Safari & spices
As my university studies in Human Resource Management progressed, the option of doing a thesis research abroad came in sight. After convincing a university professor that his research on local embeddedness of the tourism sector of Tanzania should also have an HR angle, I set out to this beautiful country to live in Arusha and from there set out to travel the rest. Compared to its neighbor Kenya, the Tanzanians are a very gentle crowd with Kiswahili as their main language. Not easy to navigate (they will always say ‘yes’, even if they really do not know just to be kind which can leave you going in circles for ages :-)) but a great country to experience Western Africa’s cultures and most importantly: NATURE. The Kiswahili word most well know is SAFARI – meaning ‘journey’… and a journey it sure was!
Time of year: February to August
Time spend: on trips – weekends and longer 2-3 week trips
Means to travel: Local bus, rental jeep, airplane, boat
- Ngorongoro Conservation Area
- Serengeti NP
- Mahale Mountains NP (chimps)
The journey – Where we went & Stayed the night
As I lived and did research in Tanzania, my discovery of the country was spread over weekends away and longer trips when family and friends visited. There are many places to stay and the level of comfort varies greatly, but overall Tanzania is a very affordable country to travel across. Some accommodations we really liked;
- Zanzibar – Karamba Resort; Slightly off the beaten track, but what a joy! The restaurant serves great food, the diving is well organised, and you have an outdoor shower you can use while watching the stars!
- Ngorongoro Conservation Area – Simba Campsite A; incredibly basic, but the views over the crater are fantastic! Ow… and when we arrived, there was an elephant standing in the field where we should pitch our tents… yikes!
- Moshi – YMCA; If you don’t mind hanging with the locals, then the YMCA in Moshi is great! Biggest perk is the massive outdoor pool, which is a nice place to plunge into and wash of the dust or soreness when exploring the area, including the climb up the Kilimanjaro. Views of it are included, provided it is not cloudy ;-).
Easily Tanzania is mostly picked for its safari experience, and having seen several places we have to agree that Tanzania offers some of the most low-key, original safari trips around. But that would sell the country short, as its coast (including Zanzibar) and the great Kilimanjaro are also part of the attractions! To top it off, the people of Tanzania are genuinely kind and laidback (see watchouts).
- Safari in Serengeti NP – Whether you visit during the great migration or another time in the year, the Serengeti continues to have the magic its name tends to muster. While the Maasai you visit may feel touristy, it is still a peek into local customs and tribal life. But the wildlife is of course the main attraction, and that does not fail. With Serengeti being so big (stretching all the way into Kenya where it becomes the Masai Mara), with a good driver/guide you should have a very private experience.
- Ngorongoro Conservation Area – the opposite of the Serengeti, this ‘fishbowl of wildlife’ is actually just that. Safari vehicles take the same routes and you are bound to run into them all day, but the unique habitat with a lake in its crater offers a great opportunity to spot the black rhinos that live there.
- Zanzibar & Stonetown – A very different part of the country, Zanzibar often does not feel ‘African’ at all. With influences from around the globe as it is on a sailing route along the african coast, Zanzibar is a lovely stop and should be part of your Tanzanian itinerary. Stonetown is a quaint little town with Arab influences, everywhere you look you can see, smell and hear its impact. The rest of the ‘spice’ island is covered in beach resorts for every size wallet or level of luxury.
- Kilimanjaro – Whether you decide to scale it or not, the sight of the snow-capped Kilimanjaro is utterly impressive. When you fly over it, keep an eye out, as there is nothing stranger than seeing a spot of snow in the middle of the African plains! It’s fertile flanks are filled with cultural tourism opportunities that are really worth exploring, giving you a different outlook on African living.
- Chimp trekking in Mahala Mountains NP – A very different experience from gorilla trekking, finding chimpanzees in the wild is a very sweaty endeavor! To get to Gombe is half of the adventure, flying to the smallest airport we have ever seen and then taking a very long boatride along Lake Tangayika. But the sense of remoteness is rewarding, and seeing chimps frolicking together is a must-do for animal lovers!
In general, keep your wits about you and don’t walk around like a ‘walking wallet’. Especially after dark it is usually recommended to take a taxi wherever you would like to go, rather then wander the streets on foot.
- A Tanzanian will always say ‘yes’ – Which is not a problem, unless they should have said ‘no’ as they can not help you. We have spend quite some time chasing directions that were wrong, or assuming we could get something organised which turned out impossible. It is of course a basis for great stories afterwards, but when you walk around in the African heat with a 15kg backpack, you may want to count on other sources than the Tanzanian in the street!
Have a look at other African destinations or check our blog section for more on Tanzania and the adventures we had!