A Travellerspoint blog

All Smiles and Welcome with Open Arms

Karibu!


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Hello from Tanzania! Sorry for not posting anything this past month. Lots have been happening and the project has been keeping me busy (more on what I am doing below so keep on reading). Plus electricity is limited where I am staying (I am hand washing all my clothes!) so I will unfortunately have to keep this brief. Right now I am in central Tanzania near the town of Iringa. Since arriving here a month ago, my experience has been amazingly positive because of all the warm and welcoming Tanzanians that I have met. Everywhere I go I hear: "Karibu!" which means 'welcome' in Swahili. Villagers have invited me into their homes and on one occasion, a woman kindly took my arm and led me to see her pigs. She was very happy and excited (the pigs on the other hand were not that interested to see me). Quite often when we are driving through the villages, kids would be smiling and waving at us with excitement, some would even be jumping and screaming out loud. I have visited primary schools where children want to touch my hand and my hair. This of course is because I am seen as a "white" person. I didn't mind being surrounded by twenty plus eager children, I thought it was actually a bit funny at the beginning. This led to a lot of laughter and excitement in the classroom. I gave them high fives in return.

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So what am I doing here........I am here volunteering with a wildlife conservation organization called Wildlife Connection (http://thewildlifeconnection.org). The organization itself is still in the early stages of development while Sarah, our project director, completes her PhD, but lots have been happening in the past few weeks in the fundraising and education front. We now have a logo and will be selling postcards and t-shirts soon! (For me who likes to write postcards, I have been very disappointed by the postcards that are available here. So it's exciting that we will be making our own!) One of the main focuses of our work here is to educate and to empower the local people living close to Ruaha National Park located in central Tanzania. It's a park much less visited than the more popular area to the north like the Serengeti because of its location, but it is very beautiful and perhaps even better for animal sightings with less cars and people around. Unfortunately many of the people who live in the villages near Ruaha NP have never been in the park and they often have negative feelings toward wildlife (especially elephants) because they come into their farms and eat their crops (there is no fence around the park). So we strive to educate them by bringing them to the park and providing them with a positive experience around wildlife and conservation, which in the long run, we hope would decrease poaching in the area (elephants are still being killed daily for their tusks). I can’t accurately express how grateful the villagers are for this opportunity and the positive comments that we have received during the post-trip interviews. It makes me very happy to be able to provide this experience for them.
I have also been busy getting the school side of the educational part of the project going. I have made some visits to local primary and secondary schools, and have started a group that meets on Sundays with youths who do not attend secondary school (sadly not many teenagers receive a secondary school education). I will write more about this next time.

Tutaonana!

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Posted by RobertaS 06:44 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Enjoy the bush


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My time here in Kruger National Park is sadly coming to an end. The past 28 days has come and gone and my experience here has exceeded well beyond my expectations (although I must admit I didn’t quite fully know what I was in for, all I knew was that I will get to spend a whole month in one of the best wildlife parks in the world!) Each week brought new and unexpected experiences. Even on one of the rare rainy days when we had to get up early to go on a bush walk, it was I think by far the best walk we had. It was a bit chilly with light rain when we started the walk, but soon we spotted a couple of rhinos and later some buffalos. It could be a herd of 20 plus buffalos, we don’t know and as much as we want to stay longer to observe these animals, we don’t want to take any chances. It is special to see these animals in a bush walk, but being safe and keeping our distances from them is our priority. So we did a small detour to avoid the buffalos, but as we climbed up a small slope from a dried up stream, we heard barking and growling! We all froze and I felt my heart rate increased. I was the last person in our single-file walk formation and looking ahead through the bushes about 20-30m in front, I saw the profile of one wild dog (we guessed there must have been at least three). The barking was to let us know that we are getting too close and certainly our guides were quite surprise by this encounter. It didn’t last long, the dogs turned and ran away. What a rare moment it was to see them during a bush walk! This story quickly spread to the field guides and some of them were quite jealous. The wild dog population in the Kruger area is estimated to be around 300, and Kruger park is over 19,000 square kilometers, so it was indeed one of those rare once in a life time moment.

The bush walks were definitely one of the highlights and in some ways, they were even better than the many safari game drives that we went on. Yes we can cover greater distances and hence see more wildlife in a game drive, but it is through the bushwalks where we really get into the heart of Kruger and feel how “wild” this place is. I think for those of you who have gone backcountry camping anywhere, you will know what I mean. Going on foot with a backpack is when you can truly experience nature. This past week we spent two nights camping out in the park---this was the other favorite part of my time here in Kruger. We spent several mornings the week before building a corral with sticks (like a circular fence) to protect us from the animals and we did a “very good” job according to our lead instructor. It was hard at the end when we had to break it apart and take it down but we understood that we had to leave the place like it was before (“no trace camping”). It was beautiful sitting around the fire at night with the stars overhead and the sounds of animals out hunting at night. It was incredible.

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beautiful sunsets here

After two days enjoying our time out in the bush with no shower and covered with dirt, we hiked back to the lodge under the heated sun (must have been around 30C) and just as we can see the gate (at that moment I was thinking shower and running water!), we spotted three elephants in the bush very close to the gate. I thought it was quite ironic that in our very last walk and when we are just steps away from being back to ‘safety’, we were stopped by elephants (my favorite animal). We watched and waited, but they didn’t move very far, so we ended up taking a slightly longer way around to the back gate. I thought it was a great moment to feel that we as humans are not in control here in the park. It is the animals who we respect and we give way to their “home”. There have been moments in the past weeks when I felt that I was the one behind the fence being “caged” in while the animals have all the freedom and space in the park to wander around. I really like that. To top off my experience here in Kruger, that very same day in the afternoon, those elephants we saw earlier went for a swim in the pond/dam right in front of our lodge. The three male elephants (“teenagers”) were like kids splashing around with their trunks and pushing and jumping on each other. It was an amazing moment to watch them play and they put on quite a show! And this is the last image I am quite happy to leave Kruger with…..at least for now since I will be coming back to Kruger for a couple of days at the end of November. By then I am sure things will look very different, at least much more green and I am already looking forward to that very much.

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Posted by RobertaS 08:27 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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