Even before we finished breakfast the 20 children from Standard 4 (approximately 10 years old) arrived. These are the children we were taking to the Conservation Park – about half an hour’s drive South of Mbeya.
It was a strange feeling. No translators. Just us and the children. We viewed the animals in captivity – including 4 porcupines in a pen and a very sweet three day old baby. We had been promised zebras and giraffes but could see no sign of life from the observation platform. We descended a steep trail down onto the valley floor and continued our search. Eventually our guide managed to locate some zebras on the top of the hill where we had just been! Great excitement from the children. Two zebras, two wildebeest and several gazelles passed within fifty yards of where we were standing.
The walk back up the hill was tiring in the growing heat and humidity. We left the park to have drinks at another Karibuni centre, conveniently located within walking distance. The children were able to play in a playground there – just like any kids in the world – on swings, slides, roundabouts and seesaws. It must have been a strange experience for them as none of them have access to such equipment in their communities.
Then we climbed to the fourth floor of the centre. This overlooked the valley where we had seen the zebras. We could also see the new Mbeya airport, still not completed. The room was fitted out with easy chairs – a totally different environemnt to where the kids usually spend their time. They were both amazed and fascinated by it. We left, luckily, just before a huge rainstorm and we escaped a drenching and only got hit by a few enormous drops of rain. It was just as well as some of us were travelling in the back of a pick-up truck.
The children enjoyed themselves immensely and the day allowed us to bond a bit with them despite the language barrier.
Tomorrow we start our journey back. We catch the 6.30am coach. Then a 13 hour ride back to Dar-es-Salaam. Can’t wait!
Sharon: Kids so love this zoo trip…. this is also one of the many alternative gifts available.