TANZANIA: HOME OF AFRICA'S THREE "NATURAL WONDERS OF THE WORLD"
August 21, 2014
Jambo - Jambo - This was the Swahili word that greeted me when I landed in Arusha, Tanzania where I was surrounded by climbers getting ready to test their skills against the great Mount Kilimanjaro. I was there for a different purpose. This was my trip of a lifetime - a Tanzanian safari during the Great Migration. Even though I have been traveling since I was a small child, this trip was always at the top of my bucket list. For years, I thought I would take this trip when I retired, however, as I approached my 40th birthday, the opportunity presented itself and I decided to go for it.
After a daylong journey from New York, with a layover in Amsterdam, I finally arrived in Tanzania. I cannot describe the incredible sense of homecoming and déjà vu that I experienced upon my arrival in Tanzania. I had been to Africa before (Morocco), but the feelings I experienced upon arriving in Arusha were incomparable. Within the deepest sense of my being, I felt that I was home, that I had been here before, that this was the land of my ancestors and that this is where I belonged. In all my travels, I have never experienced anything like it. It was the purest form of soul travel that I have ever encountered.
After exiting the airport, I kept hearing dada - dada - dada. I later learned that this meant sister. As excited and happy as I was to be in Tanzania, the locals were just as happy and excited to see me and kept calling me dada everywhere I went. In talking with many of them, they shared that many tourists visit their country but it was rare to see blacks from the West. Needless to say, they made me feel very welcome. Unfortunately, I was only in Arusha for one night. The next morning my great safari adventure would begin.
I eagerly boarded the small plane that would take me to the first stop on the safari. The first few days would be spent in the Eastern Serengeti Nature Refuge. This was my first exposure to glamping, i.e. luxury camping. I stayed in a semi-permanent tent that for the most part had all the comforts of home. This stop afforded me the opportunity to participate in a walking safari; unfortunately the herd animals were more afraid of us than we were of them. As a private nature refuge, there were no predators in this area.
Here, I also had the opportunity to interact with the local Maasai people. I visited a Maasai family and saw how they lived and made their livelihood. Also, a Maasai elder visited our camp and told us stories about her culture. What was interesting was that even though she spoke through two young Maasai warriors who translated her stories, here again she was very interested in me and wanted to know where I came from and what my life was like. I then visited the Enyuata Women’s Group. These female entrepreneurs make jewelry and hand crafts that they sell to visiting travelers in order to supplement their families’ incomes. They also greeted guests with song and dance, which gave me another wonderful opportunity to see the Maasai culture up-close. These interactions stand out as a highlight of my life.
The next stop was the Serengeti National Park. Here, I saw the Great Migration in progress. I have never seen so many animals in one place. From a distance, the zebras, gazelles, wildebeests, among many different animals looked like specks of dirt. The road wound directly though the path that the animals followed. I was able to see the entire circle of life as I traveled though this area; I saw procreation, birth, life and death. It was incredible.
I then went to the Ngorongoro Crater area; this land had a different topography from the other areas I visited and allowed me to see the critically endangered rhinoceros as well as some truly stunning sunsets.
To break up the glamping expedition, I was able to spend the night at one of Tanzania’s famed properties. Gibb’s Farm is much more than a beautiful hotel; it is a working farm. Guests are encouraged to participate in all of the farm’s daily activities. I woke up early and baked muffins with the kitchen staff and then I milked a cow, all before breakfast. The farm was breathtaking and I highly recommend a visit.
I also had the opportunity to visit the home of a local historian who told me about the history of the Iraqw people and taught me a local wedding dance (apparently I had the right physique for a potential bride and got to wear a typical wedding skirt). This was another highlight of the trip.
The last stop on the trip was the Tarangire National Park where I saw these amazing elephants (they were so close), birds and giant baobab and umbrella acacia trees. This is also where I thought I was going to die because to get to our camp we had to drive through a tsetse fly infested area. Man, their stings were deadly and they didn’t care that you used insect repellent. Also, I had a midnight visitor. I woke up in the middle of the night because I heard the lions roaring. Turned out that one of them walked by my tent, because there were fresh tracks outside my tent in the morning. Thank God for the guards and their nightly patrols.
Tanzania was magical and my best travel experience by far. I will forever remember the warmth and humility of the people, the majestic beauty of the animals in their own habitat, the amazing night sky (people - we have never seen stars like this) and the breathtaking views. I loved it so much I keep asking myself, is it too soon to go back?
Until next time Tanzania!
Know Before You Go
I highly recommend that you purchase travel insurance.
Tanzania requires a Visa for U.S. citizens.
Before going to Tanzania, you must consult with a medical professional, as various vaccinations may be needed.
Malaria pills must be taken prior to your departure, during and after your trip.
Bring Cipro or other antibiotic, Pepto Bismol, Imodium, Hand Sanitizer, Baby-Wipes, Toilet Paper, Dramamine, and Insect Repellent (you will thank me later).
Bring non-perishable snacks such as crackers, nuts or trail mix.
For optimal viewing, I recommend having binoculars.
Bring extra charged batteries for all your devices, as you may not be able to charge batteries at your convenience.
Clothing for various temperatures is needed, as it may be very cold at the higher elevations.
Nicole Haynes lives in New York City and believes in having easy access to the nearest airport. Nicole fell in love with traveling after studying abroad in London, England and has been jet-setting ever since. You can follow along on Nicole’s travel adventures on Instagram at @jetsetnic.