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Mara River - Arusha via Lake Manyara

Time to say goodbye to the wildebeest


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

It was very sad to leave the tented camp this morning, especially as all the staff came out to shake hands as we left.

Our flight is not until 10:30 this morning, so we will be doing a little game viewing on the way to the airstrip, which is only about half an hour away.

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Just outside the camp we see a herd of elands, some helmeted guinea fowl, a large group of banded mongoose and a long crested eagle. Good start.

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We thought we'd just pop down to the river to see what the wildebeest are doing, when we suddenly see cars rushing off. Dickson shouts out the usual “Hold on” and off we go at break-neck speeds. I really admire this guy's driving!

Along the way we see several abandoned picnic tables, where visitors from some of the further-away camps have brought their breakfast to enjoy here and then just rushed off when got word of a crossing.

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One of them didn't just leave the table and chairs behind, the red “blob” on the left of this photo is actually a person! That is rather worrying – I certainly wouldn't like to be in the middle of the Serengeti on my own with only a croissant to protect me!

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By the time we arrived at Crossing # 4, it was all over. Again. It was only a small crossing apparently, just a few dozen animals. Oh well, I thought it was too good to be true to get one more piece of excitement in!

The carcass of a wildebeest has attracted a few different birds, such as the Superb Starling, Red Necked Spurfowl and Rueppell's Long Tailed Starling.

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A Black Backed Jackal attempts to chase a rabbit, but is nowhere near quick enough.

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Sandpiper

At the Kogatende Airstrip, there is a lot of activity this morning, with many flights arriving and departing, and people just popping in to use the only public facilities in the area.

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A Regional Air flight arrives and we get excited. It turns out he was just dropping off, not picking up. Oh well. Next one.

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One of the other flights is two passengers short. The captain is wandering around the various cars and people hanging about, asking for names. He finally finds them, and even carries their luggage to the aircraft for them. That's not something you see very often!

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Finally our aircraft arrives back again, and Dickson goes to check us in, which involves the captain looking at his list of passengers and seeing if our name is on it. It is.

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There's supposed to be a 15kg weight limit for luggage, which in theory is said to include your carry-on. In reality there are no scales, and Dickson makes sure he is the one who loads our bags, not the captain, so we manage to escape the excess baggage fees.

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And we're off! It's a 12-seater Cessna Caravan and ten passengers. No head room to stand up but plenty of leg room.

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The first part of the flight is mostly over flat terrain as we make our way across the plains of the Serengeti.

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Then the odd hill starts to creep in...

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In the distance we can see the cone of Oldonyo Lengai, (“Mountain of God” in the Maasai language), which is considered a sacred mountain by the Maasai. It's an active volcano in the Gregory Rift, part of the East African Rift, and is and the world’s only carbonatite volcano . The last eruption was in 2008.

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We could easily make out Ngorongoro Crater despite the presence of a few little fluffy white clouds.

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We land at Lake Manyara for two people to get off, before continuing on our last leg of the journey to Arusha.

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Soon we are back in Arusha – where we started – and our safari is over. For this time.

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No having to wait for our luggage here!

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Tillya is there to greet us, just like he had been at Kilimanjaro Airport a week earlier.

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Shanga Shangaa
I mention to Tillya that we want to treat him to lunch, and it so happens that we are just coming up to the turning to this place – and what a gem!

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Shanga Shangaa, meaning "amazing beads", in Swahili, is a small business employing 36 deaf, mute and physically disabled people and their workshop is open for visits every day.

It all started back in 2006 which a local girl making beads for the Christmas market. The necklaces were so successful, they now have a serious and sustainable operation employing 32 people and supplying retail outlets across Tanzania and beyond.

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Beads are produced in these moulds, with sticks to create the holes.

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The wood burns out during the baking, leaving a hole in the centre of the bead.

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Add water, turn on the motor for a couple of hours, and you have nice, smooth beads.

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It's all about recycling at Shanga Shangaa. Wine and beer bottles are collected from local tourist lodges and hotels in Arusha, as well as broken window glass; and this is then melted down to make new glass items, including the beads.

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We are given a guided tour with explanations of the work they do, how it helps the local economy, schools and charities, and we walk around the workshops themselves, seeing the glass blowing in action.

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Shanga Shangaa also features weaving and cloth making.

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This young chap was paralysed aged 17 when he fell out of a tree; and did not have any opportunities in life until he was offered a position here, making painted plaques for tourists. I buy a couple of them for Isla and Emmie.

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All sorts of stuff is recycled here, including metal.

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They also produce mosaic.

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Even the chairs and tables in the courtyard are made from recycled tyres.

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There is also a very nice restaurant within the grounds of Shanga Shangaa, and the head chef is Arnaud, the cook who travelled with us on our very first trip to Tanzania back in 2007.

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The food is excellent (of course, I wouldn't have expected anything else from Arnaud), with soup to start, then some delicious paneer and vegetable samosas with mango chutney; a fabulous BBQ buffet with tender fillet steak, chicken and fish; tasty lentils with coconut, courgette fritters, home made chilli sauce and various salads.

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Dessert is a selection of little dishes which included fresh fruit, a kind of millionaires shortbread, some little doughnutty things and chocolate with ground coffee beans in it.

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Tillya wants to buy us some coffee to take home, so we stop at the BURKA Coffee Estate just down the road. I love the smell of freshly roasted coffee.

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Back at Moivaro Lodge (was it really only a week since we left?), we chat with Tillya in the bar for a while, where he tells us about his plans for the future of business and how my reviews and forum replies on Virtual Tourist and Trip Advisor helped “pull his business up” during the recession. His genuine appreciation of my “help” is very humbling. As he said, it isn't much to me, but has meant the world of difference to him, his family and his business. Knowing that I have made a enormous positive difference to someone's life on another continent gives me a warm, glowing feeling.

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For the rest of the afternoon, we sit on the balcony of our room, enjoying a drink and looking back on the many highlights of this last week.

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As the light fades, hornbills come loudly trumpeting back to roost in the trees and black faced vervet monkeys scamper around the grounds, looking at us quizzically from their lofty branches.

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The only not-so-happy memory I have of the Serengeti, is the tse tse fly bites. They are really pesky little things, and hurt when they bite (a bit like a horse fly). It also seems like I am slightly allergic to their bites as I have come up in an angry red patch around the actual bites, about 3 inches in diameter. They itch like hell too!

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Dinner tonight causes some mixed feelings.

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Neither of us are hungry, so we don't want the set four course meal, but that is all they have. We order just a small dish of vegetarian pasta and a dessert, but still have to pay the fixed price of $25 for the full fixed menu. What a rip-off! The food is very nice though, and the staff are so sweet.

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And so it is time for our last night here in Tanzania. For this time. As Arnold Schwarzernegger said: we'll be back.

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Safari arrangements by Calabash Adventures

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Posted by Grete Howard 09:03 Archived in Tanzania

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Comments

Great last day! I love small plane flights, and Shanga Shanga looks an amazing place. Plus cute monkeys - what more can you want?

by Sarah Wilkie

alway more, always better

by Shane

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