It’s the first thing I heard as soon as I got off the plane in Dar Es Salaam. I did read up a bit before getting there so I was aware that Swahili is widely spoken. What I didn’t know is that Jambo is basically a primary word of greeting which could be interpreted in many ways. It could mean Hello, or Hey, or What’s up, or Yo! or Cool/You’re cool! Quite a flexible word.
The immigration entry was not ‘cool’ though. After spending too much time in there in confusion, we finally got out and headed to our guesthouse. The BF and I spent the rest of the day sampling different Tanzanian beers and planning for our next destination. We were heading to Arusha next as we intended to do the Northern Circuit safari and that is where most tours start. The next day we flew to Arusha. Boy are we glad we flew rather than took the bus because we were able to see the majestic Mt. Kilimanjaro briefly before the cloud eventually claimed all of it. That was awesome!
Getting to Arusha was a breeze. It was a 40min flight from Dar Es Salaam. Getting to your guesthouse however can be a challenge. You see outside of the city center there are no street signs. Lucky for us our taxi driver knew the general area where our hotel was and then asked around for the right twist and turn ’til we got to the right address. The addresses are in PO Boxes (not quite sure why) and the absence of street names and house numbers will confuse any first timer. And the road conditions! I have to say I am impressed by the driving skills of the locals. They can drive a sedan expertly like an off road truck!
Once we got to our guesthouse we were enthusiastically welcomed by our host named Innocent. Having been a safari tour guide before, he talks passionately about the wild life and the safari experience. It was great listening to his stories. He was also able to hook us up with a safari tour company who turns out to be a friend of his. They used to be safari guides. Now they are both business owners and helping each other out. That saved us from having to shop around for a tour company. Also this tour company was able to join us in a group which was great for our budget.
For the next 5 days we went on a safari that would turn out to be one of the best experiences you get in your lifetime. See getting a great experience out of the safari as I later realize depends greatly on the group you are with. Our group (7 pax) is as international as can be and pretty chill and laid back. We kept our expectations to the minimum and just focused on having fun. That collective energy seem to have worked for us as we saw most of the big five or nine (depending on who’s list you are referring to) and even saw some wild life action – hunting, mating, migration. Towards the end of our trip we picked up another group heading back to Arusha and they seem to be complainers (bad roads, not happy with the food menu, etc). It turns out they also didn’t see that many animals. I’m glad we only met them during our way back to Arusha.
So here are a few collections from our visits to Tarangire National Park, Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Lake Manyara National Park. Each park has it’s own character and attraction. However if you are pressed for time and you can’t do at least 3 days of tour, I suggest to do Serengeti which will have most of the wildlife and then experience camping at the Ngorongoro crater and do the sunrise game drive. Of course always remember that you are dealing with animals in their own habitat. Unlike the zoo, they don’t always show up on command.
It’s great to be at the top of the food chain. You just chill and hunt whenever hungry. Except when they are mating. The male is so focused on mating and following/stalking the lioness he won’t be eating until the mating period is over (according to our guide it can take up to 7 days for a male to successfully impregnate a female). So we ran into mating lions and true enough they passed within inches of our jeep and not even a glance to us (food).
Our driver/guide was really good at spotting the animals including the rhino which one of the hardest to find and when we did it was so far we had to use binoculars to see it.
Of course it wasn’t just the animals that we got to appreciate. We saw a beautiful sunrise at Serengeti. We heard some animals at night so close to our tents. We saw a rainbow briefly. We got sunburned in the plains of Serengeti and we froze at the Ngorongoro cmapsite but woke up to another beautiful sunrise and a breathtaking view of the crater.
Overall, it was an amazing experience. In case you were wondering which tour company we used, check out 3Wonders Expedition. Look for Ally, the owner. They are run by locals and they are based in Arusha. Decent outfit, prices were mid-range. We stayed at Mazzola Safari House & Backpacking in Arusha. Say hello to Innocent and his dog Castro.
Asante sana Tanzania.