My preparation time was quite short (about 3 weeks before I flew) and at times a bit chaotic. I only can advise you to start a bit earlier – which vaccinations are necessary? Malaria prophylaxis Yes or No? Are 4 packages of wet tissues enough? Long or short clothes? Suitcase, backpack or both? Will my ordered items for the trip arrive in time? And all the other questions you ask yourself before such a stay abroad
Saturday, 26.05.18, my journey to Africa started. After a total of 12 hours flying from Munich with a stopover in Amsterdam I arrived at the Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) in the evening. I can recommend all participants traveling to Tanzania/Kenya in the future: Write down on the paper you receive on the plane as a reason for your entrance to Tanzania (and also Kenya) “travelling” or “holidays”, if you are not interested in a 45 minutes discussion with the visa officers at the airport!
The first night I slept in a hotel near the airport. The next morning, I was picked up by my coordinator Neema and taken to my accommodation. Unfortunately, there was no other participant in Monduli at the time, which was a pity. Especially at the beginning it is a lot easier if there are other participants who could be asked something. Even in my introductory week I was alone, but Neema was always very nice and asked all the time if everything is ok. The other locals also were really nice and polite.
On my first day we went to a small market in town where you can get a local SIM card. There is no Wifi in the accommodation so this is helpful to stay in contact with family and friends. The card is not too expensive, but you need a bit of time until everything is working. In Africa, however, you should always plan a bit more time.
The next day, my induction week began with a language course in the local language “Kiswahili”. In the afternoon you will walk through Monduli to get a rough idea of where you can find a supermarket, the bus stop and so on. The locals were very happy if you can speak some words in Swahili. On Tuesday we went with one of the typical Tanzanian minibus “Dala Dala” to the Snake Park in Meserani. Next to the Snake Park there was also a Maasai Museum you can visit.
On Wednesday, the Tarangire National Park was on our program. We started early in the morning and after about 3 hours driving we reached the entrance to the park. We saw elephants, zebras, giraffes and some other animals. Unfortunately, there were a lot of tsetse flies in the park. Especially if you stopped the car to look to the animals in peace a lot of them entered into the car. They can transmit the African sleeping sickness if they bit you. I can recommend long and possibly stab-proof, impregnated clothes when visiting the Tarangire National Park. Although this hardly stops the animals, but it is still the only reasonably effective protection against these flies. Luckily, I have seen the tsetse flies only in this park in my entire 10 weeks in Africa and the probability of being infected by a bit is also rather low. Nevertheless, one should be careful.
The next day, Neema and I drove to Arusha, one of the largest cities in Tanzania, to buy some things in the shopping mall. There are also western products. A few meters away is the Cultural Heritage center, where you can buy traditional Tanzanian art. The artifacts and souvenirs offered are really nice, but you will get most of them cheaper at one of the local markets. Always try to negotiate at all local markets! In the afternoon we went together with Neema’s husband and two other participants to a Maasai village where a traditional Maasai ceremony took place. This was very interesting. We were the only white “Mzungus” among all the Maasai in their typical Maasai clothes.
The next day I went alone to the village again and made some bracelets with one of the Masaai women. The rest of the time I walked around in the village and were watching the Maasai dancing. For me, the Masaai ceremony was the highlight of the week. Overall, the introductory week is a good start and helps with orientation in the foreign country. Sometimes you have a lot of free time and this could possibly be used for other activities on your own. For example, a hike into the mountains, which begin just behind Monduli.
On Sunday, I started together with a friend from Germany arriving at the weekend our three-week trip through Tanzania. From Arusha we planned a three-day safari through the Serengeti and Ngorongoro National Park. Then we went by bus to Moshi. From there on our first day to the Hot Springs and on the second day to the Materuni waterfalls near Kilimanjaro. The next stop was Lushoto in the Usambara Mountains, where we did a 2-day trekking tour. One day we stayed overnight in Tanga, before we flew by plane to Zanzibar. On Zanzibar, we spent two days watching Stone Town and after that we went to a small hotel on the east coast for the remaining four days to relax and enjoy the sea. From Stone Town I took a plane back to Arusha and from there a taxi to Monduli.
I really can recommend to anyone going to Tanzania to do some travelling on your own, if you have the time and in the best case, a travel partner. You need the time, because usually you will lose one day with the transfer from one place to the other. Traveling at night and going out in the big cities in the evening or at night, I would definitely refrain. On Zanzibar there is no problem to go out, because Zanzibar is very touristic and you really feel safe here. If you do not have that much time, you can still take the weekends to organize trips. If you want to go to Zanzibar, it might make sense to fly on Thursday or Friday and come back on Monday and to suspend the project on those days. That’s usually not a big deal if you let the coordinator know early enough.
Back in Monduli, there was a problem with the accommodation, as it was owned by the government and only rented by the organization. The last 3 weeks in Tanzania I lived with my coordinator’s family in their house. In retrospect I see this as an advantage. Of course, the standards are a lot easier, but when do you have the opportunity to live together with an African family and the contact with the local population also was closer.
The following week I did the Wildlife Protection Program. Together with a Spanish group we went to a Maasai village in Emboreet. The group was very nice and we had a lot of fun. We walked to a different place every day. To a water reservoir, various Maasai villages or somewhere in the vast steppe. We saw animals like gazelles, ostriches or wildebeests, but that was the exception. Sometimes we had a lot of free time which could have been used for some additional planned activities by the organisation.
Luckily another participant was arriving at the weekend so we could do the following teaching week together. Even for two it was hard enough to keep the 60 children in a class calm more or less. It was also a bit difficult because there was no teacher in class who could translate instructions for the kids. It is certainly not to bad if you can speak some words in Kiswahili. When the kids got too restless, we went out with them and played catch. You shouldn’t be afraid of getting touched by the kids if you would like to do the teaching week. They are really interested in white skin and blonde hair.
My last week in the nature conservation project, where I helped the women in the tree nursery most of the time was the best week for me. In the morning, we prepared the pots for the seedlings. Depending on where they need my help the most I planted some seedlings by myself or I cut some plant so they were ready for selling. Together with another Spanish group I planted some little trees near the school in the afternoon. This was more exhausting than we expected. The nice thing for me this week was that you really could see in the end what you did over the week.