Friday, August 1, 2008

Africa #12:Lake Manyara

Tarangire Treetops Hotel, Tanzania

We now find ourselves back in more verdant forest once again, echoing Arusha more than, say, the Serengeti. This area has plenty of sub-surface water meaning that trees and other vegetation can grow easily, even outside of the two brief rainy seasons that Tanzania typically experiences. I’m also minded to report that they have very good bathroom facilities at the entrance to the park! In fact, facilities of the toilet sort have been pretty reasonable all across Tanzania, at least compared with what’s to be found in places like India, for example. Most welcome.

This park is famous for two things: elephants and flamingoes, though not in the exact same spot at the same time, obviously, what with one being a wading bird found of water and the other, well, not. When we were there, at least, elephants seemed to outnumber flamingoes, but it’s fair to say that there were also numerous other birds to be seen including pelicans, storks, cranes and waders. We also saw baboons (again) plus blue and vervet monkeys, all hanging around and doing simian-ish sorts of things. Amazing how blasé one gets about wildlife after a few days on holiday in Africa, eh?

Lunch was from a hotel-provided lunch-box, taken while sitting on a bench overlooking the lake. We had the place to ourselves for a while until being joined by another tour vehicle, this time an actual Land Rover. Nice to know that Toyota haven’t completely cornered the market, except … this one, apparently, wouldn’t start with the key anymore, relying instead on the tourists it was carrying getting out to give it a push! Our guide recommended in this case reversing up a termite mound in order to park on a slope, thereby giving the occupants a rest and using gravity to do the hard work of bump starting. This turned out to be a trick that worked wonderfully for the Land Rover, likely less well for the termites whose home was now a casualty of 1970’s UK labour relations strife combined with shoddy engineering.

We spent most of the day exploring alongside the lake as well as further into the surrounding lands before heading off again to the last hotel stop of the trip: Tarangire Treetops.

For a while there, more miles on tarmac seduced us into believing that dirt roads were the exception rather than the rule in this part of the country. The last 30 km of the journey put paid to that notion, taking over an hour to traverse, the last few clicks of which were done behind a water tanker that is part of a constant delivery service the hotel needs during the peak season. This was the most rutted, rock-strewn thing we’d driven on to date, which believe me is saying something! However, it really was worthwhile when we arrived at the eponymous Treetops hotel.

As you can see from the image above, the hotel is themed, if that's the right word, through it's connection to nature, quite literally given that the bedrooms are all constructed around trees dotting a ridge line on one side of the Great Rift Valley (the edge and floor of which comprises the Tarangire preserve). This was a completely unique property when first constructed and still quite an amazing place today despite a couple of equivalents now popping up elsewhere in Africa. And yes, the rooms do feel a bit rickety as they are supported platforms sitting at the end of some long - and poorly braced - poles! Treetops also has an adopted elephant who, so they say, has failing eyesight and hangs around because it's safe and there's food readily available. I think they meant "natural vegetation" and not "green building materials already in use" but you are never quite sure, especially when you hear him wandering around outside in the middle of the night ....

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