Hitting the road with Dorobo Safaris
I am not quite on Tanzanian time. At 4AM my body woke with the energy of Santa Barbara’s coincident 5PM. But I felt rested all the same. We made sure our bags were ready and then came out to find breakfast waiting for us. Hard boiled eggs, bread, and hot tea brewed in milk. I was happy.
At 8AM we heard the knock of our trip crew arriving. Daudi is our guide and driver. He has been working with Dorobo for eight years. Our cook and camp staff is Kimambo. He has been with Dorobo for almost 20 years. Daudi speaks impeccable English and spent much of the day telling us about the landscape, plants, and people we came across. Kimambo speaks only a little English, but he is very friendly. He sat in the back seat with me and was very diligent to make sure I didn’t lose my seat cushion out the door every time I left the vehicle. I wish I knew Swahili to include him in my conversation sphere.
On our way out of Arusha, Daudi took Melissa and I to a money exchange. We couldn’t change at the airport because they ran out of money. It was a good thing really. The place Daudi took us to had a great exchange rate. And then we set off. Our road trip out involved a pit stop for red bananas (in my opinion superior to the sweet yellow bananas sold in the US), an official tanzanite dealer (where yes, I bought the tiniest cut stone because that stuff is super expensive), samosas, and cookies. By 2pm we were driving through Karatu to our camp on the edge of town.
From Arusha to Karatu, we drove across the western floor of the East African Rift and up and over the large fault escarpment of the western rift boundary. The rift floor is pretty flat and dry, with some extension-induced normal faults. From this vantage, we could see numerous volcanoes that are part of the larger volcanic province including, Mt Meru, Mt Kilimanjaro, and the Ngorongoro Volcanic Highlands. This long-lived activity has taken place from the Miocene to the present.
I fully remember this being the plan, because we wouldn’t have arrived early enough to Ngorongoro if we had kept driving. But all the same we were both a bit dismayed at the day already being over. Karatu has the nickname “Safari Junction,” as most transits into Ngorongoro first overnight here. We also discovered quickly that way more food was allotted for our trip than Melissa and I thought feasible to eat. We enjoyed a large lunch right when arriving. Though we still felt full from all the delicious Tanzanian snacks Daudi and Kimambo had fed us on the drive.
And then we were left to our own devices while they set up camp. This was also a learning moment. Melissa and I both had our own personal walk-in tents with mattressed-cots, blankets, pillow, and towel. Outside each tent was a personal wash water bucket. They even set our bags inside. This camp location even had showers and toilets. We simply were unprepared for this luxury setup, and perplexed when our attempts to aid in any process of cooking, camp setup, cleaning, camp tear down, etc., were almost always turned down. Melissa and I are women of action; neither able to watch others work (especially on our behalf) while idly sitting by. But we appreciated how gratuitously and happily Kimambo and Daudi accomplished any task set about them. We could not have felt more welcome or cared for than in their capable hands.
Once everything was in place, we were introduced to Israel, the camp host. He took Melissa and I on a walk/hike up and around the escarpment to see the farms and Masai family dwellings around Karatu. It was very hot out but we were excited to be out doing something. Upon our return it was already time for another meal. Kimambo’s efforts not unappreciated, we simply felt stuffed to the gills. Kimambo served us a massive and delicious supper and bottle of red wine. I was delighted with the day, however low key it was. Melissa and I don’t make great tourists, so I suspect some of our stops today normally take much longer for people looking to shop and visit every curio storefront.