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Thursday, February 11, 1999
Lake Manyara area, Tanzania

I had a good night's sleep. One of the good things that had happened during the night is that the constipation that had plagued me the first few days of the trip was finally relieved. I felt much better.

After cleaning up and dressing, I walked up to the restaurant building. Larry and Teri were already there, just finishing breakfast. The breakfast here was a buffet, with fruit, cereal, and copious amounts of sausage and bacon. I didn't notice the arrangement for eggs. There was also french toast.

What we would call hot chocolate was provided as well, and they called it drinking chocolate. Alas, there was never enough milk around to enjoy a glass of it. This was true everywhere I ran into drinking chocolate.

I noticed the family from California was there again, and the boy was still wearing his 'A Bug's Life' shirt.

After breakfast, our group assembled in front of the main entrance building. Njau pulled up (The guides stay in different lodging a short distance away. This was also the case at Serengeti Sopa Lodge.), and we climbed in the land rover. Soon, we were headed down the escarpment for Lake Manyara National Park. I took some nice pictures of the lake and the landscape as we descended. (6:36,35,34,33)

There was a nice interpretive center at the park gate. There, we found mounted specimens of some of the birds and animals to be found in the park. There was also information about the formation of the rift valley and Lake Manyara. Again, I had a chance to purchase official guidebooks, and didn't.

Lake Manyara National park is principally noted for two things: 1.)Some of the best hippo viewing in all of Africa, and 2.) It's tree climbing lions. Of course, I wanted very badly to see the latter, and scanned for them nearly constantly. Njau also told us that floods earlier in the season had forced the hippos from their usual haunts to a place that is not accessible. Therefore, we would not see hippos this time.

We were hardly through the gate when we saw baboons along the road. (6:32) This was the first of many baboons we saw in this park. Indeed, Lake Manyara had the best primate viewing we encountered on the entire safari. (6:31,30,29 w/baby hanging from belly.)

Another common primate in this park is the blue monkey. They were frequently seen scurrying through the trees. They were not as shy as vervet monkeys, and we had many good observations of them. (6:28,27)

The rift valley escarpment is drained by a number of small streams that ultimately flow down into the lake. These were often quite beautiful. (6:26)

High atop the rift valley escarpment, Lake Manyara Hotel was visible. Oh, what the view must be like! But, Njau told us that Kirurumu has better service. (6:25)

We found some baboons digging through elephant dung for food. (6:24) Elephants have such inefficient digestive systems that much food passes through undigested. This is great for seeds, etc., as they pass through the elephant's digestive system. Their hulls are softened by the digestive process. They then find themselves in a rich growth medium where they can sprout. The dung also attracts insects. It is these seeds and insects the baboons are looking for.

We came upon this lone elephant with it's back to us. (6:23) We saw lots of elephant in Lake Manyara, but not like Tarangire. We also did not see large numbers of elephants in any one spot.

Up in the trees, we found a silvery-cheeked hornbill. (6:22-21) This was the first of many hornbill species we saw.

We continued to see many blue monkeys (6:20) as we made our way further South into the park. One of the blue monkeys we saw had a baby with it. (6:19)

We next came upon one of the real observing treats of the whole trip! There was a troop of baboons doing it's thing along the road. In the midst of these baboons, a magnificent warthog just stood and watched. We were able to get quite close, and got some excellent photos. (6:17,16,15,14,12,11) The baboons provided some nice photo opportunities as well, including a young one all by himself. (6:18,13) We watched the warthog root around for a while, because we probably wouldn't get this close to one again.

We startled a small antelope, which ran away from us. Although I am not 100 percent sure, I think this is a common dukier. (6:10)

We saw an agur buzzard sitting in a tree, probably scanning the ground for a possible meal. (6:9)

The further South we went in the park, the more broken the forest became. What started out as dense, rain-forest-like cover gave way to acacia trees and patches of savannah grass. We found two elephants in one of these grassy patches. (6:8)

Still no tree-climbing lions!

We came to a beach frequently used as a picnic/rest area. We stopped to stretch our legs. Even here, there was much to see! (6:6,5,3) There were some Egyptian geese wading in the shallows. (6:7) The soda content of the water made it foam as it washed up on the shore. (6:2)

I also took some pictures of our land rover (6:4) and our group. (6:0 L to R: Njau our guide, Larry Lesko, Teri Cleeland, Joyce and Joe Eddington) Njau then took a picture of me with the group. (6:1 L to R: Me, Larry, Teri, Joyce and Joe.)

After our rest-stop, we continued South into the park. Near a small lake, we saw two yellow-billed stork, which were later joined by a yellow-billed egret. (7:36-34)

We next came across a bunch of giraffe among some acacia trees. The group made for a nice, if not somewhat comical picture as they stood there staring at us. (7:33)

The social primates all spend much time grooming themselves and others in their group. We found some baboons who were in the middle of a grooming session. They would pick through the fur of another baboon, and remove any dirt, insects, etc. found. If what was found was good to eat, they ate it. The youngster in the group sat against the back of one of the adults, and just looked the other way. He seemed to be preoccupied grooming himself! (7:32,31,30,29)

We now reached the Maji Moto Ndogo Hot Springs, one of two hot springs in the park. This was a little patch of ground with hot water bubbling out of it. The water was invitingly clear, but had a strong sulfur smell to it. The minerals in the water left a greenish deposit wherever it flowed. (7:28,27,26,25)

Not long after finding the hot springs, we turned around, and headed North. We worked our way slowly back up the way we came, except we took a different road for part of the way.

Spots along the rift valley wall made for some spectacular scenery. (7:24)

We came upon a very large troop of baboons, who we watched for a while. In amongst the baboons, some impalas grazed. (7:23-21)

Our last good sighting was a blue monkey, dramatically silhouetted against the canopy of the forest. (7:20)

We left Lake Manyara National Park, and headed to Kirurumu for lunch. Although it had been an enjoyable drive, no tree climbing lions had yet been seen. Njau told us that he generally only sees them once every three months or so.

As we climbed the escarpment, I had some better photo opportunities than the previous day. I took one shot showing the winding road up the escarpment. (7:19) I also took some shots out of a steep ravine that started right on the edge of the road. This is one spot where I would never want to lose control! (7:18-16)

We made plans for the afternoon game drive. As it turned out, Joe and Joyce didn't want to go because the long walk up and down the hill at the camp combined with the heat in the park had left Joyce exhausted. (It had been stifling hot in the park, but it had not bothered me at all.) Larry and Teri elected to relax that afternoon. So, it would be Njau and I alone. As I had come to very much enjoy being with Njau, this should be a good time! He would come back to pick me up about 3 PM.

We had noticed that the clouds had been building while we were driving to the camp. As soon as we arrived, it looked like it was going to storm. The wind was starting to pick up. In the restaurant, the employees pulled down large shade-like things to keep the wind and rain out. Soon, we began to hear occasional thunderclaps. However, it never did rain. Soon, the storm blew over, and the shades were reopened. I don't remember many other details of that particular lunch.

After lunch, I went to my tent-room and took a nice nap. The winds continued to be strong even though the storm had passed. This made a pleasing sound on the canvas, and helped keep the tent cool.

3 pm came fairly quickly. I met Njau in the parking lot, and we headed back down to the park. Number 1 goal: find some tree-climbing lions! (Since it ws pointless to spend every minute looking for lions, I also told Njau to pick out things he thought were particularly interesting. He did not disappoint me!)

On the way down to the park, we came across some date palm trees. They blocked a good view of the lake, which was hard to see anyway due to the building haze. (7:15)

Not far inside the park, I photographed the Serena lodge, another hotel strategically placed on the edge of the escarpment. (7:14)

We found a lone elephant enjoying a cozy spot in the woods. (7:13)

My camera had one particularly annoying quality. It took perhaps 300 milliseconds for the shutter to actually activate after you push the shutter release. As a result, I would occasionally miss a shot, because an animal would start to move between the time I pressed the shutter release and the time the picture was actually taken. Sometimes,though an interesting shot would result. This shot of a blue monkey running away is one of those. (7:12)

We took a route through the park that took us down to the hippo pools. Normally, there would be many hippos here, but they had moved out of the area due to severe flooding during the previous rainy season. They hadn't been seen here since. (Marks on the trees showed how high the water had gotten, and it was pretty high.) Still, there was a flock of yellow-billed storks and yellow billed egrets to watch. (7:11) then, Njau saw something move out in the water; it was a couple of hippo! They were finally returning to the hippo pool, and we saw them first! (7:10 Notice the bumps out in the water.)

We had scarcely moved 100 yards along the beach when we spotted a single vervet monkey making his way fairly slowly across the beach. (7:9,8)

We turned our head, and there were two maribou storks. (7:7,6) Half stork, half vulture, they are almost as at home on the savannah as they are near the water. They are the African version of a seagull. The big difference is that they are large, and aggressive enough to drive vultures off a carcass. These birds also like to hang out near human habitation where animal waste might be found, like garbage dumps, fish processing plants and slaughterhouses.

We turned our head yet again, and there were two crowned cranes. One of my favorite birds, they have a yellow 'crown' of feathers on their head. (7:5,4)

In another spot, we found a group of what I think are sacred ibises. (7:3)

The final thing we saw at this spot was some Egyptian geese , along with a few white faced whistling ducks. (7:2,1)

We moved not 200 yards, and discovered a whole troop of the elusive vervet monkeys. Unlike most instances when we encountered these primates, they stayed put and went about their business. We sat and watched them for a while. (8:35,34,33)

Again, we scarcely moved 200 yards, and another surprise. Our first wildebeest sighting! The name wildebeest is Dutch for 'wild beast'. They are called that because they are such strange and unlikely antelope. In any case, these wildebeest were simply enjoying the warm afternoon sun. (8:32,31) Wildebeest were also the most laid-back of the antelope, and would let us get quite close in the land rover.

Right across from the wildebeest, a group of giraffe were enjoying the delectable pleasures of an acacia thicket! (8:30) What an incredible group of sightings this had been!

We drove away from the beach and back into the forest. There, we found several mounds, maybe termite mounds, or maybe dead trees trunks. They were covered with vines bearing round green fruits. Njau told me that this was a type of cucumber. (8:29)

We turned North and headed deeper into the forested part of the park. However, we used some little-traveled back roads. At one point, we saw a large clearing through the trees, with a number of safari vehicles on the other side. We tried to take the very bad road into this clearing, but found we couldn't manage it. We looked for what the others were seeing, but never spotted it.

Soon, we were in one of the deepest parts of the forest. There, we came upon a safari vehicle with two professional photographers on board. We could tell they were professional because they had 'lenses with cameras attached' and were wearing vests that said 'Canon'. They were stopped just past a small bridge, and were intently observing something. Njau went over to them and had an extended discussion with the guide driving that vehicle. At first, Njau thought that they must be seeing a monitor lizard in the stream running under the bridge. What it really turned out to be was a puff-adder, with it's mouth around a stick. For some reason, the snake seemed intent on dragging the stick with it as it slowly moved.

It was now quite late in the afternoon, and the light was failing. My camera insisted in using it's flash. I was too far away for an effective flash shot. Nevertheless, I took two pictures. One of them came out reasonably well. (8:28) Puff adders have slow-acting venom that takes several hours to kill a human. It is not a fun way to die, as the venom contains enzymes that start to digest you even before you're eaten! They are considered one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa. According to the travel guides, snake sightings on safari are quite rare. Well, I had experienced yet another treat on this drive! (I also find I am one of the few people who actually wants to see snakes on safari!)

We left the park elated. No tree-climbing lions had been spotted, but oh, what a great game drive it had been!

Njau and I then drove in to Mto-Wa-Mbu to gas up the land rover. While waiting at the gas station (Which was not unlike a small-town independent gas station here in the 'states), I watched a group of young people work to change a tire. We have fancy bead- detaching machines here to do this job; they used a pipe with a heavy flat plate on the end of it to pound on the tire. When the bead started to break, a crowbar was used to work the tire off the rim. Now, most tires in Africa use inner tubes because of the rough terrain. A puncture that would destroy one of our tubeless tires would only ruin the inner tube in one of theirs. In any case, after the inner tube was removed, one of the boys cut it into pieces and gave them to his friends. Why he did this, I do not know. I do know that the African peoples generally reuse or recycle EVERYTHING!

We drove up the rift valley escarpment one last time. The heat of that day had caused quite a haze to form over the lake and the park. Near the top of the escarpment, I got a last shot of Lake Manyara hidden in the haze. (8:26,25. These pictures were processed to make the lake stand out more clearly.)

That evening was pretty much a repeat of the previous evening. The big difference is this time, I was prepared to spend dinnertime alone, which I did. I was also more selective at this meal, and asked the waiter to only bring the main course, which he did.

Again I noticed the family from California, with the boy wearing the 'A Bug's Life' shirt! We must have been on the same hunger clock!

After dinner, I went down to my tent-room and took care of most of the packing, optics maintenance, etc. needed for the next morning's departure. Then, it was lights out and bedtime.

It was still a bit windy that evening, and before long, it had started to rain. It turned out to be a long, soaking gentle rain that lasted most of the night. There was a little lightning, and occasional rolls of thunder. This was absolutely heavenly on the tent roof! Although I was a bit restless that night, I still slept well. Thank you, Jesus!

Next: Climbing Olmoti Crater!

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