It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve been back from Tanzania which means this post is long overdue. It’s just so hard to put into words such an amazing experience and I am still pinching myself in disbelief that I was given the opportunity to explore such a place! Hopefully, between my words and Floyd’s photos, I can share a fraction of the beauty.
I left off last week with our day trip to Zanzibar, and for those like me who are not well versed in African geography, I’ve inserted a map (and who knows, this could help in your next game of Trivial Pursuit)! The morning after our day in Zanzibar, we were picked up at our hotel in Dar es Salaam and took a short flight north to Arusha, a good sized farming and mining town. Already the landscape had drastically changed from a dusty seaside city to lush green pastures.
In Arusha we were picked up by Elias, a gentle soul who would be our driver and guide for the next few days. Elias drove us to our first safari destination, Lake Manyara. All of the safari parks are actually HUGE national parks of conservation land, not unlike our own Yellowstone, where the animals are protected and free to roam. Lake Manyara greeted us with a huge family of baboons upon entering and not long after a giraffe stretched from behind the thick trees. I don’t know about you, but I never imagined some of the African animals living in such a dense jungle. It was amazing. Here in Lake Manyara, we spent the night in a romantic tree house with beds draped in mosquito netting and monkeys swinging from the branches. I thought it was going to be scary, but instead I was in such awe I forgot to even worry about spiders!
From Lake Manyara we drove several hours to Ngorongoro Crater, stopping for pictures of several furry friends along the way! Hippos, gazelles, bison, elephants, and zebra by the dozen all came out to let us gawk at them. I truly became obsessed with watching the little baby monkeys play! Ngorongoro Crater is a magnificent site. Once a volcano that erupted and then collapsed to create the crater, it is over 100 square miles. Our hotel was perched on the crater’s edge providing a spectacular site to wake up and end each day. During the day we drove down with our picnic lunches to explore the bottom where several thousand animals live. We were lucky enough to be on the tail end of rainy season which meant that the flowers were in bloom and it was much greener than the rest of the year.
Leaving Ngorongoro and on our way to the Serengeti, we stopped to visit a Maasai village. The Maasai are a tribe of people who choose to retain their customs and live in the traditional ways of their ancestors. It is estimated that there are 400,000 Maasai living in Tanzania. It was an enlightening experience and we were greeted warmly with a welcome song and dance. But I also found the visit a bit difficult. The beauty of their clothes and spirits shone loud and bright. However, by choosing to live the way they do, which involves building mud huts as their cattle move across the land with no running water, electricity or basic sanitation, means that the children I held and played with all appeared pretty sickly. For me, holding a sick child and not being able to do anything to help is heart wrenching. Not to mention with 10 wives to every man, I had some interesting conversations with the women! I can’t imagine poor Floyd having to put up with 9 more “Megans”! It was definitely an eye-opening experience for us and I’m grateful they were so welcome and open to teaching us about their culture.
Last but certainly not least on our safari adventure was the Serengeti. With grassy plains that stretch as far as the eye could see, lions laying about lazily and wildebeests galore it was seriously a scene right out of The Lion King! I truly enjoyed each unique place Tanzania had to offer. But it was in the Serengeti, standing in the jeep as it flew across the dusty road, looking for “big cats” that I felt my heart was captured by Africa.