We crossed the border from Rwanda into Tanzania. Straight away we could see the change in vegetation. The banana and eucalyptus trees were replaced by a savanna landscape and the roads went back to having a lot of potholes. Tanzania is well known for its wilderness, amongst which is one of the worlds most famous national parks, the Serengeti. It is also famous for being home to Africas highest mountain, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar, a tropical island that is the epitome of paradise. We visited Tanzania twice during our trip. The first time was purely to travel back to Kenya as some people would be leaving the overland truck here. The second time was more eventful as we were fortunate enough to visit the Serengeti and Zanzibar.
During our stay in Tanzania we spent three nights working our way back to Kenya. Our first night was spent camping in a old German fort in Biharamulo. I enjoyed this night a lot as Lisa took us to a local restaraunt were we ate goat meat skewers and chips mayai (a french fry omelette). It was great to see what the locals ate and drank. We were also able to find savanah drys and castle lights (South African drinks) at this restaraunt which was interesting. Our second night was spent at a beautiful campsite on the beach of Lake Victoria, situated just outside of Mwanza. Our truck had to be taken across a section of the lake by ferry, which was an interesting experience as the locals kept taking photos of us. When we arrived at our campsite we were in awe! It was beautiful… The water looked inviting and the beach was lined with palm trees. I enjoyed a swim in the lake, a cold beer and a delicious meal. We were all sad that our time at this campsite was so limited. Our final day, for this leg of the trip in Tanzania, was spent traveling to Musoma, another town on Lake Victoria. We arrived mid afternoon which allowed us to take advantage of the water. The cooling down was much needed, as it was a scorcher or a day! Lying on the beach and swimming all afternoon was a fantastic way to relax before we re-entered Kenya.
After losing some of the original group members and meeting the new ones in Kenya, we crossed the border back into Tanzania and arrived at Snake Park (just outside of Arusha) ready for the Serengeti. I couldn’t wait to see what was installed for us. But first we had a full day to explore Snake Park and it’s surroundings. With a ‘slight’ hangover we proceeded to a local Maasai village were we went and met the local children and saw how their families lived. The Maasai people are found in Tanzania and southern Kenya. They live a semi-nomadic lifestyle and move approximately every five years (or more frequently if the land has been depleted of natural resources). They have a unique dress sense that allows you to instantly tell that they are Maasai and it is common for them to stretch their ears. The culture surrounding the Maasai is polygamist and the tribe we visited was run by a 96 year old man who had five wives. For the Maasai, in order to get married you need to present the father of the bride with 10 cows. So the more cows you have, the more wives you can acquire.This was an interesting experience that allowed us to learn about a new community and to see how they lived. After this village walk I went to go and look at the snakes in Snake Park, and besides the dozen of poisonous snakes they had, there were also owls, crocodiles and other bird species.
Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area and the Serengeti National Park
In order to visit the Serengeti, we used the tour company Green Bee Eater Safaris. This company provided a two night/three day expedition which allowed us to visit the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. These two destinations are famous for their wildlife and are distinctly different from each other. We were collected by three safari cars from Snake Park. In my car there were seven of us; Jill, Mimi, Tim, Ashley, Kyle, Brenton and myself. Our drivers name was Jeff and he kept us entertained over the next two days by cracking jokes and teaching us local folk songs. We started our journey to the Ngorongoro Crater. The Ngorongoro Crater is a volcanically formed crater that is deemed a conservation area as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is home to an abundance of animals that live comfortably as water is plentiful. The wildebeest in this conservation area therefore have no need to migrate. After about two hours of driving we reached our campsite for the night. We enjoyed having our tents set up for us for a change and spent the evening lying by the pool. Most of us had an early night in order to prepare for our jam packed day in the Crater and the Serengeti. We had an early wake up call as we still needed to drive for another two hours to reach the Ngorongoro Crater. Before we started our decent into the crater we saw a hyena. This had me excited as I had not seen one yet before on this trip. As soon as we got to the floor of the crater we drove up to a cackle of hyenas feasting on a zebra. It was fascinating to see hyena, jackals and vultures all feeding off the same zebra. After about an hour of admiring this site, we moved on to find two male and one female lion. These lions were right next to the road which allowed for a beautiful siting. During our four hours in the crater we saw so many animals living in close proximity. Lions were plentiful as were wildebeest, hyenas, hippos and zebra. The scenery was unique as every landscape had the backdrop of the crater wall. We ate lunch in the crater and then proceeded to drive for about an hour to reach the Serengeti. The drive between the crater and the national park was fascinating as we saw a lot of Maasai people herding their cattle in the desolated region that separated the conservation area and the national park.
We ate lunch in the crater and then proceeded to drive for about an hour to reach the Serengeti plains. The drive between the crater and the national park was fascinating as we saw a lot of Maasai people herding their cattle in the desolated region that separated the conservation area and the national park. In this area,between our two destinations, there was nothing! It was dry and barren. However once we entered the national park the acacia trees and savanna plains came back. Once we were inside the park, Jeff got a call and we started to race off. Along the way I spotted a male lion but we didn’t have time to stop, and then I saw the tail dangling from the tree. Finally we had completed our big five and had found a leopard. We had an amazing siting and appreciated the moment. After that we spotted a cheetah in the distant grass, buffalo, elephant, warthogs, giraffe and a variety of buck. Within 500 m we had seen four out of the big five (unfortunately we didn’t see any rhinos in the Serengeti or Ngorongoro Crater). After our exciting afternoon game drive we made our way to the campsite. This campsite had no fencing or guards, only a structure to eat under and toilets. The next morning we woke up early to catch the sunrise. We had been driving for 30 seconds when we saw a female lion cross the road. This was approximately 150 meters away from the bathrooms at our campsite. That was in intense experience and one I shall never forget! Our morning game drive consisted of seeing buck, giraffe, two leopards and two prides of lions. The last pride of lions was a real highlight for me. They were close to the road and the pride consisted of four female lions and ten cubs. The one cub came and say right outside of my window! This experience was truly humbling and one I don’t want to ever forget. The Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park were everything I hoped they would be. The sunset, sunrise, landscape and wildlife were all flawless. Something I would absolutely love to do again!
Transit to Zanzibar
From Snake Park we started our five day journey to reach Zanzibar. Most nights were spent at different locations. The first two nights were spent at a campsite in Marangu. This was a special experience as when it was a clear day we could see Kilimanjaro. We had one full day to explore Marangu and it’s surroundings. So most of us opted to do a village walk. This walk started by trekking though the local banana and avocado fields. This was absolutely beautiful! This trek led us to the Chaga caves. These caves were built by the Chaga people who, during the time of war, tried to hide from the Maasai. These caves were fascinating as it was interesting to learn about the Chaga people and their strategies that allowed them to defeat the Maasai. After the cave, we continued to walk until we reached the Marangu waterfall. Most of us enjoyed a swim in the cold pool at the bottom of the waterfall. After we had finished cooling down we caught a taxi to our lunch spot. This ten seater taxi was miraculously able to fit 20 people in it. The locals were friendly and gave us the seats while they proceeded to hangout the windows and stand. It sure was an interesting 10 minutes. After we ate our chicken and chips and attempted to drink the banana beer (it was borderline impossible due to the taste and texture) we went to the last stop for the day- the local blacksmith. Here we watched Chaga people make spears and other items required for farming. This was a worthwhile experience that allowed us to make the most of our time in Marangu. The following night was spent in Bagamoyo. This was a long day of driving but when we arrived we saw the ocean for the first time on the trip. We enjoyed smelling the sea and exploring the local shops. Our last stop before Zanzibar was Dar es Salaam. We arrived just after midday which allowed us to enjoy swimming in the sea, lounging in the hammocks and walking on the beach. Our campsite was awesome as it was right on the beach! My excitement was building, I could not wait to get to Zanzibar!
Zanzibar is an island off the east coast of Tanzania. It is approximately 85 km long and 39 km wide. It has both Swahili and Islamic influences and focuses on tourism and producing spices. We spent a lovely five days/four nights on Zanzibar. The first three nights were spent on the north side of the island in an area called Nungwi and our last night was spent in the historic center, Stone Town. We took a two hour ferry from the port in Dar es Salaam to finally arrive in Zanzibar. We wasted no time when we arrived and got straight into our first activity, a spice tour.
1. Spice Tour
Our spice tour guide Daniel was fantastic. First he took us to his house where he had prepared a local meal for us made with locally grown spices. After feasting on this delicious food we took a bus and arrived at the spice farm. On this tour he showed us vanilla vines, cinnamon trees, local fruit trees and much more. At the end of the tour we had a fruit and tea tasting. I found my new favorite fruit- soursop! This was amazing and if you ever have the opportunity you should definitely try it!
2. The Rock
After the spice tour six of us decided to venture to the east side of the island and go for drinks at a restaraunt called The Rock. This restaurant sits on top of a tiny island that lies about 50 m off land. At low tide you can walk to it but at high tide you need to catch a boat. We enjoyed several cocktails here while we took in the spectacular colours provided by the sunset and ended the evening off with some star gazing. What an experience! After we went contently satisfied with the cocktails we made our way north to our accommodation in Nungwi, Nungwi Inn. This accommodation was right on the beach which was picture perfect with white sand and beautiful blue water.
3. Snorkeling at Mnemba Atoll National Reserve
On our second day we boarded a dhow and set sail for the Mnemba Atoll National Reserve. We had two snorkels in this marine reserve. The first allowed us to follow the edge of the protected coral which allowed us to dive deeper and the second was over shallow coral. We were able to see a lot of different fish such as moorish idols, angelfish and clown fish as well as several different types of star fish. This was a lot of fun and it was great to spend the day in the water.
4. The Booze Cruise
After we returned from the Mnemba Atoll National Reserve we had an hour to hydrate and mentally prepare ourselves for the booze cruise. The cruise took place on a dhow that was the same as what we had used earlier for snorkeling. This cruise involved a lot of alcohol, jumping off the boat and a beautiful sunset. It was really fun getting to know everyone better and the highlight for me was definitely jumping off the boat several times!
5. Relaxing on the Beach
After a slight lie in to recover from the booze cruise, I walked the beach from one side to the other with covered about 12 km. Along the way it was fun to visit the various shops and look at the artwork as well as look for shells. After the walk, myself and Brenton went snorkeling off the beach. We were able to spot some eels, lion fish, morris idols and find a pansy shell. This was a perfect way to spend our last day on the beach.
6. Stone Town
After an hours drive, we arrived in Stone Town. Stone Town is situated in Zanzibar city (the main city in Zanzibar) and considered to be the old part of the city. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was the hub for spice and slave trading in the nineteenth century. This part of the island is called Stone Town due to the buildings being made out of coral stone. The architecture here was stunning. One could definitely see the Middle Eastern influence here. After being given a brief tour around the area to get our bearings, four of us went on a tour of the Slave Market. It was fascinating to learn more about the slave trade that took place in Zanzibar during the nineteenth century. Zanzibar was used as a hub to sell slaves from Eastern Africa to England and the Middle East. After the Slave Market and acquiring some henna tattoos we ended our day at 6 Degrees South. We enjoyed with some cocktails on the roof as we watched the sunset. For dinner we visited the famous night market where we could try various local dishes. What a treat!
Zanzibar was filled with sun, sand and cocktails. It was the first time were we had enough time to enjoy the warm weather by the ocean. The snorkeling was fantastic as was admiring the pristine beach and blue water. I’ll definitely be back! The next two nights involved long drive days and bush camping in order to cross the border into Malawi. The bush camps (taking the truck off into the bushes on the side of the road) were beautiful. The landscape was beautiful and we were able to catch some beautiful sunsets.
Our two weeks in Tanzania seemed to fly by. The time spent admiring wildlife in the Serengeti and whilst snorkeling will never be forgotten. The beautiful scenery and diverse culture was greatly appreciated and great memories were made. Next stop, Lake Malawi…