Quick trip report for Tanzania

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Jan 7th, 2012, 12:57 PM
  #1
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Quick trip report for Tanzania

I've used the forums many times in the past and always have the best intention to complete a trip report but then come back and life takes over. However I have the papers in front of me and wanted to just quickly give a report on our experience in case it helps anyone with planning.

We began with 5 days on Mafia Island at Ras Mbisi. I am really happy that we went to Mafia rather than Zanzibar. Ras Mbisi is on a remote part of the island and has 9 bandas. Excellent food and service. We enjoyed looking for Whale Sharks (successfully found 2) and snorkeling in the Marine Park. Otherwise complete R and R.

We booked the safari through Africa Safari Specialists out of Washington state who connected us with Kibo in Tanzania. In addition to myself and my SO, another couple joined us for this portion. All of us were very pleased with the time we spent on safari. This was the first for all of us so I can't offer any advice on what we'd change based on previous experience but we all decided we wouldn't change a thing.

Once we left Mafia Island we flew to Arusha and spent the evening in Olasiti Lodge. The lodge is a quiet haven off the very busy main street in Arusha. Accommodations were comfortable and the staff very accomodating.

We met our guide, Ali, who drove us to Sinya were we stayed at Kambi ya Tembo which offered luxury tents (hot showers and toilets! yay). We had a beautiful view of Kilimanjaro off our verandah when we woke in the AM. We didn't realize that it's a rare event but realized it after a family went running out of breakfast to take a look (we thought they saw a animal). The lodge is staffed by local Maasai and we were treated to an impromptu evening of song and dance to celebrate one of the other guest's birthdays. Also when leaving they sing a departure song with great enthusiasm: one of the staff had gone off on a path but when he heard the singing he came running back so he wouldn't miss out. We also went out on a walking tour with one of the staff who spotted giraffe in the distance. Our first wildlife siting! We were in awe. Lovely setting, wonderful staff.

The following day we met up with our friends and left for Tarangire National Park. We stayed at Maramboi Camp which provided us with our absolute favorite setting. The camp overlooks Lake Manyara with the mountain backdrop behind it. The flamingos in the lake gave it a lovely pink shimmer from the lodge. Zebras, impalas, giraffes and wildebeests were out our front door. The lodge's tented accommodations are large and very comfortable (again, hot water and flush toilets). Tarangire was 20 minutes from the lodge and teaming with elephants and giraffes among many other animals. We spent 2 full days exploring the park.

We departed for Lake Manyara National Park for a morning drive. Although very small we were entertained by a large troop of baboons engaged in all sorts of antics and hippos in the Hippo Pool but the highlight was spotting 2 leopards.

Leaving Lake Manyara we headed to Ngorongoro Crater which was hands down my favorite park. I simply could have sat in the middle of the park all day long watching the activity. We even spotted 3 black rhinos in the distance (which I hope my camera was able to pick up good enough to print). The open plain was just amazing especially to realize that the animals don't live the compartmentalized lives we are used to viewing in zoos but live as one large system. We stayed at the Ngorongoro Farm House. Absolutely beautiful setting amid a coffee plantation with large flower beds and vegetable gardens.

Following the crater we drove towards Serengeti stopping at Oldupai Gorge which I'd recommend if you are in the area. Quite educational.

In the Serengeti (southern portion) we stayed at Ndutu. This was our least favorite lodge for the trip. While the accommodations were adequate it didn't have quite the same vibe that the other lodges did. I found the other guests to border on the rude and obnoxious. For instance, the lodge has a group of genets that live in the rafters of the main building which are quite a stunning site. However there were guests who held their flash cameras up in front of the genets faces to snap photos and some even tried to reach up and touch them. Not cool. In any event, the up side is that it's perfectly situated to explore this part of the Serengeti and game drives start the minute you close the door to the truck. The highlight was definitely spotting 4 cheetahs (1 female and then a group of 3 males). Also as we were leaving a pride of lions consisting of 7 (SEVEN!) males and 2 females stuck their heads up in the grass and we were treated to our own private lion show.

Just a few words on our guide, Ali. In short, we were more than impressed with him. From the Kili area he had received a full scholarship and studied zoology in the US. He lived in the Atlanta area for 10 years and once the economy tanked went back to Tanzania to put his degree and knowledge to great use. Although anyone can cart you around to snap photos his experience made our trip quite special. For instance the lioness we found walking along a road crying out in what we though was quite pitiful turns out to have been a girl looking for her pride after what was most likely a breaking away to raise her cubs. (Later in the day we found another lioness also wandering making noises which was probably one of the pride following her calls and looking to reunite her with the pride). Although it's great to have decent accommodations (have I mentioned I like flush toilets and hot water yet?) it's really the guide who will make or break your experience. We managed to luck out completely so I can't offer any suggestions on how to end up with the right one but I'd definitely push on the group you use to put your safari together to get the type of guide you want.
I hope this info is somewhat helpful to those planning a trip to Tanzania. We all thought it was an easy trip once we started the planning process.
Minooka1145 is offline  
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Jan 7th, 2012, 03:15 PM
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Hi Minooka,
Thanks for posting your trip report--great information! Yes, I totally agree with you about the importance of having a great guide (not to mention hot water and flush toilets).

Sounds like you had a fantastic time despite the ill-mannered group in Ndutu. Some people lack common sense and just don't get it. Fortunately (in my experience) this is the exception rather than the rule.

I'm just starting to plan my trip to Tanzania and Rwanda in October, so have some questions for you.

My original plan was to spend 1 day=Arusha, 2 days=Tarangire, 1 day= Ngorogoro, 4=Northern Serengeti, 3 day=Rwanda. Out of the areas I mentioned that you visited, would you recommend more or less days? Sounds like you just spent one day in the crater--did you feel that was enough?

Thanks!
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Jan 7th, 2012, 05:34 PM
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Live_Aloha, the Crater drives are limited to half days, so that's about all the time you get there. If you're only spending one night in the Crater area, you could do the morning drive in the Crater, then drive to the central Serengeti (Seronera area) and stay one night there. You can't get to the northern Serengeti in a half day from the Crater.

Do you plan to fly from the northern Serengeti to Rwanda? It looks like Rwandair Express has a late afternoon flight from JRO to Kigali, so that would work.

Minooka1145, I'm glad to see that you had a great safari with Kibo! I've used them several times and have always had great guides. Maramboi is indeed a lovely camp, but Kambi ya Tembo in the west Kili area is great, too. I'm surprised that the safari planning company didn't put you in Lake Masek Camp in the Ndutu area. It's owned by the same company as the other two camps. Of course, it may have been full.
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Jan 7th, 2012, 05:38 PM
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Thanks for the report, Minooka. We share the giraffe as our first sighting.
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Jan 8th, 2012, 12:10 PM
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ShayTay, I believe Lake Masek was completely booked by a large and obnoxious group from Spain. They were hanging out truck windows and yelling to a pride of lions. Needless to say, several guides reported them to the rangers. I can't believe their own guides didn't lay down the law.

Live_Aloha, We actually just spent part of a day in the Crater and then drove to the Serengeti that afternoon. I could honestly have spent a few days there (!!) but I guess based on Shay_Tay's message that's not possible. We used Arusha just as our day in/day out spot and would recommend the same to you.
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Jan 8th, 2012, 01:03 PM
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Great report! I really enjoy reading it. It sounds like you had an amazing adventure. Thanks for posting!
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Jan 8th, 2012, 01:07 PM
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We also stayed at Ndutu. It was the largest accomodation of our trip and we, also, found it less friendly and personal. But, the wildebest migration was right there. Could not be better location for us.
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Jan 8th, 2012, 02:03 PM
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You can spend longer than 1/nt at Crater. What many do is an afternoon crater tour (6/hrs) and again next morning, 6/hrs. and second afternoon at leisure or a trek nearby.
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Jan 8th, 2012, 07:38 PM
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Thanks Minooka, ShayTay and sandi!

Minooka---looking forward to seeing your pictures (hopefully you find time to post them!)
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Jan 9th, 2012, 04:21 PM
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If you do two Crater visits, be aware of the substantial fees for each drive.
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