Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe it’s already 2022. I’ve taken a blogging break for the last month and a half but I’m back and ready to share some adventures I had during that time. I’m going to start this year off talking about a life changing trip I took in November 2021 to Tanzania.
I’ll start by saying it took me a long time to process my time in Africa and I’m still not sure I’ve processed it fully. I think traveling to Africa changes something in you that’s kind of hard to explain. The best way I can put it is I experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows I’ve ever had multiple times throughout my time there. More on that later.
This trip was the complete opposite of vacations I typically take. Usually when I travel I book trips based on National Parks or hiking and skiing areas I want to explore. This trip was going to consist of game drives and local tribe visits which meant quite a bit of time in the Pop-Top Land Cruiser and little to no hiking. I never really thought of going on a safari to look at animals but after hearing many acquaintances speak of a safari in Africa as being the “best vacation ever” I was sold on going to check it out. Plus, we were driving through some amazing National Parks and I’ll say yes to going to a National Park every chance I get.
My friend and I booked a 7 day safari through Good Earth Tours to explore some of the beautiful national parks and conservations Tanzania has. I had no expectations going into this trip as I didn’t do much research on the places we were going beforehand. I really didn’t even look over our itinerary in detail until we got there which is so unusual for me because I am a planner. I let Good Earth Tours, with input from my friend, take care of all the planning for this trip and I trusted that, together, they’d do a great job. And let me tell you, they did!
We had a couple long flights to get to Tanzania and we arrived in Kilimanjaro at night time. Traveling during covid adds a few extra steps including a negative PCR covid test before you leave and a negative rapid covid test when you arrive in Tanzania. We also had to have another negative PCR covid test before we headed back to the States. These extra steps take time, more money and should be planned before you arrive to make sure traveling during this time goes as smoothly as possible. Rules also can change daily so make sure you get up to date with the latest covid requirements!
After we arrived and got through customs we headed to the Airport Planet Lodge not far from the airport. We went to bed and met our guide the next morning to start our safari. We had a private safari which was fun because it was just my friend and I and our guide for the seven days together. Our first stop was Tarangire National Park. To get there we had to drive about 3 hours on a two lane road through many towns. The towns were bustling with people and motor bikes and I was in shock when I saw the living conditions of the communities. It’s so different than anything in the United States. Small, rundown homes and shops with dirt porches and floors. Kids bathing in the creeks as the land is very dry with not much water. We also saw many children on the side of the road begging for water and others that were walking their livestock miles to find food to graze on. Another shock was the corrupt police on foot that put up blockades and pulled over cars for what seemed like no reason to ask for money or a ride. The police are not supposed to pull over vehicles with tourists in them so when they saw us they would typically wave us through.
You know when you experience something so vastly different from anything you’re used to and you get uncomfortable? Well, I was uncomfortable and my ignorance of others living and political situations led me to feel guilty. I was also feeling guilty knowing that by complete chance, I was born into a vastly different situation than these people and I spent most my life thinking the way I grew up was standard for a lot of the world. So here I was, heartbroken, uncomfortable and feeling guilty driving through Tanzania on a private tour through incredible National Parks where we were staying in beautiful accommodations. Ironic. Little did I know, that I would continue to experience these lows mixed with the most incredible highs as we met the communities, the people, explored the land, and viewed the most spectacular animals.
We eventually arrived at Tarangire National Park and right when we drove in there were giraffes, zebras, elephants, antelopes right there seemingly ready to greet us. We popped the top of our land cruiser and stood to peek out and view these animals and the beautiful terrain throughout our few hour game drive. Pictures can say a thousand words so I’ll just add that I felt pure and utter happiness standing and feeling the wind in my hair as we drove through the Tarangire seeing these animals in the wild for the first time in my life. I felt an overwhelming amount of peace and joy that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before.
Later in the afternoon we made our way to the Sanctuary Swala Camp which was located in a very remote part of the Tarangire. This property blew our minds. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed with the most gracious hosts. We stayed in a luxurious canvas pavilion and had views of elephants in a watering hole from our deck. We stayed up late that night and sat around a fire, getting to know the staff, learning words in Swahili and about the culture and way of life of the people in Tanzania. Did I mention that the people we met and relationships we formed was my favorite part of the entire trip? Their positivity, good energy and happiness was contagious and you couldn’t help but feel the same way.
We woke up the next morning for sunrise, sipped on delicious coffee, did some yoga while watching the elephants and ate breakfast before we headed out on our next game drive. It was a magical first day and was a great start to what would turn out to be the trip of a lifetime.
Until the next tale… Happy trails.