photo - Fred Hougland shot of large, mountain side in Tanzania, showing a small work area with buildings at base of mountain, clouds surround the mountain, larger mountain in background

“Safari njema!”

By Fred Hougland, MetaZoo Educator

Whenever a conversation lands on Africa, I hear a similar response from most people.  I have always wanted to go to Africa.” In the early 2000s, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania.

My wife, Donna Parkes, plays in the Louisville Orchestra and her amazing life as a musician has taken her all around the world — except Africa. Even as a little girl, she had dreamed of visiting.

In August of this year, we took a trip to the East African country of Tanzania. I felt so fortunate to be able to share this place that changed the trajectory of my life with my partner while helping her to realize her dream.

Our trip started off in the unforgettable National Parks and conservation areas of the northern part of Tanzania. There are few things of this world that delight me more than witnessing a dawn over the plains of the Serengeti. Every day, I wondered, “what spectacle of nature will this day bring?” In this place, you can safely view in very close proximity the largest, tallest and fastest land animals on earth. So close, you can hear the low murmurs of the mother elephant as she pulls up the grass while watching over her young. Words fail to describe what it feels like in the heartbeat of the great migration, the ancient rhythm that drives massive herds of wildebeests, zebras and antelope to follow the rains to new grasses to graze.

After our safari, the adventures and special moments continued. We climbed Mt. Meru, a 14,977 ft. volcano, rising early to hike under the stars of the southern hemisphere and reaching the peak just in time to watch the sun rise over Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest point. These are free standing mountains, so the views from the top seem endless.

In Stonetown, the largest city on the island of Zanzibar, we discovered a winding maze of alleyways through fascinating architecture coupled with the unique influences of many cultures around the world. The colorful dress of the local people filled the evening bazaar where I loved to sample the day’s catch from the turquoise Indian ocean. We finished our travels relaxing and reminiscing about our adventures on the Zanzibar’s pristine white sand beaches. We had all the comfort and safety we needed with the atmosphere of a truly exotic locale — and found the perfect way to rejuvenate.

My experiences in Tanzania over the years have opened a world of possibilities that I never even knew existed before my arrival. If you have never been to Africa, I envy you. You still have the chance to experience the unique and magnificent landscapes, precious wildlife, and diverse cultures for the first time. Make the decision to travel to Africa and you will find that the kind, warm-hearted people, amazing art, music and rich cultural traditions that have persevered through the ages will make you question why it took you so long to get there. At least once in your life, give yourself this gift. Go to Africa and prepare to fall in love.

Safari njema! That’s Swahili for “have a great trip!”

Ready to plan your African Adventure?
Travel to Tanzania with your Zoo May 19-28, 2019!