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On our first full day in Tanzania, we had breakfast and a briefing at Moivaro Lodge, our home for the first two nights of the trip, and then we all piled into a bus for our day at Shanga & Riverhouse, about 20 minutes away.

Kindness About Shanga:

Set under the towering Acacia trees of Tanzania, East Africa, Shanga is a heartwarming project dedicated to supporting and empowering disabled community members. With breaking down obstacles for disabled Tanzanians and a commitment to environmentally sustainable business practises as its core values, Shanga is a for-profit company that raises standards. Now comprised of a bustling workshop, open-air restaurant, and three trendy boutiques, Shanga has grown exponentially from what started with one beaded necklace and a desire to help those in need.

Shanga is simply amazing. People with disabilities, some who might otherwise be tossed away or ignored by society, are empowered through art, and they make some beautiful things on-site using recycled materials. Trash is a big problem in Tanzania; people burn it, and there was plenty along the side of the road, so being able to channel that trash into beautiful merchandise goes a long way in keeping this beautiful country clean.

Before we took a tour at Shanga, we had a sign language lesson where we also learned some Swahili words. Our lesson was held on a sprawling lawn on pink and green couches made from old beds. It was a stunning, festive space, and we had a great time learning and laughing.

 

Shanga and River House After our lesson we toured Shanga’s art workshop areas and got to meet some of the artisans behind the glassware, beads, paintings, and fabrics for sale in the store.  Our guide Paul was kind and fun, and he really showed pride in the people working with him.

craft demonstration

recycled glass As we wound our way through Shanga, we marveled at beautiful decor like walls of recycled wine bottles that magnified the warm light and made a lovely noise when gently moved.

beads

Shanga Tanzania Shanga has people making beaded jewelry and cloth from recycled materials. We all fell in love with stuffed elephants made from mens’ shirts. I think we bought most of their supply for kids in our lives.

colorful cloth

weaving There was so much talent, pride, and focus in the artists at Shanga, and it was fun to watch them work.

Shanga and River House At the end of our tour, we had time to check out the on-site restaurant, which was to die for. I want to go back and have another wedding there.

River House

We left Shanga with hand blown glass Champagne flutes, stuffed elephants, and a beaded Christmas ornament to remind us of our travels, along with a major respect for the people living and working at Shanga. It was well worth the trip and an enchanting place to spend the day.

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Tags: Africa, art, charity, Tanzania, Travel, travel blog, Travel Tuesday

So up until a few weeks ago, I had never been camping. As luck would have it, my first time sleeping in a tent was in the Serengeti. Go big or go home? Oh my, in the months leading up to camping in the Serengeti, I wanted to go home. In my heart of hearts I wanted to be the brave travel blogger who wanted to do anything and everything, but man I knew my limits. So we arrived on March 4th at our Serengeti Camp, and I was in it for the duration. I guess the scariest part for me was no internet for four whole days. Panic.

Serengeti Camp

We arrived at our camp on a Thursday evening, which was overcast and cool, after a fun day all of the girls had ridden in the safari jeep together. I was pretty scared when we reached the Serengeti gate and there was nothing in every direction, for as far as we could see. I felt lost.  I really couldn’t imagine our remote home, and the lack of contact made me feel panic more than once. I wish I was braver then, but after conquering many fears, I feel stronger. I did so many things I didn’t think I could do; this trip was a huge place of growth and I am grateful for that.

campfire in the Serengeti

That said, I sucked it up and tried really hard to be at one with the Serengeti. We went on many sunrise and sunset game drives, which I absolutely loved. Seeing the sun rise and set in the Serengeti was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I soaked up every second. I loved our nightly fireside chats where we watched the Serengeti sunset, absolutely in awe of our opportunity.

Serengeti sunset

It’s hard to be afraid when nature is holding you so closely. Look at the photo below, the sunrise and moonset as we get ready for another Serengeti morning game drive.

Serengeti moonset

Serengeti sunrise

Serengeti sunset

Serengeti sunset

Serengeti camp snacks

Serengeti camping

Truth be told, our Overseas Adventure Travel Serengeti Camp was absolutely amazing and not exactly roughing it. Our tents were spacious and lovely, with full beds, flush toilets, showers, and an absolutely amazing staff. The tents were so comfy that even I, terrified at all of the wildlife sounds, slept most of the time fairly well. But wildlife was all around! Due to the lack of rain in the rainy season, our first night was marked by the moo of wildebeests, which sounded like 1,000 snoring men all night long. I thought that was annoying, but in the nights that followed, we were kept awake by lions, leopards, and hyenas. Each night, our camp staff walked us back to our tents, and they would shine a flashlight into the bush, revealing glowing eyes of very large, very wild cats. It was beautiful, exciting, but yes, scary. The first time I heard lions I was terrified. By the last night, I found myself hoping the lions would visit. In all honesty, I miss their low groans and roars.

Serengeti camp

We were truly spoiled at camp, with a staff so knowledgeable and attentive, comfy beds, and amazing food. On our final day we toured the kitchen, which pulled out multi-course meals with the help of solar and a generator for us every night. The food and wine every day were SO GOOD. Veggies, soups, and dishes like coconut chicken filled us and made us really happy. It was incredible what the camp staff did with so little, and amazing to see the acacia trees with thorns they used to keep wild animals away. There were literally hyenas and baboons hanging out outside our camp looking at the food tent waiting for something, but there was no luck for them!

Our Serengeti camp staff took such great care of us, from bringing us hot water before sunrise to wash our faces to helping us with our five gallon showers, to bringing us to our tents safely every night, surrounded by wild animals. By the end of four days they felt like family, and I can hardly express the love we felt for them. It wasn’t an easy task to make this city girl feel at home in the middle of nowhere, much less make her want to come back again and again, but that’s exactly what happened. I want to go camping in the Serengeti every year for the rest of my life, if camping is like this!

food in Tanzania

Serengeti camp kitchen

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Tags: Africa, camping, outdoors, Serengeti, Tanzania, Travel, travel blog

Our trip to Tanzania wasn’t all  game drives and luxury lodges (though I have plenty more to share on that front); it was a truly well-rounded itinerary that exposed us to local culture through art, food, and most importantly, introduction to people. The Maasai people are commonly seen throughout Northern Tanzania; as we drove through the country and even small towns, their signature red cloth punctuated the landscape. We passed many Maasai villages, made up of straw and mud huts called bomas, and as we traveled, we learned about their marriage practices (where men can have multiple wives), their cattle raising (which is where their wealth lies), and some of the challenges they face in our modern world. Part of our program was then spending part of a day in a Maasai village to learn about daily life and customs.

Masai Village

 

Masai Boma

 

Upon our arrival, we met the village chief and learned how he battled a lion to earn his standing in the village. The chief, Lbulu, was well-regarded and quite progressive, working toward education and opposed to female genital mutilation, which is an ongoing practice in Maasai cultures.

Masai Village Tanzania

We also met the village elder on the right. It’s hard to tell by looking at him, but the man on the right is 99 years old!

After our introduction, some of our group went with the Maasai men to kill a goat, which our group bought for the village. I decided not to participate and instead wandered around and met a few adorable children. When the goat was killed and the men drank the blood (blood and milk make up much of their diet), our group was split in two; the men went off to prepare the goat for barbeque and the women were each welcomed by a Maasai woman.

Maasai boy

Maasai Village

Masai women

Maasai Village

This woman was my guide for the morning. She greeted me and brought me to learn the art of basket making, one of the ways Maasai women pass their days and a way that they earn money. I was terrible at it, but it was interesting to learn! Some of the other women in the group  made beaded jewelry.

crafting in a Maasai Village

Maasai women

And then we were all dressed in vibrant red cloth and beaded collars for singing, dancing, jumping, and activities like carrying sticks on our heads and thatching a boma roof.

Maasai Warriors

Jumping and dancing are a huge part of Maasai culture, and we were moving for quite some time. I’m still processing some of my video, but I will share the songs at a later time. It was loud and boisterous. The Maasai are a physically expressive people, and there was a lot of them holding our hands and touching us. If I am being honest, it was a little uncomfortable for me. It was really hot, and we didn’t entirely understand what was going on due to language barriers. The woman I was paired with was pretty aggressive about holding my hand, even when I tried to let go, and shy or not, there was no way I was getting away without dancing in the circle. . .

jumping Maasai Warrior

Maasai Village

Masai carrying objects on head

As bad as I was at basket-weaving, I was about 100 times worse at carrying a giant stick on my head. I didn’t feel great the day we visited the Maasai, and being that we were standing for several hours and it was in the 90′s, I was not at my best when this stick was placed on my pounding head. I opted not to climb on the boma to help thatch the roof, but I was super proud of the other ladies with me who did.  After we finished our activities, we went inside a boma, which is basically as simple as it looks from the outside. There was a makeshift wooden wall creating an area for a bed and a fence that cuts off the area where the animals stay. Yes, animals come right inside the hut for the night! The floors were mud, and it was incredibly hot inside. The walls were decorated in interesting paintings which were fun to look at, but to be honest, I couldn’t wait to get outside.
Maasai boma art

Our final activity at the Maasai village included optional consumption of the goat that had been killed earlier in the morning. I decided not to have any, since the poor goat was baaing for its life when we arrived, and instead I went to look at the spread of jewelry the women had out. They do a beautiful job of creating crafts, which helps to boost their economy and gives them a small connection to the outside world.

Our day with the Maasai then wrapped up, and after an intense morning I think we were all a little relieved to go. The Maasai people were very welcoming and warm, and their culture and way of life are interesting, but it was definitely extremely different than what we are used to. Spending the morning in the village was outside my comfort zone, which is a place where the best learning takes place. I am glad that I experienced everything that we did that day, but there were definitely moments of anxiety along the way!

 

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Tags: adventure, Africa, culture, living, Maasai, Masai, Tanzania, Travel, travel blogger, tribe, village, wanderlust

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