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Tanzania trip report

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We are just back from an amazing trip to Tanzania so I thought it might be useful to post a report.

We chose Green Footprints since their approach was very different from the other companies we contacted. They were choosing different sorts of properties - not lodge to lodge to lodge - and they had activities as part of the package that were a little more engaged. They and CC Africa were also the most professional in the planning stage. Christina could not have been more helpful and she was a master at identifying the experience we wanted and getting it for us.

We started the trip with three nights in Zanzibar since our flights were in and out of Dar. This turned out to be a good way to get over the lag and chill into the holiday. Our first night was at Matemwe Bungalows and we moved for the next two nights to Matemwe Retreat. If you want a "sit in a beach chair and have drinks brought to you" kind of property this place is not for you. If you want to see and experience the real Zanzibar you will love it. The Bungalows were large and well appointed with a terrace directly on the seafront, the service and the food was very good. The Retreat on the other hand was absolutely amazing. The Retreat is 3 stand alone villas (with two more to be built) each with two huge terraces, a plunge pool, a huge bedroom and bathroom, butler service and views to die for. The design is very Zanzibar and a little quirky (nearly everything is made from old dhows) but the overall effect is magical if you have any romance in your soul at all. The only activity we did was their snorkel trip to Mnemba island. You go by dhow which was great - a bargain at $20 and you get a sail thrown in. Lots of healthy corals and masses of fish - visibility was fair to good but it was a full moon when we were there and the tides were very extreme (this was a show in itself) so that might have clouded things up a bit.
Matemwe is a at least a 60 minute drive from about everywhere else in Zanzibar so this might not be the best location to stay if you want to see all of Zanzibar in 4 days. If you want to relax and watch the world go by I cannot think of a better place to do it.

From Zanzibar we flew to Arusha to start the safari. Our guide Jackson picked us up and we were on to Onsea House which was terrific. Great food, great hospitality, gorgeous gardens, a beautiful pool and lots of birdlife. The next morning we headed off to Arusha National Park. This park is a wonderful start to a safari. It has so many different little ecosystems that you get a great variety of animals. We saw masses of Colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, battling giraffes, mating zebras, buffalo, warthogs etc. There is also a very lush volcanic crater. We went canoeing on Momella Lake which was fun, but we did it at midday when it was very hot and there was not much to see. I would recommend this for morning or late afternoon. Another great thing is that we only saw one other car all day.

Then we flew to Tarangire for our stay at Oliver's Camp. Our guide was Alex who was an amazing guide and spotter and we had a terrific game drive to the camp. We saw a leopard in a tree 20 minutes after we left the airport which was a first for us and a great way to start. That afternoon we took a game walk which was wonderful. Alex leads these walks with a park ranger and they are amazing. It is great to get out of the vehicle and see things at ground level. We found a breeding herd of elephants so it was a little exciting trying to get out of their way. To top it off we saw the most amazing sunset. We did a full day game drive the next day and saw masses of elephants throughout the park - the highlight is watching them going into the swamp. We saw a pride of lions up close and personal, a cheetah with a cub,zebras, giraffes, lots of diffent antelope, birds etc. Tarangire is a beautiful place with lots of different landscapes - from the baobabs in bloom to the day glo green swamp - just fabulous. There were also very few other vehicles. We loved Oliver's Camp - the staff were great, the food was amazing and the whole ambiance of the camp was special.

From there we flew onto Lake Manyara where Jackson picked us up and took us to Mto Wa Mbu for a village walk. We visited the local hospital, the school, a millet beer bar, a banana plantation, the local market, some ebony carvers (very good value carvings) and finished off with delicious lunch under the trees cooked by a local family. Jackson knew everybody and paved the way for us to meet people and spend some time talking with them. This was a highlight. After our walk we went on to Plantation Lodge for two nights. This was another super accomodation. Very beautiful and comfortable room, amazing gardens, excellent service, beautful common areas. The food was outstanding with fresh produce from their garden. We counted 12 fresh vegetables in one meal and the lettuces were the best I have ever eaten.

The next morning we went to Lake Manyara for an enjoyable day of game driving. We saw lots of elephants very close, baboons(lots of babies), masses of birds, hippos.
Green Footprints also does canoe trips of Lake Manyara which I wish we had done. This is a small park but it is very beautiful and worth seeing.

Next morning we were off to Ngorongoro Crater. It was about a 1.5 hour drive to the Crater descent road from Plantation Lodge. The crater is magnificent and there has been plenty written about it here. We saw lions mating,cheetahs with a kill, elephants, black rhino (from a distance)hyenas, masses of birds, giraffes, zebras, antelope etc. The only problem with the crater is that there are masses of other vehicles and loads of dust. Jackson found both the mating lions and the cheetah kill and within 10 minutes land rovers were racing in all directions toward us in clouds of dust. Jackson said this was nothing - that there were usually 10 times the number of vehicles in the crater. For this reason one day in the crater was enough for us. We stayed that night at the Serena (Crater lodge was fully booked - saved us some $$$)which was fine. The views were fantastic and we had a sunrise over the crater like nothing I have ever seen.

From Ngorongoro we drove back to Manyara Airport for our flight to Kogatende in the Serengeti for 3 nights at Sayari. Nicholas was our guide - he is half Greek and half Masai and was alot of fun. On our drive from the airport we found a pair of mating lions who we saw again and again. Sayari is in a really beautiful part of the Serengeti right on the Mara River - the beautiful plains leading into Masai Mara are in one direction and an entirely different topography full of kopjes in the other. The biggest feature here were the cats -we got very up close with lions and cheetahs with cubs. The mating pair finished their session and made a zebra kill right behind the campfire. We heard these horrific screams and upon investigation the guides found the lions with a zebra. We were allowed to go look at the kill(which is a no no since it was a night so shhh). You cannot believe how close to the camp this was. To see the mating ritual go full circle was really an experience. We also saw big herds of giraffe, antelope, zebra and wildebeest everywhere, lots of hippos and a huge crocodile. If you can ever get a booking in June or July this camp has a front row seat for the river crossing. Sayari camp is very comfortable, has fantastic food and the tents were huge. You just cannot beat sundowners with mating lions and cheetahs and cubs chomping on a kill.

Our last day we flew from Kogatende to Dar to get our connection to Dubai which made for a very long day of flying.

This was just an amazing trip. Green Footprints did a great job for us and Jackson was a fantastic guide and a true gentleman. The only changes I would have made if I had the time, would be to spend one more day at Oliver's Camp(we were not at all ready to leave)and maybe go back to Zanzibar for 3-4 days at the end.

If anyone has any questions, let me know.

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