When we have each other, we have everything.
Our group of 8 was in for a ton of adventures when we signed up with REI Adventures to do the Tanzania Ultimate Adventure and Safari. A 13 day trip that started in Moshi and ended in Arusha. We biked in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, flew on a small plane to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro for 4 days of safari, hiked toward Lake Natron, and ended our time visiting with and observing the lifestyle of the Maasai people. We traveled with Scott and Libby, BK and Kelly, and Anne and Tom. It was really nice to have a private group in order to avoid some of the issues that come up with traveling with others you don't know well.
The biking portion was admittedly harder than I had anticipated. There were a lot of ups and downs and rough riding due to road conditions. BK, Kelly, and Scott rode the 5 mile uphill section on day 2, which the rest of us passed on due to not feeling adequately prepared. It was a tough climb, but the three of them pushed hard and made it to the top. We were all impressed by their perseverance.
The safari was even more impressive than I had anticipated. We saw so much even on day 1 of the safari! By the end, your brain almost couldn't process all that you were seeing. Herds of zebra and gazelle, a cheetah taking down a gazelle, leopards sleeping in trees, hippos flipping water to keep themselves cool, an elephant herd traffic jam for 45 minutes to an hour, hyenas sleeping in rock formations just like in the Lion King, lions climbing trees and falling out of them, monkeys picking at one another, and so much more. The thing I appreciated about being on safari is that you truly begin to understand how animals behave in the wild and come to appreciate the "circle of life" that takes place out there. I thought I would have struggled seeing the lions and cubs eating a zebra, but you understand that they have to eat too and that a loss of life is what it takes to survive. Every creature / living being out there depends on the other for survival ... from the dung beetle to the cape buffalo. They all have their purpose and it was incredible to see the connections occur right before my eyes.
We took a hot air balloon ride over the savannah one morning. I thought it would be scary being so high up, but out in the open. Surprisingly, it was a calming and almost meditative experience. Other than the sound of the fuel blasting into the balloon on occasion, it was so quiet up there. Floating along and looking at the landscape and animals below was surreal, almost as though we were trapped in a bubble being carried by the wind. After landing, we enjoyed a toast with champagne/juice and a breakfast while zebra and wildebeest roamed by us.
Other than the safari, the hiking was my favorite part. I love walking and taking in the sights. The hiking was a little more challenging than usual because we were hiking in an area that was covered in volcanic ash from an eruption in 2008. It was like hiking 26 miles in sand. Our calves were definitely on fire by the end of the two days, but it was well worth it. We were in the Ngorongoro highlands walking through Maasai villages and strolling with local villagers and livestock. The landscape changed from barren grasslands to lush areas with umbrella trees. I always appreciate the satisfaction that comes from sitting in a camping chair at the end of a day spent walking for miles.
One of the coolest aspects of traveling with REI Adventures (this was our 2nd trip...the 1st being Thailand) is that the itineraries give you a typical "tourist" experience, but also include many cultural aspects in their trips as well. While hiking, we had a Maasai guide leading and teaching us about the Maasai lifestyle. We toured two schools and a medical clinic. We visited a local coffee farm that sells beans to a cooperative that sells to Starbucks. We were able to go into a Maasai village and observe the cows getting milked in the morning in addition to going into one of their homes. Their homes are made mostly from wood and then they use cow manure/urine to create the paste on the walls. While biking, we stopped at a dairy cooperative run by women. Women from the surrounding villages sell their cow milk to the cooperative which in turn makes various dairy products and sells to local markets. All of our guides were incredibly knowledgeable about the flora and fauna, animals, and culture. We could ask any question and they responded with thorough answers.
Tanzania was an incredible experience and one that I did not want to leave! I have compiled my favorite group, animal, and landscape photos below and of course included my trip video. Video 1 is 20 minutes and video 2 is about 11 minutes. By far the longest trip video I have created thus far...but it tells a story and is a good reminder of the adventures we enjoyed on this trip. Hakuna Matata and Asante Sana Tanzania!
Favorite Group Photos
Favorite Landscape PHotos
Favorite Animal PHotos
Ben, Julie, and Amelia