My MMU conservation degree involved a compulsory field trip, which I later found out was to Tanzania in Africa. Despite the pricey reputation I leapt at the opportunity, knowing that I would unlikely get one like this again and that I would never have the gut to book something similar independently. Initially I did not know anyone who was going initially being a distance learning student, but that soon changed through the process of travelling. Waiting for the tardy lecturers at Manchester Airport rallied the troops so get to know each other, then making our way Nairobi in Kenya, via Brussels, we gradually got to know each other even more, sufficed to say everyone became perfectly compfortable taking pictures of me asleep with my mouth open, despite not even knowing my surname. That’s what I love about travelling, where everyone’s inhibitions go out the window and everyone gets a fresh slate. With the built up anticipation of being with a bunch of strangers, it ends up being more fun that you ever realised.
Arriving in Nairobi we all breathed a sigh of relief when our bags, filled with our life essentials, made their way slowly around the conveyor belt, that’s all except for one lecturer however. He believing it was prejudice again being American, eventually arranged for a pick up of his bag a few days later ( a bag that had strangely been flown to Paris?!). The delay meant we arrived at a hotel in the early hours of the morning. The rooms were hot and streets were noisy, but we were desperate to get some kip before we left at 6am for the day long drive to Mweka, on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania.
The following morning was a struggle. No water, no cash and little sleep. I tried desperately to keep my eyes open as we drove through the baron landscapes in Kenya, but ended up sleeping all the way to the border, having missed some major wildlife sighting in the process. Once again an embarrassing video surfaced of me asleep yet again, thus introducing the nickname narcoleptic.
Finally 10 hours or so later with some minor hiccups in the journey, we arrived in Mweka at the College of African Wildlife Management (CAWM), a college training African student in conservation, ecology, environmental studies and game keeping. While fighting off the dopey mosquitoes we were assigned our own rooms, where we immediately crashed out and contemplated the reality of being in Africa. In between the exquisite meals provided, several CAWM lecturers gave us daily talks on what they do at the college, before finally departing 2 days later for safari.We departed in the biggest 4WD vehicle I’ve set my eyes on – called a UniMog. It was a beast of vehicle that assured me we would be totally ready for all that a safari could throw at us. Unfortunately several break downs did occur during the course of the trip, but it never failed to get us to our destinations, even if hours behind schedule.
During our time on safari it was essential to keep and field guide going of our creation, with notes and sketches on everything we learnt and saw. It was packed full by the end and was to be available by MMU as part of our course assessment. Although at times it was frustrating trying to write our notes in the dim light of the campfire, I was pleased with my effort, despite my complete inexperience with species identification.