OnSafari: Kili Magic!

OnSafari: Kili Magic!

Kirsten Wede, John & Christina Massimini, Theresea & Brewster Johnson
Kirsten Wede, John & Christina Massimini, Theresea & Brewster Johnson
Easily more than 50,000 flamingoes graced our first game drive in Arusha National Park as we drove to Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The Wede Family Safari began in this remarkable little park hardly an hour outside northern Tanzania’s busiest and largest city. The park surrounds Mt. Meru, Africa’s 5th highest mountain, which towers over Arusha.

You won’t see a lion kill and you won’t see giant herds filling the horizon, but we did see lots of waterbuck, zebra, warthog, baboon and .. giraffe. The park is fondly nicknamed “Giraffic Park” because it has so many giraffe.

And there are great chances of seeing the uncommon black-and-white colobus monkey and rare red duiker, both of which I saw on my first visit this year a couple weeks ago.

It was hippos that most impressed the kids, I think; but it was the flamingoes that resulted in the most pictures from the adults!

It really is a beautiful sight. Both lesser and greater flamingo fringed the Momela Lakes, the crater lakes of the old volcano, and even spread into the shallower parts of the lake interiors. As John Massimini remarked, they’re most beautiful when flying.

It isn’t just the formation they form, but the beautiful pastel red flashing with the underwing white that’s so captivating.

Annika, Isabella, Ranger, Lucas & Magnus
Annika, Isabella, Ranger, Lucas & Magnus

As with my last safari we decided to use tracks from Arusha NP to our camp in west Kili, and like last time, we got lost! But it’s kind of hard to really “get lost” when a landmark like Mt. Kilimanjaro is shouting out.

This time it was probably a half hour delay, and I think well worth it, because we got to see what village life in Tanzania has become. And I don’t mean bomas with kids with runny noses:

I mean proper brick or concrete houses – albeit very small – in regular clusters arranged along the irrigation “stream” that a number of villages out here have cut to provide irrigation to this otherwise arid land.

Today we walked around the 11,000 acres of Ndarakwai Ranch in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We saw zebra, wildebeest, warthog, eland, gazelle, mongoose, and tons of impala. The kids aborted the walk after a short while, and I called our rovers up to continue with them on a game drive.

While the adults climbed a hill with spectacular views. To the south was the incredible valley between Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro. To the north was Amboseli National Park in Kenya. It was a landscape that was Big Sky awesome!

Babu Hans led the charge on the hike. He’ll be celebrating his 70th birthday soon, and this was the reason for his safari. When I told the ranger who was nimbly jumping ahead of his like an impala about Hans’ remarkable agility at 70 years, the ranger proudly told me he was 73!

I love this place, Ndarakwai Ranch, as a perfect way to ease into a safari. It has lots of animals, really comfortable and beautiful but classic not luxurious tents, good food, and fine staff. It’s not as wild and wooly as the big game parks we start to visit tomorrow, but the outstanding scenery is hard to match.

The perfect way to begin while people are still shaking their jetlag.

Tomorrow: Tarangire!