sorry, we have been up the walls since we got back from honeymoon last tues, but here is a quick review of ATR and the places we stayed.
Can't fault them really
The ATR rep who met us when we arrived in Arusha was lovely and very informative and he took his time to answer all our questions.
All our pre-booked taxis arrived on time and were very friendly.
The info they had given us about the places we were staying was accurate and very detailed.
When we were at pongwe the owner asked us how much ATR were charging us for our room and it turns out they werent 'marking it up' like other tour agencies! so thats a big plus for ATR.
Our safari guide was brilliant! I cannot say enough good things about him. I truly believe we got the best guide we could. he was a park ecologist in the serengeti for 8 or 10 years before becoming a guide, so he brought us on roads that no other drivers were on and as a result we saw lions and lionesses etc up close and with no other jeep around for miles.
If anyones interested in his details, let me know. I would really recommend him.
as we would drive along, he would point out how other drivers broke the rules of the national parks (going too fast past the animals, going off-road etc) which just showed how much other agency drivers (leopard tours to name one!!) were doing to impress their clients, even if it meant scaring the animals.
Ok, places we stayed:
Moivaro Coffee lodge - we loved it. rooms were beautiful, grounds were gorgeous and i thought the food was nearly as good as gibbs farm.
mawe ninga - a beautiful remote camp with amazing views and really friendly staff. BUT even though its in the middle of the camp you still had to drive a good 40 mins to see any animals. And the food wasnt great. One night it was coconut cake for dessert and my piece had mould on it. so if you're into your food its probably not the place for you.
Gibbs farm - beautiful grounds and views but too touristy. the food is outstanding but our room was a real letdown. and i felt i was in america the whole time i was there. Apologies to any americans reading this, but the place was teeming with them. It just didnt feel like real tanzania. If i was going again I wouldnt stay there.
Olduvai gorge - this place is as remote as you can get and thats its selling point. Like Mawe Ninga, the food is a let down, but the tents are great and the atmosphere is lovely. The staff rotate between here and mawe ninga and ronjo camp so all 3 have very friendly staff. it has amazing views from the kopje its on and i'd say its a great place to stay when the migration passes through. It would have been nice to have longer here to go walking (I could see myself really relaxing there and seeing some of the real tanzania), but we only had 1 night.
Serengeti Serena - it was OK. It was nice having hot showers and the pool, but like Gibbs farm, I felt i could have been in a hotel anywhere in the world. there is good food and lots of it, but the staff seem really unhappy working there, which is never a good sign.
The views are amazing from the pool and the huts, and i thought it was good value for money. its just not a very authentic experience.
Pongwe beach - BEAUTIFUL!!!!! oh my god this place is paradise. it has the best beach by far on the island, the atmosphere is so relaxed and friendly. and the food is gorgeous. the meals are really inventive and you get lots too. I would definitely recommend it. our hut/cottage was gorgeous and its maximum 24 guests which means its lovely and intimate. I think its one of the few beaches on the island that doesnt have a seaweed farm, which means you can go for a swim at any time of the day.
Only downside is that you cant snorkel from the beach and the activites (spice tours, diving etc) are very expensive.
Matemwe beach village - this was lovely, but the beach, atmosphere and staff werent a patch on pongwe. we stayed in one of the new bungalows and it was beautiful. It has a sitting room, bedroom, 'open to the sea' living room with hammocks, open air shower and bathroom. The room was the best room of our honeymoon.
we were really disappointed with the beach after pongwe, but we could easily go snorkelling from here (theres a dive centre) so that was good.
the food is very good and they have tea/coffee at sunrise on the beach and again at mid afternoon which was a nice touch.
I got a massage when i was there. even though it was cheap ($15 for an hour) i wouldnt recommend it. I am a trained masseuse (so went out of curiosity) and some of the strokes she did are actually quite dangerous for the body!!
Chumbe Island - this was the highlight of zanzibar. I loved every minute of this place!!!! the staff, food, snorkelling, atmosphere were all amazing. our only complaint is that we only had 2 nights out there. we have snorkelled in samoa, australia, thailand, malaysia and croatia and the snorkelling at chumbe was by far the best. If you are going to zanzibar, dont miss this place, its just brilliant. I have to mention the food again, because it was mouth watering....even writing about it now I'm getting hungry!! the whole place is run on solar power and its rain water showers, so if you like your luxuries (including flushing toilets) maybe only stay 1 night here.
emerson & green - the whole time up to the honeymoon i was really looking forward to staying here, and I have to say i was really disappointed with it. our room was one of the new suites but it was still a disappointment. half the lights didnt work, the room flooded on our 2nd day and drenched our clothes and there was no apology. we had a tea room (which i was dying to see) but it was RIGHT beside the roof top restaurant so we were kept up most of the night with music.
we went for dinner in the roof top restaurant on our last night. its expensive and not worth it at all. one couple even left half way through! the food was OK, but portions were tiny. I was expecting a lot more from it. Also we paid an extra $5 each as it was a sunday night and there was live music. but after the band finished their 4 songs, they shoved a hat down on your table and didnt take it till you tipped them, which i thought was a bit off.
on chumbe we met a couple who stayed at dhow palace and loved it! they raved about it. we wandered in for a nosey and it looks beautiful. if i was going back, i'd definitely stay there rather than E&G.
So there you go! I hope i havent offended anyone with my opinions, but hopefully this will be of some use to people planning holidays (especially with ATR)
Feel free to ask any followup questions!
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