Saturday, October 12, 2013

Karatu - Lake Manyara

We had such a lovely stay at the Ganako Luxury Lodge and that was thanks to the wonderful staff who were very eager to meet our needs and provided such friendly service.  We bid them farewell and headed back out on the road.  One of the things you learn while traveling in Africa is that every tour operator has arrangements with specific curio (souvenir) shops along the way.  All of these curio shops basically sell the same things- the key is in the negotiation of a price for the items you want to buy because the first prices they give you are ridiculous.  Members of my travel group are excellent negotiators, while I am not.  However, I haven't really purchased that much stuff because nothing has really grabbed me and I also have to consider luggage weight, customs restrictions, etc.

The first curio shop we stopped at today in Karatu had the largest selection of items I've seen yet and they were also willing to negotiate.  The prices people paid were more realistic, but this could also be because the group is more in tune with what things should actually cost.  The second curio shop was a main tourist stop since they also sold Tanzanite jewelry.  A few people bought some Tanzanite there, but it was more of a hard sell than the other place we stopped at in Arusha where you could trust the cut and color of the stone you were getting was what they said it was.

After the shopping we checked into the Lake Manyara Wildlife Lodge and ate our packed lunches out by the pool area, which was very nice.  The lodge is located up on a hill and has great views of the lake.  Once we finished we headed out for our afternoon game drive in Lake Manyara National Park.  The entrance to the park is a forest with mountains around it that has a lot of natural springs with fresh water creeks running through it.  Then you descend into the valley where the lake is.  The land there is fairly arid because in the 1990s the lake expanded out to the forest line during an El Nino year, and due to it being salt water ruined all the soil once it receded (it still hasn't recovered).

As for animals there were lots of baboons all over the place, along with some blue monkeys and different types of birds.  We saw wildebeests and zebras in the valley, but no giraffes or elephants at all.  This may have been due to a major flash flood the park experienced in March which washed away some roads and land, or could have just been the time of day.

Since it was hot we only stayed out for a few hours and then returned to the lodge to relax.  It was a bit disappointing not to see anything special on our last game drive, but we have been so lucky throughout this trip that I can't really complain.

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