For as long as I can remember, I have been passionately intrigued by ‘Africa,’ by the word itself, by its flora and fauna, its topographical diversity and grandeur; but above all else, by the sheer variety of the colors of its people, from tan and sepia to jet and ebony.”
– Henry Louis Gates (Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University)
I have been wanting to visit Africa since I was a young boy. I loved animals and seeing huge elephants, lions and other African animals on TV’s National Geographic, Nature and other wildlife shows. The notion of travelling to Africa was a bucket-list dream adventure that seemed well beyond my reach.
In 2010 I was a graduate student at the University of Arizona. I was studying biogeography and I was invited to go to Nairobi, Kenya to teach a species distribution modeling class as part of a biodiversity conference and workshop organized by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation. I jumped at the chance to attend the conference and teach a course. Though we spent most of our time at the Multimedia University of Kenya, we had a few occasions to go on excursions where we briefly experienced the Maasai Mara and went on a one-day safari in Nairobi National Park. I was only in Kenya for 10 days, but I was hooked.
People say that once you’ve visited Africa, it changes you and you are never the same. I was not prepared for this, but it’s most certainly true. From the moment I returned from my short trip to Kenya, I knew I had to return to the region and experience more.
It took 8 years to get back there. Along the way we dealt with challenges posed by the economy, a cancer diagnosis, unemployment, and moving, My wife, Christine, was unable to accompany me the first time, so I had been eager to return with her so that she could experience the region and understand how it changed me – and hope that it changed her the same.
From the moment I returned from Tanzania last year, I had this vision of a lengthy blog that recounted our safari. It was intended as a way to share our adventures and record the details of our trip. The weeks I spent compiling photos and writing a summary of each day stretched into months. At some point, so much time has passed, that the idea of writing a blog that recounted each day seemed meaningless. I still wanted to finish the project, but I needed a different approach.
I recently saw a wonderful book named “Into Africa” by renowned photographer Franz Lanting. Each page of the book pairs a photograph with a short paragraph about the subject. As I turned each page, I thought, “This is how I need to organize my project. It’s more meaningful and focused on the land, its wildlife and people rather than how we spent our time there.
So here I present my reflections of Tanzania, a continuing series of my thoughts on a continent and people that occupies my imaginations and dreams.
I hope you enjoy it.