I was originally supposed to go to Kenya for 1 month (July). Unfortunately, Nairobi was unsafe at the time so we were relocated to Tanzania. The first day was a complete culture shock. We drove for about 6 hours to get to our camp, stopping for toilet breaks where the conditions were rather interesting (hole in the ground type of interesting). On our drive to the camp, I don't remember seeing more than 2 sets of traffic lights...there weren't that many cars around, so traffic was generally not an issue. However, on the odd occasion that we stopped, there were locals trying to sell us fruit and corn etc, which were extremely overpriced. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the currency before buying anything....my poor friend bought a pear for $6 !!
Once we arrived at the camp, everybody was extremely friendly, energetic and happy. There was a already a group of volunteers there who arrived a month before us, who, on most part, were great...but played a few pranks on us newbies (guess we were too gullible).
Location and Housing:
The camp was located on a cliff overlooking the beach. We each had a mattress and mosquito net in an army tent of 6 people. I know it's Africa, but the nights do get cold so don't forget to pack a jumper! There were outdoor showers only - it was pretty cool looking at the sky while in the shower.
We ate in a communal dining room. We were provided with 3 meals per day.
Breakfast - tea/coffee, omelette/toast/fried eggs/fruit/cereal/pancakes.
Lunch - pasta/potato/chapati/rice with a little meat and cooked veg/salad. One thing I'd improve would be to include more vegetables. Fruit for dessert.
Evening meal - same options as lunch - varied daily.
But you could go to the local supermarket to get extra snacks/food you wanted. It was a short taxi ride away.
There were 2 guards at night around our camp each night. I felt very safe in the area we were in.
The local community:
The children would follow us around the village, they were extremely energetic and happy. Because white people, 'muzungus' are rare in Tanzania, we felt sort of like celebrities - children would shout 'muzungu, muzungu' and try to speak English with you, take selfies, wear your glasses and bobbins etc. Warning: their energy levels never stop, so be prepared to be exhausted.
This is so so so so important!! When someone says they'll be ready at 6am, it doesn't necessarily mean 6am. The attitude is 'pole pole', meaning 'slowly slowly'. Tanzanian 6 am could be 8am or even 9am. It is whatever time, as long as everyone is ready. There is never any rush in Tanzania, so do not get annoyed if someone is 5 minutes 'late'.
You can hand wash your clothes, or give a local 'mama' your dirty laundry and 5-10 dollars to do it for you.
There was no stress involved. Each one of us was assigned to a different project - making a toilets for the local school, painting classrooms and walls, building a hut for the 'mama' in the village. Nobody rushed us, we got help if we needed it. The school was a 30 minute walk from our camp. We worked Monday to Friday and had the weekends off.
I booked the PADI Scuba Diving course, which was a 4 day course. We spent the first 2 days learning theory and practicing to breathe in the pool. The next 2 days we did an exam and went out into the ocean.
If you plan on continuing to scuba dive around the world and want to do it without an instructor, I'd recommend the course. However, if you just want to see life underwater once every now and again, a simple snorkeling trip is much cheaper and almost as good - ask the local fishermen to bring you to a neighboring island.
There was 1 safari tour included in the program. It was very touristy. However, we saw lions, hundreds of elephants, giraffes (which are extremely photogenic) among other wildlife and plants. We also had an option to book an additional safari - we did not see as many elephants or lions, but saw hippos and crocodiles. We stayed overnight in a national park and had a BBQ on the beach..would highly recommend it. The tour guide Boko was amazing.
In conclusion, if you want to make more of an impact in the community (by working on projects), and enjoy the chill Tanzanian lifestyle, I'd recommend staying for at least 2 months. 1 month was just not enough for me. Similarly, if you want to do additional activities (e.g. Kilimanjaro), one month is not enough. I made sooo many new friends, some of which I am still in contact with today (4 years later!!).
I made a list of things I'd bring next time:
-pictures of my house, family and where I grew up to show the locals in the village what a completely different world you live in.
-shoes you don't mind throwing away
In future I would book a volunteering experience with a non-profit organisation. I feel like the real reason we helped the community is by providing jobs for locals (cooks, cleaners, tour guides, gift shop owners, security guards etc.). How many of us have actually built a house or toilet before??? Some of the locals also learned English by speaking to us tourists, which is a huge positive. However, the cost of the trip seemed a little excessive considering we were staying in tents, and needed few expensive project resources (paint, cement, wheelbarrows, spades...). Nonetheless, the whole experience was great and I have zero regrets.