We woke up to another nice breakfast and were packed and ready to meet Modi at 9am. Now Modi is a soft spoken, quiet man who was always very kind. When driving in the city he often let people cross the street or pull in front of him. He graduated from the University and was married with two kids. He was not a big talker, but when he smiled his face lit up, and he was like an encyclopedia of knowledge about all the animals and plants. We loved Modi!!
It was so fascinating to be watching the animals and have him talk about how they mate, eat or protect themselves as we were watching them do it!! We even learned about how the plants and trees communicate with each other and how they defend themselves. Modi always took great care of us and washed the jeep everyday – we definitely had the best looking jeep out there!! When driving with Modi we always had an enclosed jeep where the top popped up for game viewing! These are generally used when driving from place to place as the open jeeps may not be driven on the highway/main roads.
Our first stop was to meet Israel, our Naipenda Safari contact while in Tanzania. We stopped at the Naipenda offices in Arusha and had a nice chat with Israel, in his shiny grey suit and shoes. As I mentioned earlier, it was nice to know there was someone available 24/7 that we could call in case of, well…. anything.
Israel did mention that while our original itinerary was supposed to be three nights at Manyara Ranch, two nights at Exploreans Lodge and three nights at Singita Sabora there had been a computer crash at Manyara Ranch and they lost a bunch of information so now we would be staying only two nights at Manyara and three nights at Exploreans. At the time I was completely fine with it as it was just changing nights at places I had already chosen (not moving us to a lodge or camp I had not chosen). I was a bit suspect whether it was really Manyara or Naipenda’s fault but when we were at Manyara Ranch they did confirm that their computer’s had crashed and messed up their reservation system. When we returned home we received a refund check as a night at Exploreans was cheaper than a night at Manyara.
Our next step was to buy some beans for those “bean bags” we had bought to use with our cameras. Modi seemed familiar with this whole idea and said we would stop at the supermarket rather than the open air market because it was safer. We thought that seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the supermarket it was closed for “rebranding” which Modi explained meant restocking. So, we had to walk across the street to the open air market – but not before Modi had a conversation with the man in the parking lot with the khalishnikov machine gun – who “offered” to watch our jeep while we were in the market. Considering all our belongings were in there it seemed a good idea to oblige. Now we have been to a lot of open air markets in SE Asia and Northern Africa, and have definitely felt safe with or without a guide, and encountered little harrassment, even in some less touristed areas. However, here, even with Modi we had someone following us and asking us questions. “Where were we from?”, “Where were we going?” He finally left while we were buying our coveted beans, but it was a bit uncomfortable.
Back to our jeep after paying off our guard and one last stop at the Cultural Heritage Center before heading out to the bush!! The Cultural Heritage Center has lots of shopping, a restaurant and an art gallery, but most importantly decent toilets which was our main purpose for stopping here. Then on the road we went! A lot of interesting things along the way – many Masai herding their cows and goats, and markets with a sea of red Masai. It was about an hour and a half drive to Manyara Ranch Conservancy. The luxury tented camp is located within the wildlife corridor between Tarangire and Manyara National Park. We arrived and were shown to our tents.
Wow! Now this was glamping!! They were large tents with a bed, campaign desk, armoire, foot locker (with lock to store valuables), sink with counter, toilet and shower all with running hot water!
One note about the hot water. Each tent has its own boiler to heat the water, and must be lit by hand. Generally the water was heated after the morning and evening game drives, but you could ask them to heat it if you wanted to shower at a different time. There was electricity in the tent – lights, etc. but no plugs. They did have a power strip in the main tent that everyone used to plug in their phones, ipads etc to charge. The wifi was good in the main tent, but we could not get wifi in our tents. Outside of each tent was a nice chest where you could set things, chairs and a recliner.
Oh, and an amazing view!
The main tent was nice with chairs to sit in and relax and the table where meals were served family style.
We arrived just in time for lunch. Des, who made it a priority to remember everyone’s name and preferences, and his crew did an amazing job with food and serving everyone. Lunches were vegetarian and today was quiche, beet salad, cole slaw, avocado and tomato salad, homemade bread and a fruit cup for dessert. Everything was delicious!!
We also got to meet Greg, a young South African who was working as the Ranch Asst. Manager. After we relaxed for a bit we then met back up with Modi at 3:30pm for our first game drive. Because Manyara is a private reserve we were able to drive off road and get close to the animals. As we found out later when visiting two National Parks this really makes a difference – I encourage everyone when planning a safari to try to stay on at least one private reserve! While on our game drives here we saw impala, giraffe, gazelles, zebra, elephants, wildebeest, ostrich, jackals, warthogs, dic-dics, and a black mambo!
Here, we were also able to go on a night drive as well as a walking safari. For the night safari and to get to the start of our walking safari we drove in our first open jeep. These were amazing experiences that we were unable to have in the other places we stayed. At Manyara we always had a Masai tracker with us in the jeep. In addition, the Masai are at the camp at night to walk you to and from your tent. There is a flashlight in your tent and all you had to do was flash it and within 15 seconds a Masai was there to lead you. Our first night there we were the only group at the camp and we had great conversation with Greg and Alan who is from Zimbabwe and is the camp manager. We discussed African politics, corruption, religion, where else to go on safari – everything! The next morning we were woken up at 6am for our walking safari by a “knock” on our tent and hot coffe, tea, hot chocolate and biscuits delivered right to our tent.
We met up with Alan at 6:30 to be driven in an open air jeep to the start of our walking safari.
Sadly, we did not get to see any animals – as Alan said, “we got skunked” – but it was still an amazing way to start the day, and so good to get some exercise! Back to camp and we had a delicious breakfast that included yogurt, cereals, bananas, pineapple, watermelon and made to order eggs that came with beans, potatoes, tomatoes and sausage. At 10am Modi picked us up to take us to the Masai village for a visit. This is the same village where the trackers and guards were from. I know some people do not like to do these kinds of visits, but I find them interesting and we enjoyed our time there. Some villages are really set up to have the tourists visits and they sort of put on a show, but here we just visited a bit and they showed us inside one of their tents.
An animal skin that was drying.
Even the Masai Chief had a cell phone.
There is also a lot of controversy about whether or not to bring gifts. Generally there are too many people there to bring something for everyone. I agree with those who say it is better to just buy something from them as they lay out all the beaded jewelry that they make for you to purchase.
Once again, the kids loved to see themselves in the camera!!
After our afternoon game drive we came back in time for a sundowner before dinner – enjoying the sunset in front of the fire with some wine and amazing appetizers of bruschetta and vegetable tempura!
At dinner tonight more guests had arrived. A great Spanish couple who were on their honeymoon – he was an absolutely hoot! With broken, but decent English, unstoppable energy and a penchant for American politics and economics – he loved Sarah Palin, and wanted to talk about Alan Greenspan and Janet Yellen!! Our other guests were two couples from Texas and George, their “driver”. The night before Greg and Alan had mentioned that George, one of the owner’s of the ranch would be arriving with some guests the next day and had also mentioned he grew up in Tanzania but was a Cypriot (from Cyprus). Now, we have a friend at home who grew up in Tanzania but is Greek – a long shot but I was curious to find out if, by chance, they knew each other. When we came to dinner and met each other George introduced himself as the Texan’s “driver”, but I was a bit suspect that he was also the ranch owner – which of course was the case – oh, humble George! Next, I had to find out if he knew our friend Platon. When he found out we were from Oregon he asked if we knew of a particular restaurant in Eugene – apparently his aunt owned it. We didn’t but then had to ask, if by chance he knew Platon – well…..not only did he know Platon, but Platon’s brother was one of his best friends and they had all grown up in Tanzania together like cousins – my, it really is a small world!! Had to take this picture of Michael and George to post on social media for those back home!
Michael also learned the fine art of opening a champagne bottle from Greg.
Next up, our stay at Exploreans Lodge.
If you want to read more from our safari – click on the links below: