Coffee in Arusha…Airstrip in Ndutu

After an evening of exhausted yet somewhat fitful sleep, I woke up ready for my first day of “safari.” We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, again almost alone in the dining room (I guess all the other guests were out busily making use of their few hours in Arusha), accompanied by multiple cups of amazing coffee. (Probably not surprising, given we were on a coffee plantation!)

Then our driver packed us into his car for the quick drive to the Arusha Airport, which wasn’t much more than a few open-air, low-walled waiting areas furnished with plastic chairs. We waited to be told where to go and were led onto a small plane with a small group of other tourists, headed for the Serengeti. About an hour later we landed at the Ndutu Airstrip, literally nothing more than a wind sock, a shade structure and an outhouse. The other tourists — all five of them — were met by drivers and whisked away while we…waited. Where was our driver? Our itinerary indicated that we, also, would be met by our Nomad Guide but the only humans there were two Tanzania National Park Rangers whose jobs were, apparently, to collect fees from landing planes.

Our pilot politely refused to “just leave us there,” and made a quick phone call to inquire about our guide. Don’t even ask how he managed to get cell service; I certainly didn’t see any cell towers and we were, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere. He heard back from his “people” who had reached someone at Nomad who assured us that a driver would be picking us up shortly. Our pilot climbed into his cockpit and away he went, leaving the three of us on the dusty airstrip, zebras casually crossing over post-departure.

Fortunately, within 20 minutes a car pulled up and we piled in while Silvanos apologized profusely. He felt compelled to make sure we saw something on this, our first big day, so instead of driving directly back to the camp we went straight out onto a “game drive.” Right away we were seeing zebras and wildebeasts, elephant and impala, flamingos and gazelles, dozens of dazzling birds and and adorable dik dik.

Our Toyota Land Cruiser was met at the Nomad Mobile Camp by the staff, wielding a tray of refreshing juices, who then whisked our bags off to our tents. After we checked out our surprisingly lavish accommodations — furnished tents with electricity, rugs, a camp toilet, sink and shower — we met Silva at the common tent for Serengeti beer o-clock.

We kept up our happy houring right into dinner, which was a delicious meal I mostly can’t remember, shared with a raucous collection of couples: one from Canada, one from Australia and one from Germany. There was a soup course, a meat/vegetables/rice-or-potatoes course and dessert, but it was mostly about the beer, politely provided with a knowing grin by Babboo. Urp! We eventually bumbled back to our tents, led by a staff member and his trusty flashlight, and passed out.

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