Author: Emilie Kretschmar
There are few things more fascinating than watching a pride of lions attempt to take down a water buffalo while in the company of remarkable Penn alumni. In July, I headed off to Tanzania to host an African wildlife safari. I was in good company; we had 17 passengers and graduates from the School of Arts & Sciences, Nursing, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, and the Wharton School. Quite the mix of interests and careers!
After a layover in Amsterdam, we arrived in Arusha, the fourth largest city in Tanzania. There, we met our wonderful and knowledgeable guides: Allan, Salim, and Godson.
On our first morning in Arusha, the guides met our group with three Land Rovers specially equipped with cut-out rooftops which are perfect for jumping up and taking wildlife pictures or scoping out the scenery with binoculars. Tarangire National Park was our first stop. Tarangire is known for its wonderful diversity of wildlife, its famous baobab trees, and its large elephant herds. It didn’t take us long before we spotted an elephant.
Before we knew it, there were elephants everywhere. Elephant herds with babies and juveniles came into view around every corner. In fact, when the guides had to fix a flat tire on the second Tarangire day (poor Allan and Salim!), we were surrounded by 20 or more elephants throwing red dust upon their backs.
A trip highlight was the Ngorongoro Crater, Earth’s largest unbroken caldera. It was created when the land collapsed after a volcanic eruption. Ngorongoro is known for its high density of carnivores and is the only place in East Africa where one can easily observe a natural population of black rhino. Although we did not see a black rhino, we were able to watch the aforementioned a pride of lions stalk a herd of buffalo.
Our final destination was the Serengeti National Park. The Serengeti is home to the greatest concentration of large mammals on Earth. We were following the migratory herds of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle as they roamed for grass and water. Due to drought, most of the large herds had already made their way north to Kenya, but there was still plenty of wildlife to see.
After a week and a half of game-watching, it was time to head back to Arusha. Instead of traveling the 10 hours it would take by car, we grabbed a plane at the Serengeti International Airport.
The trip was wonderful. The animals were incredible, the guides were friendly and insightful, and the alumni passengers were the best companions a host could hope for. Traveling is always an adventure, but it was particularly wonderful to share it with a group of interesting and intellectual people. I would say we all gave this trip 17 thumbs up!