Saturday, 21 January 2017

A guide to the Serengeti

Kilimanjaro 

From Dar Es Saleem we boarded an overland bus , it was spacious and the hold was fully equipped filled with camping and cooking equipment. - Everything we needed for our trip across the tough terrains. There a two guides on board with us , one a driver and the other a chef.

There are several checkpoints that you need to go through before reaching the open lands of the Serengeti.

On the way we stopped at local villages for food which serve up basic lunch buffets , rice , chicken and stews are a staple.
Everyone in the group was given a job in the evenings to ensure that everyone is fed , watered and settled into their tents before dark. Pitching tents , fetching water , preparing food , lighting fires ..everyone chips in!




Arusha is the gateway to the Serengeti and the last main town you will enter before the reserve. It sits beside the highest mountain in Africa , you may have heard of it? Kilimanjaro.

We camped beside the mountain which was really special but if you want to get even closer you can climb to the peak. These guys give great tips and advice on how to trek up the mountain. https://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/

As you pass kilimanjaro further into the outback the last camp site is called Snake Park , it is famous with travellers worldwide. It is run my an Australian couple , you will find `Ma` at the bar serving up Kilimanjaro beers into the wee hours. The camp gives you a great chance to wash your clothes , charge electricals and get cleaned up ready for the next leg of your trip. There is a great atmosphere in the campsite , most of the groups are on their way too the Serengeti so their is an air of excitement as everyone is looking forward to what lies ahead.

This is where you change from an overland truck to a safari truck , the idea of entering the animal kingdom all starts to become very real!

Masai Marai 
The next stop was the ngorongoro crater where from the highest point you can see panoramic views of the worlds largest inactive volcanic caldera. It is also home to wildlife wildebeests , lions , cheetahs and if you
are lucky you may spot a rhino.


After this we travelled down onto the plains and travelled further towards the Serengeti national park. On the way we stopped at a Masai Marai tribe campsite , they don't always accept visitors but our tour leader had been a few times before so they were happy to let us in.





The tribe were incredibly welcoming , they performed a welcome dance and requested that we all got involved. The tribe leader showed us around their homes , livestock , school , homemade furnitures and crafts and told us about their day to day lives.They live off the land and many of the tribe have never left it's boundaries , they love where they live and work very hard to protect their way of living.

Before the young boys are officially classed as men they are painted in white paint and sent into the wild to fend for themselves for a few years to live in the wild so you may see some of the boys in the open plains when you leave.


Serengeti 
After visiting the tribe we travelled through the night right into the heart of the Serengeti , the land is open for as far as you can see. We camped at a very basic campsite which had no lights ,a hole in the ground for a toilet and food was only available at meal times , this was because they did not want to attract any unwanted attention from the wildlife.  Everyone had to leave their belongings and toiletries in the truck , as you may have visitors in the night! - Apparently Hyenas are big fans of toothpaste!











Next morning we sat off at 5am and got to see animals waking up in their natural habitats. The safari trucks allow you to get super close to animals you never would have imagined. Hippos , leopards, buffalos , baboons , lions , zebras , cheetahs . 


The safari truck drivers have radios so alert each other if they spot something of interest then drive towards it to see the action. You will get the rare opportunity to see how animals hunt in the wild.

If you are fan of lion king you will notice how the movie took inspiration from the serengeti , the open plains and lion rock where the lions dwell during the day.

After exploring the open land we moved back towards the crater area where we set up camp for the night , wild elephants also liked the look of the camp and came up to drink water. It is important to remember these are wild animals so you should keep your distance.


The next morning the camp was silent and all I could hear was a lion grumbling! It was clear that everyone else was hearing the same thing and decided to stay in their tents until it went quiet again.

After failing to find a rhino we searched again on the last day but unfortunately we could not find any , sadly due to hunting they are endangered and becoming much harder to find.

Nairobi
The following day we made our to Nairobi , there is a check-point on the way with a large queue. To skip the queue  organise your visa before you travel. You can organise a visa for Kenya by sending your application and passport to the London embassy who will stamp it ready for travel , ensure you allow plenty of time for the passport to be sent back to you as it can take 4-8 weeks to process.

The traffic entering Nairobi is backed up for miles so expect a long wait , the streets are bustling with traders and locals hanging out.We stayed at the hotel boulevard which was a guarded hotel in the city centre , it was modern , safe and had all the amenities you would need. http://www.sentrimhotels.net/ After living out of a back pack and camping for a week getting your laundry wash and sleeping in a bed with fresh sheets anywhere was exciting , never mind the thought of restaurant food.

We ate at a reknowned restaurant called canivore which is an open air buffet restaurant with a tribal theme it serves up sausages , steak and exotic meats such as kangaroos , crocodile , oxtail balls. http://www.tamarind.co.ke/carnivore/ The waiters keep coming to your table until you have had enough so make sure you go on an empty stomach.


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A guide to Zanzibar


Getting around Zanzibar

The best way to reach Zanzibar is by plane from Dar Es Salaam airport. The flight is only 20 minutes but it takes you worlds away from the busy streets of the city to the serene coral beaches of Zanzibar.

There are local taxis at the airport but it is best to pre book before you arrive.

Stone Town is the nearest town to the airport , it is a busy trading town which is popular with tourists. Stone Town is only a 4 minute drive along a straight road but make sure you agree a price for the journey with the driver before setting off.


Currency

The currency in Zanzibar is Tanzanian shilling , you can order this before you fly from a bureau de change or there is a cash machine right outside Zanzibar airport where you can withdraw money. -When you exit it will be on your right hand side.

Some larger outlets accept card but most shops and restaurants accept cash only.

Be wary of people asking if you would like help , they usually follow it up with a charge. Politely decline the offer and ask someone within a shop , hotel or restaurant if you need help or directions to be on the safe side.


Stone Town

Stone Town is the old part of Zanzibar city and this was our base for our first two nights of the trip.
It is a coastal town steeped in history , every street and building has a story to tell.

The best way to explore stone town is to get lost in the winding streets , you will come across extravagant arab buildings, bustling bazaars , craft shops and mosques along the way. - There is a tall church tower which you can use as a marker , just make sure it doesn't go out of site and you won't go too far and get lost!


Most of the hotels & b&b accommodation in Stone Town are in renovated traditional Arab houses.
The more luxurious resorts are based in the new part of Zanzibar city.

In terms of food you are spoilt for choice in Stone Town. Fish , fruit and veg all come from the area so you can't get much fresher , the only thing you may struggle to find is western food such as burgers , chips , etc.

The night markets offers an amazing choice of meat skewers , dried fruits , ice creams , churros and more! If you are visiting the market it is best to go with an appetite.

The Tower restaurant in Stone Town is worth a visit for 1.The amazing panoramic view and 2. The food. They have a wide menu of local favourites plus pizzas and small tapas style dishes to share.

There is an indian restaurant  called Radha food house which is really popular , it has a small menu but each dish our group had was cooked to perfection.


Prison Island (Changuu)

Changuu is a 30 minute boat trip from Stone Town.  Ironically the prison on the island was never used as an actual prison for criminals as intended however it was used to house slaves from the african mainlands as a way to prevent escape. After yellow fever broke out sufferers were also sent here into quarantine so there is of course and eerie feeling on the island when you think of what it used to be. I would advise to bring a tour guide as the island has so much history it is really interesting to hear the full story. There is a private hotel resort on the island which looked well kept but it was empty , I guess regardless on what they have made it into today the reminder of what once happened on the island still hangs in the air.





Giant Turtles
Prison Island is also home to Aldabra giant tortoises there is many roaming around the island.



Spice Tours
From Stone town there are regular 'Spice Tours' which take you out into the country farms to show you where many of the goods we see on our supermarkets shelves are come from. From peppercorns, exotic fruits and vegetables it is amazing to see where it all comes from first hand.




On the spice tour you will see where everything is grown then have a chance to sample a bit of everything at the end, you can also buy some to take away at the fraction of the cost you would say at home. Things like vanilla pods and spices are a great gift to pick up whilst on the tour.


Nungwi

Nungwi is a large coastal village which sits on the northern end of Zanzibar island. It is home to some  of the most beautiful beaches and coral reefs in the world.



There are beautiful beach resorts in the area which come with several restaurants on each , most resorts offer beach bungalows rather than standard hotels rooms.




Nungwi is a great place to relax after a few days of exploring in Stone Town but if you still want more adventure there are water sports available and you can grab some snorkels and check out the coral reefs.

Along the beach there is a turtle conservation centre where you see many types that have been rescued , you can feed and hold the turtles too . Its worth the trip , there is a small entry fee which goes towards housing and feeding the turtles.



For food there are many restaurants to try and seafood is a must as it is caught fresh from the beach , Cinnamon restaurant sits within the 'Z hotel complex' and offers a fantastic ambience , menu and views. http://www.thezhotel.com

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