Two Weeks in Tanzania: Exploring the Beauty of Vast Wilderness in East Africa.
It had always been a dream of mine to explore Africa, and Tanzania seemed like a good place to start. And so, on the 31st of January 2014 at 2:05am I set foot on the first plane of many and began my journey to Arusha, Tanzania. The beginning of our trip was marked by the absence of my friends bag which due to the significant age of the plane and its consequent inability to support the luggage of all of its passengers had been left back in Kenya. The airport staff were unsure what day they would be able to send it over, which, after 30 hours of travelling, was not the most comforting turn of events. Having lived in Thailand for the majority of her life, she was used to the odd administrative mishap every now and again, and so, though we would be moving to various different locations around Tanzania over the coming fortnight, we soldiered on.
On the bus to our primary camp, in contrast to the flurry of chaotic organisational errors, we were privy to the most incredible sunset over the mountains. It was as though the country was welcoming us; as if it were affirming the calm and reminding us there was nothing to worry about. The baggage issue didn’t feel so important anymore.
The journey to Shamba Kipara Camp was bumpy and dark. Marked by famous Tanzanian rock formations, gigantic and silhouetted by numerous potholes embedded into the rust-coloured roads, the ride was riveting. Tanzania is a simply beautiful country. There is little other way to describe it. Home to Kilimanjaro and mount. Meru, its landscapes are lush and mostly untouched. The country has had a complex pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history, but at present, Tanzania is charmed by a relative peacefulness and the locals are predictably, incredibly kind, accommodating and helpful.
And so it began. Over the coming weeks we would not cease to see some of the most stunning sights the world has to offer.
The Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti is located on the north of Tanzania and extending through to Kenya. In contrast to the trite and cruel experiences of exotic wildlife in captive zoo environments, observing wild animals in their natural comfort zone was a wonderfully magnificent. Perched up on the camouflaged jeeps, our safari guide told us stories ranging from the soft hum of interesting cultural information to horror tales about disobedient tourists getting attacked by lions from behind.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Nogorongoro Crater is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a conservation area. It gets its name from the volcanic caldera – a volcanic hole – that occurred over a million years ago. The land is occupied mostly by Masaai people and is considered to them as the ‘Gil of Life.’ Upon entering the crater, I had no choice but to agree. The caramel-colored roads seemed to go on forever and the lower we travelled into the crater, the warmer I felt. We had no time to stop and stare. Our guide had gotten word of a lion and wildebeest fight a few kilometers south and so we were told to sit tight and strap on our seatbelts because the ride ahead was going to get bumpy. South of the crater we were greeted by a line of 100 or so jeeps, all ready to witness a lioness kill and devour her breakfast. I had only ever seen such things in a documentary. An hour later we left the area – now strongly stenched with wildebeest carcass – with with an adrenaline rush so strong I felt like I could fly. Our picnic lunch was spent surreally to the backdrop of grazing wild African elephants, vultures flying overhead to the leftover carcass, and a baboon fight in the shallow lakes below. A tiny glimpse of a rhino as the day came to an end was saddened by the knowledge that there weren’t many left in the crater, as poaching is still very much an issue in the Tanzania. Though the area is very well secured, well-planned incidents of illegal hunting still occur.
The People of Arusha
Visiting and walking around the small villages and schools located in Arusha was another reminder of my privilege. I’m incredibly lucky to have a roof over my head and access to high-standard education whilst these children, many of whom were orphaned, lacked any good transport systems to school and clean facilities. The teachers themselves often had little education and few of them had finished secondary school themselves, Teaching in rural areas is a job that no one wants, people would rather move to the cities in order to find higher paying jobs. This cycle has created a problem in which children here are not getting the education that they deserve, and in turn, generation after generation suffer.
Leaving Tanzania, I set a goal to come back. Not merely for the beautiful landscapes, nature and wildlife, but also for the people. Being a Thai citizen, I see poverty and people in need everyday; sometimes I even feel like my attitude towards such poverty has become desensitized. But Tanzania revitalized me. Upon returning I sought to expand the volunteering plans I had within Thailand. I told myself that I can be better and that I can do better. This adventure taught me that we need to do our best as inhabitants of this earth to protect our environment, the wildlife within it and more importantly, each other.