Notes from the Field: Tanzania

Notes from the Field: Tanzania
February 2020

A&K’s Events & Partnerships Specialist Portia Atkins recently returned from a spectacular safari adventure, spending 11
days exploring Tanzania. From incredible local encounters to unmatched wildlife experiences, she took the time to share with us her personal trip highlights, and some advice for prospective travellers.

If you haven’t been to the destination before, what were you expecting?
I was essentially expecting to see the Lion King come to life, seeing huge herds of animals on the open plain and spotting the curious characters which so captured my imagination. I was also excited to meet some of the incredible locals and learn more about their culture, especially the Maasai people.

What was your first impression?
My first impression? Wow, well let’s start by saying there was a rainbow across the sky when I looked out of the window of the plane and saw magnificent Mt Kilimanjaro bathed in a colourful hue. This was definitely a sign and I knew my Tanzania adventure would be one to remember.

I was a little intimidated at first, as it was my first visit to Africa, and I had no idea what to expect. But once I got my bearings and received a fabulously warm welcome from my A&K driver at Mt Kilimanjaro airport I was instantly put at ease. I was struck by the beautiful landscapes, the intense greenery, the natural beauty, the different places we explored and the distinctive way of life for the people there. 

What wowed you?
The list is honestly endless! However, seeing Africa’s iconic species in their natural habitat, that was just extraordinary. I had always loved family visits to the zoo as a child but seeing those animals in their natural habitat was utterly enthralling.

I was also very spoiled by the camps and lodges we stayed in. They were all incredible. I had to pinch myself every day as I just couldn’t believe places like that actually existed. While all the places I stayed at were incredible, the Singita collection was a standout. At Singita Mara River Camp, a riverside retreat, I witnessed crocodiles up close, and pods of hippo wallowing in the water below my tent. Sabora Tented Camp and Faru Faru Lodge were both amazing as well, each one super luxurious and super memorable for the spectacular wildlife viewing I had.

Was there something about the destination or the trip that you were not expecting?
Although very familiar with the sort of service A&K delivers, I was still overwhelmed by how seamless the journey was, and especially because I was in a place like Africa. Everything was so well organised and I always felt safe and extremely well looked after . The level of insider access took me by surprise too, learning to cook like a Tanzanian, exploring the local market, sourcing produce, and then cooking up a local speciality, a fried banana dish, was an incredible experience. The village visit was also a great encounter, meeting members of the Maasai tribe was a truly memorable experience for me, one I’ll never forget. Seeing the village, being invited into their homes and understanding their way of life was truly special. It puts everything into perspective. They are so happy and so proud despite their humble existence. It reinforces how much we have to be grateful for here in Australia. 

What was your most memorable experiences?
Seeing a leopard was on my bucket list, and something I achieved with the help of the talented Singita safari guides. We were also lucky to locate a pride of lion with adorable cubs at foot and a family of warthogs with babies made me recall the loveable Pumbaa!

On our arrival at Tarangire National Park, we were welcomed by a roaring lion, an experience I’ll hold dearly. At Sanctuary Swala camp we were joined by two resident elephants at breakfast, they came right up to our table and I swear they had their eyes on my overflowing plate of buffet breakfast treats! 

Was there a person/people you met who transformed your experience?
We had an amazing A&K guide named Emmanuel, who was with us throughout the journey. He is the smiliest man in the world and so incredibly knowledgeable about the wildlife and all the areas we travelled through. He made our experience an exceptional one because he was so personable, welcoming, hilarious and happy to share his expertise with us, making sure we were always safe, and that we never missed a prime wildlife spotting moment.

Did you learn something special or interesting?
I learnt a lot about the Maasai tribe and their traditions and way of life. Thanks to our guides I came home with endless facts about the wildlife as well. My eyes completely lit up when I learned more about Tanzanite. It’s a brilliant blue gemstone which is only found in Tanzania that many people come from far and wide to buy.

Did you buy something special to bring home?
Tanzanite was high on my list but a little pricey. Instead, I brought back handcrafted wooden animal tokens for my colleagues – they were very impressed – and an intricately beaded zebra from the Maasai village as a gift for my nephew, it was great to give back to the community knowing that they had spent so much time and effort making these eye-catching mementos.

What advice would you give to a prospective traveller?
Don’t be intimidated by the vastness of Africa, be open to exploring and immersing yourself in the local culture and way of life. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to replicate or enhance some of the encounters I had. I was honestly smiling the whole journey; my cheeks are still hurting! Tanzania has won me over, I have travelled since and while I enjoyed myself, no journey has left such profound impact on me.