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Heather’s Trip Report – Tanzania (Part 1)

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This wasn’t a traditional safari trip – I traveled to Africa for work but mixed in several tourist activities. But I stayed in several neat places and did some interesting things that people might enjoy reading about. So here goes. I was in Tanzania for 12 days (March 7-20) and Rwanda for two and a half days (March 21-23). I’ll write my Rwanda report separately.

I spent the first nine days in TZ staffing a fundraiser for the pediatric AIDS foundation I work for. During that time, I stayed at the River Trees Country Inn in Usa River, about halfway between Arusha and Kilimanjaro Airport. I can’t remember reading much about River Trees on this board, but it is an amazing place! It’s well worth the price, which I believe is about US$145 a night. I really don’t want to say too much about it because I could go on forever. But the rooms are beautiful and unique, the grounds are expansive (there’s a nice pool and the Usa River runs right through the property), the staff are wonderful (I could write a book about Martina, the owner – she’s one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met), and the food is the freshest, most delicious I’ve ever eaten at any hotel or bed and breakfast. Sorry for all the superlatives but they’re true. River Trees is a perfect place to relax at the beginning or end of your trip. Bring your bug repellent though – lots of mosquitos!

I don’t want to shamelessly advertise for my foundation but if you’d like to read about what I was doing in TZ, visit "www dot pedaids dot org" and click on "AIDS Walk Africa." I got to see a lot of Tanzanian culture that people on this board might find interesting.

At the end of my time in TZ, I spent two days on safari and then two days relaxing at the Karama Lodge near Arusha. I took a two-day safari to Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater with Good Earth Tours. I wound up doing the safari alone – just me and Joseph, my Good Earth guide. It was a great trip. Joseph is a wonderful guide – very relaxed, knowledgeable, a great conversationalist but not overly talkative. In short, the perfect travel companion. I didn’t have much time to plan my safari and I was worried two days wouldn’t be enough, but I felt very satisfied with what I saw.

Lake Manyara is a beautiful park, and I might add that it has the most spectacular park bathrooms I have ever seen, anywhere! I saw giraffes, baboons, elephants, impala, zebras, etc. No lions in the trees, sadly, but that’s okay. One highlight was a family of seven elephants (two babies) that blocked the road for about 20 minutes before Joseph gently revved the engine until they moved away. We also witnessed a troop of baboons breaking into the nature center at the entrance to the park around closing time – they jumped up and down on the tin roof until one of the panels gave way and a baboon jumped inside! I assume he spent the evening in there.

I stayed at the Lake Manyara Hotel that night. It was basic but very clean and nice. Each room had a balcony and with a breathtaking view of the mountains and lake. I could have looked at the view for hours. My room had a pretty parquet floor and comfortable beds. There was also a beautiful pool with surrounding gardens, which I got a quick look at the next morning before leaving. I was dismayed to learn that Lake Manyara Hotel does not have and lodging for guides – Joseph had to drive to the nearest town to find a place to stay. This made me feel badly but not much I could do.

We left the next morning for the Crater. A great visit – I loved seeing the lions, wildebeests (lots of babies in March), and the huge male elephants. Also got a good look at a hyena and saw some rhinos from a distance. It was great being there in March because there weren’t many vehicles around. Several trucks got stuck in the mud though – I was grateful for my responsible driver!

Spent that night at the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge. Not as nice as Lake Manyara but fine for my purposes. I had a huge glass window (alas, no balcony) with a fantastic view of the Crater, but there were lots of bugs in my room, which was kind of annoying. I killed most of the flies but more kept finding their way in. Carpet was a little worn and the bathroom had seen better days, but I’ve certainly stayed in worse. The beautiful sunrise that I saw the next morning made it all worthwhile.

Back to Arusha next day, where Joseph dropped me off at the Karama Lodge. The original plan was to spend one day at Karama, but my flight to Rwanda was cancelled so one day turned into two. I thought nothing could compare to River Trees but Karama was a close second! And it’s about half the price. The lodge is at the top of a hill, with individual cabins set on stilts. My cabin was absolutely beautiful – roomy with plenty of space to spread out my things. The huge bed was the most comfortable bed in Africa I think. There’s a big shower with a separate room for the sink and toilet. The huts are surrounded by trees and unbelievable landscaping. I spent many hours sitting on my balcony, reading or listening to music. It was also nice just to wander around the grounds looking at all the plants. There is a great restaurant there, also with a grand view. Warning – it’s a little noisy at night because you’re kind of in the middle of a little settlement. You can’t see it because of the trees but you can hear it at night. Not a huge deal though.

That’s it for the Tanzania portion of my trip. Quick side note: On my way back to the U.S. from Rwanda, I returned to Kili Airport and was stuck there for 7 hours before my flight to Amsterdam. I decided to leave the airport and have lunch at the Kia Lodge about a mile away. I wasn’t expecting much but it seemed like a very nice place. The restaurant had a spectacular view of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and there was a very nice bar and pool. The rooms look like Masai huts and all the male staff members seemed to be Masai. I had great fun watching the birds and lizards – they had some of the most beautiful lizards I’ve ever seen, bright blue bodies with orange heads.

Rwanda report to come tomorrow! Thanks for reading

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