March 15 – Serengeti to Lake Manyara

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We depart Ndutu Airstrip near the tented camp on Tanganyika Flying Co, and arrive at Manyara Airstrip about 30 minutes later. On the flight we pass over wonderful high mountain farms and Maasai villages with cattle grazing on the edge of the mountainsides. We fly over the Ngorongoro Crater with its millions of wild and protected animals grazing below. Julia leaves us on our arrival and goes on to Kilimanjaro, Nairobi, London, Toronto.
From the airstrip our guide Titus is waiting to take us on a safari ride that will end at the Lake Manyara Tree Lodge. It takes 5 hours to get there because we watch several families of elephants grazing on the roadside, we sight a leopard sleeping in the treetop, follow giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest, impala, gazelle, and several large troops of baboons, as well as many lovely birds, and thousands of flamingo in the shallow waters of the lake.
We are somewhat apprehensive about a tree house hotel with tree climbing lions in the neighbourhood! When we arrive the tree lodge is fascinating. And the staff welcome with us with song, cold drinks, warm face towels and big smiles. This has been a charming and welcome custom everywhere we have traveled on this trip. People are so dependent on tourists here that sometimes the service is overwhelming.
The lodge itself is completely open to the jungle that surrounds it. Apparently the elephants regularly come at night to drink in the swimming pool! There are no fences to keep the wildlife out so we must be cautious and not walk alone after dark. We have no intention of doing so anyway! In fact we are introduced to Santielli, a young Maasai who lives in the nearby village. He tells us he patrols all night. He carries a stick typical of the Maasai, which he says he uses to warn snakes he is coming. He tells us in broken English (since we don’t speak Maasai or Swahili – although we have learned a few words) he will walk us to our tree house and back whenever we request it. He is shy, conscientious and charming.
The lodge has wonderfully comfortable sitting and eating areas, a large open kitchen, bar areas, reading lounges, and a boma, where we eat dinner, that is beautifully made with local drift wood, ancient wooden boats, lots of candles, and cooking drums. At dinner a large fire is blazing in the middle of the boma and the stars are magnificent. Marc is our stargazer and we often sight Les Tres Marias at night. Amazingly even here in the thick jungle, we eat outdoors almost every night and are never bothered by mosquitoes – unlike Northern Ontario!

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