Day 30-35: After another long drive we arrived in Dar es Salaam and pitched our tents close to the ferry port. With light luggage (except me, as I brought also diving equipment) we started our journey to Zanzibar. What normally would be an easy trip proved to be quite a challenge. The tuktuks (local three wheel taxis) that should transport us from the campsite to the port were delayed and therefore we were already behind schedule on the city ferry that would bring us to the main port. After a short boat ride we all run to the waiting motorbike taxis, which brought us at a breakneck pace to the main port. Fortunately without accident. But that was not all. The local travel agency that organized our tickets transmitted the wrong names. Instead of entering the ferry last minute, our guide had to collect all passports and change the tickets. In the end, we still caught the ferry, thanks to the guide who blocked the removal of the gangway.
As I have been already once in Zanzibar and the historical Stone Town I abstained from visiting the city and went diving instead.
Next day we headed north to Nungwi, stopping on the way at a spice plantation to see all kind of spices and local fruits (and being pushed to buy their stuff).
By a local Dow boat we visited next day the protected Mnemba atoll for some diving. Our group missed all the interesting stuff such as turtles and frog fishes and I surfaced quite disappointed after the second dive. But then a pod of bottle nose dolphins passed by and we extended our dive by a couple of minutes, seeing the dolphins playing and mating. An average dive turned suddenly into a great dive. That's nature!
Back in Stone Town we visited Prison Island, home to dozens of giant tortoises up to 150 years old (similar species like the Galapagos giant tortoises).
The ferry ride back to the main land was trouble free, but the sea was a bit rougher and few of us had to fight the sea sickness. Fortunately I was never really prone to that problem.
Day 36-39: Once arrived in Arusha, the Safari capital in Tanzania, we left our big truck and changed to two smaller safari Toyota Land cruisers with 9 seats each. To reach Serengeti we had to pass along beautiful lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro crater. As it was clouded and rainy, we didn't see the crater from the viewpoints at the rim. We all crossed our fingers that the weather would be better on our return two days later. Once in Serengeti we had to drive less than half an hour to spot the first lions. A young lion and a lioness, probably siblings were playing next to the road. A perfect start into the Safari! Later we passed a bigger pack of lions, around 10 animals. And they were asleep just 2km away from our camping site. Which has no fence at all...
At 3AM I woke up and felt a pressure to go to the toilet. But I knew about the lions, and even heard them every couple of minutes roaring. I didn't dare to leave the tent, but half an hour later the human necessity was bigger than the fear of lions. Anyway, lions do not really like human meat, especially if there are thousands of herbivores around them. Early next morning we started on a sunrise game drive. Most animals despise the heat of the day and are most active early morning or late afternoon, or they are nocturnal like the elusive leopard and therefore even harder to spot. As we were already spoiled with sightings of lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, buffalos, hippos and all kind of antelopes we were now looking for cheetahs and leopards. And indeed we spotted both animals, the single cheetah was restless, but did not attack one of the nearby gazelles. Everybody longs to see some hunting action, but we weren't that fortunate. Later we spotted a sleeping leopard in the trees, and judging by his full belly it seems that this guy was hunting and feeding successfully earlier in the morning. But the highlight of the day were a big pack of lions. We spotted them resting in the grass in the morning, but they were both inactive and far away. Not really exciting. But when we came back in the afternoon to the same spot, most of the two dozen lions were crowded on a huge tree close to the road! And while we were watching, one by one descended and started advancing a group of three buffalos across the road. And indeed they managed to separate one of the buffalos from the group, but as they were running away from the road we couldn't see the kill.
On the way back to Ngorongoro we were again amazed how many wildebeests and zebras migrated into Serengeti to feast on the abundant grass supply during the wet season. When I was in Serengeti in 2012 during the dry season there were considerably less animals. An estimated 1.5 million wildebeests migrate south into Serengeti annually and reverse their journey once the food supply in Serengeti is exhausted.
Ngorongoro is kind of a drive-in zoo, the massive crater rim acts as a natural fence and most animals spend their entire life in the crater, making it one of the easiest places on earth to spot wildlife, including the endangered black rhino. By the way, black and white Rhinos got their names due to a linguistic misunderstanding. The larger Rhino feeds on grass and has a wide mouth and is therefore called originally in Dutch 'wide' mouth Rhino. The Englishmen understood 'white' and named them wrongly black and white Rhinos. The German names 'Wide mouth' and 'Pointed mouth' are much more accurate. While the population of white rhinos increased to 20'000 worldwide despite poaching, they were removed from the list of endangered species. But less than 5000 black rhinos remain worldwide and they are critically endangered. Various approaches to stop poaching are implemented, among them on the spot death penalties for poachers, GPS trackers to locate animals, poisoning or removing surgically the horns, explosive devices around the horn that destroy it as soon as the device fails to feel the heartbeat of the animal and attempts to breed rhinos without horns. All approaches are unfortunately so far only partially successful. Latest idea include the flooding of the black market with fake horns, 3D printed with keratin and rhino DNA. Educating Asians about the uselessness of the horn as medicine seem unlikely to happen in the near future… Ignorant folk.
Previous destination: Malawi
Next destination: Kenya and Uganda