Marjolijn visits Tanzania, October 2020

25 October 2020

Marjolijn was in Tanzania during corona time. Read her blog here.

October 25, morning

At Schiphol and on the way to Tanzania, where it is nice to be. Where nature is at its best, where there is space and where people long for tourism and some income. I’m going to show you all of that in the coming days. We are all in the same Corona boat, there should be no limits. Travel sensibly, think about your fellow man, stick to the rules and travel well prepared. This is how we help each other on this beautiful globe.

[Foto credit Jean du Plessis]

October 25
From Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro. The destination that I have been flying all my life, since I was 2 years old, when my parents took me and my sister Marloes to Tanzania where we have lived for 13 years and thoroughly enjoyed it. That’s where my roots are. And now I’m on my way home in our blue pride (KLM). It is “normal” for me to fly to Kilimanjaro. I don’t mean to sound blasé, it is just a route that I have enjoyed flying for 40 years (how lucky I am!). This is comfortable, happy hormones :)

I just looked out the window, we are already over Africa, and suddenly there are tears. I’m a bit shocked because I don’t know why. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, some clouds are almost transparent and others are pure white. It is so beautiful. Literally I fly above all the misery that takes place down there in our world. I suddenly realize how I have been able to travel in complete freedom all these years, how different the world now looks with eyes and masks. With limitations. How that which was taken for granted no longer is… not yet.

Frustration and sadness have actually been there in recent months. But I also realize that we are fine despite everything. We have to eat and drink and are healthy.
The crew at Schiphol is very nice, at the sandwich shops you can sit with a cup of coffee. Most people give each other space (as it should be in my opinion anyway).

I can still board a plane and travel to “Orange Tanzania” just fine. The RIVM codes Tanzania orange, but why? Easy, everything outside of Europe on Orange. Maybe because it is less known? This makes some people convulsive and may make strange choices. May I then give the advice about Tanzania? Me with my colleagues? As experts by experience? You will think commercially…. but my personal motivation at Explore Tanzania has always had a greater social purpose. For the people we work with in Tanzania, for the income it generates for their families, relatives and fellow villagers, and the nature that you protect with it. The rich experience that you can give travelers broadens their view of this beautiful world. I would very much like to show everyone that we can and are allowed to travel to these beautiful parts of the world!

October 27 – Moshi

My journey starts with 2 days in Moshi town at the foot of Kilimanjaro. Here I meet with Daniel who organizes all the climbs for us. Years ago he was my guide. A highly educated man, informative and well organized. We visit his office and a number of hotels before starting a Kilimanjaro climb. They all adhere to the measures that must be taken in terms of hygiene. With our visit they get hope for more tourism. Their hospitality is heart-warming.
We drive to the green village of Marangu at the foot of Kilimanjaro. Forests, red clay soil, streams, smiling people selling their wares on the street. So wonderful to be here and see the positivity. This is Chagga tribe area; proud people that are known for agriculture in this fertile area. I visit ancient caves where people hid from the Maasai, all stories come to life.
Once at the top I get an explanation about the coffee process. From tree to ground bean to the tastiest cup of coffee I’ve ever had. 2 kg will go home! Then we are invited for a delicious lunch, prepared by the ladies from the village who have been busy since this morning.
Sustainable tourism … visiting places where people talk about with pride and passion and where you know that the money will go to these hardworking and lovely people. Let’s travel again!

October, 28,  2020 – Serengeti
Together with James and Jean I leave from Arusha to Serengeti National Park. It is a 7 hour drive to the middle of the Serengeti where we spend the night at Kubu Kubu Tented Lodge.
There are elections today, so it is quiet on the road. There is a good chance that the current president will be in power for another five years, no matter what …
We drive past Lake Manyara National Park where I have never seen the water level so high, it has rained a lot in recent months. We’ll be back here in three days and I can get a closer look.
Then we drive over the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater. There is only one car at the point where you have a particularly beautiful view of the crater. Normally people come and go at this natural wonder.

We continue our safari to the vast plains of the Serengeti. One of my favorite places in the world, because you can see so infinitely far. It’s dry and warm. We see a few Maasai herders and their livestock. On this dusty main road where you usually pass many cars, we now see three. Nice and quiet actually. But when you consider the consequences this has for all who depend on tourism, this is disastrous.
Hundreds of kilometers of only nature and masses of animals. Covid-19 is far away again. I hope that all corona problems are over and that we only travel in a decent way. And by that I mean by environmentally conscious and socially involved organizations that opt for quality, nature conservation and respect for this country.

Once we arrive at Kubu Kubu Tented Lodge, our temperature is measured and we have to disinfect our hands. It is a lodge with 25 tent houses on an area the size of three football fields. With a semi-open restaurant the size of a large cinema room. Partly closed with mosquito net so you can feel the constant breeze. I’m not the biggest fan of larger lodges, because I miss the real safari feeling a bit here. But it is a nice place to stay if you want a pool for the night. During dinner I reminisce about old memories with James. We have been working together since the establishment of Explore Tanzania. After a good meal I crawl under the wool to the sound of howling hyenas and roaring lions in the background.

October 29 – Serengeti

Today we go out to see different lodges. But first our lunch package is made. Unfortunately in plastic … point for improvement.
We drive to another lodge of the same owner in about an hour; Lahia Tented Lodge. The same setup, but on a hill in the west of Serengeti National Park. Here too we wash our hands ‘broken’. There are no other tourists. The few who slept there last night are already on safari in their own jeep. We take a look at the entire lodge and talk to the managers.
An hour in the other direction to Sound of Silence. A smaller camp with eleven tents. Also very spacious safari tents with plenty of space around you. I get a neat tour from the ladies. The camp itself is very tidy and the crew very friendly. But I would like a little more atmosphere. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a place feel great. So also here a little improvement point.

At the end of the morning we drive back to central Serengeti where we sleep in a classic safari camp. What does that mean? A number of tents (in this case ten) that are set up on a “special campsite”. Imagine a designated piece of terrain (without fences) at a campsite, where you as an organization can set up a camp. At the end of the season, the camp is completely decamped again, and if they have done their job well, you will not see anything anymore. Maybe a few more footsteps, but they will also disappear. This is one of the few tented camps open at the moment. Many organizations have had to decide to close their camps. The logistics costs are simply too high to keep them open. It is painful to see, because these camps do so well in the community. In addition, all those people who have been at home without work since March, and often without income.

We are welcomed with happy faces by the three crew members. This is the way to spend the night that makes a true safari, as far as I am concerned. The cozy family feeling and living outdoors. Spacious canvas tents with private sanitary facilities, paths with solar-powered lanterns, a thatched hut under a fig tree where you can enjoy the view. A small bar with hot and cold drinks. Animal and bird sounds in the background, friendly and happy people and a campfire … in short, the real and comfortable outdoor life.
We sleep very well!

October 30 – Serengeti
Today we drive from central Serengeti to north Serengeti. A travel time of approximately 4 hours if you drive directly. But along the way one sees so many beautiful things that you often have to stop to view the animals and enjoy a nice lunch in a nice spot. We stop on the banks of the Mara river, where hundreds of wildebeest are contemplating whether to cross the river. We park the car under a tree for some shade and grab our lunch. The wildebeest have unfortunately not chosen a very convenient place to cross, because it is a high and steep edge. After half an hour they wisely decide to turn around.
We also planed to take a look at Chaka Camp, but unfortunately it turns out to be closed due to a lack of guests. So we continue to Mara River Tented Lodge where we will sleep tonight. It is a luxury lodge with whoppers of tents. A large bedroom with sitting area, terrace, bathroom with bath and an outdoor shower. There is also a swimming pool. And from the restaurant – with a surrounding terrace – you have a beautiful view over the plains.

October 31 – Serengeti naar Manyara
At 6 a.m. I open my eyes and I see the light outside. In Tanzania I always sleep with the awnings open, only mesh. Because then you can see this (->) in the morning. How nice is that? I sit outside to watch the sunrise. Awesome! Silence reigns everywhere and slowly that large golden yellow sphere rises above the Serengeti. At the same time, there are about 100 wildebeests in front of my tent… this is so beautiful!

After a great breakfast we drive to the airstrip for the flight from Serengeti to Lake Manyara. This runway is pretty quiet by the way, we are the only passengers. We first fly above the Mara River and the green hills of Northern Serengeti. Then the landscape changes into endless plains of South Serengeti. We are flying above the Ngorongoro Crater and I count 18 cars. They will enjoy the many animals they see there!

We land at Lake Manyara Airport and drive into Mto wa Mbu to pick up supplies for Green Camp Manyara.

Lake Manyara National Park consists of a lake, many birds, monkeys, forests, (underground) streams and many animals. But it has rained so much in recent months that much of the park is now underwater. Previously, you could also drive on the grasslands on the shore of the lake. That part is now completely gone. New roads have been created to be able to go on safari. It is bizarre to see how rain changes nature so much.

The next three days we will stay at Green Camp Manyara. And almost all guides we work with also come. The goal is to have a good time together, a kind of team building, but without assignments. To brainstorm about these difficult tourism times and come up with new ideas to generate income for these people who depend on tourism.

George, James, Aloyce, Zeph, Joseph, Emmanuel, Vincent (the chief) and Nuru (camp manager). Unfortunately, Prim and Leonard have other commitments. In the afternoon around 5 pm the guides arrive at the Green Camp. You can hear that from afar because they are so happy to see each other. I walk over to them and they scream that we’re together again. Joy everywhere! And suddenly I see someone coming from behind the trees. Is that Odilia ???? Yes… it is my colleague Odilia! “SURPRIIIIISE” they all scream! All these days they have kept this from me and denied her coming. Great that she is here.

It is dusk, the moon illuminates the area. We all sit by the kitchen and share stories, chat, laugh … I have a stomach ache with laughter. Tanzanians are such wonderful people. They are open, chat downright with each other and have a certain type of humor that I really enjoy.
We end the day together at the large candlelit table on the river bed where we have a bite to eat. We have a few beautiful days ahead.

November 1 – Lake Manyara

We spend the day with all the guides. We interview them all so that we can make videos of them.

In the afternoon we will go on a short safari to Maji Moto Hotsprings. Along the way we share stories with each other and laugh a lot. We see a few buffaloes and zebras, impalas and birds. The footbridge that was there has been completely washed away by the many rains. The water in the lake is very high, so there are few places to go on safari. But the experience at Green Camp Manyara is so special that this remains a great place!

In the evening we all eat “back of house” … near the kitchen. The men all love “njama choma”, meat from the grill. It has been on the fire all afternoon and we all enjoy it around a small table. It soon becomes very pleasant. Chef Vincent has prepared a delicious meal and after the meat as “starter” we continue eating. All kinds of stories about past safaris and experiences emerge. It’s so nice to see everyone so happy. We are all a family, with the same passion and purpose, it really feels like that.

November 3- Arusha

My day of departure has unfortunately already arrived. After a heartfelt goodbye we drive away from Green Camp Manyara. On the way we come very close to a beautiful elephant. It is a few meters from us and is so impressive! Grand, calm, confident, caring … He will not let himself be fooled, as long as we respect him and give him space. I think he is a figurehead for the country and our society.

I reflect on the past week and come to the conclusion that Tanzania is safe and certainly not worthy of Code Orange. All major airlines fly to it, for good reason. Life is good there. I have experienced that in the past few days. The people are happy, despite all the financial challenges that exist now. They remain cheerful and believe that everything is fine and will be fine. They are healthy and use this time to learn and be there for each other.

The average age of the Tanzanian population is 18 (!) Years; a fit group of people who mainly live outside. People have a healthy lifestyle, it is warm and agriculture provides sufficient food in many places. People live outside a lot and have plenty of space. As a traveler you spend a lot of time outdoors and travel completely privately, with your own car and regular guide.

What to do this winter?
For anyone who can go on vacation and want to escape the winter for a while, this has to be the best place on earth to go. It’s safe, warm, lots of space and silence. In the coming years, you will no longer experience being all alone a spectator of the mass migration of wildebeests. An additional advantage is that there is a lot of availability, so you can leave within a short period of time.
Do you want that small-scale lodge and a tent in the middle of nature? Take a break with your family and enjoy a safe and healthy Christmas holiday together!

And assume from the experience expert, I can wholeheartedly recommend everyone to go to Tanzania.

Stay healthy! Afya mwema, Marjolijn