I just came back from my first camping trip in Tanzania, a four day trip to Tarangire National Park! Not only was it my first long excursion since I have been here, but it was my first camping trip EVER. There was definitely a learning curve involved, and in my professor’s words, “the only way to have a good time is to suck it up”. It sounds kind of mean, but he meant it with love, and he was definitely right, the trip was difficult but so so worth it. The average wake up time was around 5:30 so that we could be out in the field by 6:30. I am not usually a morning person so it was really hard for me. We would get ready in the dark and eat around a campfire before getting in the cruisers and heading to the park. The workload was very heavy. We usually started with a field exercise, some of the ones we did were bird identification, large mammal count, elephant aging and sexing, along with quite a few others. My favorite was the large mammal count because we basically got to go on a game drive and stop to look at all of the animals while we collected data. While we were counting we even saw some lions and jackals! It was such a surreal experience seeing these incredible creatures in the wild, and pretty close too. In the afternoon we would either have another exercise or a field lecture, which we all greatly preferred because of the heat.
We learned quite quickly that though getting up early was hard, working in the hot midday equator sun was much much harder. It could get incredibly frustrating trying to count hundreds of zebras with the sun glaring down on you and could get really tiring, but I feel like the comradery made it so much more fun. Everyone was going through the exact same thing and so we could all empathize, but we could also make light of the trip. Joking about getting things wrong, running late, or even when someone would fall asleep during a lecture. It also made the activities incredible experiences. By the end we were functioning as a well oiled machine with everyone filling a role. We had a scribe, GPS coordinator, compass and viewfinder, and counter all going at the same time. It was probably one of the best experiences that I have ever had working with a team. Everyone of my cohorts on this trip genuinely wants to be here and we all have common interests in animals and conservation, so it is basically like getting to live with 20 of your closest friends. There is no one else that I would have had this first camping experience with and I am so excited for our next trip when we go to the Serengeti!
Here is a picture one of my friends took of a lion that we got to see during our mammal count!