January 13, 2019
Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania - The Game Drives Begin!
We started the day with coffee on the patio of our room, then had a lovely breakfast on the veranda of the Legendary Lodge looking out over the green lawn and tropical flowers – and catching a glimpse of one of the dik diks, tiny antelopes that share the grounds.
Albert, our guide and driver for the rest of our journey, was waiting for us, and we were all packed and ready to go, so by 8:30, we were on our way to the Great Rift Valley. Albert was a terrific guide…very knowledgeable, not only about the animals we would see, but the history and cultures of eastern Africa. He is a member of the Meru tribe, but he explained that the over 100 tribes of this region are not so focused on tribal identity as in the past. For most of them, their first language is their tribal language, but Swahili is the national language, and this common language allows them all to communicate easily.
We drove for about two and a half hours past small Masai villages and spotted several small boys watching over their herds of cattle and goats. When we reached the gates of Lake Manyara National Park, I recognized the gates. We had passed by this park on our visit to Tanzania in 2015, but our tour had not included it on the itinerary, so I was happy for this chance to visit. Compared to some of the other national parks, it is quite small, and the greatest area of the park is taken up by Lake Manyara itself.
We had our first animal encounter within minutes of entering the park…several Blue Monkeys sitting in the trees right next to us. I always love finding monkeys! They are such cute and fascinating little creatures with their almost human faces.
Just a bit further up the road, a huge troop of baboons bounded across the road right in front of us – big scary looking males, lots of females, many with babies clinging to their backs or stomachs. It turns out that the park was FILLED with baboons. We saw more large groups almost everywhere we drove.
|It looks like someone called a meeting!|
Compared to the multitudes on the Serengeti, there were fewer animals here in Manyara, but for a small national park, it has a wide variety of landscapes. Ringed by hills, the park contains forests, grasslands, marshes, and the large lake.
Animals and Birds of the Grasslands
|Southern Ground Hornbill|
Birds and Animals of the Marshes
|Small herd of wildebeest|
|Can you spot the hippo?|
|Here she is!|
|Yellow Billed Ducks|
|Grey Crowned Crane with Wildebeests|
|African Hornbill with Black Heron|
|The weird and wonderful Saddle-Billed Stork|
|White Faced Whistling Duck|
|Lake Manyara in the distance|
|Albert and Rob unpack our lunch|
After lunch, we enjoyed the sights as we continued on to the high green hills surrounding the Ngorongoro Crater.
It was late afternoon when Albert turned off of the main road onto a narrow red dirt road toward our final destination of the day, the wonderful Gibbs Farm. It has been ranked the number one lodge in all of Africa. It started life as a coffee plantation in the early 1900’s. After WWII, James and Margaret Gibb bought the plantation and started Gibbs Farm, the oldest guest house in northern Tanzania. It has a lovely old plantation house as the headquarters, with several cottages scattered around the extensive grounds. Each cottage is surrounded by thick tropical foliage, affording privacy and a cozy feeling.
Our cottage was beautiful, with a large bedroom/sitting area that included a fireplace, large bathroom (again with tub), and an indoor AND outdoor shower. But Gibbs Farm is actually a working farm. Our cottage looked down on the large vegetable garden and stables. (In fact, I could hear the roosters and the cows as I typed the notes for this post!) The chef here creates menus based on the produce grown organically right here. Many of the lovely staff have worked on this farm for many years, and their love for the place is clear. I really could hardly believe we were getting to have this wonderful experience!
|Our cottage at Gibbs Farm|
|We were in the Star Cabin|
|The gardens of Gibbs Farm below our deck.|