For many of us here at Stern, earning an MBA has become more than just about acquiring academic credentials. We enrolled at Stern with plans to meet new people, create lasting memories and partake in once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Despite having these goals, only a few of us could have ever dreamt that our MBA journeys would give us the opportunity to travel through Tanzania. Yet, when the first day of spring break finally arrived, we found ourselves traversing the streets of Arusha in safari vehicles more reminiscent of a trip to Jurassic Park than a grad school excursion.
The trip began with an evening spent sampling Arusha’s local cuisine and nightlife. There, we were treated to our first sunset in Tanzania — an incredible sight that foreshadowed the amazing experiences to come. On day two, we headed from Arusha to the beautiful Lake Manyara National Park, where we would spend the next couple of days deep in the reserve at the Lake Manyara Serena Lodge. After being greeted by a welcoming party of resident baboons, we participated in activities including a ziplining course and nighttime game drive.
The following morning, our group once again boarded safari vehicles for a short trip to the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest inactive and intact volcanic caldera. Home to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the crater houses an array of animals, including elephants, rhinos, giraffes, lions, hippos and a likely growing population of zebras. Displaying the quintessential maturity expected from a group of Sternies confronted by wildlife flaunting lessons from Bloodhound Gang’s masterpiece, “The Bad Touch,” our convoy savored the beauty and serenity of the surrounding environment. The day was capped by a hike around the Empakaai Crater for one group, while the other opted for a quad-biking adventure through the Karatu district of Arusha.
Although many in the group had a rather late night, the following day began at dawn with an outside breakfast at the Lake Manyara Serena Lodge. It was here that we were treated to a delicious meal and breathtaking sunrise before a cultural learning excursion to a local Maasai village. In accordance with Maasai culture, we were dressed in Shuka clothing and were taught their traditional customs and dances.
Day five, our time in mainland Tanzania came to an end as we boarded a brief flight to the island of Zanzibar. Fortunate enough to be staying at a hotel right on one of the island’s many beaches, we were treated to spectacular ocean views and scenery. Later that day, we took a guided tour of the old part of Zanzibar City, known as Stone Town. Wandering through the winding roads of Stone Town, it felt like we were being thrust back to the crowded streets of 18th century Zanzibar. During the tour, not only did we uncovered Zanzibar’s rich history as a crucial player in the spice trade, but also the dark side of the city’s past as a key location of the slave trade.
The following day started with boarding several small boats and embarking on a “Blue Safari” tour. After a series of stops consisting of snorkeling, sightseeing and perhaps a little rivalry between boats (shout-out to the Kikale crew), we ended the day with a sunset meal on an island beach. Even the extreme prevalence of sunburn throughout the group did little to dampen our spirits as we spent the evening exploring the nightlife of Zanzibar. Our final day consisted of participating in a Spice Village cooking lesson, visiting prison island and its rare population of giant tortoises and hiding in the shade with club sandwiches while recovering by the pool. As the sun set on the horizon as well as on our trip, we closed the week with a local family dinner and night spent on the beach.
Despite an untold number of questions on GroupMe, a non-zero number of broken bones, and some harrowing learning experiences courtesy of NYU’s travel nurses, the trek to Tanzania was just what many of us hoped for out of our time at Stern. Notwithstanding the prodigious backdrop surrounding us, the magnetism amongst the Stern group was undoubtedly the most unforgettable aspect of our endeavors. Tanzania and its incredible scenery, people and culture provided the perfect boost for those of us about to reenter the real world, exiting Stern on a high note. Meanwhile, for all my Sternie peers with one more year of school to go, Tanzania has set a lofty bar for future treks.
The phrase “Hakuna Matata” now truly holds a dear place in all our hearts.