Monday, October 14, 2013

On Safari

There are a lot of pictures here.  Just warning you in advance!

I am incredibly blessed to be where I am.  I have said this many times.  This past week, I became even more aware of the blessings I have, and even more thankful for all of you who are supporting me.  One week ago, Sarah Robrecht and I traveled to Arusha to go on a safari.  Sarah is another American missionary working at CAMS.  We were both excited to see some animals, so we planned our safari together.

When we were beginning to plan our safari, we talked with other teachers at CAMS to see what they had done and get some suggestions from them.  One of the teachers told us that she had taken a trip last year with a company called It Started in Africa and had an amazing time.  After checking with a couple of companies, we decided to go with them.  They offered what we considered the best trip, for the most reasonable cost.  We were very happy with our decision.  It was great!

Our MAF pilot, and CAMS parent, Andrew Parker. 
We also took her suggestion and flew up from Dodoma to Arusha.  There are no commercial flights out of the Dodoma airport, but there is another missionary organization here called MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) that makes regular weekly trips on Mondays.  Our decision to fly only one way was based on a couple of factors.  First of all, the cost of flying both ways wasn’t justifiable.  It was great to be able to support MAF by taking the flight up, and the cost was really reasonable.  Unfortunately, the cost of a bus ticket is much less.  We also didn’t want to have to stay in Arusha for the extra two nights in order to get the flight back to Dodoma.  As I said before, they only make weekly flights, so we would have had to wait until Monday instead of coming back on Saturday.  The other aspect was that Sarah wanted to be able to experience a Tanzanian bus ride.  She has worked previously in the Philippines and Cameroon, but wanted to have the bus experience here as well. 

I had the realization on our flight to Arusha that I am not living the life I ever would have expected for myself.  Flying in a small plane over baobab trees above a fluffy blanket of clouds directly toward Mt. Meru with Mt. Kilimanjaro out the window was a surreal experience.  This is the kind of thing you see on TV or you hear of someone doing.  Here I was living it.  Words failed me, but I couldn’t stop smiling!

Our safari company met us at the airport and we drove first to their office before being dropped off at our hotel.  We rode in the car through the main part of Arusha, then into the part of town I’m sure is not meant for tourist eyes.  We turned off of the nice paved road onto a dirt road full of pot holes.  Small shops lined each side, and as we continued turning corners, the roads got more and more narrow.  The road just before the office was so narrow that there was room for one vehicle to pass, narrowly missing the pedestrians.  The office was surrounded by a brick wall and as we drove through the gate, I saw a sight that I’m sure can be found all over the world.  One of the safari vehicles was sitting in front of the office with the hood up and two men working under it.  One was sitting in the driver’s seat revving the engine, and about 8 were standing around watching them.  Just one little reminder that this world is not so far off from the one I know much better.

After talking about our safari and settling on our price, we stopped at an ATM on the way to our hotel.  There is no such thing as a checkbook in Tanzania, and almost no companies take credit or debit cards.  This meant that we paid for our safari with cash in a way that felt odd.  In the US, paying with large amounts of cash feels wrong, but it is normal here.  The largest denomination that you can get in Tanzania is 10,000TSH, which is about $6.75 and meant that we gave our safari company a large pile of money.

Our hotel was just down the street from the “clock tower” which marks the geographical center of Africa.  We walked down for a photo shoot and to find some lunch.  Our hotel also had a restaurant, so we ate dinner there the first night, and the cost of the room included breakfast.  After breakfast, we packed up our things, and met our safari drivers in the lobby.  Emmanuel was our guide and Ziere was our driver.  They were great and it amazed us to see what they could spot while driving.  Their eyes were amazing!
We started off visiting Tarangire National Park.  Tarangire is known for its elephant population, and it didn’t disappoint.  We saw more elephants there than we did at any of the other places we visited.  We also learned that it is currently the dry season here, which is good for seeing animals in this park.  There is a river that runs through the park that animals visit and they can eat the grasses and plants around the area.  In the rainy season, the soil become too moist and the animals can get bacteria in their hooves because of the type of soil here.  Here are some pictures from here.












On the second day of our safari, we ventured into Lake Manyara National Park.  Here, we saw flamingos from a distance, blue monkeys, baboons, impala, and other animals.  We were so close to one elephant that we were starting to make him nervous.  He let out a trumpet and started toward our Land Rover.  I don’t think he was going into a full charge, but it was enough to make me sit down in my seat, instead of peeking out the top!

The third day was spent in the Ngorongoro Crater.  The crater is the world’s largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera.  As we drove up the side and then down into the crater, we thought nothing could top the things we had seen the last two days.  Boy, were we wrong!  There were SO many animals gathered there!  We were able to see things we hadn’t seen the days before.  We saw a total of 8 lions, several Thompson’s Gazelle, flamingos close enough you could tell what they were in the pictures, hippos hanging out in a pool, and even saw a rare black rhino (from a distance.)  This was possibly the best wildlife viewing day of them all.

Our last day was spent with a relaxing morning at Haven Nature, the campsite where we had spent the past 3 nights.  Then, we went to a Maasai market to buy a few souvenirs and on to a Maasai village.  We were welcomed by the Maasai with a welcome dance, then shown around the small village, and into one of their houses.  It was a great experience.

Our driver joined in the welcome dance.  I think he's seen one or two before...

She is SOOO cute!

Making fire.

The chief's son showed us around.

Inside the hut.

Ziere sitting on the kids' bed.  Apparently, it sleeps 4.

Through all of this, I couldn’t help but think about the reason I’m here.  I would have never been able to have this great experience if it wasn’t for YASC and all of my supporters back home.  While I didn’t use any of my YASC money to fund the trip, I never would have made such a long trip for such a short adventure, and it would have been too much of a financial strain if I wasn’t already in the country.  I didn’t spend one single day of my safari without thinking about all of you who have made it possible.  As I said before, I am incredibly blessed, and very thankful for the opportunities I have had.  THANK YOU!


  1. Your pictures are amazing! I can't help but think they would make a great calendar - you could have the next several years covered with all these pictures - and could remember this adventure for a very long time! So glad you had the chance to go and experience all this. - Mom

  2. Heidi, your pictures are so great!!! I can't believe how many animals you saw!

  3. Incredible pictures of an amazing experience! I hope it was everything that you dreamed of!