Arusha, Tanzania

The Ilboru Safari Lodge – Located about 4 km from the city center, a nice quiet retreat and just what we needed after our long trip. Our room has lots of wonderful wood, a comfortable tented king size bed and a hot shower. We realized it is locally owned and has a real Tanzania atmosphere. The staff are helpful and friendly with a quick check-in. We were served a special Swahili dinner the first night. It was delicious and reminded us of Indian food. Breakfast was served from 6-10AM. Free Internet and huge pool. $120.00 for two (including breakfast and dinner)

We got our first look at Arusha the morning we set out for our Safari. It’s a bustling, dirty, poor city with two million or so people. Less traffic than we are used to seeing as many more people rely on their feet to go about their business than by vehicle. We say hardworking locals carrying huge loads piled on a back of a bike or maybe on their head. We love their colorful dress and I hope to buy some of the wonderful printed fabrics before we leave. We get a kick out of the Obama T-Shirts. He’s very popular here.

We head out with our safari guide from Arusha at 8AM. The dusty, rag a tag city eventually gives way to the wide-open plains of the Maasai lands. Our guide tells us the Masai are cattle people, living on the open plains and moving about to find water for themselves and their animals. For the Maasai, the number of cows a man has, determines how many wives he can have…5 cows, 1 wife, 10 cows, 2 wives. Women’s equality is a long way off here. It is surreal to see the Maasai walking across the open plains of short golden grass with their handmade spears and brightly colored robes. We wonder where they live as often we see nothing but grass for many miles but then we eventually see their hobbit type mud and straw houses built in a circle and nestled in a valley.  They live their lives following ancient rules as they did for centuries. Today their children are legislated to go to school. So for these people change will come.

Our drive takes us to the Rift Valley. Here we look down over Lake Manyara.  Lake Manyara is a very shallow lake and we see it during a period of drought it is even more shallow and the shores are white and dried up. Said by Enest Hemingway to be one of the loveliest lakes in Africa. It is also the home of a diverse set of landscapes and wildlife. It is here we see our first Baobab tree. This is a beautiful but strange tree that can grow up to 25 meters tall and can live for several thousand years. The Arabian legend of the baobab is that “the devil plucked up the baobab, thrust its branches into the earth and left its roots in the air”. This is actually a good description of the tree but a picture describes it best.

We’re thrilled to spot our first Ostrich. They are huge!! In fact they are the world’s largest bird reaching as tall as 9 feet and 350 pounds. Although they can’t fly they can sprint over 40 miles an hour. What was a flat grassy plain is now showing short shrubby growth of Acacia Trees. We soon learn these are a favorite food of the giraffe and we spend some time taking multiple pictures of a group of 6 or so Giraffe enjoying their meal.

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