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Arusha - Ngorongoro Crater Day 1 Part 1

Worth the early start


View Tanzania for Lyn and Chris' 40th Anniversary 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Lyn and Chris are nearly always up before us and are such sticklers for time-keeping that we are very surprised when they don't arrive at the agreed time for breakfast.

They finally show up some 20 minutes later – it turns out they had set the alarm time but not turned the alarm on. No harm done, thankfully, and we are all ready to go when Malisa arrives.

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Augur Buzzard

A mere 100 metres down the road from the hotel we spot our first wildlife of the day: the regal Augur Buzzard.

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Not so welcome this morning are the police checks on our way to Ngorongoro, we get stopped at two of them for Malisa to show them his paperwork – which is all in order, of course - so we are soon on our way to “see what nature has to offer us today” (one of Malisa's favourite sayings).

Lodoare Gate

While Malisa waits for the paperwork at the entrance gate to Ngorongoro Conservation Area, we make use of the facilities and free wifi. We notice they have painted the gate a different colour to how it was when we came here last (it was a safari-beige, it is now a jade-green).

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Crater View Point

Even here, miles from anywhere, free wifi is being advertised. I guess it is good for a brief 'boast post' on social media, but I do feel somewhat sad that being surrounded by wonderful nature and amazing wildlife is no longer enough.

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Malisa assures us that the small blob we see in the far, far distance is in fact a rhino.

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Porcupine

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog entry, I usually bring along a 'wish list' on my safaris, and porcupine is on this year's list. The next best thing to a live animal is seeing these porcupine spines. The meat has gone, of course, as it would most likely have been killed by a leopard for its dinner last night.

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Chameleon

My wish list is going really well and so early on in the safari, with another item being ticked off when Malisa spots this Flap Necked Chameleon by the side of the road. I don't know just how he manages to spot it; as you can see it blends perfectly with its surroundings. I am excited about this small reptile as it is the first time I have ever seen a chameleon in Tanzania.

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Ngorongoro Crater

We take a different route down into the crater today than the one we normally do: this time using the Lemala Descent Road. We have come down this track once before, a few years ago, and I love the way the track makes its way underneath the majestic Flat Topped Acacia Trees.

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The trees, with their characteristic flat tops (hence the name), act as umbrellas and protect the soil from erosion during heavy rains.

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Look at how dense that canopy is ~ isn't nature wonderful?

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Sodom's Apple

Although this fruit belongs to the tomato family, you won’t find it in any salads. Known as Sodom’s Apple as it is said to be the first plant to grow again after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; the small, yellow fruit is used as a medicine for stomach ache, diarrhoea and to treat external wounds. When you see this plant growing, you know that the soil in the area is not of high quality as it grows best in poor soil.

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Olive Baboons

A large troupe of baboons crosses our path.

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The little one who almost got left behind.

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It is so sad to see empty water bottles littering the crater floor. Malisa explains that the Maasai tribesmen who come this way are guilty of this.

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Love the human-like expression on the face of this baboon as he ponders his next move

This little guy appears to be trying to get some sleep while being carried on his mother's back.

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Speckled Mousebirds

Sociable creatures, Speckled Mousebirds often huddle together for warmth and company. It was only when they moved apart that I realised this was in fact TWO birds, they were so close together initially.

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Cape Buffalo

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He is right beside the car

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Unpredictable and highly dangerous, these guys have the most impressive horns. They reportedly charge thousands of people a year, and gore over 200. They can attack and cause serious injury with the tips of their huge, curved horns, or by head butting with their "boss" which is the solid shield of horn that covers the skull where the horns emerge.

Got to scratch that itch!

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Northern Wheatear (non-breeding female)

Warthogs

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The sort of face only a mother could love

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Uncharacteristically, these warthogs do not run away as we stop to take photos – they are usually such skittish creatures and these are remarkably close to the vehicle. They just lift their head and make a cursory glance in our direction before resuming their grazing.

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Ostrich

You can tell from the pink colouration to the neck and legs that this huge bird is on heat and ready to fertilise those all-important eggs.

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Augur Buzzard, apparently in a 'strop', stamping his feet: "I don't want to fly off!"

Zebra

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Grant's Gazelle

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Crested Lark

Black Backed Jackal

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Secretary Bird

We are rather bemused by this secretary bird performing his mating ritual. We are not quite sure who it is aimed at, as there are no other birds in sight. Maybe he is just practising for the real thing.

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Lion

We initially wonder why this lioness is not chasing the warthogs, as they look to us that they could be an easy lunch, but then we discover that she is heavily pregnant and thus would be concerned that any exertion could make her lose the baby.

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She's just a big pussycat really

Is she going for it? They are pretty close to her now and would make an easy target.

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Big baby belly

Too late, they've discovered her.

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Instead she saunters off to try and find a safe place to give birth. I wish we could stay around for that.

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By the time the lioness has disappeared, David admits that he is absolutely desperate to pee. We are just about to make a 'bush stop' when another vehicle turns up. A lot of heavy breathing and jumping from foot to foot ensues until Malisa can find a safe place for David to get out of the car. Getting back in again he lets out the largest sigh of relief you can imagine, much to everyone else's amusement.

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Little Bee Eater

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Levaillant's Cisticola

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Singing his little heart out

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Tawny Eagle

Hippos

It is fairly unusual to find them out on land, normally all you can see is the top of their backs as they wallow in shallow water. Hippos cannot swim, so they will always find areas where the water is no deeper than they are able to stand at the bottom while still having their heads above the water. Here we can only just see the top of their backs as the rest is hidden by vegetation. Makes a change from water I guess.

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Just as we are about to leave the hippos and head to the picnic site, they get up and start to move, so we stay for a little longer, watching them splash into the small pond.

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Ostrich Porn

On our way to lunch we get side tracked by another ostrich, and this one has found himself a likely suitor. Initially he pretends to be totally disinterested although it doesn't take long before he is doing his very best to impress her with a dramatic dance routine.

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She is bowled over by his sexy moves and capitulates to his charms.

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David caught it all on video, with narration provided by Chris

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As soon as he's had his wicked way with her, he just gets up and walks away, leaving her apparently frustrated and still flapping her wings for attention, wondering what all the fuss was about. Sheesh. What a lothario!

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Zebras

We almost end up with a T-bone steak when a zebra without road sense decides to dart out in front of us. Thankfully no harm done.

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European White Stork - not a permanent resident in Tanzania, the stork is a seasonal migrant visitor from Europe

Waterhole

Last time we came to Tanzania (2017) was at the end of the rainy season, a green and verdant time. Now we are here at the end of the dry season, and everything is arid, dusty and brown, which makes this waterhole even more visually striking and of course a great temptation to the animals.

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I love the way Big Bertha seems to have picked out the personality of these buffalo.

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African Fish Eagle

Red Billed Quelea

Popularly referred to as 'feathered locusts', the Red Billed Quelea is Africa's most hated bird. For generations this small but voracious bird has gathered in huge numbers to decimate subsistence farmers' fields across the continent. With some colonies numbering into the millions, the quelea is the most abundant bird in the world, and sadly also the most destructive. With an estimated adult breeding population of at least 1.5 billion, it is believed that the agricultural losses attributable to the quelea is in excess of US$50 million annually which would be totally devastating to those already barely getting by.

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We finally make it to the picnic site for our lunch stop, and this is also where I will finish this blog post. Be sure to read the next entry for stories about the rest of our afternoon in the crater.

As usual, our thanks go to Tillya of Calabash Adventures and Malisa our driver, without whom this fabulous safari would never have happened.

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Posted by Grete Howard 02:17 Archived in Tanzania Tagged trees animals africa safari tanzania zebra national_park buffalo lion rhino baboons ostrich lioness ngorongoro acacia warthog chameleon arusha jackal hippos viewpoint porcupine big_bertha lark calabash_adventures which_safari_company best_safari_company tawny_eagle mousebird grant's_gazelle lodoare_gate red_billed_quelea quelea bee_eater africa_animals augur_buzzard safari_permit flat_topped_acacia acacia_trees umbrella_trees sodom's_apple pregnant_lioness cisticola Comments (3)

Tarangire Part II - Arusha - Istanbul - Birmingham - Bristol

More elephants


View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Fully fed and watered after a delicious picnic breakfast, we are soon on our way to “see what nature brings us this afternoon”.

Despite the rainy season being upon us, there doesn't seem to be much water in the Tarangire River at the moment.

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A family of Lesser Striped Swallows dig in the dried riverbed for worms.

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The normally shy impala stay by the side of the road looking at us as if transfixed. It makes a great change from them running away as soon as the car pulls up alongside them.

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Like the elephants, they are so close I can almost touch them.

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They are such elegant creatures.

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Impala are affectionately known as “McDonalds”. Not because they make great burgers, but because of their rump markings resemble the “M” on the famous fast food chain's logo.

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Another large herd – or memory – of elephants appears as if out of nowhere.

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There are 16 family members in total, including a tiny infant, no more than 10 days old at the most. You can just about see him here (below), immediately behind the leading matriarch, being protected by his older sister with her trunk slung affectionately over his back.

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The rest of the family follow behind.

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It is fascinating to watch: when the matriarch at the front stops, everyone else stops, even those at the back. When she moves, the rest move.

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We get really excited when we realise they are all going to cross the road. We might even get to see that baby properly.

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Sixteen large animals crossing the road and the only sound we can hear is that of the grass rustling as they walk through. Elephants move in almost total silence, thanks to their spongy hooves that make for a soft step.

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The elephants just keep coming and coming. One after another, all in a straight line. Just like Jungle Book.

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One of them deviates from the line and walks right by our car.

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This little guy seems to have lost his tail, poor thing.

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The elephants continue on their journey through the park, and so do we.

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At around eight feet tall, these large flowering plants make me think of a horror film for some reason, where ordinary small plants grow to enormous proportions and take over the world. Yes, I know, I have an over-active imagination.

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At the other end of the scale, the Namaqua Dove is surprisingly small.

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The elephants of Tarangire are known for their aggression and dislike of people, and one of these makes it quite clear what he thinks of humans as he feels the car is too close to his domain.

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The male is energetically performing a courtship ritual by jumping from branch to branch like a lunatic. The female looks totally unimpressed.

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It doesn't take us many minutes after getting out of the car before we decide that this is most definitely not the place to have lunch. The area is absolutely full of pesky tse tse flies.

The black and blue flag you can see on the picture, is supposed to help keep the population of these horrible little insects down, as the tse tse are particularly attracted to those two colours. The flags are impregnated with a substance which make them infertile, thus the number of flies should become reduced. Sorry guys, it doesn't seem to be working.

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We quickly get back in the car again and head back to Matete where we had breakfast this morning, game viewing on the way.

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Popularly referred to as 'feathered locusts', the Red Billed Quelea is Africa's most hated bird. For generations this small but voracious bird has gathered in huge numbers to decimate subsistence farmers' fields across the continent.

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They look such cute little things, but with some colonies numbering into the millions, the quelea is the most abundant bird in the world, and sadly also the most destructive.

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With an estimated adult breeding population of at least 1.5 billion, it is believed that the agricultural losses attributable to the quelea is in excess of US$50 million annually which would be totally devestating to those already barely getting by.

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From our point of view, however, it is amazing to see and hear them take off en masse – the whoosh sound they make as they all fly from tree to tree is quite something.

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Looking on the bright side, I suppose while they are here in the national park eating wild grasses, they are not causing destruction to farmers.

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Some months ago I answered a question on Trip Advisor from someone who wanted suggestions for a safari company in Tanzania. Having recommended Calabash, the original poster and I continued to talk from time to time, right up until we left for Africa, and soon realising we'd be in Tanzania at the same time. We knew the only opportunity we had to be able to actually meet in person, would be today in Tarangire. I spot their car from quite a distance, thanks to the Calabash logo on the side.

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It is great to finally be able to put a face to the name, and Agata is every bit as lovely in real life as she is on line. Her partner Dom is a really sweet guy too; and of course it is nice for Malisa that gets to chat with John, their guide, and catch up on news.

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Today seems to be full of animals and bird that come really close to the car. Unlike most impala, who run away as soon as the vehicle pulls up next to them, these stay right by the side of the road as we stop to admire their graceful appearance.

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We have a youngster with an itch that appears hard to scratch.

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“I just can't quite reach...”

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A family of mongooses who are milling around in a clearing stop and briefly look at us before carrying on with their lives.

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Today really is a day full of close encounters! Crossing the road right in front of us makes this my closest sighting ever of these small furry mammals.

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Eggs are one of their favourite foods, and this guy has got a large one. (Excuse the very bad photo, it's the only one I managed to get)

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Another one of Tarangire's claims to fame is the number, size and age of its baobab trees. Popular with elephants for the ability to store water in their trunks, baobabs are often left with battle scars from the encounters.

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Malisa explains that providing this tree does not receive any further assaults from elephants, it should be able to re-grow and continue to live. Any more battering will surely be the end of it though as it will collapse and die.

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As we are talking about baobabs, a lion appears 'out of nowhere', leisurely walking along the road in front of us, before taking a rest.

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After a short break, he continues on his way, slipping into the long grass beside the road. It is all over in a few minutes, and we are the only people who saw him. Right time, right place I guess.

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Lions are said to be hard to spot in Tarangire, but we have had some luck over the years with a sighting on all but one of our visits (and on the one visit we did miss, we saw a lioness and two cubs outside the park boundaries)

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Unlike earlier when we stopped here for breakfast, now the picnic site is full of tourists enjoying a break and having lunch.

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The presence of lots of people also attracts these scavengers to the picnic site.

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They may look cute, but they are scheming little thieves, who hang around the picnic tables, waiting for an opportunity to nab any unprotected food.

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If the opportunities are slow at materialising, these intelligent creatures create their own opportunities. The have learned that if they make a lot of loud noise, imitating their warning calls, down at the railings overlooking the valley, curios tourists will flock to see what is making the monkeys so agitated. This then gives their mates a chance to snatch any food left behind on the picnic tables. We see several people falling for this trick today.

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It's not just the picnic tables that get the once over from these cheeky guys, here you can see one of them checking out our car for the slightest chance of some food. Fortunately we made doubly sure we closed and locked all windows, doors and roof.

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Fed up with the opportunist thieves, a group of French tourists shout “allez, allez” at the monkeys. The would-be robbers take absolutely no notice of course, continuing to approach the table from every angle. Laughter ensues when an Englishman on the next table informs them that the monkeys "only speak English you know”.

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One of the most remarkable things about the Black Faced Vervet Monkey, is its bright blue testicles. When I say “bright blue”, I mean iridescent, almost glow-in-the-dark blue.

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Even a Superb Starling tries to muscle in on the action, looking for crumbs dropped by tourists.

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We have to leave the picnic area, and in fact Tarangire National park, to make our way back to Arusha and later our flight home. We will of course “see what nature has to offer us” on the way to the park gate.

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This enormous bird (it stands at 130cm / 4'3”) is the largest of all the hornbill species, and as the name suggests is usually found on the ground.

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This female is doing what girls all over the world do every day: preening herself.

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It looks like this year's elephant fashion includes pierced ears.

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Another mongoose family. These, however, take fright as soon as they see us.

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Stopping occasionally to check if we are still following them.

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And so this ends our 2017 safari in Tanzania. Despite being awfully poorly, I have enjoyed myself very much, thanks to being so extremely well looked after by David, Malisa and all the lodge staff along the way. Not to mention Tillya of Calabash Adventures of course, who made sure I was still OK and coping every day.

Being able to carry on as 'normal' as possible on the trip has been mostly down to adrenalin and as soon as we leave the last park and start the long journey home, I relax and it hits me big time. Everything from then on is a blur: the visit to Tillya's beautiful new office; trying to find a toilet in a leisure centre when I suddenly have a bout of diarrhoea; the emotional moment we have to say goodbye to Malisa; the check in to Kia Lodge in Arusha for a shower, change and dinner; the moving to a different room because the A/C is not working and there is no drinking water in the room; the transfer bus to Kilimanjaro Airport; the panic upon being asked for my UK visa at the check-in desk and having to explain that as an EEA national I don't need one despite the Brexit; the flights from Kilimanjaro – Istanbul – Birmingham; being transported from the plane in a wheelchair; and the drive home where I can finally collapse in bed.

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Writing this blog and editing the photos back home has been great for me, as there is so much of the trip that I don't remember. So many of the notes I made at the time (thank goodness I did) where I have had to ask David: “what did I mean by this?”. This time, instead of re-living the trip as I usually do when I publish my blog after our return home; I have really just 'lived it' as I missed so much the first time round.

Here's to the next safari (this time hopefully in perfect health!) with Calabash Adventures, the best safari operators by far!

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Posted by Grete Howard 15:02 Archived in Tanzania Tagged elephants africa safari tanzania site lion baobab tarangire wheelchair impala mongoose hyrax hornbill lilac_breasted_roller swallows calabash_adventures hammerkop black_faced_vervet_monkeys tse_tse_flies banded_mongoose birmingham_airport grant's_gazelle go_away_bird dwarf_mongoose matete_picnic giant_morning_glory namaqua_dove red_billed_quelea africa's_most_hated_bird quelea mpingo_picnic_site francolin magpie_shrike superb_starling southern_ground_hornbill Comments (9)

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