Back from short trip to Tanzania

Sep 15th, 2019, 06:57 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,740
Back from short trip to Tanzania

I have finished my one week in Tanzania--3 days of holiday and 4 days of working in Arusha. It was a nice introduction to the country and I would like to return with sufficient time to reach the Serengeti and other areas. I'm an American woman 60+ and the only other African country I have visited is South Africa.

Scheduled a couple nights and a day of down time upon arrival at Vijiji Center to get over jet lag after late evening arrival. I think I could have been ready to strike out on safari on the first morning, but I would have been dozing off in the afternoon in the heat. Vijiji is located in a village on the edge of Arusha, so it is an introduction to rural Tanzania--unpaved road, occasional barking dogs, disco music from 1.5 km away, occasional power and internet outages--but a lovely staff offering clean rooms and simple food in a very green setting. A portion of all proceeds go directly into the community. Because I was feeling energetic, I hired one of their young guides to escort me on a walk to/through the Tengeru Women’s Market. It was a simple way to get out into the community while feeling safe and well looked after. Some guests were learning about coffee on one of their other local tours. A larger group of young people traveling with a tour company were staying one night before starting off on a week long tour.

I also booked an overnight safari through Vijiji. Amos, the owner and guide, was already booked with other guests for a longer trip, so they arranged a contractor to take me on a private trip. With just 2 days, I chose Tarangire and then Lake Manyara for variety. One colleague choose to spend 3 days in Tarangire and was happy. Some other colleagues spent 3 days on safari and included the Crater. Two others took a long safari in the Serengeti and also made cultural visits with Hadzabe and Datoga people (I think). I found it difficult to choose in advance. All sounded great.

The drive through Maasai country was interesting. I think many more people here wear traditional dress than I saw in the villages in South Africa. The same collection of vans packed with people and goods strapped on top, motorbikes providing local taxi and delivery service, school children in uniform, and scores of small shops and restaurants, often with outdoor cooking. But also Maasai children and adults herding their cattle and goats everywhere along the roads and through the countryside. It seemed like every other vehicle was a safari 4x4 on the main highway to the parks. I heard about the Maasai communities offering cultural visits to a boma. I think these have been purposely constructed for the tourists along the highway, but the money does go toward providing clean water and other necessities for the real villages.

In Tarangire, we and all the other safari trucks saw lions, zebras, elephants, giraffes, storks, cranes, etc., many close to the road. As you might expect, following the river provides the greatest chance of sightings in the dry season. The picnic area provides a nice view over the river, but many aggressive monkeys stealing food. The toilets at the entry and picnic area were kept clean. Instead of making a loop from the north entrance as most tours do, we continued on to the west entrance for the night. Stay at a tented lodge by the Sangaiwe gate was nice with extensive views, sounds of elephants and buffalo at night, etc, but the drive through the western part of the park was dry, some burned, with flies and few wildlife.

We drove rutted dirt roads through Maasai villages and forded streams to reach the southern gate of Lake Manyara. It provided an intimate look at rural life, both interesting and sad in many ways. By entering in the south, we were lucky to find lions with cubs by the road. Other visitors said one lion had been up in a tree just before we arrived. We also saw mongoose, buffalo, etc. but the highlight was the birds--thousands of pelicans and flamingos plus storks, ibis, and many others. The flamingos tended to be out from shore, but their lines stretched as far as I could see along the lake. The hippos were being a little shy--the cattails were 10 feet high at the viewing platform where we could hear but not see them. We could see backs and a few heads were lifted by others in wetlands and along the lake shore, but at least 50 feet from the road.

Arusha was bustling with sometimes paved sidewalks, streetlights often unlit, hawkers near tourist hubs, and cheap taxis within the city. I can't say I would want to spend much time there.

I'd like to go back, perhaps get a clearer view of Mt Kili (no desire to climb)., spend more time with the different local peoples and reach the Serengeti during the migration. I'm not a beach person, so if I were to go to Zanzibar, it would be more for the spice history.

Glad to answer questions if I can.
Kay2 is offline  
Sep 18th, 2019, 12:21 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 7,855
Sounds like a great trip. I hope you get the chance to get back. Our one trip there was amazing.
KTtravel is offline  
Sep 18th, 2019, 02:45 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,740
I thought of some tips--

My first lodging had bottled water in a large dispenser in the dining area for guests to fill glasses and bottles while my other lodgings put bottled water in the rooms. I was glad I brought a bottle of water from the plane so I was prepared to immediately brush teeth and drink without having to go to the common area.

There is currency exchange at the JRO exit, but no teller machine. I wish I had exchanged a small amount of US$ for TZ shillings upon arrival, but I was so tired I could only think of sleep. The larger places were happy with US$ or credit cards, but taxi drivers in Arusha preferred shillings (too much effort to exchange small amounts) and I would have liked to have some local cash for the market just in case. Once I got into Arusha, there was a bank next to my hotel.

Traffic through center of Arusha at 5pm was bumper to bumper--driver said that was normal. Traffic cops were directing traffic rather than using traffic lights. A motorbike hit one of the cops right in front of us. Because of the occasional lack of sidewalks, people, motorbikes, and cars sometimes share the pavement. Best to keep your wits about you. Crossing major streets at the speed bumps/pedestrian crossings was easy enough.

Food was fine. Lots of fresh fruit. Seemed to be emphasis on meat, especially beef and chicken. Liked the pancakes.
Kay2 is offline  

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