Sunday, October 20, 2013

Meserani, the hidden tourist spot

By Elisha Mayallah,The citizen

The nearly 30 minutes trip from the Arusha CBD towards the Dodoma-Mwanza road, is sure to offer visitors spectacular sightings. The breathtaking landscapes offer a very interesting experience.

The Meserani Snake Park located along the highway is one of the hidden tourist spots that fascinate both local and international tourists. The warmth and friendliness of the staff, mostly the Maasai and the owners, Mr. Berry Bales (BJ) and his wife Lynn aka Mama Nyoka makes visitors feel at home. Any staff you meet along the park area will always exchange a greeting, a handshake and offer a smile.

The richness of a stunning wilderness and fascinating choice of a few interesting things to view at the park is legendary and a real treat for the senses. It has always been a pleasure to visit the park time and time again, like I did recently.

The park offers a pride of the unique collections of Tanzania snakes, common in Eastern and Southern Africa: The ‘big’ five snakes namely - the African Python, Gaboon Viper, Black Mamba, Puff Ader and Black and Red spitting Cobras are all found here, protected under the watchful eye of experts.

In almost all the 40-plus snake families at the park, the Gaboon Vipers, Cobras and Mambas remain the most interesting features, attracting the attention of many visitors.

In Tanzania, the black mamba, which has a history of being aggressive to humans is mostly found in Dodoma, Tabora and Singida.

The park is also home to other reptiles including monitor lizards and crocodiles. It also harbours chameleons, tortoises, the elusive yellow baboons and the endangered specie, the slender snout crocodiles. The park also provides temporary home to a few orphaned or injured bird species.

The Maasai cultural museum, also in the park, gives you a feel of the rich Maasai culture depicted in a local Maasai village. The museum is famous for its pre-historic collections and attracts among others those interested in the Maasai culture.

To practically demonstrate the Maasai culture, the village museum depicts the tribe’s lifestyle, crafts and more, in different aspects. All these are displayed in different rooms.

The village also boasts a stunning collection of ornaments showcasing inheritance said to be from the last millennia.

“We knew it would be appreciated by our visitors comprising people from different cultures,” says Bales. It is an insight into the rich diversity of the Maasai culture.

After seeing the glitz and glamour of the museum, the next place I visited was the vibrant Maasai women’s craft market, which provides the real feel of the Maasai natural charm that sways the heart.

The market is made up of a few huts owned by different families and the sellers are mainly Maasai women living in the neighbourhood. The huts were built and offered to the locals free of charge by the park management as part of its social responsibility to the community.

Offered for sale here are various Maasai beadworks such as bracelets, necklaces, earrings and other ornaments. This is where tourists buy souvenirs.

Camel riding is another activity that visitors can enjoy while at the park. You feel drawn to the camels immediately you see them. I watched in amazement as the camels moved around with riders on top.

The bar is another place to visit while at the park. This is where visitors take a break to sip a drink and enjoy a snack after exploring the different sights at the park. The bar is well stocked with local and international brands.

Hanging from the bar roof are all sorts of memorabilia, from T-shirts to bank notes. There are bank notes from Ethiopia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy and many other countries.

Photos of Wazungus (Europeans) and trucks stuck in muddy roads show the people from around the world who have been to the park bar and left their mark. Every piece has a story to tell.

The menu here is fairly simple; if you like burgers try the beef mix, cheese and fried eggs. There are other choices of toasted sandwiches and Boerewor rolls to choose from. Every dish here is perfectly served by the friendly and experienced staff.