Getting off the plane in Nairobi (yes, I know, I’ll get to Tanzania in a bit) we were greeted with just perfect weather–Egypt and Jordan were too cold, Zanzibar was just a little too hot and humid, but the temperature in Nairobi was perfect. We had a very pleasant flight experience with Kenya Airways and most likely due to the turbulent situation in Kenya the flight had many extra seats so we got plenty of room. The Kenya visa process was also very quick and painless and a lot cheaper than Tanzania’s, only $50 this time. A bit nervous about being in Kenya, we opted for a taxi hired within the airport to take us to our hotel, Kivi Milimani, for 1200Kenya Shillings, about $18.
The hotel had beautiful grounds and a swimming pool. Each room had a private balcony. Despite all the worry about being in Kenya, I went out for a wander and to buy some water. In Nairobi I found nothing to indicate there was so much violence going on in other parts of the country. The Kenyans I met were mostly all very genuine and helpful. Except for the violence that’s shattered the country and the reputation Nairobi has for theft (“Nairobbery”), Nairobi seems like it would be a very nice city–it has a lot of potential.
Intrepid’s Overland trip Serengeti Trail into Tanzania
That night we met our guide and group to start our 8day/7night safari into Tanzania. The following morning we left bright and early, like we’d do every day of this trip. Our transport for the next week would be a large custom designed Bedford truck that would carry essentially everything we needed for a week: food, cooking equipment, tents, sleeping bag, etc. First thing in the morning, our guide taught us how to store everything in our personal lockers by first unpacking everything from our bags and then laying it flat in the space. All 19passengers plus guide, cook, and driver and everyone’s stuff had to be stored away and carted around in this truck for the whole week. While it wasn’t uncomfortable, I’d say this big of vehicle is less than ideal for a safari. We were sure bounced and shaken and covered in dust/dirt all across Tanzania. With the rerouting of the itinerary due to the situation in Kenya our 8day/7night safari was really more like 3days of safari and 4days of a lot of driving to and from the Serengeti.
Serengeti, Oldupai Gorge, and Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Driving into the Serengeti the first day we saw countless grazing animals in the pastures on either side of the road: zebra, giraffes, gazelles, impalas. It was a great start! That afternoon we went to the Oldupai gorge, one of sites of ancient man in the Great Rift Valley. We learned about different species of humans that had passed through the area millions of years ago and the particularly noted discovery of human footprints that had been preserved for over 3million years in volcanic ash (think Pompeii). It was very neat to be in the place where humans might have developed from their ape-like ancestors. I’ve always found this topic very intriguing, particularly as a result of reading the Earth’s Children’s Series.
During the 2 or 3days in the Serengeti we saw Vervet Monkeys, baboons, African Elephants (as opposed to Indian Elephants), rock hyrax, zebra, warthogs (think Pumba from The Lion King), hippos, ostrich, giraffes, impalas, Thompson and Grand Gazelles, lots and lots of wildebeest–the supposed backbone of the Serengeti, hartebeest, topi, waterbuck, African Buffalo, mongoose (think Timon from The Lion King), Spotted Hyenas, jackals, cheetahs, and of course, lions.
As if this wasn’t enough, after the Serengeti we descended down into the Ngorongoro Crater, a sunken caldera (my third of the trip), where we saw almost all of these animals again, though in much greater numbers and closer. Highlights of the Crater were seeing our 4th of the Big 5–black rhino, 3 adult and 1 baby rhino; and pink flamingos! The Ngorongoro Crater has to be one of the most spectacular places on land for sheer density and variety of large wildlife.
As part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Masaai tribespeople are allowed to live and heard their animals within the conservation area.Â We had the opportunity to visit one of their villages.
An unexpected delight of the safari part of the trip was the bird3-life which was very diverse in size, ranging from sparrows to ostrich, and very colorful including bright yellow and shiny turquoise. I had not expected such amazing birds in addition to all the large animals. The Serengeti is very mesmerizing and anyone could stare out at it for hours trying not to let their eyes trick them into seeing animals that are really only bushes. While I went to Tanzania with this picture in my head of very dry empty plains with one tree just off to the side and clear skies at sunset, that was not our experience. There were a lot of trees, even at times thick high brush, and lots of clouds and rain. It rained both nights we camped at Seronera (an area within the Serengeti) and even rained on one day. Apparently we were there at the start of the rainy season.
Tanzanians are incredibly polite and friendly. Everyone greets you with a cheery ‘jambo’ or ‘hello.’ Greetings are very important in Tanzania, particularly Zanzibar. That’s one of my favorite things about Tanzania–that everyone shows so much courtesy and greets you. They also say ‘karibu,’ welcome, a lot and they truly mean it. Tanzanians are very open and welcoming.
Primary school in Tanzania is taught in Swahili but secondary and college-level education is conducted in English. Students in secondary school who are caught speaking Swahili outside of Swahili class are punished. Many people speak English in the country, though the actual level of spoken English varies greatly; still, I have to give credit to the education system. In fact, I was a bit surprised that the woman next to me on the 9hour bus ride who was buying 3 whole pineapples through the window and throwing her trash out the window spoke such good English. TIA!!! (This is Africa)
Tanzania was a lot more developed, though not in an industrial sense, more in an infrastructure sense, than I expected. It was not nearly as poor as I expected either. People seemed to be doing alright. Everyone, including many of the Masaai people, had cell phones.
What surprised me even more was how expensive Tanzania is! A night at a Serengeti lodge is $225/person full board. Its difficult to have meal in any restaurant for less than $5. Mangoes cost the same in Tanzania where they’re grown as they do in the US, $0.50/mango. There a 20%VAT at most places thereby increasing the cost. Tanzania basically throws all ideas of a cheap Africa out of the window.
Tanzania seems to buy everything from Asia. But not in the same sense that Asia is the world’s manufacturer for products shipped to the US. Tanzania seems to buy things meant for the Asian market. Everything from cars to boats to rice cookers had Chinese or Japanese writing on it. The ketchup was made in Malaysia. Tanzania seems to buy all of its cars, minibuses, and ferry boats used from Japan or Hong Kong as all have those countries characters on them.
Everyone seems to have their hand in Africa. Everyone wants to ‘save Africa.’ This is no less true in Tanzania. From the Dutch started health center in Mto Wa Mbu to the Lutheran Church doing developmental and social projects to the British Council with its Team Dreams to the Indians running all the hotels to the Chinese and their infrastructure building. I first noticed the influence of the Chinese and Indian from the Chinese Inns and Chinese and Indian restaurants scattered about. As I started exploring more, I found the others. And this is all just in northern and coastal Tanzania. (Seven to 10% of the country’s population is Lutheran.)
I wonder if all these varying influences are actually doing any good. Is Tanzania’s rather decent economic situation (by African standards) a result of, or in spite of, all of these groups having their hand in Tanzania? Are all these parties pulling Tanzania (and Africa) in different directions, leaving the country (and the Continent) without a cohesive plan for development? Or are these groups helping the people of Tanzania bring themselves out of poverty and raise their standard of living? Its hard to say, but Tanzania seems to be doing better than other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.