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Glamping in Tanzania with African Environments

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This posting is cross-posted on noplasticshowers.com

During our 15 day trip to Tanzania in September, we saw some remarkable things about as up close and personal as you could get. We hiked over 70km in four national parks. And we stayed in tents. But don’t let that last bit fool you, we were “glamping.”

So what, exactly is “glamping” anyway? That’s the subject of this posting. There are 92 pieces of media in this posting.

If you are going glamping, you will need a truck

This is the passenger seat. Just for the record.

On the way to our first tent, we did a game drive for a few hours and saw many things. Including an albino baboon. But that’s another posting.

Without further ado, our first tent in Arusha national park.

The tent in Arusha

These tents have multiple rooms, double beds, and non-plastic showers.

This bed is better than a thermarest pad

Of course, readers of noplasticshowers are going to want to know about the bathroom area. There was a chemical toilet. And some sinks that drained directly outside.

Sinks without water

Mirrors in a tent?! Dang.

The shower also had no running water. It was somebody’s job to put 3.5 liters (not quite enough, that is) into the dispenser just before a “glamping shower.”

Those little handles control the water flow.

The shower from outside

Home for a couple of nights

Then there was the food situation. Just great. Really. No camping food here. Fresh fruits and veggies. Great chefs. Delicious.

Our first lunch. This is a theme we will return to.

Of course, some lunch spots were better than others. Like, say, this one. No bees and only one land shark sighting.

 

The fig tree in Arusha is famous. This is a staged video.

 

Lots of stuff happened between camps. By the time we got to Ngorongoro crater we had seen elephants fighting, black hippos, and more. See this posting for all that nature stuff.

Driving between parks

The roads in Tanzania vary widely. This one, recently completed by a Japanese engineering firm was all shiny and new. We stopped for gas. That’s because in Africa, the cars take gas, just like ours.

Gas station. Mostly familiar.

 

We’re here for the tents, though, and so tents it is. These tents are manufactured in Arusha. They are sturdy and must weigh several hundred pounds. Fortunately, whenever we arrived, they were already set up.  Oh, and the best part about the tents?  The views.

 

 

Another cushy double bed

In the morning, hot coffee was always delivered here. Just outside the door, er, flap.

There was a lunch, this time close to some bees.

Denis does not serve honey near bees

 

 

Base camp with the Maasai includes solar panels

Our little panel pales in comparison

The Ngorongoro base camp was another two night thing.

This lion is checking the exhaust system

More lunch is in order.

Fresh

Product placement opportunity

Did we mention that lunch was great?

Lunch was at hippo-land. I counted 53 trucks.

After Ngorongoro, it was off to the Serengeti for a completely different thing.

You go, Denis!

Your faithful crew enters the Serengeti

Pre lunch yoga

Yeah, there was lunch.

More lunch

Our guide Denis was by this time a great friend.

The roads in the Serengeti get some serious use. And so they also get repaired.

Road repair happens

Our third tent in the Serengeti looked suspiciously similar

We arrived at sunset and were delayed when we came across a pair of mating lions less than a kilometer from camp. For more about the lions, see this posting.

 

The camp lions. We saw this pair 4 times.

Solar

Our tent was cushy

The common areas in the Serengeti base camp were all hipster and very cool.

Firepit. The sand had lion tracks in the morning.

The Living Room tent, charging station and location of cold beer

Stuff

The mess tent

Breakfast was also good

Hitchhiker. This guy forgot his towel.

Make sure that you make up some Pele Pele for every meal. It is best if it stews in the sun for a week in some vinegar.

Dinner setting in the Serengeti

Base camp was great, but our plan was to do some hiking. Actually, it turned out to be mostly a walk in the park.

 

 

 

The scariest thing we came across on foot was this.

Camp was set up each night. Two different camps within walking distance.

Serengeti field camp

Even in the field, there was wine.

 

Who needs civilization?

Our tent in the afternoon. Sweltering.

Reading

Sunset was spectacular everywhere we were. This view from a Kopfe was typical in its atypical beauty.

 

 

Sundown on the Serengeti

Though the walking camps were less cushy than the base camps, they were still pretty cushy. Like, they were all set up, there was no carrying in stuff in a backpack, there were field showers with warm water, and so on. Yeah. We’ve backpacked 65 miles in Montana. This was definitely not the same thing.

Home glow

Field camp 2

Oh, and even when walking the Serengeti…there was lunch. This time buffalo.

Hiking lunch

Grill

The guys tried to surprise us with lunch, but we had binoculars and a sense of what was up.

Lunch was trucked in

James was our walking guide

Everyone was armed, though they were not really paying much attention to their rifles.

Morning at field camp

Then it was back to base camp for a night.

Glamping involves chairs and a fire at sunset

We had another lunch. Just under these bees.

And holy cow. On our way to the Hadza bushmen, there was this cheetah. In a tree. Remarkable. Cheetahs do not climb trees.

 

 

Sometimes there were goats in the road

Fire at night in the Hadza camp

Denis was a very serious person

 

 

Even while hanging around in camp, the Hadza were busy. Making arrows.

On occasion, one must stop for onions.

Onion stop!

Street vendors. Read the signs.

Another lunch shot. Because lunch!

Our last camp in Tarangire was at a tent lodge. The lodge had power, running water, a bar, and a pool. There was net too. Talk about glamping!

Civilization

A pool

Of course we were still, technically, in a tent.

The luxe tent

Which had a view.

View from the lodge

Though the showers were not all that, they did have LOTS of hot water that did not stop after 2 minutes. Woo hoo!

Not the best shower in the world, but hot water.

Anyway, that is pretty much what glamping in Africa is like. African Environments makes everything incredibly easy and fun. If you’re a real camper (like we are), it will seem unbelievably luxurious.

More product placement. We cannot recommend this firm any more highly.

Arusha HQ of African Environments. Where we had…anyone? anyone? Lunch!

Our guide Denis Mollel made the trip outstanding. Best guide in Africa. Ask for him by name.

Tanzania with African Environments: Seven Remarkable Things

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We’ve been talking about making a trip to Africa for twenty years, and we finally did it. We visited Tanzania for a private safari with the African Environments company from August 31st to September 14th. Our very high expectations were exceeded on every front. If you are thinking about going to Africa, do what we did!

On the first day off the plane, we were blown away by the wildlife that we saw during a first short game drive on the way to camp. Seriously. During our trip, we took thousands of pictures and saw every animal you might imagine seeing, up close and personal.

So how do you even begin to share an experience like that without boring someone to death? Chop the trip up into bite size chunks? Divide by animal groupings? Cross cut through the trip?? OK, we can do that.

This is posting one. In this posting, we’ll focus on seven remarkable things.

Yeah, everything was remarkable. But we set the bar way high for this posting. If we had an experience that even the guides who do this every day found special, then it made its way onto this list of remarkable things.  Honestly.  Remarkable.

In a nutshell here’s what we’ll cover. In addition to seeing four world class Tanzanian national parks with all of the associated animals and scenery, we got to see these remarkable things:

  1. Albino baboons (2) in Arusha
  2. Elephants fighting in Lake Manyara
  3. Black rhinos mating in Ngorongoro
  4. Daily visits with a pair of mating lions less than 1km from our camp in the Serengeti
  5. A cheetah climb a tree (twice)
  6. Bushmen eat a big male vervet monkey during a hunt we participated in
  7. Lions hunting in Tarangire

Even one of these things would have been a highlight. Together, they simply blew our socks off.

We’ll post another couple of contextual pictures and videos with each remarkable thing so you get a feel for the places we were. All in all, there are 68 pieces of media in this posting.

Off we go.

 

1. Albino baboons

Our first camp was in Arusha national park.  On our drive in from the airport on the first day, we saw lots of animals, including two albino baboons.

Albino baboon in Arusha national park

 

Albino baboon in Arusha national park

 

A second albino baboon in Arusha national park

 

Albino baboon with a baby

Arusha is a rain forest up high and shrouded in fog in places, verdant and wet with strangler figs and other interesting flora.

 

Incidentally, this lunch setup is indicative of the kind of hospitality that the African Environments people provide by default.

 

Amy in a fig tree way up high

We hiked 15km in Arusha, sometimes bushwhacking through the forest.

 

2. Elephants fighting

The second national park we visited was Lake Manyara. This park as a much different feel than Arusha and is definitely more crowded. We visited for lunch and an afternoon game drive. We saw our first elephants here.

We even saw an elephant fight.

We can’t say for sure, but it looks like one of these elephants broke a tusk. All of this happened within 40 feet of our vehicle.

This old man seemed un-phased when we drove within a foot of him

 

3. Black rhinos mating in Ngorongoro

When we arrived in Ngorongoro, we were running late. But a stop by the overlook at the top of the entrance road was in order. Remarkably we spotted a rare black rhino from the overlook. That was only a taste of things to come.

We were greeted at our camp by the Massai.

 

Hovering in the air is a thing the Massai do

 

Sunsets and sunrises in Africa are not to be missed

The next day, we spotted a group of three black rhinos. Two of them were mating. One of our guides later told us that he had only seen something like this once in twenty years.

That is three black rhinos across the body of water. Two of them are mating.

 

More rhino mating.

We also saw some lions in Ngorongoro. They did not seem to mind the humans (as long as the humans were in trucks). One of them was so close that we could reach out the window and touch it. Doing so was not advised.

 

This lion likes trucks more than the other lions

 

Another fantastic lunch by the hippos

 

Our friend Kambatai

 

3. A pair of mating lions

On our way in to the Serengeti base camp we were running behind (because pole pole!). About 1km outside of camp was a pair of lions who were off from the pride mating. This ritual can last up to 21 days. We saw this same pair 3 more times on the way in and out of camp. The most memorable time was the first.

The sun set while we watched the lions 50 feet from our car.

African sunset. Look carefully to see the lions.

 

This lion pair stayed very close to base camp for days

 

This picture gives you some idea of where the lions were in relation to our vehicle

Of course the Serengeti was full of animals.

And the animals were this close

We set out from base camp for three days of walking in the bush. Amy and I were accompanied by our guide James and a hilarious ranger named Safe. Both Safe and James were armed. All together, we walked 36km in the Serengeti.

On foot in the serengeti (being armed is not an option)

 

Temporary home on the African plains

 

Sunset by campfire

 

Amy climbs a Kopfe

 

 

4. A cheetah climb a tree

Even driving around between parks is a treat. On our way to see the bushmen, we drove through one of the most remarkable areas and were lucky enough to spot a cheetah climbing a tree. Our intrepid guide Denis, who is known for palling around with cheetahs, said this is remarkable. Cheetahs do not climb trees.

BTW, this is Denis Mollel, the best guide in Africa.

Denis Mollel, our intrepid guide for 15 days

On the way to that impossible sight, we watched this huge male lion on his way to water.

 

Meh, humans.

 

This female cheetah was nursing cubs and very hungry

 

She climbed a tree to look around for a meal

 

Cheetah in a tree

 

Cheetahs do not climb trees

 

 

Amy has way better pictures of all of these remarkable things

 

5. Bushmen eat a monkey

One of our most memorable and treasured experiences in Africa involved visiting the Bushmen. We spent time hanging out with the men from the (temporary) village in our camp, around the fire and under a huge baobab tree. We also went hunting. All told we walked/ran/chased 20km with the bushmen.

Our hunt was a big success from the Bushman perspective. We came home with a mongoose, 4 small monkeys, and the remaining haunch of a big male vervet monkey. The bushmen live the same way they did 10,000 years ago, venerating the sun, and waking up every day to see what they can find to eat.

We came home with the arrowhead from the hunt.

Walking to camp with the Bushmen

 

Arrowheads

 

Amy by the fire.

 

Hunting

 

How to carry home a monkey

 

Drinking directly from a stream

 

Shooting (mostly up). The bushmen are fantastic shots

 

After the big male

Once the vervet was cornered high up in a coconut palm, getting him down was a thing. The hunt paused for an hour while the monkey was finally targeted. Julian, the chief, shot him directly through the heart about 60 feet up. The bushmen were psyched and decided to eat the monkey directly on the spot.

Lunch

 

The monkey “cooks.” Every single bit was consumed.

Everyone always asks us if we ate the monkey. Of course we didn’t! Bush meat is riddled with parasites and things that we Americans (even if we’re from Tennessee) can’t eat. They did offer us the liver, though, just for the record.

Later that evening after returning to camp, we went to the lake to see the sun go down. Sharing our pictures with the Bushmen was really fun.

Talking about the hunt

 

Humans bonding

The next morning, before we departed, the bushmen danced and sang for us.

 

Friends

 

7. Lions hunting in Tarangire

Our final national park was Tarangire. This park was arid (we visited during the dry season), though there were waterholes and a river. As always, we saw lots and lots of animals: wildebeast, giraffe, zebra, elephants, lions, jackals, dik dik, water buffalo, cheetah, and more. We stayed at a tent resort with a lodge and running water.

Our guide Denis once again showed his remarkable understanding of the creatures we were observing. We found this female lion and her three cubs.

Lioness

 

Three cubs

 

Lots of other trucks gathered around us. Another female (with a radio collar) walked right by us. Denis said, “Now we will be patient and have some coffee. Pole pole.” He knew the lions were going to hunt. We watched and waited for 45 minutes. All of the others left, off to see zebras or something.

Then it was time to zoom off to another location to catch the hunt itself just around the bend of the river. “Let’s go there,” said Denis. And we were off.

Instead of taking pictures or video of the resulting hunt, I watched it happen in real time. Amy has some fantastic video that she will share later (I know, this is like an Uncle Wiggly story).

After we got to our observation post, we watched the lions emerge from the bush and slink down the riverbed. A large herd of wildebeest and zebras was completely unaware of their approach. Finally, the lead lion took off running and spooked the herd just as she arrived in their midsts. Dust! Chaos! Confusion! Sadly for the lion, nobody was taken down and the hunt ended as 80% do, with no prey.

Incredible to watch.

Later that evening we returned to find the same lions. They climbed a tree beside us and together we watched the sun go down.

What we look like on safari (binoculars and cameras)

The trusty Landcruiser

Those were the seven most remarkable things we saw on our trip to Africa. Of course we saw many other sights. An awesome experience to be sure.  Our planet is an incredible place.

Sunset with baobabs

 

Fin