5 Day Expedition: Tarangire National Park and Manyara Ranch

These five days of camping were the highlight of this semester abroad so far!  Our days were very long and full of fun activities. The trip was absolutely amazing but there is no better way to describe my adventures other than through a lot of pictures from the national park and other educational opportunities.

Day 1: Tarangire National Park safari and animal count transects

On the first day, we visited Tarangire National Park to appreciate the wildlife and contribute towards SFS’s running data collection on animal counts and vegetation type during our transects. We were usually a group of 5-8 in the safari car and each of us had a different task that contributes towards the data collection process. The tasks included, spotting and counting the animals, identifying the species, their sex and behavior,  keeping track of the vegetation type along each transect, and making sure there is a note-taker recording all this data. After gathering this data we were able to analyze when we returned to the classroom soon after this expedition.

Me holding a wildebeest skull at the National Park

You’re seeing what I saw through my binoculars. African Elephant (Tembo) 

We were able to see a mom and its baby in their natural habitat

-fun fact: female elephants have a more sloped stomach than males. They also have a right angled head shape.

Spotting and counting animals in the national park for our research

So many plains zebras (pundamila) at Tarangire National Park

A male impala (swala pala) 

Maasai giraffe (twega) famous for their unique pattern

-fun fact you can tell that this a female giraffe because females are smaller and have horns covered with hair at the top

Vervet monkeys, mom feeding her cute baby 

Our lunch break consisted of vervet monkeys stealing our food

Day 2: Tarangire National Park safari and animal count transects AGAIN and guest speaker on lion research

The second day, we continued the transects of animal counts since the park is huge and to cover a lot of the area we need to do multiple transects a day.

For the second part of our day, we went outside the park to a research center where Dr. Kissui explained his research on lions. He focused on how they track them using GPS colors and how that helps in animal count and distribution studies on large carnivores. He mentioned the main limiting factors for his research was the price of such collars and the poaching occurring as lion retaliation along with bravery to the individual responsible for spearing that animal. A lot of conservation efforts are concentrated on these topics and there has been a reduction in such consequences but it is definitely still an issue among the Maasai community.

We watched a lioness attempt to prey on an impala, AMAZING!

A closer look at this lioness

We tried to take a selfie with the lioness in the back but we clearly failed at showing it

Cheetah (duma) taking a little nap 

Some zebra traffic on the rode 

On the way back we stopped by the Tarangire National Park lodge before the guest lecture

Lions are identified based on their unique whisker spots 

Day 3: Understanding human-wildlife conflict

We talked to the park rangers about their practices to maintain wildlife conservation and management. In addition to how they deal with Maasai communities residing around the national parks, in addition to the poaching activities present in such protected areas.

We later interviewed Maasai community members that live in the wildlife corridors around the national parks to further understand the human-wildlife conflict. From what the local communities have told us, elephants were the biggest source of problems as they cause the most damage in such areas. This in turn, affects the livelihood of these people that are already financially unstable! These conflicts are not being resolved due to the governments availability to compensate for crop damage within a timely manner, as some individuals discussed how it may take up to two years to receive compensation.  Thus, more conservation and management plans need to be further developed and tailored to benefit both the people and wildlife!

-sorry I did not take any pictures those activities but here’s a picture from that day at our camp site!

Camp life was so much fun 

Day 4: Manyara Ranch transect walks and animal count and LIONS!

The fourth day was absolutely amazing. First, we started with the animal counting  transects, like the rest of the days but this was more intense since Manyara Ranch is a game reserve area that allows for livestock grazing. Therefore, there was a lot of cattle, goats, sheep, and donkeys to count that day. Regardless, it was a lot of fun!

Also, one of my highlights from this day was racing an ostrich run in full speed as he passed our car, that ostrich was going about 30-40 mphs, incredible!

Hundreds of cattle to count 

The closest I’ve gotten to elephants so far

The beauty of this lion (simba) was unforgettable, favorite moment!

The African lion enjoying the fresh air

Day 5: Background information on Manyara Ranch 

On our last day, we discussed the vegetation and availability of natural resources in Manyara Ranch. Understanding the problems in these places will help improve wildlife conservation and management.

Saying our last goodbyes to Manyara Ranch at the top of a mountain

I hope you enjoyed all the pictures!

Koheri (bye)!

Home stay at Mama Regina’s


After a long expedition at Tarengire National Park, we visited some families around the camp and spent most of our day with them. This experience allowed us to be more immersed and connected to our local community! Three students, including myself, were able to visit Mama Regina’s house. We spent the majority of our time with her and her two daughters that day. We wanted to help her with her everyday tasks. In addition, we brought the family some food and water as a gift since all of them volunteered to host us for the day.

First we swept the floors in front of Mama Regina’s house using big branches of trees, which actually worked better than I through! Then, we helped collect cow dump and transported it to her farm since it acts as a fertilizer for her vegetation. Next we helped the girls make tee and cook food for lunch, it was a lot of fun to learn how to cook using firewood! Throughout the day we practiced our swahili and bonded with the girls and Mama Regina!

Hanging out with Mama Regina’s daughters, Janet and Patricia 

Made milk and tee to drink

While waiting for the food to cook, we got preoccupied with braiding hair

It was a blast, the braided our hair multiple times with different designs 

Riga was able to teach Patricia how to juggle  

Mama Regina setting the table with all the delicious food we cooked

A little photoshoot with the family



Sunday fun day: Hike to Karatu and African Galleria


Today twenty of us decided to walk from Rhotia village to Karatu which is about a three-hour hike/walk. This idea was introduced by our leader and it sounded like a nice easy walk for a not so athletic person like me, but that was not the case, it was a full out hike! Even though I was not expecting the intensity of this hike, it was beautiful, the path and views were absolutely amazing. The views were so beautiful that sometimes my friends and I would stop for pictures and one time we might have stopped for a little longer and fell behind a little bit. In the beginning, we were distanced from the rest of our group, but they were still in our site of vision until we went through a town with a lot of people and started to encounter multiple paths. There were a lot of people coming out of church as we were walking so we ran into them and started socializing. With all the talking and slow walking, we might have gotten distracted and lost site of the group even more. At that time, we had to navigate and ask people for direction using our poor Swahili skills, but nonetheless, we managed! There were definitely some nervous laughs throughout the way but all was good after we found the rest of the group.

After that long hike, I went to the African Galleria with a few people. This place is for tourists and is more Americanized with a lot of typical souvenirs. It is however famous for selling Tanzanite. There, were able to get a nice American pepperoni pizza, after about a month of eating Tanzanian food, it was a nice change.

The views form our walk

We’re the three musketeers that eventually get a little lost

Riga enjoying the hike and the pigeon pee farms we’re walking through 

Goats, sheep, and cows on the side of these paths

Made it to the top, I’m smiling but I’m also out of breath (2 hrs in… 1 hr to go!)

A beautiful abandoned building at the top of the mountain 

The African Galleria 

Wooden statues all around the entrance of the African Galleria 

Until next time, Baadaye!


Community Service Day

Mambo everyone!

Today was one of our community service days; we were able to sign up for two activities that contributed towards helping our local community at Rhotia Village. I was able to help with trash pickup with a couple of friends around Moyo Hill camp (our campus). Then, many of us went to a children’s home to play games and practice English with the kids there! These kids were very intelligent and most even knew conversational English.

Meeting all these kids who knew their tribal language, Swahili, and are currently learning English, made me realize the power of language. Understanding someone’s language can help in understanding them and their culture. The importance of language has been further highlighted through my interactions with the people here that are at various levels of English. The little Swahili that I now know has helped me connect with people better and has allowed me to have actual conversations in which we can share some stories and knowledge with one another. In comparison, not knowing or understanding something completely can be very limiting and create barriers between people. So, I am glad that learning Swahili has been positively impacting my experiences with people since this language has been able to bridge two different cultures with each other.



Sunday fun day: waterfall hike and knife painting

Another week, another free day! This morning, my friends and I went hiking at a beautiful waterfall at Mto Wa Mbu with a couple of local tour guides. Then I attended a knife painting workshop in which we used butter knifes, dye with grease, and specific techniques to create our artwork.

Hiking up to the top

Looking sharper than the steep rocks we just hiked

Team work makes the dream work (also Carla looking great with her “I <3 Worcester “shirt- aka come to Holy Cross)

Beautiful views at every corner of that hike 

The whole group all in one piece at the top of the waterfalls 

Our guides for the hike discussed the uses and farming strategies for the banana trees next to the waterfalls 

-they can eat bananas fresh or cook them; they can also use the wood from these trees for the rooftops of their home or for art.

-Also, banana trees are cut at a certain location that allows the water obtained from that tree to be used for the surrounding growing trees in order to ensure water availability for their plantations!

Our station for the knife painting workshop

My knife painting of Simba!

Until next time, Baadaye!

The big Karatu market


This week has been, learning more and more everyday in the classroom and the field! Today, we decided to take a break from our work and explore town to go to one of the biggest markets here! This market only takes place once every two months. The whole community comes together to sell fabric, clothes, food, and even livestock! Even though it was very crowded that day, we enjoyed experiencing a non touristy market in our own village.

On another day of this week, we were able to go stargazing and enjoy the natural beauty of Tanzania at night!

The Karatu market

Being basic as can be with the girls 

Mousa here helped us with Swahili and finding these sugarcane!

Cutting down some sugarcane; they’re basically wooden ice cream

Stargazing + headlamps = : D


Lake Manyara National Park

Mambo everyone!

Today was one of the best days of my life! It was our first expedition of the semester in which we spent about 12 hours in a safari at Lake Manyara National Park! We were observing and trying to identify all the animals at the park, both in English and Swahili.  Some of the wildlife we saw that day included, elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos, wildebeest, impalas, different species of monkeys and gazelles and much more!

The main reason for our visit, other than seeing all this wildlife, was to conduct a research project on olive baboon’s activity patterns in the wild. My friends and I learned, identified, and recorded different behaviors of targeted baboon troops. After collecting their behavior, we wrote a research paper regarding this data. It was interesting to analyze our results and find out why baboons displayed movement and foraging as the two most frequent activities. Some of the reasoning behind these activities is their location, resource availability, season, distribution, and individual traits such as the sex, age, and hierarchical class of the troops observed.

Enjoy the pictures!

It’s our first time doing a safari

Olive baboon posing for the picture and eating palm tree nut

Mama and her baby on a mission to find food

Baboons right above our safari… a little scary but super cool!

Zebras and wildebeests running behind me  

Pictures do not do zebras justice, their beauty is so detailed and hard to explain!  

The zebra family showed up… the baby is so cute! 

Spending 12 hours in the safari with these lovely people made my experience even better!

Hippos! Lazy as can be : )

Enjoying the beautiful views with these ladies at our mini break at the park

Vervet monkeys chilling by the trees

Grant’s gazelle

Our next expedition is at Tarangire National Park, cannot wait for more wildlife!


Sunday fun day: wax painting and wood carving

Mambo everyone!

This is my first weekend at the School of Field Studies Program at Tanzania and I am happy to say we get Sundays off to relax and explore some off-campus locations!  Each week there is a list of activities and workshops to participate in that feature the touristy and not so touristy places in Tanzania.

This Sunday, I decided to have an artsy day since the art workshops here are so unique! In the morning, I attended a wax painting workshop at a local home. The people guiding us through wax painting techniques have been doing this type of art for the past 50 years and are therefore very experienced. The majority of their art work featured African culture and wildlife. This included people practicing daily activities, like going to the market, or dancing traditional dances. Some even represented certain rituals through different symbolic meanings.

In the evening, I went to a wood carving place! It was so interesting to learn, see, and be a part of the wood carving process.  A particular technique is necessary to achieve a beautiful wooden work of art.

Fransha and Elaine are already skilled wax painters

Me trying to not mess up infront of Ali

Sarah and I working hard to get the waxing technique down

The whole crew drying their wax paintings at the fire pit 

Professional painting of three women dancing

A beautiful painting of people heading home from the market

Just one of many wildlife paintings at that house

Working hard at the wood carving place

We were all successful in making our wooden animals with a little help by the professionals! 

They used mango trees that were licensed to be cut down and carved to make these beautiful animals and other statues    

Always excited to share more next time!


Field Lecture at Mto Wa Mbu

The majority of our lectures are inside the classroom but we have field lectures, exercises, projects, and safaris at least 2-3 times a week! This is the type of learning I enjoy and understand the most.

So today we went to Mto Wa Mbu, a city close to Rhotia (my home location) and had class out on the field. First we went to a location that used to be populated with many elephants but due to agriculture and human settlements, elephants are rarely seen there now. Our professors talked about some of the issues involving the human wildlife conflict by considering the wildlife, the local people and their culture, as well as, the politics behind these wildlife conservation and management efforts.

After this introduction on the history of the area and community occupying it, we had the opportunity to talk to some local people and an amazing guest speaker to represent that community. He discussed the human wildlife conflict in more detail and specifically focused on the management efforts. He told us that a big issue the local people used to face as human settlements increased in areas populated by wildlife was loss of livestock, crops, and destruction of homes in some occasion. Also, the increase of human settlement caused blockage of many corridors used for animal migration. The co-living of humans and wildlife, encouraged the spread of more issues.

Wildlife efforts provided protected areas for animals with national parks. Additionally, they designated a no man’s land to act as a buffer for animals and people for them to commonly use. This land is government property in which people can use for agriculture at their own risk as animals may trespass this area freely. It is illegal to kill wildlife in this area or their living place unless, these animals threaten the livestock and the well being of the people. Even though, conflict is reduced and it is rare that animals cause issues for the people, it continues to be an issue.Thus, wildlife conservationist have been trying to reduce some human wildlife conflict by providing a more affordable fencing technique to keep elephants out of the people’s land. These techniques include, chili and beehive fencing; these are some things that elephants are afraid of and would therefore be discouraged from entering such a space.

My classroom : )

My classmates and I paying attention to our guest speaker

So many little kids saying hi to us and joining us on our walks!

It was very interesting to learn about how much these people know and how much work is needed to manage human wildlife conflicts

I am learning so much here, can’t wait for the next field experience at Lake Manyara National Park!


Orientation Week

This is week one at Moyo Hill Camp and just like freshman year at Holy Cross, we had a couple of days of orientation to acclimate to the new environment. During those days, we became more familiar with our surrounding community and area. I was also able to finally meet the people that I will be spending the next three months with! We played a lot of ice breakers and name games to get to know each other a little more before classes start.

We all landed safe and sound in Tanzania!

Hannah welcoming you all to our campus 

Rega and Carla posing at the top of our campus gazebo 

My new home: Chui

-‘Chui’ means leopard in Swahili and all of our dorms are named after African animals!

Bonfire night!

Getting ready to play soccer with the locals 

Just a 20 min hike from our campus to see these beautiful views 

Still cannot believe I’m here…

See you later, or as they say in Swahili, Baadaye!