Photograph by Daniel Stone
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Arusha's clock tower is said to be the central point of East Africa, equidistant between Cairo and Cape Town.
Photograph by Daniel Stone

Stop #3: Arusha, Tanzania—Why We Came

Two weeks in, we finally made our way south of the equator, this time to Tanzania in East Africa. Later this week, we’ll be traveling out to Tarangire National Park. Fun fact about Tanzania’s geography: Tarangire park is 1,100 square miles, about the same size as Rhode Island, but it’s only the sixth largest national park in Tanzania. (The others are here).

We’re heading to Tarangire to see one of National Geographic’s most classic projects at work. East Africa has an incredibly diverse landscape of large mammals and Laly Lichtenfeld, a Yale researcher and National Geographic grantee, is working to save some of them from disappearing. It’s part of a larger project known as the Big Cat Initiative to protect iconic feline species worldwide.

Part of understanding Laly’s work requires that we visit the reserve where she works. Out there, we’ll see her unique project to build walls out of natural materials like trees and shrubs. The idea is that the walls separate local lions and cheetahs from the livestock they sometimes kill—and in effect save the cats from farmers, who often kill the big cats in retaliation.

That’s what’s happening on the vast plains. We also hope to explore below ground. The geology of East Africa is unlike anywhere else on Earth, where a tectonic ridge system and millions of years of pressure have created vast deposits of colored gemstones. We’ll talk with a gemologist here in Arusha working to educate Tanzanians about the geology of their country, and what they can do to maximize how they handle such sought-after gems.

For now, we have a safari vehicle to catch and a long drive into the East African bush.