Where do I even start. How about with day 1.
Day 1. From snowy PDX to Amsterdam, and onto vibrant Arusha.
A 10.5 hour flight here, a layover there, and a final 9.5 hour flight just for fun. Stopping in Amsterdam, we celebrated the New Year with 9 am Heinekens. Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! It's midnight at home, right? 20 hours of traveling later, we were welcomed into the open arms, or long lines, of Tanzania customs and breathed in the hot air of Arusha, Tanzania. Gathering our bags and reorienting ourselves to what felt like morning in America, but was night time in Africa we moved along to Rivertrees Country Inn for the night. Driving through the night, you heard the sounds of the radio from late night snack shacks, watched the stars twinkle above you, and observed the people walking around, conversing and enjoying each others presence. Rivertrees Country Inn, such a luxurious, beautiful resort. They welcomed us with a "Jambo", gave us delicious hibiscus juice and tucked us in until we woke for a wonderful, Tanzanian brekky.
The grounds were beautiful and green, with monkeys running from roof to roof. You could hear their chants and the sound of the moving branches as they glided from roof top to trees and back again. The hot air reminded me of Thailand, and the welcoming culture reminded me of Morocco. You could hear the calls of zebras and hornbills, too. "Mambo!" we said to one another. This means, "What's up, how are you?" "Poa," the other would respond. This means, "Good," or "Cool."
- There are >120 cultural groups in Tanzania, and mostly everyone comes from a different tribe. Our guide, Freddy, the most wonderful and genuine human being, comes from Chagga tribe, a tribe originating near Arusha/Mt. Kilimanjaro area. During our time we had the opportunity to meet, hang out with, and learn about 4 different tribes.
- Olduvai Gorge, an important paleoanthropological site which shows significant developments amongst hominids (early humans), is mispronounced due to German error. Instead of Ole-doo-vai, it's actually pronounced Ole-doo-pai.
- Serengeti is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its zebra/wildebeest migration.
- Tarangire National Park is known for its elephants, with Botswana coming in as #2.
Quote of the day:
"Once the lights go off, the animals might come close. You might hear the lions and hyenas, but if you're inside your tent you'll be safe." Oh good, there might be lions and hyenas, but my nylon tent will protect me. The experience looking back was really cool, but during-- really terrifying. Luckily nothing bad happened and we all came home with all limbs in tact. Camping was a rush, and midnight peeing a challenge.
Day 2. Exploring Tarangire.
The day was filled with exploring the great Tarangire National Park. From the morning on, we had our hearts set on finding elephants. Driving around we saw waterbucks, gazelles, a red billed hornbill (think Zazu in Lion King), giraffes, zebras, hyenas, dik diks (really small, cute gazelle type animals), and lots of other animals and birds (lilac breasted rollers, superb starlings, etc). Finally heading back to camp having not spotted any elephants yet, we were a bit sad; but when we turned the corner into camp guess what peaceful giants were there to welcome us for breakfast?! You're right, elephants. They were standing by our tents, eating and cooling themselves. Did you know that for every time an elephant flaps its ears, its body temperature is cooled by 1 degree? So cool. Elephants are such amazing, beautiful creatures. We must do our best to help fund, protect and educate against poaching, especially having seen the repercussions of poaching. The results are a stark decline of elephants in parks across Africa, the world, and Tarangire National Park. If we don't change quickly, we could lose African elephants in ~20 years (CNN.com).