27 July 2016

an american safari in tanzania.

What do you get when you take seven Americans and toss them into a crazy mix of local and touristy Tanzania? Well, it's a pretty funny sight, let me tell you. But also beautiful!

The moment we've all been waiting for finally came: the McLaughlin clan made the trek over to the African continent! Of course, time flies when you're having fun but we managed to fit in a lot of fun during their two week stay. From walking through our daily life and ministries in Mwanza to adventuring through the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater to relaxing on the white sand beaches of Zanzibar, the McLaughlin's demonstrated they were pretty ready for whatever we threw at them. Without a doubt, it was the trip of a lifetime.

Our first stop on the Tanzania Tour was Mwanza, the city that Michael and I have called home for the last two and a half years. We spent the first day settling in and allowing a little transition time for the 8-hour jet lag everyone was experiencing. Yikes, that's not fun. By the second day, they were ready to get out there - and get out there we did.

Our first stops were all about Michael's ministry. They were able to see first-hand the businesses of three young women with whom Michael works. One is involved in preparing food, another makes flower pots and vases, and the last is running her own hair salon. We also stopped by the Education for Better Living Organization (EBLI) office, so they could meet Michael's co-workers and hear about what goes on there on a daily basis.

The following day, I was able to showcase the LULU Project. We hiked around the hills of our neighborhood, Mabatini, so they could see our parish, which is also one of our LULU club locations. From there, they visited (and did some shopping) at Creations Charity Craft Shop, a co-op run by the LULU Project along with three other community-based organizations in the area. Lastly, we visited a LULU club in action, where they got to see what a typical meeting and lesson looks like.

Although the latter parts of the trip were amazing, having my family in Mwanza was the highlight for me. In the two and a half years we've been here, these were the first visitors we had! This made showing our daily life and the realities of Tanzania extra special.

After the Mwanza Tour was done, we journeyed out on a three-day safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, both famous for the plethora of African wildlife living there. Luckily, from where we live, we are only a two-hour drive from the Serengeti National Park, so we didn't have to wait too long until we saw something like this.

Yes, that is an awesome giraffe. We saw lots.

Everywhere you look while your'e in the park, it truly seems like you're living in National Geographic. What I loved most were the vast, open expanses that the Serengeti is so known for, which is the first picture in this blog post. Of course, we kept a list of the 30 animals we saw during our three day trip. I won't name them all here but seriously, this is something you've got to see for yourself.

The last of the three days was spent in the Ngorongoro Crater, which is a collapsed volcano in the midst of the much larger Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site! It's awesome to descend over 1,500 feet from the rim of the crater down into the crater itself with the great natural salt lake in the middle, all the while keeping your eye out for the next lion spotting.

This area has the highest concentration of predators in Africa! So we kept debating whether this meant we wanted to see an animal kill or not. This didn't end up happening but we did get to see a big pack of hyenas race after zebras and wildebeest… and I'm pretty sure it wasn't just for fun. The hyenas were far too slow to catch anything, but it still made for an exciting moment!

Going on safari is hard work, so after a day of traveling from northern Tanzania, we arrived on the beautiful island of Zanzibar, just off the coast of mainland Tanzania. One full day was spent seeing a bit more of the island on a spice tour and then, a city tour of Stone Town, the main hub of Zanzibar. The spice tour was amazing and is a must-do for anyone visiting the island. We saw and tasted cloves, cocoa, coffee, nutmeg, lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, peppercorn and so many other spices and plants during our short time on the farm! We also cracked open this "lipstick plant," which is used in cosmetics for its red dye.

Otherwise, we spent most of our time on the beaches of Kiwengwa, which is on the western side of the island, or lounging at the pool. It was fun to act like a kid again, going out into the water when the tide was in and getting thrown around by the waves.

In two short weeks, we made a boatload of memories that I'm sure we'll be talking about for a long time to come. The greatest gift was having our family, people close to us, see and understand a little bit about the life we've chosen for ourselves these last two and a half years. They weren't just here to have fun (although that did happen!). They were also here to learn about a culture and a language that we've come to love. We're so thankful they jumped all the way across the pond to join us!


  1. Nicely said, Ashley! The trip of a lifetime for us!
    Love Mom

  2. Good to see these helpful information here,Thanks lots for sharing them with us.
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