Thursday, September 11, 2014

Random Thoughts and Musings about being on Safari

The Truck
We are riding in a 6 passenger Toyota Land Cruiser with a pop up top. Ultimately, it is quite comfortable, however most of the roads, particularly through the park, which means you get thrown around a lot. We seem to prefer standing up and looking through the top of the jeep for animal viewing, which increases your chances of being thrown around a bit, so I have quite a few small bruises on most of my extremities. There is also one corner that is a little jagged, about boob-height, which we are calling the shirt ripper corner, since I discovered that nice little bit of danger on day 1. 

Our Guide 
Emanuel is a native Tanzanian who had been guiding for 8 years. To be a guide here you have to have a lot of schooling. He has university level education in environmental science and biology. I would say he is the perfect mix of friendly, joking and knowledgeable. He is not in your face to be super chatty, but will joke around with you easily. This is good since we spend 8 days with him before going to Zanzibar. He is quite progressive in his views (he is 32 but is not getting married yet as he is working hard to put his 4 younger brothers through university; despite the fact that the average age for marriage in Tanzania is 18). Cool guy for sure. 

Driving around Tanzania
The landscape is much more varied than I would have thought. There are the stereotypical red earth savannahs, but also forests, rainforests, lots of cultivated crops, and rice fields in some areas where there are lakes for irrigation. We have not yet been to the capital (Dar es Salaam) so no comments really on cities, but houses range from simple wood structures to concrete and brick buildings. In the Masai villages there are also thatch/mud buildings. 
Highways are paved and are mostly good (except there are lots of speedbumps, sometimes in place of stop signs) to tell you to slow down. Other roads are dirt and vary from pretty bad to really bad. This is all a part of the "African massage" you get from the jeep. There is also a lot of "African snow" (dust). 

The Routine 
Pretty much every day on safari is he same. Wake up, get ready, have breakfast, get picked up by Emanuel. Drive to the park, pee while the guide pays the park fees. Drive around looking for animals. Stop for lunch at a picnic spot around 12:30. Pee again. Around 5-6 head back to the gates. You should probably pee here too. Drive back to the lodge/camp, shower/drink a beer. 7:00 dinner. The sun rises around 6:30 and sets around 6:30. I usually wake up with the sun, and then I am usually ready for bed around 8:00 pm. One night I stayed up until 11pm. It was pretty amazing.

The Food 
Breakfast is always fruit, your choice of eggs, and toast. Sometimes there are crepes, or strange hotdog tasting sausages, or grey fatty bacon. I usually eat none of these last things. 
Lunch is always a picnic box. Pretty much all the lodges prepare these for their guests, although we have seen a few (of what we assume to be higher paying travellers) have large ounce baskets or coolers with their lunches. Lunch always consists of: a piece of fried chicken (or one time, a beef(?) chapati thing which was really tasty, a juice box (which I always give to Manon), a boiled egg, some kind of prepackaged biscuit/cookie (which is tasty about half the time), a banana, and some kind of bread/carb (sometimes bread with butter, sometimes bread with a carrot, sometimes some kind of cake thing). The only exception really was our last lodge, which definitely was the worst, where we got containers of plain white pasta and tomatoe/teeny amount of chicken/mayo sandwiches instead of the fried chicken leg. None of this lunch is ever refrigerated or kept in a cooler. Food safety Danni learned to let this go fairly early on. By the last few days however, we were maybe eating 1/8 of the food in our lunch boxes, as we were all pretty much tired of the boiled egg combination and no friend chicken. We are also very tired of fried eggs and toast for breakfast every day. 
Dinners (with the exception of our last lodge, which had very average food) have been quite excellent. They always start with some kind of squash or leek soup (pumpkin, butternut, zucchini, or leek; pretty much on rotation). They are always delicious. I had considered just having double courses of soup sometimes. Main course is typically some kind of veg, meat curry/stew thing, and rice/potatoes/pasta. Usually really good. There is always dessert, which I typically do not enjoy for some reason. 
We also invariably each drink 2 beers a night. There are quite a few local beers, of which we have tried them all, and decided that Kilimanjaro and Safari are he best by far. 

Game Drives and Animal Interactions 
After our first day of almost constant animal sightings, it got more like a typical safari for us. Much longer periods of driving without exciting sightings. Keep in mind that we were always seeing zebras, wildebeest, warthogs, giraffes, baboons, a bazillion birds, elephants, and too many species of deer animals to name; every single day. And while it is always cool to see zebras, this does not usually require us to stop and hang out and watch them for periods of time anymore after about day 2. We entertained ourselves be making up songs about the animals (me and Camille anyway) - oh baboons, you make me swoon.... There is also a lot of time for contemplation since it's often too windy or noisy to talk much while driving. 

It is really cool to see all the animals hanging out together. On day 1 we stopped for lunch at a picnic stop overlooking the river valley and it was honestly like the scene in Jurrasic Park when they pan over the park playing the theme song and you see all the different herbivore species just hanging out together. There were at least 8 different species all hanging out around the river. 
A lot of animals also have symbiotic relationships: zebras and wildebeest hang out together often cuz zebras have good eyesight and can spot predators, and wildebeests can smell water up to 600 km away so know when it is time to start the migration to new areas that are getting rain. Also birds hang out with, and eat parasites from, a bunch of large animals like elephants, giraffes, hippos, etc. 

Closest animal interaction: Matt getting touched by a monkey at lunch one day that tried to steal his food. A giant monkey also jumped onto our table to steal some pineapple, causing Camille to scream. Camille screams a lot around animals though. And bugs. 

The Weather
It was way colder than anticipated for most of the safari days. It rained a couple, and it is often windy. The truck with the top up is also pretty windy on a regular day. Most days Manon had at least 3 sweaters/jackets, a scarf, ear and and hoodie on. I brought one hoodie with me as my warmest item of clothing and have worn it every day. Also some of the areas (Ngorongoro) are at higher elevation so are colder. I had to borrow a pair of wool socks from Matt for sleeping. 

The Bugs 
Surprisingly (knock on wood), these have not been bad. There are Mosquitos, but we've been good with spraying and I have only had one bite. There are other flies and such which are sometimes annoying but not dangerous. There are also these creepy black jumping spiders which have caused some anxiety, but are apparently also not poisonous. 
Some areas/parks have tse tse flies, which cause African sleeping sickness, and can be a big deal. Apparently they are really attracted to blue, green and black, so there are blue and black canvas flags treated with poison in many areas of the park. Pretty much every item of clothing I brought is blue, green or black, so that was a nice surprise to learn about on day 1. 

The Language 
Jambo! Swahili is the national language of Tanzania. We have all made a point of learning the basics (hello, thank you) as the locals are definitely impressed when you speak to them in Swahili. I had made a point to try and learn 20 words in Swahili, and by day 7 safari I know at least 36. One lodge owner even asked if I was working in Tanzania, after I asked for beers in Swahili. (Jill, you'll be glad to know that Camille is at least as bad as you with remembering foreign language terms!)
Also, people really do say hakuna matata! This made us sing the song for days. There is also a Tanzanian song that we learned with the phrase in it, and we also sang this repeatedly in the truck. I'm sure our guide was delighted. (Terri and Kelli, this song was very familiar to me, I'm thinking from the movie Cheetah. Which I'm thinking we need to watch when I get home!)

1 comment:

  1. yey, finally someone as bad as me for remembering foreign language! great blog. i like the info on food.