Lessons from the Maasai Mara and Ngorogoro Crater

More Lessons from the Wild

1.  Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania was formed when a volcano collapsed on itself.  It is 2,000 feet deep and covers 100 square miles.

2.  Horns grow directly from the skull.  Not sure what we thought they did (maybe a joint?), but there ya have it.

3.  During the great migration, 1.7 million wildebeests migrate from Tanzania to Kenya.  In our inexpert opinion, wildebeest are possibly the ugliest creatures on the planet and our guide told us they’re also fairly dumb.  But they certainly reproduce in large quantities!

4.  Giraffes have their babies standing up.  Ouch.

5.  Hyenas have the strongest teeth and jaws of the African predators.

6.  When Lions mate, they do so up to 100 times per day for up to 7 days around the clock.  They usually don’t even stop to eat.  We learned about this process first hand.  Email us for a pic—we felt weird posting it!

7.  The Maasai are the best know tribe in East Africa (thanks, in part, to the book Out of Africa).  The Maasai Mara Game Reserve is even named after them!  Today, their indigenous lifestyle remains fairly consistent with their ancestors and they act as guides to kooks like us. 

8.  The Massai are generally Christians as well as polygamists. 

9.  Out of Africa explains the Massai’s obsession with cattle and this is still true today.  In fact, a girl is considered a blessing because a male must pay in many cattle to marry her.  In their dowry system, the male pays to marry a female instead of her father paying for the husband to take her.

10.  Elephants mourn.  For years after they lose a loved one, they’ll often return to the place of the death on the exact day of the loss.  Other scientists record them crying and showing signs of depression over loss.

That's What We Learned in the Maasai Mara, Click Here to read details on What We Did.

Salaam Means Peace

For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by Muslims. 

Zanzibar, located off the coast of Tanzania, is 99% Muslim.  After my time there, I feel profound awe and respect for a religion where women drape themselves in gorgeous fabric to hide everything but their faces.  Where throughout the day, and wherever they are, grown men hear the call, turn to face the birthplace of their Prophet, drop to their knees, and pray.  I sometimes have a hard time bowing my head before meals.

We were treated with such kindness and respect.  I dressed modestly, but blushed over my exposed collarbone.  Not for the first time on this trip, I suddenly understood an entirely new perspective.  These women cover everything but their eyes.  Whereas I cover my eyes and show almost everything else. 

Despite my decidedly Western appearance, the women smiled and made me feel welcome and safe.  In our exchanged smiles, I imagined a communication of mutual respect and an apology for our peoples' cruelties against the other's.  I fantasized of the progress if a billion such smiles happened between a billion different people from each side of the hemisphere. 

We have entered Muslim territory and this is just the start.  I know we will likely have some bad experiences.  But I’ll always remember and be humbly grateful for this beginning.  

Zanzibar, We Love You

To get to Zanzibar, we took a three-day train (which we aren't ready to talk about) from central Zambia to the coast of Tanzania and then ferried to the fabulous islands.  Zanzibar is an archipelago off the coast that has been a long time trading port where Africa, Arabia, India, and the Far East meet.  These influences continue today to make a fascinating place for architecture, food, and people.   

Zanzibar is 99% Muslim and the call to prayer rings out for everyone to hear.  Stone Town, the main city, is a maze of small cobblestoned streets where it’s better to spend the day getting lost rather than to worry about directions.

The Stone Town spice market is a delight to the senses and, not surprisingly, the food is as well!  Take a break from the sun on the reclining cushions at Monsoon where they serve local cuisine with charm.  To top off the day, every night there is a food stall market by the harbor.  Blakely particularly recommends the Zanzibar Pizza!

Laid back!

His face is my favorite.  He's like "Who is this crazy lady?"

We stayed at the recommended Hiliki House in Stone Town and the manager, Aboud, was a wonderful host.  Plus, the breakfast is a reason to wake up in the morning.

After Stone Town, we headed to the beach for some much-needed R&R.  There are a variety of beach village options depending on your mood.  We selected Jambiani which is fairly quiet with beautiful beaches.  The water is one-thousand shades of blue so we dove twice to fully appreciate the shades!

To get to Jambiani, we took a traditional dalla dalla!

Teeeensy bit cramped!

The tide in Zanzibar is a marvel!  Everyday on the Eastern beaches, low tide and high tide expand and retract by about a mile.  This is because Zanzibar is a coral island and very flat so small changes in the sea level create huge movements in the waterline.  It makes for perfect strolling and exploring!  The local women harvest seaweed and fisherman’s boats travel around the many lagoons.  

Now it's floating...

Now it's not!

Zanzibar was exactly what we needed to rest up for more safaris!

That's what we did.  Click Here to read What We Learned.  And see all of the pictures from the train ride and Zanzibar here!

Spicy Learning in Zanzibar

1. We already knew some Swahili, a language spoken in Eastern Africa!  “Hakuna Matata” truly means “No Worries” in Swahili.  The Lion King uses other Swahili words: Simba means lion, Rafiki means friend, and Pumba means foolish one.

2. “Thank you very much” in Swahili is “asante sana.”  Sound familiar?  It’s the beginning lyrics to Rafiki’s song “Asante sana, squash banana.”  Yes, this is how we remember it.

3. Lion King’s plotline has many possible sources (some say Hamlet), but simply analyzed it is based on facts of nature.  Male lions fight for dominance and will kick younger males out.  The banished younger males fend for themselves and then come back to the pride when they’re old enough to fight for dominance.

Ok, enough about the Lion King.  But it’s hard not to think about it in Eastern Africa!

4. When your husband says the three-day train ride through Africa is going to be a little rough, he means the 3-day train ride will be a nightmare.  Get a jug of Purell and beef up your prescriptions.  You’re in for a ride.

5. Never underestimate the smile-and-wave.

6. Zanzibar is an archipelago off the coast of Tanzania and, while technically part of the country, it operates and considers itself separate (you have to show your passport and vaccinations card to be allowed in). 

7. Zanzibar is 99% Muslim and was one of the ancient trade islands that connected Africa with Arabia, India, and the Far East.  These islands are often called the Spice Islands and rightly so.

A stall at Stone Town's spice market

A stall at Stone Town's spice market

8. Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, is half Christian, half Muslim and both sides live very peacefully together.  Dar es Salaam is Arabic and literally translates to “the home of peace.”

9. When stung by a jellyfish, rub sand on it (don’t ask how Blakely learned this).

10. When cutting your own hair, always cut less than you think you should (don’t ask how Blakely learned this either).

That's What We Did in Zanzibar.  Click Here to read What We Did!