Giraffes on the airstrip


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Africa » Tanzania » South
September 22nd 2011
Published: October 6th 2011
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Today we flew from Dar es Salaam to Ruaha in the Iringa region in the southern part of Tanzania. This was after 24 hours or so of transit from Washington, DC the day before, with just 10 hours at the hotel to sleep and get us back together. But I was so excited I didn’t care.

We took a little 12-seater plane into the bush, making several stops between Dar and our airstrip in Ruaha. At one point we had to circle the airstrip a couple of times to wait for some giraffes to get out of the way. At that point I knew this was going to be a crazy adventure.

All of the up and down and turbulence in the plane made me airsick, something that has never happened to me before. Nothing like getting ill on a tiny plane while sitting on top of other people! But I jumped out as soon as we landed, gargled some water, and was met by our guide that would be with us for the next few days.

Our guide was a young guy, probably no more than 22 years old, who had just graduated from college with a degree in tourism and wildlife. He took his job very seriously. Our driver was an older guy who had been doing this work for a while. After waiting for our park entrance fees to be cleared (about an hour of Tanzanians standing around a computer), we drove 2 hours to the camp. We saw lots of elephants and impala along the way. Our guide called them “bush McDonalds” because of the black arches across their behinds and the fact that there are lots of them for lions to snack on for a quick bite. The giraffes would pause from munching on leaves to stare at us with curiosity as we drove past.

We stayed at Mdonya River Camp. There were 10 tents, which were rather nice. We had no electricity, but running water and a flushing toilet, full sized bed and a desk. But this camp was in the middle of nowhere, so we were told animals would come walking right through it in the middle of the night. You were not allowed to walk around by yourself at night; you had to be accompanied by a Masai armed with a powerful flashlight, a stick, and a knife in his belt. This was a “real African bush” experience, which was what we wanted. While the Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater are the most famous safari sites in Tanzania, the southern circuit is just as beautiful but far less crowded. It’s often just you and the animals, not 50 other vehicles trying to catch a glimpse of a lion.

At around 5pm we went out with the driver and guide again for a sunset safari. We parked the Land Rover on the crest of a hill where we could drink Kilimanjaro and watch the sunset over the bush. It was gorgeous!

When we got back to camp, we had a drink around the camp fire and chatted with the other guests—a Swedish couple, a few British couples, an Italian woman who was a camp manager nearby, and an Australian woman who was the manager of this particular camp. Dinner was at a communal table. We sat out under the star-studded sky eating African dishes, swapping stories from the day, and discussing AIDS in Africa and healthcare systems in different countries. It was an amazing night.



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