Safari Highlights Day 1 Arriving | Farm Visit | Nature Walk and Lazy Afternoon | Feast for the Senses

Kigongoni Lodge

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Ft. MasonThe first thing that hit me was the crisp fresh air. The dark night carried the scent of spices. Stepping into the Land Rover outside at Kilimanjaro airport seemed unreal. At the lodge, fresh pineapple juice and friendly smiles greeted us. I fell asleep under a canopy of mosquito netting, the howls of baboons in the distance.

Farm Visit

Before the safari began, we spent a day visiting a local farm in Ng'iresi. As elected chief of the village, Mr. Loti has started a cultural tourism program that invites groups to tour the farms, school and traditional houses. The fee paid by our tour company is used to expand village schools and teach local farmers improved agricultural methods. On our guided walk, children appear all around us, some staring cautiously from a distance while others came running to us, eager to have their picture taken in exchange for money, candy or pencils. Our tour guides warned us not to give handouts, as it upsets parents and causes some kids to skip school and beg for treats instead. This was an aspect of my trip I had been worried about. It's a fine line between wanting to see the people and being the ugly American, gawking at the poverty or worse, belittling it by seeing it as quaint and traditional. I choose to take only a few pictures, when it was clearly welcomed.

Nature Walk and Lazy Afternoon

As the sun climbed in the sky, the morning mist burned off and formidable Mt. Meru stood over us. My room at Kigongoni Lodge was a private cabin with a balcony that overlooked Mt. Kilimanjaro. I relaxed with a glass wine and watched Africa's tallest mountain appear from behind the clouds. In the afternoon a few of us went on a nature walk led by Michael, a porter at the lodge and a big music fan. He pointed out various plants used for folk remedies, and eagerly scrambled up a tree to fetch a sausage fruit, which he called the Maasai viagra. He even treated us to a fine rendition of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song."

Feast for the Senses

I had hoped the food on this tour would be palatable, and came to the dinner table with an optimistic sense of adventure. I was blown away. The food was amazing - fresh and flavorful. The creole pasta I had was the best creole dish I've ever eaten - a perfect blend of spices that stopped just short of being too hot. At dinner the server took requests for wake up calls - our choice of coffee or tea delivered to our room in the morning - and if we wanted a fire started in our room after dinner. I was already overwhelmed, and we hadn't even started the safari. >>

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