Report on honeymoon with ATR

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Nov 1st, 2005, 08:17 AM
  #1
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Report on honeymoon with ATR

hi

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.

ATR:
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.

ZANZIBAR:

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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Nov 1st, 2005, 08:29 AM
  #2
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....
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Nov 1st, 2005, 09:05 AM
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Thanks for taking the time to post your report and for your candid opinions!
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Nov 1st, 2005, 09:11 AM
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bat
 
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amfs:
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been waiting anxiously for your report [do not construe this as a criticism--it is just that I went back to your posts and calculated when you should have returned so I have been watching every day].

Very glad to hear that you were satisfied with ATR. I am particularly glad to hear how much you liked your MKSC guide. What was his name? I would like to request him.

We have 2 days at Olduvai during the migration so it's gratifying to hear your description.

What did you think of Ronjo -the camp itself? (you mention the friendly staff)

Too bad the food is not good--you would think that with some French ownership they would do a better job.

Unfortunately I won't be able to make changes to our accommodations on Zbar--although I would still take a chance on E & G even if I could change. I am hooked on the room photos and want to see it for myself. But at least I now know to lower my expectations so that I will not be disappointed.

We are booked at Matemwe Bungalows which will have the same beach issues as Matemwe Beach Village. [BTW, based on your description I wonder if you were given the Asali suite--what they consider their honeymoon suite. I believe that their other new suites have a second story deck of some kind.]

We gave alot of thought to Pongwe --[particularly because we had read that the food was good]. I had not read about the beach difference--and that would have been a selling point. Someone here had posted that the electricity cut off in the night turning off the fan and I was already nervous about not having AC when we would be there in their summer. Also seriously considered Chumbe--oh well, it will still be good.

Thanks again for the very valuable information you have provided.

Glad that you had a great honeymoon.
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Nov 1st, 2005, 09:23 AM
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First of all, congratulations on your marriage!

Sounds (mostly) great, and I'm glad you had a good time. Who was your guide on safari??

Welcome back.
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Nov 1st, 2005, 10:11 AM
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It is great to hear feedback on some of these often-talked about camps and lodges!

Thank you!

I am disappointed that the food issue at Mawe Ninga and Oldupai Camps are still an issue. It was a serious issue when when I visited with friends (and climbing clients) in 2004 and while trip reports about these camps are rare, the service issue has remained a common theme ever since. It gets worse if you are picky or have special dietary needs.

I've always liked these camps (for reasons other than wildlife viewing I must say), and my pictures on www.go-safari.com clearly show the beautiful views at both places.

My sincere hope is that someone at MKSC will finally take action and start training their staff and kitchen to be on par with increasing accommodation competition in the NCA, Serengeti and Tarangire.
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Nov 1st, 2005, 10:15 AM
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BTW, was the guide named Edward?

He is a very good guide, so if you are traveling with MKSC soon, you can try to ask for him!
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Nov 1st, 2005, 10:17 AM
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Well, I for one hope bad food = loss of weight! (for me.)

Thanks again, amfs.
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Nov 1st, 2005, 10:52 AM
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Hi amfs!

Congratulations on your marriage (and on such a fantastic honeymoon!). I really enjoyed reading your trip report...

When my husband and I were in Tanzania in January 2005, we felt the same way about the Emerson & Green. Although we were staying at the Tembo House (which we LOVED!), we made reservations for dinner at the rooftop restaurant at the E&G (especially given all the great feedback it received - and ATR certainly does promote it!). When we got there (we were with 2 friends of ours who we met up with for the Zanzibar portion of our trip), we realized how CRAMPED we were in the floor-bench-seating (they were even putting extra people at our table - seemed a little greedy to me...), the portions that people were receving were tiny and the food was expensive! Believe it or not, we left! (Sorry Fodorites, I believe that I forgot to put this in my trip report!). We ended up going to one of the places that had a rooftop patio right on the water, and so although the view from the roof of the E&G was beautiful, we also had a beautiful view, with all the space, comfort and food that we needed. I'm sorry that I can't remember the name of it - if my husband remembers, I'll write again.

We also stayed at Pongwe Beach Resort and had a wonderful experience - we felt like we were the only ones there! And we also thought the beach was spectacular...

Very interesting to hear about the problems with the food at the camps... we stayed at some semi-permanent camps (with East African Safari and Touring Co.) and we were so pleasantly surprised by the food. In addition, my husband is lactose-intolerant and they made every effort to feed him every bit as well and accomodate his allergy. Sometimes they would make 2 soups - 1 for me with milk, and 1 for him without - even though I told them that I would happily eat the soup without milk as well! Hopefully these camps that you're talking about will improve their food provision - because otherwise, they sound wonderful!

Thanks so much for the trip report - I loved every minute.

Jenn
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Nov 1st, 2005, 11:15 AM
  #10
sandi
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At Emerson & Green the price of the dinner is between $20-$25 (our total bill with 2 or 3 rounds of drinks was only $26), which can be considered more than reasonable in the States or Europe. However, there really isn't that much of a "meal" more like little dishes - ("mezzas" in Turkey, or a tasting menu) appetizers, veggies, meat or fish and dessert. Nothing to rave about. But the atmosphere can be fun if one is prepared to sit on the floor, though, if as mentioned above, they overbook, it can be uncomfortable. However, there are 2 or 3 tables (for 2s) along the terrace adjacent to the floor area - if interested, get there early or specifically ask for these for a more comfortable experience.

I was particularly disappointed with the meal (not being a fish eater, had the beef which just wasn't tender) and said so when we checked out and paid our bill. Well, they took note of my complaint, but the desk clerk didn't have the authority to reduce the bill.

We did hear from another diner during dinner that the previous night, Messrs Emerson & Green "were in the house" and when a few patrons complained about the food - everything was on the house. Guess, we were a day late!

I think it is important that visitors to hotels, lodges, camps or restaurants complain (directly or on a guest comments card) if food is poor, cleanliness is wanting, or any other issue that doesn't provide a pleasant experience.

As we see here, word gets around.
 
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Nov 1st, 2005, 01:12 PM
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Hi Sandi,

I too am not a fish eater and, upon first glance at the menu, noticed that I would probably go hungry You're right though - I do remember seeing some private tables down below on the terrace, although they filled up quickly. Certainly a good suggestion for those who want to specifically request it...

I completely agree that the prices weren't outrageous by N. American or European standards, and when we went elsewhere for dinner that night, we probably paid almost exactly the same amount as we would have paid at E&G. However, for that amount of money, we got full steak (and for my husband, lobster) dinners... leaving us full and satisfied. Watching the dhows go past at sunset and watching the locals having a last swim in the ocean was more ambiance than I could have asked out of E&G.

Glad to hear we weren't the only ones not overly impressed! Until this set of posts, I hadn't heard one negative thing and was starting to think it was "just us"
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Nov 1st, 2005, 02:03 PM
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bat
 
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climbhigh:
Thanks for adding Edward's name.
Why do you say re requesting him--"so if you are traveling with MKSC soon"-- Does he have plans to leave?

amfs
Re the food at Olduvai and Ronjo (and others will want to know about Mawe Ninga too)--when you get a chance--would you mind being more specific? What were the meals like? Were all three bad? I was thinking that perhaps we could eat lunch somewhere else [obviously depending on what is happening on the game drive]. Or perhaps take power bars for lunch.

I was wondering also if going vegetarian or no beef/pork [our friend is poultry/fish only so we could tag along with that] would be worth considering? I have read that beef in TZ generally is often not tender.

I guess the bottom line is can you think of anything we could request or bring with us to make the meals better(other than our own traveling chef

Also, if the food is not good at E & G can you go to the restaurant for only cocktails for the sunset view? We have dinner reservations but I am wondering whether we should cancel.

Thanks for being willing to take follow-up questions.
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Nov 1st, 2005, 02:34 PM
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Bat

English is not my first language so my writings are not always clear. My apologies!

I do know that Edward is a great guide. I know nothing more about him otherwise and have no contact with him either. Actually, I hope he is still with MKSC! (he was in early 2005)
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Nov 1st, 2005, 04:05 PM
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Thanks for the review and the comparisons in snorkeling. Very helpful and glad you had a good guide and trip.
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Nov 1st, 2005, 05:12 PM
  #15
dlo
 
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amfs

Thanks for the report,you have me looking forward to staying at Pongwe more than ever.

AlwaysAfrica

I seem to be following your itinerary in Africa.I'm also staying at the Tembo and it was your trip report that convinced me to do the Highlands Trek.I believe you're also Canadian so you probably understand my wanting to leave our cold weather for 3 months.
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Nov 1st, 2005, 05:24 PM
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Thank you for your trip report. I am booked with ATR and although I was a little annoyed at their strict refund policies, I now feel like I am in good hands.

I was flipping through a brochure from Wilderness Travel today, for example, and for a similar itinerary at inferior lodging and in a vehicle that will have a minimum of four guests (and a maximum of five guests), the price would have been within $1,000 as expensive as my own trip.

Wilderness Travel itinerary:

Moivaro Coffee Lodge (1)
Plantation Lodge, for Lake Manyara (1)
Ngorongoro Serena (2)
Wilderness Travel Private Luxury Serengeti Camp, a mobile camp placed near wherever Migration happens to be (4)
Serengeti Serena (1)
Wilderness Safaris Private Camp In Privately Owned Masai Land between Serengeti and Ngorongoro, featuring open sided vehicles and walking safaris (4)
Plantation Lodge (1)
Zanzibar Serena (1)
Breezes resort (2)

Total = 17 nights, $8,100 pp

Instead, I am doing this with my own private guide and vehicle through ATR:

Moivaro Coffee Lodge (2)
Manyara Tree Lodge (2)
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (2)
Olduvai Camp (1)
Nomad Masek (2)
Nomad Piaya (2)
Mbuzi Mawe (2)
Zanzibar is unbooked, but I am leaning towards something like this:
Zanzibar Serena (2)
Palms Zanzibar (3)

The total cost of the above will be about $9,250 pp, but will feature an additional night and will feature much nicer camps/lodges than the Wilderness Travel itinerary, as well as a private guide and vehicle. My itinerary works out to $513.50 per person per night while the WT itinerary works out to $446.50 pp per night.

Anyway, thanks for the Zanzibar feedback. It really helps me with my own itinerary. I would go to Chumbe Island in an instant if I were not going to be in Zanzibar in mid-March when it will be very hot & humid. I think I need the air conditioning that the Serena and Palms will feature in their rooms.
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Nov 1st, 2005, 05:51 PM
  #17
bat
 
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climghigh:
PLEASE do not apologize for your English--it is excellent. If only I spoke a second language half as as well. The reason that I asked was because I want to make a request for my guide--and if Edward was amfs's guide, and you knew that he was leaving, then I would have prepared myself for his unavailability.
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Nov 1st, 2005, 05:52 PM
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" . . . half as as well . . "
See, I do not speak English that well as my first language!
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Nov 2nd, 2005, 12:53 AM
  #19
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hi all

Thanks for the replies, sorry if i flooded the forum with the same post lots of times, but when I posted it first it wasnt automatically appearing at the top of the LHS column.

Anyways, heres some answers to questions....

Our guide was called Alex and he was wonderful. He said he had hillary clinton in his jeep, as well as justin timberlake and the french football team but we took it all with a pinch of salt, but you never know - it could be true! He was so informative and friendly and really knew the parks and the animals. And was a pure gent too - opened and closed doors for me etc

We didnt stay at ronjo, we stayed at serengeti serena instead.
Basically the dinner at mawe ninga and olduvai was as follows:
Starter - some veggie soup & bread (which was nice)
Main - some bit of meat & veggies (I didnt really enjoy the meat as it was quite fatty and grizzly sometimes, but my husband who is a real meat eater had no problem with it! and actually most of the time I gave him my meat and he gave me his veggies)
dessert - some sweet bread or cake (which usually wasnt nice and usually tasted quite stale)
you were supposed to get tea and coffee after dinner but it took ages to materialise so we didnt bother waiting around for it.

I have to say though the breakfasts were lovely and plenty of it.
The lunch snackboxes they gave us when on safari were ok, but not near as nice as serenas or gibbs farms ones.
Actually there would always be a bit of cold cooked chicken in the snackboxes which i never ate - i gave it to my husband, and alex - the guide - ate it too. Both my husband and alex got sick at ngorongoro crater (after 2 days at mawe ninga) - they had the runs and nausea. I was fine, and we presumed it must have been the chicken from those snack boxes because that was the only thing I didnt eat.

I'm going to say one thing here, and I hope i dont regret it, but something happened at olduvai that kind of shocked me....
we were the only guests for our 1 night there. When we would finish a course at dinner, the waiter would remove the plates from our table and stack them up on the counter behind us. I presumed he was going to take them all back to the kitchen in one go. While we were finishing our beers after dinner, some animals came in to the restaurant (i cant remember their names - they were rodents but they looked like cats and had tails like racoons). they came up and started eating our leftovers on the plates and basically licking the plates clean. I pointed this out to the waiter and he just laughed!! I presumed he would have brought the plates back then but he didnt, he left them there. i thought this was really unhygenic!!! sorry if i have put people off olduvai camp.

On to nicer things!!!

On Zanzibar we went to Africa House hotel for sundowners and that has a lovely view over to the west, so the sunsets are sensational. they do food there too so its another option for a scenic dinner. we didnt eat there though, so i dont know what the food is like.
we also had lunch at chavda hotel. the food was good and cheap and they have as great a view as E&G.
At the rooftop restaurant in E&G we sat at one of the tables down the side (that people mention above) and I was so glad we did. they crammed people into the main rectangle (the place where people sit on cushions) and i have to say some people looked really uncomfortable.
The owner at pongwe recommended the Moiva Marina (i think thats its name!!) for sunset dinner in stone town which he said was much better than E&G. its a bit out of town but seemed to be nice. its another option for a romantic dinner anyways.

Hope all the above helps and just ask if you need any more info.
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Nov 2nd, 2005, 02:17 AM
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amfs
Congratulations on your honeymoon. Thanks for all the feedback. Finally a report from an ATR client. Very pleased you were happy with your guide and rep. How did find the logistics for driving between the lodges etc. Were they too long?
What was the quality of the vehicle?
We are staying at many of the places you stayed at so are looking forward to Moivaro Coffee Lodge and Pongwe given your glowing reports.
I am a little apprehensive now about the food at Olduvai and Ronjo, but at a pinch I'll send my husband into the kitchen (he is a chef). Were the camps run by MKSC full? Did you complain to management? I hope you let ATR know - they do warn about the food on their website, but if it isn't fresh that isn't acceptable.
Again, thanks for your frank and detailed comments. Look forward to hearing about the safari and animals you saw etc.
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