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Bristol - Arusha

Heading back to our beloved Tanzania

View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

For a number of years we have talked about visiting Tanzania during the 'Baby Season', ie. the time of year when the wildebeest and zebra return to their place of birth to to continue the circle of life with a new generation of babies.

Today we set out on the journey to make this happen.

Packing light is not an option when you are a photographer, and we are also taking a number of gifts for our Tanzanian 'family' this time. With my 600mm f/4 lens, known as Big Bertha, travelling in its own flight case, we are dangerously near the 60kg checked in luggage limit for the two of us.


Big Bertha has to be sent as Oversized Luggage, as does the soft bag with gifts, and we reluctantly wave them goodbye at the special desk at Heathrow, and watch them being wheeled off into the belly of the airport. “Take good care of my baby now!”



Once we are rid of the checked in luggage, we proceed through immigration and go to The Commission pub to grab something to eat.

Salmon with curried cauliflower

Fish finger toasted sandwich

Rekorderlig Strawberry and Lime

I didn't quite manage Dry January, it's another three hours to go. Cheers!

Qatar Airways

Thankfully the plane for the first leg of the journey (London to Doha) is not full, and we are able to spread out a little with three seats for the two of us.


There is a screaming child behind us, constantly screeching, crying and whining. While David finds it super-annoying, after years of working in a nightclub I can mostly tune out unwanted noise. I put my cervical collar on and drift off to sleep.



The city looks quite spectacular as we approach the landing, all lit up in the early morning. I try to take some photos through the aircraft window, but fail miserably.

To reach the terminal building, we have a long bus journey following a slow luggage truck around the aiport apron. One we get inside, we are a little dismayed to find our connecting flight to Tanzania is not showing on the Departures Board.


We follow everyone else downstairs to the departures hall anyway, where an official scans our boarding cards and tells us the gate number. It is a long way to reach the other terminal, and involves a train journey. It seems everyone in the entire airport are right here right now, and I find it a little uncomfortable when there is a massive crush for the down escalator.


Like we did on the first flight, we have plenty of space on the aircraft for the next leg too, with two seats each. By the time we take off from Doha, it is daylight, and we have a great view of the city below.


The flight is reasonably uneventful, and although I do manage to grab some sleep, it is very disturbed sleep as a result of taking Lariam this morning (antimalarial prophylaxis which causes dreadful nightmares), restless legs and the overwhelmingly bad BO wafting from the seat in front.


Approaching Kilimanjaro Airport, we initially fly over the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which looks surprisingly dry, with clearly defined animal paths. Later we see cultivated areas, with green patterned fields; followed by the urban areas of Arusha. I cannot believe how much more sprawling the city has become since the fist time we visited in 2007.

Kilimanjaro Airport

After landing at Kilimanjaro, the international airport servicing Arusha and the northern safari circuit, we have to wait ages for the aircraft steps to arrive. The flight goes on to Dar es Salaam, and a number of passengers are continuing rather than de-planing here. A very inconsiderate such lady passenger decides that re-arranging her luggage is much more important than letting the other travellers off the plane, and spends ages blocking the aisle. Eventually she reluctantly steps aside, while still leaving her trolley bag in the gangway for us to step over. Some people should not be allowed to fly!


Before we are allowed into the terminal building, we all have to line up outside and disinfect our hands.

There is a long queue for Visa on Arrival, and as we walk directly up to the immigration counter we are extremely grateful that we applied for ours before we left home.

Both Malisa (our driver-guide) and Tillya (the owner of Calabash Adventures, the company who arranged our safari) are there to greet us with enormous hugs! It feels like coming home to family!

Soon after we leave the airport, Malisa stops to get a small treat out of the car fridge for David – a Savanna Cider, David's favourite!


Gran Melia Hotel

We see the rear side of the hotel from a distance, and comment on how lovely the balconies look. Expecting to be driving to the other side of Arusha to check in to the A1 hotel (a modern but somewhat soul-less establishment), we are delighted to be staying here instead. Despite being a large hotel, the Gran Melia is extremely nice and a completely different class to the A1. We are greeted with the customary welcome drink before checking in to our room.


It is good to see that they are well ahead of the eco-game, using bamboo straws in their drinks





Our balcony looks out over the front of the building, and we love the plants on the roofs below, making the outlook softer, adding insulation and creating more of a green space!


We have a couple of hours before we are meeting Tillya and his wife Halima for dinner, so we take a walk around the resort.

The central atrium

Giant chess set on the patio

The lobby

The lounge

Sculpture at the entrance

The front entrance, providing a covered drop-off point for guests

Love the old car!

Ponds with mosquito-eating fish along the covered walkway from the drop-off point to the reception and lobby

The grounds are more akin to a botanical garden, with the large free-form swimming pool blending in with a natural lake and waterfalls, all connected by walkways and bridges.










Having known Tillya for 13 years, and also communicated with his wife on several occasions via email, it is great to finally meet Halima in person.


The hotel buffet is very nice, especially the dessert section, and we have a lovely evening catching up on news, hearing about Tillya's future plans and discussing politics and current affairs.

Tender beef kebabs, fried yam, a local green vegetable similar to spinach, taro crisps, chicken kebabs, prawns with sesame seeds and a spicy sauce, plus a bowl of delicious dhal

Some of the selection from the dessert buffet. Shhh, don't tell anyone, but I went back for seconds. With so many different dishes to choose from, it would be rude not to!

And so the first day (and second, technically, as we left the UK yesterday) of our latest trip comes to and end; and after 32 hours of travelling, it is a relief to get into bed.

Thank you Calabash for arranging yet another safari for us.


Posted by Grete Howard 07:51 Archived in Tanzania Tagged safari tanzania heathrow cider doha arusha big_bertha calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area kilimanjaro_airport qatar_airways savanna_cider the_commission_pub oversized_luggage malisa gran_melia_hotel psanone_supermarket tillya halima dessert_buffet Comments (5)

Serengeti Day 3 Part 2 - Infrared, leopard in a tree

We finally 'bag' the BIG FIVE

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

Mawe Meupe Picnic Site



As we are getting the food out of the car and start setting the table, I ask Malisa what all those cars are gathered around at the bottom of the hill.


“Oh it's a lion” he says nonchalantly. Really? And we are getting out of the car and sitting at a picnic table? And even worse, actually walking down to the toilets, which are even nearer to the lions? Yeah, right.


And he's coming this way....


We also see more lions in the distance, under a tree. Malisa assures us it is perfectly safe, to have our picnic here, so we've got to trust him. We are not alone by any stretch of the imagination, so maybe it is safety in numbers.


Mawe Meupe is one of the more commercialised picnic sites in Serengeti, with a decent toilet block and a food truck selling snacks and drinks. As we are running low on Diet Coke to go with the Duty Free rum, we saunter over to take a look at what they are selling.


Expecting there to be full-fat Coke and Fanta only, imagine our surprise when we discover they not only have cold Diet Coke; but there is also Savanna Cider for sale, much to David's delight. Result!

This is just too surreal at a picnic site in the wilds of Africa.

The birdlife on this site is usually very good, although there are fewer birds here today than we've seen on previous visits.

Superb Starling


Speckled Fronted Weaver

White Headed Buffalo Weaver


As a bit of an afterthought at the last minute (encouraged by David), I packed my Infrared Camera for this trip, not really expecting to use it very much. I was wrong. I have been having a lot of fun, although it has also been a very steep learning curve, both in the field when photographing, and during the post processing afterwards. Here is a small selection of the images I have taken so far:











Moving on, we go and see the lions we spotted from the picnic site. One female is resting in the shade of a tree, her belly replete from a recent feast.



This is where we were a few minutes ago, as seen from the lions' perspective.


Under another tree lies the male with the leftovers of breakfast. Most likely the females did the kill and the male came along and just took it from them. Charming.


Two more females can be seen under another tree.


If you look very closely, you can see a large male lion hiding inside this bush. OK, so this is perhaps not our best lion sighting...


I am not even sure this Coqui Francolin has spotted the lion hiding in the thicket right behind him.



Yellow Throated Longclaw

This, however, is an excellent sighting: a lifer and a colourful one at that.


Thomson's Gazelles

A herd of Tommies are heading directly for the lions.


A few tense moments for the safari-goers before some tense moments for the antelopes as they discover the predators and make a run for it.


Green Grass

In the distance we see fresh, green grass, which is unusual for this time of year. We are now right at the end of the dry season, which means after months of no rain, the vegetation mostly consists of dead, brown straws, made even more dull by a covering of dust. This bit of fresh pasture is the result of deliberate burning to encourage new growth.


Topi with a bad leg

Walking with a limp renders this antelope an easy prey for any of the cats or even a hyena. He's just waiting to be lunch.



Kori Bustard


White Bellied Bustard


Spotted Hyenas

We spook a cackle of hyenas resting in a bush close to the road.



After the initial alarm, they hang around for a bit.




Hyenas are born black, and develop their tell-tale spots at around two weeks old. The darker the spots, the younger the pups.



Lazing under a tree in the midday sun. Only mad dogs and Englishmen and all that...


Thomson's Gazelles

Although not part of the Great Migration as such, these Tommy do follow the rain in a similar manner.




A substantial collection of vehicles ahead indicates there must be something of some great importance around. Everyone is looking at a tree, and Malisa assures me there is a leopard in there. Really? I point Big Bertha at the place where the leopard is said to be, but it is challenging to make it out, even with my 600mm lens.


Oh, wait, I think I can spot some rosettes in amongst the foliage when I zoom in.


Malisa moves the car a bit to get a better view.


So does the leopard, apparently spooked higher and higher into the tree by the vehicles below. This is the ugly face of safari tourism in Africa.





Wishing some of the other tourists would show some consideration for the wildlife by at least keeping noise to a minimum; we let the leopard be and move on to have our lunch picnic.

I am very grateful that Calabash Adventures's excellent ethics are shown through all the veneers of the company, from the owner to the drivers: RESPECT NATURE. This is one of the many reasons we choose Calabash again and again for our safaris in Tanzania.


Posted by Grete Howard 02:13 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds wildlife breakfast africa safari tanzania picnic antelope lions ethics serengeti leopard hyena gazelle topi warthog kori_bustard bird_watching infrared bustard ir birdlife picnic_breakfast superb_starling infrared_photography game_viewing packed_breakfast silverbird thomson's_gazelle mawe_meupe game_drivecalabash_adventures savanna_cider white_headed_buffalo_weaver yellow_throated_longclaw longclaw white_bellied_bustard cackle_of_hyenas respect_wildlife Comments (1)

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