Toast to your slow safari when staying at Chem Chem Lodge.

Slowing down between Tarangire and Manyara

This area of northern Tanzania is the birthplace of the slow safari – when you take a breather from frantically trying to spot game and simply be present in Africa. Take an unhurried walking safari, relax with sundowners in the bush or simply appreciate the facilities of your safari lodge.

After the excitement of witnessing the Great Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti National Park – and still buzzing with adrenaline from the dramatic Grumeti river crossing – we were ready to slow things down on the final leg of our luxury Tanzanian safari. It was a great way to end our first trip to this amazing country. I say first, because we’re already planning to return!

We’d loved the thrilling game drives that we’d experienced, and all that we’d seen, but now we wanted to experience a slow safari. We’d chosen to stay at Chem Chem Lodge, one of many great properties in the Tarangire/Lake Manyara area, which is in tune with this idea.

Our first morning, we were up with the larks (I think; I’m still not the best at identifying birdsongs). Before we knew it, we’d slipped through the filmy gauze of the mosquito netting and were enjoying freshly brewed coffee on our private deck.

As I started mentally planning the day, I caught myself, and willed myself to slow down. Back to bed we went, where my partner dozed while I browsed through my field guide, wondering at those birds.

After that initial hiccup, we soon got into the swing of things – making more time to enjoy the lodge, and even catching up on our holiday reading. I could feel myself adjusting to the natural rhythms around me.

The next morning we decided to take a slow safari stroll. Accompanied by our guide and two warriors in purple shukas, we wandered through golden grasslands. After around twenty minutes, our guide motioned to us to crouch down at a point where the grass suddenly became shorter. Just 50m away, elegant Masai giraffe strode between palm trees, dwarfing the zebra that grazed nearby.

After we’d watched spellbound for a while, we heard that there was something else we must see and we carefully backed away. Perhaps 800m further away, in the shade of a wizened acacia tree, was a different kind of sighting – but one that was just as welcome.

Here was a table set for two, with a crisp linen tablecloth and silver cutlery. The staff had even remembered my partner’s favourite strawberry jam for the toast. If the idea of a ‘full English breakfast’ in the bush seems a little incongruous, it was certainly delicious. I was surprised to discover that I was ravenous – it must’ve been all the fresh air. Watching our eggs fry on a clean spade blade was another new experience!

We took a different route back to the lodge after our bush breakfast, and soon got down to the serious business of relaxing the afternoon away. I couldn’t really claim that I was sore after the walking safari, but the massage on the privacy of our deck was divine!

Later, we repaired to the pool, and picked a lounger each under the shade of cleverly woven wooden poles. I spent a couple of delightful hours sleuthing with Precious Ramotswe as The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency solved more Botswana mysteries. At last I was making inroads into my African reading list!

That evening we enjoyed a private dinner in a unique spot at the lodge – by a termite mound, with tea light candles lodged in each natural crevice. We slept right through the dawn chorus the following morning, waking up late and enjoying brunch in the lodge as passing giraffe shimmered in the heat out on the plain.

After brunch, I decided to try my hand at birdwatching, while my partner opted for a foot massage at the pool. Then, as the afternoon began to cool, and the shadows started to lengthen, we took our only drive of our stay here, a slow safari cruising out towards the shoreline of Lake Manyara.

The perfect place for a sundowner… We lounged on cushions on a natural lawn of short green grass as the sun slid down the sky… In front of us, a stretch of white salt flats and then the lake itself. Flamingos picked their way gingerly through the shallows, their fragile grace in complete contrast to the balloon-like girth of a hippopotamus who chose this moment to amble past. Sipping our cocktails, we agreed that we could get very used to the concept of a slow safari…

As the colours darkened in the evening sky, we heard a subtle cough behind us. We turned around – to see that our table for dinner had been set up in complete silence while we watched the sunset. At each end of the table, a Maasai spear was planted in the ground, the blades catching the pale light of the first stars. Nobody seemed to mind that we took our time over dinner.

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