Holiday review by Ms. Olivia Maes
Name: Ms. Olivia Maes
Date of trip: 05/09/2018
Number of people: 2
Seeing a cheetah hunt and kill a Thomson's gazelle, seeing the wildebeests migrate across the river, seeing a wildebeest get caught by crocs and then break away to freedom after all, watching lion cubs play and adult lions fight, seeing a leopard eat its left-over wildebeest up a tree, being very close to a huge bull elephant as it shook acacia trees for seeds to eat, learning about another culture and a non-Indo-European language.
We were spoiled with wildlife spectacles, warm people encounters, great food and accommodation, and a real treat of a holiday.
Yes, though I had to check about our flight tickets shortly before departure, after getting anxious that we didn't have any physical tickets yet. Having everything on an app was a bit stressful; I was glad to be able to get a print-out for most of the information, since it was illegibly small otherwise, and I'm in my early 30s... You can't trust phones to have battery or apps to work, it's too risky for important things like flight tickets for us.
Their natural history knowledge was phenomenal, their enthusiasm great and energy. They were also happy to teach us more about the people and culture of Tanzania, and improve our small bits of Swahili.
Social & Environmental Responsibility:
We know that money from the camp at Tarangire helps with things like a drinking well for the Maasai village nearby. We donated a trip for a child to a National Park, instead of a booking gift. Several of the camps had various sustainability initiatives in place.
The places you stayed
Loved hearing the bush, having impala and water buck in front of our tent and at breakfast "parading". And seeing signs of elephants coming through. Also heard hyenas. The tent was very comfortable. The bed was somewhat comedy for a honeymoon, being the size of 2 double beds, we could both starfish without touching! Having a permanent plumbed in bathroom kept it a bit cooler when warm, and ease of hot showers/water whenever wanted. While this and the veranda are nice features, they also mean the camp is permanent, which perhaps is less sustainable, than a transient camp.
The only thing we really liked about this was its perched location on the rim, for the sunset view (and the road up). We enjoyed the sunset with a drink. And they gave us a welcome fruit platter and card to congratulate us on our wedding.
But we just didn't like how big "resort" like it was, so many rooms/guests were a shock after having been the only guests/with only 4 others at Tarangire (and knowing they only have about 10 huts anyway). The service varied between being too much in your face (barging into the room to do a turn down service at 6:30pm, when I'm in the bathroom get freshened up and just want to be left alone after a long day) and even asking for tips (just for bringing a drink), to being very poor (forgetting to ask us what room number we were, to sign for drinks before we got up). The food and drink came in a vast choice (soy milk! gluten-free! Things that we hadn't considered/seen since leaving the UK), but were poor because it was in vast buffet style, so the hot food is practically cold, and I saw a cockroach in the salad bar. They also failed to properly deliver a message from our guide to us, regarding the change in our flight time (and therefore departure time the next day), so that our guide had to come and track us down himself. We were sad we couldn't hear the bush, being in a proper hotel room. And apart from some African print in the curtains, it was a fairly bland hotel room. Yes, it had a wonderful view, but we just wanted to get back under canvas, where we could hear the bush and get away from people.
Serengeti National Park
Our favourite place! Loved hearing the lions roar around the camp at night and the wildebeest grunt through the night, with crickets singing. The staff were wonderful (we were the only guests for 3 of our 4 nights) and we almost felt we left as friends, such was the warmth. The tent was enormous, luxurious-sized (since we had no need for the second bedroom). Having the bucket shower was a bit more hassle (and I couldn't wash my long curly hair) to have to order for a specific time and less pressure/amount, but at the same time it felt more authentic, like glamping that tended a little more towards camping. And being aware of someone having to get up at 5 am to boil your water (if you want a shower at 5:30 am) makes you also really appreciate the staff's efforts! As at KirurumuTarangire, the food was good, and there was nice wine and beer too. The night skies and sunrises are unsurpassable!
We also loved this place (very different after safari though). We spoke to the manager about the sustainability initiatives (all built with locally sourced materials, soaps made with coconut oil, water refilling). Got a lovely fruit platter welcome and wedding congratulations card, and our towels turned into swans on the bed when we arrived. The huts are wonderful, we had a sea front one, which is divine, having view of the sea and a palm tree from your bedroom, and our own little terrace area to watch the sun set into the sea. They also kindly provided sparkling wine to our hut, to enjoy at sunset. We went on a snorkelling trip, which was fab. The coral reef here is in better condition than the Great Barrier Reef, so you should see plenty of colour and diversity still, even though even here climate change is having its effects (some of the corals phosphorolising or dying). There is even some coral and colour fish just behind the lodge, but the diversity is definitely better if you go out with the boat - it's worth it. We didn't go on any of the other trips they run, but they offer an extensive menu (dolphin, dhow boat, Stone Town, local village, spice tour), so anything you may have come to Zanzibar for, the lodge should be able to arrange for you. There is also some wildlife within the grounds of the lodge. Syke's monkeys are clever, cheeky sods which will (apparently) raids huts for the tasty coconut oil-based soaps (so you are advised to lock this away) or any food that you put on the table at the poolside. Very cute are the sengi, which we loved seeing snuffling in the undergrowth. Also plenty of bat activity. They do good cocktails, a different special every night. And the food is amazing. There is quite a bit of choice, and especially absolutely spoilt for sea food, fresh daily locally. A great place to relax after a thrilling but tiring safari.