Wednesday, August 23, 2023

 Metiabruz heritage walk held on 16.07.2023.

I participated in a walking tour in Matiabruz, commemorating 200th birth anniversary of Wajid Ali Shah. Shaikh Sohail of Break Free Trails and Soumyadeep of Heritage and Art Walks Kolkata started the heritage walk on July 16,2023  from the Garden Reach clock tower, covering remaining structures from the era of Wajid Ali Shah, including the Shahi Astabal Masjid, Qasrul buka Imambara, Bait-un-Nijat Imambara and Sibtainabad Imambara. 

The life (1822-1887) of the Nawab is almost symmetrically divided into two halves — the first of which he spent in Lucknow and the second in Kolkata’s Metiabruz. These two halves are divided into two sides of the installation, in the form of a story told by two fish (the emblem of Awadh). The first fish narrates the story of the Nawab’s life in Lucknow. The second section of the tale is told by the fish from Bengal. The Nawabs of Awadh are Shia, unlike most (87%) people in India, who are Sunnis. About 90 percent of Iranians practice Shiaism, the official religion of Iran. The first Nawab of Awadh, Sadaat Khan Burhan-ul-Mulk, was a Persian noble from Khorasan, Iran (Uzbekistan was part of Khorasan, apart from Afghanistan and N East Iran). 


Wajid Ali Shah brought/introduced the following to Kolkata :

1. Awadhi art and literature, 

2. Poetry (Urdu)

3.  Kathak Dance 

4.  Sports - Kabutar bazi (Pigeon flying) and Kite flying,

5. Fashion (Tailoring) 


7. Zoo

The Legacy Nawab Wajid Ali Shah in Calcutta 

The first Nawab of Awadh, Sadaat Khan Burhan-ul-Mulk, was a Persian noble from Khorasan, Iran, who came to India in 1708 . The last was Wajid Ali Shah, who spent the last 31 years of his life in Calcutta. After Awadh was annexed in 1856 by the English East India Company on a false charge of maladministration, its last king Wajid Ali Shah decided to come to Kolkata with his mother Malikah Kishwar. Shah decided to live in Kolkata and chose Metiaburj as the burbling Hooghly river reminded him of the Gomti in Lucknow and gave some solace to his broken heart.

1&2. Urdu flourished and grew exponentially when thousands of citizens of Awadh flocked to Metiabruz. The settlers spoke chaste Urdu and its sweetness spread quickly. Shah passionately promoted and patronised this language by encouraging writers and poets. Events like mushairas (poetic symposiums), ghazals and qawalis became very popular. The patronage gave rise to a new generation of talented poets, writers, singers, and narrators elevating Kolkata as an important centre of Urdu.

Talented local artists like Raja Sourindra Mohan Tagore and Pandit Jadu Bhatta benefitted from this musical atmosphere

3. The king in the true regal style held regular Kathak dance programmes in his parikhana .

The babus of Bengal, impressed by this, built their jalsaghar (dancing halls) where such programmes were regularly held. As the rich Bengalis started extending their patronage to artists, the spin-off was  the popularity of classical dance.

4.The pastime of kite flying was  introduced by Shah in Kolkata, where it caught the imagination of the rajas, maharajas and zamindars of 19th-century Bengal and became their favourite hobby. Although this sport has few takers now, still there are many units active in Metiabruz producing thousands of kites which are supplied all over India. A large number of women operating from their houses are involved in this trade.

Other pastimes like flying pigeon (kabootar bazi) also became extremely popular. A lot of time, money and energy was spent on rearing and training pigeons. Some indulged in cross-breeding pigeons to produce champions. Even now, in many homes, men take an active interest in this sport. Like kite flying, the sport of flying pigeons is fading but there is still a band of enthusiasts who indulge in this fascinating hobby. I actually witnessed a programme in New Town where prizes were distributed among the winners. I got to know from them that it is a very popular Sport.

If you do not believe it,see this :

5. The rulers and nobilities of Awadh were fashion-conscious and Shah brought with him the fine art of Lucknawi tailoring. To cater to their demand, many tailors from Awadh settled close to Metiabruz.They excelled in stitching  sherwani, churidar, kurta-pyjama and shalwar-kameez. One generation handed over the skills to the next and gradually a huge army of tailors emerged. There are hundreds of shops selling clothing materials and other accessories making it one of the biggest manufacturing centres for unbranded garments in Asia generating revenue of Rs 15,000 crore annually. The dresses manufactured here are sold in leading boutiques of the country besides being exported. 

6. If there is one thing the people of this state remember and love Shah the most for is the introduction of delectable Awadhi cuisine in general and biryani in particular. Some of the talented chefs who accompanied him prepared dishes like pulao, korma, kebabs, biryani, sheermal and shahi tukra. His chefs introduced the traditional Awadhi style of cooking, known as Dum Pukht, in Kolkata. 

7. Alipore Zoo : He had his private zoo, first of its kind in Kolkata (there are stories how a tiger escaped and swam across the Hooghly to Botanical garden), which were later transferred to Alipore Zoo.

Source :

Interesting Shah died in Kolkata. His wife ('nikah wife') died in Kathmandu and his mother died in Paris.

To know more read : 




Monday, August 7, 2023


মুন্ডপাত in Mandu




Mode of Travel

Night Halt


11/8 (Fr)-12/8 (Sat)

  CCU-Delhi -IDR

CCU-Delhi -IDR (Vistara - free dinner and breakfast served)

2030-0715 hrs

 Delhi Airport


12/8 (Sat)

Indore - Mandu (90Km)

Jahaj Mahal-Talao-Baz Bhadur-Rupmati

Auto for 2 days @4200/-

Mandu - Ajooba





13/8 (Sun)


Mandu –-Maheswar (40 Km) -Indore (1730 hrs)  

Indore city tour - Rajwada Palace and a temple


Kept luggage at cloak room of Indore Rail Station @ Rs 15 for 24 hours

Night Train 


Night Train to BPL


Indore  - Bhopal 

 2315         510


14/8 (Mon)

 Bhopal  - Bhimbekta -Bhojpur - Bhopal

40,000 yrs old cave painting

Auto  @1200/-

=114 Km

Bhopal - Fab Hotel HTC

Address: 38, Jumerati Rd, Jumerati, Peer Gate Area, Bhopal, 462001,               Phone: +91 70424 24242                      GPS coordinates: N 023° 15.690, E 77° 24.149 

Museums are closed on Monday


15/8 (Tue)

Sightseeing at Bhopal - 

Moti Masjid - Jama Masjid-Taj ul Masjid-Upper Lake-Lower Lake-Bharat Bhaban -Jumerati Gate

Walking + Auto

Around 10 Km

Fab Hotel HTC

Bhopal - wiki/Bhopal


16/8 (Wed)

Bhopal - Sanchi - UNESCO HERITAGE Vidisha - Udaygiri caves - Heliodorus pillar - Boopal 

Auto  @1500/


=122 Km

Fab Hotel HTC





17/8 (Thu)



Bhopal - Manab Sanghralay Museum

Whole day

Night train to GWL 


BPL      GWL

 2350    745 hrs

Night Train 

Train late by 2 hours 



18/8 (Fri)

 Shani Chura Temple - Bateswar group of temples at Morena -Garhi Padhavali-Mitaoli 


After lunch at hotel, left for MP tourism office at Gandhi Road (Tansen Hotel) - Jaivilas Palace - Tansen tomb


Went straight to Bateswar from station (at 8 am) and came back to hotel at 1230 hours

82 Km in total

Share Auto (locally known at tempo, which is bigger than normal Auto) @10/- each

Hotel at Loco (4 no. Platform) to Paraoh (10/-)

Paraoh to MP Tourim office (10/-) at Gandhi Road (Office at Rail station closed)

Tourim office to Jaivilas Palace - 10/-

Jaivilas Palace to Tansen Tomb - 10/-

Tansen Tomb to Ajira - 10/-

Ajira - Hotel - 10/-


FabExpress Royal Villas 
@ Rs 1200 

(Fab Express Ambika, Gwalior, said they will not accept my booking, since I have made full payment to Agoda ! So Fab Group booked the above hotel for us at the last moment)

Address: Plot no 9, Maa pitambara vihar colony, behind loco railway colony, Gwalior Madhya Pradesh 474002.

(within 120 metres from 4 no platform bridge)

Google Maps directions 👉


19/8 (Sat)

GWL – Fort 

East Gate - Alamgiri Gate/Gwalior Gate - Chaturbhuj temple-Man Singh Palace-Karan Palace-Shaj Jahan Palace-Archaeological museum-Sas Bahu Temple-Teli Temple-Gurudwara-Jain Rock art-West Gate

Hotel at Loco (4 no. Platform) toAjira (10/-)

Ajira to Fort (East Gate - Alamgiri Gate/Gwalior Gate (10/-)

From Gate to Fort (by walk) - there is a barrier - car/auto not allowed

Fort (Teli Mandir) - West Gate - by walk (auto or car also possible) 


FabExpress Royal Villas


20/8 (Sun)



1630      1830     1300

(Flight diverted and delayed by Spice Jet)   




Saturday, August 5, 2023

Twende Tanzania -November 2023 Hakuna Matata


                                Twende Tanzania - Hakuna Matata 




Mode of Travel

Night Halt



CCU ‐ Mumbai (Mum)

2115     1210 (T2)





Mum  Dar Es Salaam (DAR)              

0550 hrs     0920 hrs

DAR    –    Arusha via ZnZ    
1530 hrs-1630 hrs

Arusha – Tarangire





Tarangire - Burunge Tented Lodge



1. If you get picked up  from ARK, instead of JRO (Airport Kilimanjaro), total car hire costs will go down by around $70-80 ($12-15) per person. Went down to US$ 2040 from 2055.

2. If you are willing to go for Camping, then the rates will be less by around US$ 700

3. In Tarangire we have a whole day on 12.11. 23. If we do 2 safaris, since we are staying outside the park, we have to unnecessarily pay again (extra $65) for evening safari , since we enter the park twice. So we decided to do whole day safari , else we had to pay 65 USD twice, since we are staying just outside.



Tarangire  -


1. I found out that there is a night safari available in Tarangire, but you can do it only if you stay inside the park.  Quite expensive. We decided to omit night safari

2. The baobab tree is easily recognized by its enormous trunk and scrawny stems and twigs. It is one of the most distinctive symbols of Africa. In Tanzania, visitors can admire baobab trees within all national parks, but particularly in Tarangire National Park, which is unofficially known as the “Baobab Capital of the World.” 




Safari Car

Marera View near Karatu (South Serengeti)


Note :

1. Leave Hotel (Karatu) after an early breakfast ASAP and stay at a camp in Central Serengeti for the night Game drive starts as we cross the gate.                                                                                                                  

 2 Essentially, we have to move to a new camp every day and spend the 3 nights in Central-North-Central Serengeti. 

3. Serengeti is HUGE and even the central part is 100 Kms from the gate. Everyday will be a full day safari for best game viewing. We cannot afford to waste time coming back to the tent

4. All wild life lovers do full day safaris. Thankfully, Serengeti has fabulous infrastructure. Very good and clean bathrooms with flush toilets. So we will take packed lunch and enjoy each day.


Serengeti - Central Serengeti

Safari Car


Tanzania Pure Tented Camp (Central Serengeti)




Serengeti - North  Serengeti

Safari Car


Kimbilio Tanzania FB (North Serengeti)




Serengeti - Central Serengeti

Safari Car


Tanzania Pure Tented Camp (Central)





Safari Car

Marera View near Karatu (South Serengeti)


1. The morning we leave for Ngorongoro on 16/11/23, we must aim to leave as early, as we can since Ngorongoro is criminally expensive and we want to maximize our time there. That is also a whole day tour.

2.The Ngorongoro area is very pretty. If we feel energetic enough, there is an option to walk around some other craters there or go for a village walk. The guide will tell us the details.



ARK – Zanzibar (ZnZ)

1600       1700


ZNZ-Airbnb Address :  Zanzibar, Mkunazini Rd

Airport transfers are $15 each way (7.5 Km) for upto 6 guests to Stone Town and island transfers from the South / North or East Coasts are approx. $45 each way, for up to 6 guests.

Extra charges apply for pick-ups before 6am and after 10pm and delays exceeding 30 min.

The hosts assistant, Eddie will meet guests at Lukmaan Restaurant located at the Mkunazini Baobab tree on New Mkunazini Rd

Note :

1. Karatu  ARK (2 Hr 30 Min by car). To reach ARK on time for 4 pm flight, must leave Karatu latest by 12 noon or earlier if we plan to do the Canopy Walk 

2. Optional costs:  Olduvai Gorge - visit- US$ 40 PP. Olduvai excavation site is on the way to Serengeti (from Ngorongoro). Very exciting for history lovers, but will take 2 hrs to explore as there's a museum as well. We need to think,   if we want to reduce our time at Serengeti.  

3. Manyara can be done en route Arusha on the last day at an additional park fee of around $65, but it's not worth it as sighting is poor. But can do canopy walk at Manyara also. People say that the walk is too short. They do not see many animals. The canopy walk is at the gate. Not inside




Inclusion of the tour cost - $2040 package tour +$50 visa fees (Visa on Arrival) :

Meals & Accommodation as stated in the Itinerary above

Exclusive Use of our Non AC - 6 seater 4 x 4 Safari Land Cruisers with a professional English speaking guide on the Safari

Arusha Airport Transfers as per the Itinerary.

Mineral water (1 Ltr)  on Safari Game drives.

Park Entrance/ Concession Fees as per itinerary.

1 Ngorongoro Crater Tour.

Game viewing drives as per itinerary

All Government Taxes & service charge in Hotel accommodation.

Exclusion :

 International /National airfare inclusive of related taxes.

Visa entry fees.

All Optional Activities extras not stated.

Olduvai Gorge Visit- Per Adult US$40.00 / Per Child US$15.00

Masaai Village Visit- Per Vehicle US$50.00

Balloon Safari US$550.00 Per Adult

Guide tips – around $200 for the whole trip approx i.e. about $33 pp

Expenses of personal nature such as telecommunications, tips

Travel, baggage and medical insurance (Highly recommended) 

Reverse Migration is possible : 


Is it Worth Visiting Jozani Forest in Zanzibar?

The unique nature of Jozani Park and Chwaka Bay have been protected by UNESCO since 1997. The territory of the reserve itself is uninhabited, but almost 16 thousand people live in the surrounding villages – the Bantu, Khadimu and Shirazi peoples. Some of them work in the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park Biosphere Reserve.

Jozani Chwaka Bay Park is open from 07:30 to17:00, the ticket costs $10 for an adult and $5 for a child. This amount includes the services of a guide who conducts a tour in English. 

It’s open to visitors daily from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm. Fortunately, Jozani is easily accessible from most parts of Zanzibar. It’s roughly a 60-minute drive from the capital city, Stone Town. The distance from Stone Town to Jozani Park is about 38 km. 

In case you want to experience the local buses, dala-dala, bus no. 309, 310 and 3240 go towards Jozani from the Darajani terminal in Stone Town. 

The Taxi fare to Jozani will be around 80 USD by Mini Van for a group of 6 people.

An hour and a half is enough for the forest, so a trip here can be combined with a tour of Stone Town



Stone Town – Jozani-Paje-Rock-Stone Town


ZNZ-Airbnb Address :  Zanzibar, Mkunazini Rd




ZnZ        DAR      



DAR       Mum 


1950 HRS       0420 Hrs 






1015      1245





Dos and Donts  - Pls read this very very carefully.

Camouflage dresses only reserved for the army. In Indian safaris, camouflage clothing is widely popular. There it's not allowed

Wear any colour except dark blue. It attracts tsetse flies. Wear short sleeve tee and on top full sleeve / wear windcheater with hoodie

Temp 11-30 degree Celsius  - so take warm clothes

Carry wipes and sanitizing spray. Buy some Dettol wipes (original green ones) as it's also supposed to be a tsetse repellant.


Vax -

Polio vaccine or drops not needed for Tanzania.  

Yellow fever is also not needed to be honest, as Tz has got out of the WHO list, but the immigration people may create problems to get bride. They did ask about Yellow fever at the airport to some people.


Guest writer Soma Datta Gupta 


Sourabh (Boma) had initially planned Oman during his Diwali break. After touring Tunisia during Durga Pujo, he wasn't so keen on visiting yet another arid landscape so soon. Impulsively I said, Chalo/Twende Tanzania, if diversity is what he wanted. November was the beginning of their off-season but is a lovely time to visit. Good weather, less tourists and chance of witnessing reverse migration. Various jobordosti/inexplicable expenses make the Tanzanian safari way more expensive than a Kenyan one.
For example, to go to Serengeti, you have to pass through Ngorongoro Conservation Area and have to pay $75 pp "each" way, whether or not you visit the crater! That's a very uncool $150 additional cost per person. The safari cost inside the caldera is an additional $300 per vehicle, which when shared, comes to $50 per head for a group of 6. They also charge a Concession Fee of $50 each to stay inside Ngorongoro and Serengeti, over and above the accommodation costs. Then there is a Camping fee, if you stay in a tented camp. We did visit the crater on our way back, which I will share in a separate post. Quite an interesting topography, visually stunning and has flamingos galore.
Tz isn't a yellow fever zone, so although the vaccine isn't required, it's advisable to take it. Polio drops aren't needed but many still take it due to various misinformation floating on the net. Dumdum airport authorities told one of our group members - 'Dorkar nei newar.' Due to inexplicable reasons, all acceptable USD note series should be 2013 or newer. In Kenya it is 2009 onwards. Again, if they are in a good mood, they may not check at all. Some of us took the $30 Amref (Flying Doctors) coverage. We opted for VOA, which was a breeze. They didn't want to see ANY document (not even our itinerary or our flight tickets) but just asked us where all we plan to visit. Since they love "process" we had to go to 3 counters - PP inspection & questioning, $50 visa fee payment and finally the stamping. All over in 5 mins flat. Dar airport was very empty they said while Zanzibar had some tourist traffic.
Towards the end of our planning stage, we were told that the hotels may not give us any drinking water and we had an attack of jolatonko. Dying out of thirst in the vast plains of Serengeti seemed to loom large over our heads. Moreover, eto khoroch, tar upor abar jol kinte hobe? The safari van provides 1L pp/day but surely that can't be enough? Seeing our zeal in 'arming' our car with 20L of water from Arusha, our trip organiser literally begged us with: "PLEASE don't buy so much water. Buy as and when you need to, on your way. No one has ever complained of water shortage so far." However, most hotels gave us water, even for dinner and our first camp Burunge even had a water dispenser in the room!
Our motley group of six included a dentist Surajit, a businessman Susanta, a school teacher Abira and a retired septuagenarian paediatrician Rumadi, apart from the bhoboghure Dattagupta siblings. Everyone knew at least one other person before the trip. Thank you Soumya Ray for helping us reach that number. It is said that travel reveals a lot about people; indeed it did and how!

I will quote a friend Paromita who wrote about the after effects of travel a few days back:

"বলাই বাহুল্য আমি XYZ ঘুরে গত xy তারিখ দেশে ফিরে এসেছি। ফিরে তাকিয়ে লিখছি বেড়ানো-বৃত্তান্ত। ফিরে দেখলে সব সময়, সব স্মৃতিতেই থাকে এক আলগা মায়া, পাখির ডাক, গানের সুর। অনেক হেঁজিপেঁজি জিনিস নিজে থেকেই লুকিয়ে পড়ে। প্রকট হয় ভালো লাগার মুহূর্তরা। বেসুরো কোন কিছু মনেই পড়তে চায় না।" Indeed so. We had some hiccups which can be expected in so diverse a group but all I can feel now is an incredible lightness of being. A blob of pure joy which is getting bigger by the moment. And a motion picture that keeps playing in an unending loop. Ei sob jaigay ekbar ele amader "ami" bhaab ta khub sohoje tyag kora jai. Prokritir kachhe amra je kotota nogonyo sheyta khub prokot hoye otthe.

Day 0 (10.11.23) CC>Mumbai>Dar Es Salaam(11.11.23)>Zanzibar>Arusha(11.11.23)

We were a bit worried about the fact that we'd be spending each night at a different place, and would have to pack and move out every morning. The first day would be especially tiring for the Calcutta passengers who would start their journey around 6 pm IST on 10/11 and reach Arusha the next day at 6 pm IST. After that, it was a 3-hr drive to our camp. To make things worse, the flight from Dar was 2hrs 40mins late! It was announced that the pilot was having his lunch and that's it! Welcome to/Karibu Tanzania. I had warned my fellow saathis beforehand that Africa will teach them patience!

Day 1 (11.11.23) Arusha>Tarangire Night Halt (NH) at Burunge Tented Camp (near Tarangire)

Our Tanzania plan started in June but it wasn't easy to get the 6 we needed to make the trip more economical. Finally we formed a very 'diverse' group of men and women and we were all set to go. Our motley group of six had a dentist, a businessman, a school teacher and a retired septuagenarian paediatrician apart from the bhoboghure Dattagupta siblings. Everyone knew at least one other person.

I was the only one not flying out from Calcutta. The other 5 Bengalis had to really fly a long way to realise their Serengeti dream: Kol-Mum-Dar- Zanzibar-Arusha and then a 3 hr drive to our first camp. Mine was a relatively easy flight path: Dubai-Zanzibar- Arusha. The weather forecast looked ominous but we decided to surrender ourselves to the universe and see what plans it had for us.

I had a long stopover at Zanzibar and decided to lunch outside and roam around a bit to get a hang of the place. It was raining heavily when I landed in Znz. The flight from Dar was delayed by over 2 hrs (the pilot was having lunch, it was announced - Karibu Tanzania!) and finally I joined the other 5 inside the aircraft. When we reached our camp, it was quite late and raining as well. 

When we reached our camp, it was quite late and raining as well. Burunge Tented Camp had a lovely wild setting (near Burunge lake) but unfortunately we didn't have time to enjoy its ambience.
Since moving out of Calcutta many moons ago, I've not had a chance to spend our birthdays together, not that we've ever celebrated it in a grand way. Last year, was the first time in decades that I got to spend Boma's birthday with him. This year, our Tanzania trip offered an even better chance - spend his birthday and bhai phnota together! My anti-ritualistic bhai doesn't let me do anything, but I conspired to spring a birthday surprise on him at Burunge Tented Lodge at Tarangire, and symbolically gave him phnota sans ghee & chondon and sprinkled some grass on his head as ashirbad in Serengeti. There is no evidence of the phnota except a bemused witness in Rumadi, I think. - click it for the video.

We had a quick dinner and went off to sleep to the roar of lions.

Day 2 (12.11.23) Tarangire National Park (NP) (NH -Marera Mountain View Lodge - Karatu)

We woke up to the happy chirping of wet birds. To our surprise, we didn't feel tired at all the next morning. After dinner we went to sleep early (although the lion's roars kept us excitedly awake for a while) and were all charged up for the all-day safari -- memories of the previous day's 'dhokol' all erased. The pure air and the unpolluted atmosphere acted like super stimulants as Tarangire bared its natural abundance in front of us. Rains, clouds and the azure sky played hide and seek in turns. Weaver birds' nests swung in the breeze, whistling acacias didn't whistle but swayed as we passed by, and the baobabs looked indulgently at us from above, as if to enquire - Pothik tumi ki poth haraiyachho?

Burunge Tented Camp had a lovely wild setting but unfortunately we didn't have time to enjoy its ambience. We had a quick dinner and went off to sleep to the roar of lions and woke up to the happy chirping of wet birds. 

After breakfast, we started off for Tarangire Natl Park - known for its baobab trees, huge elephant population, tree climbing lions and rich bird life.
It was a mixture of wet and sometimes sunny in our first safari in Tanzania. Good place for birdwatching but didn't find too many quadrupeds here - the soggy grounds may have driven them inside. Couldn't click many of my feathered friends and the ones I managed to, were drenched.
But the park was beautiful with so many baobab trees. There is an iconic baobab tree at Tarangire - where poachers used to hide long long ago, in a hole inside the Tree.More of a forest than open plains. The elephants looked stunning against the straw coloured background. 

The delightful elephants at Tarangire National Park: please watch till the end with the volume on and in the landscape mode. The calves are irresistible! - - click it for the video.

From Tarangire NP we set off for Karatu at 1500 hours, a town with an easy access to Ngorongoro crater. Our overnight stop was at Marera Mountain View Lodge which had a resort-like feeling. One could make out that there was considerable rainfall in that area.
That whole night it rained heavily making us dread if our Serengeti trip was going to be a washout.

Day 3 (13.11.23) South Serengeti NP (NH @ Pure Tented Lodge at Central Serengeti NP)

When we woke up, the morning air was filled with bird calls. Saw some beautiful birds flitting around from branch to branch, most of which I could not click. Armed with our packed lunch boxes, we set off for Serengeti after a hearty breakfast.
To go to Serengeti, one has to pass through Ngorongoro Conservation Area, for which we have to pay a park fee of approx $75/pp with VAT. The guide stopped at the crater gate at 0930 hours to get our paper work done. On the way we stopped for few minutes to see the Ngorongoro Crater. But we will go to Ngorongoro on the last day (there is a road which goes to the Ngorongoro)

We crossed the unmanned Serengeti gate, which segregates Ngorongoro Conservation Area from Serengeti at 1130 hours. This is a good place for photo op and the Masais sells their stuff here. However we did not get down.

Then we had to stop again at the Serengeti gate at 1330 hours for some more paper work. We decided to have lunch at that spot to save time. Because Serengeti is so huge, most people do whole day safaris to cover maximum ground. There are designated lunch areas with extremely clean washrooms with toilet paper and flush toilets in working condition. Never once did we feel inconvenienced with regard to using public toilets. In some places, the staff member even goes to check/clean the toilet the moment someone comes out! Quite remarkable. Our first camp in the central part of the park - Tanzania Pure Tented Camp - was about 100 kms from the gate. That tells you about the vastness of Serengeti.
As we entered Serengeti at around 1430 pm, we all got super charged up. Finally, finally, finally... The brilliant blue sky with its silvery cotton clouds made us recall our geography lessons about stratus, cirrus and cumulous clouds. It was obvious that it would not rain that afternoon and I silently thanked the universe. As we entered, we found the plains and the horizon dotted with countless wildebeests. Our van had to make numerous stops to let the serpentile line of gnus prance across the road. We were lucky to witness this reverse migration -- our driver-guide Muridy told us that even in the previous week, the animals were very far away from the road. Then we came across hordes of zebras, giraffes and impalas in different areas of the park. It was as if there were designated places for them. Suddenly, there was news of lion sighting on the radio chatter and we raced there to see a grand male lion and 2 lionesses in the middle of an elaborate mating ritual.
"Lions mating is a noisy affair with lots of growling, meowing and snarling sounds. Afterwards the female usually rolls onto her back to lie like that for at least a minute or so. In between they practically ignore each other but at the same time, the male ensures he stays very close to the female. He wants to make certain she doesn’t “get away” and that his genes are passed on successfully."

Since we knew that the lions won't move from that spot during this time, for the next few days, we set off for the hippo pool to see the animals that Rumadi was keen on. I had heard that because of its vastness, animal sighting isn't as frequent as in Mara but when you do see them, they are present in HUGE numbers. Judging by the number of wildebeests, zebras, giraffes and hippos we had seen so far, it surely seemed that way.

Suddenly there was news of a good leopard sighting. In the savannah, when you hear of a leopard or cheetah sighting, you leave everything and run as they are the rare ones. Light was beginning to fade now and by the time we reached the spot, the leopard had climbed down the tree and gone deep inside the tall-ish grass, totally invisible from our sight. We waited for some time and then one vehicle off-roaded (while the others kept a lookout for the rangers) and indicated to us that the cat was snoozing below. Our guide followed, telling us that he can only stop for a couple of minutes for us to see the leopard. I saw some discipline here. First, all jeeps didn't make a dash and converge on the sleeping cat. Second, no one stayed very long. After a few minutes, they gave way to the next vehicle. Unlike Mara, there weren't scores of vehicles either. That's a BIG plus of Serengeti. The lack of crowd gives you a feeling of a private safari, very much like the conservancy experience in Masai Mara.
After this unexpected sighting within hours of getting into Serengeti, we returned to the lion spot and were rewarded with a frontal view of the lions mating. Since it lasts for only about 15 secs, we were lucky to arrive at the right time. By then it was past the Cinderella park-time of 6 pm. Our guide knew the area but not the exact location of our camp, Tanzania Pure Tented Lodge, as he had never taken any guests there before. As we were speeding towards our camp to avoid a fine, one vehicle on the road asked us to stop, pointing at something. Inquisitively we looked towards the tall grasses and saw another leopard walking purposefully! We slowed down and kept him company till he disappeared into the fast descending darkness. Our Serengeti experience had started with a bang! Brilliant weather and being blessed with one sighting better than the other.
By now the sun had set and our headlights were on. It had now turned into an unplanned night safari. We were stopped once by the rangers but our driver managed to convince them that we were looking for our camp. We found a lone hyena ambling on the road, some owls presumably flew across the headlights lit-up path before us; then we spotted a jackal scurrying away and also the nocturnal hare springing ahead of us. Saw hundreds of fluorescent green herbivore eyes peering from within the bush and then as we were almost at the camp entrance, we were stopped by hundreds of wildebeests prancing away ahead of us - migrating back to the plains of Serengeti, chasing the rains. The grass will be again abundant here and soon they will mate and be ready to calve in February. The circle of life in full glory.
When we finally reached our camp, it was pitch dark. The staff brought us warm wet towels and escorted us to our tents, each named after an animal. Ours was Kiboko (hippo) and the way to remember it was by the picture they kept inside. It was an eco-camp where everything was solar powered and very dimly lit. Despite being a basic, we found all our camps keep tourist convenience in mind. There was ample space to keep our luggage, hang our clothes and lots of storage. The spaces were open but that didn't matter. We had the best dinner so far in this camp - the hot soup was to die for. We were accompanied to our tents by a guard as it was an unfenced camp in total wilderness, with hyena calls reverberating all around us. As we hit our beds, we heard a lion roar for some time. Then very late at night, the roars came from somewhere much closer from behind our tents. This time, they were louder and sounded different. Intermittent grunting but consistently through the rest of the night. My guess was confirmed by the staff the next morning - they were mating calls. Our tents faced east but there were hills in front and so it was a different kind of sunrise. Weaver birds and babblers were busy on our porch - as if competing to be the earliest bird to catch the worm. After breakfast, we set off for our first full-day safari of Serengeti.

Day 4 (14.11.23) - Central Serengeti NP (NH at Kimbilio Tanzania @ North Serengeti NP)

সিংহের ডাকে রাতের ঘুমের ব্যাঘাত হলেও, পাখীর কূজনে ভোরবেলায় ঘুম ভেঙ্গে গেলো। বারান্দায় গিয়ে দেখি সূয্যিমামা উঠবো উঠবো করছে, আর চারিদিকে পাখীরা ভীষণভাবে ব্যস্ত হয়ে পড়েছে। অন্ধকারে তো গতকাল ক্যাম্পের চেহারাটাই বিশেষ ঠাহর করতে পারিনি। তাই আজ একটু এদিক ওদিক ঘুরে, টুকটাক্ কিছু ছবি আর ভিডিও তুলে ফেললাম। আমার চা বা কফির কোন বাতিক নেই। তাই স্যুটকেস ও ব্যাগপ্যাক গুছিয়ে main tent-এ চলে গেলাম breakfast খেতে। কাল রাতের কথা জিজ্ঞেস করাতে ওরা বললো যে আমার আন্দাজই ঠিক। সারা রাত আমরা সবাই সিংহের গর্জনই শুনেছি!
আজ আমাদের প্রথম whole day সাফারি। সেরেঙ্গেটির সুবিশাল প্রান্তরে সারাদিন আমরা চষে বেড়াবো, এই উত্তেজনায় সবাই কম বেশী সংক্রমিত। আগের দিনের মতই পেট পুরে খেয়ে, packed lunch নিয়ে আমরা হৈহৈ করে বেড়িয়ে পড়লাম। গতকালের এমন সব সাংঘাতিক sightings-এর পর আজ আমরা Law of averages- এর শিকার হতে পারি এই কথাটা দায়িত্ব নিয়ে বোমা বারবার সকলকে মনে করিয়ে দিচ্ছিলো।

আমার দর্শন অবশ্য বলে, প্রকৃতির কাছে বিনা শর্তে নিজেকে সমর্পণ করো, দেখো কি কি ভাবে চমৎকৃত হও।
আজ এক্কেবারে ঝলমলে আকাশ। কে বলবে দুদিন আগে কিভাবে এখানে মুষলধারে বৃষ্টি হয়েছিল। ক্যাম্পের একজন staff বললো যে এত বেশী বৃষ্টি পড়েছে যে মেঘ ভারী হতে বোধহয় আরো ২-৩ দিন সময় লাগবে। তা বাছা তোমার মুখে ফুল চন্দন পড়ুক। প্রাণভরে জলের পিপাসা মিটিয়ে যেন তানজানিয়ার এই সমভূমি নিজেকে মখমলে সবুজ কার্পেটে মুড়ে ফেলেছে। এই কচি ঘাসের রং যে কি মনোরম, যে জানে সে জানে। সকাল ৮টা নাগাদ আমাদের Land Cruiser রওনা দিল উত্তর সেরেঙ্গেটির উদ্দেশ্যে, উত্তেজনায় ডগমগ ছয়জন সওয়ারিকে নিয়ে -- চাকার তলায় চিকচিকে তৃণভূমি, মাথার ওপরে উজ্জ্বল নীল আকাশ, আর সামনে অজানার হাতছানি।
এইখানে বলে রাখা উচিত যে নভেম্বরের এই সময়টাতে উত্তর সেরেঙ্গেটি অঞ্চলে বিস্তর জন্তুজানোয়ারের থাকার প্রবল সম্ভাবনা ছিল। কারণ এই সময়েই ওরা মাসাইমারা থেকে সেরেঙ্গেটিতে rain chase করে ফেরে। কিন্তু El Nino-র প্রকোপে অনেক হিসেবই এখন গণ্ডগোল হয়ে গেছে। কোন কিছুই ঠিক আর প্ল্যানমতো হয়না। আমাদের গাইড আগেরদিনই বলে রেখেছিল: "The action is now in southern Serengeti. You will know what I mean when you visit the north tomorrow."
তবে north-এ যেতে গেলে অনেকটাই south-central অঞ্চল পেরোতে হয়। তাই কিছু না কিছু দেখতে পাবই এটা জানতাম। তবে বৃষ্টিস্নাত সমভূমির অসামান্য রূপই আমার মন ভুলিয়ে দিচ্ছিল। মনে হচ্ছিল গাড়ীর ছাদে উঠে দুই হাত ছড়িয়ে ঊর্ধগগনে মুখ তুলে বসে থাকি কিন্তু তা তো আর হওয়ার নয়। আমরা রাস্তায় বেশ পাখী দেখতে দেখতে যাচ্ছি, এমন সময় ডান দিকে দেখি ৩টে সিংহ দিব্যি রোদ পোয়াচ্ছে। তার মধ্যে দুইজন পুরুষ। বুঝলাম এরা নিশ্চয় দুই ভাই যদিও শীঘ্রই একজনকে বিদায় নিতে হবে। একটা pride-এ কেবলমাত্র একজন পুরুষই থাকতে পারে।
কাছে গিয়ে দেখি বেচারীদের মাছির জ্বালায় অবস্থা রীতিমত কাহিল। এই সেই ভয়াবহ tsetse মাছি যাদের কামড়ে sleeping sickness হয়। রক্ত খাওয়ার সময়েও হূল ফোটাবার মতন লাগে। আমাদের গাড়ীতে একজন already 'injected' হয়েছিল। আমাকেও নানান পোকামাকড় কামড়েছে তবে tsetse-র হাত থেকে রেহাই পেয়েছি। আমাদের আগে থেকেই বলে রাখা হয়েছিল, "Tsetse flies get attracted to blue, so please avoid wearing that colour!" Lion king-দের চারিদিকে একবার round মেরে গাড়ী আবার এগোতে থাকলো উত্তর দিকে। এক জোড়া secretary bird দেখে গাড়ীর ভেতর সাময়িকভাবে একটু উত্তেজনার সৃষ্টি হলো। তারপর রাস্তার ধারে একটা অজগর সাপ দারুণ spot করলো সুশান্ত। সাপ বাবাজী প্রায় গাড়ী চাপা পড়ছিল। তাড়াহুড়ো করে গর্তে ঢুকে কোনমতে সে নিস্তার পেল।
এমন সময় খবর এলো, চিতা দেখা গেছে। মুরিদি বললো যে জায়গাটা একটু দূরে, তাই ওকে একটু স্পীড দিতে হবে। আমরা পড়িমরি করে সেখানে পৌঁছে দেখি বিরাট লাইন। এই মাত্র একবার আমরা একসাথে এতগুলো গাড়ী দেখলাম। ঠিক যখন ভাবছি চিতার দর্শন পাব কি না, তখন দেখি তিনি হেঁটে আসছেন ঠিক আমাদেরই গাড়ীর দিকে। কি যে সুতনু এর গঠন এবং চলনভঙ্গি তা বলে বোঝানো যাবে না। আমাদের পাশ কাটিয়ে, গাড়ীর পিছন দিয়ে হেঁটে রাস্তা cross করে ও খুব purposefully stride করে অন্য পারে চলে গেলো। আমরা দেরী করে এসেও শুধুমাত্র ভাগ্যদেবীর কৃপায় দুর্ধর্ষ position পেয়ে গেলাম। খানিক দূরে দেখি এক পাল Thompson's gazelle চরে বেড়াচ্ছে। এইবারে বুঝলাম যে চিতা শিকার করার ধান্দায় আছে। Adrenalin rush তখন তুঙ্গে। চিতার দৌড় দেখব? এও কি কপালে আছে? সবাইকে বলা হলো যেন টুঁ শব্দটাও না করা হয়। হাওয়ার গতিও হরিণগুলোর দিক থেকে এদিকে আসছে। Advantage চিতা।
খুব সতর্কভাবে চিতাটা দফে দফে কিছুটা এগোচ্ছে, তারপর খানিকটা বসছে। বেশ খানিকক্ষণ এইভাবেই চললো। আর আমরা সবাই রুদ্ধশ্বাস অপেক্ষায়। Kill দেখতে গেলে ধৈর্য্য ধরে এইখানেই চুপটি করে বসে থাকতে হবে। হঠাৎ মনে হলো, হরিণগুলো যেন কিছু আঁচ করতে পেরেছে। সক্কলে সতর্ক হয়ে চিতার পানে তাকাচ্ছে, যদিও তখন অবদি ওরা কিছু “দেখতে” পায় নি। তার কিছুক্ষণ বাদেই খেল খতম। ওরা চিতাকে দেখে ফেলেছে। চিতাও ওৎ পাতা বন্ধ করে ঘাসে গড়াগড়ি খেতে লাগলো। তবে ওর খালি পেট দেখে বোঝা গেল যে সে খুবই ক্ষুধার্ত এবং আজ না হয় কাল ও শিকার করবেই।
বিফল মনোরথ হয়ে আমরা আবার এগোতে থাকলাম। এই জিনিস দেখার পর আর কি কিছু মনে ধরে? খানিক পরে Muridy একটা বড় গাছের সামনে গাড়ী দাঁড় করিয়ে আমাকে জিগোয়, "Can you see the lions?"
আমি উল্টে বলি, “Lions? Where?”
ও হেসে বলে, “Then you need to get your eyes checked!”
আমি একটু বিরক্ত হয়েই হঠাৎ দেখি গাছের উপর দুটো সিংহী!
মুরিদি বলে, "These are the tree climbing lions of Serengeti. They are there in Tarangire as well but we missed them." আমরা একবার এদিক একবার ওদিক করে দুইজনেরই মুখদর্শন করে lunch করতে চলে যাই picnic area-তে। সেইখানে গিয়ে দেখি দেয়ালের উপর একটা ভারী সুন্দর migration theme-এর metal cutout - নিখুঁত হাতের কাজ। পাশেই একটা agama lizard হেব্বি পোজ্ দিচ্ছে। সঙ্গে সঙ্গে ক্যামেরাবন্দী হয়ে গেলো সে। Lunch সেরে আমরা এবার finally উত্তরে ঢুকে পড়লাম।
এখানে topography-টা একটু ভিন্ন রকম মনে হলো। বেশ rocky and mountainous - density of wild life সত্যিই কেমন যেন কমে গেল, কিন্তু বেশ লাগছিল এই অন্যরকম সৌন্দর্য্য দেখতে। আজকে আমাদের quota complete -- এবার যা-ই দেখব তা-ই উপরি। হঠাৎ বাঁদিকের ঘাসে একটি হরিণ দেখিয়ে মুরিদি বলে, "Look, there goes a klipspringer!" আমি কোনদিন হরিণের এই প্রজাতি দেখিনি - ভারী মিষ্টি মায়াভরা চোখ এদের। পাহাড়িয়া পাথুরে এলাকা এদের বিতরণ ভূমি। কিছুক্ষণ পরেই ও ঝোপের আড়ালে লুকিয়ে পড়লো। গাড়ী চালু হতে না হতেই আবার সিংহ। রাস্তার ধারে ঘুমে কাদা। কাছে আসাতে অবশ্য সিংহিমামা বেশ বিরক্তি প্রকাশ করলো, কিন্তু মামীর ঘুম ভাঙলো না।
আজ আমাদের গন্তব্য Kimbilio Tanzania - এই ক্যাম্পেও মুরিদি কোনদিন আসেনি তবে ওকে বলা হয়েছে যে, ঠিক যেখানে দুটো মোষের মাথার স্মারকচিহ্ণ দেখতে পাবে, ঠিক সেইখানে বাঁদিকে turn নিতে হবে। এইবারেও ও অঞ্চলটা চেনে, কিন্তু ক্যাম্পের অবস্থান সম্বন্ধে অবগত নয়। আমরা যথাসময়ে দুটো মোষের মাথা দেখে একটা মাঠের মধ্যে বাঁদিকে ঘুরলাম - কোথাও কোন signage নেই। অদ্ভুত সব কাণ্ডকারখানা এদের। আমরা চলেছি মেঠো রাস্তা দিয়ে; কোন ক্যাম্প, গাড়ী বা মানুষের টিকিরও দেখা নেই। দুইদিকে ঘন acacia-র ঝাড়। সূর্য্যদেবের চোখ ধাঁধাঁনো আলোতে চতুর্দিক দীপ্তিমান। এমন সময় চোখ পড়লো সাংঘাতিক রকম উজ্জ্বল বর্ণের দুটো পাখীর ওপর। "গাড়ী ঘোড়াও, গাড়ী ঘোড়াও।"
দেখি Whitethorn acacia-র ডালে বসে আছে এক জোড়া lilac breasted roller - এই ঝলমলে আলোতে ওদের রূপ যেন ঠিকরে পড়ছে। সে যে কি এক স্বর্গীয় দৃশ্য তা লিখে বোঝাতে পারব না। এমনিতেই এদের নৈসর্গিক রং দেখলে চোখ ফেরানো শক্ত, কিন্তু পড়ন্ত বেলার ঐ মোহন আলোতে মনে হচ্ছিল যেন স্বর্গ থেকে উড়ে এসেছে এরা। এক নিমেষে সিংহ-চিতার সব ছবি মুছে দিয়ে আজকের সেরা স্মৃতির শিরোপা জিতে নিল এই roller দম্পতি।
এর কিছু পরেই আমরা পৌঁছে গেলাম Kimbilio Tanzania-তে। এটাও environmentally friendly eco-camp -- সব কিছু solar powered এবং চান করতে হয় bucket shower দিয়ে। ব্যাটারী চার্জিং হয় reception area-তে। আমাদের ঘরটা খুবই basic - কিন্তু বেশ spacious এবং প্রচুর storage space আছে। মুশকিল হলো, আমরা মুখে বলি এক কথা কিন্তু walk the talk করতে গেলেই যত ঝামেলা। বড় বড় বুলি আওড়াই কিন্তু পৃথিবীর সুরক্ষায় একটুও আরাম ত্যাগ করতে গররাজী। আমরা যতগলো জায়গায় ছিলাম, তার মধ্যে Kimbilio সবচেয়ে environment friendly কিন্তু কিছু বিলাসিতা বিসর্জন করতে হয়েছিল বলে কিছু লোকের সামান্য কিছু বক্তব্য ছিল। তা সে হতেই পারে।
আমার কিন্তু বেশ লেগেছিল এই ক্যাম্পটা। এখানকার মানুষগুলোকে সবচেয়ে বেশী আন্তরিক ও আপন লেগেছিল। খাবার বেশ ভালো - দারুণ barbequed meat platter serve করেছিল dinner-এ। কিন্তু পাখী বা অন্য কোন wildlife পাইনি এখানে। কেন, ঠিক বুঝলাম না। পুরো রাতটা একেবারে নিঃশব্দ। আর ঘরের ভেতরটা এক্কেবারে ঘুটঘুটে অন্ধকার। চোখে অল্প আলো পড়লেও আমার ঘুমের অসুবিধা হয়। তাই বোধহয় দারুণ ঘুম হয়েছিল ঐ রাতে। পরের দিন সেই একই রুটিন - breakfast খেয়ে, packed lunch নিয়ে বেরিয়ে পড়া।

আগামীকাল আমাদের শেষ সাফারি south-central Serengeti-তে। সব action তো এখন দক্ষিণে। রাতটা কাটাবো আমাদের পরিচিত Tanzania Pure Tented Camp-এ। দেখি কাল কপালে কি আছে।

Day 5 (15.11.23) - North Serengeti NP (NH @ Pure Tented Lodge at Central Serengeti NP)

After a very peaceful sleep, we all got ready to set off for the south central plains again. The weather god continued to favour us. Almost as soon as we hit the road, we had to stop to inspect a pair of yellow eyes staring at us from the bush. Lions again, although only one was visible. Without stopping long, we went ahead to a rocky area to look for leopards. Instead, we found a hyena and rock hyrax. We also spotted a pair of the very shy reed bucks by the road and a few raptors. It was the quietest morning by far and it looked like the law of averages was finally catching up with us.
We drove for at least 1.5 hours without much action although I was very excited to see a pygmy falcon up close. Then as we were almost about to doze off, we spotted a young pride of lions. By now we had seen enough lions and were about to move on. Suddenly we saw a lone wart hog walking towards the lion area. With their short term memory, wart hogs tend to forget where they are going and often walk straight up to the lion's mouth. But the lions didn't notice him at all despite it being within hunting distance. We then moved on to a klipspringer area where we also wanted to use the facilities of Serena Mbuzi Mawe (Kiswahili name of the antelope). The setting of the property was dreamy and I also got to see these "rock goats" to my heart's content.
Then as we were speeding ahead, I spotted two busy looking lions. We kept a distance when we realised that they were stalking an impala. Ours was the only van around! Unfortunately, their presence got detected and the defiance of the impala herd had to be seen to be believed. What was also interesting to note was the body language of the skilled hunter vs the sub-adult. The lions then skulked away to look for some other food.
While the lion(s) were trying to hunt, some rollers were flying around. Couldn't help but shoot them. Later, we saw some elephants at a distance and were wishing we saw some closer to the road. Minutes later, we were at a place where there were elephants galore. The most exciting part was to see the herd cross the road right behind us! The best elephant sighting ever - pachyderms of all shapes and sizes on either side of us.
Then we heard of a leopard sighting on the radio chatter and rushed there. This time, he was up on a tree and dozing. For a few seconds, it half opened its eyes and then went off to sleep. Soon came news of lion sighting with loads of cubs. Off we went. When we reached the spot, we found more lions than cars. A pride of around 12 scattered all over the ground and above and just 3-4 safari cars. They were literally all over the place - ahead of us, behind us, to our right as well as left with some curious cubs under the wheels.
A couple of adults were sitting on a tree while the mother of the youngest cubs stayed on the ground to keep an eye. Then came the endearing sight of the younger cubs trying to climb the tree while the older one tried to playfully push them down. The seniors finally came down with so much commotion everywhere and also with sunset time drawing close.
We didn't feel like leaving the place. It was too magical with so much fun and frolic happening around us. But we had to reach our camp on time. On our way, we saw the leopard still sleeping on the same branch -- unlikely it will come down before dark. Its tummy was also quite full. We arrived at our first camp in Serengeti for the second time in 3 days. We unpacked, showered and finished our dinner.
আজ সবারই একটু মন খারাপ করছিল। আগামীকাল Serengeti ছেড়ে ফিরে যাওয়ার দিন। এই ক'দিনেই কি ভীষণ প্রেমে পড়ে গিয়েছি যে। আরেকবার না এলেই নয়।

Sentiments aside, tomorrow, we had an early start at 7am.
Destination: Ngorongoro Crater

Day 6 (16.11.23) - Ngorongoro Crater (NH -Marera Mountain View Lodge - Karatu, near South Serengeti)

The light of dawn on our last day at Serengeti was magical. Our hearts were heavy at the thought of leaving this beautiful place but we were also quite curious to visit the 3-million-year old ancient caldera that was host to one of the most beautiful wildlife sanctuaries as well as an astonishing array of landscapes encompassing forests, peaks, valleys, lakes, rivers and plains.
Our camp was about 100 kms from Serengeti gate. It would take us about 2 more hours to reach the crater rim from the gate. And then about 25 minutes to descend to the caldera. Our plan was to leave at 7 am and stop at nothing unless it was something truly unique.
Ngorongoro crater is the world’s largest unbroken volcanic caldera of 2 km of depth. It covers an area of 260 sq kms and is roughly 20 km in diameter. Some 25,000 "large" animals make this crater their home.

All of the Big Five ( lion, leopard, elephant, cape buffalo and black rhino) inhabit the Ngorongoro crater plains. For birders, there are over 500 bird species recorded inside the crater – more bird species than the Serengeti. These species range from common birds to migratory birds. The conservation area has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its biodiversity and the density of its wildlife.
One animal species that you will not see here is the giraffe, as they avoid the steep trails that they would need to navigate from the crater rim to the crater floor. Some of the animals live year round in the crater, while others migrate in and out of the crater with the seasons. For instance, about half of the crater's zebras and a small portion of the wildebeest population leave the crater during the rainy season. For the most part though, animals have no reason to leave this natural wonderland where they are protected and where food is abundant. The crater is the best place in Tanzania to see critically endangered black rhino, which have all been fitted with a tracking device in their horns to monitor their movements and to discourage poachers.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area spans vast expanses of highland plains, savanna woodlands and forests, from Serengeti National Park to the Great Rift Valley, with wildlife coexisting alongside semi-nomadic Masai pastoralists who practice traditional livestock grazing. They are the only people who are permitted to inhabit this place, due to their peaceful way of life which involves herding cattle as opposed to hunting.
Also here is the world-famous Olduvai Gorge, where some of man’s earliest ancestors once lived. Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the gorge and museum.

We left from our Serengeti camp at 7 am. Since the gate was 100 kms away, the journey was itself a game drive but without much stopping as we wanted to reach the crater as early as possible. The sight of a bunch of Fischer's lovebirds colour-spraying the branches of an acacia tree qualified for that stop !

In our entire trip, it was the area near the volcano that was the wettest and where we got the most rains. We didn't get much rain but the soil was wet and the sky overcast. Once in a while, the sun peeped out. The result was a mysterious misty look and interesting shades of greens, yellows, blues, grays and browns!
The Ngorongoro Crater in northern Tanzania, is the largest intact caldera in the world. Some maintain that before it erupted, it could have been higher than Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. Today, long since having collapsed and eroded, it is an extensive highland area with the famous crater/caldera as its focal point. Over 2.5 million years old, this caldera shelters one of the most beautiful wildlife havens on earth with an abundant supply of food.

We completed our Big Five sighting here by finally seeing the elusive Black Rhino here, which was sleeping at a distance. It is actually the best place to spot this endangered animal. The sky remained overcast with a light drizzle now and then but sometimes, the sun came out gloriously albeit for a very short time.

(most of the info from NATURAL WORLD KENYA SAFARIS , from andBeyond website )

Our night halt for that day was at Marera Mt View Lodge, our only resort-type stay in this trip. We had also stopped here after our whole day safari at Tarangire. We had kept aside 2 hours for local shopping on our way to Arusha airport (flight was at 4 pm) and set off early. It had been raining very heavily here and a part of the road was extremely difficult to maneuver. We somehow managed to reach our lodge but after a night of torrential rains, we were wondering how we would get out the next morning.

Day 7 (17.11.23) - Marera Mountain View Lodge, Karatu >Arusha>Zanzibar Stone Town

My apprehensions came true when our car got royally stuck in the slushy red soil. After 1.5 hours of hard work, when there wasn't much headway, a tractor had to be called to rescue us. The whole operation took about 2 hours and we had to dash straight to the airport. On reaching Arusha, we were told that our flight was delayed by 2 hours. As we waited in a semi open "lounge" we saw this unbelievable sight of a plane being pushed and pulled across the runway by humans.

We were also told that this airport closes at 6 and so, if our aircraft didn't land by 6 pm, we'd be taken to Kilimanjaro airport by a bus to catch our next flight. So when we finally saw Air Tanzania land (from Zanzibar), it was a huge relief.
All our camps in Tanzania were unfenced and in the middle of wilderness, adding excitement to our trip. How often does one go to sleep listening to the calls of lions and hyenas and wake up to the chirping of birds? Our unanimous favourite was Burunge Tented Camp where we sadly spent the least number of hours due to the 2 hr 40 min flight delay from Dar es Salaam that made us reach the camp at dinner time.

After our wildlife safaris, we wanted to spend 2 N at Zanzibar to have a different kind of experience. Our flight was flying via Zanzibar anyways and so we decided to make the best use of that opportunity.

We had booked a house inside Stone Town that was unbelievably cheap @$23/day. Airport transfer was $15 one way. Stone Town reminded me of north Calcutta with its history, old houses, narrow lanes and bylanes. When we arrived in the evening, it was raining heavily. Our pick up van stopped near our Airbnb as the roads were too narrow for a car to pass through. We had to lug our suitcases in the rain through the flooded streets for a short distance up to our house. The water was surprisingly clean - probably because the roads were kind of cobbled and there was no trace of mud or slush anywhere.
This primitive way of reaching our destination majorly upset a few but none of us knew it would be like this. And no one anticipated the rains. I had a slight inkling of this 'walk' when our host had informed us that we would be "met" at a designated spot by the her caretaker and "guided" to our Airbnb.

"This island’s spice heritage harks back more than 4 centuries ago when Portuguese traders established a base on Zanzibar as part of their plan to control East Africa. But, although it was the Portuguese who imported various plants from their colonies in South America and India, it was the Omani Arabs, who cultivated the plantations and turned Zanzibar into a spice-producing mecca.
Sultan Seyyid Said, the first Omani sultan to govern Zanzibar island, issued a decree to other landowners that for each coconut tree on their farms, 2 clove trees must be planted. Soon Zanzibar had become a major producer of spices. And with the demise of the slave trade in the late 19th century, spices became Zanzibar’s main source of income.
As a gateway to the region, these barely-touched shores (of Zanzibar) brought together migrants, traders, conquerors and also victims of slave trades. Africans, Arabs, Indians, Persians, Portuguese, Dutch, and English met and mingled here and left behind a hybrid civilization, with Islam at its core and Kiswahili as its tongue."

(African Overland Tours website)
Stone Town was thought to be established by the Arab slave and spice traders in the early 19th century. The word "Zanzibar" is believed to have come from the first Arab traders who mentioned the coast of the black people – from Arabic zanjibār, which in turn is from Persian zangbâr, a compound of Zang (black) + bâr (coast). Even the name has such a zing!
"Stone Town is a melting pot of cultures and one of the last remaining ancient towns in Africa. It offers a rare cultural and historical insight into a former era of trade and exploration. It is the historic centre of Zanzibar City, the capital of the Zanzibar archipelago. As a primary trading post on the spice, silk and slave trade routes for over a millennium, Stone Town has been a unique meeting place, blending African, Indian, Arabian and European cultures.

It’s beauty, and historical value has earned it a well-deserved place on the UNESCO world heritage list in 2000. Not only is this city visually beautiful, with old colonial buildings and exquisitely carved Zanzibari doorways, but your senses will be overwhelmed with the scent of the sea and spice and the calls to prayer echoing from the minarets." (Brilliant Africa website)

Stone Town is the name given to the old part of the city and is not really a town. In Kiswahili, it is called Mji Mkongwe or Old Town. The newer portion of the city is known as Ng'ambo, Swahili for 'the other side'. The name Stone Town comes from the ubiquitous use of red coral stone as the main construction material - giving the town its characteristic, warm colour.
Unfortunately, coralline stone is quite brittle, and the walls started eroding soon and needed regular maintenance. Despite the establishment of a Conservation Authority, about 80% of the buildings are in a deteriorating condition. Some major restoration projects, especially on the seafront, have been done in recent times by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
The Old Dispensary building is a perfect example of restoration work to understand how magnificent some of these buildings once were.

Stone Town started out as a fishing village in the 11th century and was a much smaller town then. The Portugese who came in the 16th century were so unpopular that the locals invited the Sultanate of Oman to help get rid of them. The Sultan decided to move his seat to Zanzibar in the early 19th century and Stone Town entered a period of rapid development.
The Sultanate of Oman and Zanzibar split in 1861 due to a succession war, but that didn’t deter the city’s economic growth from spice and slave trade. It attracted many Omanis, other Arabs, and Indian traders to settle here. It became a British Protectorate in 1890, but the Sultante still had some power over the island. In 1964, the Zanzibar Revolution removed the government and combined with mainland Tanganyika to form Tanzania. (from laughtraveleat site)
Tidbit: The Anglo-Zanzibar War was a military conflict fought between UK and the Zanzibar Sultanate on 27th August 1896. The conflict lasted between 38-45 mins, marking it as the shortest recorded war in history. The reason the exact duration is not known is because the Clock Tower was a casualty in the bombing. The House of Wonders is the only surviving witness to this war.

Day 7 (17.11.23) - Marera Mountain View Lodge, Karatu >Arusha>Zanzibar Stone Town

We had only one full day in Zanzibar and so we restricted our explorations to the historic Stone Town and the peaceful Paje Beach. We also made a quick stop, between the walking tour of the old city and the beach, at Jozani Forest, to see the red colobus monkeys which are only found here.

Stone Town in Zanzibar looks like a place that time forgot. As you walk through the labyrinthine streets, many of which are too narrow for even one car to pass, what you cannot miss are the eye-catching teak and mahogany doors. Most of these doors can be found in Stone Town and some date back to the late 17th century. They also identify the house owner's origin, social status, and religious belief.
These doors are historical artefacts which document the turbulent past of the tiny port town of Zanzibar - a key player in the old world trade route. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to gain control of Zanzibar in 1498. In 1698, Zanzibar fell under the control of the Sultanate of Oman. Stone Town was also the main trading port for the East African slave trade, dealing with around 50,000 slaves a year.
Indian merchant immigration to Zanzibar began via Oman in the 17th century. By the early 19th century, Kutchi-speaking Indian merchants, from both Hindu (Bhatia, Lohana) and Muslim communities (Khoja, Bohra, Memon) were privileged collaborators of the Omani sultans. They lived in Stone Town, today a UNESCO World Heritage site. The intricately carved heavy wooden doors of most Stone Town homes were built in Kutch.
Imported teak or ebony was often used for the older doors, as these are strong as well as fine enough to enable fine carving. Recent ones use jackfruit or mango tree wood. The oldest and simplest of these giant wooden doors have Swahili designs, which can be identified by their carvings of twisting vines, flowers or other emblems.
The Indian-style of door is called a Gujarati door. These can be recognised by their small, square shutters embedded in the door. Brass studs indicate a throwback Indian design - used to stop war elephants from battering down the fort/palace doors.
Arabic doors have the most details. They can easily be identified by the intricate carvings along the door frame, often with Arabic script in the lintel. A detailed sequence of carvings depicting fruits, flowers, vines and animals is often seen above the door frame. However what is most interesting is, most of these doors were manufactured in Kutch! The grills too.
There are theories about the symbolic meanings behind the common carvings on the door frames. Common motifs are: fish (fertility), lotus and the rosette (reproductive power), water (life), palm tree (plenty), and frankincense (wealth).
(All info from Sticky Mango Rice, African Horizons, Orange Wayfarer and websites)

After a walking tour of Stone Town, we went to Jozani Forest, the only national biosphere reserve in Zanzibar. It is located near Chwaka Bay towards the southern part of Zanzibar.
This small park (about 50 sq km) is made up of mangrove forest, tropical forest, coral rug forest, salt marshes and evergreen bushland. This is the only place in the world where you can see the endangered Kirk's Red Colobus Monkeys.
Initially, Jozani Forest was founded as a forest reserve in the early 1960s where most travelers came to hunt for Zanzibar leopards. In 1984 this was turned into a national park to protect its precious wildlife. The Zanzibar leopard, for example, is already believed to be extinct because it was last spotted in 2003.

However, this mangrove forest was somewhat underwhelming and a disappointment for people like us who have been to the Sundarbans.
After that, it was a quick trip to the very calm Paje Beach in the south. We couldn't possibly leave Zanzibar without experiencing its beaches, albeit for a very short time. It was low tide time when we reached there and the lagoon had literally emptied itself, and the sea was far far away. But by the time we finished lunch, the water had come quite close. Some of us went to paddle in the warm waters. Some also bought some stuff from the "Maasai" beach boys.
The high tide time was hours away and we didn't have time to stay on. We also had gift shopping to do as our 2-hour "stuck-in-the-mud experience" on our way to Arusha airport didn't allow us to. Most shops in Stone Town close around 7pm. However, we did visit the iconic "Rock" for photo ops.
The USP of this restaurant apart from its very interesting location is - you need to take a boat to enter it during high tide! Booking ahead is advised. When we went there, you could walk up to it because it was still low tide. The most interesting sight for me was the sight of some young boys playing football on the beach in their tribal attires.
Came across this lovely poem on this magical island. Thought of sharing a part of it.
"...Have you inhaled the scent of Africa
And allowed it to allow?
Colobus monkeys in the treetops
Narrow lanes in the bazaar
Dull white walls adorn stone buildings
And the rupee is by far
The favorite tenure of the Island
Since the days when slaves were sold
By Arab camel caravaners
Who traded coin for young black gold.
East and west collide in concert
Africa and Asia blend
The Sultan's mix of race and spice
In Zanzibar, beyond lands end."
Marshal Gebbie
3rd June 2008

We finished our shopping at the local shops in the quaint alleys of Zanzibar. I was delighted with my purchases of an antique mask and bright wall hanging. Remember we flew here with only hand luggage and didn't have space for too many extras.

Day 8 (18.11.23) - Zanzibar Stone Town>Ferry>Dar Es Salaam>Mumbai>CCU

I left next morning at 5.30am as I had a direct flight connection home but the rest had to take the 12.30pm ferry to reach Dar es Salaam in order to hop on to their afternoon Mumbai flight. And then fly back home to Calcutta.

Tanzania tidbits

Tarangire was a good first stop to start our Tanzanian adventure. It gave us an introduction to a different kind of landscape before we descended on the endless plains of Serengeti. Kimkim webite says: "Tarangire National Park is one of the lesser-known game reserves in Tanzania, rivaling the Serengeti in its diversity of wildlife. The park is also known as an exceptional birding destination. Your chances of seeing more wildlife is increased in the dry season, when the Tarangire River is the only source of water in the area. The landscape is of particular interest too, due to the high number of scenic baobab trees." We visited in November, the beginning of the wet season (small rains).
Our second stop was Serengeti National Park. Its name is supposedly derived from the word 'seringit' in the Maasai language Maa (meaning endless plains) and stretches over 14,763 km². Compare this to Masai Mara whose area is 1,510 km². The park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1981. We had an exceptional run of luck here, both with respect to weather and sightings. To make the most of our short stay and cover the maximum area, we moved from the south to north and back again to the south - moving from one camp to the other.
After 3 nights in Serengeti, we went for a game drive in the wildlife haven inside the 2.5 million+ old caldera of Ngorongoro (believed to be termed by the Maasai people to describe the 'ngor ngor' sound of the bell that hangs around the neck of the lead cow in a herd). Visually, this crater area is one of the most spectacular places I have seen.

There were a few hiccups in the tour as our group of 6 was an "assembled" one and not entirely made up of friends or acquaintances. However, the interesting thing is, once the trip is over, your memory has an amazing mechanism of erasing all the unpleasant parts and retaining only the pleasant ones. It will actually be quite a difficult task for me to even recall the potholes when my mind is overflowing with the abundance of African splendour.
Like in the popular Bollywood song, I am likely to respond with "What Locha??"

Few Swahili words

Karibu Tanzania! This means welcome to Tanzania and is one of the very first Swahili phrases you will hear upon arrival in Tanzania.

But how do you reply? Habari / Jumbo – Hello

Asante – Thank You

Asante Sana - Thank you (very much)

Twende – ok. this will be very useful term during safari. When u are done with the photo, tell the driver Twende. Then he will start the car for next destination.

In Kenya they say Sawa.  Sawa Sawa ok ok …

Lala salama – Good sleep. They are very courteous. So try to tell them Lala Salama

Gari is car !

Let’s go !               Twende!  We used to say this after we are done with the pix during safari.

Lion                      Simba

Wart Hog             Pumba

Giraffe              Twige     


Chronological order