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I feel as though going on an African safari and experiencing the Serengeti in Tanzania is a dream many people often have, yet so few actually are able to experience. For this, I am so thankful both that I am in a position where I was able to experience this beautiful place and that I came across Hekima Safaris, who were able to make my dream a reality.
As my time in Tanzania was approaching, I had few expectations but high hopes of what I would experience. A few weeks before our arrival, we had an unfortunate situation with our previous safari company we had booked with - more details on that forthcoming, once a resolution is reached on the complaint we filed with the Tanzanian Tourist Board. That situation had sank my heart, so when Hekima Safaris came in and rescued us, my hopes were again up! We had booked a 5-day 4-night safari which was going to be cram-packed full of excitement and I found myself thinking things like 'would I see all of the Big 5?' 'would any animals walk in to our campsite?'. I was about to find out that as someone who is difficult to impress, I was about to be pleasantly surprised.
While we didn't end up seeing all of the Big 5 (damn elusive Rhino's!), we were able to see the other four, being the lions, elephants, buffalo and leopards, which still means we were lucky, as many people often miss the leopards while here, and we caught sight of them twice. In addition, the very first elephant we saw was the one who walked into our campsite.
I'm about to have an entire post dedicated to them in my Travel Review section, but I feel compelled to point out how amazing Hekima Safaris were to us. In addition to our negotiated safari, they went so above and beyond for us. As three girls traveling together, we had no idea what to expect of Tanzania, other than to go off of what we've experienced in all of our other travels. While I could go on about it for awhile, I will sum it up by saying Dar Es Salaam was nothing like what we've seen before. Fortunately for us, Mopoo (owner of Hekima Safaris) picked us up at the Dar Es Salaam airport, found a place for us to stay that evening, arranged transport for us to the Dar bus terminal (I use the term bus terminal lightly there) and made sure we got to Arusha with no issues, where our jeep for the next five days was waiting for us. He also arranged a place for us to stay two nights in Arusha after our safari was over, as we planned a last minute trip to Zanzibar. All of this was completely outside of what we negotiated, yet he didn't charge us a thing for this. As we had originally met on the website Couch Surfing, he truly understood the plight of the backpacker and made sure we were taken care of. For anyone considering a safari, I would highly recommend you contact him here
The next five days were a whirlwind for us. We started with a day of having lunch overlooking Lake Manyara then heading to Ngorongoro Crater, where we set up camp at the Simba Campsite. On our very first night, an animal came scratching at my tent at 1am, and while at the time I think I was essentially paralyzed with fear, in hindsight I think of what an incredible experience that was. The next day we started with a 6 hour game drive through Ngorongoro, seeing so many animals all in one place, it's hard to fathom they all co-exist the way they do. Who knew the Lion King actually had some accurate realities built into it! After this we continued with a solo game drive through the Serengeti to our campsite for the evening, where we had our first leopard sighting where we watched at least five leopards in a tree devouring an antelope. Survival of the fittest my friends!
We began the next day with another game drive through the Serengeti as there is just so much to see and take in. The experience of watching the zebra and wildebeest migration is hard to explain to one who has not witnessed it. There are literally millions of them. After almost a full day in the Serengeti, we made our way to Karatu, stopping to shop at local shops and see what the city was like. It's definitely like no other place I have been before. After an evening at a lodge there, we went to explore the elephant caves and waterfalls then continued on to camp with Maasai warriors, who taught us their language, some of their beliefs and their different chants for different occasions. Having warriors stand guard over your tent with machetes through the evening definitely brings on a deep sleep, not having to worry about what predators could be walking right by you in the night. Definitely could have used one of them on night one!
The next day we made our way to the Maasai village where we had a cultural day, learning about their customs and way of life. It was definitely an eye opening experience for any western, especially as a female. While I can appreciate different cultures have different beliefs, it hurts my heart coming across women who are treated as nothing more than vessels for reproduction. It's not a way of life I would wish on any woman.
After this, we made our way back to Arusha, for some relaxation after a jam-packed five days that made up an experience I will never forget. There were many moments where I just took everything in, unwilling to take pictures as ruin the beauty of the moment. Those moments are rare, so they need to be appreciated as such. It's definitely an experience I will never forget.