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Tanzania Holiday 1: Intro and Arrival in Arusha

It didn't take long for Frau A and I to decide what we wanted to do on our Honeymoon: a safari.  But when & where?

Due to her crazy job, we had time only at year-end (3 months post-wedding).  We wanted three weeks for the trip.

We considered a number of things to determine the specific destination(s).  Most importantly, where would we get the "best" viewing of animals?  Mid-December is the short rainy season in northern Africa, and that changes the ability to see wildlife (the grass is higher for animals to hide, and water more abundant so animals don't cluster around watering holes).  The Great Migration (Kenya and Tanzania) is not really active at this time of year either -- it is too close to the birthing period in late January / early February -- so wildebeest vs crocodiles was out.

Even without the Great Migration, safari operators and others we spoke to said that Tanzania would provide the best experience, so we chose that over tempting options in Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, and others.

There are lot of national parks, conservation areas, and game reserves in Tanzania alone (see map below). 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

We heard that the "northern circuit" would have the densest game viewing -- these are a series of parks near the border with Kenya.  The easiest flight from Munich went through Qatar to Kilimanjaro, a little east of the parks.

Qatar is obviously working to be a key transportation hub for destinations in Africa and Asia (we flew through there for our Maldives vacation too).  They have a TCBY (frozen yogurt) open late, so we love to kill the layover there! 

We wanted a bit of beach (relaxation) time too.  Zanzibar is the largest and most popular option, which is why we went the other direction and chose Mafia Island, further south along the coast.  There's a marine park there too!

Our final itinerary started us in the smaller parks of the northern circuit, moving east to west.  First up was
Arusha National Park, then Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and on to Serengeti National Park.  Finally, from the airstrip in the Serengeti, we would fly to Mafia Island (with a bunch of stops in between).

There was one especially unique aspect of this trip:  a "walking safari" in the Serengeti.  There are over 120 firms licensed in Tanzania to do game drives in the park.  Only 3 of them are licensed to walk customers in designated "wilderness areas".  We reserved three days of walks in Serengeti N.P., to be followed later by game drives.

Enough about the planning - on to the trip!  Upon our arrival at the Kilimanjaro airport, a driver picked us up and we drove to the Karama Lodge outside the town of Arusha.  The weather was quite hot, but not too humid.

Karama Lodge has 22 thatched cabins set on a hillside in the woods.  They use local materials as much as possible.

Since things grow so quickly there, they use wood boilers outside to heat water for showers (morning & night only).

After we stashed our packs in the cabin we walked around the grounds, "warming up" the cameras with flowers.

Just downhill from the central building/lodge is a pool.  We skipped this, but it looked tempting in the heat.

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

The next photo is the back side of the central building.  The windows are at a seating area near a small bar.

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

Here's the view from those windows (photo below).  You can't see it in the picture, but you would see Mt. Meru if you stuck your head out the window and looked sharply left.  Nearby Arusha National Park is tomorrow's destination.

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

There was a make-shift Christmas tree in the lobby, a nice reminder of the time of year.

We grabbed a seat near the open window and enjoyed the cooling evening air and nice view.

Of course we also had to investigate the local beer options.  The bar had four possibilities:

We opted for the Kilimanjaro and Serengeti, both lagers.  Both were great after a long trip (Serengeti a bit nicer).

From here we'll take you through each day on the trip -- expect a LOT of photos in the coming blog posts.
Stay tuned.

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 car service to Munich airport.  It really got the trip off on the right foot.  THANK YOU!
   -  Aunt Annie and Uncle Jack, for the nights here in Karama Lodge.  The cabin on stilts was fun!  THANK YOU!
   -  Ronnie and Jan M, for the high-capacity camera memory card.  Wait 'til you see all the photos... THANK YOU!
   -  Ted and Teri K, for the high-capacity camera memory card.  Hope you enjoy the pics on the blog.  THANK YOU!
   -  Uncle Bill, for the high-capacity camera memory card.  We used almost every gigabyte!  THANK YOU! 

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