Having expert knowledge of the area from someone like Christine was invaluable and the final itinerary was a good balance between different areas and distances to be covered.
Some of the people we came across at the various lodges seemed to be on very tight schedules and long distance transits which cannot have been very enjoyable for them.
Holiday Safari Diary
- Day 1: Mount Meru
- Day 2: Tarangire NP & Maweninga Tented Camp
- Day 3: Tarangire NP & Maweninga Tented Camp
- Day 4: Lake Manyara & Gibbs Farm
- Day 5: Gibbs Farm
- Day 6: Ngorongoro Crater & Olduvai Tented Camp
- Day 7: Olduvai Cross Country Drive & Olduvai Tented Camp
- Day 8: Serengeti & Soroi Lodge
- Day 9: Serengeti Game Drive & Soroi Lodge
- Day 10: Drive To See Hippos & Soroi Lodge
- Day 11: Fly To Saadani & Saadani Safari Lodge
- Day 12: Saadani & Saadani Safari Lodge
- Day 13: Saadani & Saadani Safari Lodge
- Day 14: Fly To Dar Es Salaam & Then Home
Day 1: Mount Meru
We were met by a friendly smiling Christopher – our guide for the safari part of our trip. He took us to Mount Meru Game Lodge where we received a warm welcome. We had dinner provided, they had kept a full buffet available for us but most of the food was luke warm so we were a little wary as we were warned in advance to only eat food which was piping hot.
By the time we were ready for bed we found there was no longer any running water (hot or cold). I ventured to find someone but the place was quiet so made do until morning. The following morning we are offered the use of the neighbouring room which did have water.
The Lodge is generally in need of some TLC. Wi-Fi was not working and beds were quite hard.
Day 2: Tarangire NP & Maweninga Tented Campe
Good omelette for breakfast. Had time to take a short walk around the grounds.
Departed Mount Meru. The road to Tarangire took us through Arusha which was quite an experience. The road was generally good as it was tarmaced but at various points it was being repaired which meant being diverted over very rough roads.
Arriving at Tarangire gates allowed a comfort break and washrooms were of a reasonable standard.
Christopher then took us for a game drive through the park. Allowed us to see thousands of elephants, but also many other animals (giraffe, buffalo, warthogs, ostriches, water buck, impala, dik dik, mongooses) and many birds.
Christopher had organised a picnic lunch which we took under a nice shady tree. Not his original choice because that was blocked by a group of elephants enjoying the shade and they were not for moving!
In afternoon went to a swamp area which was very peaceful and did not see another vehicle for some time. Stop at picnic site for rest room was an idyllic area with elephants going through the swampy area and plenty of birds.
First experience of tsetse flies which can bite through socks and clothing and are not deterred by repellent or treated clothing!
We arrived at the camp and received a good welcome which was proving to be the norm throughout our trip.
We had drinks watching the sunset over Lakes Manyara and Burungi – very pleasant.
Day 3: Tarangire NP & Maweninga Tented Camp
Set off after breakfast. We saw a lot more wildlife including monkeys at comfort stop.
Instead of picnic lunch as we expected Christopher had arranged for us to have an excellent buffet lunch at Tarangire Safari Lodge.
Afternoon interrupted by a rain shower and had to close roof. Wildlife was a little more spread out in the afternoon in the areas we went to. We had more tsetse flies to contend with.
Back a little earlier so had a little relax on our veranda overlooking Lake Burungi.
Day 4: Lake Manyara & Gibbs Farm
Set off after collecting picnic lunch.
Stayed in Tarangire NP a little longer than anticipated to see more wildlife including spending some time watching a pack of wild dogs resting near a river. Apparently this is not a common sight in the park.
We then drove to Lake Manyara. Saw our first real largish herds of zebra and wildebeest (nothing like we would see later in Serengeti) plus small number of elephants, buffalo and giraffe. Saw lots of monkeys and baboons and many birds.
Had picnic lunch near lake but water was down so flamingos only seen in the distance.
After further time in Lake Manyara we drove to Gibbs Farm. We were shown to Weavers Cottage which must be one of the best on the Farm. Our living room (in a large cottage) and veranda overlooked a pool with nesting weaver birds.
Karen the artist in residence and a friend of Christine MacDougall introduced herself at dinner but would meet up with her several times during our stay and we did buy some prints and cards from her.
Day 5: Gibbs Farm
Good breakfast with proper poached eggs. Gibbs Farm coffee! We spent the morning exploring farm, taking in views and birds.
Good time with Karen who also had a local student with her using paper rather than canvas. Eventually chose some items to take home.
Had an excellent buffet lunch with plenty of good food to choose from. No good for our waistlines!
Spent afternoon relaxing reading and taking in nice surroundings and afternoon coffee. Gibbs Farm was a good place to relax and get jobs like laundry done.
Day 6: Ngorongoro Crater & Olduvai Tented Camp
Set off at 8.30 to get to crater. Stopped at a view point overlooking crater and what a sight!
From the rim it did not look like there were many animals in the crater but on descending we saw many almost everywhere we went. There was plenty to see including buffalos, lions, hyenas, baboons, zebras, wildebeest, elephants, rhinos, jackals (including one killing and taking a stork) and a serval cat which even Christopher was pleased to see plus many birds.
Picnic lunch was at a nice spot near a pool with hippos and a tree which was the subject of one of Karen’s pictures we purchased.
Then a long drive over rough roads – the tarmac having run out – to Olduvai and the tented camp.
We arrived in time to take a walk to nearby rocks to watch the sunset – accompanied by a Masai warrior with a spear – just in case.
Day 7: Olduvai Cross Country Drive & Olduvai Tented Camp
The toilet and washing facilities were outside the main living tent, still sheltered but relatively colder than the living part of the tent.
Breakfast is a cold buffet – no hot food and again a self-select picnic lunch.
7 am start to get in what Christopher hoped we would see.
Soon came across a family of 5 cheetahs (mum plus 4 cubs). This was magical and we followed them for some time from a respectful distance.
We saw plenty of wildebeest and zebra migrating, plus giraffe, jackals, hyenas. Came across two cheetahs with a kill and spent a while watching them.
Saw a pride of lions at the water. Watched them moving from the water into shade.
Christopher took us past flamingos at Lake Ndutu to a picnic spot amongst some trees.
Then Christopher took us to the museum at Olduvai Gorge. This was interesting but a little expensive for what were really two rooms of exhibits and explanations and a short briefing talk.
We got back to camp for a good shower to wash off all the dust from the day’s drive and a short climb on the central rock in the camp to watch the sunset from there.
Day 8: Serengeti & Soroi Lodge
Early breakfast, self-select picnic and set off at 7.15.
We saw plenty of Grant and Thomson gazelles on way. We experienced a large herd of wildebeest crossing road migrating into Serengeti. We saw a cheetah and some hyenas. We stopped at entrance gate to Serengeti at Naabi Hill for comfort break and a walk up the hill to look at superb views over the Serengeti.
Then we continued with game drive through Serengeti. Saw wildebeest and other antelope migrating. We watched some Hyenas at a den. We found numbers of lions on rocks including a young simba!
A group of 4 lion brothers near a river. Christopher thought they were from outside the Serengeti as they were very wary of the vehicle. Saw two groups of lions in trees.
Then saw three female lions at some water. Christopher spotted a leopard coming down a tree but when got near we only caught glimpses of it walking through the grass. Eventually moved on and Christopher spotted another one in a tree and got some good views.
Lunch at a picnic site with a refreshment van there- the first we have seen on our trip. We used the washroom facilities to wash some of dust off.
Then on to Soroi Lodge – part through a great deal of tsetse flies forcing us to close roof.
Another good welcome at the lodge – I think they were surprised by how dusty we were!
We were issued with solar powered torch and a whistle. Arranged to be picked up for dinner at 7.30 – apparently a Masai warrior will come in a golf buggy for us.
We were shown to a lovely lodge with great views.
It was a bit of a trek over a rough track and then wooden steps to get there.
Had a short relax and I had an outside shower (not overlooked by anyone) and Christine had a bath with lovely views.
We were picked up on time for dinner. Good food. Wi- fi was not very good at restaurant .Taken back to our lodge by golf cart.
Day 9: Serengeti Game Drive & Soroi Lodge
We watched elephants down below whilst having breakfast. Good selection of warm and cold food with an egg chef to cook your eggs as required.
Off again for another good day’s wildlife spotting. Saw plenty of Elephants, ostrich, buffalos, giraffe, many zebras and wildebeest. We were taken to a small lake with some hippos and quite a few birds including a small flock of flamingos. Christopher managed to locate a family of three surrounded by lots of zebra. The people in the vehicle next to us were looking in opposite direction until Christopher took pity on them and pointed out the leopards to them!
Christopher (with a machete!) took me up some rocks ( Masai steps?) with proper made steps to have good views and Christopher showed me how the Masai communicated using the rocks which acted like bells when struck with smaller rocks. He did tell me afterwards that he did come across a pride of lions there on a previous visit!
We then had a picnic lunch among some shady trees near a crossing of a river watching hundreds of thousands of zebra and smaller number of wildebeest coming over the plains to the water and then passing either side of us. We spent some time taking in the sights and sounds.
Reluctantly moved but Christopher managed to find another leopard for us before returning back to Soroi.
Again we had a nice meal. The Masai dropped us off at top of steps back to our lodge and when opening the door found there was no power in the lodge although outside lights were still on! Problem was communicating the issue to anyone – so after a while decided whistle was only way. A Masai came quite soon so the system does work. He got assistance and power came back on but only for a short while – did whistle again and power restored again but only lasted a short while. Looking outside it looked like the power cut was more extensive as the outside lights had gone out as well. Decided to call it a day and made use of our head torches to get ready for bed and prepare for following day.
Day 10: Drive To See Hippos & Soroi Lodge
Power back on about 5.30am.
No management at breakfast so could not mention problem. We assume they did know about the problems because we were later told that our laundry bill was complimentary.
Christophe took us to the Retina hippo pool where we saw in excess of 100 hippos in one spot including one walking across track in front of us. I managed to spot a monitor lizard but not a croc (although Christopher said there was one!) We spent just short of an hour there and well worth the long transit to get there even with the heat.
Then back to Soroi for a hot lunch – made a pleasant change from a picnic.
Chance for a group photo:
Spent afternoon relaxing – used Wi-fi in reception which was much better than restaurant.
Last dinner at Soroi under the stars – despite power problem we had a good time.
Day 11: Fly To Saadani & Saadani Safari Lodge
We departed after a relatively leisurely breakfast and drove to Seronera airstrip – stopping briefly at Serengeti visitor centre. This gave us a last chance to see more wildlife on way.
Coastal Aviation plane was on time. Christopher loaded our luggage and we said our goodbyes. This was the end of a very good safari and the start of our trip to the coast. On we went to Arusha via Ndutu and Lake Manyara.
Arriving at Saadani pleasantly surprised to see a vehicle waiting for us with a small welcoming party with towels, drinks and a fruit skewer. It was only a short drive to lodge from airstrip.
We were shown to a very nice lodge overlooking the beach and Indian Ocean.
Evening meal was a fixed menu with main course being a seafood platter of locally caught produce. Not Christine’s ideal choice but I really enjoyed it.
We had a real storm overnight very wet and windy. Water came through the gauze windows. The canvas blinds are on outside of windows and given how wet it was we decided to ride it out and left the blinds as they were.
Day 12: Saadani & Saadani Safari Lodge
Early morning start for a game drive – just a quick coffee and biscuit – before setting off at 6am. We saw giraffes, water buck and Lichtenstein Hartebeest
Back to Lodge with rain showers for a full English breakfast. We spent the rest of morning relaxing walking the beach and reading etc.
We had a very pleasant lunch – fish and chips – red snapper.
We spent the afternoon relaxing and a further walk into the Indian Ocean. Evening meal slightly spoilt by number of bugs (apparently harmless) in dining room brought out by change in weather and white table cloths).
Again we were escorted back to lodge. Laundry not yet returned although we were told it was a “same day service”.
Day 13: Saadani & Saadani Safari Lodge
More rain during early morning .We were informed at breakfast that the river safari scheduled for morning would be delayed until after lunch. Back to Lodge to find laundry had been returned.
We had a lazy morning. After lunch we started out on the drive to the river. Went a few km and just past Saadani village the way was blocked by three lorries.
Managed to get past the first one but the other two were alongside each other totally blocking the way. Informed that they were now waiting for road to dry out so they could attempt moving the vehicles. We also did not know what lay ahead and we would have to come back same way even if we could bypass the blockage by going “cross country”. We decided the best and safest course of action was to abort the trip and return to the Lodge. Disappointing but experience was a part of our adventure.
Back at the Lodge we relaxed some more and had more walks on beach.
Day 14: Fly To Dar Es Salaam & Then Home
We were informed at breakfast that the flight had been brought forward two hours. On leaving the Lodge we are informed we would now be going to FQ Airport Hotel because of logistical problems in getting to and from the Slipway Hotel to the airport because of Friday traffic. It could take 3 hours!
Journey to the hotel was an eye opener! Once off the main road we went down a pot holed track over some railway tracks through a local market. The hotel appeared to be in the middle of a downcast area.
There was no real welcome from reception staff – a total contrast from the rest of our Tanzanian experience. We went to room which was very stark. We eventually managed to get got air-conditioning on. Plus pints about hotel were air conditioning and Wi-Fi but very little else going for it.
We got picked up as arranged to go to airport.
Unfortunately there is not much available at airport. Most souvenir shops had the same items at the same price but managed to buy a few items but not much for young children.
Anyway flight departed slightly early and journey home was quite long but uneventful. Dar es Salaam was certainly the low point of the trip.
Overall this had been a great adventure for us and exceeded our expectations of what we expected to see. We had gone with the hope of seeing some wildlife but know that it can depend on luck as well as a good guide as to what you may see. I think we had a good mix of both.
The overall organisation was excellent – picked up and met on time and welcomed at every location except airport hotel.
Christopher was an excellent guide – even though he kept saying he was “lost” which we usually had some comment in return as part of the humorous exchanges – and the vehicle although not the most modern was adequate and robust for the rough terrain. The inbuilt fridge for the water and the picnics was very useful.
The lodgings in the main were very good and were as we expected of each of them from the initial work of Christine and subsequent searches on the web. As indicated above small problems with electricity and water in some places.
Food was generally quite good and tasty although sometimes not to our personal taste. Portions were usually generous so we did put on some weight despite sweating quite a bit.
Airport hotel was not the best but with very little choice in the vicinity and as airport had limited facilities it was the better option.
I also think an alternative to Mount Meru Lodge should be considered but it was only for one night so if water had worked our opinion may have been different.
Everywhere we went, other than the airport hotel, everyone was so friendly and cheerful.
Overall it was a wonderful adventure with plenty of memories to last us forever.