We got the bus at 3:00am and were expecting a 6 ½ journey to Mikumi park, during which we could get some sleep. Turns out however that driving at night in Tanzania is a whole lot quicker than driving during the day and we arrived at our hotel for Saturday evening just 3 hours later. Some people didn’t get as much as 3 hours sleep as they needed a pit stop (if you get the idea…) a couple of hours in.
We checked in to our hotel and dropped our bags off (yes – in Tanzania or maybe just the Kingsway hotel in Morogoro, Tanzania, you can check into your room at 6:00am in the morning!) and then headed on for 1 ½ hours down the road to Mikumi park. While the park entrance is 1 ½ hours from Morogoro (probably about 120km) the last 50km are actually in the park and you start to see some of the wildlife like giraffe, wildebeest, warthog and baboons from that far out.
We met our host – Edward from Safari Partners –at the entrance to the park. He had already dealt with park entry fees and had breakfast arranged for us on the terrace of the park restaurant. Looking out at the national park in front of us,with a cup of tea in hand and breakfast on the way, I can honestly say is the only way to start a day. You might even put up with a cold shower for this! Magnificent!
After breakfast we started out on our safari trip into the bush in two open landrovers. Its clear that the guides know the typical hang outs for each of the main animals. We started with a herd of elephants including baby elephants making their way from one feeding spot to the next. (Basically everywhere is a feeding spot for elephants, the quantity of food that they need). Then on to giraffe, zebra,warthogs and then what looked like a lion in the distance. With the naked eye you couldn’t makeout much more than a darkish blur in the grass in the distance, and even with binoculars you had to use your imagination a little to decide whether or not what you were looking at was a lion, but a short time later, Silas our driver indicated that he was going to do a quick trip off the main track to see what he could see and we were treated to an up close and personal view of the whole pride! When you see a lion at the zoo, it is this big cat prowling around its enclosure or maybe lying down taking a rest – but either way it is easy to see. I don’t think anyone could have gone to the lion enclosure in a zoo and asked where it is. We drove up to this pride in the long grass and I’m aware suddenly of people talking about the lions and I’m going “Where!” before the head of this male lion is pretty much gazing at me from about 5 metres away. The lions colouring is perfectly suited to its natural environment. From a perch on a landrover about 8 feet off the ground you could miss one until you are very close. Imagine if you are on the same level! In the pride, lying in the hazy late morning sun were this male and about 5 females – all just like your own cat at home when it feels like doing nothing. The lions were definitely the highlight of the day, but we went on in our morning drive to see wildebeest, water buffalo and more baboons before heading for lunch.
Having dined like lords for breakfast, we did so again at lunch and that probably did it for us in combination with the lack of sleep, for during the afternoon drive, after climbing halfway up a baobab tree, the constant rocking of the landrover over the bumps on the tracks put just about every one of us to sleep at some point. The driver of our landrover – Silas – was a very good guide and all through the drives was pointing out not just the animals, but a range of interesting facts about them, so we were a little embarrassed in the afternoon when he would turn around to tell us something more and find us all asleep or half-asleep!
We headed back to our hotel – the Kingsway – after what we all thought was a great day. A full safari holiday might not be for everyone, but if you do get a chance, I would recommend a day safari. It is great to see these magnificent animals in their natural environment. Back at the Kingsway, we headed for dinner in its main restaurant. This was a distinctly odd experience. Firstly, we were the only ones in this restaurant and there were about 6 waiting staff hanging around as if we were foreign dignitaries. Foreign – yes – but dignitaries? Lets just say that that would be the first time the word had been used in the same sentence as any of us!
But this was characteristic of the hotel. Look at it on booking.com and you will see this modern highrise hotel. To get to this nice hotel however you had to go down a dirt road. The hotel had been constructed with solar gain in mind – all the windows had reflective tint on them to keep as much of the sun out as possible. Except on the Kingsway, the tint was starting to peel off and they’d used the reflective tint on internal windows also – so you couldn’t see into the restaurant area. The rooms all had the latest wave-the-card-in-front-of-the-lock door locks, but they couldn’t program keys and only allocated rooms based on the pre-programmed keys they had available (they were numbered). The flooring was an easy to maintain large format ceramic tile, but when you walked on them, it was clear that most of them had become detached from the underlying base and were still only in position because they couldn’t move. The plumbing in the shower rooms was reversed. In every other hotel, you get maximum volume in the shower with the mixer in the cold position (because there is always a lot more cold water than hot), in the Kingsway, you get a trickle of cold water and a flood of hot water which is so hot you cannot stand under. The rooms are very generous in size, but there is nothing in half of the room.
Still, the food we got at dinner was fine and the beds were very comfortable, the hotel had Wi-fi and – when you managed to find the sweet spot in the shower temperature – the bathrooms were fine. Although if you ever find yourself sharing a room at the Kingsway, you might take care to hang one of the – what might be the largest ever – bath towels over the bathroom door, as these are clear glass looking straight at the location you might never appreciate being seen on!