I held a Tanzanian safari planning workshop at The Travel Bug bookstore on Vancouver's West Broadway on a chilly January evening. A big thank you to all who attended. I covered topics such as where to go; when to go; where to stay; incorporating cultural encounters with wildlife; incorporating hiking and other activities; the ideal safari vehicle; is camping safe? What should it all cost? There are workshops scheduled in April and May. See the Homepages for details.
Women with Wings is a women's travel club launched October 2006 by Travel Concepts which has offices in West and North Vancouver. The club's focus is creative travel for active women. See www.womenwithwings.com for the group's web site.
I am pleased to write that Women with Wings and Mama Tembo are collaborating on a wildlife and culture safari to Tanzania's north for early 2008. This is the best time to witness the wildebeest and zebra migration, recently declared as the Seventh New Wonder of the World, as well as foaling season of these antelope. The safari includes the famous Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, but it also takes us off the beaten path with destinations such as Lakes Natron and Eyasi as well as the rarely visited Gol Mountains in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Our accommodations in these places, however comfortable, reflect and respect their extraordinary locations.
Although our focus on wildlife continues throughout, Lakes Natron and Eyasi allow for the cultural connections which travelers often remember as the highlight of their safaris. In Lake Natron we meet the Maasai and in Lake Eyasi the Hadzabe, the remaining numbers of a hunter and gatherer tribe whose cultural survival is tenuous. We meet the Maasai again in the Gol Mountains. We finish the safari in Tarangire National Park, one of the most attractive on Tanzania's northern safari circuit and known for its large resident population of elephants and magnificent baobab trees. Then it is off to Zanzibar, legendary island in the Indian Ocean off Tanzania's coast, stronghold of coastal Swahili culture, which offers beaches, snorkeling, diving, sophisticated shopping, flavorful cuisine which makes use of homegrown spices like nutmeg and clove, and a tangible sense of history.
I will post details of the tour once they are confirmed. There is room for twelve participants. You can contact me for more information or Liz Irving at Travel Concepts 604 986 2262.
The club has another important objective for making this trip to Tanzania: they plan on volunteering first. For more information please call Liz at the number above.
"Wildebeest Migration is Seventh Wonder but Locals Hardly Know it."
This was a newspaper headline in The Arusha Times late 2006. The article went on to say: "What most Tanzanians take for granted and would not even pay a visit at minimal charges is now termed as the Seventh New Wonder of the World."
There is truth to this. The Tanzanian perspective has long been that the Eden we foreigners enjoy on safari is land they used to share with wild beasts, and theirs remains the practical view of a hungry people of animals as food - in the Swahili language the word for "animal" and "meat" is shared. (See Travel Writing: Wild Africa.)
Not all Tanzanians are disinterested in their national parks. Entry permits for Tanzanians - middle class Tanzanians that is - is minimal compared to the $50 US a day that foreigners pay, but affordable accommodations for them are lacking.
In Dar es Salaam this past December, I met with someone from the Jane Goodall Institute's Roots and Shoots school program. He told me that Tanzanian school children's knowledge of their country's natural resources is good. He attends classes when the students draw pictures and discuss the wildlife unique to their country.
I talked with him about my goal to set up a program for schoolchildren where they can learn about nature in the best of all possible classrooms - their national parks. Tanzanians students do visit their parks periodically on sponsored class outings, but I have a much more focused program in mind - called Conservation Kids - which will provide small groups of young people the opportunity to spend a few days and nights inside their parks under the instruction of educators who are wildlife and conservation authorities. I will continue to work on the idea throughout 2007 to make a first student trip a reality. Please get in touch with me if you wish to help.
Tour: Northern Tanzania
Dates: December 16th to 29th, 2006
Group Size: ten
Group's origin: Vancouver, BC.
The planned itinerary:
Day One: Arusha to Ngorongoro Crater. Special campsite on north rim.
Day Two: Ngorongoro Crater.
Days Three, Four, and Five: Trek from Nainakanoka village (Olmoti Crater) to Lake Natron. Fly camping on Empakai Crater rim and Acacia Camp near Naiyobi village.
Day Six: Lake Natron area. Moivaro Tented Camp.
Day Seven: Lake Natron to Nasera Rock. Special camping.
Day Eight: Nasera Rock.
Day Nine: Xmas Eve: Nasera to Serengeti. Special camping.
Day Ten: Xmas Day: Serengeti.
Day Eleven: Serengeti to Ndutu. Ndutu Safari Lodge.
Day Twelve: Ndutu to Tarangire. Tarangire Safari Lodge.
Day Thirteen: Tarangire National Park.
Day Fourteen: Tarangire to Arusha.
To travel hopefully is sound advice. Heavy rains washed away our plans to camp at Nasera Rock in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area's Gol Mountains. Floods disrupted our Christmas Day in the Serengeti. On the other hand, the southern Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area were awash with wildebeest and zebra. It was the best migration I have seen in a long time. Was it worth missing Nasera, getting stuck and having to wade a few streams? Well, it's a real shame about Nasera - it's a fantastic place - but yes, to see the plains green and covered with antelope was worth every bit of temporary inconvenience and discomfort. And Tanzania really needed these downpours to fill empty reservoirs.
A picture speaks a thousand words so I direct you to tour member and technology wizard Graham's web site of photos and video shorts of this safari. datasets.ca/africa
You can also check out tour member Jane's concise and witty take on the safari as well as life. www.spindriftanddreams.blogspot.com
Something new on the web site is Good Used Gear. You will find it under What to Bring. We can spend a great deal preparing for a safari. I will help connect anyone who has good used gear to sell with anyone looking to purchase it.
For those looking for a peaceful breeze-cooled stay on Zanzibar's exquisite east coast as well as immersion in local culture, I recommend the Casa del Mar in Jambiani village. Jambiani was a favorite destination of mine on the island long before there were many places to stay there. Local life in the village manages to go on around tourism's onslaught rather than bend to it. It is the best place to see coral rock buildings and the local women who painstakingly collect the seaweed in the tidal flats, an old island industry. (Aisha of Casa del Mar tells me that the women collect 100 tons of seaweed in 5 years and sell it to the Philippines for under $100 US a ton.) Casa del Mar fronts the beach which is lined with fishing dhows. The owners do plan to build a small swimming pool in the future. There is no alcohol served at this small hotel, but you may bring your own for discreet use. www.casa-delmar-zanzibar.com
"When you pray, move your feet."
I first heard this inspirational African proverb when I lived in Tanzania. More recently I noticed its use in Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth.
The people destined to become the first victims of world climate change. East Africa's pastoralists, such as the Maasai, are at the top of the list according to The London Observer.