Our safari was filled with animals, stunning landscapes, and incredible safari-mates, but it all starts with the guides. One cannot underestimate how much the guides make-or-break a safari, so let’s take a second to rave about ours!
Remember Goodluck, our Fun Bus guide? Always working. He was able to drive a stick in super-challenging terrain, scan for animals, answer endless questions in English — not his first language, and even crack a few jokes. Amazing. A guide’s work includes being a wildlife expert, a professional driver, mechanic, porter and all-around problem solver, rolled up into one talented person.
In Tanzania, being a guide requires going to a special kind of university and getting certified. It’s taken very seriously and seems to be a highly competitive profession. Ask your guide how many languages they speak. It’s almost always starts with Swahili, English and “my tribal language”. And then they’ll be like, “Oh, and some French, Spanish and German” or whatever. The more languages they speak, the more work they can get. Impressive! I ask that language question a lot and many times it’s 5+ languages. WOW!
Their work never ends because while the rest of us take end-of-day showers, have sundowner drinks and get ready for dinner, the guides are quietly off fueling the trucks and cleaning them inside and out. Like magic, every morning the jeep is squeaky clean and ready to roll. In spite of all that work, one night the guides treated a few of us to an evening on the town.
A couple of Serengeti nights found Aaron, Josh and I staying in a separate lodge (Olea Africana) due to a lack of room with the rest of the group. We called ourselves the Young Adventurers Club (YAC…pronounced yak), as in “Hey, YACers, meet back here in an hour and we’ll go to town.” Our three safari guides (Goodluck, along with Emanuel and Bacari – one for each jeep) stayed there as well and Brian helped us arrange to go into town with them for a local restaurant dinner.
They had worked a very long day and it was incredibly generous for them to take us Mzungus (white people) out. We had a fantastic experience eating chips mayai (fried eggs and fries), chicken, rice, ugali (thick corn porridge), and other assorted meats in an open air grill off a rocky side road filled with shops. The boys both had tummy problems the next day, but lucky (or cursed?) to have an iron-gut, I was just fine. The next day the Fun Bus was very quiet. Shhhhhhh…tummies are sad. Happy to say no one yakked for real and everyone agrees the experience was worth it.
We rode with Goodluck for about a week, always amazed at his knowledge and good cheer. Then, once you’re all attached to your guide, it’s time to say goodbye. Brian has a tradition of writing them a nice note in Swahili and we all sing and clap and give the Cowabunga Salute. Even though we paint smiles on our faces, it sucks. No one warns you about this part of the safari. The goodbye parts. Sniff. Sniff.
We said goodbye at a tiny airstrip in the Serengeti then we hopped on a couple of prop planes headed for an even tinier airstrip in Ruaha National Park. The adventure continues!
In our final Safari 2019 blog we’ll visit Ruaha National Park in southern Tanzania. Read: hippos everyday! Then more and more and more about the rest of our trip. So much to come…
A note: We tried very hard to keep all the photos straight but I did use a couple of photos from the south to help tell the story.