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Tanzania trip report

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Returned from two weeks in Tanzania a few weeks ago. What a fantastic trip! The 5 of us (me, my wife, my sister and my parents) started with a Northern circuit safari, followed by 4 days on Pemba and a few days on Zanzibar.

After getting quotes from a few operators I selected Roy Safaris. They and GoodEarth gave very similar impressions and quoted almost the same price. Roy came highly recommended by Lonely Planet, and that tilted the decision in their favor. I also highly recommend Roy as they offered a competitive price, an excellent guide and a very good vehicle. The one thing about Roy which didn't impress me too much was that they weren't very inventive when helping with the itinerary. Fortunately I was able to find advice on this board.

Our driver guide, Chamillus, picked us up at Kilimanjaro International, and took us to our hotel in Arusha, the Impala, which was quite OK. Next morning we headed off to Ngorongoro after a stop at Roy's office. Our car was a Landcruiser with a pop-up roof. I can recommend pop-up roof as it protects you from the sun, while not obscuring the view.

The drive was rather uneventful, although pleasant and comfortable, with tarmac almost all the way. (On a side note, I didn't think the roads in general were particularly bad. If driving had only been about transportation I might have thought they were bad, but if you haven't been in the area before, it's fun to watch the landscape and you don't need to drive as fast.) We decended into the crater at about 2 PM. I have to say I was a bit disappointed by the crater. It's very beautiful from the rim, but when you're at the bottom it's a bit dull. Well, not the wildlife of course! The most exciting sighting was two cheetahs who walked up to us, and decided to rest in the shade of our car! After about 30 minutes we had to leave them, in order to make it out of the crater before the gates closed. We stayed the night at Serena Ngorongoro. How fantastic to sit on your little porch, sip a whisky and take in the crater at sunset!

Next morning we went on a crater rim hike. It was a lot of fun meeting the maasai as they brought their herds down into the crater in the morning. Not the average morning commute. I can highly recommend such a hike. Even though the only animals we saw were cows it was very beautiful and highly interesting.

Before noon we left for the Ndutu area. We made a stop at the Oldupai Gorge museum, but it wasn't very interesting. The exhibition was rather poor, but of course it is exiting just to be at the very place were mankind first evolved.

We stayed 2 nights at the Ndutu Lodge which is a great place (bring quick-charge batteries, as they only run the generator for 5-6 hours per day). Unlike the larger lodges, it is situated in the middle of nature, right next to a waterhole which attracted lots of elephants. Sitting by the campfire watching elephants pass by at a 50 m distance is hard to beat. There really was lots of animals in the Ndutu area, although no migration as the rains were delayed. Lots of elephants, giraffs and of course antelopes. The highlight was a group of 5 lions (3 males, 2 female) eating on a giraff. They'd been there for at least a day, and were rather full, but walked over to the carcass every once in a while for a bite.

On our second day at Ndutu we went for a morning hike. Ndutu is outside of the Serengeti park, which is why it is possible to make hikes. We paid $40 for a ranger who took us for a two-hour hike. Naturally we didn't get as close as when in a car, but it's a completely different feeling which cannot be substituted by a game drive. It was rather exciting at the end, when we had one group of elephants on each side of us, about 50 meters away.

At noon we headed off into the park, driving towards the Seronera area. Apart from Thomson and Grant gazelles, who seem to be able to thrive anywhere, wildlife was sparse until we reached the Seronera river. The most fun sighting was the 5 lions sleeping in a tree. They looked very comfortable on the branches. Apart from them we saw loads of buffalo, zebra and wildebeest, but not the huge migration herds, as the rains were a bit delayed. A useful link to get updated information on the whereabouts of the migration is http://www.atta.co.uk/nomad. We stayed at Serena Serengeti, again with very beautiful views from the balconies. The forest near the hotel was the only place where we encountered tsetse flies, but the attack subsided once we drove up the hill to the hotel.

On our 5th day we did a morning game drive before flying to Arusha and onwards to Pemba. We stayed at the Manta Reef Lodge, which is located at the northwestern-most tip of Pemba, 1½ hours from the airport. It's a great place with a beautiful beach, very good food, super-friendly staff and good diving. We stayed in one of the "Garden rooms", which was very good value at about half the price of the standard rooms. As there's nothing much to see or do near the lodge you go there either for some serious relaxing or for the water activities. Apart from diving, our only activities were walks around the lodge. You meet a lot of people who stop their work to say "Jambo". Don't forget to say "Jambo" back. By the way, the beach at Manta Reef Lodge is swimmable (or at least dipable) almost all day. This is an advantage compared to many places in Zanzibar.

We finished off with a few days in Zanzibar. Stonetown is fun to wander around in. Make sure you venture further than the touristy streets closest to the waterfront. Although it is not recommended to walk alone at night, we never felt the least unsafe daytime. People were very friendly. For some more sun and sand we headed to Jambiani beach, which was a mistake. The water was far from land almost all the time, and the road there was terrible. The Jozani forest was a cool experience. You pay $8 per person for a tour with a knowledgable park ranger. You decide yourself how long a hike you want to do. We did 2 hours which I would say is the minimum. Not the least strenous. There are organized tours there, but it's much cheaper to find someone who agrees to drive you there and back. We paid $20 for a minivan, which waited for us when we were hiking, and then took us back.

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