On Safari: No Pain No Gain!

On Safari: No Pain No Gain!

manyara.675Manyara is one of the most visited parks in Tanzania, but maybe 1% or less of the visitors ever get to where we did yesterday.

Lake Manyara is one of the most beautiful parks on the circuit. Even though it’s very small and very near urban areas, it’s carved out of the cliffs of the Great Rift Valley and as a result has an enormous variety of habitat.

The park begins with the great salt lake, Manyara, usually filled with flamingoes, then runs over small plains with zebra and giraffe and buffalo, into forests that scale the cliffs with a greater variety of trees than are found in temperate zones a thousand times its size.

But because the park is so narrow, there are only two main tracks for visitors (with numerous small circuits that meander out from the main tracks to the lake shore and back).

Almost all visitors go in the main gate, travel down the park a bit, then turn around (usually at the maji moto site) and exit the same way. We, instead, had an adventure to remember!

We went overland through little seen areas at the park’s far southern edge. We had to traverse some beautiful, busy rice paddy villages and sugarcane farms and on roads that were hard to believe were ever used by anything but cows!

nopainnogain.675And many cows and gates were using them!

We had to cross two rivers that were a bit tricky. Fortunately for the first there were boys who we hired to walk in front of the cars to make sure the river bed was solid. But for the second river, too remote inside the park, we had to chance it!

And then there were times that the “road” disappeared. We had to get out of the car and walk as the vehicles navigated farmland.

But as they say, “No Pain, No Gain.” It was a ten-hour, sometimes arduous trip, but the southern and hardly ever visited part of the park is actually its most beautiful section.

We saw fabulous waterfalls, thick forests, thousands of zebra and tens of thousands of flamingoes.

And as always with Manyara, the highlight was the baboon. The density of baboon in Manyara is unbelievable. And a second highlight was the enormous variety of birds. We even got good views of weavers nesting, as this is just the time as the rains start up in earnest.

What a grand time! And by the way, parents, it was the kids who did best, constantly enthusiastic. Ten-year old Peter was cheering us through the river crossings as if he were at a football match routing for his team.

On to the crater!