The village of Mto wa Mbu at the northern edges of Lake Manyara National Park has a population of 18,000 inhabitants, and a healthy 120 tribes. The word “Mto wa Mbu” literally translates to “Mosquito River” and it is the three rivers (namely Kirurumu, Mahamoud and Magadini rivers) that flow through the area that allows the village to flourish.
Our long awaited Safari through Northern Tanzania's National Parks had finally arrived. It was an early start from our hotel on the south eastern shores of Zanzibar but as I had already driven the road between Dongwe and Stone Town several times, I was well rehearsed to how long the drive would take and I had become somewhat familiar with the numerous hidden pot holes along the way.
As I drove towards the airport car park gate, a guy started running alongside the jeep. He introduced himself as the person who would take the car keys off me - not that he spoke any English of course but he managed to tell me that he worked for Mr. Kibabu, who was the owner of the rental car company 'Kibabu Cars.' I had a slightly uneasy feeling about just handing over the car keys to complete stranger, but the alternative was to leave them with a different stranger in a random kiosk. This is what Mr. Kibabu asked us to do if he wasn't there. However considering our jeep didn't have any markings on it to indicate who it belonged to (there where many that looked identical to ours) and Mr. Kibabu himself had seemed very relaxed when he handed the keys to us just a few days earlier, my fears quickly dispersed and I just got on with checking that we had taken everything out of the car.
All in all, it seemed to work out just fine.
The domestic terminal was nothing more than a hut. It had an x-ray machine and a few check in desks all out in the open. As we had eagerly arrived around two hours before the scheduled departure time, there was no one around to check us in but there was a small waiting room filled with metal benches. At some point in the next half hour I discovered my bag was full of tiny reddish-yellow coloured ants. The source of the issue was the sweet snack bars, made from nuts and dates that we had made back at home before leaving on this trip. The ants had somehow eaten holes into the plastic bag and thus had invaded the sweet snack. It took me 20 minutes to blow them all off as I couldn't bring myself around to throwing the little snack bars away. The ingredients were just so expensive.
The flight to Arusha was operated by Flightlink and I had booked the tickets for this flight a couple months earlier costing US$75 each. The aircraft was an Embraer 120 which is a small(ish) twin propeller aircraft, capable of carrying 30 passengers. It wasn’t full though, and I was able to switch seats easily (Hint: If flying towards Arusha from Zanzibar or Dar es Salaam, sit on the right hand side to enjoy the views towards Mount Kilimanjaro).
Everyone else snored.
Left: Flightlink's Embraer 120 at Arusha airport with Mt Meru in the background
Right: Mt Meru in the foreground with Mt Kilimanjaro in the distance
At Arusha airport, Paul was waiting with a simple cardboard sign with “Nicholson x4” written on it. Paul was the guy who I had been emailing for all these months, and never did I realise that he might also be our Safari tour guide and driver. Paul showed us around Arusha town first, including my personal request of the old Arusha train station* before continuing to Mto wa Mbu, a village at the northern end of Lake Manyara.
* whilst outside the car taking a couple of photographs I was confronted by a security guard and told I wasn't allowed to take any pictures - he changed his mind about 30 seconds later after a quick explanation that I was just a tourist.
The disused Arusha railway station
The drive to Lake Manyara took around 2 hours (110 kilometers) along well maintained and paved roads. The final couple of kilometers to our accommodation, Burudika Manyara Lodge were along dirt tracks and this were I suddenly got my first feeling that we had entered the African wilderness. The second feeling of African wilderness came at check in as we were told that you cannot walk alone at night as the lodge is un-fenced and they do on occasion, have wild animals just walking through. Eek!
After a couple of hours at the lodge refreshing up, Paul drove us to the village of Mto wa Mbu. Here we we walked around with a tour guide who explained and showed us the ins and outs of the village.
She took us through the villages' rice fields and explained how one honest person is elected to control the water, switching the channels the water flows along daily to ensure fair distribution. She also introduced us to banana beer and red bananas. The village itself is a delight to walk around, with very friendly locals, plenty of smiles and a small market selling a variety of, you guessed it, bananas.
Mto wa Mbu Photo Journal
Burudika Manyara Lodge - www.burudikalodges.com
Left: The restaurant at Burudika Manyara Lodge built around a giant Baobab tree
Right: The view from the room terrace overlooking Lake Manyara National Park
There are always more photos to be shared, (but sharing them all on this journal page will just make it look cluttered - so if you want to see more photos for inspiration, check out my Flickr Tanzania - 2018 album.
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