Habari yako? (How are you?!)
The girls of Iringa Session 2 are fabulous because WE JUST RETURNED FROM A WEEKEND ON SAFARI! On Saturday, we took a two hour drive over to Ruaha National Park! Ruaha is the largest national park in East Africa and the second largest national park on the entire continent of Africa at 20,226 square kilometers! It lies at the center between the savannah and a forest. Our ride to Ruaha was full of many treats. We passed the Eastern/Western Rift Valley (which eventually meets up with the Great Rift Valley), we stopped on what is known as the "never ending road" (see gallery images), and our guide Sarafino even stopped the trucks to get Baobab fruit for us to try! The seeds have a lemon tang to them and are quite delicious (check photos in gallery).
When we finally arrived in the park we dropped our bags at the rooms we were staying in, grabbed some lunch at the park headquaters, and then jumped in our two safari trucks to drive around until sunset. We saw and learned many things on our first ride out, from zebras, giraffes, and sleeping lions (member of the "Big Five), to buffalo weavers (members of the "Small Five") and guinea fowls, Sarafino made sure we were always learning something new each time we stopped the car (this included learning the medicinal wonders of elephant dung, also pictured in the gallery- some of the braver members of our group even touched it!).
The group really enjoyed being able to stand up on our chairs and peep our heads out of the roof of our safari trucks as our two drivers took us around the park. Even if we were not seeing a new animal or plant it was quite the rush to take in the fresh air and landscape as we drove through the park (one of the girls equated the experience to a dog sticking its head out of the window of a moving car and said that she now understands why her dog lovse it so much haha).
After driving around for a few hours the sunset began to creep in our beautiful day, of course, making it all the more beautiful. Sarafino pulled our trucks up to the perfect spot: an open landscape with a large Baobab tree smack dab in the middle of the land. Here, is where we watched the beautiful sun set through the trees of the Baobab, "a true African sunset" as Sarafino stated. After taking in the last bits of the reddish orange glow that quickly faded out of the landscape, we drove back to headquarters to eat dinner and reminisce on the day. The dinner air was full of laughs and excitement for the next day as we would be rising at 6:00 am to chase the sunrise.
One of the groups would be staying overnight in the park headquarters building while the other four girls and I would be staying in separate huts at a camp not too far from HQ. Lucky for us when we pulled up to our site there was a big fire going behind the main building. We took this opportunity to sit outside, tell stories, share our dreams for the future, and of course take in all the beautiful night sky had to offer us. The stars were just as breathtaking as the sunset had been- it was the perfect end to a perfect day.
After about an hour by the fire we returned to our huts for the evening where we all had a bit of trouble sleeping because of the noises surrounding us! The experience of sleeping in a national park was both exciting, but also a bit scary for many of us as we had to have a park ranger escort us to and from our rooms just in case an animal approached. Some of us were able to fall right asleep, while others like Hayley and Anna, swear that they had a "Rizzard" (yes, that stands for rat lizzard) crawling up the walls of their room and making squeaking noises for the entirety of the night.
Regardless of what our sleeping experience was we all rose very early to jump in the safari trucks and get on our way: in search of the perfect sunrise. However there were some bumps in the road (would it really be Tanzania if there weren't?). The power did not turn on until 6:00am exactly which posed a challenge as this is the time we intended to meet at the trucks and be ready to go. We had to scurry around and get ready by the light of our cell phones so that we could make it on time. To me, this felt all the more like camping (which I love) and so it helped me start the day in a state of excitement for what was to come. Plus, not many people can say that they slept over night in a national park, so what is one little bump in the road anyway?! We were all able to get into the safari trucks on time and we made it out to a beautiful open landscape spot to see the sunrise. It was a bit chillier than most of us intended but the view warmed not only our shivering bodies, but also our hearts. It is moments like these that we will not forget from this trip. After the sunrise we drove around and saw many hippos, zebras, and kudu. We adventured around the park until breakfast at 9:00am in which we all scarfed down hard boiled eggs, delicious bread, mandazi, and of course chai and coffee. After breakfast we checked out of our rooms and went off again to a brand new side of the park. We saw quite a few animals again, although not as many as the first day, and then drove to the main gate as we had to be out of the park by 1:00pm. We spent the ride home napping with an added stop for lunch and then drove back to Iringa town where we had some down time to shop for family and adventure around the market place.
All in all, it was a weekend to remember and a wonderful experience within Ruaha National Park. We are all so thankful that CIEE can provide experiences like this for us.
Asante sana CIEE Tanzania (Thank you so much CIEE Tanzania!!) Until tomorrow,
xoxoxo Dee and the Iringa Session 2 Girls