There is so much to tell from this long safari weekend I don’t even know where to begin! I will just start by saying that this was, by far, the most incredible cultural experience I have ever had. If you ever have the opportunity to go on safari in Africa, you should absolutely take it. What really made our safari so amazing was the Safari Makers company and their drivers as well as the beautiful lodges that we stayed at.
On Friday morning, at 8AM, we were picked up at our Ourpost Lodge in Arusha. Everyone piled in the three safari jeeps and began the five hour trip to Serengeti National Park. As we drove farther away from the city, we began to drive through very small rural towns and the villages of the Massai people. The Massai are an indigenous tribe that live in the remote areas of Tanzania. Over the course of the safari our drivers educated us more and more about the Massai and their culture. In the Massai culture, the children are left to their own devices to work in the field herding goats and cows that belong to their family. Only the mothers care for the children while men of the family do not care for their children and are left to relax. Many of the children are very hungry and starving because they only live off of porridge and yams that their mothers provide for them or scraps of meat from the cow that the men eat. They want their children to learn their own survival skills and earn their place in the family. At age 14, the boys are ready to become warrior men. To do this, they must be circumcised and then they are shunned from the village for three months to survive on their own. During this time, they wear all black cloth wrapping and paint their faces with black and white. Some may wear black feather headdresses as well. After the three months of survival on their own they are invited back to the village for a celebration of their manhood. The girls are also circumcised at a very young age. This practice still remains common today but there are many that are trying to put a stop to it. As we drove through the small villages, the children on the side of the road with their herd of goats would run up to our safari vehicle and we would give them food and water that we brought with us and that came in our lunches provided by the safari company. It was very emotional for many of us to see these children so thin and begging. We had to step back and take a look at the bigger picture to understand that this is the culture of these people and the children are hungry but they are still happy and this is the life that they know under the Massai traditions. This coming weekend we will actually be camping overnight in one of the tribe villages to learn more about the workings of the village. The women will teach us how to make honey and butter and their way of life, so I will have much more to share about the Massai after that experience.
Once we reached the Serengeti, we drove for several hours until nightfall when we reached the Serena Lodge where we stayed for the next two nights. The drive was unbelievable with all of the wildlife. The drivers must graduate from Wildlife College to become a safari driver and they were incredibly knowledgeable. Our first driver, Abdul, answered our thousands of questions without a hitch and laughed at our girly shrieks when we saw our first giraffe and lion. This was probably his first car of all young 21 year-old girls, so I’m sure he was entertained. We pulled up to the lodge, greeted with juice and hot towels thinking that we were in heaven. Who knew there was such a beautiful lodge out in the remote wilderness? The hotel was created so that the rooms were small domes separate from the main building to blend into the environment. Sometimes buffalo, wildebeest, and other herds can wander up into the hills of the lodge so we had to have a security escort to take us at night between the dining room and our huts. We were exhausted after the long day and went straight to sleep after dinner to wake up for the early game drive.
We spent the entire next day in the Serengeti riding around seeing every animal you could possibly want to see in Africa. Lions, zebras, impalas, giraffe, and buffalo were all within feet of our jeep; definitely not a day at the zoo. Underneath the photos, I’ll include the animal facts we learned from our drivers. We spent another night at the Serena Lodge and woke up at 5:30AM to catch the sunrise in the Serengeti. We spent another amazing day seeing animals and the landscape ending our day at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. The Crater Lodge is very close to one of the Massai villages and they allow Massai to sell their bead work and cloths which we bought to show our future students. The lodge was absolutely beautiful and the view out of our window overlooking the crater was unlike anything we had ever seen. Many of us reflected on the strangeness of us staying in this luxurious lodge while the Massai village was less than a mile down the hill. This coming weekend will hopefully settle this confusing feeling when we actually have the chance to spend a night with the Massai and really get a feeling for their way of life.
The next morning we spent our last day descending into the crater and observing some of the new wildlife that the crater brings with it.
Here, we saw thousands of flamingos and many more elephants. The crater is a much smaller area of land with a lower temperature and much vegetation attracting rhinoceros and elephants, two of the endangered species of Africa. We were thrilled to see so many of the rare creatures. As the afternoon rolled around, we drove back up towards the top of the crater, back through the Serengeti, and past the Massai villages heading home to Arusha. The weekend was an incredible experience that changed everyone in our group. We spent a lot of time reflecting and discussing our purpose here for the next month and how our thinking is beginning to change. Our outlooks on culture are shifting and growing as we learn more and more about the people of Tanzania and the Massai tribe. These next few weeks I have left here will be spent in the schools teaching, writing lesson plans, hiking mount Monduli, camping with the Massai, and gaining new perspectives.