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(Belated) Trip Report: Tanzania & Zanzibar; The Accidental Safari

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Our itinerary:

July 6th: land kilimanjaro 08.50am. Arusha National Park and Arumeru River lodge.
7th: Tarangire staying at Swala
8th: Tarangire staying at Swala
9th: Ngorongoro crater and Serena
10th: Lake manyara staying at Manyara Serena
11th: Transfer to manyara airstrip for flight to Grumeti airstrip. Overnight Kirawira
12th: Kirawira
13th: Kirawira
14th: Kirawira
15th: Kirawira
16th: Kirawira
17th: Kirawira
18th: Kirawira
19th: leave Grumetti airstrip and fly to Zanzibar via Arusha. Transfer to Emerson & Green
20th: Transfer to Pongwe (hb) via spice tour
21st: Pongwe
22nd Pongwe
23rd: transfer to Zamani Kempinski
24th: Zamani
25th: Zamani
26th: Zamani
27th: late transfer to Zanzibar airport to depart DAR 23.00

First off, I have a dirty little secret. It’s not something I’m proud of, even now. But in order to appreciate the aspirations and expectations I had of this safari and to understand the unusual choice of itinerary, I feel it’s important to let you know. Thus, with my head hung in shameful remorse, I can now sorrowfully admit what I’ve been scared to for a very long time… I was never bitten by the Safari bug. Not only that, but the romance of Africa was also completely lost on me.

Thankfully, I’m talking in the past tense and that was 2 years ago before the thought of a safari had even crossed my mind. For those horrified by former paragraph, don’t worry, I am of course now well and truly smitten by this beautiful country and the experiences we had! Now for the explanation…

Rewind to February 2006 and a hideously dismal rainy day in Manchester, England. In other words, a completely typical day in Manchester. Flicking through a “Small Luxury Hotels of the World” brochure, dreaming of warmer climes and wondering what I could possibly do with a fast approaching 12 weeks off in the summer, I came across a hotel that caught my eye…

…“Standing on a hill overlooking the endless savanna, you will find tented luxury beyond your dreams. From this oasis of sophistication, you can look out upon the endless vista of the western Serengeti and its teeming wildlife, a cooling drink in hand, served by the attentive staff….”

Sounded like my kind of hotel. And as guided game drives were included as part of the hotel stay, I figured it would give us something to do during the day (given we were unlikely to be able to catch a taxi to town). I had never even thought of going on safari before that moment – Africa was as far away from a holiday destination as I could have possibly imagined and animals I could see at the zoo. [Aside: Please don’t bite – I am cringing myself at how ignorant this all now sounds]! So after consulting my atlas and assuring myself it would be nice and hot in early July, I went ahead and booked an 8 night stay at the Kirawira. When my partner returned home from work later that evening, I duly informed him we were going to Africa…

If you hadn’t already realised, now would be as good a moment as any to mention that I have quite a spontaneous personality. More specifically, this particular form of spontaneity lends itself to spending vast amounts of money I usually don’t have. I think I get it from my mother’s side.

On deciding I should perhaps carry out some research into our impending holiday destination, I was rightly steered (via google) towards the wonderful wise people of Fodors. Here my mind was opened and my appetite whetted for my impending trip - who was to know that the Serengeti wasn’t the only game park in the whole of East Africa??!! And so it was with a huge amount of input and friendly advice that I designed our itinerary around those fabled 8 nights at Kirawira. With the flights by now booked, this left us with 5 wildlife days before the Kirawira followed by 8 days of relaxation bliss on Zanzibar. Our spec was relatively simple: experience as much of Tanzania as possible at a manageable comfortable pace (ie designing the 5 day circuit to fit in the parks we wanted to see), with properties that we felt represented good value for money. This last part was quite important to us, as we had spent a large portion of the budget on one hotel (Kirawira). So while it would have been wonderful not to have to consider the expense of staying at the most luxurious and expensive lodges/hotels in all our destinations, we had to weigh up the pros of each destination with the cons of the rising budget. And we were definitely settled on at least a week on Zanzibar!
I’ll talk more about the properties we stayed at, our reasoning behind choosing them and our opinion of them based on this rationale throughout the report. With one exception, I think we made some wonderful decisions.

Probably the most interesting aspect of our trip was that we used so many different operators for each segment of our journey. Sunny safaris of Arusha arranged the first 5 nights of our safari (and all of our internal flights), Kirawira the 8 nights spent in the Serengeti, and we arranged our stay in Zanzibar directly with the hotels themselves. It might sound like a lot of work, but it was actually quite fun playing with all the different kinds of permutations and having such an open and adjustable time frame to deal with. For anyone interested in the costing, I’ll do my best to remember but most of it is just a blur of invoices – I’m probably still paying for it if that helps. Anyway, I’m rambling – onwards with the actual report!

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