Tanzania with Galapagos Travel

By Nili Olay
This item appears on page 43 of the December 2019 issue.
Lake Masek Tented Lodge. Photos by Jerry Vetowich

Tanzania was not even on my 3-year future bucket list, but when I received an announcement on Dec. 20, 2017, from Galapagos Travel (Aptos, CA; 800/969-9014, www.galapagostravel.com) that they’d be offering a trip there, my husband, Jerry, and I took only minutes to decide to join it. We signed up by New Year’s Day for the Nov. 7-24, 2018, trip.

We had been on five previous Galapagos Travel tours, to the Gal├ípagos (June ’04, pg. 66), Antarctica (Jan. ’08, pg. 72), Madagascar (Nov. ’10, pg. 6), Easter Island (May ’11, pg. 65) and Cuba (July ’13, pg. 28), so we trusted owner Mark Grantham and his staff to put together a great trip.

Including stays at Tarangire National Park, the southern Serengeti, central Serengeti and Selous Game Reserve, the itinerary combined game-viewing safari adventures with cultural experiences. To that end, we covered a great deal of territory by land and air and stayed at tented camps in the parks for nine of our 17 nights.

The tented camps/lodges were basic, most having no electricity in the tents; in the case of Selous, there was no internet in the camp at all. However, the tents each had an attached private toilet and shower, and there were charging stations for our electronics.

All camps were clean and pleasant. Meals were excellent, usually family-style for lunch and dinner, with a buffet for breakfast, including an omelet station.

Our group of 16 split into three 6-passenger vehicles with pop-up roofs. We all had window seats. In Selous we used four smaller, open vehicles.

Nili Olay with Maasai women at Olasiti Tarangire village.

Game viewing was fantastic, but the most exciting was the wildebeest migration, with a sea of animals walking in front of us. We also were lucky to see a cheetah hunting with her two babies plus numerous lion prides with babies and even a leopard sleeping in a tree. We often saw wildlife in the camps themselves — elephants, Cape buffalo, impalas and giraffes. We also heard, but didn’t see, hyenas.

We also visited a Maasai village and an Iraqw village and had a city tour of Arusha, where we stayed at a coffee plantation lodge, and of Stone Town (in Zanzibar).

To break up the stays at tented camps, we stayed two nights in Karatu at the upscale Kitela Lodge (twctanzania.com/en/accommodation/kitela-lodge), which felt like a 5-star hotel after the tented camps. Set in a coffee plantation, each bungalow had a bedroom (about twice the size of a normal hotel room) and bathroom as well as outdoor space. I didn’t use the swimming pool. Our meals in the main house were pleasant, and the staff was attentive.

To accommodate flight schedules, we stayed at the Southern Sun Dar es Salaam (www.tsogosun.com/southern-sun-dar-es-salaam) for one night. Used primarily as a business hotel, it was very comfortable and had a nice bar and dining area. It was within walking distance of the beach, a fish market and a grocery store.

Nili Olay at Lake Manze Tented Camp in Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania.

We ended the trip in Zanzibar with two nights at the lovely Diamonds La Gemma dell’Est [purchased in July 2019 by RIU Hotels & Resorts; www.riu.com]. This resort had a lovely beachfront with lounge chairs and lots of shade. During a buffet on the beach one night, we were entertained with a Maasai dance and singing.

The Beyond Adventures driver-guides were terrific. On two occasions when the itinerary called for a morning and late-afternoon drive with a rest in between, the drivers gave us the option of taking a full-day drive, allowing us to see much more. Those long drives were well worth it for us.

The trip’s land cost was $12,000 per person, with a $200 credit for paying the final balance by check. Our KLM flights cost $1,570 per person in economy, taking us from Miami (we live in Florida half the year) to Amsterdam to Arusha and, on our return, Zanzibar-Arusha-Miami-Amsterdam.

Cheetah in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania.

Each tour member also put $380 into a “tipping pool,” from which Beyond Adventures took care of all guide, hotel and incidental tipping. In addition, Tanzanian visas cost $100 each.

This trip was a wonderful adventure, and I highly recommend Galapagos Travel.

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