From Stonetown, in Zanzibar, our next big adventure as a family was a 5-day safari in Selous, one of the largest game parks in the world and located in Southern Tanzania, with a company called Waterbuck safaris. To get there, we took the ferry to get back to mainland followed by a 6 hour drive with our safari guide, Nazaray, to our first campsite.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think one of the best parts of traveling is the traveling itself. Everyone you meet a long the way, getting lost and asking for directions, watching the landscape change from the window of the bus, plane, ferry, system-of-transportation, etc. It’s my favorite movie and it never gets old, even after the 100th viewing. I guess that’s why I dedicated an entire post to the plane flight on my blog… So, before I talk about the safari and post pictures, just a few notes on the trip: the movie playing on the ferry was The Expendables, uncensored, but on mute and without subtitles so the entire boat, kids and all, got to watch Stallone mow down terrorists for 2 hours. The 6 hour drive following the ferry was long, hot, smoggy, and bumpy, but also beautiful and mesmerizing. Dar es Salaam is so big and the traffic so congested that it took the first 3 hours just to leave the city, but it was nothing like the boring standstill rush-hour traffic in the US (at least from what I’ve seen). The second half of the drive was far less exhilarating as we left the outer most neighborhoods and turned into a maze of unmarked, bumpy dirt roads with baboons and herds of cows that somehow eventually led us to our first campsite.
Onto the actual safari:
We arrived around 4PM in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day relaxing, talking to Henrick (our extremely welcoming and social chef), and admiring the incredible view. The next two days were filled from sunrise to mid-afternoon with game drives, finding all sorts of animals including herds of hippos, a Goliath stork catching and eating a fish, lions, and a hyena munching on an old zebra. Aside from the drives, we were also treated to an interesting and unexpected performance by three Massai men whom Henrick hired to demonstrate some traditional dancing for us and answer any questions we had about their culture. I still don’t know how to feel about the whole thing, but it was definitely an experience.
Later in the trip, we moved to a new campsite (what I have determined to be the Jellystone Park of safari campsites complete with a swimming pool, wi-fi, and everything else you need to feel like you never left home while still able to post selfies with the natives on instragram #africa) and did a boat and walking safari. You don’t see nearly as many different animals as with the driving safari on either, but, at least with the latter, you get a much different perspective of the ecosystem. You also get to see some pretty neat insects, including safari ants which look like regular ants but they travel in one large group organized into a bunch of perfectly straight lines and are always stopping to take photos. It looks really bizarre and cool. The other thing that this new campsite offered that the others didn’t was the opportunity to tour the local village with your very own “bushman” for a guide. The guide, who we only saw from a distance, was a local, dressed in a loin cloth with mud spread on his arms and legs, and carrying a tall, wooden staff. Of course, no one in Tanzania would ever actually dress like that, but the campsite, owned and managed by a Dutch couple (it turns out 99% of safaris in this area are owned by Europeans), was pandering to the ignorant Western notion of the authentic, primitive Africa. When we asked Nazaray what he thought about the bushman performance, he laughed and said, “those are Chinese bushmen,” which was his way of calling it a cheap replica.
On the morning of the last safari day, we packed up and set off to Dar es Salaam to spend one night before my family flew back to the US and I started off on my own for the second part of my trip.