Tanzanian Adventures|On A Safari (Ngorongoro Crater) Part 1

Updated: 12/2017

It was six in the morning when we all headed to the Ngorongoro Crater for our safari to begin. Along the way, the jeep passed all sorts of the scenery of northern Tanzania including the very large military base in the middle of the bush. As we got closer to Ngorongoro the driver pointed out the African part of the rift valley. This valley starts from Jordan and runs all the way to the West African coast. The Maasai are believed to have descended from the people who migrated through the rift valley and the first humanoid skeletal remains was discovered in the area of the crater a few years ago.

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Rift Valley Range in the distance
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Rift Valley range
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communities on the rim of the crater
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community at the rim of the crater

We passed through Karatu, there were baboons hanging out along the side of the road causing trouble to all who walk by. As we drove further up to the main gate, there was glimpse of the lake Eyasi ( a huge lake when you see atop a hill) and the valley below. A few small shanty towns are along the way where a few people live within the gates of the park.

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Monkeys in town causing trouble

At the park entrance we were all informed to keep all cameras, phones or anything you did not want stolen off you by the baboons in the vehicle. Our group was luck because the baboons were not around, and probably were the same ones we had passed earlier in town. After our bathroom break, we all began our safari journey.

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The beginning of the safari there was an overcast fog hanging around the top if the crater. This is the reason why in the pictures below half of the crater is shrouded in fog. As you can see this side of the crater is lush and green compare to what lies on the other side of the crater (Serengeti National Park and Maswa Game Reserve) which is what you expect to be tundra like in the Lion King.

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mist over the crater

After many selfies taken by the whole group, all of us jumped back into the jeeps to warm up after the chilly wind blowing.

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selfie again
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looking down in the crater
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mist over the crater

The jeep had to climb up the side of the crater in thick vegetation. Here there was not much to see of animals since this part of the park was within the rain shadow, and overcast. It is amazing at all the lush green there is and trees with jungle vines hanging down. It makes you think of the Jungle Book and Mowgli is about to come swinging through the trees or maybe Tarzan.

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Seeing the Maasai village as we take a view of the slope in the crater. This picture does not capture the real true beauty of this scene. You dear reader need to see it for yourself!

 

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Following the red dirt road towards the floor of the crater. This section of the crater has a view of the Maasai village below. As you can see the sun is out! This part of the road had a few wildlife such as cows that were fat from grazing all the lush grass.

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After a while we descent down into the crater we all had another pit stop to use the toilet (another squat toilet) and to stretch our legs. From here we can get a sense of how vast the crater is, and there we could see the large lake in the crater (Lake Makati) along with seeing a pair of elephants in the distance. From here it was windy with puffs of heat. Having sunscreen on is a must even under the shade of the safari view canopy. I could feel the sun’s full force on my skin after a minute exposed. After spending twenty minutes taking in the view and everyone hopped back into the vehicles to start the finding animals. Next post is where the real safari begins.

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Zebras grazing

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Next Post:  On A Safari (Ngorongoro Crater) Part 2.
Previous Post: Unexpected Hike

More information:
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Cheeky Monkey Safari

Disclaimer: All links are for reference and are in no way affiliate links. I do not receive or am paid for promotion on products mentioned in this post.

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Tanzanian Adventures|The Maasai Women & Community

Update: 12/2017

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Going to the Tinga to visit the Maasai children was not all about playing with the children and feeding them, it was about getting to know the Maasai tribe. A part of the children’s feeding program is women’s empowerment program. Just like the program on the streets of Arusha, this program is to empower the Maasai women in their community. The women in our team sat down with a few of Maasai women who are a part of the program to discuss their culture, customs, what they need in order to provide for their children and community. Surprising all the questions asked and answered pointed to how each of us women is interconnected with wanting the same things in life. All women no matter the culture want the same things in life, and those some things are what connects us as women in this world. We asked so many questions of them and they asked a lot of question of us as well. Here is what I gathered from the discussion;

  • Maasai women marry at a very young age 15-16 years old
  • First child come roughly after marriage
  • Marriage is seen for bring children into the world and raising them.
  • Maasai women are surprised by how Western society marriage is more for companionship, love and not all about having children
  • Children help support the parents when they get old
  • Women in Western world marry later in life and produce children much later as well.
  • Women are more educated in Western society then they are in Maasai tribe. Maasai women are encourage now to finish primary school.
  • Maasai women want to see their children successful.
  • Convoy of Hope as helped them find ways to help feed their family and they are grateful for all Convoy of Hope has done for their community.
  • They considered us women like daughters to them. Daughters who are empowered to do great things in our own tribe.

I love their humor and their warmth towards outsiders who take an interest in who they are. I found their humor about western society’s concept of contraception methods to be hilarious (especially pull out method) and cause a roar of laughter from them. As a gift for participating in the discussion, we gave them each 2kg of nutritional rice to take home to their families.

We also have the opportunity in seeing their village and going inside their huts. It was a cool experience in seeing how they live, which is primitive, but cozy feel. I wish our team has the chance to spend the night with them, but this time of year with the rain would make it difficult to do. The tribe is very welcoming, not like the other Maasai in the area that like handouts first before being hospitable. The only downside to being at the Maasai village was the flies that were everywhere! The amount of flies became almost unbearable when we all decided to a prayer circle with them. At one point it became difficult to concentrate on the prayer when the flies where crawling all over my face and in my eyes. I really don’t know how Maasai tolerates having flies crawling all over them.

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Maasai village

 

The road that leads to the school and village in some parts had crushed African pink quartz with some specks of Tanzanite (yes the gem stone) and rubies mixed with the red clay. I was told there are mines further down the road which mines the quarts, the precious gemstone Tanzianite and other gemstones. I did not get a picture of this unfortunately, just imagine walking along and seeing the ground with specks of red, blues, and semi blue-brown lumps in pinkish-red sand. These natural resources give huge profits to multinational gemstone enterprises, but most of the people of this region and Tanzanian people do not see any of it flowing into their communities or country. Some of the Maasai men have been recruited into working in these mines with little to no income generated from their work. To pick these gems off the ground would lead to being confiscated at the border or worse jailed.

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Clean water is a vital resource we all need in order to live. In Africa clean water is hard to come by for the Maasai people. The school through Convoy of Hope was able to secure $22,000 in funding for a well that pumps clean water to the surface. In Tanzania the real problem is most of the water is not exactly safe to drink even in the cities, and out in the bush water reservoirs are polluted by the wild life using the water as well. Taking a shower at the hotel results in brown tinted water coming out of the pipes and everywhere I went there was massive amounts of brown muddy water. Bottle water was always given to me on this trip, and there were a few times some of the children wanted to take a drink of water out of my bottle. The well Convoy of Hope built has a pump that pumps fresh clean water to the surface for children to drink and carry home to their families. Once the well was put in the school there was  fewer children sick and those who benefit look a lot more healthy.

 

Also the school grows its own garden to teach the children agricultural practices. In the small green house there was Chinese cabbage, and a few other greens. Upon further inspection there was a lot of plants with something eating at their leaves. It looked like a tiny moth was flying around the greenhouse was possibly causing the plants to die from disease. It could also be locusts that are finding a way into the greenhouse and eating the plants. I saw a whole bunch outside in the bushes when viewing the water pump. Sadly the old enemy of all crops strikes and caused damage. I hate grasshoppers and locusts with vengeance!

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On the way back to civilization of Arusha, we were all treated to a sighting of a giraffe. My joke for the following picture is “run away from life’s problems like a giraffe.” It is amazing how graceful these large animals are! It close to a run like a horse with a very long neck!

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Meeting the Maasai is and will always be a highlight of my trip to Tanzania. I found the whole day full of surprises and full of laughs. A moment of time I will surely hold onto until I return again in the future.

***Bonus story***
Learning To Squat Like A Pro:
TMI alert ahead! You are warned!
Let’s talk about squat toilets. I mean not the ones you think when going in the woods. I mean the ones you see in Africa and not Asia. My real first encounter with a true African squat toilet was at the Tinga primary school. A hole in a concrete floor with a water bucket nearby without toilet paper. Think what the water bucket was for, now you know why there was no toilet paper. I have a hard time as is in peeing in the woods, let alone trying to squat over a public toilet in the States. So imagine me “squatting” over a hole in the middle of Africa. An adventure in itself. So here I was confronted with a hole in a concrete slab, with foot markers to help keep my feet from slipping, and wondering what the hell did I get myself into. So here I was squatting over the hole with both hand resting on the walls keeping me balanced (yuck I know), with my head  between my legs looking down the hole and hoping I don’t pee on my pant legs or shoes. Lucky I figured out how to squat which meant putting my butt at an angle, aim my vagina towards the hole, and make sure to keep the pee stream from missing the hole. It was torture when I realized how full my bladder was from drinking all that damn water, and realizing no matter how much I squat in the gym, it did no prepare me for this type of squatting. In the end I did not pee on myself in the process (Yay!) and someone had the sense to bring toilet paper for all of us to use (no nasty bucket water!). Good thing is the squat toilet does not even smell awful as a Honey Bucket or God awful boy toilets. I hear the Maasai women just go where ever even while standing and talking with someone! Just creates a puddle around their feet.

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Drop it like a squat!

Previous Post: Love From The Maasai Children & Feeding Program
Next Post: Wooden Desks

Disclaimer: All links are for reference and are in no way affiliate links. I do not receive or am paid for promotion on products mentioned in this post.

Tanzanian Adventure|Love From The Maasai Children & Feeding Program

 

Update: 12/2017

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Awoken by the sound of street life outside the window of the hotel room I am sharing with another student. It would be another night of jet lag with me up at four in the morning checking my emails. Jet lag is a real deal. Breakfast was a normal fare of fruit, coffee, fried potatoes, rice, and some meat thing I yet to figure out. It seems the hotel thinks Americans must have meat at every meal every day when the opposite is true. The day ahead for me was going to be a jam-packed day into the bush with the Maasai and going to a school where the Maasai children attend to see Convoy of Hope’s child feeding program in action.

After breakfast, I loaded up into a safari jeep and endured a bumpy ride through the bush of Tanzania on red iron rich clay roads. My roommate and I found ourselves in the same jeep with four other students from our sister school Evangel University in Springfield Missouri who were all on the football team. Four football players and two little women all crammed into a safari jeep were a sight to see!

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Clich’e to say this, but I do believe I left my heart in Tanzania Africa, namely the Maasai children of Tinga (small village near the base of Mt. Longido). I cannot believe how energetic these children are when they have visitors. Hard to keep up with them at times. As soon as they were let out of their classes, they latched on to all of us and at times never let go unless forced. Some even fought over my arms and were very interested in my skin color, counting my fingers, my clothing, my hair, my backpack, and my phone which took pictures of them. Most never had seen another human look like the way some of my team members looked. The team tried to teach them a new game called four corners which turned out to chaotic.  I was one of the four corners which at one point had large waves if kids come running at me, nearly knocking me over in the process! A few of the children figured out the poking game and proceeded to poke me rather hard in the gut. It turned into all out war at one point with other team members getting poked as well. The iPhone became one tool in getting me to do crazy things for the camera. Even one of the professor’s sunglasses became popular for the children to try on.

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The main purpose of the trip to the school was to help with Convoy of Hope’s children’s feeding program setup at this school. All the students here have greatly benefited from the feeding program as well as their families. Before Convoy came, most of the student only received one meal a day. Most were in poor health due to lack of nutrients missing from their diet, having intestinal worms, and having unclean water to drink.

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Since Convoy of Hope’s program, the children have access to clean water to drink for them and their families. They now get nutritious meals at school and at home. Each of the team members had a turn at handing out the mango juice we brought for them (they have never had anything like juice before, it is very rare!), passed out the plates for the food, and ladled out fortified porridge with key nutrients along with de-worming medication for them to have. From pictures I have seen, they all look much more healthy than they did before. Also, they have greens growing in a school garden plot for other nutrients into their diet.

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The Tanzanian government has made it mandatory for all school children to have access to school and no school can turn a child away at the primary level (elementary level). This means there are more children then there is room for in the classroom, and so when we drove up to the school, some of the children were at desks outside under trees with their lessons. Just imagine children in the US having to sit outside in the elements to get an education because there is no room for them in the classroom. It would not happen, but it is a reality for most students in Tanzania. Also, Tanzania has a real shortage of certified teachers to teach students. This school in particular only has three teachers teaching up to sixty students across multiple class ages and a headmaster who has to teach as well to give every child an education. Right now there is a foundation built for a third building, but the funds to finish it are non-existence. I hope in the near future this building will be completed and all children can learn in a proper classroom.

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School building
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School building

The day was hot and dusty around the area. I even got a bad sunburn with sunblock on because of how close to the equator Tanzania is, and the fact anti-malarial drugs can cause the skin to be sensitive to sunlight. It was worth it to expereince this wonderful day with the children! Even if it means down the road I will get skin cancer (I hope not).

Previous Post:  On The Streets of Arusha W/ Convoy of Hope
Next Post:  The Maasai Women & Community

More Information:
Convoy of Hope Tanzania
Cheeky Monkey Safari Tours

Disclaimer: All links are for reference and are in no way affiliate links. I do not receive or am paid for promotion on products mentioned in this post.

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