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Trip Report Just back from Tanzania - recommendations

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Hi all. My husband and I are back from Tanzania. I want to thank all of you who were so helpful in my planning. We had the trip of a lifetime. I thought I'd share some information about the vendors we used, as recommendations were so important to us in planning the trip. In case you don't want to read it all, below you will find information on:

1. Kilimanjaro and Thomson Safaris
2. Tontu Safaris and the Serengeti and Ngorongoro
3. Arusha hotels and Arusha National Park
4. Chimpanzee tracking in the Mahale Mountains and the Kungwe Beach Lodge.

My husband ventured to Africa first and climbed Kilimanjaro with Thomson Safaris. Although he admits the cost was a bit high, every detail was attended to. The guides and porters on the mountain were excellent. The trip went off without a hitch. He highly recommends them for those interested in a Kili climb.

I joined him when the climb was over and we went on a three night/four day safari with Tontu Safaris. I can't say enough about how much we enjoyed the safari. Tontu is still a young and fairly unknown company. Two friends, John and Ernest, decided to venture out on their own. Today, they have 10 vehicles and years of guiding experience. It was very reasonably priced and allowed us to customize our trip. We had John and his vehicle to ourselves. John's agenda was that we have the time of our lives. His knowledge of the animals, plants and local culture were invaluable. And his eagle eyes and strategic driving got us photos of animals we will treasure. We went to the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti and stayed in the Sopa Lodges in both locations (also very nice). Because were were interested in meeting some people and learning about the culture, John arranged for us to spend time with local tribespeople in Manyara and to visit a Masai village. He was also incredibly helpful in other ways (airport transfer, finding us an a different hotel in Arusha from the one I had booked on my own, and keeping my husband's climbing gear while we were in the Mahale Mountains. We were sad to say good-bye to John. As he said, "We are like family now." His partner, Ernest (in Dar),worked with us over email to make our plans. He is also really lovely and very helpful. He drives in parks closer to Dar while John takes the northern circuit. I didn't realize at the time, but we could have asked for anything (any locations, any kind of accommodations), and they would have made it work. We saved a bundle by booking directly with them (rather than using a US tour company). If interested, you can find more at www.tontusafaris.com or you can email Ernest at Ernest@time4Africatz.com.

Between safaris, we stayed at the Charity Hotel. Upon driving there, I was a little worried, as one of the streets looked a little dicey. It's a little gem, tucked away behind secure walls with its own little courtyard garden, very clean rooms, good food, and helpful staff. Our first night in Arusha, we stayed at the Impala. It is a very fine hotel but I prefered the Charity. If interested, you can get information at info@thecharityhotel.com. Thomas Masangura is the manager and is a really lovely guy.

After Safari, we went to the Mahale Mountains and stayed at the Kungwe Beach Lodge. It is hard to describe how amazing the trip was. First, for "tented" camping, Kungwe is really quite luxurious. We ate on the beach each night. Our hosts, Natalie and Jonathon, and all of the incredibly dedicated staff saw that we never wanted for anything. The food, accommodations, views, and staff could not have been any better. And then there is the chimp viewing. My mistake was not booking more time there (only three nights) but we still got to visit with the chimps and got some fantastic photos. I worked directly with Mbali Mbali/Kigoma Hilltop Hotels to book both the airfare (on Zantas) and the hotel. They were extremely helpful. I'm not doing Kungwe or the Mahale Mountains justice in my description. It's hard to put into words. The daily hikes were a fabulous workout, the chimps were spectacular, the lodge and the beach allowed me to relax more than I ever have in my life. Although not an inexpensive trip, it was well worth it. And, just to note, I saved a fortune by booking directly with Mbali Mbali (rather than going through a U.S. tour vendor).

When we left the Mahale Mountains, we returned to Arusha and stayed at the Mt. Meru Game Lodge. It's a really neat place with a small game preserve right outside your cabin door. The staff, accommodations, and food were lovely. It was a real treat. We spent a day in Arusha National Park. Although some said it could be a let down after having been in the Crater and on the Serengeti, it is a lovely little park. We saw several animals we didn't see elsewhere and a collection of 50 giraffe in one spot. In retrospect, I would probably have tried to tack on Tarangire at the end of our trip (rather than the park) as it is not far from Arusha and would have given us more elephant viewing (something I really wanted).

So, that's our trip. We posted some photographs on the Kodak website, if you are interested. The link is provided at the bottom of the posting.

Thanks again to all who helped us plan our trip. This site is amazingly helpful. I'm not sure I would have wired money to Tanzania if not for your assurances that it would all work out.

We went to Tanzania thinking we'd go once so needed to take in everything budget and time would allow. We were only there a couple of days before we started talking about our next visit.

That's about it. Hope

http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=cje1xdn.xradxh7&x=0&y=-zcjo6x&localeid=en_US

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