Tanzania Tour Diary

Our Safari Honcho, Jeff Ward, recently spent a week exploring the beautiful country of Tanzania. The below are excerpts of his trip as he recounts his amazing experiences…

Day 1:

 

I arrive at the Mount Meru Hotel in Arusha after a long spell of travelling. It’s the perfect spot for a one night pre or post safari stay, and it has a wonderful day room scenario for the late KLM flights out of JRO.

The Hotel has that old world charm that reminds me of the Mount Nelson in Cape Town… the perfect place to take Gran to tea.

The next day, I headed out to Tarangire National Park. The drive was extremely long but there was lots of good game on the way, including a python in a tree!

Day 2

The rooms at Tarangire Tree Tops Lodge are all built around a big old Baobab and Marula trees. A real tree house feel with great views.

 

Tarangire Tree Tops
Tarangire Tree Tops

 

There’s a watering hole right at the front of the lodge where we saw baboons playing (and fighting) while we had lunch.

Swala Sanctuary Camp

This under-canvas camp is right in the middle of the Tarangire National Park, so you can’t beat the location. With 12 tents, this is one of my all-time favorites.  The camp was completely renovated in 2009 and it shows. The place looks terrific. The large tents are permanently fixed on platforms and have full amenities. There is an outdoor shower for each room, with most overlooking the VERY active water hole. Guests at breakfast witnessed a mama lion snacking on a baby warthog this morning. The new managers are in the process of introducing walking safaris, which will be cool.

Swala Sanctuary Lodge
Swala Sanctuary Lodge

Day 4:

Manyara Serena Lodge

We did not have an appointment here, but Adam, my Akorn Driver/Guide thought it might be worthwhile to see.

We got a quick tour of the Manyara Serena which is right at the top of the escarpment. It has 67 rooms and was built in the 1990s. It was spacious, open, and clean, and had beautiful gardens for the grounds.

The lodge has amazing views out over Manyara and also has a refreshing pool that also overlooks the fertile valley below.

 

Manyara Serena Lodge
Manyara Serena Lodge

 

After breakfast at Manyara Ranch, we headed north-west past Lake Manyara National Park and up the Great Rift Valley escarpment  headed to the Karatu Highlands, where it was lush, green, and very pretty.

 

Karatu Highlands
Karatu Highlands

 

Gibbs Farm

I loved this place. They were expecting us and made us feel so welcome. We were immediately offered lunch from the buffet, which offered food that was almost completely grown on the farm (yes, the best meal I’d had so far). The front-office manager dined with us and was available to answer all of my questions. The environment was calm, serene and very relaxing.

Gibbs Farm Bedroom
Gibbs Farm Bedroom

 

 

The lodge sits adjacent to the Ngorongoro Crater National Park and has amazing views that overlook the highlands. There are 21 rooms — 3 older ones (2 of which are in the old home), and 18 new ones. All rooms are basically suites with sleeping, lounging and outside terrace areas. They are very, very well done and remind me a lot of LQF in Franschhoek. There are numerous “Rhythm of the Farm” activities offered and guests can basically stay busy all day (starting with bread baking at 6:30 am). Free activities include farm and garden tours, but there are also many other lower-priced activities in the park (hiking, mountain biking, etc.).

Best time of year to visit is June/July/August (especially for birding) and November/December when everything is green and the gardens are blooming.

At the end of the inspection, they gave me a 10-minute massage with a Masai traditional healer. It was amazing. I’m sold.

 

Masai Traditional Healer
Masai Traditional Healer

 

Manor Lodge

I loved this place, too, as it totally hit the JW-POSH button. It’s beautiful, it’s luxurious. The lodge is only 3 years old and it’s impeccable. Every guest will have each meal in a different location (of course, weather permitting). The have 4 horses (retired Kenyan polo ponies), a massage room, and a manicurist/pedicurist on staff.

The grounds are the loveliest I’ve seen in Tanzania. And the staff were all incredibly friendly.

Manor at Ngorongoro Crater
Manor at Ngorongoro Crater

 

 

Ngorogoro Crater Lodge

Wow! This place is definitely over the top and understandably the most expensive lodge around. The B&B product is very, very tight and the customer experience is one of the best I’d had this trip.

Each room has sweeping views of the crater, and is huge with separate living, terrace, sleeping, and mombo-sized bath areas. Any one of these rooms would be perfect for honeymooners. The Tree Camp rooms are somewhat smaller and have somewhat obstructed views of the crater, due to the foliage.

The lodge is great for honeymooners and families alike.

 

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

 

Day 5:

Serena Crater Lodge

Best suited for tour groups or those seeking less-expensive accommodation on the Crater, and cannot afford the Ngorogoro Crater Lodge.

 

Ngorongoro Serena Lodge
Ngorongoro Serena Lodge

 

Lake Masek Tented Lodge

Actually not in the Serengeti National Park, but instead in the Ngorogoro conservation area. This is a lovely 20-tent property owned also by Tanzanian entrepreneur Willy Chamulo. Tents are nicely appointed with tubs and outdoor showers. Built in 2009, the camp is 100% solar powered – nice one Willy!

Best lodge in the area…

 

Lake Masek Tented Lodge
Lake Masek Tented Lodge

 

Sanctuary Kusini Tented Camp

After a long day of driving, I was so happy to get to this lodge. There’s a large rock formation adjacent to the camp, which is fun to climb and has a stunning 360-view of the Serengeti.

 

Sanctuary Kusini
Sanctuary Kusini

 

Day 6:

 

After leaving Kasini, we continued through the Serengeti to Dunia Camp.

Dunia is a permanent tented camp lodge. The camp is 100% solar powered and has bucket showers available 24/7. There is also power available in the tents. It’s well appointed and the staff greeted me warmly. The camp feels like a luxury, mobile tented camp, but rustically elegant and a bit nicer than the standard mobile option.

 

Dunia Camp
Dunia Camp

 

Bilila Kempinski / Four Seasons

Built in 2009 this large, luxury lodge hotel is owned by a wealthy Arab investor so its super luxurious, world-class and very pretty. It has 2 dining venues, wine cellar, large spa, pool area, and sweeping views of the plains.

Perfect for guests who want a large, luxury lodge experience. Not for those who want an intimate camp.

 

Bilila Kempinski Lodge
Bilila Kempinski Lodge

 

Kirawira Tented Camp

This camp, built in 1998 is part of the Serena hotel group (which I learned is part of the Aga Khan’s empire). It’s a SLH (Small Luxury Hotel) property and the common areas have a clubby, intimate feel to them. There are 25 tents, all of which are on vaulted platforms offering amazing views of the Serengeti..

The one thing I didn’t like was the decor of the tent rooms. It looked like it had not been updated since opening, and the bedding was definitely not up to international luxury standards (i.e. duvet covers instead of cotton/poly bedspreads).

The management was welcoming and accommodating and the camp is in a great location with excellent common areas and views. I couldn’t find anything wrong with this place other than the outdated room decor.

 

Kirawira Tented Camp
Kirawira Tented Camp

 

&Beyond Grumeti Tented Camp

For my 6th night on the road, we stayed in Grumeti camp, which is located on a tributary of the Grumeti river, inside the Serengeti national park. The most interesting aspect of the lodge’s location is the large number of hippo in the river right in front of main lodge. There are 3 families and the hippos are very rambunctious (i.e. active and loud). Across the tributary, on the other side, there’s also a lot of other game viewing (giraffes, monkeys, impala, etc).

The staff here was VERY high-touch, with on-going name usage with all guests. The &Beyond lodges all stand out above the rest in their customer service and friendly, confident levels of service (as opposed to Sanctuary’s very timid, unconfident lodge wait staff). There’s a butler assigned to every guest, who is there for every whim (and meal).

I found the food above-average, and some of the best I had on the trip.

 

Singita-Grumeti Camp
Singita-Grumeti Camp

 

Day 7:

After leaving Grumeti Camp, we were able to do a site inspection at one of the Singita Grumeti camps:

Singita Sabora Lodge

The first of the 3 Singita lodges in the Grumeti concession, adjacent to the Serengeti national park, this luxury tented camp is run like the other Singita proprieties — all-inclusive with game package. Basically, all the East Africa tour operators drop the clients at the lodge and step away.

There are 9 luxurious tents, built on platforms, that are suite-sized. 6 of the tents are arranged in pairs (but still can be sold as singles), sharing a library tent between them.

The lodge is pure Singita in every aspect. It’s luxurious, serene, and tasteful on all fronts. There is a pool, spa, tennis courts, wifi throughout, and air conditioning in the tents.

Sabora sits out in the middle of the plains and is beautifully located. There’s nothing around besides the resident family of zebras in the camp, just in front of the main lodge.

The game is starting to come back after years of depletion.

 

Game viewing at Singita
Game viewing at Singita

 

After flying back to Arusha, and then to DAR, I transferred by land out to the Ras Kutani Beach Lodge.

With no traffic, it’s a 1:15 drive from the DAR airport (mine was 1:45 in traffic), or a 12-minute air hop. This lodge provides a very nice, relaxing alternative for an after-safari beach experience. The lodge is part of the Selous safari company portfolio, along with their 2 Selous lodges. The property has 4 suites, with private plunge pools, 9 “castaway chic” cottages, and 1 family cottage. a few of the cottages have lagoon views.

Their cottages have large verandas with hammocks, spacious king/twin rooms, and large bath areas. The resort is super causal, with most guests walking around barefoot. There’s a beautiful beach with very warm water for those mid afternoon dips.

For my return flight out, I had a 7am air hop transfer back to DAR, in more than enough time for my 8:35 am BA flight back to London.

Ras Kutani is a well-kept secret and the perfect solution for guests needing to overnight in Dar es Salaam. Two nights here after the northern circuit, or Selous, is the perfect way to end a safari. It’s also closer than Zanzibar and provides a good alternative.

 

Ras Kutani Beach
Ras Kutani Beach

 

All said, Tanzania is a beautiful country with plenty to offer a variety of visitors. Get in touch with us here at African Safari Consultants and we’ll make sure your trip is as unforgettable as Jeff’s.

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