For the past week and a half, we spent a magical time in Tanzania on a family expedition with National Geographic. I have so many stories to tell from our time there that I’ve decided to break it up into several posts.
Our first day we hit the ground running, and were picked up at our hotel near the airport in Arusha, Tanzania bright and early. We took a van to the small Arusha airport and got to know the other families on the trip with us. There were several kids the same age as ours, so there was a lot of excitement.
Our girls were the only girls on the trip! Fortunately the boys were very friendly and inclusive.
We spend about an hour at the Arusha airport, which is really just a couple small buildings and a landing strip.
Then we boarded one of the tiniest planes I’ve ever been on, and we were off to the remote Serengeti.
We landed in the middle of the plains on a patch of grass! Our National Geographic guides were there waiting for us, and we departed for our campsites. We would be camping in the eastern Serengeti for two nights, and then camping in the central Serengeti for another three night.
I was a little apprehensive about the camping part. It’s a long time to camp, and we don’t have much experience. But National Geographic pulled out all the stops and made tent camping a truly luxurious experience. There was a main living room tent where we could gather, and the adults could have a drink while the kids played games.
Our tents included real, comfortable beds and nice linens. We had one tent for the girls and another for the boys.
There was no electricity or running water, but we had a gravity shower, a camping toilet, and a nice bathroom area.
The girls loved the no-plumbing system of washing up and asked to have this kind of bathroom in our new house. Um, I think I will stick with plumbing. But this was perfect for camping.
Another area of concern I had on this trip was food. Two people in my family are gluten-free and one of my kids is extremely picky. But I was pleased to find that on the family trips, a separate kids meal is offered, including typical kid fare like plain pasta and french fries.
We had a meal and relaxed in the main tent for an hour or so before setting off on our first adventure.
Our first destination was to visit a village of Massai people to learn more about their culture, but it’s impossible to drive through the Serengeti without running into some animals. Our first sighting was a group of giraffes.
We arrived at the village, where the children were very excited to see us and especially to interact with the kids.
Despite the language barrier, they all had fun saying “hello” in a new language and telling each other their names. My girls taught them a couple group games that they thought were hilarious.
This is them learning “Down By The Banks.”
They were also more than a little obsessed with touching and playing with my blonde girls’ hair. Most Massai women wear their hair very short, and I don’t think they’ve seen many people with hair this color.
My girls were great sports about it and giggled as they gathered around.
Of course, my boys were less of a fascination, being that their hair and skin was quite familiar. In fact, it’s hard to even tell Jafta apart from the locals.
(Cue that song from Sesame Street about how one of these kids is doing his own thing.)
We had a lot of fun in the village, laughing and trying to communicate with the sweet Massai kids. The day ended with the villagers demonstrating some of their traditional dances, and inviting us to join in.
These ladies – talk about spicy! They spoke no English but still had us cracking up. It was clear they loved having visitors, and they were not about to let us leave until each one of us danced with them.
It was a fun and meaningful afternoon and I think we all left feeling a new sense of kinship with this people group who seemed so different from us, but at their core, valued the same things . . . laughter, family, hard work, and having fun.