Ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted to go to Africa to see the animals, particularly elephants. When I found myself in Tanzania volunteering for three months with a Canadian organization, I was elated that a safari could be arranged the first week I was there. Some of the local people we were working with said they could organize a day-long safari to Mikumi National Park. They would do it through their connections and it would only cost us $50 each. That sounded just perfect for none of us had much money to spare.
Mikumi National Park is the fourth-largest park in Tanzania and located 283 km west of Dar es Salaam. The landscape there is often compared to that of the Serengeti. The arrangements to visit it were all rather makeshift and we ended up going in a minivan and not a 4 wheel-drive. Not a good idea because we kept getting stuck in the mud. There were no other vehicles around and at least five times we all had to push the van out of the mud. Each time a lion just seemed to be walking by. I thought it was hilarious but others were not impressed.
We had a great time though and saw so many animals—everything you would want to see. It was certainly a memorable introduction to the country and well worth the $50.
The second safari was in a deep volcanic crater in the Ngorongoro Conservation area. This time there were just two of us. A friend of a friend made the arrangements—getting us a good deal. We took a local bus to Arusha, known as the safari capital of Tanzania, where someone from the safari company would meet us and take us to our hostel. Well, a guy was waiting at the bus station when we arrived and he seemed to expect us and we went off with him but we later found out that he was the wrong guy and that we went on the safari with the wrong outfit!
A very different safari
Safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa
The safari was for one day. It was just us and two guides and we soon became friends and they let us drive the safari vehicle. We didn’t see as many animals as we had on our $50 safari. There were also a number of other safari vehicles around so we found it to be a bit touristy. We stayed a few days in Arusha and just enjoyed the atmosphere for there are many young volunteers from around the world there.
Going on a safari is something you should do at least once. What I learned is that you don’t necessarily have to pay the big bucks to have an awesome safari experience.
By Jessica Sunter
Photo credits: Jessica Sunter, Ariel Wilson and Anna Chaplin
© Riding the buses 2011