October 2017

October 25, 2017

Tanzania’s Best Kept Secret – Ruaha National Park

With its seemingly endless list of places to explore and experiences to be had, it’s no secret that Tanzania is a top-notch country for travellers to visit.

From the Serengeti plains to Zanzibar’s beaches, to Mount Kilimanjaro, to the Ngorongoro Crater and beyond, Tanzania is home to many bucket list destinations. However, it’s the lesser known, uncrowded attractions that really make Tanzania such a safari gem. Ruaha National Park is just one example of such an attraction.

Situated right in the heart of Tanzania, covering a unique transition area where the Eastern and Southern species of fauna and flora meet against a dramatic topographical background, Ruaha National Park is one of Tanzania’s best-kept secrets. Covering more than 20,000km², Ruaha is the largest park in the country, however, despite this, it remains largely off the radar for tourists and therefore provides a truly unhurried and uncrowded game viewing experience.

Highlights of Ruaha National Park:
• Diverse range of habitats and landscapes
• Huge variety of wildlife and birds, including large prides of lions, an elephant population numbering over 10 000, and approximately 500 bird species
• There are only a handful of camps within the vast area of the park, ensuring a uncrowded safari experience.
• The park is has been described as a ‘predator’s paradise’ as it is home to a healthy population of lions, leopards, cheetahs, African wild dogs and other smaller predators.
• It is also one of the only national parks in Tanzania where both the greater and lesser kudu co-exist.

What to do in Ruaha National Park:
• Go and a game drive and spot the diverse game within the park, including the Big Five.
• Enjoy excellent birdwatching opportunities, especially during the European winter season when the migratory birds are around.
• Sip on a ‘sundowner’ drink while watching the sunset over the horizon.
• Go on a guided walking safari and experience the park up-close and personal. Some camps even offer fly camping for an authentic and wild bush camping experience.

Where to stay in Ruaha National Park:
There are only a few places to stay within the Ruaha National Park. Here are two of our top choices:

Ikuka: https://www.tanzaniaodyssey.com/tanzania/ikuka
Set atop the Mwagusi Escarpment, Ikuka Safari Camp is an intimate, secluded camp with expansive, uninterrupted views across the savannah and sprawling Ruaha valley. With just six thatched, open-sided suites, Ikuka is an intimate and luxurious base for travellers looking to explore Tanzania’s remote and wild Ruaha National Park.

Jongomero: https://www.tanzaniaodyssey.com/tanzania/jongomero
Situated along the flourishing banks of the seasonal Jongomero Sand River, Jongomero Camp is the only camp that is set right at the bottom of the park. With the nearest camp located 70kms away, Jongomero boasts a truly remote setting. Consisting of eight large and well-appointed tented luxury tents on raised wooden decks, Jongomero is one of our firm favourites.

Find more accommodation options here: https://www.tanzaniaodyssey.com/tanzania/ruaha

When to visit Ruaha National Park:
The best game viewing in Ruaha is during the dry season (May to November) when the waterholes and rivers begin to dry up and the wildlife concentrates around remaining water sources. The bush is greener and prettier from January to June, and visiting Ruaha out of season virtually guarantees that you see no other travellers whilst on safari. Birding is best during the December to March (the European winter months).

For more information on Ruaha National Park, or to start planning your safari, get in touch with us!

September 1, 2017

Tanzania Tops the Travel Charts

Although it comes as no surprise to us, Tanzania has once again been voted as the top destination by travellers.

In an in-depth analysis conducted over the past two years, SafariBookings searched for safari tourists and acclaimed experts who have been on African safaris, and invited them to write reviews about their experiences. Over 1000 safari tourists of 53 nationalities, along with 756 experts, including guidebook authors from Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Frommer’s, Bradt and Footprint, participated in the poll. Together, more than 2300 user reviews were compiled and compared.

The result? With an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars, ranking above other popular destinations such as Botswana, Kenya, Zambia and South Africa – Tanzania is the best country for a safari in Africa.

Home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the famous Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park, Tanzania’s has a wealth of wonderful attractions on offer. Tim Bewer, a Lonely Planet guide author and one of the experts polled, wrote: “Tanzania is home to Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. This alone makes a solid case for declaring it Africa’s best safari country.

Here are 9 factors that make Tanzania such a great destination according to SafariBookings:

1. Superb wildlife viewing in top-class parks. Two are Unesco World Heritage Sites.
2. The annual great migration where over 2.5 million wildebeest and zebra migrate from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
3. Authentic African wilderness with unfenced parks, dirt roads and endless plains.
4. A wide range of budget, mid-range and luxury safari options.
5. Beach holiday extensions on Zanzibar Island, including kite-surfing.
6. Best chimp tracking of Africa in Gombe- and Mahale Mountains National Park.
7. Extend your safari holiday by climbing Africa’s highest mountain; Mount Kilimanjaro.
8. Direct flights from abroad make the northern and southern safari circuits easily accessible.
9. Politically stable and generally safe country.

If Tanzania sounds like your kind of safari destination (after all, why wouldn’t it?), get in touch with us and we’ll help you plan your perfect trip, tailored to your needs, budget and dates of travel.

March 31, 2017

What to See when in Arusha

Situated in the northeastern tip on Tanzania, at the foot of Mount Meru, Arusha is the biggest city in northern Tanzania and home to more than 1 million people. Often only regarded as a good starting point for safaris, the city has a lot to offer and it’s worth spending a few days there.

If you’ve got time to spare before starting your trek or safari, here are a few attractions worth exploring in and around Arusha:

1.    Maji Moto Hot Spring
Maji Moto (Swahili for ‘hot water’) is an oasis in the dry Maasai land, just 2 hours from Arusha. Surrounded by palms and fig trees, Maji Moto is a natural outlet for an underground spring. The sapphire water is the perfect temperature for swimming and is crystal clear to the bottom. It is a little piece of hidden paradise!

Image removed on request.

2.    Kilimanjaro Day Trip
A day trip to Kilimanjaro is a good option for those not wanting to climb the mountain but still wanting to experience a taste of its magic. Mandara Hut is at 2700m and can be reached after a 3-4 hour hike through the lush rainforest. Hikers can then enjoy lunch at the huts with a great view of the Moshi district.

3.    Canoe Trip through Arusha National Park
Arusha National Park is just outside of the city. While most people experience a safari in an open-roofed truck, a scenic canoe safari is a great way to experience the beauty of Tanzania. Momella Lake, in the heart of Arusha, offers the perfect opportunities for a canoe safari and to witness animals in their natural environment without disturbing them. It is an activity that should not be overlooked when in Arusha.

4.    Grab a bite to eat in the Themi Living Gardens
The Themi Living Garden is hidden in the heart of Arusha and offers a wonderful setting for a lunch spot. The Themi Living Garden is a women-lead community centre and part of a project implemented by Italian NGO Istituto Oikos. The project promotes sustainable gardening in Arusha as a way to improve nutrition, employment and income for people with disabilities or care takers of disabled people. The food is fresh, organic, vegetarian and served with love by the ladies. It is the first eco-restaurant in Tanzania.

These are just a few of the many activities on offer in and around Arusha. Other notable attractions include the Olpopongi Maasai Cultural Village & Museum, The Natural History Museum and a walking coffee tour through Nkoaranga Village.

Get in touch with us for help planning your perfect holiday to Tanzania today.

July 1, 2015

Tanzania voted best safari country in Africa

Tanzania voted best safari country in Africa
A new poll crowns the East African country the king of safaris

Tanzania is the best place for a safari, according to a new poll.
First problem when considering a safari — where to go.

Zimbabwe has the majestic Victoria Falls, South Africa great boutique reserves.

Kenya offers chances to see big cats and Botswana is a leader in eco-friendly tours.

But you’d be best off selecting Tanzania, according to a recent poll on safaribookings.com.

The Netherlands-based website polled 1,000 safari tourists and 756 experts, including guidebook authors from Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Frommer’s, Bradt and Footprint, over two years.

The result: Tanzania is a clear favorite for novice and veteran safari-goers alike.

“Tanzania is home to Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater,” wrote Tim Bewer, a Lonely Planet guides author and one of the experts polled. “This alone makes a solid case for declaring it Africa’s best safari country.”

Adventure calls

Tanzania has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including safari favorites the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park, home to millions of wildebeest that form one of the world’s most spectacular sights as they migrate the area year-round.

The country is also home to Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.

Tanzania’s only drawback, according to Safari Bookings, is that there are “too many highlights to fit in one safari.”

The news comes as welcome affirmation of the country as a tourist destination, after a recent bombing at a rally that killed two in Arusha. That event sparked anxiety among visitors.

Ratings out of 5 of Africa’s top safari countries

As voted by tourists and safari experts

Tanzania – 4.84
Botswana – 4.75
Kenya – 4.66
Zambia – 4.58
South Africa – 4.55
Namibia – 4.54
Uganda – 4.16
Zimbabwe – 4.14

Clearly, we love Tanzania! We also love nothing more than sharing our passion with budding Tanzania travellers, so if you are considering visiting the best safari country in Africa then contact us or give us a call on +44 (0) 20 8704 1216 in the UK, or via our toll free US number +1 866 356 4691. We can give you the low down on where to stay, general prices and what kind of experiences are possible around the country and which ones you will love.

March 8, 2013

The Indian Ocean Coast – Mikindani

It is an extraordinary experience to arrive at Mikindani at the end of a long, bumpy and extremely dusty drive from Kilwa or Dar es Salaam. After mile upon mile of rural distances with often no sign of human habitation, (with exception to the rows of shops and restaurants in the efficient but rather characterless town of Lindi), the final bend in the road that reveals Mikindani town can seem to be a fairytale encounter. Nestling between mountains and sea on a large circular natural lagoon, this tiny town has the historic atmosphere of quiet quaint that attracts visitors to tiny villages in the English Cotwolds or Italian hilltops in Umbria. The winding streets are flanked with a hotchpotch combination of thatch and mud, or stone work with balconies and carved wooden doors from the Arabic and colonial days. It is not as ancient as Kilwa Kisiwani, and was never as important as Bagamoyo, and it has experienced a similar sudden downfall of fortune that changed it from a thriving port town to a quiet backwater almost overnight. But over the years Mikindani has received small doses of much-needed nurture that have kept the profile and character of the town distinct.

History

As with most of the port towns along the coast Mikindani suffered a succession of rising and falling fortunes with the turning tides of trade. Its perfectly protected bay provided naturally sheltered anchorage and it was the closest seaport for trade caravans coming from Lake Nyasa, and from Zimbabwe, Zambia and present day Congo. Arab trade and settlement at Mikindani is thought to extend from the 9th century through to mid-19th, evidenced by some remains of ruined mosques and graves, although there was previously a settlement of Makonde from Mozambique at Mvita, to the north west aspect of the lagoon where some interesting tombs with carved plaster decorations with porcelain bowls inset can still be seen. By the late 15th century trade from Mikindani was traced through Zambia and Malawi as far as Zaire and Angola. Ivory, tortoiseshell, animal skins and copper were exported and manufactured goods such as clothes and weaponry were brought in. Demand for the export goods lapsed in the early 16th century with the disruptive activities of the Portuguese all along the coast, but picked up again in the middle of that century when the whole coastal region came under the jurisdiction of the sultan of Zanzibar, and slave trading became better business. But trade continued to fluctuate until the next boost in business occurred around the 1850s, when Arab trading peaked once more and this little southern town became a major trading centre. If you were to arrive in Mikindani at this time, two centuries ago, you would have encountered a busy port town settlement over a spectacular ocean lagoon. Most of Mikindani town as it stands today dates from the mid-19th and early 20th centuries after it regained prominence as a trading centre for Arab dhows purchasing ivory and slaves. Many of the ruins seen in the old town were homes or trading posts of these first foreign traders distinguished by their carved doorways and flat roofs, while wealthier merchants built themselves two storey houses with intricate balconies above their shop front below. Mikindani then came to the attention of the Europeans towards the end of the 19th century when Dr David Livingstone recorded his stay here early in 1866 before embarking on his final expedition inland, and just a couple of decades later the town became subject to German Colonial rule. Livingstone’s double storey house with superbly carved wooden doorways was renovated by the ministry of antiquities in 1981, when a commemorative plaque was added and an unprepossessing corrugated iron roof. The Germans made Mikindani the District HQ, and constructed a number of impressive two storey coral rag houses with fretwork balconies on the upper level, and some of their more elaborate constructions have recently been subject to extensive restoration work. The old German Boma sits high on the hillside overlooking the town and bay with 1895, the date of its completion, inscribed over the door. It was designed as fortress, (‘boma’ is the swahili for fort), but included an administration office and an officers’ residence and mess that included the luxury of a tennis court on the Eastern side. It later became a police station, but was abandoned during the 1960s and fell into disrepair. The Boma has recently undergone extensive and stunning restoration at the hands of an interesting new charity called Trade Aid, who are working to develop the local potential for eco-tourism in Mikindani. The German colonial government also renovated and rebuilt the old 19th century slave market with heavy classically styled coral columns and looping open arches to convert it into a public market close to the waterfront to commemorate the slaves who were shipped from here. This has recently undergone a colourful restoration, also masterminded by Trade Aid, who have filled in the open arches and painted the exterior. Nearby, the Old Prison on the waterfront (near the main bus stop) is in a very poor state of ruin after being bombarded in World War I and could do with some similar attention.

The first colonial government implemented large scale farming schemes for crops such as sisal, rubber, coconut and oilseed, but as business boomed and the trade ships grew larger it became necessary to build new deepwater port. Or to opt for a cheaper alternative, and move the port 10km south to Mtwara, where there was already a naturally deep channel to support the trade. This fell into the hands of the British colonial government, when they envisaged even greater farming schemes, such as the infamous Groundnut Scheme (see below), and moved the district headquarters from Mikindani to Mtwara after the First World War, so sealing the economic fate of Mikindani.

Nowadays the families of Mikindani rely mainly on fishing and traditional dug out boats and dhows are used to bring home a subsistence catch. But this tiny town still harbours a few surprises, and a walk around its historic centre reveals a smart and well-maintained Hindu temple at the heart of this otherwise Muslim population, and a number of interestingly carved wooden doors and doorframes similar to the ‘Zanzibari’ style. For a more modern addition to the town, find the ‘Hot Mik Bar’ a lively landscaped bar facing the bay beyond the mainroad, a good spot for all refreshments and a resoundingly popular satellite tv.

The story of Babu Banda and the German Treasure

The hillside behind the town is pleasantly wooded, and a not-too-steep track from behind the Old Boma leads up through sunlit glades to a superb viewpoint and the site of a rather unusual industrious task. This is the domain of Babu Banda, a stringently built local witch doctor who has been subjected to a number of instructive dreams by ancestral and Arab spirits. The essence of these has been to tell him of German treasures buried at this summit behind the Boma, and for the past 8 months he has dogmatically undertaken the task of unearthing them. As he works his figure casts long shadows against the carefully dug wall of a crater-like hole about six metres deep, with just a thin bridge of solid earth running around the circumference before dropping off into a second previously abandoned crater beyond. He tells how seven treasure seekers had been here previously, but were plagued with dreams of an Arab instructing them to leave and finally frightened off or killed by a huge snake. Babu Banda also has dreams of the Arab, but is instead informed to dig seven paces from the biggest baobab tree, and he employs magic to keep the snake away. His treasure so far includes an immaculate bronze ½ kilogram weight, and he claims to have discovered a cache of guns, but has decided not to dig deeper around that site in case of disturbing unexploded arms. His dedication to unearthing the wealth of his dreams is impressively revealed when his simple spade is set to rest beside the cavernous depths he has carved into this red earth hillside. Meanwhile his family perch against the skyline, cooking ugali and sheltering under the snaking branches of the precariously rooted trees with the family rooster happily ensconced on Babu Banda’s wife’s head. They have promised that when they find the treasure the rooster come to know the cooking pot.

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