A Rare Pangolin Spotted!

We have just returned from a family adventure of a lifetime- my husband Joe, our 22 year old son Jared and myself (Michelle). Our adventure began on a Wednesday evening when we arrived in JRO Airport. As we walked into the airport any concerns and trepidation I’d had dissolved instantly. Just as Dawn Anderson had assured me, there was someone waiting for us with our name on a sign. He took our passports and quickly got us through the entire check in procedure. We were brought over to our ADS representatives- Mathias and David and we left the airport as other travelers waited on long lines to get through. We arrived at our destination-the hotel where we would have dinner, shower and have a good night’s sleep before leaving for the airstrip in the morning.

Early the next morning after breakfast we met David in the lobby to be driven to the airstrip for our flight into the Serengeti. It was a weekday morning and as we drove through the streets of Arusha I was in awe of the hustle and bustle- the same as in any town and city. Children in uniforms with backpacks walking to school, men and women standing outside shops buying coffee and talking, shop keepers sweeping in front, women cooking in huge cooking pots over fires, people whizzing by on motor bikes. The only differences were the buildings themselves- they were constructed out of pieces of wood and scrap metal, and there were cows and goats walking down the street right alongside the people. I couldn’t believe we were actually in Africa!

We arrived at the airstrip; it was quite cold so I stepped into the quaintest little coffee shop. The man who was working there was so proud of his shop, so of course I bought a cup of hot tea which he wrapped for me so that I wouldn’t burn my hands. I took it onto the plane- a breathtakingly beautiful hour and 15 minute flight into the Serengeti. Because we were not at a high altitude we were able to see the scenery below us- trees, rivers, hills, the plains, lots of green grass. When we landed we were greeted by Claude who was to be our guide for the 8 day trip.

Within the first hour, and not even far from the airstrip (and the bathroom!) we saw impalas, female lions, hippos, crocodiles, Grants gazelles, zebras, and Wildebeast. After a boxed lunch we started heading towards our lodge which was a few hours away. Distance meant nothing as everywhere we looked we saw amazing animals and scenery.

This was when we first saw giraffes- magnificent and graceful. And just as suddenly as that we saw part of the Great Migration- wildebeast from every direction! Thousands of them! Claude waited until he could continue driving and after a short while we came upon another safari vehicle stopped on the side of the road. The people and their guide were looking at something so Claude asked if we wanted to stop and look. Of course we did! We got out and there was a pangolin – a sighting so rare that Claude had never seen one before.

We arrived at our lodge around 5:00 pm. After showering we were brought to the lodge for dinner by a Maasai. We had a wonderful meal and then were surprised when all of the waiters came into the dining room singing to us in Swahili with a cake with candles. Obviously this was something Dawn had planned to celebrate our anniversary. Jared loved this and felt it was payback for all the times we did this to him on his birthday at TGIF. But this was so much better, and I really fell in love with the Tanzanian people that night. They just derived so much pleasure in making us happy! After dinner we were accompanied back to our rooms for the night by a Maasai- this first evening really sparked my interest in learning more about the Maasai people and their way of life.

The rest of the trip was truly fabulous and if I keep on writing it would be a journal of our 8 days in Tanzania. I think everyone should be surprised as we were so that they can have their own exciting adventures. From the magnificent animals we saw on all day safaris (our choice) to visiting a wonderful Maasai village to buying school supplies in a local shop and bringing them to a school for orphaned children (a highlight for me as a retired teacher) the entire trip was just fantastic from beginning to end (when we saw Mt. Kilimanjaro on the way to the airport). Claude’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the animals, the land, the culture, and the people just made an amazing trip all the more spectacular.

We were sorry to leave, and can’t wait to return!

Michelle, Joe and Jared Bodnar
Lakewood Ranch, Florida
June 2012

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