Archive for December, 2018

Safaris in Tanzania

December 24, 2018


I went on safaris on both weekends I was in Tanzania. Ruaha Hilltop Lodge managed the tour. We got the package for an amazing price! The first weekend it was $420 each for the four of us Safari Sisters: Barbee, Anna, Claire and Annie. The second weekend it was $380 each for the five of us. It included transportation from Ipalamwa to the Lodge, two nights lodging, all our meals, a full day of safari on Saturday and the trip back to the village. You can reach the Ruaha Hilltop Lodge at or call +255 (0) 262701806 or +255 (0) 794 726709.

On Friday after lunch, a four wheel drive vehicle with a driver, Isaac, and guide, Vianney, picked us up in Ipalamwa and took us on the five hour drive to the lodge. We were met at the lodge by staff members with hot towels, tamarind juice and freshly popped popcorn. We went on the top veranda to see the miles-long view of the savannah. I shared a bottle of wine. When we went up the steep hill to our rooms at the top, I had to stop two-thirds of the way up. I was coughing up a storm. I continued to cough as I unpacked and went back down to the lodge for dinner. The sweet corn soup managed to stop the coughing. I was embarrassed at my lack of fitness! Barbee is only two years younger than me, but she’s much more agile.


Barbee on the Lodge terrace

My room



The rooms at the lodge were quite nice.


I took photos of the gorgeous sunrise before we had breakfast at seven the next morning. Off we went in our safari vehicle with our guide Moses and our driver Patrick. On our way to Ruaha National Park, we saw a black-backed jackal, warthogs, and impalas.


The park consisted of more than 20,00 square kilometers as well as a WMA (Wildlife Management Area) around the park. The animals were protected in both the park and the WMA. In former times, people could get licenses to kill the animals that were outside the park. Now If animals strayed into the Masai villages, park rangers bring them back and the government paid for any damages the animals did.


Once inside the park we saw many zebras, greater and lesser kudus, giraffes, elephants, baboons, trees whose flowers looked like toothbrushes, colorful lizards, and female lions. We thought the lions were sleeping, but one got up and came right for our vehicle. Moses told us to be silent. The lion calmly walked past us and curled up behind the tree for a nap. I learned that African elephants cannot be trained to work in a circus because they are too aggressive. Their ears are very large and shaped like the continent of Africa.


I loved the boabob trees. Boabob is the Arabic word for “many seeds” because of the seeds in the fruit. The fruit was high in vitamin C so people with HIV/AIDS ate a lot of it. The trees were hollow and there is water in the bottom which has minerals. Pregnant elephants liked it. The tree is also known as the “Tree of Life.” Moses told us a legend about the tree. God made the animals before he created trees. The animals asked for some shade from the sun. God gave every animal a different tree to plant. The hyena was lazy and just threw his tree upside-down over his shoulder. When bare of leaves, the tree did look upside-down. The seeds of the fruit were crushed and used as a coffee substitute. Elephants strip the bark and chew it. Bees make huge hives inside the tree.

IMG_0599 (1).JPG

Elephants strip the bark from all the trees. Then the beetles do their damage. After the tree falls over, other animals take up residence.

We saw many nests of the tiny grey-capped warbler. The male builds several nests and then the female chooses the one she wants to use. All the nests have two openings so if an enemy comes in the front door, the bird can escape out the back door.

We stopped at a rest stop and had the boxed lunches from the lodge. We were able to watch elephants as we ate.


After lunch we saw a white-backed vulture in a tree. We saw a savannah buffalo alone, lying under a tree. Moses said that it was probably dying as they leave the herd when it’s their time.


We saw more giraffes, elephants, families of baboons, more lions.


We were hot and needed a break, so we stopped at the Park Rangers’ bar and had Cokes, orange sodas and beers. We got back in our vehicle and saw crocodiles and hippos.

Anna was not feeling well on Sunday. It was very hot in the four-wheel-drive vehicle even though the air-conditioning on high. After an hour, we almost passed out from the heat until I suggested we open the windows. Lo and behold it was cool outside!!




We stopped to eat our box lunch off the road to Ipalamwa. Claire picked some eucalyptus leaves so Anna could inhale the steam from them. Isaac picked some other leaves he thought would work even better. A man came up the road and proceeded to eat the leaves.

The second weekend I went on Safari with Adrienne, Heather, Felicia and Pam. It started to rain outside of Iringa. By the time we got to the Danish Lutheran guest house and restaurant for our bathroom break, it was pouring. We got soaked just going to and from the building. The rain continued off and on the dirt road on the way to Ruaha. A herd of cattle darted across the road. In front of us. We screeched to a halt just a few feet from the animals. The horror in their eyes mirrored my own. Close call!


We continued down the rutted road. Suddenly, we heard a big bang. Isaac, the driver, immediately pulled over to the side of the road to inspect the tire. It was destroyed. We had to get out, in the pouring rain. We all had raingear either back in our rooms in Ipalamwa or at the bottom of our luggage.  Isaac had a hard time getting the jack to work. After a while, Vianney gave us a tarp to hold over our heads, but we were already soaked.



Adrienne was the only one with dry feet as she had chosen to wear boots, which I had told her earlier was unnecessary. She was the smart one. Instead of complaining, all of us turned to laughter, it was amazing that we cracked jokes and talked about hanging underwear on clotheslines. After more than half an hour the tire was changed, the ruined tire put away, our bags taken from the seat and returned to the back of the vehicle, and we loaded ourselves back in. I brought out the shortbread cookies and they were demolished in no time.

When we got to the lodge, they came out with hot, wet towels to welcome us. This gave us another reason to laugh.

We signed into the hotel, and Annie, Pam and Felicia went to their rooms to change their clothes as they were wet through their underwear. Adrienne were ecstatic to hook up to the Internet and spent the rest of the evening making calls, answering emails and downloading television programs. The delicious peanut soup hit the spot to warm us up s we could enjoy our dinner.

The next morning, we didn’t see many animals during the morning. We stopped early to eat.


Instead of taking photos this time, I used binoculars to see the animals even closer. We saw guinea fowl, the school in the park, a herd of savannah buffalo that took fifteen minutes to pass the road we were on.


We saw lots of elephants. Moses pointed out an impala carcass up a tree. We circled around many times and finally saw a leopard under a bush. We saw two groups of lions, mostly females with a few immature males. One lion got up and headed for our vehicle. We sat silent and transfixed. The lion passed us and lay down two feet in front of the bumper. We backed up and got away safely.


The sausage tree is called that because the pods of seeds hang like hug sausages. We stopped at a bush and Moses, our guide, snapped a twig off a bush. Adrienne demonstrated how it could be used as a toothbrush. I took photos of the savannah.


We again stopped at the Park Rangers’ bar for sodas and beers. There was quite a crowd watching a soccer match. Some of the rangers were playing “mancala,” one of the oldest known games still being played.


We finished our safari by seeing lots of hippos in the river under a bridge.


On the way back to the lodge, it started raining. We saw an intense rainbow. We saw the whole rainbow from the veranda of the lodge.


Adrienne downloaded the song The Rains in Africa and took a video of lodge staff members and me to dancing to the music.

We enjoyed the sunset and another delicious meal.