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Three Weeks in Tanzania

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

As it was a group safari, I didn't know the people I was with. They were nice, some better than others. Luckily we all had similar desires, most of us being first timers (one of the group had been to the Serengeti many years ago), so a wide variety of animals was called for. I could see problems developing, though, if someone in the group had very specific wants (like bird watching) and the others didn't.

Favorite animal I saw -- the cheetah. I didn't get to see one run, but they look fast even standing still, like a spring waiting to uncoil.

Five days was just the right amount of time for a first time safari, I think. Three days would have been a little short and would have been rushed. At 5 days I was ready to get out of the car. There is a lot of driving involved in a game drive -- a lot more driving than game viewing, in fact, especially if you are switching parks.

Definitely a great experience, and not as expensive as you would think. Highly recommended!

Hotels in Arusha:

Novotel Mount Meru for $85 a night (single). Overpriced for what you got. I basically stayed there because that's where the bus dropped me off and it was raining, so I didn't feel like going out in the rain.

L'Oasis for $45 a night (single). Very nice. Just across the road and through a couple streets from the Novotel Mount Meru. L'Oasis provides a clean and very atmospheric bungalows in a quiet setting. It's run by a couple of Brit ex-pats. They are also renovating a backpacker hostel across the street, which I think they said they would charge $15 a night for.

Williams Inn. This was recommended by my guide book, and the place I probably would have stayed had it not rained when I arrived at the Novotel. However, one of the group in my safari stayed here and did not like it at all. A woman was screaming all night long about people trying to kill her, and doors were constantly opening and closing and discussions about prices for sex acts could be heard all night long. They were booked to stay 2 days, and only stayed one to find a new place.

Stone Town is amazing. My first experience of an "Arabic" city. The streets are crocked and narrow, and most of them can't accommodate cars, which makes it a great walking city. Sunset at The Africa House hotel is a must, and the sunset is also nice from Mercury's restaurant.

For dinner, definitely hit Forodhani Gardens for the outdoor grill experience. The first night my eyes were bigger than my stomach, and I couldn't finish my 5 skewers of lobster, tuna, prawns, calamari and oysters. Total of that meal, $US 7 dollars. The next night, learning my lesson, I spent $US 4 for lobster, tuna and calamari and was very happily sated.

Stayed at the Garden Inn on Kaunda Road. $US 20 for a single including breakfast on the rooftop patio. The rooms were nice with four-poster beds, mosquito nets, fans and hot water. It is also an excellent choice because it is on a major road, and thus easy to find. One of the places I was thinking of I stumbled on while lost in the twisting alleys of Stone Town. There is no way I would have been able to find a hotel in those back streets in the dark after a few beers.

Took a spice tour. Zanzibar is famous for growing spices, especially cloves, and taking a tour of a spice farm. The farmer takes you around and shows you various plants and their fruits. We then play a game where we try and guess what spice is made from the plant. Everyone else in the group would be sitting there saying stuff like, "is it turmeric?" The farmer would say, "Yes! It is turmeric!" And I would be thinking, "What the heck is turmeric?" A spice tour is a very, very boring concept if you know nothing about spices or cooking. All it was to me was an hour of beach time lost. The spice tour I took cost $20 including a transfer from Stone Town to Kendwa.

Kendwa, on the north coast, is a quiet and beautiful beach town. The beaches are white sand. The Indian Ocean water is blue and calm, perfect for swimming. Unfortunately I only had a day available in Kendwa. I could have stayed much longer.

I stayed at the Amaan Bungalows. It was $US 30 for a single "sea view." It was about 20 metres from the beach. They wanted $US 50 for a sea view on the beach, but I decided that the extra $20 wasn't worth the saved 40 steps to the beach. Very nice place -- hot water, beds with mosquito nets, fan, AC. A beach bar and restaurant is on the property. Food is a little pricey.

The biggest complaint I have with Amaan is that they refused to take 30,000 shillings for the $US 30 charge. The insisted on 33,300 shillings based on their exchange rate. Even though I had to leave early the next day and would miss breakfast, they still wouldn't budge.

I also checked out Kendwa Rocks next door. They were a little cheaper than Amaan Bungalows, but didn't have any singles available. I liked the architecture at Kendwa Rocks better -- the thatch hut look rather than the stucco bungalow look, but that's just window dressing. I have heard that Kendwa Rocks can get a little rowdy at night -- they do host full moon parties.

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