This week’s dream:
A truly wild safari in northern Tanzania
We are standing quietly in a pop-top Land Cruiser, watching for the cheetah that just approached and disappeared behind the vehicle, said Norma Meyer in The San Diego Union-Tribune. “Suddenly, with a scratchy thud and our audible gasps, the spotted creature lands on the back roof right before our eyes.” Two passengers throw themselves into corners, and I flash back to the time I witnessed the world’s fastest mammal chase down and devour a gazelle. This cheetah peers in at us curiously, “as if we’re the surprise,” then turns to scan the landscape. Cheetahs, we’ll learn, often perch atop termite mounds to survey for prey, and our party crasher has decided a Toyota offers an even better vantage. For more than a few “oh, is my heart thumping” minutes, we’re helpless bystanders to her hunt. Fortunately, none of us has antlers.
During our week in northern Tanzania, we will have many wild encounters. Some 2,800 lions roam the golden grasslands of Serengeti National Park, and my group spots 25 of the big cats, including one lioness that, to escape the flies at ground level, is lounging with her cubs in the branches of an acacia tree. Elsewhere, “spectacular striped parades of zebras” and “thundering caravans of bearded wildebeest” enthrall us. At night, I leave my tent flaps open to listen. “Into the wee hours, zebras bark like little yappy dogs and hyenas chillingly cackle and scream.”
On another day, we begin learning about cultures of the region during a visit to Lake Manyara National Park. Mkopi, our guide, walks us through Mto wa Mbu village, home to members of 120 ethnic tribes, and as we watch artists creating paintings and carving figurines, he brings us some banana beer. Once I blow off the foam and sip the thick, tangy brew, it’s passed around to be shared by beaming locals. Later, in a Maasai village where cooking has long been done over open fires inside mud huts choked with hazardous smoke, I’m introduced to a woman whose arms are streaked with the mortar she is using to add chimneys. “We are very powerful,” says her friend.
G Adventures (gadventures.com) offers seven-day Tanzania tours starting at $1,874. ■