We went to Tanzania in June. June falls at the very end of the rainy season/ beginning of the dry season. The dry season (July to October) is the best time to visit Lake Manyara National Park if you want to see large mammals. November to June is ideal for waterfalls, canoeing and bird watching.
I am not a bird enthusiast.
Knowing that, I didn’t get my hopes up too high for our Lake Manyara safari day. We’d read mixed reviews about the park regarding it being overcrowded and cat spottings being somewhat rare. But on the flip side, Ernest Hemmingway considers the lake itself to be the most beautiful in lake in all of Africa. (We experienced the beauty of Lake Manyara first hand on our Bachelor-worthy date.)
The day before our Manyara safari, while we were in Tarangire National Park,we’d seen almost everything on our safari bucket list including lions and cheetah so I made peace with the fact that we’d been lucky enough already… even if we didn’t see anymore cats. (Spoiler alert: we did!)
We started through the park, which I thought was extremely lovely and didn’t feel a bit overcrowded (another benefit of going in June). It was lush and green and the mountain terrain was greatly different than Tarangire. I was in love. It almost reminded me of driving through Jurassic Park. Unfortunately… I never seemed to quite capture that in a picture.
Throughout the day we stumbled upon tower after tower of giraffes. Sometimes there would be a small family 20 yards away. Sometimes we’d just see their necks stretching tall above the horizon. Once Gaudence stopped our vehicle and said quietly, “Slowly look up.” I could hear him breathing before I could see him. Standing half hidden behind a tree just feet from our vehicle, was the most beautiful giraffe in the world. (Yep, the whole world.)
When you are on safari you start to look at everything differently. You are surrounded, every second, by wild animals. The majority of them, you never even see. They are just off the path, just behind a bend, or camouflaged so well that you can look right at them without really seeing them. You start to scan the horizon involuntarily. You look twice, three times, at logs and rocks, in to bushes and trees. Often enough, you are rewarded by that second glance, so you just do it more.
I wish pictures could capture the experience of going on a safari, but they don’t even begin to. If you’re lucky you catch a few of the highlights. A few seconds of a whole day spent in awe.
Now, I’ve admitted that I’m not really a huge fan of birds. So knowing that, take monkeys and put them as far from birds as possible on my graph of animal fondness. You know what? It’s been a while since I’ve made a graph of any kind… so I’ll do it for you. Here is a visual representation of my affection for monkeys. You’re welcome.
I love monkeys. In a really odd, should-be-more-scared, would-take-them-home-with-me kind of way. Monkeys probably come up 3-5 times a week in casual conversation between me and Dane. The love runs deep. (On my end. Dane thinks I’m like a five year old.)
Manyara National Park is noted for being one of the best parks in Tanzania for baboon watching. I like baboons and I like watching them. So I was good.
We also saw several other “old world” monkey species, native to central Africa including vervets and blue monkeys. Now here’s a question for you: If you had to guess which of thsse two species has blue balls (yes… I mean bright blue testicles) which would you guess? The “Blue Monkey” or the “Vervet”? Well I was wrong when I guessed blue monkey, so I won’t judge you. But actually, it’s the vervet. I rarely take pictures of monkey balls, but I made an exception for these guys and set my focus for their sacks.
They are just the cutest darn things, and their balls… well they really are a very pretty shade of blue. Go figure.
One thing that we hadn’t seen in Tarangire that had been on our bucket list was a hippo. So we were thrilled to see so many on our Lake Manyara safari. And okay… some birds are pretty cool. Especially when they are sitting on hippos. I’m just not a fan of them on my head or in my house.
If you refer back to the graph I gave you, you will see that elephants are pretty high up there on my animal fondness chart. When I was putting this post together, I added all of the elephant pictures here. But the post got so long that I have decided to break the elephant and lion portion of the safari into one more post. Get excited… because the pictures coming Monday are absolutely, without question, my favorite pictures from the two weeks we spent in Africa! Ahhhh… I can hardly wait!
In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.