Drinking freshly-brewed coffee on the veranda outside my tent while admiring the landscape of Tarangire National Park and Lokisale Reserve — simply put, it was the perfect start to my third full day in Tanzania. The view from Maisha Kikoti Safari Camp is quite breathtaking, as the camp is located on a peak east of Tarangire on land managed by the African Nature Conservation Trust. The camp is named for Kikoti Rock, an impressively large boulder on the hill’s peak that is easily seven stories high.
Herd of zebra near Kikoti Rock.
After breakfast, we headed out for a game drive through the reserve and park. Our first sight was a herd of about 250 zebras at a watering hole in Lokasale Reserve. It was truly breathtaking to see so many of these gentle creatures in one place. The birthing season for zebras is in early December, so we spotted many pregnant females.
A herd of elephants gathers around a newborn to protect it from human onlookers.
Tarangire Park was also lush with wildlife. We saw herds of elands, impala, wildebeest, zebra, and elephants — including a one-month-old baby! Other notable animals a reedbuck, a steenbok (an antelope the size of a cocker spaniel), a klipspringer (an even smaller antelope adapted to climbing rocks), a pair of crowned eagles, a rock hyrax and some bush hyraxes (rabbit-sized cousins of the elephant) and several ostriches.
A great way to spend the day is viewing animals – such as these zebras – at Manyara Ranch
Next we headed toward Lake Manyara, stopping on the way to visit Manyara Ranch. The ranch is a 6-tent luxury camp on 45,000 acres of conservation area managed by the African Wildlife Fund. The camp is much more than a place to sleep; it’s a destination in and of itself. Zebras and other herd animals often wander through the site during sundowners (cocktail hour) and dinner. On-site activities include morning walks, night drives, and half-day horseback safaris. The camp can be accessed by road, or camp representatives can pick travelers up at the nearby Manyara airstrip.
We then embarked for a fun adventure — visiting Mungere Secondary School in a rural Maasai community outside of Manyara. One of my clients sponsors a student there and plans to visit the school on her next trip to Tanzania.
Classroom at Mungere Secondary School
The two-room schoolhouse was started in an area that badly needed it. Illiteracy is high in this community, and before the school was built there, the closest secondary school was many miles away. Since most people in the area get around by foot, that meant that few of the children who attended elementary school continued on into secondary school.
None of the main roads reach Mungere Secondary School. To get there, one must leave the main road and follow the cattle trail (an unmarked trail made by cattle hooves that occasionally becomes obscured by dust that blows over it). Turn left at the baobab tree, and continue down the trail toward the palm grove until you see the white brick building. That is the school.
The main motor vehicle road near Mungere Secondary School in E’unoto, Tanzania. To get to the school, we turned on to the cattle trail.
We lost track of the cattle trail a few times, but the local Maasai were very friendly. Although not all of them spoke Swahili (the Maasai speak their own language at home and study Swahili as a second language at school), those who did were happy to point us on our way. They were clearly very proud of the presence of the school in their community.
Although the school was closed for holiday, we were able to meet one of the students and the groundskeeper (a graduate of the school), both of whom shared the name Emmanuel. The education offered at the school is clearly quite good, as they both spoke excellent Swahili and very good English.
Escarpment Luxury Lodge, Lake Manyara
We then headed on to Lake Manyara for a late lunch at Escarpment Luxury Lodge. The 16-cabin lodge is on a peak with excellent views of the large alkaline lake, and has an onsite pool and children’s wading pool. Each cabin has both an indoor and private outdoor shower, air-conditioning, and a large private veranda with a lake view. A private butler is assigned to the cabin for the length of the guests’ stay, so you are always interacting with the same staff — a lovely touch. Decor is modern European and South African design with local influences; the sculpture-like chandeliers, for example, feature blue faceted glass that resemble tanzanite. Our lunch was excellent, incorporating French techniques with a contemporary flair and artistic presentation.
Our final site visit of the day was at Kirumuru Manyara, a large 30-tent permanent camp that also overlooks Lake Manyara. The camp has two tents for families. Decor features kente-cloth bedspreads and upholstery, and activities offered by the camp include a nature walk and a three-hour hike to the nearby waterfall.
Exploreans Luxury Lodge spa area
After a long day of adventure, we were happy to arrive at Exploreans Lodge, a 20-cabin luxury resort close to Ngorongoro Crater. The grounds are astounding, with vast well-kept vegetable, flower and herb gardens. Cabins have a living room and bedroom and overlook a reserve and coffee plantation, with Ngorongoro Mountain off in the distance. Onsite amenities include massage and spa services, a swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi. Individuals who want to take a break from safari can go on a guided plantation walk. The staff is very attentive and service is excellent, with most drinks and room service included in the package. The lodge even offers an extensive pillow selection; guests can order from about eight different pillow styles (such as buckwheat hull pillows) to ensure optimal comfort and a great night’s sleep. However, I found the standard pillow already provided in the room to be plenty comfortable, and fell right asleep as soon as my head touched it.