After Zanzibar we headed to northern Tanzania for a last bit of Safari before leaving Africa. Traveling through Masai country, we visited Lake Manyara National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. Many Masai still live a fairly traditional life looking after their cattle wearing their colorful clothing.
Lake Manyara is located at the edge of the escarpment that defines the edge of the rift valley. We had a nice day of game viewing there, seeing many monkeys (baboons, sykes, and vervet) as well as antelope, giraffe, elephants, hippos, and many bird species, including large groups of flamingos.
If you have seen the movie "Madigascar 2" (parents, you know what I'm talking about), you will recognize Ngorongoro Crater, which is a caldera located at about 2,000 meters above sea level, approx 15km x 15km in size, and chock full of animals. Due to the gentle climate there, animals such as lions and hyenas normally active at night in hotter areas can be found active at any time of the day or night. We had a tremendous day driving around down in the crater. The scenery was amazing and it seemed there were animals everywhere you looked. We saw many zebra, wildebeest, and buffal0. Also elephants, black rhino, hippos, elephants, lions, hyena, and various antelope. The highlight was the two fresh buffalo carcasses we came across - the lions had been busy early in the morning. The first was picked fairly clean, but had a few jackals and vultures picking the bones clean. The second carcass had about 16-18 hyena nearby, and also many vultures. The hyenas tore into the carcass as the vultures worked to clean to bones, shaking the carcass and making an amazing noise as we watched from just a few feet away. We were very glad to be inside the vehicle!
Our final African adventure for the trip came when we took a bus from the town of Arusha in the north to Dar Es Salaam, where our flight to London would depart from. We left Arusha about 8:30 AM, and were making reasonable progress until about 1PM, when some horrible noises started coming from the rear axle, and we noticed the unmistakable smell of heating rubber. After a quick inspection stop we proceeded at a much reduced speed to the nearest village, which had a roadside bus stop/restaurant and not much else. Here we ate lunch while they began to work on the bus. After a couple hours we began to be concerned that we would not make it to Dar Es Salaam in time for the flight at 7AM the next morning. Tana started asking around, and the man who seemed to be organizing things at the establishment arranged fo us to get seats on another bus. We paid the fare and boarded the bus (Mohammed Transport), to find it was full and we had been given the staff seats in the front of the bus. They sat on the engine and stood by the door (after they had split our fares among them). Departing at 4PM we struck out on the road. The driver's theory seemed to be something like this: I am driving a very large and fast vehicle. It has a loud horn. Pedestrians, cyclists, cars, buses, and trucks will get out of my way no matter where on the road I am. We passed other vehicles near the crests of hills, around blind curves, and in the face of oncoming traffic. Miraculously, we arrived in Dar Es Salaam about 9PM safe and sound, but quite tired and with a few frayed nerves, in time for a brief night's rest before departure to London.