Sunday, 27 October 2013

Departure and arrival in Tanzania

One nice thing about turning 50, I get to knock one of my wish list trips off.

Today we are off to Tanzania (via Toronto, Istanbul, and Nairobi)

We are right now sitting in the Moncton airport, 45 minutes until departure, a very long couple of days ahead of us. We leave here at 2:15 PM our time(Friday), arrive in Nairobi on Sunday at around 2:15 AM, then we need to catch a shuttle at 8:00AM to Arusha Tanzania, a 5 hour journey to where we will start our safari. With the 6 hour time difference from here it is going to be a long day/night/week-end...
A grand total of 40+ hours of travel time.

Marc was good enough to drop us off at the airport during his lunch hour. We have very limited luggage with us due to us taking a small plane out of the Serengeti back to Arusha at the end of our trip. Hard to believe we will be gone for 18 days when you look at our luggage. I think Andres camera bag is as big as his suitcase for clothes.

Leaving Moncton-Smallest Amount of luggage ever taken for 2 weeks!
This has all been arranged with a local tour company in Arusha, |Tanzania. After researching trip advisor and sending out quotes to multiple operators we selected Swala tours. So far all communication has been excellent, we will see when we get there! Dealing with a tour company directly in Tanzania involves sending a good portion of your payment by wire transfer prior to arrival. Really fun when your bank asks you if you are sure it is OK, well as sure as I can be I guess. When I replied first to the company that we had chosen them the reply was “Thanks God that you have decided to go with our itinerary”. Definitely a different response than what I give when I close a sale at work, but I get it. But this could be read as, thank God, we were about to go out of business, thank God we can stay open....

We have now made the long 10 hour flight from Toronto to Istanbul.. The flight was good and we got a few hours of sleep and watched a few movies. We had upgraded to the emergency exit for this one portion which was nice to have the extra legroom. 

One of 3 planes for today

We are now at the Istanbul airport where we have a 7 hour wait for the next flight. We almost booked a tour to go visit some of the historical sites but it would only have given us about 2.5 hours downtown. There was no refund if our flight happened to be late so we decided to view Turkey from the airport this time. We will hopefully be back some day with more time to spend. We walked around the food court and did the duty free shop to kill some time. They have platters of Turkish delights which are kinda like soft gummy candies coated in powdered sugar for you to sample. We are taking turns taking naps now. We found a gate at one end of the airport that was quiet. Andre was first to take an hour nap. They then opened the gate for a flight and we were asked to move. Found another quiet one and hoping there is no flight leaving soon as you need the boarding pass to be in the gate area. Wendy is taking her turn now napping. I saw in the food court that there was Turkish ice cream. Will need to get some before I leave this place and report if it is as good as Canadian ice cream.

Wendy killing time working on the blog in Istanbul Airport

Our only view of Istanbul - not enough time to visit today

Our next flight is to Nairobi which is about a 5 hour flight.

Made it safely to Nairobi, obviously. We flew Turkish Airlines, it was actually quite good, except of course for the terrible layover. Nairobi Airport had a terrible fire over the summer, but is has now all opened again and we had no issues on arrival. Fingerprinted, pictures taken, visas purchased and they let us in for our 6 hour wait until our shuttle to Tanzania. We spent a lot of the time in a tiny little coffee shop playing crib and crazy 8's just waiting. Not much to do at 2:30AM, and certainly didn't feel like wandering around. Andre debated drinking beer for 5 hours since it looked like they were serving 24 hours a day. One issue we did have was we weren't 100% certain what time our shuttle was to arrive, we heard everything from 6AM to 8:30. Of course wanting to make certain we found the shuttle we headed outside at 6AM, and waiting until 9:15 for the shuttle. Turns out there was a marathon in Nairobi so traffic was really diverted and shuttles were really running late.

From the Nairobi Airport to Arusha is about 5 hours with a stop at the border. The drive itself is not very interesting, really hoping to see some wildlife, but we were just moving too fast I guess. We did see some Masai taking their livestock to watering holes. The shuttle holds about 20 people with their luggage secured on top. The most interesting point is going across the border. We were given 2 forms to fill out, not sure what each did, but we think one was for customs and one for immigration? We tried to give our money for our Visa at the first stop but they wouldn't take it, we had to go a little further down the road to pay. A very strange process, made especially strange because I think the border crossing is the same whether you are arriving or leaving, so both sets of people there. There was quite a long line, but we did get through in about 45 minutes.
Shuttle bus from Nairobi to Arusha Tanzania where our safari starts
Border crossing Kenya/Tanzania, a little crazy with traffic, would hate to drive here!

Drive to Tanzania - you never know what will be on the road!

Another view on the drive to Tanzania-everything is very dry

Arrived at about 3:00, we are well over 1:30 hours late at this point. First stop is to make final payment for our safari at our tour operator office. I have been working with a woman called Rose now for months getting the safari set up, well turns out it is Esther who is at the office working, Rose had a baby last week. Now I understand why my last email was not responded to looking for more confirmation on the time of the shuttle pick up. Our guide for the week, Felix met us when we got off the shuttle that brought us from Nairobi. He seems very nice, hope we get along well because for the next 2 weeks it is pretty much just us and him in a jeep.

Trees are in bloom in Arusha - beautiful purple colours

We are sent off to have lunch in town, it is now 3:30 and way late for lunch. African Tulip, a hotel we had read about, is right next door to the Safari office so we were sent there. A very nice lunch with Indian food, we ordered very little as we expected dinner to be not too far off.
Andres first beer at the African Tulip for lunch

Felix next drove us to where we will be spending the next 2 nights, at the Twiga Lodge. Our company suggested we stay here as our first stop is at Arusha National Park, and this lodge is pretty much right outside the park gates. A very nice couple named Paul and Erika originally from the UK run the lodge. It is a beautiful property, with a large home where all the guests stay, and Paul and Erika in a cottage on the property. We are the only guests here both nights so have the entire 4 bedroom home to ourselves. We are getting our exercise climbing the steps up to our bedroom, as well as the steps outside to a lookout over the park.

Great bird watching at Twiga Lodge-Variable Sunbird

Another bird at Twiga Lodge

View of Mt Kilimanjaro from Twiga Lodge

Pet rooster at Twiga Lodge
Pet cat socks at Twiga Lodge

Lookout from Twiga Lodge over Arusha National Park

Beautiful Grounds at Twiga Lodge

First view of sleeping under a net

Andre enjoying the front porch at Twiga Lodge

Paul and Erika eat dinner with us, and it really is like a dinner party. They seem to genuinely enjoy what they are doing, and it shows. They have the lodge, plus they rent out safari vehicles to people that want to self drive. I think they have 9 vehicles. Tanzania is a country that it is still not so popular to do self drives, but I am sure it will become more common and they are in it at the beginning so I hope they will do well. Dinner was delicious, way too much food, I think this is going to be a common complaint this trip.

Off to bed at 9:30. Paul asked us if we wanted to be woken up if the elephants try getting onto the farmland next door to see them, we told him no for tonight unless a parade goes through.

They have 2 pets here, both I guess are what I would call rescues. They have a cat that was found as a kitten in the flower bed last year, named Socks. They also have a rooster that was given to them, they think as a thank-you that they were supposed to eat, but the rooster lives on and cat and rooster seem to get along OK.

Our safari itinerary is as follows, not sure what we are looking forward to most. We are staying in a combination of tents/lodges. Though from what we have read these are definitely not the tents we are used to here: 

Pick up from Nairobi city by our representative Rainbow Shuttle Services who will drive you to Arusha via Namanga boarder, on arrival you will be met by your professional driver guide who will transfer you to our office for short briefing of safari followed by lunch at Tulip Lodge before driving to Arusha National Park for evening at leisure. Dinner and overnight at Twiga Lodge

After early breakfast drive to park gate where you will meet your park ranger ready for walking excursion through the forest of Mount Meru then proceed with your game drive with your lunch box to be served at the recommended picnic site within the park, in the evening drive to your lodge for dinner and overnight at Twiga Lodge

After breakfast drive to Tarangire National Park for game drive with your lunch box to be served at suitable place selected by your driver guide, drive to your lodge before dusk for dinner and overnight at Tarangire Safari Lodge

Go for morning game drive to park then drive back to your lodge for breakfast thereafter proceed with another game drive with an option to return to your lodge for lunch and leisure or lunch box from the lodge to be served within the park at the recommended picnic site return to your lodge before dusk for dinner and overnight at Tarangire Safari Lodge (Option activity: bush walk also night game drive)

Go for morning game drive to park then return to your lodge for breakfast thereafter drive to Lake Manyara National Park for game drive with your lunch boxes to be served at the recommended picnic site within the park, late afternoon drive to your camp  for leisure followed by dinner and overnight at Ol Mesera Safari Camp

After breakfast drive to Lake Eyasi via Karatu and Oldean villages, on arrival you will check in at the camp followed by lunch and leisure. In the evening you will visit datoga tribe (blacksmith) to learn more about their culture how they make the iron equipments like bracelets, arrows, spears, knives etc and you will also visit lake Eyasi then return to the camp just before dusk for dinner and overnight at Kisima Ngeda Tented Camp

At 06:00am you will visit the hazdabe bush men for hunting excursion then return back to the camp for brunch before departing to Ngorongoro via Oldean and Karatu villages, on arrival you will check in to your lodge for lunch and leisure. Late afternoon drive to Nainokanoka ranger post for walking excursion through Empakaai area escorted by armed park ranger return back to Nainokanoka ranger post where you will meet your driver guide who will transfer you to your lodge for dinner and overnight at  Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge
After early breakfast descend into a crater floor for a wonderful game viewing with your lunch box to be served inside crater floor, afternoon ascend from the crater rim and drive to Serengeti while on your way you will have an option to visit Olduvai Gorge which is the historical site whereby Dr. Louis and Mary Leakey found the skull of the first human being also Masai village at extra cost then proceed with game viewing en route to your camp. Dinner and overnight at Serengeti Katikati Camp

After early breakfast drive to park for full day game drive with an option of taking lunch box to be served at the recommended picnic site or drive back to your camp for lunch and leisure thereafter proceed with evening game drive back to park return to your camp before dusk for dinner and overnight at Serengeti Katikati Camp

After breakfast another day will be spend here to explore the park with a choice of hot lunch back to your camp or lunch box from camp to be served at the recommended picnic site within the park.  Late afternoon drive to North Serengeti in Lamai wedge with game viewing en route to your camp for leisure. Dinner and overnight at Mbuzi Mawe Tented Camp

After early breakfast drive to park for full day game drive with your lunch box to be served at the recommended picnic site return back to your camp before dusk for dinner and overnight at Mbuzi Mawe Tented Camp

Flight to Arusha. Dinner and overnight at Planet Lodge

10 Nov 13: ARUSHA >> NAIROBI
After breakfast, morning at leisure in your lodge with an option to explore city of Arusha also to buy souvenirs then you will be dropped to shuttle terminal for your afternoon shuttle to Nairobi, on arrival you will be under your own arrangement.


  1. Hello Andre and Wendy

    Thank you so much for your wonderful blog that you posted about your recent adventure to Tanzania. Your report and photos were amazing.

    We made our first trip to Tanzania in November 2012, with a safari in the north and then over to Zanzibar. As many have found out, one trip is not enough. We will be returning for another safari in Feb 2014. After seeing all the animals that we saw, I could never go to a zoo again.

    Thank you again for all the effort and time that you put into your report.

    Garfield Saunders
    Victoria BC

  2. If you did this trip again, would you do the itinerary differently?

    We're planning a trip in Feb and flying into Nairobi as well but are thinking of doing a Roundtrip flight to JRO to start the safari in TZ. Would it be terrible to back track to Arusha/JRO or waste a lot of the precious safari time?We're planning 1 nt in Tarangire, 1 in Ngo, 2 in South and 2 in Central Serengeti.

    1. Would not change much. For us Nairobi was a lot cheaper to fly to.


We appreciate any comments/questions you would have or any stories about the places we visited.