Tanzania Safari, Part One: Moshi to Tarangire

saf1_car.jpgThe safari is Tay’s idea. Her childhood dream of seeing the plains and animals of East Africa was not realized during her two-and-a-half years living and traveling in West Africa and this is her chance. Me, I’ve never considered it, don’t really know what “safari” even is, except a used and abused Swahili word for “journey.” I’ve mostly associated it with dweeby hats and vests, rich people in luxury camps, and some vague, Hemingway-esque romanticism that probably doesn’t even exist. I also dislike safari’s non-strenuous nature; i.e. you are not allowed to leave your vehicle in most National Parks (because of dangerous cats and other animals), and I envision being trapped in a metal box all week, sealed-off from so much Africa around me.

saf1_car.jpg

The safari is Tay’s idea. Her childhood dream of seeing the plains and animals of East Africa was not realized during her two-and-a-half years in West Africa and this is her chance. Me, I’ve never considered it, don’t really know what “safari” even is, except a used and abused Swahili word for “journey.” I’ve mostly associated it with dweeby hats and vests, rich people in luxury camps, and some vague, Hemingway-esque romanticism that probably doesn’t even exist. I also dislike safari’s non-strenuous nature; i.e. you are not allowed to leave your vehicle in most National Parks (because of dangerous animals), and I envision being trapped in a metal box all week, sealed-off from so much Africa around me.

On the other hand, I love big, open spaces, preserved swathes of nature and wildlife; plus, the famous allure of Ngorongoro and the Serengeti is strong and I want to see them for myself. And, more important, how often does a guy have the chance to make his wife’s dreams come true? Her dreams are mine now, I know this, so I might as well enjoy them. And I do.

saf1_fred.jpg

Our guide, Freddy, picks us up at the Zebra Hotel, we stop by Mohammed’s office to settle accounts and take a last look at the Internet (which we won’t see for nearly a week, until we’re in Mwanza), then pick up sundry snacks and medicine in Arusha and we’re off, cruising due west. The big mountains (Kili and Meru) are swathed in clouds, but the landscape opens up amazingly and the red-blanketed Masai herdsmen add bright specks of color to the verdant green of the rains.

We talk with Freddy, getting to know this man who will have our lives—and our comfort—in his hands for the next six days. Conversation ranges from war and peace (“It’s all just politics,” he says of nearly everything, including African genocide) to love and marriage. We explain how Tay and I are recently wed, traveling together and working together. He answers, “It is because you are meant to be together.” Fred is 30, married, and has a one-year-old son. We forget we aren’t in India or Sri Lanka and ask if it is a “love marriage,” as opposed to an arranged union. He doesn’t understand our cultural confusion, but answers easily, “Yes, I love my wife.”

saf1_sign.jpg

We spot our first wildlife about 40 kilometers before the entrance to Tarangire National Park; a group of ostrich in the grass beyond a herd of cows. Freddy explains how the animals are free to roam between all the parks in Tanzania’s wild north, and are protected by strong anti-poaching laws, no matter where they go. This makes the already grand scope of thousands of square miles of protected area even grander, as Northern Tanzania takes on a mythical vastness in my eyes and my mind, comparable to idyllic, seemingly infinite, openness of America’s Wild West.

saf1_zebgir.jpg

Entering Tarangire in the late afternoon light, the “game view” begins in earnest, as the thrill of our first major sighting (a group of giraffe and a lone zebra grazing next to the road) quickly piles up with the rest. Elephant clans are everywhere, one of which sits in front of a beautiful backdrop of acacia trees, rolling plains, and to top it off, a rainbow. There are birds of crazy colors and sizes, hundreds of hoofed creatures of fantasy, bat-eared foxes, and, just as the sun goes down, the white flash of a leopard’s curled tail as it disappears into the bush. Freddy stops, turns off the engine, and we stand up to wait in the growing darkness, peering from our safari-mobile’s open pop top. The cat comes back on the road; it is too dark for photos, but the sight leaves us strung and excited.

The post-game thrill is amplified by the luxury suite we are show to at the Sopa Lodge, as much of an unexpected discovery as the animals. Deep inside the wild park’s boundaries, these are the fanciest accommodations we’ve experienced in our entire year of travel (we were more than half-expecting a mediocre, unscrubbed fleabag room). Not only that, but because this is the low season, we are among only four small parties in this lodge with 75 rooms, dining virtually alone in cavernous halls built for hundreds, with wide, exquisite views of the surrounding bush.

saf1_bed.jpg

We rest easy, rise early.

Written By
More from Joshua

The Gambia from Space

Just stumbled across this great NASA image of The Gambia River, or...
Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The safari is Tay’s idea. Her childhood dream of seeing the plains and animals of East Africa was not realized during her two-and-a-half years living and traveling in West Africa and this is her chance. Me, I’ve never considered it, don’t really know what “safari” even is, except a used and abused Swahili word for “journey.” I’ve mostly associated it with dweeby hats and vests, rich people in luxury camps, and some vague, Hemingway-esque romanticism that probably doesn’t even exist. I also dislike safari’s non-strenuous nature; i.e. you are not allowed to leave your vehicle in most National Parks (because of dangerous cats and other animals), and I envision being trapped in a metal box all week, sealed-off from so much Africa around me." />