THE TARANGIRE, NGORONGORO CRATER, AND THE SPECTACULAR SERENGETI

Entrance to Serengeti National Park with our guide, Richard.

(Continued from Tanzania, Africa – Day 1) After we left the Sanctuary, we traveled to a more lush area of Tarangire National Park which had more water. By day 2, I was loving traveling through the National Parks, standing in the safari car and taking in all the animals and sites. Seeing animals free and thriving in their natural habitats is an experience that may make you never want to go back to the zoo. When I witness people, animals, or really anything living it’s best life, I feel like I immediately share in their joy/happiness/freedom. Each day of our 5 day safari went a little like this: Wake up and enjoy the beautiful sunrise, meditate/journal/yoga/pray, eat a delicious breakfast, grab our packed lunch and head out for the day for our game drive. We’d head back to our lodging later in the afternoon and spend time in the pool, read, talk to our local hosts, exchange stories, drink wine, shower, get ready for dinner, watch sunset and do it all over again! They were the best days.

Each National Park/Conservation Area in Tanzania is known for slightly different animals and sites so I’ll sum up the ones we visited below and then talk about my favorite one- the Serengeti.

Tarangire National Park– Known for its diverse bird population the Tarangire is a popular birding destination. The Tarangire river also attracts a large game population as it’s the only source of water in the area. This area is exceptionally dry which makes a great habitat for resilient Boabab trees. A large number of these trees thrive here and it is a sight to behold. Boabab trees have massive trunks that hold a lot of water. During very dry seasons, elephants will rip bark and branches off the tree to get to the water inside. We spent 1.5 days in this national park and we saw a lot during that time! It was a great first stop for an introduction to game drives in Tanzania.

Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area– Voted one of the 7 natural wonders of Africa the Ngorongoro Crater was formed 2-3 million years ago when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself. The crater makes the worlds largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera. The Maasai tribe who inhabit the surrounding area named it after the sound produced by a cowbell (ngoro ngoro). Springs and streams are the main water sources found here and they drain into a seasonal salt lake in the middle of the crater. This area is known for spotting black rhinos. The population has been greatly declining and only 20-40 black rhinos are protected here today. We did not see any during the day we spent there as they’re very hard to find but we did see our first hippos, cheetah and flamingos here! I loved the drive down on a cobblestone path into the crater. This area was vast and open with a lot of life to keep your eyes peeled for!

Serengeti National Park– The Serengeti is known for being the inspiration for the movie The Lion King and countless wildlife films were and still are filmed here. When you drive in you are actually welcomed by the Lion King rock! The Serengeti National Park is a World Heritage Site bursting with wildlife including over 2 million ungulates, 4000 lions, 1000 leopard, 550 cheetahs, endless giraffes, elephants, hippos, buffalos, zebras, hyenas, some 500 bird species and SO much more inhabit this 15,000 square kilometer area. We spent 2.5 days in the Serengeti and I think I could spend a lifetime there. The amount of wildlife we saw and the beauty of this park remains unmatched by anywhere I’ve ever been. This is where we saw the most animal activity including a heard of elephants scaring away lions, buffalos treeing lions, lions mating, hyenas fighting, wildebeest migrating, and crocodiles basking in the sun. Heavy rains fell each night in the Serengeti and we watched them from our canvas tent and conveniently I showered in the outdoor shower each night during the downpour. Spending time in the Serengeti is nothing less than a spiritual experience. Our camp was situated in the park and we heard lions roar and hyenas laughing each night. We had the most generous hosts and made lasting relationships with the beautiful people here. Members of the Maasai tribe kept watch over our camp each night to ensure no animals would bother us and they made sure we were safe walking after dark. The Serengeti combined with the people of Tanzania is something all should experience in their lifetime. I did not want to leave.

After 5 days of safari game drives we spent 2 days visiting some of the last true hunter gatherer tribes in Tanzania. We went on a hunt and visited a village to learn about their culture and way of life that was much different than we were accustomed to. The tribes spoke their native language so we had a special translator when we visited them. We were able to see how they turned scrap metal into beautiful bracelets and arrowheads and how they made clothes from animal hides. We sang and danced and listened to them play instruments. They were so welcoming, strong and community oriented. They even offered for us to be married to some of the single males in their tribes haha! A cultural experience is a must when you visit Tanzania. The community, closeness and unity in the tribes is something we can all learn from.

We spent a week disconnected from the rest of the world and had full hearts as we made our way back to the airport to head home. At the airport we found out that a new Covid variant, Omnicron, was discovered while we were away and we were brought back to the reality of the world we had just taken a brief vacation from. We made it home safely and with us came new perspectives, gratitude, and an itch to continue to explore this beautiful planet and meet the beautiful people that call it home.

Until the next tale… Happy trails.

With a full heart,

-Hannah

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