Primeval Instincts – Tanzanian Expedition (I)

To Dar and Beyond

A week before the 8th of August, 2013

This is going to be a huge step forward for me with regards to my future plans of traveling. Ever since I took up Photography as a hobby, traveling has been pretty high on the agenda. I had to convince my parents, relatives and friends to make this trip a possibility. People were still not certain that I should carry out this trip on my own accord. The buildup to this journey has been taxing. Yellow Fever shots, Malaria Prophylaxis Tablets (This has a funny story behind it) even though there are a hundred hurdles, the objective itself remains the sole motive towards a journeys success.

A shiny new visa sticker

Date: 7th August, 2013

Just a day to go and here I come to “The cradle of civilization”. Things have picked up a frenzy at home, the concerns that only a parent would feel are evident among the family members. The objective of the trip involves the photography of the “Big Five” (if you’re wondering – The Big Five). I’ve also had some self inhibitions in getting this trip done. Nevertheless, I submit my passport for visa stamping on the 31st of July and after a period of 4 days and becoming 20 OMR poorer; I finally get a shiny new visa vignette on my passport….. Tanzania, here I come, yeeehaa……

Day 1: Travel like the wind (08.08.2013)

So the departure time from the Muscat International Airport is 4:45 am in the morning. I arrive at the airport all groggy eyed and tired but excited to carry out the journey. By this time, mom has already slipped in a few knick knacks (Prasad, abridged versions of holy books etc). In her mind, these are meant to work like protective shields, guarding me against a possible mishap or running into any sort of danger. It kinda annoys me at times, but mom is cute and I’ll let her have the little pleasures she derives in doing her thing. The Ethiopian airlines, picks up speed along the tarmac and with a rumble and shake of the tail, it lifts off into the horizon and away towards the western horizon. So here is the route I got to travel, first stop would be Addis Ababa and then would be Dar-Es-Salam after a transit of 3 hours in between. Ethiopia, the place that mom used to scare me with when I was a kid. “Ram, there are children in Ethiopia that are starving, don’t waste your food.” Whenever, I think of this country, the first thing that pops up into my head is the poor children. The UN ads of the African children weren’t helping either.  The ride to Ethiopia had its own stories, the flight was mostly filled with house-maids who were apparently working in the Middle East nations and were now returning home. My heart cries out for these people. I can’t comprehend how people are so happy to exploit the unfortunate few.  Some of the ladies had scars on their forehead.  The aisles were noisy with ladies clapping and singing some sort of folk song and there was one, who was mentally challenged, she kept running up and down the aisle tearing apart her clothing and admonishing in her mother tongue. Was she really challenged or was it pent up frustration? I shall never know.

The erratic behavior, continued across Addis Ababa Airport as she found the benign security personnel a soft target. The airport has two major terminals, Terminal 1 & 2. Terminal 1 is the older one and is used for passengers transiting to nearby African destinations, it really isn’t a terminal and further re-iterated my notions on Ethiopia, it’s more like a short walkway with tiny seating areas, I have heard good things about the other one from fellow passengers (will get a chance to see this when I am on my way back to Muscat). Another thing that I always cringe about is the walkway and aisles for the passengers, I am very particular about this (I think it’s got to do with my profession as a fire engineer). There isn’t a check in counter at this particular terminal and boarding passes are written by hand.  A 3 hours transit at the Airport and I am ushered for my next flight to Dar-Es-Salam. Before we continue further, a funny thing at the Addis Ababa Airport, the TVs kept playing ads on the use of condoms and happy endemic folk promoting the use of different type of the protective barrier, humorous at first (I mean who promotes such stuff at the airport??) but when you think of it, the magnanimity of the issue comes to the forefront, these African countries are ravaged by HIV & AIDS (more about it as we go ahead)

Dar-Es-Salam Airport doesn’t have those massive high beams or the sweeping architecture of some of the other International Airports, its noisy and its crowded with people. Having already acquired a shiny Tanzanian Visa beforehand, I was saved the trouble of queuing up and breezed through immigration.  I step out from immigration control into a relatively short waiting area. I was supposed to be meeting a person called Gidion but instead I run into another person holding my name placard. Apparently Gidion, had to rush away and had entrusted me with Don.

Appearances can be deceptive on first glance, how would you react when you come across a well-built individual, with a warm smile holding your placard. What if he mugs me? What if took advantage of a traveler ? Nevertheless, Don was one of the nicest persons, he kept in touch throughout the entire trip and was genuinely interested on my well – being, a friend for life I guess.

Since, I had another flight to catch the same evening to Arusha, the only viable thing that we could do was roam around a couple of villages around Dar-Es-Salam. There was poverty everywhere, open butcher shops and local pubs that were thronged by the elderly, young, children & even pregnant women. Being associated with the super-hygienic eateries of Oman, seeing people sharing their lunches with flies and other pests was unappetizing. My host was least concerned, he even offered me a sample of the local dish, Ugali. But the flies were more eager.

A local shop – Downtown Dar-Es-Salam

Mombasa Village – Downtown Dar-Es-Salam

A friend of my friend is also my friend

Don and Moi

You should also check out Don’s tour services on Don’s own Safari Firm, I would heartily recommend this guy, for his good nature and attitude on life.

Done with the tour around Mombasa village, I headed to the Airport once more on my flight. Little did I realize that I was about to step into an adventure of a lifetime. But this is how the blog is going to proceed. The main blog runs throughout without any hitches, you can read about the snippets of life changing blogs in separate threads of their own.

Apparently travel in Tanzania is expensive, when you compare it to Oman (petrol is cheaper than water here) no exceptions with air travel in TZ, a return flight from Dar to Kilimanjaro can set you back by a couple hundred dollars. But there is this new player, Fast Jet… They aim to revolutionize air travel by cutting down on air-fares. Their advertised price is 32,000 TSZ, approx 20 USD. Pretty cheap ehh……

From Kili Airport, I had to travel to Arusha, which was about an hour or so. The traveler’s hostel, I was staying with, promised to give me a ride to Arusha. Arusha is the city closest to the northern circuit safari parks in Tanzania. This was a popular tourist spot and most people had this as a base and I was no exception. However, there is a small snippet that happened between the Airport and the Traveler’s hostel. You can read all about that here: Dead Men Don’t Walk

Day 2: 9th of August, 2013

So, here we are, something that I had been dreaming about for quite a while. The night at the travelers hostel was managed by Marichel, a world traveler from UK. Who had settled down in Tanzania. She serves as a volunteer and also hosts travelers for a subsidized price.

So back to my story, I had already called up Gidion (remember the guy who was organizing the safaris) and he said that he would pick me up right from the hostel. We were to meet three other people. Apparently we would travel as a group for the entire duration of the safari. The first person I met was Mr Becca (The guide & driver) a friendly and quite experienced guide in Tanzania. We moved out from the dirt tracks and into the interiors of the city, which I believe has a huge population of a Muslim contingent. (Just something from my own observations, would be wrong though).

The 4×4 dodges more of the impeding traffic and we pull up near a congested spot, across the streets bobs the head of a blondie. The girl runs across the traffic and minutes later, I am greeted with a “hello”. “Hi“ I said.

I’m Megan

She was pretty and had the bluest eyes; so there we were, my first co-passenger.

Seconds later and our final set of travelers arrive, Marco and Marianna, a couple from Italy, they had just finished scaling Mt Kilimanjaro and were now on their way to the safari parks of Tanzania.

With all on board and with our stocks filled, we trundle on towards our first national park. “Tarangire National Park”

On the way, we meet some local children, crying “Mzungu, Mzungu in swahili” which apparently means “White tourists“ (translated by Megan – who is a medical student from Canada, she was doing a couple of courses in Tanzania and had picked up a few words from her prior stay in Mwanza.)

Swahili children by the road side.

Before long, we pull up into Tarangire National Park, a lunchbox for each and a chance to get integrated, after all we would only have each other’s company for the rest of the safari (5 days, 4 nights) across 4 national parks (Tarangire, Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater)

The group at Tarangire National Park

This was the first real first interaction that we were having as a group between the four of us, each of us recounting a bit about ourselves, before long we were heading into the Tarangire National Park and my first safari in the gorgeous Tanzania.

Filled with excitement we entered the park the first animals that we spotted were the impalas and zebras….. A few moments, I caught my first action sequence, an Indian roller hunting insects in the thick undergrowth.

The Indian roller on a hunt

The first big cat that we ever saw was the lion, contrary to what they show in the nature channels, the king and the queen of the jungle is pretty chilled out during the day, they hardly lift a muscle and laze around. Minutes later we come across a bunch of safari vehicle and looking in the direction of the group, we catch sight of two adolescent cheetahs.

A male Impala

An Indian Roller

Giraffes across the plain

The name “Tarangire” comes from the Tarangira river, a river that was claimed to never dry. However when we did eventually cross a bridge over the river it was hardly 10 meters across, in some places it was a mere trickle.

We traveled around the Tarangire river and came across more animals, the first sighting of the African giant – The elephant, these giants are so clever, there was no mad rush, they calmly grazed the plains and as Becca started to get closer the Matriarch snorted, the baby quickly moved behind and the elephant waved her trunk, perhaps indicating that we were getting too close for comfort. In my next posts I will talk about the awesome Serengeti and the other national parks.

Elephants

Elephants in the grass

Looking On – Photo Credits – Megan

Trying to do something – Photo Credits – Megan

Marco and Mari – Photo Credits – Megan

Elephants – Photo Credits – Megan

Marco Looking OnPhoto Credits – Megan

Searching for the big kittyPhoto Credits – Megan

You can also read about more of the national parks and also the island of Zanzibar in my subsequent posts.

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