cardiff is still warm, so can't complain. Pile on the pictures.

by Shane

Fantastic narration as always! Can't wait for the rest.

by Homer Gardin

Wonderful bird photos, including but not only the flamingos!

by Sarah Wilkie

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