What emotion is this I am feeling, as I sit in the back of a safari vehicle as we drive into the palm forest along the shores of Lake Nzerakera? Happy, very happy! Sunshine, the natural landscape and the anticipation of being on safari again dissipates any anxiety I have about travelling on a two-week educational during a global pandemic.
I am super-excited to finally experience Siwandu in the former Selous Game Reserve, renamed the Nyerere National Park, in Tanzania. The spacious octagonal tents cleverly has mozzie netting sewn into their fabric. Tent flaps up, I merrily unpack sipping chilled freshly squeezed lime juice, whilst enjoying views of the bush and lake, as fish eagles call overhead. It is melt-your-makeup-off humid and, after an alfresco shower, I head to the main relaxation areas.
Camp Managers, Emiel and Noah host me throughout my stay. Respectively they have 22 and 16 years with the Selous Safari Company and it is great to be able to tap into their fascinating experiences and generously shared knowledge.
Head chef Edmund and his service team, Mau and Alphonse, are superstars! I take one mouthful and reach for my notepad to jot down the recipes for the beautifully presented and cracking fresh East African fusion fare.
After I returned to the UK, early in February, I try to replicate these dishes, but as it turns out they absolutely need to be served on an elevated dining deck with epic views of Lake Nzerakera and the BehoBeho mountains in the distance! A crocodile-shaped brioche bread is served during a surprise lunch on a pontoon, a slow moving boat with floats for buoyancy and a canopy for shaded cruises. This next-level creative baking has us in stitches as we take a blissfully laid-back cruise past pods of honking hippopotamus.
There are, understandably, divisive views of the Stieglers Gorge hydropower dam under construction in the park, some 50 kilometres from Siwandu. I am not going to debate the merits of this project, rather that having just spent time here, I witnessed very high levels of courtesy from the truck drivers for the safari vehicles and their guests, on the well maintained main park roads.
The Nyerere NP is nicknamed #GirafficPark and how cool a moniker is that?! On my educational, I am lucky enough to spend time with all Siwandu’s great guides: Chris, Amos, Mohamed and John found journeys of giraffe, hunting lions, breeding herds of elephant, mud-bathing buffalo and my personal favourite, the African wild dog.
The guides, both senior and those in training, interpret the Nyerere NP without ego and but with a lot of passion, genuinely caring for both the comfort and enjoyment of their guests and the wellbeing of the game.
Fast forward to a sundowner game cruise to the confluence of the mighty Rufiji River. As we speed-boat past palm-tree punctuated waterways, I cannot help but hear the theme song from Indiana Jones in my head, albeit transported to the African continent! I am on an African safari adventure, up close to crocodiles, more hippos and waterfowl. Yes, very 'happy' covers it.