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Three Weeks in Tanzania

Author: GregW (More Trip Reviews by GregW)
Date of Trip: February 2005

My recent three week trip to Tanzania included a climb up Kilimanjaro, a safari and beach time on Zanzibar island. Here are the highlights:

Attempted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro using the Rongai route. I was doing a six day climb (5 up, 2 down with the summit day being both an up and down day). Unfortunately, on the start of the fourth day it was obvious that I was not well -- it looked like I was developing pulmonary edema. I had a gurgling sound when I was breathing, was coughing constantly, was dizzy, had lost my appetite and was very, very tired. The head guide of my group decided it was best that I be taken off the mountain.

Due to my bad condition, they wanted to take me down by stretcher. However, because the mountain rescue team only works on the Marangu route, I would have to walk from Mawenzi Tarn camp to the saddle. Even with the help of two guides, it took me almost 6 hours to make it from Mawenzi Tarn to the Marangu route. The mountain rescue team, who loaded me on a stretcher and took me all the way to the gate, soon met us. There an ambulance met up with us, and I was taken to Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Clinic in Moshi. Got checked out, a shot and a prescription for Dex and released.

I was completely back to normal strength within two days, with no lingering effects.

The rest of the group I was with all made it to Gillman's point, and 8 of the 10 made it to Uhuru Peak.

Overall, my guides were excellent, both in assessing the situation and helping me down the mountain. The mountain rescue team was excellent in getting me off the mountain, even if the stretcher was not very comfortable. The $20 paid in park fees for the mountain rescue crew was well worth it to me!

The climb was booked through Africa Travel Resource (www.africatravelresource.com), locally using The African Walking Company as the local guides. The climb was more expensive than others I saw, but I do feel that the quality of guides was above that of some of the other groups I saw climbing the mountain.

The food was decent and filling, though the higher we got the less variety that we got in our diet.

The hotel accommodations at the Kibo Hotel in Marangu before and after I have no complaints about. I have often read that the Kibo Hotel is a "faded glory," but the beds were comfortable, the showers had hot water, the rooms were clean and the beer in the bar was cold.

The Rongai route itself was not a difficult hike. There was only one section, close to the lava chute cave, where we had to use our hands to scramble up some rocks. Otherwise, the climb was mainly a slow, slow walk. The path is not as well developed as the Marangu route, but I think it adds to the appeal to have a more rugged (though entirely walkable) path. Rongai does not provide cabins at all, thus tents are the only way to go. Washroom facilities are ugly -- many of the group ended up using a shovel instead of going into the squat toilets at the campsites.

The worst part of the trip was the 3 hour car ride from Marangu to the trail head of the Rongai route. The road is rough and dusty. Our car dropped a shock on the way to the trail head.

The five-day, four-night safari consisted of 1 day at Lake Manyara, 3 days in Serengeti National Park and 1 day in the Ngorongoro crater. The trip also included a visit to a Maasai boma village and a visit to Olduvai gorge, though we had to pay separately for those items. Saw 4 of the big 5 (missed the leopard, but saw lion, buffalo, elephant and rhino), and additionally saw cheetah, hippo, wildebeests, zebra, giraffe, impala and many others.

First day camped at the Panorama campsite outside of Mto Wa Mbu. Very nice campsite. The tents are already set up for you and the showers have hot water. Second and third days camped at the Seronera campsite (specifically the Dik Dik campsite) in the Serengeti. Much rougher than the Panorama campsite – no showers of any kind and only a squat toilet to use. The final day we camped at Simba campsite overlooking the Ngorongoro Crater. Not as plush as the Panorama campsite, but it does have hot showers and the view is amazing.

I was taken on the safari with Comfort Holidays based in Arusha (http://www.comfortsafaris.com). That's not who I booked with, but that's who ended up taking me. I booked with Kilimanjaro Crown Bird Safaris in Arusha. The next day, Comfort Holidays showed up and said I was going with them. Of the 5 people in the car, only two of the people had actually booked with Comfort Holidays, and they had done that prior to leaving for Tanzania. The other 3 paying customers had all booked with another company. After hearing a number of horror stories about people booking group safaris and then not getting to go when the others in the group magically disappeared, I was just happy that I was getting to go on a safari at all.

The guide and car provided by Comfort Holidays met my expectations. The Toyota Land Cruiser was in good working condition and comfortable (though a bit crowded when all 7 people -- 5 guests, guide and cook -- were in the car). The guide was knowledgeable and did an excellent job meeting the desires of the group for a good, first timer safari. He did get a little side tracked one day trying to find a leopard for us to see, but otherwise I have no complaints.

Food was good and well prepared. The last day we started to run out of some things (powdered milk, tea bags, etc.), which makes me think they could do a better job in supply.

The tents were a little old and took a long time to set up, even with the guest pitching in. They were comfortable enough.

All told my safari (booked in Arusha the day before departure) cost me $US 478, including guide, car, cook, three meals a day, park fees, campsites, tents, sleeping bags and mats, Maasai village visit, Olduvai Gorge fee and tips. The couple who booked from home paid about $50 more than I did booking in Arusha.

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