My Tanzania trip blog
Getting a glimpse of Africa’s highest mountain from the frosted aeroplane window is, without a doubt, the best possible start to your Tanzania holiday. At a height of 5,895 metres, Mount Kilimanjaro’s appearance is fiercely contrasting; its dramatic peaks with sharp edges cut through the candy-floss-like clouds, highlighting its dominance in the sky. For that reason alone, it is, in my eyes, a must-see in Tanzania!
Katambuga House, one of the newest properties to the Arusha portfolio, was a delightful place to rest my head after a long-haul flight. It’s home to exceptionally friendly staff, a roaring fireplace, a glistening swimming pool and six beautiful rooms each with private verandas boasting views of Mount Meru. After a bowl of fresh fruit and cup of strong coffee (made with locally grown Arabica beans), I was certainly refreshed and ready for the road.
After meeting our group and a few of the Asilia team at Onsea House, we jumped into our safari vehicles and started our journey to Tarangire National Park. Our two driver/guides – Stanford and Elissa (and of course, not to forget, our trip leader, Joseph)– were all absolutely amazing. No question was ever unanswered, their hospitality was faultless and their knowledge of the diversity, ecosystem and challenges of the national parks was astounding. Not to mention their generous gin to tonic ratios never went unappreciated…
Passing through the gates of Tarangire National Park instantly reminded me how special Africa is (not that I ever forget)! Nicknamed the ‘baobab forest’, it’s no surprise that the backdrop to all photos taken in Tarangire, is a collection of ancient baobab trees, standing strong and proud of their achievement. After all, in the peak of the dry season, they can individually store up to 100,000 litres of water in its structure.
We drove through the park to southern Tarangire, basing ourselves in Oliver’s Camp for two nights. Its location in a remote part of Tarangire - close to the game-dense Silale Swamps and the Monyonyo floodplain - acts as an animal highway in the dry season. Herds of elephants often pass through, walking in a delicate line of ‘follow the leader’ (leader, leader, leader). Tarangire is famed for its migratory elephant herds and I definitely lost count of how many elephants we saw on route – including a baby elly barely 2 days old, desperately shuffling close to its mother.
Waving goodbye to Tarangire, we made our way through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Sat on the edge of the mountain forest, to the north of the Ngorongoro Crater, is the Highlands Camp where we stayed for two nights. The camp itself, built of eight Perspex and canvas domes, is beautifully Scandinavian chic (and perfectly ‘instagramable’). Its location encourages guests to do activities outside the norm, including climbing Olmoti and Empaki Craters, visiting Masai villages and enjoying the untouched landscape that it sits in, truly redefining the experience of Ngorongoro.
Whilst our morning descent inside the Ngorongoro Crater unfortunately didn’t tick off the rhino box, we were very lucky with our sightings of lion, hyena and thousands of beautiful birds. Coming out of the crater took a lot longer than expected due to elephant traffic. We slowly followed a huge, male tusker elephant up the road out of the crater! We took a detour to check out Ngorongoro’s newest camp - Nomad’s Entamanu. Tucked in their own corner of the crater wilderness, Entamanu is an intimate tented camp which oozes luxury and chicness.
Next up, the infamous Serengeti National Park! And what better place to stay for our first night, than Dunia - an Asilia camp run entirely by women. Sitting in the migration corridor in the Central Serengeti, Dunia offers expansive views of the game-filled plains from the tent verandas. The women in the camp were nothing short of amazing. Their general hospitality, cooking, singing and dancing seemed effortless to them, a genuine welcome for us.
We ticked off the Great Migration! After seeing wildebeest upon wildebeest upon wildebeest upon wildebeest, I was excited to head to the eastern plains of the Serengeti to stay in Namiri Plains Camp. For 20 years, the grasslands in the east were closed to tourists to allow the cheetah population to replenish itself. Only three years ago, the region reopened and is today an infamous big-cat territory, with cheetah roaming the acacia woodland and open plains in pursuit of prey. Our guide, Noel, had hawk eyes, and spotted us five cheetahs in one day!
From Seronera airstrip, we flew up to the northern Serengeti to stay in the beautiful Sayari Camp for a couple of nights, whilst also visiting the other big players up in that area: Nomad Lamai and Lemala Kuria Hills. The rains had already arrived in the north, so landing into Kogatende airstrip was a haven of green shades and vibrant tones. The vibrant plains of northern Serengeti home herds of elephants, dazzles of zebra, sleepy prides of lion, energetic klipspringers and on the banks of the infamous Mara River, fierce and scarily long crocodiles lay in the heat of the sun, jaws open for the world to see.
From northern Serengeti, we flew (in the newest and impressive Pilatus plane) down to Ruaha National Park in the south. Where the Serengeti was wet and vibrant, Ruaha was dry and barren, in desperate need of the November rains to replenish the vast, red soils of the park. This is one of the least visited parks in Africa, famed for its large cape buffalo and some of the best populations of lesser Kudu.
I spent five perfect days in Ruaha, enjoying the hospitality of Mdonya Old River Camp, Kwihala Camp, Mwagusi Camp, Kigelia Camp and the newest boy on the block, Jabali Ridge. Dotted in different areas around the park, each camp offers something ridiculously special, whether it’s the seclusion, the breathtaking views over the Baobab forest, the simplicity of a tented camp, or the number of resident animals that casually wander through camp.
Everyone always wants to see a kill on safari… or at least they say they do. The scarcity of water meant that the animals were reliably found at the remaining pockets of water in the riverbed. Each morning, me and my amazing guide Moinga (an Asilia guide based at Jabali Ridge), sat in our vehicle at the edge of the river bank awaiting a kill. A female leopard stalked an impala, two lionesses lurked in the shadows of a baby giraffe, a young male leopard tried his changes with a flock of guinea fowl. I didn’t mind not seeing them succeed. There’s something special about watching the attempts of the big cats, showing so much concentration, determination and power.
From Ruaha, I flew onto the coast of Tanzania to stay in my penultimate lodge, the luxurious Ras Kutani hotel. Located just a short, ten-minute flight south of Dar es Salaam, this intimate lodge offers an idyllic retreat for those looking to get away from it all in rustic luxury. Set in and amongst the natural forest, each room is different and offers views out onto the lagoon, beach or out across the bay. The food was to die for, the rooms were simply perfect and the staff felt like friends. The level of service is equal to that on safari, so if you were to come here before or after your bush adventure, you wouldn’t be disappointed.
My final two nights at Fanjove Private Island were simply breathtaking. For those looking for azure waters and isolated beaches, simply look no further. Located an hour’s boat ride from the airport at Songo Songo Island, this simple but stunning island is completely private and offers the sorts of relaxation and activities that only a private island can offer with walk-in snorkeling, diving, kayaking and incredible dolphin trips…
I saw more than 200 spinner dolphins in one morning, all to myself with not a single other boat in sight! Loving the sound and vibrations of the boat, we slowed the engine right down and I got into the water to snorkel with them. I cannot even describe the experience I had, truly and utterly memorable. My final night in beautiful Tanzania was spent having dinner under the bright starlit sky, with soft sand tickling in between my toes - the perfect finish to the most perfect trip! Please see a few of my trip photos below: