Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tanzania, Arusha to Zanzibar - Part Two

Zanzibar, known as the Spice Island, is a wonderful place to wind down post-safari, or after climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Zanzibar is actually an archipelago of many islands, but we spent time on the main island at the laid-back beach resort called Breezes (not related to the Breezes resorts in the Caribbean). 

A short flight from Kilimanjaro airport took our small group to Stone Town. A one hour drive across the island followed. The island is quite beautiful, with its many mango, jack fruit and other types of tropical trees.  The most widely practiced religion here is Islam, and most of the women wear traditional modest clothing, keeping their heads covered. You get a sense of being somewhere very exotic.

Breezes is set on one of the nicest beaches on the island. The Indian Ocean had the most vivid colors of blue, turquoise and green. When the tide goes out, you can walk out into the ocean quite far, to the edge of the coral reef, with the water never getting above your knees. It was very interesting to watch the tide come in and out each day.

The resort has many watersports activities, with snorkeling and diving at the top of the list. Kite surfing lessons are also offered for those who are so inclined. I enjoyed using the gym (small but adequate), taking a yoga class, and indulging in a Thai massage at the full-service spa.

This is a wonderful place for honeymooners, and there were many there! They have a very romantic table for two, near the beach, that can be reserved for a special evening.  

A tour of the city of Stone Town is a must while you are there. The history of the island is quite fascinating, having been conquered by many different Empires through the ages: Portuguese, Sultanate of Oman, British and German. There is a variety of architecture to be seen in the narrow streets and the elaborately carved wooden doors. Walking through the public market was quite a cultural experience.

If you would like to know more about Zanzibar, or to reserve your next holiday, call the travel specialists at Bee Kalt Travel!

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
email: travel@beekalt.com

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tanzania, from Arusha to Zanzibar - Part One

Tanzania is a land of contrasts: the lush, green foliage of the mountains gives way to the dry, arid plains of the Serengeti. You can see the Masai people in their traditional dress, living in mud and stick huts, and there are large urban areas with population in the millions. This East African nation made for a perfect first-time safari for an exclusive group of Bee Kalt Travel adventurers.

Our journey began with a night in Arusha at the Arusha Coffee Lodge. They have lovely accommodations in individual cottages. Our stay here was all too brief as we left early in the morning to catch our charter flight to the Serengeti. A short flight brought us to the Kogatende airstrip where our drivers were waiting to meet us. They would be our guides for the next 8 days and nights.

Our first stop was a semi-permanent tented camp called Lemala Serengeti Camp. The canvas tents had wooden plank floors and en-suite baths. Well, showers. Bush showers to be exact. The tent "butler" would fill up the bag with hot water when you were ready to take a shower. They had flush toilets too, which is my minimum requirement for camping. I admit, I'm much more of a glamper than a camper. Our afternoon game drive was exciting, and we spent a bit of time watching a pod of hippos playing and fighting in the river.
In the evening, we sat around the campfire with pre-dinner drinks, enjoyed a wonderful meal and retired early, listening to the sounds of the bush at night.

The next morning, we packed up and left in pursuit of the Great Migration. This is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the world. Millions of wildebeest and zebra follow the rains and grasses moving in a circular pattern from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya. The herds were a bit ahead of schedule this year, but we managed to catch them in the Northern Serengeti. It was a spectacle indeed! We sat in our vehicle in the midst of the animals, listening to the cacophony of mooing and braying. We stayed for a while, and then drove on to our next camp, in the central Serengeti.

Serengeti is the Masai word for endless plain. The plains are so vast, they seem to stretch on forever. We arrived in the late afternoon at our next stop, a luxury tented camp called Mbuzi Mawe. Things were looking up: fixed canvas tents with four poster beds, running water and real showers. We had to be careful to zip up our tents and keep things put away because a naughty baboon has learned to unzip the doorway and help himself to whatever he can find inside. Apparently he has a fondness for Colgate toothpaste, and he ate one person's snacks and immodium! From this location, we enjoyed a fantastic experience of hot-air ballooning, taking off in the light of the early morning sunrise. We floated above the trees, passing over lions, gazelles, hippos and more.

Our journey continued with a visit to the Ngorongoro Crater. The crater is the largest intact caldera in the world. It has one of the largest concentrations of animals in all of Africa. We spent a thrilling day on a game drive in the crater, spotting lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalo, flamingos, pelicans, and of course, wildebeest and zebras. Our home here was the Serena Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, perched on the Crater's edge with fantastic views of the crater below.

After all of this driving and game-viewing, we took a day off and landed at a very luxurious retreat called The Manor.  It has just 20 rooms in Cape Dutch style cottages, located in the highlands with beautiful views of the coffee plantation and surrounding hills. Here we relaxed, and took advantage of some of their offerings: spa treatments, horseback riding, walking or biking through the coffee plantation. Dinner was very elegant, in a cozy dining room with upholstered chairs and cloth covered tables. Not what you would normally picture when on safari!

Enough of taking it easy, time to move on to our last safari stop: Tarangire National Park. This park is known for its elephants and baobab trees. The baobab is a huge tree that looks almost prehistoric, and many are hundreds if not thousands of years old. The gnarley branches reach out in all directions toward the sky. We were greeted with a glass of baobab fruit juice at our next lodge.

We stayed at Tarangire Treetops, a fabulous lodge with tents built on platforms among the ancient trees. You can see the star-studded night sky through the mesh walls of the tent. The lodge has a swimming pool for the guests and a watering hole for the resident game. Here, we enjoyed a dinner in the boma, an outdoor fenced in dining area, where we sampled a variety of local dishes and a selection of grilled meats. They also had a performance of Masai dancers and invited some of us to join in!

Our last evening together was concluded with a special "Sundowner" atop Sunset hill. A toast to a splendid safari while watching a perfect African sunset.

Good to know: U.S. Citizens require a valid passport and a visa to enter Tanzania. A visa can be easily purchased upon arrival at Kilimanjaro airport for $100.00.

If you would like to plan your perfect African safari, Call the Safari Specialists at Bee Kalt Travel!

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll free 1-800-284-5258
email: travel@beekalt.com