Jambo!

Author: Molly Rand, GED’13

 

I recently had the amazing opportunity to serve as an Alumni Relations staff-host for the Penn Travel trip: Treasures of East Africa. During the trip, I was joined by an adventurous group of 10 alumni travelers. Together, we experienced what makes Africa, and East Africa in particular, such a unique and marvelous place.

Each day of the two-week trip was spent exploring the vast land of savannahs and diverse local cultures of Tanzania and Kenya. We captured sights and snapped photos of the incredible wildlife and surrounding landscape. We enjoyed a breathtaking sunset each evening and then awoke the next morning to catch it rise again.

Masai Mara Sunset, Kenya

Masai Mara Sunset, Kenya

Serengeti Sunrise – Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Serengeti Sunrise – Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

 

In some way, our group became a small family over the course of the trip, traveling together to take on the next adventure: to see or taste something new, to learn the next phrase for our Swahili vocabulary, and to experience another unknown treasure of East Africa.

We endured long hours and road trips in our safari vans where the bumpy and unsteady rides, or African massage as they call it, only helped bring us closer together. Our local drivers and guides quickly became our new best friends, sharing with us their vast knowledge and passion for the beautiful place they call home.

 

Our safari drivers (Left to Right: Wolfgang, Wilfred, Shafino) and Safari Director, Adam, in Tanzania

Our safari drivers (Left to Right: Wolfgang, Wilfred, Shafino) and Safari Director, Adam, in Tanzania.

 

Our group’s first stop after crossing the border from Tanzania into Kenya: Amboseli National Park

Our group’s first stop after crossing the border from Tanzania into Kenya: Amboseli National Park.

 

Spotting a herd of elephants in front of Mt. Kiliminjaro

Spotting a herd of elephants in front of Mt. Kiliminjaro.

 

Room at the Amboseli Sopa Lodge, Kenya

Room at the Amboseli Sopa Lodge, Kenya

 

Before too long, I think we all became humbly aware of how different our daily lives were from the people we encountered. Yet despite those differences, the warm smiles and kind hearts of those who we met made us all feel right at home.

Photo from our visit to the Masai village kindergarten in Tanzania

Photo from our visit to the Masai village kindergarten in Tanzania.

 

The trip offered us a unique opportunity to immerse ourselves in a culture we only knew from a distance before this journey began. It challenged us to abandon our own perspectives and approach each interaction with a pure sense of curiosity and appreciation for the unfamiliar. As each day passed, we gained a more distinct awareness for the little things in life that really matter.

As for the other stuff, “hakuna matata” as the locals would say.

 

View as we drove through Arusha and surrounding villages in Tanzania

View as we drove through Arusha and surrounding villages in Tanzania.

Traditional Masai jumping dance – a competitive jumping ritual men do to showcase their strength and agility to women in the tribe

Traditional Masai jumping dance – a competitive jumping ritual men do to showcase their strength and agility to women in the tribe.

 

At last, this would not be an accurate trip re-cap if I did not do my best to describe the unbelievable wildlife and conservation areas of Tanzania and Kenya. It is hard to truly comprehend how incredible it is to observe all of the animals until you are there, watching them run, eat, or sometimes even hunt, often only a mere 5 feet away. Our group was lucky to spot every single animal on the list – literally. We viewed all of the “Big 5” as well as the remaining four of the lineup to see what our guides noted as the “Big 9.” (Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion, Rhino, Cheetah, Giraffe, Zebra, and last but definitely not least, the Hippo).

At night, the lodge had security walk guests to their rooms after dinner, not because of any danger in the area caused by crime, but because of the animals nearby. At the Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge in Tanzania, the hippos were notorious for coming onto the property at night. One evening, I asked a guard as he escorted me down the path, with his flashlight in hand, if the animals come up to the lodge because of all the people.

He responded very confidently, “No, no…they come close because this is their natural habitat. We are in their house.

His reaction made me realize even more the unique beauty of East Africa.

 

Hippo spotting in Serengeti National Park of Tanzania

Hippo spotting in Serengeti National Park of Tanzania.

 

Elephant crossing in front of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Kenya

Elephant crossing in front of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Kenya.

First lions of the trip in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania

First lions of the trip in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.

 

A group of giraffes is called a journey – we spotted these in the Masai Mara of Kenya

A group of giraffes is called a journey – we spotted these in the Masai Mara of Kenya.

 

Our guides taught us that a group traveling together is called a dazzle.

Our guides taught us that a group traveling together is called a dazzle.

When someone asks me the classic post-travel question, I struggle to find an answer as to what was my favorite part of our East Africa experience. Every moment we spent in Tanzania and Kenya was memorable – whether we were observing a mother elephant protect her baby, visiting a Masai village, watching a lion hunt its prey, or having a conversation with one of our local guides.

The people of Tanzania and Kenya ask no favors of travelers except for one: “tell your friends and family about this place, let them know they should come too. And most of all, make sure to come back.

If I should ever get another opportunity to visit these countries again, I will be sure to let my new local friends know. In the meantime, make sure you add East Africa to your travel bucket list. I promise every single moment will be well worth it.

Preparing for our Penn reception at the beautiful Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge

Preparing for our Penn reception at the beautiful Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge.

 

Our amazing group of Penn Alumni & Friends!

Our amazing group of Penn Alumni & Friends!

 

 

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2 Comments

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Molly Rand, Penn Alumni Travel, Travel

2 responses to “Jambo!

  1. Sydnee Alenier

    Trip was a dream come true. Thanks, Molly, for your thoughtfulness (bringing snacks and Penn banner, etc, etc), camaraderie, upbeat and flexible attitude, and being a great partner in this amazing adventure we will remember always. Howard and I absolutely loved it.

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