My East Africa safari started with a direct flight from Cape Town to Nairobi with a 45-minute stop in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. As I arrived in East Africa late at night, Giltedge booked a VIP assistance for me who helped me go through customs, immigration and check in my luggage to my next day’s destination quickly. I recommend this service to everyone who is going on an East Africa safari for the first time!
Nairobi – Kilimanjaro – Arusha, East Africa
After a delicious breakfast at the Peermont Norfolk (just outside the city centre), I visited a few hotels and went past the Karen Blixen Museum and the Giraffe Centre. Both are great and exciting additions on an East Africa safari itinerary! I lunched at Hemingways Hotel and rushed to the airport for my 50-minute flight to Kilimanjaro. Wow, what a sight to see the majestic mountain from the air!
In Kilimanjaro, I was met by my friendly guide and we drove an hour to Machweo Retreat in Arusha; a hotel with amazing views of mountains and a top chef. The next morning, we met our overland guide and other tour operators from the UK and Canada who were joining the trip. I was the only South African on the East Africa safari!
Leaving Arusha behind, we stopped at Arusha Coffee Lodge (part of the Elewana Collection) – just 10 minutes from Arusha Airport. Located on a lush coffee plantation, the lodge has 30 rooms, hands-on team, gorgeous gardens, and is a great sanctuary to recoup after a long-haul flight before heading out on safari.
Activites in the area:
Stop off at Shanga Glass Factory at the Arusha Coffee Shop. It’s a local community drive to help disabled people work for themselves – creating the most amazing glassware, used at all of Nomad’s properties. There’s also a cultural centre for those with time on their East Africa safari.
Tarangire National Park, East Africa
We then travelled in our 4×4 from Arusha to Tarangire National Park – a sixth largest national park in Tanzania. Kuro Tarangire was our camp for two days with an amazing location close to the Tarangire River. We explored the Great Mash Plains, and Selale Swamp, a special spot in this national park for exceptional game viewing.
The lodge has gorgeous rooms, flush toilets and bucket showers (warm water is available on request). Feast your eyes on Tanzania’s national park with the biggest herds of elephants and prolific bird life. Beware: tsetse flies are in season in December.
After a short stop at the beautiful and luxurious Chem Chem Lodge, we depart the Tarangire area towards Ngorongoro Crater. We lunch en route at the organic Gibbs Farm, outside the town of Karatu, which brews the most amazing coffee! Their food is from the farm and I could taste the freshness! With stunning scenery, the rooms are equipped for both honeymooners and families alike and there’s plenty to do in the area. I recommend it as an easy 2 or 3-night stopover that includes trips to the crater.
We stopped at Nomad’s second camp on our itinerary: Entamanu Ngorongoro. High on the brim of the crater the views are breath-taking. I felt like we were the only people on top of the world. The Maasai add a “spiritual” atmosphere to the place. Everything about this lodge is gorgeous: views, generously sized rooms, the staff and food.
We visited a “kraal” where Maasai people live and experienced the most amazing welcome with singing and dancing Maasai warriors. A true highlight!
Our vehicle was the first to enter the Ngorongoro Crater in the morning due to Entamanu’s great location. Game viewing was magnificent inside the crater and the breakfast was scenic with hippos in the backgroud. En route we popped in for a site inspection at &Beyonds’ Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. It’s pure opulence of a bygone era with a stunning butler service and endless views over the crater.
It was sad to leave but while travelling by road (for hours!) a huge herd of wildebeest and zebras welcomed us. It made the ‘dust eating’ on the road worth it! I couldn’t stop crying of total disbelief we were the only 8 souls in the middle of thousands of wild animals. Our guide guessed it was about 200 – 300,000 animals.
Our next stop is at Nomad’s Serengeti Safari Camp – a mobile camp. With “nature’s loo” and bucket showers, accommodation is made up of comfortable mobile luxury tents. Camp set-up takes about 4 days and stays in 1 spot for about 1 month, following the Wildebeest Migration. It’s easily accessible if flying onto the nearby airstrip. On our second night, zebras ran right through our camp chased by lions in the area. All camps provide free laundry service daily that makes for light packing!
The camp runs smoothly: it’s a professional, a mind-blowing experience. The animals stayed with us throughout our two-night stay at this camp. We also saw tree-climbing lions, great elephant sightings, hyenas, and so much more. Sadly, the ‘duma’ (local name for cheetah) eluded me during this trip. At night, lion and hyena roars lull you to sleep… it’s just canvas between you and the outside world.
Last two days on my East Africa safari
Our last two nights were spent at the luxurious Lamai Serengeti Camp & Mkombe’s House. It’s exceptional for families, multi-generational travellers, private butlers and vehicles, and a separate pool for the kids. From the lodge, you can see Kenya on the other side of the river. I met guests who were on their 7th night there and didn’t want to leave!
We drove the short distance to the airstrip and flew back to Arusha, and I started my journey back home!
I’m filled with beautiful memories of Tanzania that will stay with me for the rest of my life.