Written by: Simon OChen
“Stop, stop stop!” I called out. My guide slammed on the brakes, shifted into reverse and rolled back down the hill. “Here,” I said softly, and pointed my camera at the blue monkey perched in the roadside tree, staring right into the lens. It looked like a gremlin. Above it, a few more played between the branches.
I grinned, and we continued on.
I had been picked up from the Arusha Safari Lodge at the base of Mt Meru in a worn-down Toyota Land Cruiser belonging to Africa Tried and Tested, the tour company providing me with a day in Arusha National Park.
The first animals we came across were grazers. Zebra munched on the lush green grass while Cape buffalo, one of the most dangerous of Africa’s wild animals, ambled lazily across the muddy plains. Warthog played beside them without a care in the world while two male waterbucks bucked. A few giraffe watched with their height advantage from within the protection of the bushes.
A large male baboon sat on a rock by the side of the road, completely ignoring us as he barked out to his troop who were sitting in the road grooming themselves.
We drove slowly through the bushland that opened up to the Montane forest where the tree canopy stretched 30 metres above us.
Mt Meru, the star attraction, was shrouded in clouds as sporadic rain came down. But it didn’t dampen my day. In fact, it was better being the only visitors in the park.
We surprised a red duiker that quickly disappeared into the brush, its red coat flashing amongst the green of the forest. We were about to move on when I spotted something in the trees above.
“White Colobus monkeys!” I exclaimed in delight. A few jumped from branch-to-branch, their long white shaggy cloaks, draped across their shoulders like noblemen from the 18th century. Their thick white tails hanging down like the Spanish moss that was in abundance.
We stopped for lunch by the Momella lakes (Small Momella and Big Momella), watching lesser flamingo hunt for food in the alkaline waters, the pink of their feathers a surreal sight amongst the grey water and surrounding green hills and forests.
On the way to the Ngurduto Crater we paused by Lake Longi where a lone hippo guarded the water. The view point of the crater at Mikindu proved a great spot to break for the day.