As I reflect back upon my first trip to the beautiful country of Tanzania I cannot help but miss the friends I made and the beauty I experienced. Tanzania is still gloriously wild and offers clients a wide range of experiences for luxury, wildlife and culture. I now know first-hand why people are so drawn to it. Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa and includes the spice islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia and contains Africa’s highest point-Mount Kilimanjaro at 19,340 feet. Located just south of the equator, temperatures are moderate throughout the year with average daytime temperatures around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. June is the coolest month as it is mid-winter. The national language is Kiswahili, with English included in everyday use. The people are welcoming and kind.
The most effective way for my clients to get the most from their safari journey is to be accompanied by a knowledgeable and thoughtful guide that intimately knows the destination. My trip was hosted by Rob Barbour, Managing Partner with Epic Private Journeys and Guide Extraordinaire. Rob was born in Kenya and spent his formative years in Australia. A doctor by trade, Rob served in the Australian Army, most notably as the regimental medical officer to the elite Special Air Service Regiment (SAS). In the late 90’s, Rob migrated back to Africa. Rob knows Tanzania intimately and resides there part of the year with his family.
I quickly learned that a typical day in the life of someone lucky enough to be on safari can be as laid back or busy as you wish. Days normally revolve around two game viewing activities, one in the early morning and one in the late afternoon as these are the best times to spot wildlife, particularly the big cats. Lion and leopard are both nocturnal species that normally move around in the late afternoon. The early sunrise hours will find them looking for a place to lie down for the day.
Days start with a quick pre-dawn coffee and muffin as you set out on your morning activity, many times in the dark. A picnic breakfast in the bush is part of the reward for these early efforts. You will return to camp around midday for lunch. The afternoon is yours to relax. I found it a wonderful time for a siesta before afternoon tea, usually served around 3:30-4:00pm. Once the heat of the day is past, the game starts moving again and the afternoon adventures begin.
Afternoon game activities generally finish between 6-7pm and usually include Sundowners, Africa’s term for Happy Hour Cocktails in the bush with a beautiful sunset view.
United States citizens are required to obtain a visa from the Embassy of Tanzania before entering the country. A visa can be obtained at the airport upon arrival; however I recommend my clients obtain their visa in advance as the lines at the airport can be quite long.
I traveled on the overnight Delta flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam followed by the daily KLM flight into Kilimanjaro Airport, and then transferred 45 minutes to Hatari Lodge for my first night. Hatari Lodge is situated high on the northern edge of Arusha National Park and has amazing views across to Mount Meru. The lodge is named after the Hollywood film, ‘Hatari!’ (meaning ‘danger’ in Swahili), starring John Wayne and Hardy Kruger which was filmed in this area in 1960.
Hatari Lodge consists of three buildings offering 9 comfortably furnished rooms, each with an open fireplace and a spacious bathroom. Each room has been decorated in a retro style, evoking the 60’s and 70’s – the time of ‘Hatari!’ and the beginning of safaris in Tanzania. I woke up to glorious views of Mount Meru, giraffes and Cape Buffalo on the ground. Hatari is the perfect place to spend a night after a long international flight.
After breakfast the next day we headed out to Arusha National Park for our first game drive of the trip followed by a picnic lunch. Arusha National Park is a great introduction to safari and, combined with Hatari Lodge, a smooth transition from international travel to the bush.
Following our game drive we headed on a wild two-hour ride into the Southern Amboseli, just south of the Kenyan border, for our second night at Shu’mata Camp. Shu’mata Camp is located at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, deep in the traditional Maasai land. Shu’mata means “heaven” or “above the clouds” in Swahili. The camp features 5 large East African tents, set up in true Hemingway style, on a hill with magnificent views of Mount Kilimanjaro. Each tent has an en-suite bathroom, private veranda and is decorated with colorful Maasai art.
The Amboseli area is deep in the traditional Maasai Land. It is quite barren with “islands” of old acacia forests and seasonal swamps that stretch to the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. We encountered our first elephants of the on trip this morning. I could barely contain the excitement I felt to experience my first elephant in the wild! They are magnificent creatures and calmly share their habitat with the Maasai and their cattle.
Our third evening was back in Arusha at the beautiful Legendary Lodge where the Legendary Expeditions headquarters is located. This luxury property is situated on the outskirts of Arusha National Park in lush tropical gardens surrounded by a working farm. Guests enjoy wonderful views of Mount Meru from the privacy of their cottage. The lodge is conveniently located 10 minutes from the Arusha Airport and 60 minutes from Kilimanjaro International Airport. Legendary Lodge would be my recommendation for luxury clients either spending their first or last night in Tanzania.
The six garden cottages, including two oversized family cottages, offer private verandas, with interiors designed with a unique blend of African arts and crafts combined with Western comforts and old colonial style luxury. Each cottage features comfortable split level living that includes a lounge with fireplace, direct dial phone, broadband connection, complimentary mini-bar and fruit basket and en-suite bathrooms.
The morning of day four we drove 10 minutes to the Arusha Airport and took a 40-minute charter flight over the stunning Ngorongoro Crater while in route to Mwiba Lodge located in the Mwiba Wildlife Reserve. This privately managed reserve borders the Ngorongoro Conservation Area’s westernmost boundary, south of Serengeti National Park. Mwiba was established with the aim of improving conservation efforts and expanding the wildlife viewing areas to the south of Serengeti National Park. The Serengeti wildebeest migration flows across this area when at its southernmost point between December and April. The land is full of rolling hills, thickets, waterholes and dry river beds where pools form that contain water year round. This constant supply of water acts as a magnet for wildlife in the dry season providing incredible safari experiences.
Mwiba is perfect for high-end clients that are looking for exclusivity with their accommodations and wildlife viewing. The lodge is uber-luxurious and secluded, set among massive stone boulders, ancient coral trees and acacias, overlooking a rocky gorge on the Arugusinyai River. The lodge’s eight double suites all have an open layout with amazing views from their private hardwood plank decks.
Day five we headed out for an early morning game drive followed by lunch and a site inspection at Serians Serengeti South Camp located in the Kakessio area outside of the Serengeti National Park. This is a mobile tented camp situated at the southern tip of the Serengeti Plains in the Ngorongora Conservation Area from mid-December to May.
Serian’s Serengeti South Camp offers guests the opportunity to experience cultural activities such as nature walks and cultural immersions with Maasai tribesman. We took part in a walk with Maasai tribesmen specifically tasked as official lion guardians of the Lion Guardian Project.
After lunch we had a site inspection of 255 Unchartered Camp. This is a private exclusive camp with 8 tents and is ideal for multi-generational travel or a larger group trip.
This evening we drove three hours to Serian’s Mobile Tented Kusini Camp to spend the night. Just oustide of Ndutu. This camp when combined with Serian’s Serengeti South Camp offers clients a wonderful combination of cultural immersion and wildlife viewing experiences.
Day six began with an early morning game drive on our way to catch our flight from Ndutu to Lake Manyara. Upon arrival we drove one and a half hours to the Ngorongoro Crater.
The Ngorongoro Crater, located within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), was once a gigantic volcano and some maintain that before it erupted was probably higher than Mount Kilimanjaro. Today the crater forms the largest unbroken caldera in the world and the first sight of it is breathtaking. The wildlife on and around the crater floor is amazing!
We stopped on our way into the crater for site inspections at Lemala Ngorongoro Tented Camp and Sanctuary Ngorongoro Camp.
Lemala Ngorongoro Tented Camp consists of 9 spacious canvas tents located in a beautiful acacia forest on the rim of the crater. A key advantage of staying at Lemala is the quick and easy access into the crater. You can drive straight down to the crater floor within 10 to 15 minutes giving Lemala guests an hour’s head start over others in the morning.
We made a stop at Sanctuary Ngorongoro Camp, also located close to entrance to the crater. The view of the Crater was stunning from this location.
That evening we arrived at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. Inspired in design by the Maasai mud-and-stick manyatta (homestead), the lodge is described as Maasai meets Versailles. It is a 90-minute drive from Lake Manyara Airport or a morning drive from Arusha. It is perched literally overlooking the crater and the views are unbelievable.
The morning of day seven we caught our flight from Lake Manyara airport and flew to the Sasakwa airstrip located on the Grumeti Reserve. This private reserve is incredibly exclusive and the price point for lodging while very high is worth every penny! The wildlife viewing is the best I experienced on the trip.
Singita operates the lodges and camps in the Grumeti Reserve and do a first-class job of preserving the natural environment while providing a true luxury safari bush experience. There are several different lodging options to choose from. Guests have exclusive use of the facilities at all of their camps and lodges while staying with Singita Grumeti.
The Singita Serengeti House is a private four-bedroom house that sleeps up to four couples or two families. The layout is exquisite with contemporary African art, infinity pool and private staff. The views are stunning and include a watering hole offering amazing wildlife viewing. The décor blends European country design and African artifacts to create a comfortable and unpretentious style.
Singita Sasakwa Lodge offers a true sense of grandeur with its colonial-style manor house and private cottages. This lodge has a true Hemingway feeling taking guests back to time of old-world elegance while providing all the modern luxury comforts.
Sasakwa has an incredible Equestrian Center on its grounds offering exclusive horseback experiences. The stables are home to 18 magnificent horses. There is a top-notch selection of riding gear.
Guests can have their own “Out of Africa” moment with a day ride exploring the area surrounding Sasakwa Hill. Riding on the open plains allows you to actually travel with a herd of zebra or giraffe.
For the truly immersive bush adventure guests can combine several days of riding with the luxury of moving from one Singita location to another. The Equestrian Safaris are available from June-October.
Singita Faru Faru Lodge is a much more contemporary option with 9 luxury rooms offering a unique opportunity to experience a very close connection with the wilderness from your private deck. Built on a sloping hill, this lodge is positioned on a well-known migratory route.
Singita Sabora Tented Camp is an intimate 1920’s style camp. It has a nice, laid back feel to it while offering guests a true luxury experience. Glamping in Africa at its finest!
Singita Explore Tented Camp is a private camp offering an authentic safari camping experience with modern touches and amenities.
The morning of day eight we drove from Explore Mobile Camp to Sasakwa airstrip and boarded our scheduled flight headed for Kogotende. We were met by a Nomad representative and transferred to Lamai Serengeti Camp for our last two nights in the bush.
Lamai Serengeti is situated on in the Lamai Wedge in the northern Serengeti. The views are gorgeous in every direction. The lodge is just a few miles from where the wildebeest cross the Mara River. The Lodge is split between the Main Camp and a smaller Private Camp with 12 total rooms in all.
I loved the staff and managers at this lodge and our guide Lazarus was the most talented guide we drove with on the entire trip! While we had not seen a leopard up to this point and feared missing this member of Africa’s Big Five, Lazarus found three for us.
The authentic décor and colors along with the unsurpassed views added to the experience.
We had two additional site inspections in the Lamai area. We visited Sayari Camp, a part of the Asilia Group. This permanent tented camp has 15 nicely appointed tents.
We also visited Lemala Kuria Hills Lodge. This lodge is situated in the Wogakurya Hills. This lodge offers accommodations with private plunge pools overlooking the large boulders and kopjes and is also located close to the Mara River and within the main corridor of the world-famous wildebeest migration.
The last day of my adventure was spent back in Arusha. We shopped a bit at the Cultural Heritage Center, and then headed to Arusha Coffee Lodge for a site inspection. Arusha Coffee Lodge is located just down the road from Legendary Lodge, on the grounds of a colonial coffee plantation. They have 30 Plantation Houses, including 12 suites that come with an outdoor terrace and fireplace. The lodge is on the outskirts of Arusha providing guests with lots to do should they wish to venture into town.
Arusha Coffee Lodge is home to The Land Rover Experience Center offering expedition self-drive safaris. This is an exceptional opportunity for safari travelers to safely self-drive thought some of the most spectacular landscapes that East Africa has to offer. Drivers receive their training at a 4×4 off-road training facility located on property. The instructors teach the techniques of off-road driving and demonstrate the incredible versatility of Land Rover’s iconic vehicles. I thoroughly enjoyed this exciting experience!
The most convenient and comfortable way to start a long journey home from Africa is having a place to relax and freshen up prior to a long flight. Rivertrees Country Inn is located just 30 minutes from Kilimanjaro Airport. This is a great place to have a room for the day prior to traveling home.
I reflect back on my journey and cannot help but dream about my next African adventure. Until then, I will dream about amazing sunsets, wildlife that surpassed every expectation and people that are welcoming and kind. I’ll be back soon! This I know to be true.