This was the first time I was in Africa. When I landed in the Kilimanjaro Airport in Arusha, I didn't know what to expect. of course, there were supposed to be animals, African savannah, and dark people with long, thin legs and big heads leaning against wooden sticks... After all, Africa is the populated continent strangest to me due to little direct contact.
Eight months have passed since my return. When I recall the East Africa that I saw, a mood would shroud me mildly but surely like a fog rising from the fields and shrouding everything one's eyes can reach.
Then I try to peer through that fog, I vaguely see grasslands dotted with flat-top acacia trees, elephants roaming in groups across shallow waters, countless wildebeests bolting through rays of rising sun, and pink flamingos flying over the backdrop of snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro. A couple of Maasai warriors might be walking toward me, up from the rim of a huge crater, wrapped in red-black check blankets with swords in hand. But it is the mood, not details of anything one sees, that lingers in my mind and grabs my heart, which yearns for a return every time it encounters a moment in memory from Africa.
I almost cannot explain this heart's yearning for a place strangest to me only days ago, like a baby long separated from mother's bosoms and suddenly finding itself back into the safety, warmth and peace of where it comes from. I was struck by a feeling of home return and a longing for reuniting with an original form of beauty, freedom and purity that had long lost in my life. Driving through the African plain from sunrise to sunset and observing the nature and its dwellers as they have been for thousands of years, I seemed to have found that lost connection to the birth place of life, which soothes and obsesses like nothing else.
Before I next set my feet on the soil of Africa, I will see it again and again in my dreams.
(Photos from Tanzania are posted in the Album Tanzania in my photo galleries.)
Our ten-day safari was organized by Access2Tanzania, which I highly recommend even they were not the cheapest. It is a non-for-profit company set up by Brian and Karen, an American couple, with the mission of contributing to the education of Tanzanian kids. The earnings from the operation go to school building and educational supplies in villages. During the trip planning, Karen talked to us a few times in order to tailor to our specific interest and need.
Matching our budget, Karen offered a "one-star" camping trip that takes us to five national parks in northern Tanzania, starting from Arusha (2 nights), and then in turn Tarangire (2 nights), Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater (2 nights), and Serengeti (3 nights). Each park presents different landscapes and animal mix and I wouldn't take any out from the list. If I really have to give up one, I would choose Lake Manyara. Allocation of time spent in each park was right.
"One-Star" camping means more spacious tent with large and sturdy camping beds, which allowed comfortable camping inside the parks. Believe it or not, for two nights in Serengeti, we had a group of lions about 50 meters from our tent. That was a bit scary, but we heard that there had been no precedent of animals attacking humans on the camp site.
Our guide/driver Will and cook Nasibu did their best to make it a memorable experience for us. We were able to see all the African Big 5 (elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos and rhinos) and many more thanks to Will's experience, active communication with other guides, and tireless driving and searching. Without his eyes, we would have seen a lot less. We were also given three-course delicious meals every day that put quite some weight on us.
We went in early October, which is a good time because of the concentration of animals around water sources during the drier season. It was also possible to get a glimpse of migration with a day trip northward in Serengeti with wildebeests and zebras starting to move down from Kenya's Maasai Mara in search for water. We didn't go for the big migration scene due to the very long distance which requires a different route planning.
To end the safari, we flew out from Serenget directly to Zanzibar instead of driving back to Arusha and then taking a flight from there. This saved a lot of driving and time and was worth it. Zanzibar, with its extremely beautiful beaches and the world-heritage listed, exotic Stone Town, should be on everyone's Tanzania itinerary.
根据我们的预算，Karen建议我们用“一星级露营”的住宿方式，整个行程包括坦桑尼亚北部的五个国家公园，从Arusha开始 (两夜), 接续是 Tarangire (两夜), Manyara湖, Ngorongoro 火山口 (两夜), 和Serengeti (三夜)。每个公园的风貌和动物各有千秋，去掉任何一个都有损失。如果真的时间不允许，必须割舍，那我会选择Manyara湖。每个公园安排停留的时间很合适。