On Sunday nights you're likely to find us sitting side by side on the couch watching The Amazing Race. Teams of two people race literally around the world, performing tasks and challenges at each of the scheduled stops, and the last team to arrive at a designated checkpoint is eliminated. Yes...it's reality TV with the requisite amount of bickering and drama that goes with it but we love seeing the different places and learning a little something about the local culture. I think we've watched every season.
This one, however, might be our favorite. Not because of the contestants (the whining and arguing does get old) but because of the location; they've gone to Tanzania.
We were lucky enough to visit Tanzania ourselves in 2003. It was, without a doubt, the most amazing experience. And it's so cool to relive that trip as we watch the contestants do many of the same things we did when we were there. As the participants move from one location to another, we've turned to each other and said We've been there!
We rode in open-top safari vehicles down dusty roads right among the animals. It was nothing to stop and wait for elephants, baboons, or zebras to cross ahead of us. It was a rare privilege to be so close to so many different kinds of animals but zoos will never be the same after seeing them in the wild.
We visited a Maasai village where everyone sang and the men danced for us. Well, their style of dancing is jumping up and down but you'd be amazed at how high they jump and for how long. I didn't realize until we saw them do it on The Amazing Race that it's a courtship dance.
And we rode down into the Ngorongoro Crater, often called "Africa's Eden" and the 8th Natural Wonder of the World. It was beautiful and diverse and filled with more animals than you can imagine. We saw our first lions here and hippos and even rhinos although they were quite some distance away.
The checkpoint for Sunday's show was Lake Manyara. I'm not sure what the contestants will do there other than a mandatory rest break but we'd highly recommend a canoe trip on the serene waters. They're home to thousands of flamingos who will let you get tantalizingly close before they take flight.
And we'd also encourage the winners to spend some of their prize money to return to Tanzania during the migration across the Serengeti. The endless stream of animals moving from one location to another in search of food and water is absolutely awe-inspiring. Literally millions of animals make this trek twice a year and we were lucky enough to witness some of it.
Six teams were still competing in the two episodes based in Tanzania and every one of them described that portion of the race as a trip of a lifetime. I couldn't agree more.