Archive for December, 2021

East Africa, Part 15: Traveling to Lake Manyara.

Sunday, December 12th, 2021

On our last day at the Acacia Farm Lodge, The Moomins insisted on taking a picture with this massive palm.

And I thought this furry pine was neato.

This was our view from the breakfast balcony.

While we were eating I saw mangoes! Flying mangoes! With beaks! They’re actually called lovebirds but I like to imagine them as sentient tropical fruits.

I neglected to mention something I’ve never experienced before. While staying at the lodge there was a pervasive sound of a man speaking into a loudspeaker coming from the valley and when I asked someone what it was, he said it was a church revival. Not to be disrespectful but the preacher sounded like an infomercial spokesman, he had the exact pattern of speech. I kept waiting for him to say, “But wait, there’s more!”

We mostly drove all day and sometimes it was through towns. Here’s what some of the cabs look like.

Although some people still go old school. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Let’s talk about the Maasai and their livestock, specifically the cows. It is their everything. I mentioned earlier that they drink the cows’ blood and milk for nutrition, they use the cows as currency, the little kids make cows out of clay as toys. Seriously, everything. One day we were driving down the road and we saw a group of men running past us. Not running, more like jogging with intent and in perfect synchronization, similar to soldiers running in bootcamp. Several of them were carrying machetes and others were holding beautifully-designed bows and arrows. Our driver Jacob (this is back when we were in Kenya with Jacob) asked one of the men where they were going and he said a man had stolen some cows and the group was going to get them back. I said, “Oooooh noooooo,” because even though I’m a middle-aged white lady from New York I know not to mess with the Maasai’s cows. I guarantee you they 100% killed the thief. And there were no police anywhere to be found which made sense. The cow situation was about to resolve itself, no need for them to get involved.

Here’s a picture of a Maasai man walking his livestock from one grazing area to another.

Market day! You can get anything you need on market day, from bananas to shoes.

Supplies get around Tanzania via truck and many of the trucks had copious designs relating to bible quotes or Jesus. I caught this one from the back:

And as we drove by I took a picture of the side.

Here are two other pictures I found on the internet.

In the early afternoon we arrived at our hotel, located next to Lake Manyara with a view of the Great Rift Valley. That’s the mountain range-looking thing in the back there. The Great Rift Valley is where two tectonic plates are smooshing together and pulling apart. I find the movements of the crust of the earth fascinating so I spent a good period of time staring at it.

The hotel had animals sauntering around, doing their thing, and it was up to you not to mess with them. I’m sure someone gets hurt every so often for being real stupid and walking up to a giraffe. The one animal you can get close to are the gnu because, as I have mentioned before, they are as thick as a living thing could be. I think you can eat them and still be considered a vegetarian because broccoli is smarter. Here are the gnu on the path to the pool.

In order to get to the pool you walk on that path and the gnu will anxiously run away. I’m like, “You have horns, guys. And hooves. There’s many of you. Why you fleein’?”

There was a warthog mere feet from me, eating vegetation and getting all tangled up in its tusks. Not a pretty eater, but charming.

I liked these puffs on what appears to be a fever tree.

The gnu (which look different than the last two types of gnu because, again, we’ve traveled many hours and it’s a whole different ecosystem) look like they have straight horns when they’re young.

The moment when I lost all respect for the gnu was during this afternoon. There were large puddles, really deep, like 4′ deep, but the mouth wasn’t more than three feet across. So they looked like regular puddles but they were a lie. Lying puddles. The gnu would regularly fall into them and then pop right out like corks. Two gnu friends were walking and one fell in, bopped right out and continued walking like nothing happened. His friend stopped in front of the puddle and… didn’t know what to do. He wanted to be reunited with his friend but he couldn’t figure out how. The concept of walking TWO STEPS IN EITHER DIRECTION flummoxed this poor fella so he decided his best course of action was to stand there and bleat helplessly. Eventually other gnu came up and he witnessed them walking around so he followed them but it’s entirely possible he could have stood there forever until he wasted away from sheer stupidity. It could happen.

After enjoying sitting in the outdoor lounge and watching the sun cross the sky we headed back to our bungalow, escorted by a group of impalas heading that way. Which is where we caught the monkeys.

If you look over to the left, that’s our front door. And that is a vervet monkey.

I call these three pics “Uhhh, yeah, we didn’t think you’d be back so soon.”

We waited patiently because getting bitten or scratched by a monkey would really put a damper on our fun times. As the sun started going down the impalas and monkeys drifted to wherever they spend the night and we got to enjoy the sunset in peace.

Next post: Tarangire, home of elephants, baobabs and lions that climb trees.

East Africa, Part 14: Ngorongoro Crater.

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021

You might think, “Jessica, after the little jackal bounced around trying to kill a vermin, how could you see anything that topped that?” I shall show you. But first, an amuse bouche of warthogs. This was a parent and the three kids.

You can’t see the third little warthog because as he came running over his parent bolted at him and bashed their forehead against his. They both stopped dead in their tracks. I don’t know what the little warthog was planning but his parent was having precisely none of it. It was startlingly aggro.

After about thirty tense seconds, the warthogs resolved their issue and everyone went back to munching grass. Another warthog joined them.

They saw us and there was a lot of wary staring. You can appreciate their white whiskers.

Here we go with the magic. There was a large watering hole with buffalo and a variety of birds.

While I like buffalo fine, I was excited to see the ibis. There was the glossy ibis and the sacred ibis. The dark black one is the glossy ibis and those are lovely. Here’s a pic I found online.

BUT I love the sacred ibis because – surprise! – it’s got a featherless head that looks like a skull.

In addition to the two types of ibis and the cowbirds which are the white ones there was a family of ducks paddling around.

It was an amazing array of animals. You can see the flamingoes in the background.

I was so entranced by this that I didn’t even notice the solitary hippo off to the right! Unexpected hippo!

Who yawned!

Like, are you serious with this? And then a hammerkop showed up! Like, directly down from the side of the vehicle. If I had dropped something out the window it would have bonked him on his hammer-shaped head.

Now was the time that I considered singing “Circle of Life.”

After absorbing this majestic scene for as long as we could we began our trip out of the crater. I had to take one more shot of the crater rim, this time with flamingoes.

Some Egyptian ducks. They always look a little insane because of the dark rim around their eyes and the bright orange/red irises.


A small unit of waterbuck chillin’ under a tree.

A hammerkop on a branch.

A monkey doing whatever cheeky acts he’s decided on.

We headed up the side of the rim. This is partway up:



And the top.

We left the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Augustine had to hand in a tag or pay a fee, I was not paying attention to that. What I was paying attention to was the troupe of baboons off near the exit. Didn’t like that. Then two of the big ones peeled off to try and steal from the cars. Definitely didn’t like that.

Okay, this is dumb. Tourists, what are you doing? Do you not see the teeth? They’re very pointy and visible. Some of the baboons have babies, you see them, right? You’re gonna get mauled and I’m going to be on the side of the baboons.

As we were driving out we passed the baboon troupe and watched them for a while (from the safety of our vehicle because we’re not stupid).

There was a little baby who was full of sassafras and the adults were very patient and accommodating.

The big male heard a sound in the shrubbery so he ran over and shrieked at whatever it was and it scared the crap out of the teenagers so they threw themselves over the side. I should not have laughed. I’m saying I shouldn’t have. I very much did though.

We returned to the room to find out Veronica had left us a sweet message.

But what she did in the room was above and beyond.

It’s abundantly clear the lodge does a lot of honeymoons. I especially liked that instead of an ampersand* there was a dollar sign. It’s close enough, I knew what the intent was.

I took the message on the coffee table and redesigned it as well as leaving some socks.

After I got back from dinner I saw this.

I could have stayed there forever, eating fresh vegetables and communicating with my beloved Veronica through leaves and petals but we had to leave the next day.

Next post: Lake Manyara.

East Africa, Part 13: Ngorongoro Crater.

Saturday, December 4th, 2021

The Ngorongoro Crater is real interesting geologically. It was formed by a volcano that erupted and then fell in on itself. (I like to think it made a “wflup” noise when it collapsed, but I’m guessing not.) It’s the largest caldera not filled with water. It’s natural for a bowl-shaped structure to become a lake but this one didn’t for some reason. It gets weird weather though. Very other-worldly.

We left rather early in the morning, drove all the way up the side of the ridge and then all the way down into the bowl. Our guide told us “Ngorongoro” is the name of a famous cow bell maker, but Wikipedia says it’s onomatopoeic for the sound a bell makes. The Maasai are incredibly tied to their cattle which we will discuss in a further post. One our way we saw things of interest. For example, Sodom Apples! I wanted them to be sinful in some way, really dirty and offensive. Sadly, they’re called Sodom Apples because they grow after there’s been a fire. Pity.

A hammerkop’s nest. A hammerkop is a bird that looks like a duck with a mullet. Because of the pointy front of head and the pointy back of head, it resembles a hammer. For reasons no one knows, the hammerkop builds 100-pound nests. Maybe it’s to show the females how awesome the male is at nest building. The nests are massive.

Look at this fever tree’s gnarled base. It looks like it’s filled with fluid and it’s sinking into the ground. And leaking. And coagulating. It’s a pretty hideous but yet somehow also beautiful tree.

Devil’s Horsewhip! Pretty self-explanatory. Looks like a whip, if you get hit with it all those little barbs hook into you and it probably hurts. Apt name. Alternative names: the No Thank You and the Get That Away From Me.

Guinea fowl! Love ’em. The stupidest birds in existence. They look like jaunty dinosaurs.

A strangler type of fig. A bird or monkey eats a fig and then poops the seed into the crotch of a tree. The seed sends down those long tendrils that, when they hit the ground, lock in and become roots. Then more and more come down. After a series of years, all those roots crush the tree and kill it. By then the fig can support its own weight and becomes its own tree. The fig tree is a dick.

Once we entered the bowl of the former volcano that creates the Ngorongoro Crater the weather was all foggy and there were no trees. As strange as it sounds, it looked very much like Iceland.

A family of crowned cranes came by, that is always a welcome sight.

And flamingoes! This was awesome. Flamingoes don’t hang out everywhere like many other African animals. So it was a treat to see them here. And clearly one of their feeding sites has those red shrimps because these were pink flamingoes. The flamingoes I saw in Israel were white. Same flamingoes, but no red food.

This was unique as well: Pelicans hunting in a group. They formed a phalanx or squadron, whatever military organized group you’d like to use. Then they would glide as a unit across the water, trapping fish on one side.

We saw gnu sitting chewing their cud. They were not looking bright and aware. Which is pretty on-brand for gnu.

We saw a butcher bird. Isn’t a pretty little black and white bird? Yeah, well, it’s called the butcher bird because after it kills its prey, it impales it on thorn trees or barbed wire. For later. It’s a disturbing bird.

Brief break from animals to discuss snacks. Here is the Tanzanian chip brand – Shhoo! Coupla notes. I know they were going for a person’s face with the index finger over the mouth to convey quiet but that straight-up looks like a skull and the exclamation points look like bones. One could deduce that if you don’t eat these chips quietly you may be killed. Maybe not what they were going for. Would have been nice to have a second round of design options. I understand, being a small brand, that they have one bag design and they label the flavor in that yellow area, but I was very much looking forward to spicy tomato and cheese based on the artwork. The chips were fine in the end, very pleasant, but I would like to speak to the company and give them a hand because clearly fresh eyes need to be introduced to the process.

Male lion rolling around! Male lions are solitary so it’s nice to get a sighting of one.

Kory bustard! Large and in charge.

Long-legged something-or-other. It’s got “long-legged” in the name but every time I did a search the websites were like “Did you mean crane?? Or ostrich?? Or flamingo?? Or a different bird that you’re not looking for??” so we’re going to call it a long-legged fancy ploverbird and everyone just needs to accept that. No further discussion.

Zebras walking from over there to way over there.

Jackal on the go. Can’t talk, much to do. Remember that it’s as big as a housecat so extremely cute.

Pic of the crater rim as the sun came out. I really struggled not to take 1,000 photos of the crater rim, the look of it changes as the weather changes and it is spectacular always.

I thought this buffalo was an albino but apparently there is mud that dries light gray and this buffalo had been rolling around in it.

There’s a small lot off to the side for all the tourist vehicles to stop, use the bathroom and have lunch. Many opportunistic birds were hanging around hoping to snag a snack.

My favorite was the large kite bird. Our guide Augustine told us to eat in the car because the kite would fly down and try to grab our food. I said I very much wanted that to happen. Augustine said no I did not because the kite’s talons are super-sharp and when it steals your sandwich it will rip your hands off. I accepted defeat. I mean, look at the size of the child. Then look up and look at the size of the kite. This is not a bird to be meddled with.

It made me happy to see the indigenous people going on safari as well as opposed to foreigners all the time.

After lunch, another beautiful picture of rim.

Bustard! A different, smaller breed of bustard! I liked the way it drew its head all the way back and then extended it all the way forward and it walked.

Gnu and zebra crossing the crater.

An ostrich sitting plumply.

Then I saw my favorite sighting of the trip. I’d never seen anything like it before and it made me so freakin’ happy. There was a jackal going after a vole or something and it did its boingy-boingy hunting technique. I could see the whole thing clearly.

My eyes were full of sparkles for days. Coming up, The Moomins favorite sighting of the trip.