Jumbo and Hakuna Matata
These two terms will accompany you throughout your stay in Tanzania. Jumbo means, hello, and Hakuna Matata means “no problem”. For example, you come to a restaurant, the waiter will greet you with Jumbo! Then you also say hello with “jumbo!” and you order for example “one beer, please”. And then the waiter answers “hakuna matata” (no problem!) 🙂
Ever since I saw the movie Out in Africa with all these fairytale savannah landscapes, I was dreaming of experiencing that kind of Africa myself. Or at least something like that. In the meantime, I saw more movies from Lara Croft to Indiana Jones, read books, bought a guidebook to East Africa, listened to African music for relaxation, and dreamed of Africa.
Indeed, I wanted for a long time to go on a safari to Africa, and finally, my wish came true. I bought an arrangement that includes Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, as well as a trip to the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.
In my head, the image of Africa has always been savannah, with a rare baobab or acacia tree, next to which elephants pass and in the background Kilimanjaro. The excitement grew day by day as the departure was approaching.
I flew via Doha to Kilimanjaro Airport, with the excellent airline Qatar Airways. My encounter with this company was love at first sight. As soon as I got on the plane I was blown away by the warmth of the interior, the comfortable seats that are like armchairs, the best economy class menus I have ever seen: three choices of various world cuisines.
Really impressive. In addition, a pillow, a blanket, and a private screen, was waiting for us on the seats although the plane was a narrow-body A320. The friendly cabin staff was from all over the world.
Since we arrived late in Doha and the plane to Kilimanjaro did not take off until next morning, Qatar Airways provided us with an overnight stay in a hotel in Doha. And not just any kind of hotel, but high five stars! Driving from Doha Airport to our hotel which took about half an hour, we could see how everything looks just too modern in the state of Qatar.
There were 20 of us in the group, and the group was to be desired! We were a real dream team, with our guide at the helm! After landing in Doha, we started to hang out more intensely.
Our hotel was excellent to say the least, it would have been good if we could have stayed a few days to enjoy this hotel in Doha. In the morning we headed to Doha Airport. This airport is one of the most modern and busiest in the whole world. So many facilities, amenities, shops, eateries, it’s just a shame we didn’t have a little more time to experience Doha Airport. We boarded our plane for Kilimanjaro.
Again I was just impressed with absolutely all the services on Qatar Airways. Kudos to Qatar Airways. The flight lasted about 4 hours, and again we were really pampered, with three choices of dishes from around the world.
Approaching Kilimanjaro Airport, we flew over a mountain that I wasn’t sure if it was that mythical Kilimanjaro. But it was not. It is Mount Meru. Actually, the airport is in the city of Arusha, but it is still called Kilimanjaro. Maybe PR.
My first encounter with Africa and Tanzania was chaotic. From filling out visa forms to the disorganization of border and airport services. I think that’s exactly what I expected. You need a visa for Tanzania, but you get it on arrival. It is good to know that East African countries have introduced one visa for all countries, so with one visa, you enter Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. No vaccinations are required for travel to Tanzania!
We managed to get to our minibus after all the fuss with the airport personnel, and we drove to our hotel in Arusha. It took us over an hour. That first impression of Africa was really interesting. Lots of life on the street, everything we see is kind of dilapidated. Poorly paved, chaotic, quite poor. Yet at no point did I feel like I could have problems in such a different environment.
For some reason, I associated Africa with very high temperatures. Not only it wasn’t hot, but it was actually very pleasant weather. No matter that it was December when I was, there was no need for jackets!
I advise you to bring mosquito repellent with you. You really need this if you don’t want to have sleepless nights! In the evening when you go out on the terrace to have a drink, the mosquitoes seem to go crazy. That is also why it is very important that you have mosquito repellent because only then you will be able to enjoy your drink in peace.
Chaos was all around us, and when we drove through the courtyard door of our hotel, it was as if we had entered a garden of Eden. All at once very civilized, clean, quiet, organized. I personally have nothing dearer to me than after an entire day of traveling, when I come to my hotel, sit on the terrace of the restaurant and order a beer. Three beers are ubiquitous in Tanzania: Safari, Serengeti and Kilimanjaro.
Safari in Tanzania
The day was coming to an end. Tomorrow finally, what I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid: safari! In the morning our Jeeps were waiting for us in which we spent the next three days. Namely, our safari lasted for three days.
There are many companies in Tanzania that organize safaris and they have their own Jeeps. Jeeps are great, good, modern, and they all have a rising roof. So you can stand on your feet and freely observe and photograph the animals.
A little about the safari in general
The safari is a presentation of African landscapes and wildlife. The best and easiest way is to buy a package deal because that is how you bought your peace of mind, and you know that you will see everything that needs to be seen.
When you buy a safari arrangement, you get a guide/driver, Jeep, accommodation, meals, the price includes tickets to national parks, and you also get a bottle of water every day! If you don’t just look at the price at any price, you’ll get great hotels.
But these hotels were not hotels in the classical sense of the word. First of all, they are called “lodges”, and they have basically bungalows, but also tents. However, the bungalows and tents are top quality. All in the spirit of the ambiance of Africa and the savannah in which you find yourself.
You can try and save, and organize everything by yourself. From renting a Jeep in Arusha or Moshi all by and for yourself, to buying a cheaper arrangement for groups where you set up ordinary tents yourself.
It is also important when buying a safari arrangement whether your accommodation is in the park or outside the park. The more and deeper you are in the park, the better views you have and the more opportunities you have to spot and watch the animals.
You can organize all this while still at home, or when you arrive in Arusha, which is the unofficial capital of the safari. In Arusha you will have a really large selection of safaris, and safari options.
My advice to anyone would be, as always, not to look at the price at any price. In Arusha you can also haggle for safari services, but it is logical that if you lower the price a lot, you will get lower quality, from Jeep onwards. The experience might make you miserable.
How to get ready for a safari
Read about the safari before leaving home, but by no means get too lost in studying. The abbreviated version of the safari story is that you’re in either a Jeep or your hotel all the time, so you really don’t need any special preparations for clothes and shoes.
Breathable and comfortable clothes, maybe in khaki, brown, pastel colors. A hat, sunglasses as well as sunscreen are important to you. Mosquito spray as well as a mosquito repellent for your room. Binoculars if you want, and you are ready for a safari!
Tarangire National Park
The first day of the safari was in Tarangire National Park. Despite the fact that the Serengeti is better known, Tarangire belongs to the same geographical area as the Serengeti, it has the same landscapes and animals. The drive to Tarangire National Park took a while and it’s great because we were able to see everyday Africa and observe how people live. I thought we would see animals while driving, but we didn’t.
While we waited at the entrance to the national park, we had a chance to take a walk around the area. They have nicely arranged the entrance to the national park, there are souvenir shops, shops with typical, handmade items, clothes and the like. There is also a very interesting observatory. From that observatory I saw the first animals: one family of boars!
Everything here at the entrance to Tarangire National Park exuded that real, pristine Africa! I could hardly wait to go on safari. If you are worried about how to dress: dress casually, lightly, breathable, a hat, sneakers and that’s it!
You’re actually in the Jeep all the time, you don’t get out of the Jeep at all! So you can have sandals if you feel more comfortable that way. Binoculars are a good idea for you to be able to observe animals better. And like I said, always carry mosquito spray with you!
We enter the national park, and it’s amazing: as soon as you enter the national park, you immediately start seeing all those animals you’ve seen in documentaries on television. We immediately saw a herd of antelopes and zebras. We wondered how it was that as soon as we entered the national park we immediately started seeing the animals, and driving towards the national park nowhere any animal whatsoever!
The driver of the Jeep also has the role of a guide, although that role comes down only to let us know of the animals when they come across. But that is what we need and want: to watch animals in their natural habitat. In addition, drivers notify each other when they encounter some rarer species of animals, such as a rhino. Lions are not very common either. There are a lot of lions but they live a little more secretive than other animals.
We have now entered deep into Tarangire National Park, and nature is really as I was imagining. Real Africa! The animals began to line up one after the other, and there was no end to the delight. Animals are really everywhere. We drive a Jeep through the dusty roads of the savannah, looking at African bushes, vegetation, trees. Of course, we also see baobab and acacia trees, as well as large termite habitats.
We are all on our feet in our Jeeps and trying to photograph every animal that appears in front of us. There was an interesting herd of zebras that passed us across the street in front of us, and we had to stop. Zebras on the road!
We saw a lot of zebras, giraffes, lions, wildebeests, antelopes, ostriches, but also one family of lions! The lions were a huge attraction. Fortunately, we have never seen like in documentaries about Africa, where a predator catches its prey. The lions were very calm, lying lazily on the savannah, under the trees.
Our safari in Tarangire Park was divided into two parts, before and after lunch. For lunch, we went to our hotel, Sopa Lodge, and had lunch in the beautiful ambiance of our hotel’s garden. Africa was felt everywhere, and not just because of the authentic African architecture of our hotel, but also because monkeys were jumping all around us. The hotel employs guards whose only task is to drive wild animals away from food.
In the afternoon we went on safari again. By the way, our guide explained to us that the word safari means a trip on ki-Swahili. Ki-Swahili is a language spoken in Tanzania, and in many other parts of East and South Africa. I thought it was called Swahili, but no! It is called ki-Swahili. Namely, Swahili represents a broader notion of the overall culture of that part of Africa.
Continuing the ride on the dusty roads of the savannah, we saw a lot of elephants and a few giraffes. I was surprised when I realized that we actually come across very few giraffes.
We were just enchanted by the super climate and weather in Africa. As I already mentioned, not just that it’s not hot, but it’s downright fantastic climate. The climate is dry, it is almost always sunny, the air is clear and clean. So one feels really good.
You can’t help but feel somehow like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft when we ride like this, bumping in Jeeps across the expanses of Africa. It’s good to watch those movies to see a little bit of what safari fashion looks like. Everyone who goes on safari wants to be dressed that way, in keeping with Africa. At Decathlon, I did all the shopping, from pants and shirts to hiking shoes. It is important that it is airy and that you feel comfortable.
Our driver took us to the other end of Tarangire Park where there was significantly less vegetation but there were so many elephants. In fact, as the day was drawing to a close, we too began to act with less enthusiasm on every zebra, elephant, antelope that we come across. From this morning when we set off we admired every animal we came across. We saw so many of them during the day that it became normal for us to see a zebra, for example.
Late in the afternoon, we returned to our excellent hotel Sopa lodge Tarangire. This lodge could be a destination into itself. All the lodges built in African national parks are built very harmoniously with nature. In addition, in designing the interior, care was taken to ensure that absolutely every detail was typically African.
Don’t forget to tip in Tanzania
Tips are very important in Tanzania and be sure to bring plenty of one-dollar bills from home. For every little thing, you need to tip in Tanzania, in the restaurant, the waiters, the porters, the guards, everyone!
The safari lodges are an attraction in themselves, they are very exclusive and very expensive. The main building where the restaurant is is always physically separated from the accommodation units. That is why you are always accompanied by hotel employees to your accommodation.
They are waiting for you next to your accommodation and so on all night! Whenever you want to go to the main building or just take a walk, they follow you. Every time they accompany or escort you, you need to give them a few dollars in tips. They are there to make you feel safer, and since you are in nature, wild animals can always roam close by.
We have been to Sopa Lodge and every compliment to this hotel! For dinner, we had a show program where all the hotel staff sang African songs.
The next day of the safari we picked up our luggage, went to our Jeeps, and drove to Ngorongoro Crater. Today too we had that authentic Africa, with beautiful African landscapes and lots of wildlife. We also saw some new animals we didn’t see yesterday: hippos, flamingos, and some interesting bird species.
Ngorongoro Crater is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and with good reason. The beauty of the landscape cannot be described, so I will show the photos. I was impressed that while Africa exudes pastel, brown, yellowish colors, here in Ngorongoro Crater everything is kind of green-blue.
We also saw lions here. I noticed there were no trees at all, just bushes. We had a picnic lunch break on a lake that hippos inhabit. It was really impressive to see them sleeping lazily in the water, only part of their head sticking out.
That night we stayed at Kirurumu Tented Lodge. That camp is something most impressive where I’ve stayed so far. Dinner was in a wow setting, we also had entertainment, they sang for us. And you can see this on my YouTube channel.
After dinner, we moved to the terrace. The evening on the terrace was unforgettable for us. We drank beer, chatted, kind waiters would join us in socializing. All this with the night sounds of the African savannah. An unforgettable evening.
For accommodation we had tents, but those tents are not the way we imagine tents. In these tents we have all the luxury of modern hotels, and yet everything is somehow rustic and with a real African flair. The tents are far from each other, and the vegetation is so rich, you can’t even see another tent from your tent. You really feel like in some adventure movie.
We had escorts and guards here too: the Masai Mara warriors. They always escort you from the main building to the tent. They wait, each in front of the tent he is in charge of, and if you want to go for a walk, to the main building or to another tent, he escorts you. Like yesterday at Sopa Lodge, it’s for your protection, because you’re in the wilderness after all. Nothing ever happens, but lodges and camps have this kind of policy.
Also, you must always tip them when they accompany or escort you. As a responsible tourist, I really like to tip because I know how far a dollar goes in a country as poor as Tanzania.
Lake Manyara national park
The third and final day of our safari adventure in Tanzania took us to Lake Manyara. We saw a tremendous amount of monkeys and baboons, and we also saw lions. However, this time the lions were on the trees. The lions in Manyara Lake Park are known for climbing trees.
Lake Manyara impressed me a lot because of the driving through the woods. As we drove, I felt like I was in a real jungle. I’m in Africa after all. But the equator and the jungle are far from us, this is an ordinary forest.
Still, the sounds were exceptional, and overall the experience was exceptional. We haven’t seen any animals other than monkeys and lions. It is OK, we’ve seen a bunch of them the previous two days!
Maasai Mara warriors in Tanzania
Driving through Tanzania, we went to a village of Maasai Mara warriors. They are an indispensable part of the tourism folklore of Tanzania and Kenya. It is a great experience to visit a Maasai Mara village. The richness of colors makes them just special. But by visiting their humble huts, we will also see that their living conditions have not been easy.
They are called warriors, but their main enemy is wild animals. They always have a stick, or spear, with them to defend themselves from wild animals. Apart from being called warriors, they are also known for jumping very high from the spot. They showed us this during our visit to their village.
However, today the Maasai Mara are no longer what they once were, and they have been overtaken by development and the modern age. You won’t see Maasai Mara warriors walking around the cities, nor around nearby Arusha.
When they go to town, they are dressed in western clothes. For tourists, they organized themselves so that when a group comes, they present themselves dressed in their traditional robes and show us their dwellings. But they no longer live in those little villages, in those little thatched huts. Those who continued to live traditionally, today live in slightly larger huts.
Tanzania is a country of tribes. The Maasai Mara is one of the tribes, but there are other tribes too, such as the Kikuji and the Iraki for example.
We were all given a traditional Maasai Mara piece of clothes to wear. The Maasai Mara women are also something very unique to see. In their village, the Maasai Mara sell their handicrafts, and each visit is actually paid for through a tip, which is mandatory. Thus the Masai Maara live and earn from tourism, sell the souvenirs they make, and from receiving tips from tourists.
Driving through northern Tanzania
It is very interesting to observe life outside the city in any country, but Africa is something special. To be honest, we didn’t even see a city, any city. We were all the time in nature.
My safari has come to an end. This was an unforgettable experience, full of action and emotions. I saw those African landscapes, I experienced the sounds of the savannah at night, I saw all those animals that I had only seen before in zoos. The experience was unforgettable and the group even better.
Whenever you end a tour, you think whether or not you would return to this same place, regardless of the fact that the world is very large and very rich. I would go back, but I would go back to the lodges where we were staying. They are truly a destination unto themselves.
They are built in the heart of national parks, completely in harmony with the ambiance, completely in the African style. In the evening you hear the sounds of the African wilderness. They are rich in amenities, and I would simply love to sip my morning coffee on the balcony of my room overlooking the African savannah. Or read a book in the hotel’s impressive gardens. Or listen to the sounds of the African wilderness in the evening with a beer.
In any case, this journey has etched in my heart. A safari in Africa is an unforgettable experience!
Unfortunately, I did not see Kilimanjaro, although we had a trip to Kilimanjaro in the program. I looked forward to it because as a small child I had this picture of Africa: an elephant next to an acacia tree, and in the background Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately, I saw none of that because Kilimanjaro was completely in the clouds.
In fact, I read that there is a greater chance that you will not see Kilimanjaro the way we are used to seeing it on propaganda materials, than that you will. No problem, reason more to come back. Maybe next time in Kenya, because Kilimanjaro is right on the border of Tanzania and Kenya.
By the way, there are also expeditions to climb Kilimanjaro. It takes a few weeks, but it is certainly a great experience to climb the “roof of Africa”. In Arusha and Moshi there are a lot of agencies that organize climbing on Kilimanjaro. Climbing Kilimanjaro will require considerable preparation compared to a safari that is very easy.
On this safari, I haven’t seen many animal species, but I feel like it doesn’t even matter to me because I’ve seen a lot of them. I didn’t see hyenas and wild dogs, which I don’t even care about because I really don’t like these two species of animals. I haven’t seen rhinos, that species is getting rarer and rarer. I also didn’t see cheetahs or leopards.
But I did see lions, giraffes, elephants, antelopes, wild boars, flamingos, ostriches, zebras, wildebeests, buffaloes, hippos. I saw those pristine African landscapes of savannah, bushes, acacia trees, and baobabs. I listened when night fell the sounds of the African wilderness in national parks. And this was also something unforgettable for me!