Tanzania Safari Journal: A hike and a drive in Arusha National Park

Saturday. Feb. 3. 2018

Today, our first full day in Tanzania, I awoke to a loud, animal sound, “Brau, brau, brau, brau, brau, brau, brau!”  I didn’t know what it was but found out it was one of the colobus monkeys that hangs around our lodgings, Rivertrees Country Inn. Amterdam-Tanzaia 391

I got lost looking for the dining room this morning, because we’d arrived late last night. However, I was soon set on the right track and found our table, a long table next to an open area where we could appreciate the wildlife. It reminded me so much of Costa Rica!

Since it was our first morning, our group had an introductory session so we could learn everyone’s names, their passions, and why they came on this trip.

Breakfast was buffet style: there was freshly squeezed juice (including passion fruit!), fresh tropical fruits, breads, jams, cheeses, and an omelet making station where a staff member stood ready to take our orders. Dale had an omelet, I did not. There was enough other food to fill my plate!

Our guide, David, told us the plan for today. We were going to Arusha National Park, along the way perhaps seeing some animals. We would stop at a nice rest area with good bathrooms and a small shop, and displays to read. From there, we would take a hike with an armed guide and have a picnic lunch next to a waterfall. Then we would go for a drive through the park to see animals! We met our drivers, Livingstone and Elias, in the reception gazebo, where we had been greeted last night.225.JPG

They had jars of cookies – one called “Digestives” and the other was ginger snaps – that were kept in the trucks. These cookies were good for the digestion, we were told, to help us with all the bumping around. There was also a supply of water bottles in each of the vehicles, Toyota Land Cruisers.

The Hike

The hike was an opportunity to see some animals, but especially the small things, like bugs and flowers. The guide showed us things along the way. Overall, I found it quite taxing and hot – some areas were hilly and I huffed and puffed. A year ago, I thought, I wouldn’t have been so tired from a hike like this. Also, I’d neglected to put on sunscreen and was wearing a blouse with ¾ length sleeves, so my hands and wrists got quite sunburned.

The guide pointed out a bush with small round yellow fruits growing on it. This is a type of apple. In the background, we could see Mt. Kilimanjaro, often shrouded in clouds; like Denali in Alaska, we were told we were lucky to see the mountain so clearly – it was a cloudless, blue sky day!DSC03121.JPG

Before we saw any animals, we came across what the guide told us were giraffe turds! There is actually a way to tell if the turds were from a male or female giraffe – the male turds are slightly pointed on one end; while the female turds are flat on both ends. He picked up a male turd to show us.DSC03171.JPGWe soon came to an open field with some acacia trees where we saw our first big animals: giraffes, of course!  One was lying down in the field; another was  grazing nearby.
We came to a stream that meandered through the landscape. It was a beautiful view!

Dale admiring the landscape. In the background is Mt. Meru.

Near the giraffes was a herd of grazing zebras. A warthog family passed by, their tails held up as they ran! We saw monkeys in trees and a giraffe completely camouflaged by the forest. Skulls of giraffes, monkeys or baboons, antelope and buffalo were displayed on some rocks, which the guide identified for us.

Warthog family

Buffalo and antelope skulls

The sun was hot and I felt the heat. The hike seemed very long, but I didn’t complain, just kept going.  The guide stopped to show us a young acacia tree, which was covered with sharp, white, intimidating thorns! He told us that these thorns were to protect the leaves and branches of the growing tree from being eaten by giraffes! Giraffes can only nibble on the very tips, where the thorns are not developed and are soft enough for animals to consume.SONY DSC
The stream became a river and we crossed on a hanging bridge.  We saw monkeys camouflaged in the trees.

Finally we reached the waterfall. As we approached, we could hear the gushing of the water and felt a cooling mist. We had to cross the stream to get to the place where we would rest and have lunch.

Sitting on the rocks, feeling the cool mist, was a great relief. I somewhat regretted not having my lunch box, but not too much – it would have been a drag to have to carry it. My cousin, Holly, was sitting near me and offered me some of her lunch – including her hard-boiled egg, which I readily accepted. I could use some protein for the return trip! I peeled the egg and wondered whether it was okay to leave the egg shells – the chicken who laid this egg wasn’t native to this ecosystem. I had decided it was probably okay, but Holly picked up the pieces and put them in her box.

The hike back was quite a bit shorter and cooler, because the path led through some woods.  We saw some fragrant jasmine flowers. I never realized they were so small!2-3 jasmine flowers
Those of us who had lunches waiting for us at the vehicles took them over to the picnic tables to eat. I looked up and saw a couple of baboons who had appeared nearby. There was a young one and a larger one, which I thought was the daddy, but may have been its mama. Suddenly there were more, including a female with a baby clinging to her back.


They must have been attracted by our food – in fact, they may be used to associating human presence with food. Hopefully, people don’t give them anything, although the most daring might come over and try to snatch something! They didn’t do that to us, however.

The Drive

After lunch, we got back into the Land Cruisers and headed into Arusha National Park, with bumpy dirt roads. This was our first day out, and everything we saw was exciting.

A young waterbuck stopped and stared at us from the trees; its parents – the male with long slightly curved horns, the female without horns – grazed in the open grass nearby.


We saw buffalo, more waterbucks, giraffe and warthog families, baboons in trees, a bushbuck, guinea fowl,  and various other bird species.


A waterbuck watches as zebras, giraffes and other waterbucks run toward him, apparently spooked by something.
Guinea fowl

I never got tired of looking at giraffes. In spite of their ungainly shape, they move gracefully and peacefully.

One way to tell the sex of a giraffe: the females have tufts of hair on top of their ossicones (the protrusions on their heads), while the male’s are flat.  The giraffes use a tree like this one to scratch an itch on their necks!


Mother giraffe with calves. When the calves are born, they are six feet tall and then grow one inch per day!


We returned to Rivertrees in the evening in time for dinner.

This building at Rivertrees, where our room was, is called the Farm House. The rooms are situated around a central lounge area, with couches, tables and chairs.




Thursday Doors: Some Amsterdam Doors

Before our trip to Tanzania, we spent four days in Amsterdam. It was winter and gloomy, but not too cold to walk around. Amsterdam is a great city for walking! I took more photos of doors than I have here, but I lost my phone at the end of our trip and for some reason, the photos didn’t upload into the Google Cloud. These were taken with my camera.

On Jan. 30, we had booked a tour to see the Anne Frank House (which has to be done online in advance), and also a walking tour through the Jewish Quarter. We walked and did some sightseeing in the morning before those tours. These photos are from that day.

The oldest building in Amsterdam is the Old Church (Oude Kerk), located, as it happens, in the middle of the famous Red Light District! SONY DSC

Here is more of the façade of the Old Church:

On our walk in that area, I took photos of other interesting doors:

Between the Old Church and Our Lord of the Attic Church (which I will write about in another post) was this doorway:

033 (73)

We also passed a “Coffee Shop” – which is not a place to have lunch! It is where people go to smoke marijuana (hence the name over the door), but I guess you can get coffee there also.
033 (72)

On our way to the meeting point for the walking tour, we went through Amsterdam’s Chinatown.
033 (69) (2)

Most people in Amsterdam commute to work either by public transportation or by bicycle. Weather is no deterrent! They just bundle themselves up against the cold and wind. So it is not unusual for an entrance to have several bicycles parked outside.
033 (80)

At the end of the walking tour, we arrived at the Anne Frank House. We were not allowed to take pictures inside, but my husband insisted on having a picture taken of him at the entrance to the house.

Norm’s Thursday Doors is a weekly feature in which people share their photos of doors and entryways, and runs from Thursday to Saturday morning. Check it out!


Tanzanian Pairs

Paula at Lost In Translation has a weekly challenge “Thursday Special.” This week’s topic is pairs.

Elephants (mother and offspring) in Arusha National Park after a mud bath!SONY DSC

A pair of Bare-Faced Go Away Birds up in a tree

Curious mongooses check out what’s going on from the safety of their hole in a termite mound in Tarangire National Park.

The smallest antelope, the dik dik, is very elusive. They always travel in pairs.

Another animal that you always find in pairs is the jackal. The pair works together to hunt or claim their prey. This pair lives in Ngorongoro Crater.

Impalas are a common and beautiful antelope. Here are a mother and her fawn.DSC03719.JPG

Shy boys at a Maasai Village near Ngorongoro.
2-7 Maasai boys

This is a mating pair of lions that live in Ngorongoro Crater. The male and female will stay together for about four days, then go their separate ways.

Hippos in a pond at Serengeti National Park

These are weavers’ nests! Weavers are small, bright yellow birds. The male makes the nest using grass and other materials, then awaits approval from the female.

Another large and ubiquitous animal is the long and lanky giraffe. One way to tell the male and female apart is by noticing the stubs on their heads. The female giraffe’s have tufts of hair, while the male’s are flat.

A furry little resident of the Serengeti lives in the rocky kopjes (an Afrikaans word pronounced like “copies”). These are hyraxes, which, strangely, are related to the largest animal of the Serengeti, the elephant! Can you see the resemblance??

And finally, one of my favorites – a pair (actually mother and cub) of cheetahs in the Serengeti.  We watched these two for a long time.

CFFC: Birds of Tanzania: Arusha and Tarangire National Parks

I did not expect to see so many beautiful birds while on safari in Tanzania! It was hard to choose the best of these, and I will showcase more birds in future posts that we encountered on our safari. The birds included here were sighted at Arusha National Park and Tarangire National Park.

One of the prettiest birds, which became a favorite with our group, was the lilac breasted roller.SONY DSC

Here’s another of this species in flight:

Red and yellow barbet

SONY DSCA common bird is the Egyptian goose.SONY DSC

At water’s edge, the blue heron rests.

Other birds near the water are more active – such as these storks fighting over a carcass!DSC03532.JPGAnd a vulture patiently waits.
DSC03528.JPGSome water birds are always found in large groups. Most of these flamingos are not fully grown – they gain their brilliant pink color as adults.SONY DSCSuperb starlings are ubiquitous, but I loved their shiny feathers!
I’d never seen a kingfisher with a red beak, but Tanzanian birds surprised and delighted me!
DSC03597.JPGAnother hornbill species

I believe this is an ibis.
We came across an egret convention while searching for hippos! They had gathered on both shores of a lake.
DSC03658.JPGThey were even up in this tree!DSC03669.JPG
Secretary birds are more often seen in the grass.
Where there’s a female ostrich…DSC03697.JPG
…you usually find a male ostrich.  Actually these two were part of a larger group, which is normal – ostriches usually travel in groups of 8 to 10 birds.DSC03698.JPG
Finally, another bird found in the grasslands of Tarangire National Park is the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill. This one has a piece of a snake – its favorite food – hanging from its beak!

Cee’s Fun foto Challenge, 2/20/18

WPC: Sweet

Our recent trip to Tanzania began with four days in Amsterdam, Netherlands. My brother has been there several times and recommended a place to find the best poffertjes – a famous Dutch sweet that is something like a small doughnut but soft inside. They are served with butter and powdered sugar, and at De Vier Pilaren, we ordered them with strawberries and whipped cream!  Yummmmm!

1-31 poffertjes at De Vier Pilaren

This is what Wikipedia has to say about this delicious treat: Poffertjes are a traditional Dutch batter treat. Resembling small, fluffy pancakes, they are made with yeast and buckwheat flour. Unlike American pancakes, they have a light, spongy texture.

Here is a link to a recipe for poffertjes.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge 2/14/18: Sweet

CFFC: Tanzania Z’s

I’ve just returned from Tanzania! Just in time to contribute to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge’s last letter of the alphabet, Z!

TanZanians…are Maasai, Chaga, and many other tribes. They are proud of their ethnic identities but are first and foremost Tanzanians.SONY DSC

Maasai village dancers


2-7 teachers at Maasai school
Teachers at a Maasai village elementary school

Zebras are often seen migrating with wildebeest. The zebras remember the route and the wildebeest can smell water.

Zebras and wildebeest migrate together.
Zebra herd
How many zebras are in this picture? Three? Four?

Of course, among the most popular residents of Ngorongoro Crater or the Serengeti plain are the big cats. Lions are often seen taking a nap (catching Zzzz’s).

Lioness with cubs. Some of the cubs want to play and explore but mama just wants to take a nap!


Tired male lion


Lions can sleep even with insects crawling on their faces!

Zinj archaeological site is part of Oldupai (aka Olduvai) Gorge, where the first fossil remains of ancient hominids were found. At Zinj, you can look down and find rocks with fossils embedded in them very easily. This is where Mary Leakey found the most ancient of man’s ancestors, “zinjanthropus,” or Australopithecus boisei. 2-8 Zinj archeaological site-Oldupai



2-8 spot where Mary Leakey found bones of Lucy
This marker marks the exact spot where Mary Leakey discovered bones of Australopithecus boisei, one of humankind’s most ancient ancestors.


2-8 fossils & modern bones-Oldupai
Old and new fossils at Zinj. Fossilized bones are dense and heavy. Modern fossils are light. In this picture are also pieces of granite which was commonly found here, and held fossilized remains of animals.


Stay tuned for upcoming posts about our trip to Tanzania!