3 Remarkable Features About Tanzania that Most Travelers Miss

3 Remarkable Features About Tanzania that Most Travelers Miss

Tanzania is a land teeming with an impressive variety of animals, birds and all sorts of wildlife.

But most people know that.

If you can, look beyond the lions and zebras roaming the Savannah. Immerse yourself a little in a Tanzania that is easy to miss.

You won’t have to try hard.

The little towns and fast-talking people pull you in. First with their friendly nature and then with their honesty.

When you are abroad, you are at the mercy of the locals for help with little things. They can make or break your experience.

Tanzania went above and beyond what I had expected. The wildlife is spectacular.

The people and places are relatable in a strange sort of way that endeared the country to me.

The Hakuna Matata Professionalism

Every time I travel to some parts of Europe and the UK, I have learnt to expect it.

Hotel staff attending to white folks first, even if I was early in the queue. Subtle hints from shop staff that you are not welcome. Waiters serving me cold coffee and making me wait for food at restaurants. Or refusing a simple request to cut a burger in half before serving it.

Tanzania has a lot of white visitors from all over the world. As people of colour, it was refreshing to be treated on par with them. Everyone from the hotel staff to our driver and guide were 100% committed to showing us a fantastic time.

This was professional service with a side of personal touch in action.

The airline had left my friend’s luggage behind at Addis Ababa airport. They would dispatch it on the next day’s flight. We would have left Moshi by that time and moved deeper into the Tanzanian bush. What to do now?

Ibrahim, our naturalist, supervised a luggage transfer from Moshi Airport to our overnight stay in Karatu. It was neither his responsibility nor his agency’s, but they did it anyway.

All through the safari drives and resort stays, the staff continued to be very welcoming.

We asked for coffee at odd times – they gave us a flask to take on the safari. We telephoned the Masai guides to escort us to and from the restaurant several times in the dark. They gave us whistles to beckon them quicker.

Another friend in our group requested vegetarian fare for meals. The chef made sure our picnic lunch had plenty of nutrition-dense options for him.

Everything was served and accommodated with a smile.

Being out in the wilderness within 500 meters of hungry lions who roared all night was never an excuse to refuse a request.

The Mambo and Poa Way

We had spent our first evening in Tanzania shopping for clothes because of the missed luggage.

We located a small shop selling shirts and t-shirt on the busy main street. There weren’t a lot of options. We managed to get a couple of items for my friend, and asked the shop lady where we could find some trousers.

She left her own shop and walked with us to a store two blocks away. As we browsed, she helped us close the deal on two pants there. Then we were guided to a money exchange shop another block ahead. After we had exchanged cash, she escorted us back to the trouser shop and then all the way to our waiting car.

From experience, I cannot imagine this kind of care and customer service anywhere in Western Europe unless they can charge for it somehow.

On our animal spotting escapades in the wilderness, we met other guides who always greeted us with a ‘Mambo’. We might not be their guest, but we were guests of their country. We all responded with ‘Poa’ because we felt it.

At picnic spots, we bumped into housekeeping staff who were happy to chat and tell us stories.

And we crossed paths with wildlife rangers who welcomed us again. When we commended them on the stellar job they were doing, they shrugged it off – all in a day’s work.

Ibrahim – naturalist, driver, and tale spinner extraordinaire – regaled us with stories of wild encounters from his decade-long career. He suddenly became shy when we asked him about his own dreams in life.

It was only on the last day at dinner, he told us the story of how he got into this profession. He mentioned the hardship his family had to go through to educate him. His dream is to start his own safari tour agency and show them the best of Tanzania. Even luck find it hard to keep such guys down.

We Make It Our Business

As we drove from one national park to another, we crossed several local markets dotting the highway. There was variety of local produce for sale. This included small kiosks selling roasted and ready-to-eat cobs of corn.

Right beside them were tiny carts selling popcorn. Each cart had a small roof, and on it was a square solar panel powering the corn-popping machine.

We mock bargained to pick up a cob and a bag of popcorn much to the delight of the vendors at one such market.

Coffee is another item where Tanzanians excel, and they have refined the production process over the years. Their towns may not be dotted with Starbucks or other coffee chains, but several friendly eateries brew heady stuff that attracts loyal drinkers.

Ibrahim constantly guzzled the brown liquid. We always had our flasks handy, and a full coffee pot was available in the resort dining area at all hours. They could not advertise it more if they tried.

Tanzania is a nascent economy. They have their back to the wall in many ways. It forces their people to be resourceful and to work hard. They push to find a breakthrough.

It feels incredible to witness people adopting ways to give better service and make better products by being inventive.

We had another chance to find out how rural Tanzania is catching up soon.

That day, the river on our way out from Ngorongoro was swollen due to the rains and passage was impossible. Cars had piled up on both sides of the submerged bridge, waiting for the water to recede.

We took the chance to stretch our legs and roam around. At a distance from the road, we could see a few giraffes grazing in peace. Masai settlement nestled in the grassland.

Sensing the crowd’s restlessness, a few Masai women walked over. They carried traditional beaded jewellery for curious tourists. The river held back a captive audience eager for some retail therapy. Our group snagged some beaded bracelets as souvenirs of our time in the endless plains.

In the end, we gave up on the river and used a forgotten road deep within the Masai settlements to get to the other side. But not before we left the enterprising, Masais were a few dollars richer.

A land synonymous with diverse wildlife, has a lot more to offer beneath the surface. It is easy to miss these remarkable features about Tanzania for the popular image.

The locals, with their warm smiles and inviting nature, were like a cool breeze on a hot summer day. The people make it a delight to visit.

Tanzania pulls you in and makes a place in your heart.

In the warmth of strangers turned friends, we find a Tanzania that leaves an indelible mark on your soul.

It was hard to leave but you have to, so that you can be Karibu tena (welcome again) to a place where every encounter is an invitation to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary.

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