Just lion in the sun – Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania,
Even if you gave me a VIP pass, a bucket of popcorn and a Keg o’Cola, I wouldn’t attend a 72-hour Monster Truck Marathon. I don’t have anything against that type of event, it’s just that it doesn’t appeal to me personally. Likewise I wouldn’t pay money for a yodelling contest, a squirrel taxidermy exhibition, or a llama-milking competition - not that there’s anything wrong with any of them. However, I have met plenty of travellers in places where they quite simply didn’t want to be.
Travelling is not cheap. For most of us we’re lucky if we have one vacation a year, and if it’s something very special it could well be the trip of a lifetime. Yet I once met someone in Kenya who didn’t like the heat, had no interest in wildlife and wasn’t particularly keen on Africa. He had booked the trip because he liked the sound of a safari. I initially wondered quite what he was thinking until I realised that he actually wasn’t thinking at all!
‘Tick-off Tourism’ is that strange phenomena that causes people to spend good money to travel to places in which they have little or no interest or knowledge, and often into an environment or climate that they dislike. Their sole motivation is that their next door neighbour did it last year, or that they haven’t ‘done’ the Taj Mahal, The Great Wall of China, or Jello-wrestling before. The fact that they are not in the slightest bit interested in these places or events doesn’t even occur to them.
Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is one of the natural wonders of the world. The 600-metre deep volcanic crater is more than 260 square kilometres in area and is home to most of the species found in East Africa including lions, rhinos, leopard and elephant. In short, it is a veritable Garden of Eden with the sharp crater walls and cloud-fringed rim providing a breath-taking backdrop to spectacular game viewing. So why did several members of our group opt to spend their time in the lodge bar at the top, rather than in a 4WD on the floor of the crater?
I am a wildlife nut. I could spend all day watching a herd of elephants and I once allowed myself to be eaten alive by mosquitoes and black fly just to spot a black bear, but I fully appreciate that I might be quite odd! However, to travel halfway around the world to Tanzania, spend days travelling over very rough and dusty roads through one-zebra towns, endure cold showers and warm beer and then reach Ngorongoro Crater and spend your one day there sipping drinks by the pool because you discovered that you didn’t really like wildlife as much as you thought, strikes me as being, well, rather a shame.
Travel can be enlightening, awakening, educating or just plain entertaining but it should always be enjoyable. This is especially true for adventure travel. Conduct research before you travel. Chat to someone who’s been before, read first-hand accounts of other’s experiences and find out what the destination is really like. Study the climate, the conditions and the infrastructure.
If you plan with your head as well as your heart you are guaranteed to have the experience of a lifetime. If not, you might have just spent your life-savings on the most expensive gin and tonic in the world!
Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan © 2008