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Tanzania Holiday 5: Lake Manyara National Park - afternoon drive and Rhotia Valley

The morning in Lake Manyara National Park brought us our first encounter with elephants.  We stopped briefly for lunch at a picnic spot somewhere in the middle of the park (near the central Ranger station on the map, I think).

Source: tanzaniawildlifesafaris.com

About this time, clouds rolled in and when we climbed back in the Land Cruiser, some showers were falling.
Despite the weather, we drove by vervet monkeys gathering food in the grass -- they had babies too!

They weren't bothered by a light rain, but looked less happy when the intensity of the showers increased.

This was the last monkey still in the open -- we got this photos just as he was heading for the trees.

The rain soon stopped.  We drove on, and saw these giraffes as we rounded a bend in the dirt road.

Further down the park, an adult baboon was feeding at the side of the road.  He paused to inspect us.

Nearby, a mother was carrying her baby away from the road in into the protection of the forest.

A slightly older baby baboon took a moment before running to mom, and gave us a nice photo.

Our driver and guide, Prim, was amazing at spotting animals.  His sharp eyes found this golden weaver:

Eventually, we circled around and headed north - back to the park entrance.  From here we drove west, and up to a lookout point on the escarpment that is effectively the western wall of the park.  It's a nice view to the lake below.

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

From Lake Manyara N.P., our guide drove us to where we would spend the next two nights: Rhotia Valley, near the town of Karatu.  It's about 45-60 minutes from the Manyara park entrance, and about the same distance from the entrance gate to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (tomorrow's destination).

When one thinks of "Africa", hot and dry places come to mind by default.  But Rhotia Valley defies this stereotype.  It lies at 1700m elevation, so the climate is cooler (and well above the line for Malaria risk).  The soil is rich, and many terraced farms take advantage of the fertile environment.

We climbed a bit in the Land Cruiser to reach our destination, and could look out over the valley.

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

We arrived at Rhotia Valley Lodge just as the sun was getting low in the sky.  This is what our hut looked like:

We checked in, washed up, and found seats on the deck.  They had a new beer brand, Tusker, for us to try.

The lodge had a few cats around.  Most were still sleeping the day off, like this one:

From the lodge's deck, you can see some of the valley -- lots of green!  The lodge tries to source as much food and material from the local farming community as possible, so ingredients are local and fresh!

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

It was very warm at Lake Manyara today, but we wore fleeces tonight at the higher altitude (it felt great).

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

Across the way from the lodge is a children's home -- a group of ~24 kids, all orphaned from towns in the area.
Proceeds from the lodge help support the home.  Our hosts will bring us over tomorrow to meet them! 

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

So we settled down for dinner, and another beer, and watched the sun go down.  Tomorrow is Ngorongoro crater!

And finally... this was our honeymoon.  For the wedding, instead of registering for physical gifts (e.g., china, silverware, etc.), we registered different parts of this Tanzanian safari.  For this blog post, we wish to heartfully thank:
   -  Jaclyn F, for the lunch in Manyara.  We were soooo hungry after snapping all these photos.  THANK YOU!
   -  Landrea R, for the overnight at Rhotia.  The beer... the view... see how happy Frau A looks?  THANK YOU!

We hope our friends and family enjoy the pictures and story as much as we did living it. 

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