Off The Beaten Path

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Lake Manyara

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A Soothing Safari Awaits

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You haven’t experienced Africa until you’ve experienced Tanzania. Before you fuss, there are several reasons for this perceptive stance. Well there’s the peak of Kilimanjaro to the northeast and lakes Victoria and Tanganyika to the north and west, respectively, the very nature of their largess compelling a heightened degree of adventure for those so inclined.

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Among the ‘other stuff’ of legend are approximately 947,300 kilometers of ecosystem, including a large central plateau, a significant amount of which remains relatively unscathed by the demands of a technological world. Here, life remains in a delicate balance between mankind in need of space and animals that need to thrive. A land held in trust from encroaching infrastructure and poachers, alike, defying the look and feel of enclosure in the process. It is here where animals can still roam free as well as a stately Massai’s free flow of vast ancestral spaces.

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Tanzania is an admirable place, with a sound grasp on its politics and a determination for economic growth. Whose people identify as Tanzanian rather than by numerous cultural identities including a number of Bantu tribes, and Asians, Arabs and Europeans embrace an East African brand of nationalism that encompasses the nation’s mainland and nearby Island Zanzibar whose very name seems magical as its beaches. For those who visit, a diverse travel experience indeed.

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But many travelers come here for safari and safari-town Arusha offers a well-oiled start and finish to the northern route, in its wind through vast savannah lands where cattle herds and nomadic people trek still traverse a land that seems as old as man’s time on earth.

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And as if to solidify this point the Ngorongoro Crater holds a multitude of wildlife species now viewed selectively in zoos but never in numbers abundant as this free range; giving way to Olduvai Gorge, one of the oldest inhabited places on earth. The history books reflect the anthropologist Leakey’s work in making perhaps the most significant archaeological discoveries in the evolution of man. It’s here…On the way.

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Continuing, the Serengeti National Park holds heart and promises to captivate memories of elephant herd views and male lions sleeping too long as females protect the young and hunt so that all might eat. Not having seen enough, ‘Reserve Tarangire’ completes the region’s circumspect.

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This is fascinating, and why you came. But an exhilarating safari means there’s often no rest for the weary. But this time – just ahead there’s a new aspect, a tranquil lodge boasting views of a lake to die for. And if the quest from the beginning was as unique experience as possible, a getaway at Lake Manyara could be what you might have imagined.

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Lake Manyara is an 89 square mile, alkaline lake in the East African Riff. The lake contracts and expands complementary to seasonal rains, reflecting mud that lines the water areas to the enjoyment of wildlife seeking to wallow. Wildlife in the area includes the now usual suspects: Zebra, Giraffe, Wildebeest, Hippo, Buffalo, and Impala, as well as the not so usual Dik-Dik — smallest antelope and easy to miss, and the ever-elusive Black Rhino.

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Okay, it sounds like where you’ve just been and where you might have gone anywhere else on the continent. Touché. But the difference is in the details and immediate impressions that impact the senses, like the experience of finding an oasis in the middle of a desert. True enough, Ernest Hemingway is said to have once referred to the place as the loveliest lake in Africa.

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But here it’s not just Hemmingway’s observations of captivating lake views that alerts the senses but a perfect peace, experienced only moments into the Lake Manyara National Park area and this resulting encampment.

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True, we arrived for late lunch frazzled, following a harrowing experience on the edge of the crater rim, and a lengthy drive bumpy enough to shake the mud off a warthog, but it didn’t take a traumatic experience to realize that it was time for a respite, seven days into a seeming endless safari circuit.

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The “welcome view” includes a series of buildings reflecting the Massai culture and spherical designs of birds in flight; not lost — just mentally compacted in a rush for shower and clean clothes. However a peek out the door and positioning on the veranda soon emerges as a long pause for a view of the lake where the most stunning of Manyara’s over 300 migratory birds – Flamingo, routinely form dots of pink on a fluid carpet of blue. An unusually ‘elegant’ view, when couched in the context of many un-sculpted perimeters tucked in tough-forged places. In different views you’ll find graceful Egrets, Pelicans, Yellow-billed Storks, and Silvery-Cheeked Hornbills, and Cranes – all adding color and life to this exotic aviary mix.

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There’s a sudden realization that perhaps you are not ‘so tired’ for a stroll beyond your new back door, further into and beyond this nature’s compound…Time for introductory views of “lesser creatures” complementing the colorful birds by their knack for camouflage. And though they are literally everywhere here, you’re truly lucky to spy a worthy spotlight in Anthropology Today, depicting the continuity of family life in a quest for food just about the time you feel like doing the same.

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A cozy dinner following an even later afternoon safari shares the day’s adventure experience while the beauty of the surrounds reinforces the intrinsic value of the journey. It’s funny how an adventurer’s account of a day grows more detailed, more dangerous, and more compelling in the lessons learned as fear diminishes, roles enhance, and stories creatively shape into a ‘world traveler’s later account.

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Tonight at Lake Manyara it’s about the moment and the spirit of the safari. There’s good food and quiet conversation against the acoustic sounds of nature – the gentle and not so much so, ever encroaching. Next day, Safari will continue (early) to roads beyond the Lake, to eventually emerge as favored life recollections, but tonight there’s a touch of special in the warmth of a soothing local drink and an emerging comfort sufficient to evoke a peaceful sleep or warrant consideration of further intrigue. Aside from worries and cares, you may just leave your heart.

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Where to stay: Lake Manyara Serena Lodge
Lake Manyara Serena

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Lake Manyara: A Soothing Safari Experience Awaits © Pamela Kelly Phillips, 2012
All photographic images (non-video) are © Pamela Kelly Phillips,
PK Phillips Photography, 2008

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