Exploring The Serengeti

The next put up is by Walker Lukens, my good buddy who’s now a contributing author on Maiden Voyage. He’s at present on a month-long journey in Africa. Make sure to try his final put up about visiting the Maasai. 

Dawn from the Kirawira Tented Lodge

Set into the facet of a big plateau, Kirawira’s ‘tents’ are in actual fact extra like cabins with canvas roofs. They’ve full bogs, snug beds and porches with epic views of the Serengeti under. Sitting on the porch, my mother states that we’re staying in paradise and that she might dwell right here, or alternately ‘simply die right here now.’

In a lot as it is a ‘tented’ lodge and one would count on rugged lodging visitors are required to stroll, however just about every little thing else is taken care of. Tanzanians wearing all-white attend to all of your wants. Upon arriving I ask how late the bar stays open and am instructed that it will likely be open so long as I would like. At evening, visitors are accompanied to and from their ‘tents’ by males with flashlights. Now this does serve a necessity, as there are wild animals throughout the lodge, however I really doubt the utility of this. Will this man sacrifice himself to a giant cat for me? Will he have the ability to give me knowledgeable recommendation on this heated second? You run, proper?

The Lodge is filled with well-to-do Europeans. There’s a German household of eight or extra who we see each evening at dinner. The person sitting on the finish of the desk is a health care provider and he speaks pretty good Kiswahili. This leads us to consider he’s right here with a company like Docs With out Borders. Different teams communicate little to no Kiswahili and heavily-accented English. The Tanzanians right here who work as servers, concierges, and receptionists communicate glorious English and have little hassle alternating between English spoken by Spanish, Italian, or Germans. As an English trainer, I’ve needed to clarify to many demoralized college students that it’s additionally troublesome for native audio system to talk with individuals with completely different accents, which makes me very impressed with the Tanzanians.

‘Welcome’ has the identical which means in Kiswahili because it does it in English, however it’s used way more typically in Tanzanian tradition. You’re welcomed to the lodge, welcomed to your room, welcomed to a retailer, welcomed to the bar, welcomed to the meal you’re about to eat. I’ve been welcomed to Tanzania by each single Tanzanian I conversed with for greater than a minute—normally after they’d already welcomed me to their retailer, cab, resort, barstool or seashore. It’s not the casual ‘welcome’ or ‘you’re welcome’ however the entire mouthful, ‘you might be welcome to…’ It’s a captivating attribute. As soon as my Kiswahili improved, I seen Tanzanians doing the identical factor with one another.

We’re welcomed to dinner every evening by servers who wish to know our names and ask us about our safari through the day. Dinner is a sublime affair. There are programs and the French and Italian themed menu adjustments each day. Moreover the massive number of South African wine, you’d don’t know you have been consuming outdoors of a western nation. The meals just isn’t good precisely, however the Western type and environment has been meticulously reproduced. I’m completely amazed that this—the meals, the service and the rooms—exist right here, which ought to present you the way naïve I used to be about tourism in Africa.

The lodging are imagined to make one really feel as snug as attainable they usually undoubtedly accomplish that objective. The place high-end accommodations in large Western cities are within the enterprise of distilling their tradition right down to one thing easy and splendid for you, high-end Tanzanian accommodations attempt to make it as simple as attainable so that you can not discover their very own. We’re right here to see animals in spite of everything, proper?

Majestic elephant within the savanna

My mom has been working in a small village outdoors of the capital metropolis, Dodoma. Her daily is fairly rustic, particularly compared to what one is used to within the states. You possibly can’t drink the water. Her bathe piping is so coated with limescale that with the intention to bathe, it’s important to fill a bucket and pour it over your head. (It takes a few minutes to fill the bucket every time.) You sleep underneath a mosquito internet. You’re taking as soon as every week journeys to city for provides. There aren’t any handy shops to talk of. I don’t wish to make her sound like a complainer in any respect; she knew what she was signing up for, however she’s labored exhausting and this trip is precisely what she wanted.

I, then again, really feel uncomfortable being this pampered. I particularly really feel this manner staying someplace during which not a single Tanzanian can be staying. Ryszard Kapuscinski writes in Travels with Herodotus about his first journey to India within the 50s. Upon leaving his resort for the primary time, he refuses to rent one of many many rickshaw drivers ready for him (they’ve heard {that a} westerner is on the town. They don’t know that he’s from a poor communist nation.) He writes: “the very concept of sprawling comfortably in a rickshaw pulled by a hungry, weak waif of a person with one foot already within the grave stuffed me with the utmost revulsion, outrage, horror. To be an exploiter?…By no means….They have been astounded –what was I doing? That they had been relying on me, in spite of everything. I used to be their solely likelihood, their solely hope—if just for a bowl of rice.”

The Tanzanians working right here on the lodge aren’t as destitute because the Indians that Kapuscinski describes, however the circumstances are comparable. As a vacationer, as somebody with sufficient cash to journey for leisure, as somebody doing mission work, you belong to an irreconcilably completely different a part of society in Tanzania. Your cash and the privilege that means that you can come right here won’t ever be forgotten by the locals. Working in a resort like it is a nice job in Tanzania (as is being a information for safaris.) Lodge workers work for 2 months at a time, typically very removed from their properties. Each jobs indicate that you simply’re effectively educated and you can help a household of your personal. This sort of tourism is a crucial a part of the economic system right here. (it’s an enormous a part of the GDP.  Certainly, we are welcome and do really feel snug. (It’s good in spite of everything.) Nothing mentioned or achieved right here or via out my keep within the Serengeti has precipitated this. There’s no palpable sense of resentment. It’s that the Tanzanians right here aren’t my friends. We’re not the identical age. We don’t have something like the identical background. When you don’t have any widespread floor like, say, faculty, music, sports activities, then every little thing feels extra international and unusual. The disparity feels larger than it’s.

After two nights, we’ll change to a different resort, Bilila Lodge Kempinski. It’s in one other locale however its one other model of this. 


The Serengeti is roughly egg-shaped, a reality obscured by nationwide park and worldwide borders. Within the Maasai language, Siringet means ‘limitless plain’ and it really is an limitless expanse of land, traditionally inhospitable to non-nomadic teams of people (the tsetse flies have stored most teams from settling there.) Famously, it’s house to the most important mammalian migrations on the planet.

I’d heard that statistic earlier than however failed to grasp the immensity and intricacy of what I used to be listening to till this week. 2.5 million animals transfer in the identical clockwise sample, yr after yr. They’re after recent grass and observe just a few weeks or months behind seasonal rains. When it’s raining within the north (11-2 o’clock,) they’re feasting within the south (7 o’clock.) Once they’ve exhausted these grasslands, they head north, slowing working their approach east (from 10, handed 12, in the direction of 2.) Finally, they have to head again South (4 or 5 o’clock) and the cycle continues time and again. (Ngorongoro is simply east of 4 o’clock and Kirawira lodge is at about 7 or 8 o’clock.) That is actually solely the start of what’s unbelievable concerning the migration—by returning to roughly the identical locations at roughly the identical time, the migrating animals put together the land for regrowth and feed predators. The migrants, along with non-migratory animals, bugs, naturally occurring forest fires, and seasonal rains make attainable a 12,000 sq. mile haven for the most important mammals on earth! (You need to be studying this in your finest David Attenborough, by the best way.)

Small Herd of Wildebeest in Ngorongoro Crator

The wildebeest, roughly two thirds of the migrants, discover freshwater simply whereas zebras can detect when predators are close by. Thus, consciously or unconsciously, they journey collectively making the journey simpler for one another. Zebras desire taller grasses and by consuming them up, make it simpler for the wildebeest to get to the shorter grasses they like. Wildebeests, Zebras, Gazelles and the remainder of the migrants until the soil with their hooves. All that grass and freshwater doesn’t disappear as soon as it’s consumed—manure-covered and urine-soaked, worn-out grasslands rapidly regenerate as soon as the rains come.

Cheetahs observe the herds, however lions and leopards, who’re territorial, don’t and due to this fact have a ‘fine-dining’ season yearly when the herds move by. Crocodiles may solely eat as soon as yr when herds are compelled to cross one in all three rivers alongside the best way.

Noticed this household of elephants from the patio of our room on the Bililia Lodge. See what they’ll do to bushes?

Seasonal fires and elephants additionally play a significant position in sustaining the Serengeti. Elephants strip bushes, break branches and devour all out there leafage and seedlings. Forest fires do a lot the identical factor. Timber are just about fireplace resistant, however their seedlings aren’t. (Herds of cattle, like these of the Maasai, additionally used to play a significant half.) Thus, these forces assist keep the savanna. With the decimation of elephant populations within the 70s and 80s, the management of forest fires by man in recent times and the expulsion of nomadic teams, the woodland areas of the southern Serengeti have expanded north. (For extra detailed details about savannas and the way they’re maintained, go right here.)


Every day right here within the Serengeti begins about 6:30. We eat breakfast and head out on safari. Resorts present packed lunches for his or her visitors or you may select to return to the resort to eat. Packed lunches are filled with many good issues that aren’t good collectively. It appears they take the buckshot method to picnicking: put a bunch of fine stuff in there and let individuals resolve what they need. Often, there’s a cheese sandwich, rooster breast, bread and crackers, yogurt, banana, cookie, chocolate bar, water and apple juice. Being completely accustomed to consuming every little thing put in entrance me, I’m at all times disgustingly full by the tip of lunch and sleepy.

It’s fairly troublesome to search out good espresso anyplace (on the spot espresso is the norm.) If we head out early, we’re normally picnic and be achieved by three or 4. If we come again to the lodge for lunch then we’ll keep out later. Dinner is on the market from six on. Early mattress time. Repeat. I’ll sleep extra on this 4 day interval than I’ve slept in 5 years. Having not being this alert for therefore lengthy, the times move extra slowly and thoughtfully than they typical do. Earlier than arriving in Tanzania, I didn’t count on to have a restful trip however that is, in actual fact, precisely what’s. We’re not obliged to simply accept lower than what we might count on at house nor are we anticipated to essentially have interaction with the tradition or individuals. We are able to loosen up whereas seeing an unique locale. 

Walker LukensIn regards to the creator: Walker Lukens is a musician and ESL trainer who, most not too long ago, was dwelling in New York, NY. He loves touring and has been all around the US, Canada, the Caribbean and Western Europe. He has additionally hung out in Brazil, Israel/Palestine and Serbia. Discover him at WalkerLukens.com or on Fb.