Jambo marafiki zangu,
What a crazy past week and a half it has been. We started off the month of July with a bang as Sara, Amber and I ventured off to the Serengeti for the weekend; I can honestly say that this trip surpassed all my expectations. The highlights were witnessing a lion eat a zebra literally right beside our car, watching the early morning sunrises and evening sunsets that are million times more beautiful when overlooking the endless plains, camping in Ngorongoro crater and seeing the millions of stars shine big and bright in the night sky before tucking ourselves into bed in our sleeping bags inside camping tents (all pictured below – photo credits to Amber for the stars).
During our game drives, we got to see elephants, giraffes, zebras, baboons, ostriches, lions, wildebeest, gazelles, impalas, cheetahs, hyenas, hippos and many other smaller creatures and birds up close. We only missed out on seeing leopards and we saw just one rhino that was only somewhat visible through our guide’s extra-zoom binoculars. Overall the Serengeti was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, despite minor hiccups like our car breaking down and also having to wait for some time at the entrance gate to get our permit into the National Park (the Serengeti photos below are all credited to Amber’s amazing camera and photography skills, which beat my iPhone-quality pictures by a longshot)!
After coming back from the Serengeti, we received some AMAZING news from Maimuna: our research study had finally been approved by the Tanzanian Ethics Board, NIMR, and the 10 000 FITI sachets stuck at the border under scrutiny of the Tanzanian Food and Drug Authority (TFDA) had finally been released! This meant that Nareesa and I were about to get a whole lot busier since we still had a lot of preparation and planning to take care of prior to executing our research study in the upcoming few weeks, and I also had to continue on making improvements to the current sachet distribution system for Mikono Yetu. This was complicated more by the fact that in three days time, we had also planned a 4-day trip to Moshi since we had decided to take a break from our various other projects, especially since our ethics approval had been put on hold for so long… who knew that we would get approval right before leaving Mwanza for our little get-away?
FRIENDLY TIPS FOR THE SERENGETI:
- Negotiate the price, if you look hard enough you can find some companies offering 3 days, 2 nights in Serengeti/Ngorongoro Crater for about a little over 500 USD per person (I also think this amount of time is more than enough to see all the animals and enjoy all that the Serengeti has to offer)
- Bring eye drops for the dust, especially if you have contacts and also bring your eyeglasses to give those dry eyes a break!
- Bring hand and face wipes, again for the dust and if you are camping make sure to bring warm clothes for sleeping!
- Have LOTS of bug spray on hand!
- Bring card games for when you are waiting for your cook to make dinner!
- Expect a very bumpy ride: After 3 days of game drives, it can get a bit tiring!
- Don’t expect the cleanest public bathrooms, you may also have to go to the bathroom on the side of the path if you have a small bladder like my roommates and I! Also don’t bank on showering until you get home…
In Moshi, we spent our first full day climbing up to Mandara Hut on Mt. Kilimanjaro, and although the hike up was much harder than expected, the trees looked as if they were part of a tropical rainforest and we got to see some amazing views. The next day we went to swim in some hot springs 1.5 hours out of town, getting there was quite the journey but also very fun since we took public transit and figured out how to get there on our own. On the way there, the Rickshaw driver also let me drive for a bit on the way back which was very cool, but also quite difficult. Our last day we went to Ndoro Waterfalls where we hiked and went swimming, we visited the Chagga Museum/Caves and saw a coffee/banana plantation site when they showed us how they make organic and local drinks. We also bought our first souvenirs in town and also got to eat some really good food in Moshi (the coffee and Italian food here is much better than it is in Mwanza)!
FRIENDLY TIPS FOR MOSHI:
- You can find some really cheap hostels that have free WIFI and breakfast: Nareesa and I stayed at the Climber’s Home which was in a really central location and was about 10$ CAD per person per night
- Take a dala-dala to the hot springs and then a rickshaw – it is much cheaper than hiring a guide!
- Go swimming in the waterfalls, even if it is freezing cold – it is an experience to be had!
- Make friends with people in the hostel to go out for dinner with and also to explore the town!
- Even if you are not feeling your best – go climb part of Mt. Kilimanjaro anyways, unfortunately the day we got to Moshi, my stomach took a turn for the worst (not uncommon during my time here in Tanzania), but I pushed myself to go anyways; partially because I had already paid but also because I really wanted to have this experience – in the end, I would say it is worth it because of the incredible views… Just make sure to pack lots of Pepto-Bismol, Gravol and Immodium!!!
- Also pack light for the trip to Mandara Hut, it is actually steeper and more challenging than you would think and added weight from unnecessary things in your backpack does not help! Enjoy the workout, but spare yourself a sore back 🙂
- Moshi is a great place for souvenirs: start your negotiations really low so that you have room to work up to the price you REALLY want to pay (I got some beautiful paintings, coffee and some small painted dishes for friends/family).
The past week has shown me how much more there is to Tanzania, apart from the city of Mwanza, where I have stayed for the past 2.5 months, and it has made me all the more excited to travel more at the end of internship (we are thinking of going to Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar). But first, I have just under a month of wrapping up projects/initiatives and I am absolutely amazed at how quickly this summer is passing. After finishing our work, we have a week and a half of traveling and just like that I’ll be back in CANADA! It is all very bittersweet, but I am excited for all that is coming… Stay tuned for updates on the results of our research study, and wish us luck on a very busy upcoming few weeks in Mwanza!