Expedition to Tanzania

NEW ZEALAND FLAG — IN TANZANIA: The 2017 African crew at Peace Matunda. In the centre, Unambwe Kaaya with the koha from Gisborne. Pictures by Sherryl Gomm and Brendon Hart
Local children lining up for a pic.
School children celebrating the arrival of two new footballs.
Hospitable and welcoming Maasai elders.
Black-maned lion.
Africa
A bull elephant.
A beautiful African sunset over Mount Lengai, an active volcano and sacred Maasai mountain.

Our recent expedition or “safari” to Tanzania in Africa was unlike most safaris many experience when visiting this great continent.

The philosophy of the adventure was to truly experience the unique culture and wildlife, and support and experience first-hand some local community projects.

We only used local African operators (just 5 percent of African tourism is owned by Africans) to ensure money ended up in the local economy and projects.

Many of the group of 16 travellers were to be on their own journey of discovery whilst in Africa: exposure to new places, cultures, values and themselves — and to leave positive footprints with local communities that we had already developed a really strong relationship with on previous visits.

Another focus was to revisit and hand over recent fundraising to the Peace Matunda School and Orphanage, nestled on the slope of the lush Mt Meru, which is 4500m in height and located 30 minutes from Arusha in northern Tanzania.

It was great to have Awapuni School teacher Sherryl Gomm with us also because she has been one of the main drivers behind this for a number of years and has engaged many supporters from across our region.

There are just over 200 students at the school, ranging from kindy age to Year 8.

The project began in 2005 and is led by Unambwe Kaaya, a local junior chief and safari guide who wanted to support local orphans and education funded by a local cultural tourism project — and this offers something different to visitors as it is run by locals.

Kaaya and the school have faced many challenges over the years.

The students are taught in English as they advocate that it is the language of learning, and they have Swahili classes as requested by the local community.

Recent results indicate once again that the students are achieving very well, with the school having one of the highest pass rates in this part of the country.

Most students are from very humble backgrounds and face many hardships.

The 20 orphans live in the orphanage, which is on-site. All of the older orphans have won scholarships to attend a city school due to their high grades. Peace Matunda will always be their home and they return during school holidays.

Educational success

Playing a supporting role in this project and seeing them grow over the past 12 years has been extremely rewarding. They are really succeeding in their education.

Our group came from various backgrounds, ages, occupations and travel experiences, all had a connection to Gisborne, and all had a desire to experience Africa and contribute to it in some way.

Over two weeks, the group quickly formed a tight bond and shared many good times, laughs and cokes together.

We departed from Auckland via a 17-hour direct flight to Dubai.

After a short stopover, immersed in the display of excess wealth in Dubai International Airport, the crew journeyed on to Nairobi — the gateway to East Africa.

The group soon came face to face with African bureaucracy (plastic bags are now banned in Kenya!), African lines, the friendly “Jambo!” (a Swahili greeting), local road rules and the heaving hustle and bustle of Nairobi in the midst of an election rerun . . . no MMP here!

The following day, the crew travelled down and crossed the border into Arusha, Tanzania — experiencing the vast landscapes of Africa (some of our group for the first time), glimpses of Kilimanjaro, baby giraffes and first interactions with the well-known Maasai warriors before arriving at Peace Matunda.

After meeting our hosts and the orphans, the group began exploring the dirt pathways that crisscross the mountainside, and were met with friendly “Jambos!” from every boma (house or literally ‘enclosure’ — an open, natural space that provides a safe and sheltered place in the bush).

For the next couple of days, we were immersed in the school and getting to know the orphans, helping serve lunch (a cup of porridge for all students each day), helping with school lessons for the students, visiting a local women’s project for widows, making coffee the traditional way (quicker to sneak into Raglan Roast, I reckon), utilising the local “pick picks” (Chinese motorbike taxis, which are lots of fun) on the dusty roads, playing soccer with local children, early-morning walks and nightly campfires discussing the ‘real challenges of the world’, and trying Swahili phrases.

■ Jambo. Hello/Good morning.

■ Habari muzungu. Hello foreigner.

■ Mzuri sana. Good thanks.

■ Kwaheri. Goodbye.

Our adventure then progressed to being on the move: there were three vehicles (Land Cruisers) for us, each with a local guide/driver, plus a vehicle with our support crew and cooks who were all from the village, to explore the very remote northern Tanzania (Maasai lands).

We only saw a couple of vehicles over the next few days as we bounced “pole pole” (slowly, slowly) along the isolated, rugged, dusty roads, with wi-fi and Facebook a very distant memory.

This isolated and sparsely-populated area is a photographer’s dream. It is home to the Maasai and their bomas and herds of cattle, goats and donkeys that carry water from isolated wells.

A number of zebra and elegant giraffes pop up along the way, as well as very thirsty and hungry Maasai children who spend most of the day wandering across the Savannah with the cattle to keep an eye out for predators.

Staying in the area’s school inspector’s house (with hot shower and flush toilet, which are a luxury in this part of the world), a magical time was spent with hospitable and welcoming local Maasai who we had made contact with on our last trip, and helped put corrugated iron on their wooden frames for the local school, supported by Peace Matunda and many from the East Coast.

After a warm welcome from the proud community, a valuable goat was swiftly dispatched and shared under the stars and moonlight. Women sang and danced, stories were told and connections were made and renewed in the cow dung bomas — ensuring a lifetime of memories were also made.

All of our group were mesmerised and touched by the proud and stoic Maasai: around stories of their various stages of life, number of wives, circumcision, access to water, education, marriage (45 cows is the going dowry), hopes and aspirations.

Funds, clothing (so students can attend school) and medical supplies bought from fundraising were passed over to the clan, via a clan meeting under the iconic flat-top acacia tree.

Gratitudes were exchanged, funds received were recorded publicly and discussion had around how the money could best benefit the school and community. It was a very transparent process, unlike in many parts of Africa, and carried out under the gaze of legendary Mount Lengai — the active volcano and scared Maasai mountain, which some of us crawled up later that evening, to the bubbling crater rim.

We also visited Lake Natron, one of Tanzania’s many gems. The salt and soda lake shimmers with pink haze (due to the abundant flamingos), there are the occasional Maasai with colourful shukas and spears tending their herds, and a magical hidden waterfall.

The Great Migration

Then to the Serengeti, with its vast plains as far as the eye can see, and home of the Lion King and The Great Migration.

We were spoilt with very close encounters with majestic black-maned lions, lion cubs, elephant herds, thousands of zebras, giraffes, monkies, and rarely-seen leopard, rhino and cheetah . . . and the amazing sunsets.

Tents were erected by the crew so we could enjoy the beauty of the environment and a Tusker (local beer) after a day of exploring. We would drift off to sleep under canvas to the sound of zebras, hyenas and the occasional lion letting everyone know we were in their jungle.

Our meals were cooked over coals and occasionally gas, and the chefs kept 16 people very full, content and interested with three different meals a day that were a fusion of Western and African food.

At Ngorongoro Crater, an ancient sunken caldera voted one of Africa’s seven natural wonders in 2013, we again came close to the Lion King.

This time there were many other safari vehicles, lots with air conditioning cranked up and on-board wi-fi.

It seemed a long time since we had come across other tourists.

After eight days away, we wound our way back to the village and orphanage.

It was time to catch up with the orphans and local school children who greeted us with smiles, hanging out for piggy-back rides and we had a few more soccer balls to give out to people and schools (a ball costs around a month’s wage for most Tanzanians).

We left the village after 12 days immersed with our local guides, cooks and crew who followed us on our adventure.

There were some very sad goodbyes: to Kaaya, our team leader, Peace Matunda creator, local chief and guide; Saleem, who in 30 minutes could fix a broken spring in the Serengeti; Josh, who used evangelical skills to describe an animal; Julius and Moses the Maasai elders; school teachers with their dreams for their local communities; other Maasai elders with their missing teeth, their generosity and warmth; Baboo in the service truck with his smile and never-ending pursuit of making sure everyone was happy; school children who went crazy when a soccer ball was given and who walked vast distances to get to school; friendly waves from everyone; a herd of elephants resting under acacia trees, mothers with their trunks on their babies so they are reassured; a Coke a day to keep the tummy doctor away; and local people’s ability to identify an opportunity to earn some income (there is no support from the Government).

Even though I have been there many times over the past 23 years, Africa continues to amaze me with its people and wildlife

Africa never leaves you.

For the lucky few who visit, it has a magical pull and feeds your well-being. We’re heading back again in 2019 . . . join the crew.

Our recent expedition or “safari” to Tanzania in Africa was unlike most safaris many experience when visiting this great continent.

The philosophy of the adventure was to truly experience the unique culture and wildlife, and support and experience first-hand some local community projects.

We only used local African operators (just 5 percent of African tourism is owned by Africans) to ensure money ended up in the local economy and projects.

Many of the group of 16 travellers were to be on their own journey of discovery whilst in Africa: exposure to new places, cultures, values and themselves — and to leave positive footprints with local communities that we had already developed a really strong relationship with on previous visits.

Another focus was to revisit and hand over recent fundraising to the Peace Matunda School and Orphanage, nestled on the slope of the lush Mt Meru, which is 4500m in height and located 30 minutes from Arusha in northern Tanzania.

It was great to have Awapuni School teacher Sherryl Gomm with us also because she has been one of the main drivers behind this for a number of years and has engaged many supporters from across our region.

There are just over 200 students at the school, ranging from kindy age to Year 8.

The project began in 2005 and is led by Unambwe Kaaya, a local junior chief and safari guide who wanted to support local orphans and education funded by a local cultural tourism project — and this offers something different to visitors as it is run by locals.

Kaaya and the school have faced many challenges over the years.

The students are taught in English as they advocate that it is the language of learning, and they have Swahili classes as requested by the local community.

Recent results indicate once again that the students are achieving very well, with the school having one of the highest pass rates in this part of the country.

Most students are from very humble backgrounds and face many hardships.

The 20 orphans live in the orphanage, which is on-site. All of the older orphans have won scholarships to attend a city school due to their high grades. Peace Matunda will always be their home and they return during school holidays.

Educational success

Playing a supporting role in this project and seeing them grow over the past 12 years has been extremely rewarding. They are really succeeding in their education.

Our group came from various backgrounds, ages, occupations and travel experiences, all had a connection to Gisborne, and all had a desire to experience Africa and contribute to it in some way.

Over two weeks, the group quickly formed a tight bond and shared many good times, laughs and cokes together.

We departed from Auckland via a 17-hour direct flight to Dubai.

After a short stopover, immersed in the display of excess wealth in Dubai International Airport, the crew journeyed on to Nairobi — the gateway to East Africa.

The group soon came face to face with African bureaucracy (plastic bags are now banned in Kenya!), African lines, the friendly “Jambo!” (a Swahili greeting), local road rules and the heaving hustle and bustle of Nairobi in the midst of an election rerun . . . no MMP here!

The following day, the crew travelled down and crossed the border into Arusha, Tanzania — experiencing the vast landscapes of Africa (some of our group for the first time), glimpses of Kilimanjaro, baby giraffes and first interactions with the well-known Maasai warriors before arriving at Peace Matunda.

After meeting our hosts and the orphans, the group began exploring the dirt pathways that crisscross the mountainside, and were met with friendly “Jambos!” from every boma (house or literally ‘enclosure’ — an open, natural space that provides a safe and sheltered place in the bush).

For the next couple of days, we were immersed in the school and getting to know the orphans, helping serve lunch (a cup of porridge for all students each day), helping with school lessons for the students, visiting a local women’s project for widows, making coffee the traditional way (quicker to sneak into Raglan Roast, I reckon), utilising the local “pick picks” (Chinese motorbike taxis, which are lots of fun) on the dusty roads, playing soccer with local children, early-morning walks and nightly campfires discussing the ‘real challenges of the world’, and trying Swahili phrases.

■ Jambo. Hello/Good morning.

■ Habari muzungu. Hello foreigner.

■ Mzuri sana. Good thanks.

■ Kwaheri. Goodbye.

Our adventure then progressed to being on the move: there were three vehicles (Land Cruisers) for us, each with a local guide/driver, plus a vehicle with our support crew and cooks who were all from the village, to explore the very remote northern Tanzania (Maasai lands).

We only saw a couple of vehicles over the next few days as we bounced “pole pole” (slowly, slowly) along the isolated, rugged, dusty roads, with wi-fi and Facebook a very distant memory.

This isolated and sparsely-populated area is a photographer’s dream. It is home to the Maasai and their bomas and herds of cattle, goats and donkeys that carry water from isolated wells.

A number of zebra and elegant giraffes pop up along the way, as well as very thirsty and hungry Maasai children who spend most of the day wandering across the Savannah with the cattle to keep an eye out for predators.

Staying in the area’s school inspector’s house (with hot shower and flush toilet, which are a luxury in this part of the world), a magical time was spent with hospitable and welcoming local Maasai who we had made contact with on our last trip, and helped put corrugated iron on their wooden frames for the local school, supported by Peace Matunda and many from the East Coast.

After a warm welcome from the proud community, a valuable goat was swiftly dispatched and shared under the stars and moonlight. Women sang and danced, stories were told and connections were made and renewed in the cow dung bomas — ensuring a lifetime of memories were also made.

All of our group were mesmerised and touched by the proud and stoic Maasai: around stories of their various stages of life, number of wives, circumcision, access to water, education, marriage (45 cows is the going dowry), hopes and aspirations.

Funds, clothing (so students can attend school) and medical supplies bought from fundraising were passed over to the clan, via a clan meeting under the iconic flat-top acacia tree.

Gratitudes were exchanged, funds received were recorded publicly and discussion had around how the money could best benefit the school and community. It was a very transparent process, unlike in many parts of Africa, and carried out under the gaze of legendary Mount Lengai — the active volcano and scared Maasai mountain, which some of us crawled up later that evening, to the bubbling crater rim.

We also visited Lake Natron, one of Tanzania’s many gems. The salt and soda lake shimmers with pink haze (due to the abundant flamingos), there are the occasional Maasai with colourful shukas and spears tending their herds, and a magical hidden waterfall.

The Great Migration

Then to the Serengeti, with its vast plains as far as the eye can see, and home of the Lion King and The Great Migration.

We were spoilt with very close encounters with majestic black-maned lions, lion cubs, elephant herds, thousands of zebras, giraffes, monkies, and rarely-seen leopard, rhino and cheetah . . . and the amazing sunsets.

Tents were erected by the crew so we could enjoy the beauty of the environment and a Tusker (local beer) after a day of exploring. We would drift off to sleep under canvas to the sound of zebras, hyenas and the occasional lion letting everyone know we were in their jungle.

Our meals were cooked over coals and occasionally gas, and the chefs kept 16 people very full, content and interested with three different meals a day that were a fusion of Western and African food.

At Ngorongoro Crater, an ancient sunken caldera voted one of Africa’s seven natural wonders in 2013, we again came close to the Lion King.

This time there were many other safari vehicles, lots with air conditioning cranked up and on-board wi-fi.

It seemed a long time since we had come across other tourists.

After eight days away, we wound our way back to the village and orphanage.

It was time to catch up with the orphans and local school children who greeted us with smiles, hanging out for piggy-back rides and we had a few more soccer balls to give out to people and schools (a ball costs around a month’s wage for most Tanzanians).

We left the village after 12 days immersed with our local guides, cooks and crew who followed us on our adventure.

There were some very sad goodbyes: to Kaaya, our team leader, Peace Matunda creator, local chief and guide; Saleem, who in 30 minutes could fix a broken spring in the Serengeti; Josh, who used evangelical skills to describe an animal; Julius and Moses the Maasai elders; school teachers with their dreams for their local communities; other Maasai elders with their missing teeth, their generosity and warmth; Baboo in the service truck with his smile and never-ending pursuit of making sure everyone was happy; school children who went crazy when a soccer ball was given and who walked vast distances to get to school; friendly waves from everyone; a herd of elephants resting under acacia trees, mothers with their trunks on their babies so they are reassured; a Coke a day to keep the tummy doctor away; and local people’s ability to identify an opportunity to earn some income (there is no support from the Government).

Even though I have been there many times over the past 23 years, Africa continues to amaze me with its people and wildlife

Africa never leaves you.

For the lucky few who visit, it has a magical pull and feeds your well-being. We’re heading back again in 2019 . . . join the crew.

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