If I was asked how to describe my trip to Tanzania and Rwanda in one word – then it would have to be “wow”. Having not been to either country before I was keen to see what they both had to offer. I was not disappointed! As each day unfolded, there was a new adventure to be had, very different from the day before.
When in Tanzania, even though it was the rainy season, we encountered incredible wildlife, soaked up stunning views, witnessed memorable sunsets and met some wonderful hospitable people.
Everywhere was green, the result of good early rains, so the game was quite dispersed, especially in Tarangire National Park, but we still had some fantastic, close and very relaxed elephant sightings there. Lake Manyara National Park impressed me with its dense evergreen forest, the views of the Great Rift Valley escarpment and my first ever sighting of Flamingos along with an assortment of animals including what seemed like hundreds of baboons grazing in an open area. Near the entrance to the park, I did the new Tree Top walk, which was fascinating especially as the monkeys played in the trees almost at our level.
Ngorongoro Crater was the haven for animals that I had imagined, but with that, the game viewing and impressive vistas far exceeded my expectations. We managed to see 4 rhino and a lazy lion along with the usual plains game. Then when driving out the steep climb up onto the rim, the views were absolutely stunning. Then as we headed into the Serengeti National Park I was very lucky to see the migration in all its splendour in the southern region near the Ngorongoro Conservation area. At first, the herds of wildebeest and zebra were scattered and it was here that I did a sunrise hot air balloon ride. A morning to remember! Then when back on terra firma and in the bumpy driving in the landcruiser, gradually and almost without noticing, the herds turned into one mass of thousands and thousands of wildebeest, many of them with young calves, dotted as far as the eye could see. The numbers were quite incomprehensible.
On my last day, a very large herd of persistent zebra was heading up towards the central region as the migration started to move north to follow the traditional route padded out by these animals their entire lives in the endless search for food and water. I was lost for words as I realised I was in amongst the largest movement of animals anywhere in the world.
After Tanzania, I headed over to Rwanda for a quick visit and to track the Mountain Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, which is in the north west of the county. Rwanda is known as the country of a 1,000 hills and that it surely is. We made our way up to the park from Kigali – possibly the cleanest city I have ever seen, through hilly rural villages where it looks like every patch of dirt it used to grow some type of crop, even on what seemed the steepest sides of the mountains. Be it bananas, sweet potatoes, maize, coffee or tea. There are bicycles everywhere used as 2 wheeled donkeys, carrying the heavy loads of produce to market.
My gorilla trek was an incredible experience and what a privilege to see some of the Sabyinyo family group in their natural habitat, including Guhonda the oldest and largest Silverback in the park and some say the world. And then one of his youngsters who performed many gymnastic tumbles for us over and over. It was quite entertaining and overwhelming all at the same time. The trackers and porters (many who have turned away from poaching to conservation) do such an amazing job getting us into the best possible positions to observe the gorillas safely, without interfering with their daily routine. At one point I did wonder what the gorillas were thinking about us as we were watching them and they were watching us!
On our way back to the lodge I spotted the Logo for the Rwanda cycling team and so I took the chance to see if I could venture inside the gates for a look. I was welcomed in by Jock Boyer and Rafiki one of the original team members, and both have starring roles in the movie Rising from Ashes – The film follows Rwanda’s first national cycling team as they deal with the past of the country’s horrific genocide and make it to the 2012 Olympics.
The 1994 genocide had affected Rwanda dramatically and the stories in the museum are heart wrenching. However, it is a country of hope, striving for a better future, which was echoed in the voices of those I met.
All too soon my adventure came to an end, but please enjoy the short video clip which is just a small portion of what I experienced. And if you would like to talk about the Northern Tanzania circuit or Gorilla tracking in Rwanda then please feel free to give me a call.