This was my second trip to Tanzania, but this time my role was a bit different: I was taking 9 of my friends and their 4 kids (ages 7-12) there. Our trip took place almost exactly 20 years after we first met when studying at the Helsinki University of Technology. At the end of our studies, a group of us work to collect money and did a 3 week trip to Kenya which we have for long time wanted to repeat with our families. And now it was finally time for that, although this time we chose to visit Tanzania both because of safety but also to experience a safari in a new country.
While I was coordinating most of the travel planning, we also had a local partner in Tanzania who we selected based on several offers and reading several reviews. Earth Life Expeditions is managed by Deo who was from the very early days very responsive in his communication and helped us in choosing the right accommodations and activities. Of course due to having been to Tanzania only 2 years prior to our trip I also influenced our plans a lot.
So here is what our 8 day trip to Tanzania looked like:
We flew with Turkish airlines from Helsinki via Istanbul. We flew to Kilimanjaro International Airport, and returned from Zanzibar airport. This is currently the fastest connection from Helsinki to Tanzania, and cost us roughly 900€/adult.
All our accommodations were rather boutique style than large hotels, which is always also my personal preference when travelling.
- Arusha: Ambureni coffee lodge (***). Good value lodge with really nice view of the Mount Meru from the pool. Nothing special but nothing to really complain either. If we hadn’t had kids in the group I think I would have preferred to stay at the same place where we stayed the last time we visited Arusha: Karama Lodge
- Safari: Escarpment Luxury Lodge (*****). True 5* lodge with a stunning location and views from the pool and the private lodges. Impeccable service, and simply amazing and spacious rooms with e.g. also an outdoor shower and bath tub with amazing views.
- Zanzibar: Warere Beach hotel (****). Highly recommendable hotel if you want something mid range and with a pool. The rooms are very nice, the views are stunning both overall and especially from the pool. The tide varies a lot and the beach here is nice but not the same as e.g. in Paje where you have maybe 10km of white sandy beach. If you want sandy beach, and don’t care for a swimming pool and are happy with just few options for restaurants, I strongly recommend also the place where we stayed last time: Ndame beach lodge
Day 1: Relaxing in Arusha after the long flights.
Three of us also went for a half day hike to Meru with Hakuna Matata tours, which is something I very highly recommend: beautiful views and diverse nature. But be prepared for very hot weather and some 300m of vertical. Not suitable for those with poor knees.
Day 2: Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park is a lush national park known for the huge number of elephants. We also saw a lot of other animals, such as different antelopes, a lion, giraffe, buffaloes, warthogs, monkeys .. (read more here from my previous trip to Tarangire)
Day 3: Local village & Lake Manyara park
In the morning we did a walking tour to the village of Mto wa Mbu to see how the local people live, visit banana plantations and a small market where they sold both fruits and vegetables as well as souvenirs. I was afraid this would be very touristic but was very positively surprised with the visits authenticity and our guide was excellent.
Afternoon we spent at the Lake Manyara National park, which is home to the three climbing lion, which we missed by few minutes (which sucked!). But there was still plenty to see, a lot of giraffes, zebras, hundreds of baboons, gnus and different antelopes.
Day 4: Ngorongoro
Ngorongoro crater was the highlight of the trip and was thus saved for the last day. Absolutely magical and stunning place. It’s an old volcano that exploded leaving a 16km wide caldera full of wildlife and a stunning scenery. (read more from my previous trip here)
Day 5: Transit back to Arusha (2.5h) and flight to Zanzibar
The local flight was with Tropical air and booked for us by Earth Life Expeditions. While the local airport in Arusha is bit different from the airports in Europe, everything went well and the flight was only 1h.
Day 6: Relaxing in Zanzibar
We spent the day relaxing and some of us visited the nearby Turtle conservation / Aquarium just 500m from the hotel (read more here from my previous trip).
Day 7: Full day trip to Stone Town and Prison Island.
As the capital of Zanzibar, Stone Town is interesting to see but nothing that special and the really hot weather doesn’t make it any better. The most interesting part was visit to the old Slave market which was the biggest slave market in eastern Africa and managed by the Arabs. Prison island is a beautiful island and home to giant tortoise and an old prison.
Day 8: Relaxing.
We spent full day relaxing at the hotel, walking on the beach and eating at a nearby stunning restaurant.
Day 9: Flight back home
Overall, we were very happy with the Earth Life expeditions. We did have some issues getting the right food for the 2 vegans in our group, but this was to be expected in a country unfamiliar with the concept. In general everything worked really well: the safari drivers, our tour guide for the Mto wa Mbu village and the tour guide in Zanzibar were really great, schedules were kept, accommodations were excellent and overall everything worked.