We’re finally all set to depart to Tanzania next week! We’re going to attempt Mt. Kiliminjaro and then head out on the ‘Northern Safarii Circuit’ that includes Ngorongoro and the Serengetti. We’re finishing off with a couple of days in Zanzibar. I’m very excited about what could be the trip of a lifetime.
Does anyone have any advice on cool specific places to go or things to do that might not be on the pre-planned itinerary? I’m looking for those off the beaten path gems that most people miss…
I have a lot of family living in Tanzania - of what you have said, I would seriously ask to go to Arusha…very cool volcanic areas with lakes and streams. Thousands of flamingos etc…etc…Tanzania’s lions in the north like to climb trees, and your guides will tell you to NOT LEAN OUT THE MOTORCADE!! If you get a chance learn some Africaans and don’t forget to try some mboga soup
My parents have lived most of the last 12 years in Tanzania. I’ve been there twice, but mostly in the central highlands.
Be sure to look for the little wildlife, not just the elephants and lions.
One of my favorite afternoons was spent watching 2 male dikdiks (12 inch tall antelope) battle over the nearby females, while also trying to keep on eye on the mongoose that was trying to sneak into our tent.
On Zanzabar, I would suggest looking for one of the spice tours. Yes, it’s touristy. But I learned a lot about the history and area in that afternoon.
Phlosphr- Jambo! You mean Mt. Arusha the national park, right (and not the town)? If so, it’s great to hear its a nice place. Our first full day is supposed to be spent hiking around Mt. Arusha (with an armed guide- which is a requirement, apparently) as a sort of leg-stretching warmup to Kili.
TOC- Thanks for the spice tour idea! Did you get a chance to poke around Stone Town while you were there?
Man, you’re in for a treat! The Ms. and I did a photo safari in Tanzania a few years back. If you’re going in from Kilimanjaro by truck, be prepared for a rough ride. The road is god-awful. But the destinations are absolutely world-class.
First: Lake Manyara in the Rift Valley. See the tree-climbing lions and large elephant population. Are you staying in one of the Rift lodges? Spectacular views from the rim at the eco-tourism lodge.
Second: Ngorongoro Crater. One of the true natural wonders of the world. Your first view of the crater as you top a rise literally takes your breath away. If you can, stay in the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge on the rim of the crater. Each bungalow overlooks the 2000 foot drop and the brilliant green of the crater floor. The lodge was designed by an Italian architect and is luxurious. You can see the crater from every room in each bungalow, including the huge shower, and even the toilet. Go down the twisting dirt road into the crater. The place has its own ecosystem and some of the last of the big tusker elephants and black rhinos. Lots of lions.
Third: Oldupai Gorge. Made famous by Louis Leakey, the area was erroneously reported as “Olduvai Gorge” by its discoverer. This is commonly referred to as the cradle of mankind and has a fascinating history.
Fourth: The Serengetti Plain. A stunning expanse of migrating herds of wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, etc. Cheetahs, hyenas and lions abound. Tons of birdlife. We stayed at the Lake Ndutu camp and spent New Years Eve there.
Suggestions: Take a good camera with adequate zoom lenses, or you’re going to have disappointing photos. It’s spring there, so it may be cool. Take a sweatshirt and maybe even gloves. You’re going to be there during the “short rainy season”, so there is a possibility of not being able to go into the crater, or of getting stuck in the muck. Again, the roads are a horror show. We broke an axle on our return trip.
Yep, I spent 3 or 4 days there. Very cool place. Be sure to pay attention to the doors on buildings. There are intricate carved wooden doors everywhere.
Suggestions: Try not to stay on the top floor of the hotel. Most of the small hotels have their own water tank on the roof, and the top room have very little water pressure.
Take your showers first thing in the morning, or late at night. Those water tanks get HOT in the sunshine. Nothing like coming back sweaty from a day of exploring, to find very hot water coming out of the cold water tap. Oh, on that same note, be careful flushing the toilet in the afternoon. Yep, hot water there too.
In Stone Town, down along the water, there is a park/open area. Wander down there around sunset. Lots of vendors set up food booths there, and local often buy their dinner. I didn’t actually eat supper that way, but it was sure an interesting place to be.
Personally, I found this part of Zanibar to be hopelessly touristy, but I’m the type of traveller who shuns Westerners whenever possible. Plus, I got food from there one night and it was horrible. I had fun just wandering the streets of Stone Town. Believe me, you’ll be wandering, cause the place is impossible to navigate.
My only real recommendation is to drink as much sugar cane juice as possible. Fresh-squeezed with lime and ginger added - it might be the world’s most perfect tropical drink.
Chefguy- You list is almost a duplicate of our itinerary,with the only exception that were also including a stop at Tarangire Natl park. Just bought a new 100-400 zoom for the trip, hopefully that’ll be enough.
That lens should be fine for distance shots. The animals are fairly habituated to the presence of vehicles, so the guide can get you pretty close. Except for the wildebeest. They’re fairly insane to begin with, and very skittish. Perhaps you’ll see some of them doing their “whirling dervish” routine. For some, it’s a manifestation of illness, but for most it’s just their inate lunatic behavior. Also, it’s against the law to approach the black rhino. We saw two in the crater, but even with an 800mm lens, the image is pretty small.
I seem to recall that you have to remain on the roads in Manyara and the Crater, but once on the Serengetti, the guides can take off cross country, which is loads of fun.
My surreal experience: no bathrooms on the Plain; so the guide climbs up on top of the truck to spot for any prowling lions and I step around the back of the vehicle to pee. So the stream is hitting the dry ground and I hear a noise behind me. I look back quickly and an impala is standing there looking at me with a look that says “Just what in the hell do you think you’re doing in my living room? And what sort of impala stands on two legs to pee?”
I think I was in the truck right behind Chefguy the whole way, except for the overnight stops. I went there four years ago with some friends from home and did the same tour, but we couldn’t afford the Ngorongoro Lodge or anything like that - we were in tents every night. If you need an armed guard to pee, imagine sleeping in a tent listening to fighting hyenas (which are lions, of course, in your imagination) somewhere in the middle of the Serengeti.
Which route are you taking up Kilimanjaro? We took the Marangu - it’s five days up (gradually, but the altitude still takes its toll) and then two down. The climb itself is essentially one long hike - there aren’t any technical parts, and the grade is pretty close to level most of the way. It can be tough going, though; the altitude seems to affect everybody differently, and you don’t know how well you’ll do until you try. I had a lot of trouble around fifteen and sixteen thousand feet - coming into the last refuge I felt like I was going to die, and I wasn’t too upset about it. After spending the night there, though, the summit wasn’t nearly as bad as the previous day. Have you done any other high altitude hiking or climbing?
It’s a fantastic climb - you can go from rainforests to a glacier on foot in just a few days. The wallpaper on my computer is a photo of the sun coming over the clouds taken on the summit.
For the safari, we found a guide in Moshi (the town closest to Kilimanjaro) and saved the trip to Arusha - we didn’t have nearly as much time as we would have liked. The highlight of our safari was in the Serengeti - we saw a cheetah that had just killed a young gazelle. As three trucks full of tourists watched, the cheetah picked up the gazelle, dragged it over into the shade of one of the trucks, and leisurely began to eat. Just seeing the cheetah move through the grass is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
We had this experience in Botswana, but it WAS lions, and they were prowling right through the camp! I lay so still for so long I think I suffered permanent bladder damage. The paw prints in the dust outside the tent next moring were sobering.
If you go to Ndutu Lodge, look up in the rafters at dinner and you are likely to see a genet looking back at you. These are nocturnal cat-like animals that help keep the vermin at bay. Startling, though, if you’re not expecting to see them.
We’ve done some other mountaineering, but only in North America, so our ‘high altitude’ experience tops out around 14k feet. I’m usually pretty good at altitude, although last year climbing Mt. Shasta I had a non-stop headache and felt like crap most of the day. We’re packing some Diamox, so hopefully that’ll help if we start getting some altitude sickness.