Thrilling experience in Safari for Tanzanian-born American

Mr Emmanuel Muganda at Tarangire National Park PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • The Tanzanian-born American, Emmanuel Muganda  who left Tanzania in early 1970s for the US, has just visited the Tarangire and Ngorongoro national parks together with his wife and granddaughter.

By Anganile Mwakyanjala

In the 1970s, Mr Emmanuel Muganda, by then a teenager, left Tanzania for the United States on sponsored studies.

This journey changed his life trajectory and now, in his 60s, the American citizen has adult children who fully identify as Americans.

If it wasn’t for his constant tales of his life in Tanzania and having them travel back even when they were kids, they wouldn’t know a thing about their motherland.

That connection to Africa and Tanzania has been instrumental in raising his children. But now Mr Muganda has a granddaughter born in Maryland.

It was the right time for the 5-year-old Ezra to see the natural beauty of Tanzania, and just a few weeks ago they embarked on a safari to Tarangire and Ngorongoro national parks.

Like many American kids, Ezra has seen many cartoons depicting the big five African wild animals and occasionally visited the zoo but it was her first time seeing the animals roaming free in their natural habitat.

“Our first safari was to Tarangire, we stayed there the whole day, then went back to the hotel, the next day we went to Ngorongoro,” he said.

Mr Muganda’s frequent trips to Tanzania had ceased during the Covid-19 pandemic, and this was his first trip back, where he noticed no prior Covid-19 restrictions.

The immigration didn’t even ask to see his Covid-19 vaccine certificate at the airport. On his safari trip, he was accompanied by his wife, Nellie, granddaughter, Ezra, and an African American pastor, TD Hackett from Salisbury, Maryland, who longed to come to Africa for safari.

“This was my first time going to national parks with my wife and my granddaughter as well. We have never gone for a safari together,” he said.

It was a great opportunity to show their American pastor the epic and rich natural beauty Tanzania is endowed with.

Mr Muganda’s granddaughter, Ezra, felt she was in one big zoo, and he had to educate her on the difference between a national park and a zoo.

“Her mum took her to a zoo in America, so when she was here she thought this is a zoo as well. I had to tell her, that here at the national parks animals are not restricted, they are left to roam free unlike the zoo, where they have to be in cages,” he mentioned.

Ezra was well-behaved on the tour. She was so attentive and quiet, and sometimes they would forget she was there. She was not her usual playful self, but rather observant of the surroundings as she watched the wild animals pass by.

“I showed her the elephant and took pictures,” Mr Muganda said.

“She is now five years old, I thought it was the right time to make this memory that she can remember for the rest of her life,” he added.

The first time Mr Muganda was on safari was nearly 50 years ago as a thirteen years old boy when he went to Serengeti on a school trip. The memory is still vivid.

He remembers seeing all the animals from lions to giraffes and spending a night there, now he is on safari with his wife and granddaughter, and this trip is more of a bonding session with his family and friend as they watch the majestic wild animals roam free.

“We saw many animals, from lions to hippos, the only animal we did not see is a rhino,” he remembers.

Rhinos are now an endangered species, rarely seen after devastating years of illegal hunting and selling of their horns in the black markets across the world.

The Tanzanian government had to painstakingly undertake initiatives to protect the rhino population and make sure that the future generation will be able to still come to national parks and see the animals, and not only read them in the books once they are extinct.

Unlike fifty years ago when he went on safari as a teen, the conditions in our national parks have truly changed.

“What shocked me a little was the crowds of tourists, and the many cars in our parks, that was not the case, I know we need the foreign exchange earnings that come from tourism. I think it goes with the territory,” he reasoned.

Mr Muganda still thinks there is a need to somehow to manage the influx of tourists to avoid the environmental damage that comes with it.

He thinks Tanzania has to market other parts of Tanzania like the Southern Circuit which has similar wild animals that tourists go to see in the Northern Circuit so that the huge population of tourists can be distributed to other parts of the country and ease the intake that is currently experienced in Ngorongoro and Serengeti.

“I know Mikumi and Selous are well advertised but there are some national parks that are still unknown to tourists,” he said.

He insists on constantly marketing Tanzania hidden beauty, places that tourists would love to visit, and not only Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, and Zanzibar.

“There is so much beauty in the southern part of the country, we just have to show it to them,” he said.

American cartoons like Simba, the hakuna Matata phrase in the popular animation film have really played a big part in advertising African safari to Americans, and to attract young tourists like Mr Muganda’s granddaughter.

Tanzania has to embed tourist attractions in these popular western animations based in African wildlife.

The visit to national parks has profoundly helped his granddaughter understand Africa and Tanzania more.

But Mr Muganda is still insistent on teaching her the difference between a zoo and a national park.

“At the zoo, it’s just a quick trip to see caged animals, but here at the park we drove for hours seeing the animals in the wilderness and I want her to know that," he said.

Mr Muganda couldn’t be happier with his visit, Ngorongoro lived up to its reputation “My most memorable time was seeing Ngorongoro crater from above, the view is breathtaking,” he said.

His wife was happy to spend time with him in the wilderness away from the busy city life, and his pastor was jubilant, he couldn’t wait to go back home to show his friends the pictures he took and share his experience.

“Our pastor said people are going to be so jealous of his opportunity to go on safari,” Mr Muganda said with a laugh.

Going on safari for an American is a rare opportunity and a life-changing experience, and having an American happy after hours on a tour seeing the wildlife is a positive feedback all tourism stakeholders in Tanzania would be happy to hear.

Tourism plays a very vital role in Tanzania’s economy, and adapting with the modern challenges in the tourism sector includes addressing concerns to protect our environment while making sure a tourist has an incredible time on safari that they will surely return again with more friends to visit Tanzania.