Let’s face it, Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, is often a necessary stop on the way to or from Zanzibar, a safari in the north (which we’re coming back from) or home. So don’t set your expectations anywhere to the level that you would for Zanzibar or the Serengeti and you should still find this city sufficient enough for a layover overnight.
We headed out at 8am from Angata Camps on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater and reached Arusha by 1pm, where we stopped by to say our thanks at the massive Easy Travel headquarters. Much like our much delayed flight into Kilimanjaro, our originally scheduled 4:25pm flight out of Kilimajaro to Dar es Salaam was delayed at the last minute by nearly another 3 hours, so we stayed there an extra hour plugging ourselves back into civilization on the wifi.
Luckily Ann informed us that the wifi at Kilimanjaro Airport is also lightning fast, so after driving over on the hour’s drive from Arusha to JRO airport and checked in, everyone downloaded the horoscope app Co-Star and compared each other’s astrological compatibilities.
After arriving from Kilimajaro Airport to DAR Airport in the evening at 8pm, we were curiously led on foot through the tarmac to the international arrivals area even though we hopped off a domestic flight. (Apparently, this is typical at this airport).
Airport security demanded to see our boarding passes to make sure we weren’t sneaking in without a visa, but I just showed them my visa instead. Because I’m a thinker.
Outside arrivals, 7x monsooner Evan Danek (who had arrived 2 hours earlier via Qatar Airways) was waiting for us with our pickup, making our group 10 strong.
This welcome sign: Nailed it.
We were then led on a condensed city tour through Dar es Salaam (everything we saw was once owned or run by the Germans according to our driver) —
Starting from Uhuru Monument, we drove through neighborhood of Kariakoo and Kisutu towards the Askari Monument, then swung by Azania Front Church before finishing at a fish market, a flea market, the presidential palace and Karimjee Hall.
However, because we were running late on time and our group was getting hangry, we didn’t bother to take many photos or get out of the car to walk around. So after 30 minutes of what felt like aimless driving, we were spirited away to our lodgings at Azure Villas.
Because the digs I got at the villas was so nice, the girls’ villa decided to mostly stay in and order Pizza Hut while the guys + Ann had dinner at Veranda Tapas.
If you can’t tell, Brandon hates Instagram.
Afterwards we saw the night take on a comedy of errors after we experienced a few busts at Havoc Nightspot and Element, before we stopped at Samaki Samaki for a drink before some of us headed home for an early night.
Tomorrow we get up at 7am for a two-a-week 10:40am Air Tanzania flight to the #10 least visited country in the world: Comoros!
- At time of posting in Dar Es Salaam, it was 25 °C -
Humidity: 87% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: sunny
Live fast, die young
Bad girls do it well
Live fast, die young
Bad girls do it well
My chain hits my chest
When I’m bangin’ on the dashboard
My chain hits my chest
When I’m bangin’ on the radio
Get back, get down
Pull me closer if you think you can hang
Hands up, hands tied
Don’t go screaming if I blow you with a bang
I’m coming in the Cherokee
There’s steam on the window screen
Take it, take it
World’s bouncing like a trampoline
When I get to where I’m going, gonna have you trembling
– M.I.A. “Bad Girls”
We woke up this morning at 6am for an early breakfast and a 6:30am sunrise.
After boxing our lunches at the lodge we set off our day with wishing good morning to a few elephants and hippos.
At Bessie’s behest and generosity in treating us to a unique experience, our guides then drove us an hour out for a detour visit to a Maasai village, a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting northern Tanzania as well as northern, central and southern Kenya.
The chief’s eldest son, his 11 wives, and 100 children welcomed us with a dance, inviting all of us to see who could jump the highest as part of their traditional festivities in welcoming new guests.
Then we were invited inside their huts to see their way of life, offering some of their handicrafts for sale, before finishing off with us saying hello to the kids.
After about 45 minutes here we proceeded onwards to the Ngorongoro Crater floor for one final game drive.
At 610m (2,000 feet) deep and covering 260 square km (about 100 sq miles), Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera, formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself 2-3 million years ago. As a result, it has its own unique self-contained ecosystem.
Taking a short drive to the rim of the crater, we then descended 600 meters into the crater for a late lunch and to view more wildlife.
Ngorongoro is home to one of the highest densities of lions in Africa.
This is also one of the best places in Africa to see the elusive Black Rhino. Thanks Ines for taking these through the binoculars. Pro moves.
Hence if you’re itching to see the Big 5, in Ngorongoro you’re likely to spot all of them in one place.
By evening we then headed to our digs at Angata Ngorongoro Camp in Ngorongoro for our final night in the bush.
The campfire helps.
- At time of posting in Ngorongoro Crater, it was 17 °C -
Humidity: 58% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy
After an 8am breakfast this morning, we headed out at 9am for the famed Serengeti National Park for another game drive.
While waiting for our papers to clear at the entrance to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area entrance, a weird human attacked our jeep and tried to steal our shit:
Once cleared we drove 2 hours through the beautiful high lying farmland of Karatu and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
But leaving the highlands behind for another day, we entered the heart of wild Africa and cradle of humanity – the Serengeti National Park – with its endless plains rolling into infinity.
Once we entered we had a quick boxed lunch:
And then — at least with our luck — within 4 hours in the Seronera Valley of the Serengti we were able to see herds of giraffes:
More weird humans:
And of course, the lion and king of the jungle, during which our car battery suddenly died! (we then asked the other jeeps around us push ours back as far away from the lions so we could restart it at a safe distance):
And finally, right before heading back we were lucky to catch one of the hardest animals to sight, the speedy cheetah:
Satisfied with our hunt, we drove onwards to Serengeti Katikati camp inside the Serengeti for dinner at 6pm.
Although the amazing part is that there’s wifi here and it actually works decently well, it costs a pretty penny to get higher data and speeds. Therefore I’m going to sign off right now with a short cogent blogpost and lower quality photos.
Check back in a few days for a few more updates! Tomorrow we tour the Ngorongoro Crater on our way back to Kilimanjaro.
- At time of posting in Serengeti National Park, it was 25 °C -
Humidity: 35% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: cloudy
For our 3rd day in Zanzibar, we took it easy and spent it on massages, lounging at the Park Hyatt, shopping, and essentially making the long wait before heading over for our 8:40pm Air Tanzania flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). There we would rendezvous with Ann who would have arrived 2 hours earlier.
However, that would not be the case within the laws of travel: At the last minute Air Tanzania emailed me a change of departure time to a ridiculous 12:40am. With no other options, we thus continued to count the hours go by until a girl named Tamara checked into the hostel, sat down next to me on the floor while I was working on my laptop and playing some music, and asked me for advice on what to do in Zanzibar.
Within 15 minutes she would join our group for dinner at Lukmaan!
Love all these stories and the effortless friends we make when we travel.
We then took Tamara for a few drinks back at our favorite bar at the Park Hyatt until our 10:30pm cabs arrived. After saying our goodbyes, we headed over to ZNZ airport where we checked in and took advantage of Priority Pass access at the Dhow Lounge.
Although they usually close at 11pm, this time they kept it open late for us until boarding.
We finally boarded our at 1am slightly buzzed after raiding the lounge bar unopposed, playing Queen’s “We Are The Champions” in the background, thusly and thoroughly embarrassing ourselves as American tourists on the plane.
We landed at JRO airport an hour later at 2am.
There we reunited with Ann and were greeted by our pickup arranged by Easy Travel and Tours. We then drove onwards another hour to Arusha.
Once arriving at Karama Lodge at 3am, we quickly headed to bed.
The next morning we got up 5 hours later for a gorgeous morning view of the jungles behind Arusha.
After a quick breakfast we drove over into Arusha to meet our safari guides from Easy Travel.
We then drove 2 hours over to Lake Manyara National Park.
Once at the park we paid the entrance fee and had our boxed lunches inside:
After lunch we began our game drive; Lake Manyara National Park boasts varied ecosystems, breathtaking views and incredible ecological variety in a small area, rich in wildlife and amazing numbers of birds.
Lake Manyara’s game particularly includes Buffalos:
Copulating hippos (yes, if you can’t tell, the hippo below is literally thrusting into his partner underwater right now):
Once we hit the early evening, we stopped for an hour shopping for Tanzanite stones before driving half an hour to Bougainvillea Lodge in Karatu town, just in time for dinner!
Today was just the appetizer though. Tomorrow we visit The Serengeti!
- At time of posting in Lake Manyara National Park, it was 22 °C -
Humidity: 68% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: cloudy
After pushing ourselves to stay awake until 10pm last night in one of the best starts to a monsoon, we all got in a good 8 hours in of sleep and all woke up at around 6:30am.
Since most breakfast spots in Stone Town opened at 8am, we got hungry and had no choice but to “settle” on an incredible all-you-can-eat breakfast spread at the Park Hyatt Zanzibar for 45,000 shillings a person (around $20 USD):
Oh woe is us.
Since we got to see nearly all of Stone Town yesterday, we booked a boat at 9am for Prison Island to visit the giant sea turtles living there.
It’s a relatively peaceful but choppy 30 minute ride over.
Once there, we paid the admission fee to visit the giant 200-year old sea turtles that live there, gifted by the country of Seychelles.
And they literally don’t care about the even more hundreds of humans strolling around them.
After 20 minutes here we took a quick look at the former detention/quarantine center that gave this island its name.
After 10 minutes we headed back to our boat, where we drove out a few minutes out further into the ocean for some snorkeling and reef watching.
We returned to our hostel at noon, freshening up for 15 minutes, and then hopped into a van for the 1.5 hour drive up north to Nungwi Beach.
We first had a lazy lunch at Coco Cabana…
…and then spent 2 hours sunbathing, jetskiing, and kayaking here as the sun set.
We then headed back to Stone Town at 6:30pm, returning home at 8pm for dinner at the Food Stalls in Forodhani Gardens.
Now kicking back over a few drinks at the Park Hyatt before heading to bed!
- At time of posting in Nungwi, Zanzibar, it was 78 °C -
Humidity: 81% | Wind Speed: 19km/hr | Cloud Cover: perfect
What’s your favorite posish
That’s cool with me it’s not my favorite but I’ll do it for you
What’s your favorite dish
I’m not gonna cook it, but I’ll order it from ZANZIBAR!
– Tenacious D
We just arrived in Zanzibar!
Cathy, Bryan and I had a 9 hour layover in Doha where I got to show them around Souq Waqif and kicked back at a few rooftop clubs and lounges afterwards.
When we returned to Doha Airport, I sneaked access to their first class lounge having just gotten upgraded to OneWorld Platinum today, taking advantage of a recent American Airlines Status Challenge I had joined via FoundersCard.
We then boarded the 1:55am Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Zanzibar, landing at 8:30am in the morning.
Passport control was relatively straightforward, having taken advantage of the Visa Grant offered on the Tanzanian Government website and arranging everything beforehand, including the $100 USD visa fee.
All we had to do was print our papers beforehand and get stamped through.
Once outside, we were picked up by our driver from Lost & Found Hostel for the 20 minute drive into Stone Town, where we rendezvous’ed with Bessie, Ines, and Brandon who had arrived on an earlier 4:50am flight via Emirates.
Sarah would join us later at 1pm and Ravi at 4pm.
Welcome to Stone Town — also known as Mji Mkongwe (Swahili for “old town”) — the historical city of East Africa and UNESCO’s World Heritage Site renowned for its 19th century architecture and unique confluence of Moorish, Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements that still influence the region’s underlying Swahili culture.
The heart of Stone Town mostly consists of a maze of narrow alleys lined by houses, shops, bazaars and mosques and is a sight to behold in of itself.
After everyone arrived in the morning, we started from our home base at Lost & Found Hostel and visited the following in order:
Freddie Mercury’s House: Did you know Freddie Mercury of Queen was born in Zanzibar? Well our hostel is right across the street facing it:
Old Fort: a 17th century stone fortress built by the Omani that now serves as a a cultural center with shops, workshops, and a small stage where live dance and music shows are held daily in its courtyard.
House of Wonders (aka “Palace of Wonders”, also known as Beit-al-Ajaib) is the most well-known landmarks of Stone Town. Built in 1883 and restored after the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896, it was the former Sultan’s residence before becoming the seat of the Afro-Shirazi Party after the revolution. It is know to be the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity as well as the first building in East Africa to boast an elevator.
It also played a role in the world’s shortest war at only 38 minutes long, when the British fired upon the island in 1896 after Khalid bin Barghash seized the throne after the death of his cousin and the ruling Sultan at the time.
Since 2000, it has been reconverted to a museum on Swahili and Zanzibar culture.
Palace Museum (or “Sultan’s Palace” aka “Beit el-Sahel” in Arabic) is the other former sultan’s palace located on the seafront and north of the House of Wonders. Built in late 19th century, it too has been converted into a museum about the daily life of the royal family, including items that belonged to Sayyida Salme, a former Zanzibar princess that fled to Europe with her husband
Then back north by the seafront we found the charming Old Dispensary. Built in 1894 as a charity hospital for the poor by Indian architects, it was later used as a dispensary.
We tipped the front guard for a sneak up the rooftop and views over Stone Town:
We then headed back into the maw for the Anglican Cathedral, which sits atop the world’s last slave market with the altar built over the market’s whipping post. $3 admission.
The nearby Hamamni Persian Baths: a complex of 19th century era public baths built by Shirazi architects for Sultan Barghash bin Said.
International phone calls are only allowed for tall people here (think this is a public art installation):
St Joseph’s Cathedral, unique for being a Christian site in a predominantly Muslim city. Although we found the front gate shuttered, we were able to sneak in through the backdoor via the parish and school entrance.
Tippu Tip’s House, home to one of East Africa’s richest and most powerful slave traders.
And if you’re hungry head to Forodhani Gardens, a small park located on the main seawalk of Stone Town, right in front of the Old Fort and the House of Wonders. Every evening after sunset the gardens host a popular, tourist-oriented food market filled with stalls selling grilled seafood and other Zanzibari delights.
Feeling a little fancier? For our first night and thanks to Sarah’s sleuthing skills, we were able to dine at arguably the #1 restuarant in Zanzibar: The Rooftop Tea House Restaurant at the Emerson on Hurumzi. Come at 6pm for the sunset though:
Serving local Zanzibar cuisine every night at 7pm, the restaurant serves a 3 course set menu for $35 per person with a required $10 per person deposit ahead of time.
The whole thing takes 3-4 hours and is an experience not to be missed.
Stone Town: One of the best beginnings to a trip I’ve had so far!
- At time of posting in Stone Town, Zanzibar, it was 30 °C -
Humidity: 77% | Wind Speed: 18km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy