Tanzania - Fodor's The Complete Guide to African Safaris: with South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda & the Seychelles (Full-color Travel Guide) (2015)

Fodor's The Complete Guide to African Safaris: with South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda & the Seychelles (Full-color Travel Guide) (2015)


Main Table of Contents

Welcome to Tanzania

Serengeti National Park

Ngorongoro Crater

Lake Manyara National Park

Mount Kilimanjaro

Selous Game Reserve

Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains National Parks

If You Have Time

Gateway Cities

Beach Escapes

Welcome to Tanzania

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Top Reasons to Go | Getting Oriented | Planning | Must-See Parks

Updated by Claire Baranowski

Tanzania is the quintessential, definitive Africa of your dreams. And who wouldn’t want to visit a place where the names of its legendary travel destinations roll off the tongue like an incantation: Zanzibar, Serengeti, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Victoria, the Rift Valley, the Ngorongoro Crater, and Olduvai Gorge, “the Cradle of Humankind.”

Great plains abound with legions of game, snow-capped mountains soar above dusty valleys, rain forests teem with monkeys and birds, beaches are covered in sand as soft and white as talcum powder, and coral reefs host myriads of jewel-like tropical fish. Although Tanzania’s economy—one of the poorest in the world—depends heavily on agriculture, which accounts for almost half of its GDP, it has more land (more than 25%) devoted to national parks and game reserves than any other wildlife destination in the world. Everything from pristine coral reefs to the crater highlands, remote game reserves, and the famous national parks are protected by government law and placed in trust for future generations.

Fast Facts

Size 945,203 square km (364,898 square miles).

Capital Dar es Salaam, though legislative offices have been transferred to Dodoma, which is planned as the new national capital.

Number of National Parks 15, including the Serengeti, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Gombe Stream, Ruaha, Selous, Katavi, and Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Number of Private Reserves Too many to count, but includes the Singita Grumeti Reserves.

Population Approximately 43 million.

Big Five All the Big Five, including black and white rhinos.

Language Official languages are Kiswahili and English.

Time Tanzania is on EAT (East Africa Time), which is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and eight hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

There are two circuits you can follow in Tanzania: the conventional northern tourist circuit, which includes the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, or the lesser traveled southern tourist circuit of Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha, Mahale, and Gombe national parks among others. You’ll be amply rewarded for the often lengthy traveling to these southern locations by having the places much more to yourself and usually at cheaper rates.

Serengeti is all it’s cracked up to be with endless plains of golden grass (Serengeti means “endless plain” in the Masai language), teeming game, abundant bird life, and an awe-inspiring sense of space and timelessness. Ngorongoro Crater justly deserves its reputation as one of the natural wonders of the world. The ride down onto the crater floor is memorable enough as you pass through misty primeval forest with wild orchids, swinging vines, and chattering monkeys, but once on the floor you could well be in the middle of a National Geographic TV program. You can follow in the footsteps of legendary hunters and explorers when you visit Selous Game Reserve in the south. Although it’s the second-largest conservation area in the world after Greenland National Park, only 5% of the northern part is open to tourists; but don’t worry, you’ll see all the game and birds you could wish for with the advantage of seeing it by boat and on foot. If it’s chimpanzees you’re after, then Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains national parks are the places to head for. A lot of traveling (much of it by boat) is required, but the experience is well worth the effort, and you’ll join only a small community of other privileged visitors who have had the unique experience of coming face-to-face with wild chimpanzees.

The animals aren’t the only wonders Tanzania has to offer. There are the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia, as well as Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Meru, and the three great lakes of Victoria, Tanganyika, and Malawi. Wherever you go, you’re guaranteed travel experiences that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.


The Great Migration. This annual movement is one of the great natural wonders of the world.

Big Game Adventures. You’ll be amazed at how close up and familiar you get not only with the Big Five, but with thousands of other animals as well.

Sea, Sand, and Sun. Tanzania’s sun-spoiled but deserted beaches are lapped by the turquoise blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Swim, snorkel, scuba dive, sail, fish, or just chill on soft white sands under waving palm trees.

Ancient Cultures. From the traditional red-robed, bead-bedecked nomadic Masai in the north to the exotic heady mix of Arab and African influences in Zanzibar, you’ll encounter unique peoples and cultures just about everywhere you go.

Bird-Watching. Stay glued to your binoculars in one of the finest bird-watching destinations in the world. You’ll be able to watch hundreds of species in a variety of habitats.


Covering an area of 886,037 square km (342,100 square miles), which includes the islands of Mafia, Pemba, and Zanzibar, Tanzania is about twice the size of the state of California. It’s bordered by the Indian Ocean in the east, Kenya to the north, and Mozambique to the south. The country is home to some of the most coveted tourist destinations in the world: Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Zanzibar, Lakes Victoria, Tanganyika, and Malawi, and Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest freestanding mountain. Tourism doesn’t come cheap, but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views, legions of game, and unique marine experiences. It also boasts more than 1,130 bird species. Traveling distances are vast, so be prepared for lots of trips in different-size planes, or bite the bullet and face the notoriously bad potholes and seriously bumpy surfaces of dirt roads.

Serengeti National Park. It’ll be just how you imagine it and more: endless plains of golden grass, teeming herds of game, stalking predators, wheeling vultures. You won’t be disappointed.

Ngorongoro Crater. Bump down the steep descent road through primeval forest to the crater floor where you’ll find the biggest concentration of predators on earth.

Lake Manyara National Park. Tree-climbing lions, huge troops of baboons, elegant giraffes, harrumphing hippos, myriads of birds, ancient forest, lakeside plains, and towering cliffs characterize this enchanting, little-visited park.

Selous Game Reserve. Escape the tourist crowds in the world’s second-largest conservation area where you can view game on foot, by boat, or from your vehicle.

Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains National Parks. Follow in the footsteps of world-famous primatologist Jane Goodall and come face-to-face with wild chimpanzees. It’s an unforgettable wildlife encounter.



There are two rainy seasons: the short rains (mvuli) from October through December and the long rains (masika) from late February to early May. Given the influence of global warming, these rains aren’t as regular or intense as they once were. It’s best to avoid the two rainy seasons because many roads become impassable. Ngorongoro Crater is open all year, but the roads become extremely muddy and difficult to navigate during the wet seasons. High season is January to the end of September, but prices are much higher during this time. Make sure you find out in advance when the lodge or destination of your choice is closed as many are open only during the dry season. The coast is always pretty hot and humid, particularly during the rains, but is cooler and more pleasant the rest of the year. The hottest time is December just before the long rains. In high-altitude areas such as Ngorongoro Highlands and Mt. Kilimanjaro, temperatures can fall below freezing.


Air Travel

Most travelers arrive in Tanzania through Dar es Salaam airport. Many airlines fly directly to Dar es Salaam from Europe, but there are no direct flights from the United States.

KLM offers a daily flight to Dar es Salaam from Amsterdam’s Schipol airport. Other airlines that fly here frequently are Air Tanzania, British Airways, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, South African Airways, and Swiss Air. British Airways has one flight daily from Dar es Salaam to London. Turkish Airlines flies from Istanbul to Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro. Oman Air flies to Dar es Salaam via Muscat and then on to Zanzibar. Qatar Airways flies to Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar via Doha. Air Tanzania has daily flights to Dar es Salaam from destinations within East Africa. Air Tanzania has several daily flights to Zanzibar.

Air Tanzania. | 022/211-8411 | www.airtanzania.co.tz.
British Airways. | 022/211-3820 | www.britishairways.com.
Emirates. | 022/211-6100 | www.emirates.com.
Ethiopian Airlines. | 022/211-7063 | www.ethiopianairlines.com.
Kenya Airways. | 022/216-3917 | www.kenya-airways.com.
KLM. | 022/216-3917 | www.klm.com.
Oman Air. | 022/212-4742 | www.omanair.com.
Qatar Airways. | 022/219-8300 | www.qatarairways.com/tz.
South Africa Airways. | 022/211-7044 | www.flysaa.com.
Swiss Air. | 022/211-8870 | www.swiss.com.
Turkish Airlines. | 022/200-0016 | www.turkishairlines.com.

Airports and Transfers

Julius Nyerere International Airport, formerly Dar es Salaam International Airport, is about 13 km (8 miles) from the city center. Plenty of white-color taxis are available at the airport and will cost you about Tsh 20,000 (US$12) to the city center. This can usually be negotiated. Most hotels will send drivers to meet your plane, if arranged in advance, although this will cost more. Taxis to Msasani Peninsula, a bay to the north of the city where many of the hotels listed in this guide are located, cost about Tsh 50,000 (US$30).

Airport Contacts
Arusha Airport.
| 027/741-530, 027/744-317 | www.taa.go.tz.
Julius Nyerere International Airport. | 022/284-4371 | www.taa.go.tz.
Kilimanjaro International Airport. | 027/255-4252 | www.kilimanjaroairport.co.tz.
Zanzibar Airport. | 024/223-3979 | www.zanzibar-airport.com.

Charter Flights

The major charter companies run daily shuttles from Dar es Salaam to popular tourism destinations, such as Serengeti. Keep in mind that you probably won’t get to choose the charter company you fly with. The aircraft you get depends on the number of passengers flying and can vary from very small (you’ll sit in the co-pilot’s seat) to a much more comfortable commuter plane. TIP Those with a severe fear of small planes might consider road travel instead.

Due to the limited space and size of the aircraft, charter carriers observe strict luggage regulations: luggage must be soft sided and weigh no more than 44 pounds (20 kg).

Coastal Air.
| Stone Town | 222/842-700 | www.coastal.cc.
Flightlink. | Dar es Salaam | 782/354-448 | www.flightlinkaircharters.com.
Precision Air. | 022/212-1718 | www.precisionairtz.com.
Tanzanair. | Dar es Salaam | 022/284-3131, 022/211-3151 | www.tanzanair.com.



If you run across a number with only five digits, it’s a remnant of the old system that was changed in 1999. Because telephone communications are difficult, many people in the travel business have mobile phones.

Calling within Tanzania: The “0” in the regional code is used only for calls placed from other areas within the country.

Calling Tanzania from abroad: To call from abroad, dial the international access number 00, then the country code 255, then the area code, (e.g., 22 for Dar es Salaam), and then the telephone number, which should have six or seven digits.

Mobile Phones: Vodacom, Airtel Tanzania, and Zantel are the main service providers in Tanzania. The best option is to bring your own phone (if it’s not locked to a particular network) or rent a phone and buy a SIM card on arrival. The starter packs for pay-as-you-go cell phones are very reasonable. You’ll have to buy credit for your phone, but this is easily done at shops or roadside vendors.

Airtel Tanzania.
| www.africa.airtel.com.
Vodacom. | www.vodacom.co.tz.
Zantel. | www.zantel.co.tz.

Customs and Duties

You can bring in a liter of spirits or wine and 200 cigarettes duty-fee. The import of zebra skin or other tourist products requires a CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permit. Although you can buy curios made from animal products in Tanzania, your home country may confiscate them on arrival. Don’t buy shells or items made from sea turtles.

Health and Safety

Malaria is the biggest health threat in Tanzania, so be vigilant about taking antimalarials and applying bug spray. Consult with your doctor or travel clinic before leaving home for up-to-date antimalarial medication. At time of writing HIV/AIDS is less a risk than in some other African countries, but the golden rule is never to have sex with a stranger. It’s imperative to use strong sunscreen: remember you’re just below the equator, where the sun is at its hottest. Stick to bottled water and ensure that the bottle seal is unbroken. Put your personal medications in your carry-on and bring copies of prescriptions.

The Flying Doctors Service offered by AMREF provides air evacuation services for medical emergencies in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda or anywhere within a 1,000-km (621-mile) radius of Nairobi. The planes fly out of Nairobi’s Wilson Airport 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They also provide transportation between medical facilities, fly you back to Europe, Asia, or North America, or provide you with an escort if you’re flying on a commercial carrier.

Shots and Medications

Be up-to-date on yellow fever, polio, tetanus, typhoid, meningococcus, rabies, and Hepatitis A. It’s not necessary to have a cholera jab, but if you’re visiting Zanzibar it’s sensible to get a cholera exception form from your GP or travel clinic. Visit a travel clinic eight to 10 weeks before you travel to find out your requirements. If you’re coming to Tanzania for a safari, chances are you’re heading to a malarial game reserve. Millions of travelers take oral prophylactic drugs before, during, and after their safaris. It’s up to you to weigh the risks and benefits of the type of antimalarial drug you choose to take. If you’re pregnant or traveling with small children, consider a nonmalarial region for your safari.

U.S. Embassy.
| 686 Old Bagamoyo Rd., Msasani, | Dar es Salaam | 022/229-4000 | tanzania.usembassy.gov.

Police Hotline.
| 111.

Medical-Assistance Companies
The Flying Doctors Service.
| 022/211-6610 in Dar es Saalam, 022/212-7187 in Arusha | www.amref.org.

Money Matters

The regulated currency is the Tanzanian shilling (Tsh). Notes are 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, and 10,000. At this writing, the exchange rate was about Tsh 1,574 to US$1.

To avoid administrative hassles, keep all foreign-exchange receipts until you leave the region, as you may need them as proof when changing any unspent local currency back into your own currency at the airport when you leave. Don’t leave yourself with any Tsh—you won’t be able to change them outside of Tanzania.

Bargaining, especially at marketplaces, is part of the shopping experience. But always be aware of the exchange rate and pay appropriately—you don’t want to underpay, but you also don’t want to be charged exorbitant “tourist” prices.

Most large hotels accept U.S. dollars and Tanzanian shillings and take all major credit cards; some budget hotels will also accept Tanzanian shillings.

ATMs and Banks

There are banks and ATMs in all major cities; you can draw cash directly from an ATM in Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Mwanza, and Stone Town in Zanzibar. Most ATMs accept Cirrus, Plus, Maestro, Visa Electron, Visa, and MasterCard. The best place to withdraw cash is at an indoor ATM, preferably one guarded by a security officer. Most machines won’t let you withdraw more than the equivalent of about $150 at a time.


For a two- or three-night stay at a lodge or hotel, tip a couple of dollars for small services and US$2-US$5 per day for room steward and waiter. A good guide should get a tip of US$15-US$20 per day per person; if he’s gone out of his way for you, then you may wish to give him more. It’s a good idea to carry a number of small-denomination bills. U.S. dollars are acceptable almost everywhere, but if you’re planning to go to more remote places, then shillings are preferred.

Passports and Visas

Most visitors require a visa to enter Tanzania. You can buy one upon arrival—make sure you have at least $100 cash as the visa price increases all the time, and two passport pictures. However, if possible, get your visa ahead of time to avoid long lines and headaches. Visas are valid for three months and allow multiple entries. Passports must be valid for six months after your planned departure date from Tanzania.

A Bit of Tanzania History

The East African coast appears to have first been explored by the Phoenicians in approximately 600 BC. Bantu peoples arrived about 2,000 years ago and a few 4th-century Roman coins have turned up at the coast. We can tell from ancient writings that the Romans certainly knew about Mt. Kilimanjaro and the great inland lakes, but nobody is quite sure how they came by this knowledge. By AD 100, trade with India and the Middle East was well established, and many city-states ruled by local sultans sprang up along the coast. The Portuguese first arrived at the end of the 15th century looking for a trade route to India, but their hold on the country was shattered when the sultan of Oman captured Mombasa in 1698; 150 years later the capital was transferred here from Oman. The slave trade dominated the coast and the interior from the early 1800s. It was only after the passionate first-hand accounts given by Dr. Livingstone in the 1850s and his proposing its abolition that the slave trade was finally eradicated in 1918, when the British took control of Tanzania. This was followed in the Scramble for Africa by German rule. Germany was determined to make the colony self-sufficient by planting coffee and cotton, efforts that failed. Tanzania returned to British hands after World War I and finally won its independence in 1964. It’s now a stable multiparty democracy. Dar es Salaam is still the country’s capital, but the legislative offices have been transferred to the central city of Dodoma, which was chosen to be the new national capital in 1973; the transfer is slow moving because of the great expense. The National Assembly already meets there on a regular basis.


You’ll find the ultimate in luxury at many of the safari camps, lodges, and coastal resorts and hotels. It’s highly recommended that you opt for a private camp or lodge if possible, because everything is usually included—lodging, transport to and from the lodge, meals, beverages including excellent house wines, game drives, and other activities. Check in advance whether park fees are included in your rate, as these can get very expensive if you have to pay them daily. The southern safari circuit is cheaper in general, but you’ll need to factor in the cost of transport. Many lodges and hotels offer low-season rates. If you’re opting for a private game lodge, find out whether they accept children (many specify only kids over 12), and stay a minimum of two nights, three if you can. If you’re traveling to the more remote parks, allow for more time. TIPMost lodges offer a laundry service to their guests and will launder everything except underwear because it’s against African culture. So remember to pack plenty of pairs or make sure those you do bring are quick dry so you can wash as you go. Most lodges will provide laundry detergent in your tent for this very purpose.

National park accommodations are few and very basic. Unless you’re a hardcore camper, it’s advised that you stick with another type of accommodation. It’s essential to note that more often than not, there won’t be an elevator in your lodge—which are usually one story—and because of the rustic locations, accommodations aren’t wheelchair-friendly. You’ll encounter lots of steps, rocky paths, dim lighting, and uneven ground.


Food in the lodges is plentiful and tasty, and if you head to the coast, you’ll dine on superb seafood and fish with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. All places now have at least one vegetarian course on the menu.

Restaurant and Hotel Prices

Prices in the restaurant reviews are the average cost of a main course at dinner or, if dinner isn’t served, at lunch; taxes and service charges are generally included. Prices in the lodging reviews are the lowest cost of a standard double room in high season, excluding taxes, service charges, and meal plans (except at all-inclusives).


The Tanzanian Tourist Board (TTB) has offices in Dar es Salaam and Arusha. The tourist board’s website is a great online source for pretrip planning.

Tanzania National Parks.
| www.tanzaniaparks.com.
Tanzanian Tourist Board. | 022/211-1244 | www.tanzaniatouristboard.com.


Unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to see all of Tanzania in one trip. So we’ve broken it down by Must-See Parks (Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Lake Manyara National Park, Selous Game Reserve, and Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains national parks) and If You Have Time parks (Arusha National Park, Tarangire National Park, and Ruaha National Park) to help you better organize your time. We suggest though, that you read about all of them and then choose for yourself.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Serengeti National Park

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Where to Stay

The very name Serengeti is guaranteed to bring a glint to even the most jaded traveler’s eye. It’s up there in that wish list of legendary destinations alongside Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Kakadu, Killarney, and the Great Pyramid of Giza. But what distinguishes Serengeti from all its competitors is its sheer natural beauty.

It’s 15,000 square km (5,791 square miles) of pristine wilderness and that’s it. Its Masai name Serenget, means Endless Plain. A primeval Eden par excellence, named a World Heritage Site in 1978 and an International Biosphere Reserve in 1981, Serengeti is all it’s cracked up to be. You won’t be disappointed.

This ecosystem supports some of the most plentiful mammal populations left anywhere on earth, and the animals here seem bigger, stockier, stronger, and sturdier than elsewhere in Africa. Even the scrub hares are bigger than their southern neighbors, loping rather than scampering over the tussocks and grassy mounds. Hyenas are everywhere and raptors are in perpetual motion—tawny eagles, kestrels, harriers, kites, buzzards, and vultures. Expect to see at least one baby wildebeest that has fallen by the wayside lying alone encircled by patient, voracious vultures or prowling hyenas.

But let’s put you right in the picture. You’ll probably land at a busy landing strip, maybe near Ntuti, where a dozen open-sided vehicles wait to pick up the new arrivals. Don’t worry about lots of vehicles. In your few days driving around the Serengeti you’ll certainly see others, but not too many. As you leave the airstrip, your vehicle will weave its way through herds of zebra and gazelle. Rufous-tailed weavers, endemic to northern Tanzania, flutter up from the sandy road. The plains stretch endlessly with misty mountains faint in the distance. At first the plains are ringed by trees, but then only an occasional and solitary tree punctuates the golden grass. Wherever you stay, you’ll be looked after royally, with comfortable accommodation, good food, a dawn chorus of bubbling birdsong, and an evening serenade of whooping hyenas with a backing group of softly calling lions.

What will you remember about the Serengeti? The unending horizons and limitless plains. The sheer space. The wildebeest. The oh-so-beautiful Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles. The bat-eared foxes playing in the early morning sun. Lions galore, and in particular, the one that may wander past your tent one night and roar under the blazing stars. The hosts of water birds by the streams, lakes, and rivers. The flat-topped acacia trees, ancient guardians of this windswept wilderness. The quiet. The Big Country. Knowing how small is your place in the interconnectedness of all things. And how privileged you are to be able to experience the wonder of it all.


If you want to see the wildebeest migration, visit December through July; if you want to see predators, June through October.

Serengeti National Park

Previous Map | Next Map | The Complete Guide to African Safaris Maps


The drive from Arusha to Serengeti is about eight hours or 325 km (202 miles). While there are places to refuel, breakdown facilities are virtually nonexistent. The roads outside of the cities are mostly dirt, and you’ll have a lot of potholes to contend with on many of them; a 4x4 vehicle would be best if you’re renting a car. While you can drive to the Serengeti from Arusha, Lake Manyara, Tarangire, or Ngorongoro Crater, we suggest flying in, as it’s quick, less of a headache, and gives you the sense of the scale of the landscape. There are scheduled and charter flights to the Serengeti from Arusha, Lake Manyara, and Mwanza. The flights are daily. A flight from Arusha to Serengeti South is an hour long, the flight from Dar es Salaam to Arusha is two hours. Most tour operators will arrange the flights for you, and lodges will be sure to have someone pick you up at the airstrip.


The route and timing of the wildebeest migration is unpredictable. With that said, you should allow at least three days to be assured of seeing the migration on your visit, longer if you’d like to see more interactions with predators.



Klein’s Camp.
$$$$ | This lovely little camp, named after the 1920s American big-game hunter Al Klein, is built on the crest of the Kuka Hills with 360-degree panoramic views. Because it lies just outside the national park on a 25,000-acre private conservancy leased from the local Ololosokwan community, you can go on unrestricted game drives and three-hour bush walks—night drives are particularly thrilling. A visit with your Maasai guide to his village will be another highlight. Stone and thatch cottages have en-suite bathrooms and a private veranda with great views over the Grumeti River valley. The separate dining and lounge area and very comfortable large bar have stunning views. Game is very good, especially along the river. Pros: great service and attention to detail; off-road game driving is allowed at this camp—not great for the environment but good to get up close to the animals. Cons: lodge electricity is powered by a generator that is switched off when the last guests go to bed, but battery-powered lamps are provided. | Rooms from: $1095 | Serengeti National Park | 27-11/809-4300 | www.andbeyond.com | 10 cottages | All-inclusive.

Sasakwa Lodge.
$$$$ | This is one of four camps (plus a private villa) in the Grumeti Reserve, a 350,000-acre concession in Serengeti’s Western Corridor. If you’re at all familiar with the Singita name, you’ll know it is associated with some of the most luxurious and elegant lodges in the Sabi Sands Private Reserve in South Africa. This superlative lodge, built in the style of a 1920s East African ranch house, adds more luster to the Singita name. You’ll stay in one of the honey-color stone cottages, each elegantly furnished with hand-carved furniture, cream and white throws, cushions, and lamps, and copies of antique animal prints lining the high walls. Need some downtime? Sit out on your patio or lawn and watch for game, luxuriate in your own heated pool, or laze in your lounge and listen to the state-of-the-art sound system. There are game drives here—the game is as good as it gets—but there is also horseback riding and mountain biking, all with an armed guard in attendance. Enjoy a massage before a fine dinner served with crystal and silver. Pros: wonderful views of the vast Serengeti plains; it’s part of the migration route; there is a wide range of exciting activities offered. Cons: the lodge is quite formal, but many may think that is a pro. | Rooms from: $1300 | Serengeti National Park | 021/683-3424 | www.singita.com | 9 cottages, 1 villa | All-inclusive.

Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge.
$$ | Situated high on a hill with superb views over the central Serengeti, the two-story thatch cottages are shaped like Masai huts and are set amongst indigenous trees. Each is individually decorated with handcrafted African furniture and colorful Africa-theme soft furnishings. If you need to unwind, head to your deck and gaze far out over the plains. You’ll get lost in your thoughts and the view. If you’re in a sociable mood, head to the huge bar and dining area, also rondavel-shaped, which is supported by tall pillars embellished with traditional Makonde (traditional Tanzanian) carvings. The food here is tasty and plentiful, and there’s a gorgeous horizon pool with another great view. All the Serengeti activities are an added cost, but it’s worth spending those extra pennies on an exclusive balloon safari and champagne breakfast. Pros: there are great views of the Serengeti from the lodge; the expanse of open plains make it ideal for hot-air ballooning. Cons: with 66 rooms, it’s larger than most safari lodges, giving it an impersonal feel; when the hotel is full you may have to wait in line for the buffet meal. | Rooms from: $370 | Serengeti National Park | 028/262-1507 | www.serenahotels.com | 66 rooms | All meals.


Faru Faru River Lodge.
$$$$ | The third camp in the Grumeti concession in Serengeti’s Western Corridor—it joins Sabora Plains Tented Camp and Sasakwa Lodge—is sprawling but intimate and is built in a contemporary style, with lots of stone, wood, and sand emphasizing the natural surroundings. It’s located under sycamore trees on a hill that overlooks a gorgeous pool, river, watering hole and the bush beyond. Suites, all with outdoor showers, are made out of stone and thatch, and are glass-fronted, allowing for expansive views of the water hole or river below. Buffalo, elephant, topi (an East African antelope), and giraffe all come to drink, as do predators, while black-and-white colobus monkeys scream and swing in the trees along the river. The Great Migration moves through the reserve between June and August, although there’s plenty of game all year round. Bird life is prolific with more than 400 species including lots of raptors. Viewing decks and public areas jut out over the rock pool and overlook the Grumeti River, making imaginative use of local stone and wooden poles; although the effect is rustic, there is nothing rustic about the elegantly furnished tents and superb service. Dine alone with your personal waiter in attendance, or mingle with the other guests and swap fireside stories after a day’s game-viewing. Pros: the service and personal attention are outstanding. Cons: sleeping under a tent, albeit a luxury tent, might not suit all tastes. | Rooms from: $925 | Serengeti National Park | 021/683-3424 | www.singita.com | 8 tented suites | All-inclusive.

Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp.
$$$$ | Situated on the banks of a Grumeti River tributary, this is one of the most exclusive tented camps in the Serengeti. En-suite tents are furnished much like you would see on the set of a Hollywood movie trying to do Africa chic. There are handmade wooden beds decorated with metal posts and bedheads, deep blue chairs with Ghanaian Kente (handwoven fabric from Ghana) cloth cushions, handblown Kenyan glass, colorful rugs, and woven tables. The service is flawless, and there’s an abundance of bird life and game with resident hippos munching outside the tents at night. This is &Beyond at its best. Pros: great for hippo-viewing as the lodge overlooks the banks of the river. Cons: outdoor showers can be a bit chilly in the early mornings. | Rooms from: $995 | Serengeti National Park | 27-11/809-4300 | www.andbeyond.com | 10 tents | All-inclusive.

Kirawira Luxury Tented Camp.
$$$$ | Turn back the clock and stay at a camp that any well-heeled Victorian traveler would have felt completely at home in. Colonial comfort meets Africa in this gorgeous tented camp overlooking the Western Corridor just west of Seronara. Kirawira is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, but that won’t surprise you as the elegant pioneer ambience—polished wooden floors, gleaming antique furniture, handmade patchwork bedspreads, copper urns, and shining brass lamps—wraps itself around you. Your spacious double en-suite tent faces the endless plains where you can go for exhilarating game-packed drives and guided walks. Venture farther afield to go fishing or sailing on Lake Victoria. A crocodile safari—brave souls go out at night to track and watch crocs—by the Grumeti River will be a highlight, as will your meals; the food here is some of the Serengeti’s finest and there’s an extensive selection of wines and spirits. Pros: friendly staff; great food; beautiful Victorian-theme camp. Cons: camp is a five-hour journey from the Ngorongoro Crater; tsetse flies can be a problem in this area. | Rooms from: $680 | Serengeti National Park | 028/262-1518 | www.serenahotels.com | 25 tents | All meals.

Sabora Plains Tented Camp.
$$$$ | It’s not often that you’ll stay in a marquee-shaped tent elegantly furnished with silk curtains, antique furniture, stylish African artifacts, and a/c, but that’s what you’ll get at this ultraluxurious camp set among green lawns adjacent to the Great Migration route. The game-abundant terrain ranges from open plains and rocky outcrops to riverine forest and woodlands in this 350,000-acre Grumeti concession in Serengeti’s western corridor. At night, glowing gas lamps transform the tents raised on polished wooden platforms into a bush fairyland, although the only winged creatures you see will be the night birds and the fluttering moths. For a soothing experience, have a spa treatment on your veranda as you gaze out at the never-ending plains. At night, enjoy the brilliance of the night sky before or after a superlative meal. Pros: wide, open spaces; archery, stargazing safaris, mountain biking, and tennis are all available. Cons: children under 10 years old can only be accommodated if the lodge is booked on an exclusive-use basis. | Rooms from: $925 | Serengeti National Park | 021/683-3424 | www.singita.com | 9 tents | All-inclusive.

Sayari Camp.
$$ | Overlooking the Mara River in Serengeti’s northwest, where the park borders Kenya’s Masai Mara National Park, this mid-sized tented camp is perfectly poised for watching the river crossing—hundreds of thousands of wildebeest plunge into the crocodile-infested water on their relentless journey north. The unforgettable sightings of this natural wonder of the world (between July and November) often exceed those of next-door Masai Mara. The spacious en-suite tents, with hot water safari showers and flush toilets, colorfully decorated with handwoven rugs and wall hangings, are only a few hundred meters away from the river. The Lamai Wedge, a nearby plain, is home to permanent spring-fed water and attracts thousands of antelope and other plains animals. Because this area of Serengeti is less visited than the west and south but still has an abundance of game and bird life, you may not see another vehicle—always a huge bonus. Get there before the word gets out—you’ll feel at the end of the world. Pros: the camp’s isolated location means you’ll have the game all to yourself; off-road driving is allowed on game drives in certain areas. Cons: as there are few trees on the plains you can see the other tents from your own. | Rooms from: $540 | Serengeti National Park | 027-21/418-0468 in Cape Town | www.asilialodges.com | 15 tents | All meals.

Serengeti Migration Camp.
$$$$ | Because this lovely camp is sited in northeast Serengeti among the rocky Ndasiata Hills, you won’t see as many vehicles as you would nearer Seronera in the center of the park, but the game is all here. It’s hard to believe that the accommodation is actually tented because it looks so luxurious. Spacious tents with hand-carved wooden furniture, big windowlike screens, en-suite bathroom, and a veranda facing the Grumeti River give you a ringside seat of the migration. The main areas with their deep leather chairs, sofas, handsome rugs, and elegant fittings seem more like a gentlemen’s club you’d find in London or Washington, D.C., than a tent. Game is good all year round, but when the migration passes through it is awesome. Take a guided game walk from the camp, laze at the pool, or catch up on your reading in the small library. Too fast paced for you? May we suggest sitting on your veranda to watch what’s happening game-wise in the surrounding wilderness. Food and service match the surroundings and accommodation in quality and style. Pros: 360-degree wooden deck veranda; complimentary laundry service. Cons: camp is about a three-hour trip from Central Serengeti; lots of steps may be a problem for people with mobility issues. | Rooms from: $745 | Serengeti National Park | 027/254-0630, 027/254-0630 | www.elewanacollection.com | 20 tents | All meals.


Nduara Loliondo.
$$$$ | If you want to do your own thing away from the big lodges and busy safari routes, then this small, intimate camp is for you. Taking up to 12 travelers at a time, the “seasonal mobile” camp is run by Nomad Tanzania, a fitting name for a company that specializes in moving you to the game at the right place at the right time. Put yourself in the expert hands of your guide, cooks, waiters, and camp attendants to experience a true old-style safari. Accommodation is in one of six comfortable yurts with hot bucket showers, eco-flush toilets that use environmentally friendly bio-digesters. There’s a lounge yurt, furnished with funky leather and hide furniture, colorful textiles, and deep sheepskin rugs, where you’ll get together at the end of a hot dusty day, and a separate dining yurt. Your own vehicle and knowledgeable driver-guide stays with you for the length of your safari, and you can choose to do what you want, where you want. After a day’s activities you’ll enjoy sipping a glass of chilled white wine by the roaring campfire as you relive your experiences. Nomad operates several mobile camps in Tanzania, but they do not take direct bookings or publish their rates, so you’ll need to contact your own safari operator for more information.Pros: as this camp is not located in the Serengeti park but on the outskirts, there is the freedom for game drives at night and bush walks; there is the opportunity for authentic Masai interaction. Cons: the migration will sometimes pass through but is not guaranteed in the Loliondo area; there are no credit-card facilities so bring cash if you want to tip the staff. | Rooms from: $825 | Serengeti National Park | www.nomad-tanzania.com | 6 tents | No credit cards | All meals.

Fodor’s Choice | Serengeti Under Canvas.
$$$$ | This &Beyond mobile camp follows the migration beginning (usually in March) in Serengeti’s south near Lake Ntutu on a small bluff with splendid acacia trees overlooking a small river. The camp stays put for a couple of months at a time and then moves northward with the herds. Comfortable walk-in tents (Tanzania’s largest mobile tents) with chandeliers that tinkle in the breeze (yes, there’s even electricity) have en-suite bucket showers, copper washbasins, a flush toilet, deep, comfortable beds with crisp linen and fluffy mohair blankets, Indian rugs, a dawn chorus of joyous birdsong, and an evening serenade of whooping hyenas with back vocals by softly calling lions. If you want to rough it in the bush, this is not your place, because you’ll be pampered at every turn. But you’re never cocooned away from the surrounding natural wonders. This is the most marvelous way to experience the migrations, the wonders of Serengeti and Africa. It’s certainly not cheap, but it is definitely worth every penny. Pros: an authentic safari experience; you won’t lift a finger; largest mobile walk-in tents in Tanzania. Cons: all this luxury and pampering will cost you. | Rooms from: $995 | Serengeti National Park | 27-11/809-4300 in Johannesburg | www.andbeyond.com | 9 tents | All-inclusive.


Kijereshi Tented Camp.
$ | This small budget camp, popular with independent travelers as well as those traveling in groups, lies on the western border of Serengeti. Furnished en-suite tents and bungalows are basic but comfortable, and there’s a good restaurant, bar, lounge, and pool. There’s also a campsite 1 km (½ mi) from the lodge with running hot water and Western-type toilets. Pros: affordable and comfortable. Cons: popular base for overlanders; just outside the park boundaries. | Rooms from: $200 | Serengeti National Park | 5 tents, 7 bungalows, 2 family units | No credit cards | All meals.

Seronera Wildlife Lodge.
$ | This big popular lodge is attractively located around huge rocks and boulders that are next to a number of water holes; it’s also plumb in the middle of Serengeti—an ideal place for superb wildlife-viewing. But don’t expect the levels of service and luxury you would get from some of the smaller, more exclusive camps. However, it’s cheap and cheerful, with small, rather drab en-suite rooms with king-size beds and big windows, and a cafeteria-style restaurant and bars that come alive in the evenings when the day’s game-viewing or ballooning experiences are shared. (You’re only five minutes from balloon lift-off here.) The food is hearty and wholesome with a tasty evening buffet, often accompanied by the snorts and harrumphing of the nearby hippos. You’ll certainly see lots of game at close quarters, but lots of other visitors and vehicles, too. Pros: good location in the middle of the Serengeti. Cons: the walls between the rooms are thin; the 75 rooms are old-fashioned accommodation blocks built in the 1970s. | Rooms from: $200 | Serengeti National Park | 027/254-4595 | www.hotelsandlodges-tanzania.com | 75 rooms | All meals.


A rest house at Seronera Park headquarters has basic accommodation with breakfast. There are several campsites in Serengeti, including six in the Seronera area, one each at Lobo and Kirawira, and one near the Ndabaka Gate. You don’t have to prebook; just show up with all your provisions, camping gear, and water. Facilities include a long-drop bathroom and, if you’re lucky, a cold shower. Unless you’re a hardcore camper, stick to the camps and lodges.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Ngorongoro Crater

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Where to Stay on the Crater Rim | Where to Stay in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Ngorongoro Crater ranks right up there among Africa’s must-visit wildlife destinations: Serengeti, Masai Mara, Etosha, Kruger Park, and the Okavango Delta. One of only three UNESCO World Heritage sites in Tanzania (together with the Serengeti and the Selous Game Reserve), the Crater is often called the Eighth Wonder of the World.

It lies in the Biosphere Reserve of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which covers 8,300 square km (3,204 square miles) in northern Tanzania. This reserve was specifically planned to accommodate both the traditional Masai communities and tourists. You’ll see Masai villagers grazing their sheep and cattle all over.

The Ngorongoro Crater lies in a cluster of other volcanoes (sometimes seen rather ominously smoking) that borders the Serengeti National Park to the north and west. It’s actually a collapsed volcano or caldera. The original volcano, which may have been higher than Kilimanjaro, collapsed in on itself over time and now forms a perfect basin. Once inside you’ll feel like you’re at the bottom of a deep soup bowl with very steep sides. The basin, measuring 18 km (11 miles) in diameter, lies 500 meters (1,640 feet) below the rim, which towers above it at about 2,200 meters (7,217 feet) above sea level.

Believed to have formed some 2 million years ago, the crater harbors an astonishing variety of landscapes—forests, peaks, craters, valleys, rivers, lakes, and plains—including the world-famous Olduvai Gorge, where some of our earliest human ancestors once hunted and gathered.

The very steep and bumpy drive into the crater begins high up in the forest. At dawn, thick mist drifts through the trees and visibility is next to nothing. Although this lush highland forest looks exactly like a rain forest, it’s not. It’s a mist forest, which depends on a regular and abundant amount of mist and drizzle. If you look closely enough, you’ll see particles of mist swirling like raindrops among the ancient trees. The aptly named pillarwood trees stand sentinel over the strangler figs, the croton trees, the highland bersama (a local evergreen), and purple wild tobacco flowers. The tree trunks and branches are home to thousands of epiphytes—specialized plants such as arboreal orchids and ferns—which cling to their hosts and absorb moisture with their own aerial roots. Look for the orchids among the curtains of Old Man’s Beard, or hanging tree moss.

Monkeys, bushbuck, bush pigs, and elephants frequent the forest, although it’s unlikely you’ll see them. What you’ll see if you’re staying in one of the crater lodges are well-mown lawns, which aren’t the result of hardworking gardeners but that of zebras and buffaloes, which after dark seek sanctuary from predators here. It’s not dogs you hear barking after sundown but the warning calls of vigilant zebras and baboons. The crater floor, dominated by a huge flamingo-filled alkaline lake, holds the highest concentration of predators in the world—lions, hyenas, jackals, and leopards. Cheetahs can occasionally be seen but fall prey to lions and hyena, which the nervous and fragile cheetah is no match for. Big herds of plains game such as Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle, impala, giraffe, zebra, and wildebeest are easy meat for the thoroughly spoiled predators that need to expend very little energy to score a megameal. You’ll probably see at least one pride of bloated lions lying on their backs, paws in air, stuffed and totally damaging their noble image as the King of Beasts. Make sure you ask your guide to point out a black or white rhino if he spots one. This is also a great place to take a boat safari down one of the hippo-dense rivers.

Bird life is also spectacular with some endemic species: the Rufous-tailed weaver, Schalow’s wheatear, and large flocks of the incredibly beautiful crowned cranes. Because this is a continuous killing ground, you’ll quickly become a vulture expert. If you’re a birder, ask for a guide who knows his birds well because not all the guides do.


Avoid April and May as these months are particularly wet in the crater. Because there’s no restriction on the number of vehicles, there can be far more than a hundred at one time in the high season (January to the end of September. It’s amazing to have a close-up encounter with some of Africa’s finest game, but not if you’re surrounded by other vehicles and often very noisy, boisterous tourists. It’s best to go down as early as possible (the gates open at 6 am) to avoid the later traffic jams. But the crater is a once-in-a-lifetime experience so grit your teeth, ignore all the other tourists, and enjoy one of the world’s most spectacular destinations.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Previous Map | Next Map | The Complete Guide to African Safaris Maps


Ngorongoro is about 180 km (112 miles) from Arusha by road. You can also fly into the crater rim airstrip or Ndutu Lodge airstrip. Tour operators can arrange your transfer in advance.


Entrance fees increase all the time, but in 2012 it cost US$50 per person to enter the Ngorongoro Conservation area, and US$200 for a car. TIP You can pay in both USD and TSH, but USD is preferred, as it’s a more stable currency. Sometimes, paying in dollars can actually be cheaper by a dollar or two as well.

Packing Be prepared for thick early-morning mist all year round, which makes it quite chilly. Be sure to pack warm clothes.



Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.
$$$$ | Imagine walking into a Hollywood film set where the spectacular setting is literally “Great Zimbabwe ruins meets SS Titanic baroque.” Clusters of stilted rooms with woven conical banana-leaf domes and fancifully carved stone chimneys cling to the crater’s rim and somehow blend in with the natural surroundings. Your palatial abode has polished wooden floors, leather armchairs, and a dramatic mix of furniture and styles, including crystal chandeliers and hand-wrought local lamps. Ceiling-high swaths of silk taffeta drapes frame a small veranda with some of the world’s most awesome views. Hand-carved doors lead to a massive bathroom with fresh-cut roses, a freestanding tub, and a tessellated tile shower straight out of a Roman villa. The main dining room has a 1920s ocean liner stateroom feel, but the adjacent lounge comes straight from an old English country house. It’s a daring, glamorous mix of competing styles and themes that somehow works. Pros: beautiful views over the Crater; iPod docks, a fireplace, and a hairdryer in the rooms. Cons: crater can be crowded with vehicles in peak season. | Rooms from: $1500 | Ngorongoro Crater | 27-11/809-4300 in Johannesburg | www.andbeyond.com | 30 rooms | All-inclusive.

The Cradle of Humankind

If you have a great interest in evolution and human origins, Olduvai Gorge, a World Heritage Site, is a definite must. It’s about a 90-minute drive from the Ngorongoro Crater and is accessible only via a badly maintained road. The gorge, about 48 km (30 miles) long, is part of the Great Rift Valley, which stretches along East Africa. It has played a key role in palaeoanthropologists’ understanding of the history of humanity by providing clues dating from about 2.5 million years ago. There’s a small museum at the Gorge, but it doesn’t really do justice to the magnitude of fossil discoveries made here.

Locals actually call Olduvai “Oldupai,” which is the Masai name for a sisal plant, Sansevieria ehrenbergii, which grows all over in the area. The view overlooking the gorge is spectacular, but be aware that visitors aren’t allowed to visit the gorge itself. If you’re short on time, it may not be worth your while, especially as entry in 2012 was US$18. It’s all a rather makeshift affair, and the guides aren’t all fluent in English, so you may struggle to understand explanations inevitably filled with the Latin names of fossils.

Archaeological rock stars like the Leakey family have made some of these important discoveries:

· Paranthropus boisei dating back 2.5 million years. These hominids had massive jaws and large, thickly enameled molars suitable for crushing tough vegetation. Their bite was several times more powerful than that of modern humans.

· The first specimens of Homo habilis, which lived about 2 million to 1.6 million years ago. This is the earliest known named species of the Homo genus. Scientists believe that Homo habilis was one of the first hominid species that could make and use stone tools, enhancing our ancestors’ adaptability and chances of long-term survival.

· The world’s oldest stone tools dated about 2 million years old, which are very primitive—basically just crude tools fashioned from pebbles.

By Tara Turkington

Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge.
$$ | Imagine a medieval keep set deep into a hillside on the rim of an ancient volcano, surrounded by tropical rain forest. Imagine hand-built walls of russet-colored river stones, winding corridors, heavy wooden doors, and bushman paintings on cream interior walls. Imagine a tiled balcony overlooking one of the most famous and awesome views in the world. This is Serena Ngorongoro Safari Lodge. Built so unobtrusively to fit in with the natural surroundings, it’s hard to spot the lodge even from the nature trails that winds around it. All the rooms have superb views overlooking the crater, and when you come back exhausted and exhilarated from your fill of one of the most amazing animal spectacles on earth, you’ll still want to sit and gaze out at the mountain-ringed caldera, the vast herds roaming the plains, and the pink masses of flamingos on the water’s edge. Your room has lots of hanging and storage space, polished wooden floors, earth-toned soft furnishings, comfortable beds and a big bathroom with his and her basins, a shower that a family of Thomson’s gazelles could take refuge in, a wooden desk and chair, and old-fashioned lamps that look straight out of a colonial governor’s residence. After the early morning mist has cleared, enjoy further spectacular views from the split-level bar and dining room where the food is wholesome and hearty. The whole place speaks of comfort with a classy, authentic bush ambience. Pros: location, location, location; close to crater entrance; nightly Masai dancing. Cons: most often cold and misty in morning; no safe in room; lots and lots of stairs that might challenge the less than nimble; a long, tiring ride on bad roads into and out of the crater (but that’s true of all the crater lodges). | Rooms from: $370 | Ngorongoro Crater | 027/254-5555, 027/253-7053 | www.serenahotels.com | 75 rooms | All meals.

Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge.
$$$ | The best thing about this acceptable but rather shabby lodge on the eastern edge of the crater is the spectacular sunset views from the bar lounge, the dining room, the gardens, swimming pool, and some of the guest rooms. Not all the rooms have great views, however, so try for a room on the top floor in the higher numbers. Some rooms in the lower level have no view at all. Rooms are big with simple but outdated furnishings and dim lighting—regard it as 1970s retro and then it becomes fun. Hot water is only available at certain hours, so check with the desk when you arrive. The public areas where you meet up with your safari guides each morning are big and noisy until the safaris leave. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, stay behind and just enjoy the views. Food is plentiful and varied, and the hotel has a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere and friendly staff. If you’re a birder, you will particularly enjoy the lodge’s forested grounds full of many different species. A bonus is the lodge’s private ascent and descent road, which takes hours off traveling into the crater. Pros: wonderful views down into the Crater; heaters and hot-water bottles can be provided if you get cold; free internet. Cons: large lodge, and the number of guests makes it impersonal; rooms lacking in charm. | Rooms from: $470 | Ngorongoro Crater | 027/250-0630, 027/250-0639 | www.sopalodges.com | 96 rooms | All meals.

Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge.
$ | The first lodge to be built in the Ngorongoro Crater, it still retains a rather 1970s government feel with its natural stone and wood buildings and sparsely furnished motel-like rooms. En-suite bathrooms may have old-fashioned fittings but the water is hot, and all the rooms have huge floor-to-ceiling windows with views over the fever-tree forest and crater floor that more than compensate for the Spartan interiors. The public areas also retain the 1970s ambience, but you’re not going to be sitting around for long, so who needs luxury? The food is unmemorable but palatable, and the friendly staff will organize your game-viewing excursions to the crater floor (not included in quoted price). If you’re into archaeology and the evolution of humankind, then a day visit to the Olduvai Gorge is a must, plus to nearby Laetoli, where hominid footprints are preserved in volcanic rock 3.6 million years old. Pros: spectacular views of the crater floor from the lodge and your room. Cons: large lodge can feel a bit impersonal. | Rooms from: $240 | Ngorongoro Crater | 027/254-4595, 027/254-4807 | www.hotelsandlodges-tanzania.com | 80 rooms | Breakfast.



Gibbs Farm.
$$ | If it weren’t for the profusion of flowering plants and trees and sunny weather, you could believe yourself in an English country house at this working organic coffee farm midway between Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater. The 1929 farmhouse has managed to retain its old-fashioned charm with a wide veranda, intimate lounges, inviting reading nooks, and a bar and dining room that look much as they must have done almost 100 years ago. Small but luxurious guest cottages with en-suite bathrooms are scattered throughout the gardens and provide a perfect base to explore the crater and Lake Manyara National Park, as well as a perfect respite from exhilarating game drives. Expect delicious home-cooked food served with organic veggies and fruit from the farm’s own gardens. The coffee is superb. Take advantage of the Masai health and beauty treatments developed by a third-generation Masai healer at the farm’s Living Spa in the Oseru Forest Clinic. Pros: farm atmosphere; home-grown, organic vegetables and coffee; management dedicated to sustaining the land and supporting the nearby communities. Cons: the very bumpy road to the crater will take roughly an hour. | Rooms from: $406 | Ngorongoro Crater | 027/253-4397 | www.gibbsfarm.net | 20 rooms | All meals.

Ngorongoro Farm House.
$$ | Once the home and coffee plantation of a 19th-century German settler, this beautifully renovated property facing the Oldeani volcano now consists of three camps of 50 spacious cottages (20 suites and 30 standard rooms) built and decorated in old colonial style. Cottages and the thatch-roof main farmhouse are set in lovely gardens only 5 km (3.1 miles) from the Ngorongoro Lolduare gate. You’ll sleep in a large, airy bedroom with an en-suite bathroom and veranda. The main farmhouse has a bar, library, restaurant, and lounge. The food is delicious and uses lots of organic vegetables and herbs from the farm’s own gardens. If you’re looking for some downtime, spend some time by the pool or just wander round the gardens and spot birds. Excursions include trips to the crater and conservation area as well as face-to-face encounters with local communities (not included in the quoted price). Pros: home cooking using fresh, farm-produced dairy and vegetables year-round; cell reception; fireplace in the suites. Cons: rooms look a little lackluster from the outside; some are far from main lodge, making it less appealing to mobility-impaired people. | Rooms from: $335 | Ngorongoro Crater | 255/73-297-5347 | www.tanganyikawildernesscamps.com | 50 rooms | All meals.

Plantation Lodge.
$ | Traditional Africa meets contemporary classic in the stylish interiors of this exquisite lodge set in established gardens amid coffee plantations only 4 km (2½ miles) from the Ngorongoro Crater. Cottages are furnished in a clean, uncluttered style that employs African motifs, prints, and artifacts complemented by the creams, browns, and whites of the soft furnishings, the wooden furniture, and terra-cotta tiled floors. Beautiful en-suite tiled bathrooms continue the theme of space and light, as do the public areas where you can dine in style at a massive long wooden table with your fellow guests, or have a romantic candlelit dinner à deux in the garden or on your private veranda. Food is homegrown and tastily prepared, and there’s a list of good South African wines. The lodge can arrange your daily activities; neither is included in the quoted price. The lodge has many repeat guests and the guestbook echoes the word Paradise written over and over again. Pros: this is a small lodge so you will have a bit of peace and quiet; fireplace in each room. Cons: an hour’s drive from the crater. | Rooms from: $210 | Ngorongoro Crater | 027/253-4405 | www.plantation-lodge.com | 16 rooms | All meals.


Olduvai Tented Camp.
$$ | You’ll have the opportunity to go walking on the plains of the south Serengeti with genuine Masai warriors at this mid-priced camp. Built around a large kopje (rocky outcrop) just south of the Serengeti border in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the camp is operated in partnership with the local Masai. It’s the only camp in the Olduvai Gorge and is only a 40-minute drive from the Ngorongoro Crater. The game is particularly abundant December through May, and guests have been kept awake all night during the migration by the snuffling and snorting of thousands of wildebeest. Tents have concrete floors and thatch roofs with fully functioning bathrooms. Two thatch rondavels serve as lounge and restaurant, and there’s an open fire pit where you can spend quality time with the authentic Masai guides or reminisce after the day’s activities, which can include a variety of superb walking safaris, game drives, or a trip to the Olduvai museum. All activities are included. Pros: closest camp to the Olduvai Gorge; benefits the local community. Cons: no Internet; camera batteries can’t be charged in the rooms. | Rooms from: $270 | Ngorongoro Crater | 888/487-5418 in the U.S. | www.africatravelresource.com | 17 tents | No credit cards | All-inclusive.


There’s a very busy campsite about 2 km (1.2 miles) from Crater Village near the park’s headquarters, but it’s overcrowded (up to 200 tents at a time) with few or no facilities. It also can get bitterly cold at night. It’s advised that you save your pennies and stay at a lodge.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Lake Manyara National Park

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Where to Stay

In the Great Rift Valley south of Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater lies the Cinderella of Tanzania’s parks—the often overlooked and underrated Lake Manyara National Park. When Ernest Hemingway faced the rusty-red rocks of the almost 2,000-foot-high rift valley escarpment that dominates the park, he called it “the loveliest place I have seen in Africa.”

Lake Manyara National Park is small, stretching only some 330 square km (127 square miles) along the base of the escarpment with two-thirds of its surface taken up by shallow alkaline Lake Manyara. This serene flat lake is one of the so-called Rift Lakes, which stretch like jewels along the floor of the Rift Valley.

The park may be small, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in diversity. Its range of ecosystems at different elevations makes for dramatic differences in scenery. At one moment you’re traveling through a fairy-tale forest (called groundwater forest) of tumbling, crystal-clear streams, waterfalls, rivers, and ancient trees; the next you’re bumping over flat, grassy plains that edge the usually unruffled lake, pink with hundreds of flamingos.

In the deep forest where old tuskers still roam, blue monkeys swing among huge fig and tamarind trees, giant baobabs, and mahoganies, using their long tail as an extra limb. They’ve got orange eyes, roman noses, and wistful expressions. In the evenings as motes of dusty sunlight dance in the setting sun, there’s an excellent chance of spotting troops of more than 300 olive baboons (better looking and furrier than their chacma cousins) sitting in the road, grooming each other, chatting, and dozing, while dozens of naughty babies play around them and old granddaddies look on with knowing eyes.

The thick, tangled evergreen forest eventually gives way to woodlands with tall, flat-topped acacias and fever trees, and finally to open plains where hundreds of elephants, buffalo, and antelope roam, accompanied by Masai giraffes so dark they look as if they’ve been dipped in chocolate. This is a great place to see hippos at close hand as they lie on the banks of the lake, or as they begin to forage as dusk approaches. The park is known for its tree-climbing lions, which aren’t common to see, but you can be sure if one vehicle glimpses them then the “bush telegraph” (ranger walkie-talkie chatter) will quickly reach your truck, too. No one really knows why they climb and roost in trees, but it’s been suggested by one former warden of the park that this unusual behavior probably started during a fly epidemic when the cats climbed high to escape the swarms of biting flies on the ground. He suggests that the present ongoing behavior is now part of their collective memory.

If you’re a birder then put this park on your must-visit list. Because of the great variety of habitats, there’s a great variety of birds; more than 400 species have been recorded. As you drive through the forest you’ll hear the Silvery-cheeked hornbills long before you see them flapping noisily in small groups among the massive trees, braying loudly as they fly. The edges of the lake as well as its placid surface attract all manner of water birds large and small. Along the reed-fringed lakeshore you’ll see huge pink clouds drifting to and fro. These “clouds” are flocks of flamingos. White-backed pelicans paddle through the water as the ubiquitous African fish eagles soar overhead. Other water birds of all kinds congregate—waders, ducks, geese, storks, spoonbills, egrets, and herons. In the thickets at the base of the red escarpment overlooking the lake, which angles up dramatically at 90 degrees, watch out for Nubian woodpeckers, the very pretty and aptly named Silver birds (flycatchers), Superb, Ashy, and Hildebrand’s starlings, Yellow wagtails, trilling cisticolas, Red-cheeked cordon bleus, Peter’s twinspots, Bluenecked mousebirds, and every cuckoo imaginable. The Red-and-yellow barbet is known as the “bed-and-breakfast bird” for its habit of living where it eats—in termite mounds. The park is also a raptor’s paradise, where you can spot up to 51 daytime species, including dozens of Augur Buzzards, small hawks, and harriers. Deep in the forest you might be lucky enough to see Africa’s most powerful eagle, the crowned eagle, which is strong enough to carry off young antelope, unwary baboons, and monkeys. At night listen for up to six different kinds of owls, including the Giant Eagle owl and the diminutive but very vocal African Scops owl.


During the dry season (May-October), it’s easier to see the larger mammals and track their movements because there’s less foliage. The wet season (November-April) is a great time for bird-watching, glimpsing amazing waterfalls, and canoeing.

Lake Manyara

Previous Map | Next Map | The Complete Guide to African Safaris Maps


You can get here by road, charter, or scheduled flights from Arusha, or en route to Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. The entrance gate to Lake Manyara National Park lies 1½ hours or 126 km (80 miles) west of Arusha along a newly surfaced road. There are daily flights that are 20 minutes from Arusha. Your safari operator or lodge can help you organize your transfers.


Entry fees for Lake Manyara National Park are US$35 per person. You can get a good map and a bird checklist at the park’s headquarters at the gate as you drive in from Mto Wa Mbu. TIP You can pay in both USD and TSH, but USD is preferred, as it’s a more stable currency.



Lake Manyara Serena Lodge.
$$$$ | Although not situated in the actual park, this lodge scores major points for its breathtaking views. On the edge of the escarpment overlooking the lake, the cluster of comfortably furnished en-suite double-story rondavels celebrates the area’s legendary bird life with its avian theme of sweeping cone-shaped thatch roofs and interior brightly colored “winged” frescoes. A stream that attracts all kinds of bird life runs through the property. Another big bonus for this attractive but not very private lodge is the program of varied activities. You can choose from a microlite plane ride to look at the Great Rift Valley from 1,500 feet up; take an hour-long gentle nature walk; or if you’re more energetic, hike in the forest and clamber over rivers, navigate thickly forested hillsides, and get spectacular views over the lake. Exhilarating mountain-bike rides take you down the Rift Valley escarpment and to the lakeshore. A very special outing is a village walk to the nearby town of Mto wa Mbu, which is home to more than 100 different tribes, although estimates vary according to whom you’re talking with. However many there are, it’s certain that there are dozens of different languages being spoken—this is apparently one of the richest linguistic mixes in Africa. You’ll visit individual homes, a school, a church, and the market and end up at a banana-leaf bar with a fruit tasting. Pros: lovely infinity pool and rooms with views over the lake; two rooms are wheelchair-friendly. Cons: the lodge is large so can feel impersonal; there’s a charge for the Internet. | Rooms from: $615 | Lake Manyara National Park | 027/253-9162, 027/254-5555 | www.serenahotels.com | 54 rooms | All meals.

Lake Manyara Tree Lodge.
$$$$ | The 10 tree houses of the camp are cradled in the boughs of giant mahogany trees. It’s a Swiss Family Robinson setting without the DIY aspect. You’ll be greeted at forest-floor-level entrance by an array of upturned wooden canoes before climbing up to the main areas built under ancient branches heavy with foliage, fruit, and flowers. Your huge wooden thatch bedroom decorated with looped ropes of palm fronds has its own lounge area and en-suite bathroom where you can relax in a bubble bath as birds flit past the big window. Take time to sit on your wooden deck suspended above the forest floor as old elephants browse beneath you and tumultuous birdsong fills the air. There’s fine dining by soft gas lamps as owls call. Bush picnics, game drives, and bird-watching trips are all part of the memorable experience at this enchanting camp. Pros: stay in a treehouse; there’s a chance of seeing the famous Manyara tree-climbing lions when out on a game drive (not into your treehouse, though!); the long ride to the lodge from the air strip is treated as a game drive so you could see some amazing animals on the way. Cons: lodge is a three-hour drive from the Manyara airstrip on a bumpy road. | Rooms from: $1095 | Lake Manyara National Park | 27-11/809-4300 in Johannesburg | www.andbeyond.com | 10 rooms | All-inclusive.


Fodor’s Choice | Kirurumu Manyara Lodge.
$ | The 27 secluded double tents of this highly regarded, intimate camp set among indigenous bush high on the escarpment will make you feel much closer to Africa than some of the bigger lodges. Spacious thatch-roof tents, each with its own veranda, are built on wooden platforms with great views overlooking Lake Manyara. Gaily decorated with animal-motif furnishings, woven straw mats, and carved bedside lamps, all tents have an en-suite bathroom with flush toilet and ceramic hand basins. Larger family tents are also available. Known for its excellent food and friendly service, the camp is an ideal base for game drives in the park, mountain biking, hiking, and bird-watching. For something very special go fly-camping in the forest, but fix this with the lodge in advance. After an action-packed day, sip your sundowner in the attractive open-sided bar before enjoying a memorable meal in the restaurant with stunning views over the Rift Valley floor.Pros: plenty of room for families; lovely view over the Rift Valley and Lake Manyara; coffee-making facilities in the rooms. Cons: bumpy 6-km (4-mile) drive to the camp; no mosquito nets. | Rooms from: $207 | Lake Manyara National Park | 027/250-7011, 027/250-7541 | www.kirurumu.net | 27 tents | All meals.


Migunga Tented Camp.
$$ | The main attraction of this secluded bush camp, apart from its reasonable price, is its location in an indigenous forest just 2 km (1 mile) from the town of Mto wa Mbu and only five minutes from the entrance of Lake Manyara National Park. En-suite tents with hot-water showers are basic and comfortable, and meals are included in the price. There’s a pleasant bar and restaurant, and the staff will arrange game drives and other activities for you. TIP Reservations are made through tour operators only. Pros: located in a beautiful fever-tree forest; camp has a laid-back atmosphere; only about a 15-minute drive to the park entrance. Cons: camp is outside Lake Manyara Park. | Rooms from: $257 | Lake Manyara National Park | 027/250-6315, 027/754-324193 mobile phone | www.moivaro.com | 21 tents | All meals.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Mount Kilimanjaro

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Trekking Kili

By Debra Bouwer

Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano on the roof of Africa, is one of the closest points in the world to the sun (Chimborazo in the Andes is the closest). It’s also the highest peak on the continent and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. So great is her global attraction that approximately 12,000 people from around the world attempt to reach her mighty summit each year.

Rising to an incredible height of 5,895 meters (19,336 feet) above sea level, Mt. Kilimanjaro is a continental icon. She towers over the surrounding Amboseli plains and covers an area of about 750 square km (290 square miles). On a clear day, she can be seen from 150 km (93 miles) away. Thousands attempt to reach Kilimanjaro’s highest peak, but only about 64% will officially make the summit, known as Uhuru Peak. Many reach the lower Stella Point at 5,745 meters (18,848 feet) or Gilmans’ Point, at 5,681 meters (18,638 feet), which earns them a certificate from the Kilimanjaro Parks Authority.

The origin of the name Kilimanjaro has varying interpretations. Some say it means “Mountain of Greatness,” while others believe it to mean “Mountain of Caravans.” There’s a word in Swahili, kilima, which means “top of the hill.” An additional claim is that it comes from the word kile­makyaro, which, in the Chagga language, means “impossible journey.” Whatever the meaning, the visual image of Kilimanjaro is of a majestic peak.


The warmest, clearest trekking days are mid-December to February or Septem­ber and October. June, July, and August are superb trekking months too, but evening temperatures tend to be colder. The wettest months are November, early December, April, and the start of May, which brings some snow. Daytime temperatures range from 28˚C (85˚F) to 38˚C (100˚F) in the forest, but plummet to a frigid -2˚C (28˚F) to -16˚C (3˚F) at the summit. Generally, with every 200 meters ascended, the temperature drops on degree.

Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park

Previous Map | Next Map | The Complete Guide to African Safaris Maps


KLM has 17 direct flights a week to Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO) from Amsterdam; Kenya Airways has a number of daily flights from Nairobi; and Precision Air also has daily flights from Dar es Salaam. You can also fly direct to Zanzibar from here. Kilimanjaro Airport is located 45 km (28 miles) from Moshi and 50 km (31 miles) from Arusha, and it may be cheaper to fly to Arusha instead, so check before you book. Traveling overland is even cheaper but involves long journeys: a shuttle bus from Nairobi takes five or six hours, and from Dar es Salaam to Arusha or Moshi is seven to eight hours.

Kilimanjaro Tips

Choose an operator that’s registered, has registered guides, has porters’ interests at heart, and an environmental policy.

Communicate any health problems to your tour operator when you book.

Choose your route according to what you want: scenery, challenge, type of accommodation, and size of group.

For a quiet climb on a well-traveled route, avoid the full moon, as this is when the summit is the busiest.

Train about two months before you leave—this also helps to “train your brain” that you’re heading off for a challenge. Squats, lunges, and lots of hill walking with a pack are essential.

Read up on altitude sickness and symptoms and take the necessary medication with you. Add a day to get acclimated if possible or consider climbing Mt. Meru first.

Drink 3-5 liters of water a day. The rule is 1 liter per 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) ascent.

Take only photos; leave only footprints.


Kilimanjaro is one of the few high peaks in the world that can be climbed without any technical gear. Most climbers head up her flanks with the aid of trekking poles, while others abandon their poles for a camera and a zoom lens. However, don’t be fooled by the absence of technical gear. Oxygen levels near the summit decrease to about 60% of levels at the coast. A simple act of rolling up a sleeping bag can wear you out. Walking and ascending slowly will help your body adapt to these diminished oxygen levels. About 12,000 thrill seekers arrive on the mountain each year, each accompanied by an entourage of four to six people that include porters, guides, and a cook.


Most treks head out from Moshi, a bustling town at the mountain’s base whose streets are lined with tourist stalls, tailors, banks, and restaurants. Here you’ll find registered guides and accredited trekking companies that will arrange your climb. We like Nomadic Adventure (www.nomadicadventures.co.za) because they offer great personal service, have climbed the mountain many times themselves, and get involved in the big Kilimanjaro Cleanup, a project that hauls thousands of pounds of waste off the mountain each year.


There are eight routes to the summit: Marangu, Rongai, Shira, Lemosho, Machame, Umbwe, and the Northern Circuit—all have long drop toilets.

1 Marangu is the shortest (it takes a minimum of five days) and thus the most popular route, with accommodations in huts equipped with bunk beds, public dining areas, and flush toilets. Some even have solar-heated showers. The other routes, which take at least six days to trek, require camping.

2 Rongai (or Loitokitok) is the quietest as it heads out close to the Kenyan border, a far distance from Moshi. Along with Marangu, Rongai is classified as an easier route.

3 Shira, 4 Lemosho, and 5 Machame are steep and difficult, but also more scenic as they head through the distinct geographical zones: forest, shrub land, alpine desert, and snowfields.

6 Umbwe is the steepest, but also the most direct ascent to the summit.

7 Mweka can only be used as a descending route from the western side.

The Northern Circuit takes eight or nine days through wilderness and there’s little foot traffic. It’s also the only route to cross the Northern face.


Mount Kilimanjaro has five different types of terrain that you’ll encounter while trying to reach the summit.

Cultivated Farmlands: Around the outskirts of Moshi near the base of the mountain are endless subsistence planta­tions of maize and banana. Small villages line the routes up to the various starting points on Kilimanjaro, and small children play in the fields.

Forests: The forest zone spreads around the base of the mountain; it’s hot, humid, and generally wet. Start­ing at about 1,798 meters (5,900 feet)—there’s cultivated farmland below this—the forest reaches up to 2,800 meters (9,186 feet) and is home to a myriad of small creatures and primates, including the black-and-white colobus monkey. Tall trees reach for the sunlight, their feet firmly anchored into a maze of roots on which cling mosses and brightly colored flowers including the rare and exotic impatiens kilimanjari flower, unique to this mountain. Lichens hang in sheets and small birds dart to and fro.

Shrubland or Heath Zone: At the edge of the forest zone, the vegetation suddenly changes to shrubland that’s full of flowers, shrubs like the 6-meter- (20-feet-) high erica arborea, and daisy bushes that grow as big as pompoms. This zone extends up to about 3,800 meters (12,467 feet) where the landscape turns into alpine desert.

Alpine Desert: As the shrubs of the heath zone dimin­ish in size, one enters the alpine desert, full of gnarled volcanic lava rock. Small burrows shelter the hyrax and field mice that eke out a living in this desert moon­scape. Large white-naped ravens scavenge among the sand and stone.

Glaciers and Summit: As the desert rises to 5,000 meters (16,404 feet), the summit of the mountain looms above, her flanks covered in ashen scree. Massive age-old glaciers, hang­ing as though suspended in time, are slowly receding as the planet warms. Here among these towering blocks of ice at 5,895 meters (19,340 feet), is Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Selous Game Reserve

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Where to Stay

Most visitors come away from Selous (sel-oo) Game Reserve acknowledging that this is Africa as it is—not as tourism has made it. The reserve is one of seven World Heritage sites in Tanzania. A true untamed wilderness, the reserve covers 50,000 square km (19,305 square miles) and comprises 5% of Tanzania. Selous Game Reserve is the largest national park in Africa and the second largest in the world.

Only Greenland National Park at 972,000 square km (375,398 square miles), which is larger than England and France combined, beats Selous. Selous is still arguably the biggest area of protected pristine wilderness left in Africa, but keep in mind that most of it is off-limits to tourists. The reserve is bisected from west to east by Tanzania’s biggest river, the Rufiji, and only the area north of the river is open to visitors. So although it’s teeming with game, it forms only about 5% of the total park.

The other 95% is mainly leased to hunting concessions. Hunting is still a very contentious issue, and although both sides passionately argue a plausible case, it’s hard for many people to accept that shooting some of Africa’s most beautiful and precious animals just for fun is ethically acceptable. However, hunting is under strict government control, and half of each substantial hunting fee is put back into the management and conservation of the reserve. It’s possible that without this money the Selous would not exist, and rampant poaching would take over.

The visitor area of Selous north of the Rufiji River stretches for about 1,000 square km (386 square miles) and has great game-viewing and bird-watching opportunities. The fact that there are very few lodges adds to the area’s exclusivity. These are along and beside the Rufiji River, which rises in Tanzania’s highlands, then flows 250 km (155 miles) to the Indian Ocean. The Rufiji boasts the highest water-catchment area in East Africa. A string of five small lakes—Tagalala, Manze, Nzerekea, Siwando, and Mzizimia—interlinked by meandering waterways, gives the area the feel of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The bird life—more than 400 recorded species—is prolific, as are the huge crocodiles and lumbering hippos.

There are major advantages to visiting this park. First, although tourist numbers are now creeping up, there’s little chance that you’ll be game-viewing in the middle of a bunch of noisy vehicles.

Another major draw is that much of your game-viewing and bird-watching will be done from the water. Because Selous is a game reserve, not a national park, a larger range of activities is permitted, so you can walk, camp, and go on a boat safari. There’s nothing quite like watching a herd of elephants showering, playing, and generally having fun as you sit in a boat in the middle of a lake or river. As you watch, lots of other game including buffalo and giraffe will also amble down to the banks to quench their thirst. If giraffes are your favorite animals, Selous will delight you because it’s one of the few places in Africa where you can see big herds of up to 50.

Another Selous bonus, especially if you’ve been bouncing about in a game vehicle for days in other parks, is that you can walk in the Selous, not alone but with an armed ranger. Although the game can be skittish as it’s not as habituated as in Serengeti or Ngorongoro, walking through the bush or beside a river is a rare opportunity to get up close with nature, and you never know what’s around the next corner. Your lodge will organize a short three-hour walk, or if you want to camp out in the bush, an overnight safari.

Selous still has a major problem with poaching, which decimated the elephant population and all but made the biggest herd of black rhinos in the world extinct. In the 1980s the number of black rhinos, previously estimated at 3,000, fell alarmingly to almost none. Today, thanks to the efforts of international and local conservation organizations, the black rhino has been pulled back from almost certain extinction to approximately 150 individuals, and, together with other game numbers, is increasing all the time. There are now approximately 65,000 elephant, 8,000 sable antelope, and an estimated 50,000 puku antelope, but you’ll be lucky to see either sable or puku as they tend to stick to the thick bush or inaccessible areas of the park. What you almost certainly will see is the endangered African wild dog. Selous has up to 1,300 individuals in several wide-ranging packs: double that of any other African reserve. Three packs range north of the Rufiji, so there’s a good chance of spotting these “painted wolves,” especially from June to August when they’re denning and stay put for a few months.

Selous is a birder’s mecca with more than 400 species. Along the river with its attendant baobab trees and borassus palms, expect to see different species of herons from the aptly named Greenback heron to the Malagasy squacco heron, which winters here. Storks, skimmers, and little waders of all kinds dig in the mud and shallow water, while at dusk you may get a glimpse of the rare orange-colored Pel’s Fishing Owl, which screeches like a soul in torment. In summer, flocks of hundreds of brightly colored Carmine bee-eaters flash crimson along the banks where they nest in holes, and kingfishers of all kinds dart to and fro.


June to October is the best time to visit, as it’s the driest. During the long rains from February to May most of the camps aren’t accessible, and many roads are impassable.

Selous Game Reserve

Previous Map | Next Map | The Complete Guide to African Safaris Maps


The best way to get to Selous is by charter or scheduled flight from Dar es Salaam or Arusha. Arusha to Selous is a three-hour flight, Dar es Salaam to Arusha is a two-hour flight. There’s also the option of getting there by road from Dar es Salaam, which will take eight hours. However, it’s recommended that you fly, especially between February and April, when the road conditions can become very bad because of the rainy season. Your operator or lodge should be able to help you arrange your transportation.

If you’re brave enough to go it alone in the park, you’ll need a 4x4 and very good driving skills. Permits cost US$50 per person per day, although this price fluctuates. If you’re camping, you’ll be required to hire an armed guard. You can also hire a guide for about US$20 per day. TIP You can pay in both USD and TSH, but USD is preferred, as it’s a more stable currency.



Beho Beho.
$$$$ | Regarded by many safari aficionados as being one of the best in East Africa for its accommodation, superb views over the floodplains, fine dining, and impeccable service, this ultraluxurious camp was the first to be built in the Selous. Lake Tagalala is reputed to have more crocodiles than almost anywhere else in Africa. You’ll see why as you chug along on a boat safari. Eight stone-and-thatch chalets with private en-suite bathrooms, a dressing room, and two verandas overlooking the wide floodplains are beautifully decorated with travel-worn leather trunks and suitcases, African artifacts, old maps and prints, writing desks, hand-carved wooden furniture, and comfortable Zanzibari day beds. Although not on the river, a pool in front of the camp plays host to buffalo, hippo, and whatever game happens to be in the area, including lion, elephant, and wild dog. You’ll visit the hot sulfur springs of Maji Moto, where you can swim in the deep natural pools. If you stay more than four nights, seize the opportunity to stay in the wonderful treehouse perched in the branches of an ancient leadwood tree, with a star bed and bathroom (a star bed is covered by a mosquito net, and you have the option of keeping it under the canvas cover of the treehouse or it can be wheeled out on the platform so you can sleep under the stars). After first walking through a remote part of the Selous with an armed guide for an hour or two to reach the treehouse, you’ll be impressed by some serious bush chic for your overnight stay. TIP Bookings are made through the U.K.’s Africa Reps. Pros: you don’t have to leave the camp to see lots of wildlife; communal eating means that you can share safari stories and meet new people. Cons: no night drives are allowed in the park; vehicles have to be back in the camp at dusk. | Rooms from: $920 | Selous Game Reserve | 44/193226-0618 in U.K. | www.behobeho.com | 8 chalets | Closed mid-March-early June | All-inclusive.

Mivumo River Lodge.
$$$ | It’s hard to believe that this gorgeous new lodge set high on a bluff above Tanzania’s biggest river, the mighty Rufiji, could exist in such an utterly remote and wild area. There are 12 large thatch-roof suites with wall-to-ceiling windows, a big en-suite bathroom with chandelier, his-and-her marble basins, a claw-foot bath, and a handcarved wooden screen and mirrors. A big outdoor deck overlooks the river with loungers and your own personal plunge pool (and rain shower) from where you can watch hippos snooze or crocodiles sunbathe, an umbrella to shade you from the noonday sun, and a table and chairs to have your morning tea. Sumptuous burnt orange taffeta curtains, 1950s retro furniture, carved wooden lamps, polished wooden floors, handmade rugs, and a desk with a zebra-skin surface all mix and match to give your room a unique African feel. The public areas are on three levels with superb river views, a pool deck, a viewing deck, and big sheltered thatch sitting and dining area where you’ll have your sundowner, followed by a beautifully served tasty meal. Daylong drives into the middle of the reserve where giraffe and lion abound are spectacular. A boat trip up the Stiegler Gorge (named after a famous early 1900s elephant hunter) is a must. Pros: real, wild Africa; abundant game; boat trips down Rufiji River. Cons: lots of steps in lodge; very rough, bumpy roads. | Rooms from: $598 | Selous Game Reserve | 027/254-5555 | www.serenahotels.com | 12 rooms | All meals.

Sand Rivers Selous.
$$$$ | Deep in the southwest corner of Selous, this lodge is just about as isolated and exclusive as you can get. Sited in the Sand River area above a wide bend of the Rufiji River, the stone and thatch lodge and chalets are literally and metaphorically hundreds of miles away from tourist Africa with its ubiquitous curio shops and gawking tourists. Your open-fronted en-suite chalet has a king-size bed, elegant wooden furniture, cream and white soft furnishings, carefully chosen African artifacts, and great river views. In front of the main lodge, which is shaded by a 1,500-year-old baobab tree, there’s a stone walkway that curves along the riverbank, where you can sit and watch cavorting hippos and dozing crocs. Apart from its game drives, the lodge prides itself on its walking safaris; you don’t have to be super fit, but a ramble through the surrounding wilderness with some of Tanzania’s best guides is something you’ll never forget. Watch birds and game from a gently chugging boat, or spend a night fly-camping beside Lake Tagalala to a soundtrack of roaring lions, chortling hippos, and splashing crocs. The boat trip through Stiegler’s Gorge (named after a Swiss explorer who got taken out here by an elephant in 1907) is your best chance of seeing a leopard. The lodge does not take direct bookings. Pros: beautiful location; river cruises available. Cons: mischievous monkeys have been known to raid the rooms, so put your belongings safely away; no mobile phone reception. | Rooms from: $875 | Selous Game Reserve | 022/286-5156 | www.nomad-tanzania.com | 8 chalets | All meals.


Fodor’s Choice | Rufiji River Camp.
$$ | This camp—the oldest in the reserve—has a great location on a wide bend on the Rufiji at the end of the eastern sector of the reserve. You’ll stay in one of 14 spacious and comfortable en-suite tents spread out along the river, all with private verandas and sitting rooms (three are suites with two tents and a private pool). Depending on the length of your stay you can choose any or all of the activities on offer including game drives, walking safaris, boat safaris, and overnight fly-camping. Game is prolific; you won’t have to leave camp to see elephants, buffalo, hippo, and all sorts of other game, including a good chance of seeing wild dogs. Sit out on the sunset deck and wait for Africa’s wildlife to come to you.Pros: game-viewing can be done on foot or by boat or vehicle; variety of game-viewing options gives you a different perspective of the wildlife and allows you to see a wide variety of animals, large and small. Cons: monkeys can be a problem in camp as they try to steal food from tables—don’t feed them. | Rooms from: $325 | Selous Game Reserve | 078/423-7422 | www.rufijirivercamp.com | 14 tents | Closed April 1-June 1 | All-inclusive.

Fodor’s Choice | Selous Impala Camp.
$$$$ | This attractive small camp on Lake Mzizimia’s shores nestles among borassus palms and riverine bush with great views over the Rufiji. Tents on wooden platforms raised on stilts, each with its own en-suite bathroom and private veranda, have comfortable African-theme soft furnishings and rustic handmade wooden furniture. Join other guests in the main thatch lounge, which is also raised on a platform with views of the river, for meals and sundowners. If you’re here in the dry season between June and October, you’ll see plains game galore as the animals come to drink at the perennial river. As well as elephant, buffalo, hippo, antelope of all kinds, and the always lying-in-wait crocodiles, there’s a good chance of spotting lion and wild dog. Selous boasts more than 400 species of birds, so keep that bird-spotting list nearby at all times. Go for a guided game walk with an armed ranger, a game drive, or a boat safari; visit Stiegler’s Gorge or the Maja Moto hot springs; or just chill out at this comfortable and unpretentious camp.TIP There are some very good deals available if you fly in with Coastal Aviation, which operates the camp. Pros: you rarely see any other vehicles on game drives; the staff are very knowledgeable; overall a fantastic camp. Cons: animal sightings are not as prolific as in the north. | Rooms from: $620 | Selous Game Reserve | 022/211-7959, 022/211-7960, 866/356-4691 in the U.S. | www.tanzaniaodyssey.com | 8 tents | No credit cards | All meals.

Selous Safari Camp.
$$$$ | In the middle of the riverine bush on the banks of Lake Nzerakera, this luxuriously appointed camp comprises 13 tents split over two intimate camps. Built on wooden platforms, the open-sided spacious tents blend in graciously with the surrounding wilderness. Each with two verandas, the tents are tastefully decorated in creams, browns, and whites with a big bed, antique wooden chests, hand-carved settles, and colorful rugs. An en-suite bathroom with his-and-her brass hand basins and an open-air hot-water shower overlooks the bush. Public palm-thatch areas of polished wood platforms ringed with rope and wood rails have comfortable cane furniture, African artifacts, camp chairs, and elegant pieces of furniture from a bygone age. The camp is unfenced, so be prepared for all sorts of game to wander past your tent or the main viewing deck. At night the camp takes on a fairy-tale atmosphere when it is lit by dozens of softly glowing gas lanterns. Activities include game drives and guided walks, fly-camping, boating, bird-watching, or just relaxing on the veranda. The smaller camp (six tents) can be booked exclusively.Pros: you rarely see any other vehicles on game drives; great food; lovely view over the lake. Cons: the boat trip up the Rufiji River is not available all year round, although lake trips will be available. | Rooms from: $642 | Selous Game Reserve | 022/213-4802 | www.selous.com | 13 tents | All meals.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains National Parks

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Gombe Stream National Park | Mahale Mountains National Park

If your heart is set on tracking our nearest animal relatives—the intriguing, beguiling, and oh-so-human chimpanzees—then take the time and effort to get to one or both of these rarely visited but dramatically beautiful parks. You’ll meet very few other visitors, and very few other people on earth will share your experience.

The best time to see chimps is the last two months of the dry season, September-October, when they come out of the forest and move lower down the slopes—sometimes even to the beach.

Don’t go trekking if you have a cold, flu, or any other infectious diseases. Chimps are highly susceptible to human diseases, and you certainly wouldn’t wish to reduce the chimp population even further.


Bordering Burundi to the west, Tanzania’s smallest national park—only 52 square km (20 square miles)—is easily one of the country’s loveliest. It’s tucked away on the shores of Africa’s longest and deepest lake, Lake Tanganyika, 676 km (420 miles) long and 48 km (30 miles) wide. The lake is a veritable inland sea, the second deepest lake in the world after Russia’s Lake Baikal. This small gem of a park 3.5 km (2.2 miles) wide and only 15 km (9.3 miles) long stretches from the white sandy beaches of the blue lake up into the thick forest and the mountains of the rift escarpment behind.

Though the area is famous for its primates, don’t expect Tarzan-like rain forest because the area is mainly covered with thick Brachystegia woodland. There are also strips of riverine bush alongside the many streams that gouge out steep valleys as they make their way from the highlands to flow down into the lake.

You’ve got to be determined to get here because Gombe is accessible only by boat. But you’ll be amply rewarded with one of the most exciting animal encounters of a close kind that’s still possible on our planet. You’ll hear the chimps long before you see them. A series of hoots and shrieks rising to a crescendo of piercing whoops sounds like a major primate battle is about to begin. But it’s only the members of the clan identifying one another, recognizing one another, and finally greeting one another.

Gombe became famous when Brit Jane Goodall came to the area in 1960 to study the chimpanzee population. At the time she wasn’t known or recognized as the world-renowned primatologist she would later become. Sponsored by the legendary paleontologist Louis Leakey of Olduvai Gorge, Goodall came to Gombe as an eager but unqualified student of chimpanzees. At first many of her amazing unique studies of chimp behavior were discounted because she was a young, unknown scientist. How could a chimpanzee be a hunter and meat-eater? How could a chimpanzee possibly use grass stalks and sticks as tools? Whoever had heard of inter-troop warfare? Today her groundbreaking work is universally acknowledged. Read more about her and her experiences at Gombe in her best-selling book In the Shadow of Man. You’ll also be able to meet descendants of those chimpanzees she studied and made famous. Fifi, who was only three when Goodall arrived at Gombe in 1960, survived until 2004. Her youngest surviving son, Ferdinand, was alpha male in 2010.

But be warned—to follow in Jane or Fifi’s footsteps you need to be fairly fit. Keeping up with a group of feeding and moving chimpanzees as they climb hills and forage in deep valleys can be very strenuous work. But the effort will be worth it—there’s nothing on earth quite like coming face-to-face with a chimpanzee or accompanying a group as they make their way through the forest.

When to Go

The chimps don’t roam very far during the wet season: February-May and November-mid-December. It’ll be easier to find them, and you’ll have better opportunities to photograph them, during the dry months of June-October and late December.

Gombe Stream National Park

Previous Map | Next Map | The Complete Guide to African Safaris Maps

Getting Here and Around

Kigoma is connected to Dar es Salaam and Arusha by scheduled flights, and to Mwanza, Dar es Salaam, and Mbeya by rough dirt roads. Kigoma to Dar es Salaam is a three-hour flight; from Kigoma to Arusha is roughly a two-hour flight. The drive from Kigoma to Mwanza is roughly 575 km (357 miles), and the roads are bad. If you go by bus it’ll take two days. The lodge can arrange your travel to and from your destination; talk to your safari operator about getting to and from the camps.


Strict rules are in place to safeguard you and the chimps. Allow at least two days to see them—they’re in a wild state, so there are no guarantees where they’ll be each day.


Entry fees for Gombe are US$100 per person, the highest of any park in Tanzania; the Mahale entry fee is US$80. Your guide will cost US$25 per day. TIP You can pay in both USD and TSH, but USD is preferred, as it’s a more stable currency. Kids under seven aren’t permitted to enter either park. Because of the traveling time you’ll need to spend at least two nights in either or both of the parks.


Budget Accomodation

Kigoma Hilltop Hotel.
$ | On a hill overlooking the lake about 2 km (1 mile) from Kigoma’s town center, this hotel makes an ideal base for your chimpanzee trekking. You’ll stay in a comfortable, no-frills cottage with a/c, a mini-refrigerator, satellite TV, and an en-suite bathroom. What puts the hotel above any other in the area is that it not only arranges your excursions for you, but also has all kinds of water-sports equipment for hire. Go snorkeling, fishing, swimming, or just chill out on the private beach. There is also a gym, business services, and a large pool. Try delicious Indian food at the restaurant, or stay conventional and stick with Western food. TIP No alcohol is sold, but you can bring your own.Pros: lovely view of Lake Tanganyika from your balcony. Cons: limited menu. | Rooms from: $132 | Gombe Stream National Park | 028/280-4437, 0766/634-684 | www.mbalimbali.com.com | 30 cottages | Breakfast.


Just south of Gombe on the shores of Lake Tanganyika lies Tanzania’s most remote national park. Thirty times bigger than Gombe, Mahale is a stunningly beautiful park with crystal-clear streams, soaring forested mountains, and deserted, white sandy beaches. Mt. Nkungwe at 2,460 meters (8,070 feet) dominates the landscape. More than 700 chimpanzees live in the area and are more accessible and more regularly seen than at Gombe.

In 1965 the University of Kyoto in Japan established a permanent chimpanzee research station in Mahale at Kisoge, about a kilometer from the beach. It’s still going strong and remains highly respected.

There are no roads in Gombe or Mahale: all your game-viewing and chimpanzee tracking is done on foot. If you’re a couch potato, stick with the National Geographic TV channel. What will you see other than chimpanzees? You’ll almost certainly see olive baboons, vervet monkeys, red- and blue-tailed colobus monkeys, and some exciting birds. More than 230 bird species have been recorded here, so look out for crowned eagles, the noisy trumpeter hornbills, and the “rasta” birds (the crested guinea fowls with their black punk hairdos). Don’t expect to see big game; although there are roan antelope, elephant, giraffe, buffalo, lion, and wild dog in the eastern savanna and woodland, these areas are largely inaccessible. But you’re not here for big game. You’re here to meet your match.

When to Go

The dry season, May-October, is best for forest walks, although there’s no problem in the light rains of October and November.

Mahale Mountains National Park

Previous Map | Next Map | The Complete Guide to African Safaris Maps

Getting Here and Around

Arrange a charter flight from Arusha, Dar es Salaam, or Kigoma. The flight to Greystoke Mahale is around three to four hours from Arusha. The flight from Dar es Salaam to Arusha is two hours. There’s also the National Park motorboat from Kigoma, which will take three to four hours.


Luxury Lodges

Fodor’s Choice | Greystoke Mahale.
$$$$ | If you were a castaway, this would be heaven. It’s difficult to imagine almost anywhere on earth that’s as wildly beautiful and remote as this exotic camp on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. Six wood and thatch bandas nestle on the forest rim. Behind them thickly wooded mountains rise almost 2,500 meters (8,200 feet); in front of them white sands stretch to the peaceful azure waters of the lake. Tarzan, of course, was really Lord Greystoke, so this aristocrat of camps is well-named. Your banda has furniture of bleached dhow wood, a rustic toilet and shower, and a lower and upper wooden deck with views over the lake. The main building is loosely based in the style of a Tongwe chief’s hut, although many of your meals will be taken on the beach, at night by glowing lanterns. It’s not easy to get here: a four-hour flight from Arusha followed by a two-hour boat ride. But once here you won’t ever want to leave. About 60 of Mahale’s 1,000 or so wild chimpanzees live in the forest near Greystoke, so you have an excellent chance of spotting them. Go snorkeling, birding, or just chill. Bookings are made only through reputable tour operators. TIP There are no roads within 100 km (62 miles) of camp, and access is only by light aircraft using the shared charter flights that operate on Mondays and Thursdays from Arusha only. Flights leave early in the morning and return to Arusha early evening that same day. The flight to Greystoke Mahale is around three to four hours, and upon arrival at the airstrip there is an approximately 90-minute dhow trip down the lake to reach the camp. Pros: very secluded in the Mahale mountains; the camp gives you the opportunity to watch wild chimpanzees up close and personal. Cons: trekking up after the chimps is hard work; long flight to get there. | Rooms from: $725 | Mahale Mountains National Park | www.nomad-tanzania.com | 6 bandas | All meals.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

If You Have Time

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Arusha National Park | Tarangire National Park | Ruaha National Park

If you still have time after you’ve explored our picks for Must-See Parks, put the following national parks on your list, too: Arusha, Tarangire, and Ruaha.


Don’t overlook the tiny Arusha National Park. Though it covers only 137 square km (58 square miles), it has more to see than many much larger reserves. You’ll find three distinct areas within the park: the forests that surround the Ngurdoto Crater, the brightly colored pools of the Momella Lakes, and the soaring peaks of Mt. Meru. And with the city of Arusha only a 32-km (20-mile) drive to the northeast, it’s easy to see the park in a day.

Established in 1960, the park was originally called Ngurdoto Crater National Park, but after the mountain was annexed in 1967 it became known as Mt. Meru National Park. Today it’s named for the Warusha people who once lived in this area. The Masai also lived here, which is why many of the names for sights within the park are Swahili. | 027/255-3995 | www.tanzaniaparks.com | $35 | Daily 6:30-6:30.

When to Go

To climb Mt. Meru, the best time is between June and February, although it may rain in November. The best views of Kilimanjaro are December through February.

Getting Here and Around

Arusha National Park/Mt. Meru/Ngurdoto Crater is a 40-minute drive from Kilimanjaro International Airport. The lakes, forest, and Ngurdoto Crater can all be visited in the course of a half-day visit.


Momella Lakes.
From Ngurdoto Crater drive northeast to the Momella Lakes. Reedbuck and waterbuck are common sights near the dirt road. There are numerous observation points along the way for getting a closer look at the more than 400 species of birds that have been spotted in the area. The lakes were created by lava flow from nearby Mt. Meru; each is a distinct color because of the varying mineral content in the water. Each lake, therefore, attracts different types of birds. Keep an eye out for the flamingos that feed on the algae.

Mt. Meru.
From the Momella Lakes the road toward Mt. Meru leads into a forest with a profusion of wildflowers. Here you’ll encounter dik-diks and red forest duikers. Rangers can accompany you on walks to the rim of Meru Crater, where you’ll have a breathtaking view of the sheer cliffs rising to the summit. Keep an eye out for a diminutive antelope called the klipspringer.

Because it is not as well known, the slopes of Mt. Meru are blissfully uncrowded. TIP Although Meru looks diminutive alongside Kilimanjaro, do not underestimate what it takes to climb to the top. You must be in good shape, and you need to allow time to acclimatize. Climbing Mt. Meru itself takes at least three days when it is dry; during the wet season the tracks can be very slippery and it can take more than four days. The route begins at the Momella Gate, on the eastern side of the mountain. Huts along the way sleep 24-48 people, but inquire beforehand whether beds are available; if not, you should bring a tent. You can arrange for no-frills journeys up the mountain through the park service, or book a luxury package through a travel company that includes porters to carry all your supplies. Either way you’ll be accompanied by an armed guard to protect you from unfriendly encounters with elephant or buffalo.

Ngurdoto Forest and Crater.
After entering the park through the Ngurdoto Gate, you’ll pass through the fig, olive, and wild mango trees of the Ngurdoto Forest. Farther along is the Ngurdoto Crater, which is actually a caldera, or collapsed crater. Unlike the nearby Ngorongoro Crater, this caldera appears to have had two cones. There are no roads into the crater itself, so the buffalo and other animals that make their homes in the swampy habitat remain protected. You can drive around the rim, where you’ll find a misty landscape covered with date palms, orchids, and lichens. The grasslands to the west are known as Serengeti Ndogo (“Little Serengeti”) and boast a herd of Burchell’s zebras, thriving because there are no lions nearby.

Many baboons and other monkeys are found in the Ngurdoto Forest. Elegant black-and-white colobus monkeys spend most of the morning basking in the sun in the highest parts of the forest canopy, then later move lower in the branches to feed on the tender vegetation. Colobus monkeys do not drink water but get all their moisture from their food. They are endangered because their lovely fur was prized by humans.


Although this lovely 2,600-square-km (1,004-square-mile) park is an easy drive from Arusha—just 118 km (71 miles) southwest—and adjacent to Lake Manyara, it’s continued to be something of a well-kept secret. This relative secrecy is odd because during the dry season it’s part of the migratory movement and is second only to Ngorongoro Crater in concentration of wildlife. The best time to visit is July through September, when thousands of parched animals flock to the watering holes and thousands more make their long way to the permanent water of the Tarangire River.

When to Go

You can visit year round, but the dry season (May-September) is the best for its sheer numbers of animals.

Getting Here and Around

It’s an easy drive from Arusha or Lake Manyara following a surfaced road to within 7 km (4 miles) of the main entrance gate. Charter flights from Arusha and the Serengeti are also possible. The flight from Arusha to southern Serengeti is roughly 1½ hours; the drive is 335 km (208 miles), which will take around eight hours.


During the dry season, huge herds of elephant, eland, oryx, zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe, and impala roam the park. Hippos are plentiful and pythons can sometimes be seen in trees near the swamps. If you want to spot waterbuck or the mini-giraffe, the gerenuk, head for the Mkungero Pools. Tarangire is much more densely wooded than Serengeti with acacia, mixed woodland, and the ubiquitous baobab trees, although you’ll find grasslands on the southern plains where cheetahs hunt.

There are more than 500 species of birds in Tarangire National Park, including martial and bateleur eagles. Especially good bird-watching can be done along the wetlands of the Silale Swamp and around the Tarangire River. Yellow-collared lovebirds, hammerkops, helmeted guinea fowl, long-toed lapwings, brown parrots, white-bellied go-away birds, and a variety of kingfishers, weavers, owls, plovers, and sandpipers make their homes here. A shallow alkaline lake attracts flamingos and pelicans in the rainy season. Raptors are plentiful, including the palm-nut vulture and lots of eagles. You may hear a cry that sounds quite similar to the American bald eagle but is in fact its look-alike cousin, the African fish eagle.


Kondoa Rock Paintings.
Kolo, just south of Tarangire, is where you’ll find some of the most accessible Kondoa rock paintings. From the last stage of the Stone Age, these illustrations on cave walls depict hunting scenes using stylized human and animal figures. These fragile documents of an era long past were studied by Mary Leakey, who wrote a book about them called Africa’s Vanishing Art. At a nearby site, Leakey discovered “pencils” in which ocher and other pigments had been ground and mixed with grease. Later excavations revealed that some were 29,000 years old. | Tarangire National Park | 027/250-1930 | US$35 | Daily 6:30 am-6:30 pm.


Remote and rarely visited, Ruaha is Tanzania’s second-largest park—10,300 square km (3,980 square miles). Oddly enough, it attracts only a fraction of the visitors that go to Serengeti, which could be because it’s less well-known and difficult to access. But East Africa safari aficionados claim it to be the country’s best-kept secret. There are huge concentrations of buffalos, elephants, antelope, and more than 400 bird species.

Classified as a national park in 1964, it was once part of the Sabia River Game Reserve, which the German colonial government established in 1911. Ruaha is derived from the word “great” in the Hehe language and refers to the mighty Ruaha River, which flows around the park’s borders, and it’s only around the river that the park is developed for tourism with a 400-km (249-mile) road circuit. The main portion of the park sits on top of a 1,800-meter (5,900-foot) plateau with spectacular views of valleys, hills, and plains—a wonderful backdrop for game-viewing. Habitats include riverine forest, savanna, swamps, and acacia woodland.

When to Go

The best time to visit is May through December because, although even in the wet season the all-weather roads are passable, it’s incredibly difficult to spot game at that time because of the lush, tall vegetation. If you’re into bird-watching, lush scenery, and wildflowers, you’ll like the wet season (January-April).

Getting Here and Around

Most visitors arrive by charter flight from Dar es Salaam, Selous, the Serengeti, or Arusha. The flight is 2½ hours to Ruaha from Arusha or Dar es Salaam, and one hour from Selous. It’s possible to drive to Ruaha but it takes longer. Visitors often drive from Dar es Salaam, but not many drive from Arusha. The drive to Ruaha from Dar es Salaam is roughly 10 hours through Iringa. The roads do get a bit bumpy as you near the park. Safari companies will arrange road transfers if you so wish. If time is of the essence, fly; if it’s interaction and experience (atmosphere) of the various places en route to Ruaha you’d like, drive.


There’s an entrance fee of US$20 per person, per 24-hour visit, and it must be paid in cash. TIP You can pay in both USD and TSH, but USD is preferred, as it’s a more stable currency. Ask at your lodge for a copy of the Ruaha booklet, which has maps, checklists, and hints on where to look for particular species.


Four nights will give you the chance to fully experience the varied areas of the park.


There are elephant, buffalo, lion, spotted hyena, gazelle, zebra, greater and lesser kudu, and giraffe roaming this park. If you’re lucky, you might even see roan and sable antelope or witness a cheetah hunt on the open plains in the Lundu area. Lion are well habituated to vehicles, so you’d be very unlucky not to spot at least one pride, and if you’ve set your heart on seeing wild dogs, then try to come in June or July when they’re denning; this makes them easier to spot than at other times because they stay in one place for a couple of months. There are also lots of crocs and hippos in the river areas. Bird “specials” include the lovely little Eleonaora’s falcon (December through January is the best time to spot one), Pel’s Fishing Owl, and the pale-billed hornbill.


Poaching has been a serious problem in this park as the rhino was at one point hunted to near extinction. But in 1988, the Tanzanian government joined with the WWF (the World Wildlife Fund) to initiate the Selous Conservation Programme, which has eased the problem considerably. The international ban on ivory in the 1990s has also contributed to increasing elephant numbers.


Luxury Lodges

Jongomero Tented Camp.
$$$ | This is the only camp in the southwest corner of Ruaha National Park. If you’ve come to see animals, but no other trucks or people, then this is your place. The tents, which have furniture that was made from the wood of old dhows, are perched along the banks of the (sometimes dry) Jongomero River—when you’re at the lodge’s bar, check out the bowl filled with handmade nails that were collected as the boats were disassembled. Take your morning or afternoon tea out on your veranda—you might catch a glimpse of a few passing animals. The food is excellent, and there is always something packed away for you when you’re out on your drives. The pool is a great place to relax and ponder all that you’ve seen during your day, and the view of the setting sun is incredible. If you’re interested, game walks with your own personal armed national parks guard, can be arranged. Pros: enthusiastic staff; spacious tents; great food; there’s a sense of luxury everywhere. Cons: tsetse flies are in the area and around the camp. | Rooms from: $547 | Ruaha National Park | 022/213-4802 | www.ruaha.com | 8 tents | All meals.

Kigelia Camp.
$$$$ | Set in a forest of baobabs and sausage trees along the Ifaguru sand river, Kigelia has a prime location in Ruaha. This camp has a peaceful, relaxed atmosphere. The tents, are spacious, cool, and inviting. Every tent is furnished with unique, locally crafted furniture made from old dhows. This is a perfect place to sit in the tranquility and shade of a sausage tree and relax, quietly watching the passing wildlife. A very friendly staff and good service are the mark of this welcoming camp. The game in this area during the dry months is exceptional. Bush picnic breakfast or brunch and bush sundowners can be arranged. Pros: classic tented safari camp feel with a few modern twists; there is a living room with reading material, and fire pit. Cons: the camp is an hour’s drive from the airstrip; children under five are excluded unless the camp is booked exclusively. | Rooms from: $660 | Ruaha National Park | 255/76-920-4159 | www.afrikaafrikasafaris.com | 6 tents | All meals.

Mwagusi Safari Camp.
$$$ | This well-established camp is situated on the shady banks of the Mwagusi River, giving it a prime position in Ruaha for game-viewing. The large, cool, comfortable bandas, crafted from local and organic materials, are tucked into the sandy banks, giving each a secluded view. Wake up to fresh brewed coffee delivered by friendly staff and take in stunning views along the river on your private veranda. It’s not unusual to encounter wildlife on your door step. Elephants are regular visitors to the camp, as well as large prides of lion. Mwagusi is an owner-run camp, and that is evident in all aspects. Pros: delicious food; excellent guides; friendly service. Cons: bandas are rustic looking from the outside. | Rooms from: $595 | Ruaha National Park | 44/0-7525170940 in U.K. | www.mwagusicamp.com | 13 tents | No credit cards | All meals.

Tandala Camp.
$$ | Because Tandala is in a private conservancy 5 km (3 miles) outside the entrance gate, guests can take early morning game walks and game drives, engage in bird-viewing or experience authentic cultural visits to the Maasai bomas, local village, and market. There are no frills here, but it’s very comfortable, and you stay in an en-suite tent that’s built on a wooden platform that overlooks a seasonal river. There’s an attractive restaurant and bar area beside the small swimming pool. A nearby water hole attracts game at all times, particularly during the dry season, although elephants are hanging around most of the time. Pros: great views from your tent’s raised deck over a water hole that is frequented by game; children’s rates available. Cons: very bumpy road to the Ruaha park entrance (10 minutes). | Rooms from: $275 | Ruaha National Park | 255/75-568-0220 | www.tandalatentedcamp.com | 11 tents | All-inclusive.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Gateway Cities

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Dar es Salaam | Arusha

Many visitors to Tanzania will find themselves with a layover in Dar es Salaam or Arusha before or after their safari. For some ideas and suggestions to help determine where you should stay, eat, and, if you have time, sight-see, read on.


Graceful triangular-sailed dhows share the harbor with mammoth tankers, as the once sleepy village of Dar es Salaam, which means “haven of peace” in Arabic, has been transformed into one of East Africa’s busiest ports, second only to Kenya’s Mombasa. The country’s major commercial center, Dar es Salaam has also become its largest city, home to more than 3.5 million inhabitants. The city also serves as the seat of government during the very slow move to Dodoma, which was named the official capital in 1973. The legislature resides in Dodoma, but most government offices are still found in Dar es Salaam.

In the early 1860s, Sultan Seyyid Majid of Zanzibar visited what was then the isolated fishing village of Mzizima, on the Tanzanian coast. Eager to have a protected port on the mainland, Majid began constructing a palace here in 1865. The city, poised to compete with neighboring ports such as Bagamoyo and Kilwa, suffered a setback after the sultan died in 1870. His successor, his half-brother Seyyid Barghash, had little interest in the city, and its royal buildings fell into ruins. Only the Old Boma, which once housed royal guests, still survives.

The city remained a small port until Germany moved its colonial capital here in 1891 and began constructing roads, offices, and many of the public buildings still in use today. The Treaty of Versailles granted Great Britain control of the region in 1916, but that country added comparatively little to the city’s infrastructure during its 45-year rule.

Tanzania gained its independence in 1961. During the years that followed, President Julius Nyerere, who focused on issues such as education and health care, allowed the capital city to fall into a decline that lasted into the 1980s. When Benjamin William Mkapa took office in 1985, his market-oriented reforms helped to revitalize the city. The city continues to evolve—those who visited only a few years ago will be startled by the changes—as new hotels and restaurants have appeared almost overnight. There are a few sights to detain visitors, but the only one really worth a visit is the National Museum, which contains the famous fossil discoveries by Richard and Mary Leakey, including the 1.7 million-year-old hominid skull discovered by Mary Leakey in the Olduvai Gorge in 1959.

Getting Here and Around

To find your way around central Dar es Salaam, use the Askari Monument, at the intersection of Samora Avenue and Azikiwe Street, as a compass. Most sights are within walking distance. Four blocks northeast on Samora Avenue you’ll find the National Museum and Botanical Gardens; about seven blocks southwest stands the Clock Tower, another good landmark. One block southeast is Sokoine Drive, which empties into Kivukoni Front as it follows the harbor. Farther along, Kivukoni Front becomes Ocean Road.

Along Samora Avenue and Sokoine Drive you’ll find banks, pharmacies, grocery stores, and shops selling everything from clothing to curios. Northwest of Samora Avenue, around India, Jamhuri, and Libya streets, is the busy Swahili neighborhood where merchants sell all kinds of items, including Tanzania’s best kangas (sarong or wrap). Farther west you’ll find the large Kariakoo Market.

TIP Don’t buy tickets for transport, especially on ferries, trains, or buses, from anyone other than an accredited ticket seller.

Julius Nyerere International Airport, formerly Dar es Salaam International Airport, is about 13 km (8 miles) from the city center. Plenty of white-color taxis are available at the airport and will cost you about Tsh 20,000 ($13) to the city center. This can usually be negotiated. Most hotels will send drivers to meet your plane if arranged in advance, although this will cost more.

Ferries operated by Sea Ferries Express to Zanzibar depart daily at 9 am and 11:30 am from the Zanzibar Ferry Terminal. The two-hour journey costs about Tsh 63,000 ($40). Although thousands of locals and tourists use the service every year, two ferries capsized in 2011 and 2012 due to overcrowding, so you may wish to fly to Zanzibar instead; flights are on average $50 with Precision Air. TIP Tourists aren’t thought to be at risk from pirates from Somalia. The Kigamboni ferry to the southern beaches runs continuously throughout the day and departs from the southern tip of the city center, where Kivukoni Front meets Ocean Road. The five-minute ride costs about Tsh 200 ($2) one-way.

Taxis are the most efficient way to get around town. During the day they’re easy to find outside hotels and at major intersections, but at night they’re often scarce. Ask someone to call one for you. Taxis don’t have meters, so agree on the fare before getting in. Fares run about Tsh 2,000 within the city.

Money Matters

You can pay in both USD and TSH, but USD is preferred, as it’s a more stable currency. Sometimes, paying in dollars can actually be cheaper by a dollar or two as well.


Dar es Salaam is fine to wander around by yourself during the day, but after dark it’s best to take a taxi. The area with the most street crime is along the harbor, especially Kivukoni Front and Ocean Road.

Foreign women tend to feel safe in Dar es Salaam. But remember, women in Dar es Salaam never wear clothing that exposes their shoulders or legs. You should do the same. You’ll feel more comfortable in modest dress.

Visitor Information

The Tanzania Tourist Board’s head office is in Dar es Salaam. It has maps and information on travel to dozens of points of interest around Tanzania and is very helpful. The staff will discuss hotel options with you and assist you in making reservations.


Kigamboni Ferry.
| The mainland port is located at Magogoni near the main fish market past the Hyatt Regency Dar Es Salaam | 022/286-2796.
Sea Express. | Sokoine Dr., | Dar es Salaam | 022/213-7049.
Zanzibar Ferry Terminal. | Sokoine Dr., | Dar es Salaam.

Visitor Info
Tanzania Tourist Board
(TTB). | IPS Building,corner of Azikiwe St. and Samora Ave., 3rd flr, | Dar es Salaam | 022/211-1244 general, 022/212-8472 tourism services | www.tanzaniatouristboard.com | Weekdays 9-5, Sat. 9-noon.

Dar es Salaam

Previous Map | Next Map | The Complete Guide to African Safaris Maps


Askari Monument.
This bronze statue was erected by the British in 1927 in memory of African troops who died during World War I. (The word askari means “soldier” in Swahili.) It stands on the site of a monument erected by Germany to celebrate its victory here in 1888. That monument stood only five years before being demolished in 1916. | Samora Ave. and Azikiwe St. | Dar es Salaam.

Tanzania National Museum and House of Culture.
Apart from the Leakey fossil discoveries, which are some of the most important in the world, there are also good displays of colonial exploration and German occupation. TIP If you take pictures or have a camera at the museum, you will be charged—$3 for a camera and $20 for a video camera. | between Samora Ave. and Sokoine Dr., near Botanical Gardens | Dar es Salaam | 022/211-7508 | www.houseofculture.or.tz | US$4 | Daily 9:30-6.


While the beaches north and south of Dar es Salaam may seem irresistible to those seeking the calm, cool waters of the Indian Ocean, no one goes to these beaches. Even Oyster Bay, the upmarket residential neighborhood just north of Dar es Salaam where many luxury hotels are located, isn’t 100% safe. Pickpockets are everywhere. TIP As you’ll probably only be in town for a night at most, save your beach time for Zanzibar.


There’s no need to spend a lot on dining in Dar es Salaam if you stick to hotelis (cafés), which offer heaping plates of African or Indian fare for less than Tsh 5,000 ($5). Typical chakula (food) for an East African meal includes wali (rice) or ugali (a damp mound of breadlike ground corn) served with a meat, fish, or vegetable stew. A common side dish is kachumbari, a mixture of chopped tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Even less expensive are roadside stalls, such as those that line the harbor, offering snacks like chicken and beef kebabs, roast corn on the cob, and samosas. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, try a doughnutlike mandazi. Wash it all down with a local beer—Kilimanjaro, Tusker, or Safari—or with chai.

Most tourists frequent the more upscale restaurants, which are relatively expensive; entrees can set you back $10 to $15. Even at the toniest of restaurants, reservations are rarely required. Restaurants in hotels generally are open until at least 10:30 pm, even on Sunday, although the hours of local restaurants vary.

Fodor’s Choice | Addis in Dar.
$ | ETHIOPIAN | Located only 10 minutes west of central Dar es Salaam, and near the U.S. Embassy, this popular Ethiopian restaurant has seating on an outside terrace overlooking a tranquil leafy garden (bring insect repellent). Food is eaten communally and with the hands—traditional Ethiopian style—and you’ll scoop delicious stews and sauces from the plate with the traditional injera bread. There are good options for vegetarians, too. Make sure to try the honey wine. TIP As there’s a dearth of good eating establishments in Dar es Salaam, this place fills up so book in advance. | Average main: $10 | 35 Ursino St. | Dar es Salaam | No credit cards | Closed Sun.

Karambezi Cafe.
$$ | CONTEMPORARY | Located at the Sea Cliff Hotel, this open-air restaurant is positioned right next to the sea, providing good views during the day. At night it’s not particularly stylish or romantic, but the menu has something to suit everyone and service is prompt and efficient. Lighter meals include salads and burgers, but there are also pastas, pizzas, and meatier options such as steak or ribs. The fish-and-chips are excellent, as is the Dar vegetable curry. | Average main: $16 | Sea Cliff Hotel, Toure Dr., Msasani | Dar es Salaam | 022/260-0380 | www.hotelseacliff.com.

$ | ASIAN | With a name that means “welcome” in Thai, Sawasdee has a peaceful atmosphere and attentive service that make it one of the best eateries in the city. Tanzania’s first Thai restaurant, Sawasdee serves authentic dishes—duck in brown sauce, fish in ginger, chicken in green curry—prepared by a highly esteemed chef from Bangkok. The restaurant on the 9th floor of the New Africa Hotel overlooks the sparkling lights of the harbor. | Average main: $10 | New Africa Hotel, Azikiwi St. and Sokoine Dr. | Dar es Salaam | 022/211-7050 | No lunch weekdays.


Atlantis Hotel.
$ | HOTEL | From the outside, the Atlantic may not look like much, but it offers excellent value for an overnight stay, with friendly and obliging staff and a good on-site restaurant (Dulcé Café, a South African chain). Catering to a business clientele, rooms are spacious and smart, with comfortable beds and good showers and air-conditioning. The suites are the size of a small apartment, and have kitchens, so are excellent value considering they’re only $55 extra per night. Pros: free Wi-Fi; good breakfasts. Cons: some rooms are noisy due to an adjacent nightclub, request a quiet room when booking; no views. | Rooms from: $175 | Haille Selassie Rd., Oyster Bay | Dar es Salaam | 255/689-053010 | www.atlantishotel.co.tz | 42 rooms, 3 suites | Breakfast.

Dar Es Salaam Serena Hotel.
$$ | HOTEL | This was the Sheraton, then the Mövenpick Royal Palm, and now it’s a Serena hotel—with plans to stay that way permanently. It’s got all the bells and whistles one would expect from a five-star hotel, including a business center, several restaurants, a large pool, and a fitness center. The room décor, however, is looking a little dated, but a planned upgrade should improve things. The Serengeti restaurant offers a popular champagne brunch on Sundays, with outdoor terrace seating, but service is slow. Pros: surrounded by pleasant gardens; the pool is a decent size. Cons: it’s not convenient to the airport or tourist activities; Wi-Fi isn’t free for standard rooms. | Rooms from: $355 | 20 Ohio St. | Dar es Salaam | 022/211-2416 | www.serenahotels.com | 230 rooms | Breakfast.

Fodor’s Choice | The Oyster Bay.
$$$$ | ALL-INCLUSIVE | This stylish, contemporary boutique hotel has been created as a tranquil haven for guests to recuperate in before or after a flight or safari, and it certainly more than fits the bill. There are no fixed meal times or menus; instead guests are encouraged to feel like they are staying in a private home—albeit one where every wish is catered to with an easy smile. Most guests opt to eat communally with other guests and the sincerely warm and friendly hosts, but there’s the option to dine alone too. There’s a number of shopping centers nearby to explore, or guests can relax at the hotel’s pool or veranda. Day rates are available, along with airport transfers; a stay here should be booked through your tour operator. Children are also welcome. Pros: all the rooms have sea views; free Wi-Fi. Cons: it’s expensive, especially if you stay only one night; there’s no elevator. | Rooms from: $950 | Toure Dr., Oyster Bay | Dar es Salaam | 44/1932-260618 | www.theoysterbayhotel.com | 8 | All-inclusive.

Sea Cliff Hotel.
$$ | HOTEL | Only 15 minutes from downtown on the edge of the Msasani Peninsula, this classy hotel has good size, comfortable rooms (but insist on one with a sea view), two restaurants, a casino, a pool, and a gym. There’s an adjacent shopping mall with more restaurants, curio shops, and a hairdressing salon. Even if you’re in Dar es Salaam for only a night, it’s always good to have a sea view. Like most hotels in Dar, the Sea Cliff caters mainly to business travelers, but the option to take day tours, Masai cultural trips, and scenic helicopter rides offer something for tourists too. Children under 12 are free if sharing with adults. Pros: good, free Wi-Fi; there’s an on-site ATM. Cons: airport transfers are expensive, take a taxi instead; gym is basic. | Rooms from: $360 | Toure Dr., Msasani Peninsula | Dar es Salaam | 764/700-600 | www.hotelseacliff.com | 114 rooms | Breakfast.

The Souk.
$ | HOTEL | Located in the Slipway, a shopping and leisure complex in a converted boatyard, the Souk is a great place for an overnight or base for exploration from Dar. The rooms are simple, but comfortable—they are a respite from the craziness of Dar in calming shades of blue and white. Most of the rooms have views of the Msasani Bay, which is a nice touch. The complex has a bookstore, supermarket, a playground for the kids, four restaurants, and numerous curio shops including a great craft market that sells everything from Tinga Tinga paintings and jewelry to leather sandals and beaded creations. Transportation can be arranged to and from the airport, and there are regular tours of Bongoyo island, Tanzania’s first marine reserve, as well as fishing trips and cruises to Mafia, Pemba, and Zanzibar islands. Pros: convenient for restaurants and shopping; hotel arranges island trips. Cons: located in a large, busy shopping center; night noise from restaurants may be disturbing. | Rooms from: $130 | The Slipway, Chole Rd., Msasani | Dar es Salaam | 022/260-0893 | www.slipway.net | 20 rooms | Breakfast.

Tanzanite Executive Suites.
$ | HOTEL | Affordable yet decent budget accommodations in Dar es Salaam are hard to find, but this hotel offers surprising value for money—even the cheapest studio rooms are equipped with a microwave, fridge, toaster, and flatscreen TV; some even have balconies. Family suites, for 4 and 6 people, have kitchens, but tend to be gloomy and dark. The surrounding area doesn’t invite exploration, but you can order takeaway food from a number of leaflets you’ll find in your room. No alcohol is allowed on the premises. Pros: free Wi-Fi and use of gym and sauna; good security; very close to ferry terminal for Zanzibar. Cons: noisy downtown location; nothing within walking distance. | Rooms from: $90 | Corner of Morogoro Road and Mali Street, Mchafukoge | Dar es Salaam | 022/212-7277, 071/994-8567 mobile phone | www.tanzaniteexecutivesuites.com | 36 rooms, 24 suites | Breakfast.


Arusha could be any small town in sub-Saharan Africa—dusty, crowded, and forgettable. A couple of pleasant features do distinguish it, however: potted plants line the potholed streets (put there by the plant nurseries just behind the sidewalks), and on a clear day, you can see Mt. Meru, Africa’s fifth highest mountain at 4,556 meters (14,947 feet), looming in the distance.

The town is bisected by the Nauru River. The more modern part is to the east of the river where most of the hotels, safari companies, and banks are located; west of the river is where the bus station and main market are. Most people spend an overnight here either coming or going.


Previous Map | Next Map | The Complete Guide to African Safaris Maps

Getting Here and Around

There are no direct flights from the United States to Arusha. Generally you need to connect through a city on the mainland, the easiest being Dar es Salaam.

You’ll be approached immediately after you land by taxi drivers. Be sure to agree on a price before getting in, as taxis don’t have meters. The fare to downtown Arusha is approximately US$25.


It’s unlikely that you’d want to explore Arusha at night, but if you do, take a taxi. As in any East African city, muggings and purse-snatching are common.

Visitor Information

The Tanzanian Tourist Board (TTB) has an Arusha office where you can pick up maps and brochures for the area, as well as book cultural excursions. Tanzania National Parks also has an office here that can help you book accommodations or answer any of your safari questions.


Arusha Airport
(ARK). | 027/741-530, 027/744-317 | www.taa.go.tz.

AICC Hospital.
| Old Moshi Rd., | Arusha | 027/250-8008.

Visitor Info
Tanzania Tourist Board
(TTB). | Boma Rd., | Arusha | 027/250-3850 | www.tanzaniatouristboard.com.


Arusha Coffee Lodge.
$$ | HOTEL | Being 5 km (3 miles) from town and five minutes from Arusha Airport makes this a great option for pre- or post-safari layovers. Situated in the middle of Tanzania’s largest coffee plantation and designed around the original plantation homestead, the split-level cottages, dotted between coffee bushes, are furnished in Victorian style, with big balconies and your own coffee percolator to try out the local produce. There’s a first-class restaurant (US$10-US$35) and the service is impeccable. Wines are from South Africa and Chile. Pros: beautiful setting; easy access to the airport. Cons: near the highway so you can hear traffic. | Rooms from: $426 | Serengeti Rd., Airport vicinity | Arusha | 027/254-0630 | www.elewana.com | 18 cottages, 12 suites | Breakfast.

The Arusha Hotel.
$ | HOTEL | Bang in the middle of town, opposite the clock tower, this recently refurbished hotel built in 1894 retains a colonial feel, with elegantly decorated rooms and lovely gardens running down to the Themi River. It’s also home to a gift shop, a bookshop, and a casino. Pros: walking distance from banks and shops; spacious rooms; you can store luggage. Cons: food is average; a/c and Wi-Fi is erratic. | Rooms from: $240 | Main Rd. | Arusha | 027/250-7777 | www.thearushahotel.com | 86 rooms | Breakfast.

Moivaro Lodge.
$ | HOTEL | There are stunning views of the changing colors of Mt. Kilimanjaro from the grounds of this coffee plantation. You can go birding or walking within the estate, enjoy a relaxing massage, or relax poolside. Simple stone cottages, each with a private veranda, are warmed by fireplaces on cool nights. Half-board and full-board options are available. Pros: only 7 km (4 miles) from Arusha: set among 40 acres of coffee plantations and gardens; rooms have ceiling fans and mosquito netting. Cons: the standard of the food could be improved; Internet connection is slow. | Rooms from: $167 | 6 km (4 miles) east of Arusha | 027/250-6315 | www.moivaro.com | 40 cottages | Breakfast.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Beach Escapes

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents


Looking for a little R & R after your safari? Tanzania has 1,424 km (883 miles) of beautiful, pristine coastline just waiting for you to explore. Looking for an island getaway? Tanzania has those, too. Zanzibar is the perfect spot to kick back and relax.


This ancient isle once ruled by sultans and slave traders served as the stepping stone into the African continent for missionaries and explorers. Today it attracts visitors intent on discovering sandy beaches, pristine rain forests, or colorful coral reefs. Once known as the Spice Island for its export of cloves, Zanzibar has become one of the most exotic flavors in travel, better than Bali or Mali when it comes to beauty that’ll make your jaw drop.

Separated from the mainland by a channel only 35 km (22 miles) wide, and only six degrees south of the equator, this tiny archipelago—the name Zanzibar also includes the islands of Unguja (the main island) and Pemba—in the Indian Ocean was the launching base for a romantic era of expeditions into Africa. Sir Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke used it as their base when searching for the source of the Nile. It was in Zanzibar where journalist Henry Morton Stanley, perched in an upstairs room overlooking the Stone Town harbor, began his search for David Livingstone.

The first ships to enter the archipelago’s harbors are believed to have sailed in around 600 BC. Since then, every great navy in the Eastern Hemisphere has dropped anchor here at one time or another. But it was Arab traders who left an indelible mark. Minarets punctuate the skyline of Stone Town, where more than 90% of the residents are Muslim. In the harbor you’ll see dhows, the Arabian boats with triangular sails. Islamic women covered by black boubou veils scurry down alleyways so narrow their outstretched arms could touch buildings on both sides. Stone Town received its odd name because most of its buildings were made of limestone and coral, which means exposure to salty air has eroded many foundations.

The first Europeans who arrived here were the Portuguese in the 15th century, and thus began a reign of exploitation. As far inland as Lake Tanganyika, slave traders captured the residents or bartered for them from their own chiefs, then forced the newly enslaved to march toward the Indian Ocean carrying loads of ivory tusks. Once at the shore they were shackled together while waiting for dhows to collect them at Bagamoyo, a place whose name means, “here I leave my heart.” Although it’s estimated that 50,000 slaves passed through the Zanzibar slave market each year during the 19th century, many more died en route.

Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged in 1964 to create Tanzania, but the honeymoon was brief. Zanzibar’s relationship with the mainland remains uncertain as calls for independence continue. “Bismillah, will you let him go,” a lyric from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” has become a rebel chant for Zanzibar to break from Tanzania. The archipelago also has tensions of its own. Accusations of voting irregularities during the elections in 2000 and 2005 led to violence that sent scores of refugees fleeing to the mainland. Calm was quickly restored. As the old proverb goes, the dogs bark and the caravan moves on.

Zanzibar’s appeal is apparent to developers, who are intent on opening restaurants, hotels, and even water-sapping golf courses. But so far the archipelago has kept much of its charm. It retains the allure it had when explorer David Livingstone set up his expedition office here in 1866.

Zanzibar Island, locally known as Unguja, has amazing beaches and resorts, incredible dive spots, acres and acres of spice plantations, the Jozani Forest Reserve, and Stone Town. Plus, it takes little more than an hour to fly there. It’s a great spot to head for a post-safari unwind.

Stone Town, the archipelago’s major metropolis, is a maze of narrow streets lined with houses featuring magnificently carved doors studded with brass. There are 51 mosques, six Hindu temples, and two Christian churches. And though it can rightly be called a city, much of the western part of the larger island is a slumbering paradise where cloves, as well as rice and coconuts, still grow.

Although the main island of Unguja feels untouched by the rest of the world, the nearby islands of Pemba and Mnemba offer retreats that are even more remote. For many years Arabs referred to Pemba as Al Khudra, or the Green Island, and indeed it still is, with forests of king palms, mangos, and banana trees. The 65-km-long (40-mile-long) island is less famous than Unguja except among scuba divers, who enjoy the coral gardens with colorful sponges and huge fans. Archaeology buffs are also discovering Pemba, where sites from the 9th to the 15th centuries have been unearthed. At Mtambwe Mkuu coins bearing the heads of sultans were discovered. Ruins along the coast include ancient mosques and tombs. In the 1930s Pemba was famous for its sorcerers, attracting disciples of the black arts from as far away as Haiti. Witchcraft is still practiced, and, oddly, so is bullfighting. Introduced by the Portuguese in the 17th century, the sport has been improved by locals, who rewrote the ending. After enduring the ritual teasing by the matador’s cape, the bull is draped with flowers and paraded around the village.

Beyond Pemba, smaller islands in the Zanzibar Archipelago range from mere sandbanks to Changu, once a prison island, now home to the giant Aldabra tortoise, Chumbe Island, and Mnemba, a private retreat for guests who pay hundreds of dollars per day to get away from it all. To the west of Pemba, Misali Island reputedly served as a hideout for the notorious Captain Kidd, which makes visitors dream of buried treasure. In reality it’s the green sea turtles that do most of the digging.

When to Go

June through October is the best time to visit Zanzibar because the temperature averages 26°C (79°F). Spice tours are best during harvest time, July and October, when cloves (unopened flower buds) are picked and laid out to dry. Zanzibar experiences a short rainy season in November, but heavy rains can fall from March until the end of May. Temperatures soar during this period, often reaching over 30°C (90°F). Most travelers come between June and August and from mid-November to early January. During these periods many hotels add a surcharge.

Zanzibar observes Ramadan for a month every year. During this period Muslims are forbidden to eat, drink, or smoke between sunrise and sunset. Although hotels catering to tourists aren’t affected, many small shops and restaurants are closed during the day. If you plan to arrive during Ramadan, aim for the end, when a huge feast called the Eid al-Fitr (which means “end of the fast”) brings everyone out to the streets.

Zanzibar Island North and Mnemba Island

Previous Map | Next Map | The Complete Guide to African Safaris Maps

Getting Here and Around

There are no direct flights from the United States. Generally you need to connect through a city on the mainland, the easiest being Dar es Saalam. From Dar es Saalam to Stone Town, there are regular flights in small twin-engine aircraft operated by Precision Air and Coastal Aviation The flight takes around 20 minutes. From Nairobi and Mombasa, you can fly to Stone Town on Kenya Airways.

Zanzibar Island South

Previous Map | Next Map | The Complete Guide to African Safaris Maps

Visitors from the United States and Europe require visas to enter Tanzania. Zanzibar is a semiautonomous state within Tanzania, so you don’t need a separate visa to visit, but you do need to show your passport.

Bikes can be rented from shops near Darajani Market. Mopeds and motorcycles are another great way to get about the island, although nothing is signposted so you could get lost quite frequently.

Several hydrofoil ferries travel between Dar es Salaam and Stone Town. The fastest trips, lasting about 75 minutes, are on hydrofoils operated by Sea Express and Azam Marine. Sea Express has daily departures from Dar es Salaam at 9 am and 11:30 am, with returns at 7 am and 3 pm. Azam Marine departs from Dar es Salaam at 7 am, 9:30 am, 12:30 pm, and 3:45 pm, returning at 7 am, 9:30 pm, 12:30 pm, and 3:30 pm. Tickets can be purchased on the spot or in advance from the row of offices next to the port in Dar es Saalam. Timetables and prices are displayed on boards outside each office. Tickets for nonresidents range from $40 (Tsh 63,000) for first class to $35 (Tsh 55,000) for second class. The harbor is quite busy so keep an eye on your possessions. And if you don’t want help from a porter, be firm. Note that two ferries sank in 2011 and 2012, thought to be due to overcrowding, so you may want to consider flying instead; the cost isn’t that much more.

Whether you arrive by plane or ferry, you’ll be approached by taxi drivers. Be sure to agree on a price before getting in, as taxis don’t have meters. The fare to Stone Town should be around Tsh 20,000 (around $10-$15). Your driver may let you out several blocks before you reach your hotel because the streets are too narrow. Ask the driver to walk you to the hotel. Be sure to tip him if he carries your luggage.

Day Tours

Spice tours are a very popular way to see Zanzibar. Guides take you to farms in Kizimbani or Kindichi and teach you to identify plants that produce cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg, and vanilla. A curry luncheon will undoubtedly use some of the local spices. Any tour company can arrange a spice tour, but the best guides are those who work for Mr. Mitu, a renowned guide who has his own agency and a battalion of guides trained by him. The average price for a spice tour ranges from $25 to $50, depending on the number of people, including lunch. Most depart around 9 am from Stone Town. If you can’t reach Mr. Mitu, inquire at a local tour operator or at the tourist information center as to where you can get hold of him.

Eco & Culture Tours and Fisherman Tours offer a full range of tour options that include visits to Prison Island, Jozani Forest, and the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre. John da Silva, an art historian and artist originally from Goa, has lived in Stone Town for many years. For an unusual and interesting historical angle on Zanzibar, attend one of the fascinating talks he conducts out of his home: his extensive archives include old photos, postcards, memorabilia, furniture, and pottery fragments relating to the island.

A trip on an Arab dhow is a must. Original Dhow Safaris offers picnic excursions to a nearby sandbank, and sunrise and sunset cruises. Monarch Travel Services also provide transfers and tours.

Health and Safety

Visitors to Zanzibar are required to have a yellow-fever-vaccination certificate; some websites also recommend polio, Hepatitis A, and typhoid vaccinations. You should also talk with your doctor about a malaria prophylactic. The best way to avoid malaria is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, so make sure your arms and legs are covered and that you wear plenty of mosquito repellent, especially after dusk. Antihistamine cream is also quite useful for when you do get bitten, to stop the itch. Always sleep under a mosquito net; most hotels and guesthouses provide them. The sun can be very strong here, so make sure to slather yourself with sunscreen as well. Drink bottled water, and plenty of it—it’ll help you avoid dehydration. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables that may have been washed in untreated water.

Although the best way of experiencing Stone Town is to wander around its labyrinthine streets, you should always be on your guard. Don’t wear jewelry or watches that might attract attention, and keep a firm grasp on purses and camera bags. Leave valuables in the safe at your hotel.

Muggings have been reported at Nungwi and other coastal resorts, so never carry valuables onto the beach.

As Zanzibar is a largely conservative, Muslim state, it’s advisable for women to dress modestly. This means a long dress or skirt. Uncovered shoulders and heads are fine, but never cleavage or torsos. Many female tourists seem to ignore this advice, and although locals are too polite to say anything, it’s not appreciated. Holding hands is fine, but overly intimate displays of affection should be avoided. With that being said, homosexuality is frowned upon in Zanzibar, and displays of public affection can be prosecutable.

TIP Always ask permission before taking photographs, and be prepared to pay a small tip in return, particularly from the Masai.

Money Matters

There are handy currency exchange booths in Stone Town that offer good rates. The best rates are at Forex Bureau around the corner from Mazson’s Hotel on Kenyatta Road, and the Malindi Exchange across from Cine Afrique. Mtoni Marine Center, also in Stone Town, will give a cash advance on your Visa or MasterCard. It charges a commission as well as a processing fee. Most people will except U.S. dollars, but be aware of the exchange rate and make sure you’re not being overcharged. TIP Be very careful when using ATMs. Make sure you use one at a reputable bank, and check to make sure the bank is open—cards get swallowed all the time. Avoid the airport’s ATM; it’s omnivorous.


The regional code for Zanzibar is 024. TIP Telephone numbers seem to lack consistency, so they’re listed as they appear in promotional materials.

Visitor Information

The free tourist magazine, Swahili Coast, found in hotels and shops, lists cultural events, as well as tide tables that are very useful for divers. There’s a tourist information center north of Stone Town. Although not very useful for information about the city, it does book rooms at inns in other parts of the island.


Coastal Aviation.
| www.coastal.cc.
Fly540. | www.fly540.com.
Kenya Airways. | Airport North Rd., Embakasi, | Nairobi, Kenya | 00501 | 020/327-4747 | www.kenya-airways.com.
Precision Air. | www.precisionairtz.com.
Zan Air. | www.zanair.com.

Zanzibar Airport.
| www.zanzibar-airport.com.

Day Tours
Eco & Culture Tours.
| Stone Town | 024/223-3731 | www.ecoculture-zanzibar.org.
Fisherman Tours. | Vuga Rd., near Majestic Cinema, | Stone Town | 024/223-8791, 747/440-044 | www.fishermantours.com.
John da Silva. | Stone Town | 0777/878-900 | chavdahotel@zanlink.com.
Mr. Mitu. | Stone Town | 024/223-1020.
The Original Dhow Safaris. | Stone Town | 772/277-799 | www.dhowsafaris.net.
Monarch Travel Services. | Stone Town | 024/223-8220 | infomonarch@zanlink.com.
Zanzibar Watersports. | Stone Town | 024/223-3039, 0777/415-660 | www.zanzibarwatersports.com.

Zanzibar Medical and Diagnostic Center.
| Vuga Rd., near Majestic cinema, | Stone Town | 024/223-1071, 0777/750-040, 0777/413-714 24-hour emergency hotline.

Azam Marine.
| 022/212-3324 in Dar es Salaam, 024/223-1655 in Zanzibar | www.azammarine.com.
Sea Express. | Sokoine Dr., | Zanzibar | 022/213-7049 in Dar es Salaam, 024/223-4690 in Zanzibar | www.fastferriestz.com.

Visitor Info
Zanzibar Tourist Corporation.
| 024/223-8630 | www.zanzibartouristcorporation.net.


The sights in Stone Town are all minutes from one another so you’ll see them all as you walk. However, the old part of town is very compact and mazelike and can be a bit disconcerting, especially if you’re a female traveler. Hiring a guide is a great way to see the city without stress, and a guide can provide information about the sights you’ll see. Many tour operators offer a guided walking tour for approximately US$20-US$25. Ask your hotel for guide suggestions.

Anglican Cathedral.
This was the first Anglican cathedral in East Africa and its crucifix was carved from the tree under which explorer David Livingstone’s heart was buried in the village of Chitambo. Built in 1887 to mark the end of the slave trade, the cathedral’s high altar was constructed on the site of a whipping post. Nothing of the slave market remains, although nearby are underground chambers in which slaves were forced to crouch on stone shelves less than 2 feet high. The entry fee includes a guided tour of the chambers, church, and monument. | Off Creek Rd. | Zanzibar | Tsh 5,000 | Daily 8-6.

Beit al-Sahel/Palace Museum.
This structure was known as the People’s Palace, but for a long time the name was a bitter irony. It was here that sultans and their families lived from the 1880s until the revolution of 1964. It now exhibits collections of furniture and clothing from the days of the sultans. A room is dedicated to Princess Salme, daughter of Sultan Said, who eloped with a German businessman in the 19th century. On the grounds outside are the tombs of Sultan Said and two of his sons. | Mizingani Rd. | Zanzibar | US$3 | Weekdays 8:30-6:30, weekends 8:30-6.

Beit el-Ajaib.
Known as the House of Wonders because it was the first building in Zanzibar to use electric lights, this four-story palace is still one of the largest buildings in the city. Built in the late 1800s for Sultan Barghash, it was bombarded by the British in 1886, forcing the sultan to abdicate his throne. Today you’ll find cannons guarding the beautifully carved doors at the entrance. Check out the marble-floored rooms, where you’ll find exhibits that detail the country’s battle for independence. | North of Old Fort | Zanzibar | US$4 | Daily 9-6.

Changu Island (Prison Island).
This tiny island, just a 20-minute boat ride from Stone Town, was once a prison and a quarantine location. Now it’s a tropical paradise that’s home to the giant Aldabra tortoise (you can visit the tortoises for a small fee), the duiker antelope, and a variety of birds and butterflies. There’s also decent swimming and snorkeling, and a hotel and restaurant. Note that 70% of the island is private property and thus inaccessible.TIP You can visit Changu Island on a tour, or arrange transport with a fisherman on the beach outside Archipelago’s for a much cheaper price. There’s no entry fee for the island itself. | 5.6 km (3.5 miles) north-west of the main island of Zanzibar | Zanzibar | US$4 for tortoise visit.

Darajani Market.
This gable-roofed structure built in 1904 houses a sprawling fruit, fish, meat, and vegetable market. Goods of all sorts—colorful fabrics, wooden chests, and all types of jewelry—are sold in the shops that line the surrounding streets. To the east of the main building, you’ll find spices laid out in colorful displays of beige, yellow, and red. On Wednesday and Saturday there’s an antiques fair. The market is most active in the morning between 9 and 11. | Creek Rd., north of New Mkunazini St. | Zanzibar | Free | Daily 8-6.

Dhow Harbor.
The scent of cloves hangs heavy in the air as stevedores load and unload sacks of the region’s most valuable crops. Every day you’ll spot dhows arriving from the mainland with deliveries of flour and other goods not available on the islands. Fishermen deposit their catch here early in the morning. This is a seedy area, so be cautious. | Malindi St., north of Malawi St. | Zanzibar.

Forodhani Gardens.
Newly revamped in 2009 by the Aga Khan Foundation, this pleasant waterfront park is a favorite spot for an evening stroll both for locals and tourists. Dozens of venders sell freshly grilled fish under the light of gas lanterns. There’s also a children’s playground. | Mizingani St. | Zanzibar.

Hamamni Baths.
Built in the late 19th century by Sultan Barghash, these public baths still retain the grandeur of a past era. Entry includes a guide, who will accompany you in exploring the maze of marble-floored rooms and explain what each room was used for. | Hamamni St. | Zanzibar | Tsh 500.

Old Fort.
Built by the Portuguese in 1560, this bastioned fortress is the oldest structure in Stone Town. It withstood an attack from Arabs in 1754. It was later used as a jail, and prisoners who were sentenced to death met their ends here. It has undergone extensive renovation and today is headquarters for many cultural organizations, including the Zanzibar International Film Festival. Performances of traditional dance and music are staged here several times a week. | Creek Rd. and Malawi Rd. | Zanzibar | Free | Daily 7 am-10 pm.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
Built by French missionaries more than a century ago, this ornate church is based on the basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, in Marseilles, France. It’s now one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, with twin spires that you’ll see as you arrive in Stone Town. | Cathedral St., near Gizenda St. | Zanzibar.

Beyond Stone Town

Chumbe Island.
Between the Tanzanian coast and the islands of Zanzibar, Chumbe Island is the country’s first marine national park. It’s home to 400 species of coral and 200 species of fish. There’s scuba diving, snorkeling, island hikes, and outrigger boat rides. TIP The island can only be visited on an organized day trip. | Chumbe Island | Zanzibar | 024/223-1040 | wwww.chumbeisland.com.

Jozani Forest Reserve.
Jozani Chakwa Bay National Park, Zanzibar’s only national park, is home to this reserve where you’ll find the rare Kirk’s red colobus monkey, which is named after Sir John Kirk, the British consul in Zanzibar from 1866 to 1887. The species is known for its white whiskers and rusty coat. Many of the other animals that call this reserve home—including the blue duiker, a diminutive antelope whose coat is a dusty bluish-gray—are endangered because 95% of the original forests of the archipelago have been destroyed. There’s also more than 50 species of butterfly and 40 bird species. The entry fee includes entrance to the forest and a circular boardwalk walk through mangrove swamps, plus the services of a guide (tip him if he’s good). TIP Early morning and evenings are the best time to visit. | 38 km (27 miles) south east of Stone Town | Zanzibar | US$8 | Daily 7:30-5.

Zanzibar Butterfly Centre.
This center is well worth a half-hour visit. It’s a community development project, and your entry fee pays for local farmers to bring in cocoons (most of which are sent to museums overseas) and helps preserve the forest. Guided tours end in a visit to an enclosure filled with hundreds of colorful butterflies. | 1 km from Jozani Forest | Zanzibar | www.zanzibarbutterflies.com | UD$5 | 9 am-5 pm.


While Zanzibar offers quintessential powdery white sand and calm, warm turquoise waters, traveling from one beach to another by taxi can get quite expensive (and local taxis, or daladalas, are uncomfortable). Most tourists opt instead to enjoy the beach in front of their resort. Doing so offers you a measure of protection from “beach boys,” or touts, that frequent the beaches looking for customers. Young backpackers and those wanting some nightlife usually head to Nungwi, or Kendwa on the north coast, which have good beaches that aren’t greatly affected by the tides; it’s near impossible to swim during low tide. You can, however, take this opportunity to explore rock pools. Just be sure to wear reef shoes—sea urchins are painful to step on.


Zanzibar was the legendary Spice Island, so it’s no surprise the cuisine here is flavored with lemongrass, cumin, and garlic. Cinnamon enlivens tea and coffee, while ginger flavors a refreshing soft drink called Tangawizi. Zanzibar grows more than 20 types of mangos, and combining them with bananas, papayas, pineapples, and passion fruit makes for tasty juices. When it comes to dinner, seafood reigns supreme. Stone Town’s fish market sells skewers of kingfish and tuna. Stop by in the early evening, when the catch of the day is hauled in and cleaned. Try the prawn kebabs, roasted peanuts, and corn on the cob at the outdoor market at Forodhani Gardens (but not if you have a sensitive tummy). Try the vegetarian Zanzibar pizza for breakfast; it’s more like an omelet.

Gratuities are often included in the bill, so ask the staff before adding the usual 10% tip. Credit cards aren’t widely accepted, so make sure you have enough cash. Lunch hours are generally from 12:30 to 2:30, dinner from 7 to 10:30. Dress is casual for all but upscale restaurants, where you should avoid T-shirts, shorts, and trainers.

$ | AFRICAN | The breezy, open layout of this BYOB restaurant adds to the casual feel but what it lacks in ambience it more than makes up for in the simple yet tasty food. Check out the dry-erase board for the daily seafood specials, such as BBQ swordfish with avocado gremolata or Swahili prawns in coconut masala sauce, and, for dessert, a delicious sticky date pudding with caramel sauce and some spiced tea or coffee. Arrive early for dinner or you might have to wait for a table, as it’s popular with tourists and locals alike. They also serve breakfast and lunch. TIP You’ll have to climb up a flight of stairs to get here. | Average main: $7 | Hurumzi St. | Stone Town | 024/223-0171 | No credit cards | Daily 8 am-10 pm.

Fodor’s Choice | Emerson Spice Rooftop Restaurant.
$$$ | AFRICAN | Be sure to book ahead at this charming but small rooftop restaurant, because there’s just one seating for dinner at 7 pm. Arrive early to enjoy a cocktail and the sunset and then enjoy a degustation menu of exquisite Swahili-inspired cuisine. Each of the five courses has three small portions that have distinct and interesting flavors, such as passion fruit fish ceviche, calamari-stuffed tomato, grilled mango with cardamom, or coconut-chili fish baked in banana leaf. The menu changes daily and is only posted on a board outside around lunchtime, ensuring that fresh and seasonal ingredients are used. The eponymous Emerson himself is often in attendance to chat to customers about life in Zanzibar. TIP You’ll climb lots of steep stairs to get to the top. | Average main: $25 | Tharia St., Kiponda | Stone Town | 024/223-2776, 0775/046-395mobile phone | www.emersonspice.com | Reservations essential.

House of Spices.
$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | As usual, you’ll have to climb a few steep flights of stairs before arriving at this breezy, open-air terrace restaurant, but the effort is worth it. The decor is simple yet stylish, with walls painted in relaxing shades of blue and green, colorful woven place mats, dark wooden tables and chairs, and friendly waiters in blue shirts and prayer hats. If you’re craving Western food, the pizzas and homemade pastas are good, and there are plenty of red meat options; otherwise there are enticing seafood dishes such as crab claws, prawns, calamari, and grilled fish with a choice of interesting sauces. TIP There’s a shop downstairs with attractively packaged souvenirs. | Average main: $12 | Kiponda St. | Zanzibar | www.houseofspiceszanzibar.com | Closed Sunday.

Monsoon Restaurant.
$$ | AFRICAN | The outside terrace, which has views of the ocean and Fordhani Gardens, provides a romantic setting. There’s also seating inside at low tables with cushions for sitting on the floor. Some nights there’s traditional Tarab music. The food, which is predominantly Swahili-style, can be a let-down, however, and its expensive; service can be slow and unfriendly. | Average main: $12 | Hurumzi St. | Stone Town | 024/223-3076 | No credit cards | Daily 10 am-midnight.


Beach Resorts

Baraza Resort & Spa.
$$$$ | ALL-INCLUSIVE | While there’s nothing authentic about the Arabian decor at this award-winning hotel, there’s a “wow” factor that extends from the opulent reception and lounging areas, complete with carved wooden furnishings, copper urns, and billowing drapes, to the beautifully appointed individual villas. Some have sea views and other garden views; all have private plunge pools, large bathrooms with tubs, and plenty of areas to relax in. All in all, it’s a sublime place to refresh yourself after a safari. In the evening, enjoy a cocktail by the pool with other guests before an elaborate dinner in one of the two restaurants. The spa is exquisite with a full range of treatments, and there’s a quiet pool at the spa where guests can retreat to if the main pool gets too noisy. Pros: a good range of tours is available; excellent service; gorgeous beach. Cons: no Wi-Fi in the rooms; the pool area gets a bit crowded. | Rooms from: $800 | Bwejuu | Zanzibar | 0774/440-330, 0774/440-331 | www.baraza-zanzibar.com | 30 villas | All-inclusive.

Fodor’s Choice | Chumbe Island.
$$ | ALL-INCLUSIVE | The island’s ecotourism concept was the brainstorm of a German conservationist who, since the early 1990s, has succeeded in developing it as one of the world’s foremost marine sanctuaries. Seven thatch bungalows with specially built roofs catch rainwater which is then funneled into bathrooms through a tank in the floor. Electricity is solar-powered, and toilets are doused in sweet-smelling compost and later cleaned. This isn’t a service-oriented luxury resort (although staff look after the guests very well) but a fascinating, genuine eco-project on a pristine island where you can learn about sustainability at Chumbe, with your accommodations costs subsidising the project. Scuba diving, snorkeling, island hikes guided by expert rangers, and outrigger boat rides give you plenty to do. Pros: excellent food and involved staff; excellent snorkeling. Cons: the boat trip from Stone Town takes 45 minutes, and there’s only one departure a day; it’s expensive. | Rooms from: $280 | Chumbe Island, Coral Park | Zanzibar | www.chumbeisland.com | 7 bungalows | All-inclusive.

Fodor’s Choice | Mnemba Island Lodge.
$$$$ | ALL-INCLUSIVE | For the ultimate beach escape where time stands still, where sand, sea, and horizon melt into each other, where there’s exclusivity, total relaxation, and impeccable food and service, it would be hard to find anywhere in the world as alluring as Mnemba Island Lodge on &Beyond’s privately owned Mnemba Island. You’ll be transported from Zanzibar by 4x4 and speedboat to this ultimate desert island. Your deluxe, Swiss Family Robinson-style beach house—one of only 10 on the island—is hidden between strips of coastal forest and faces a turquoise sea that would’ve challenged even the palette of Van Gogh. Coconut matting covers the walls and floors of your bedroom, dressing room, en-suite bathroom, and covered veranda, which is furnished with handmade Zanzibari furniture. A feature of this superlative lodge is its imaginative use of recycled glass. Check out the blue glass-bead shower curtain, your soap dish, or your champagne flute. Diving and snorkeling off a pristine coral reef just a few feet from shore is a perfect 10, and if you’ve always wanted to dive, then this is the place to fulfill that dream with two experienced dive masters and state-of-the-art equipment. The cooing of doves will soothe even the most savage beast as the tiniest antelopes in the world, the rare suni, scamper happily past you while you sit on the beach under your private canopy and sip sundowners. Mix with fellow guests from all over the world or dine alone a few feet from the soft surf under pulsing stars by glowing lantern light. Heaven can’t be better than this. Pros: there’s a snorkeling reef just off the shore that you can swim out to; plenty of privacy. Cons: you need to book in advance, as it’s a sought-after destination; if you don’t dive you’re not taking advantage of the on-site master and being able to go out whenever you like; the doves can be noisy. | Rooms from: $1500 | Mnemba Island| Zanzibar | 27-11/809-4300 in Johannesburg | www.mnemba-island.com | 10 bungalows | All-inclusive.

Fodor’s Choice | Ras Nungwi.
$ | HOTEL | You may ask yourself, “Where exactly am I going?” But the hour-plus drive from the airport through local towns and over bumpy roads will be worth it. Once you arrive, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into another world when you’re greeted by balmy breezes, swaying palms, and a nice cool drink. Request one of the rooms with water views, it may be more expensive, but it’s lovely to wake up and see the turquoise waters. The rooms immediately say island getaway: the handcrafted four-poster beds are draped in mosquito netting, the tiled floors are cooling to walk on, and your own veranda is a perfect place to jot in your journal or write home. If you’re looking for an adventure, the resort offers snorkeling, scuba diving, dhow cruises, and deep-sea fishing, as well as tours of Nungwi—the local town—Stone Town, Jozani Forest, and spice plantations. If you want to relax, the pool beckons, the beach is gorgeous to walk along, and the Peponi Spa offers a full spa menu. Kids are welcome. Half-board and full-board options are available too. Pros: gorgeous beach; away from the madding crowds; good food. Cons: an hour’s drive from Stone Town. | Rooms from: $160 | Nungwi Peninsula, Nungwi | Zanzibar | 024/223-3767 | www.rasnungwi.com | 32 rooms | Closed in Apr. and May | Breakfast.

The Zanzibari.
$ | RESORT | Although the standard rooms are somewhat plain and located in a two-story block, they all have balconies overlooking the beautiful gardens and, on the upper level, the turquoise sea beyond. There’s an infinity pool, plenty of lounge chairs scattered around in various nooks and crannies, and three smaller plunge pools overlooking the ocean. At low tide you can walk along the beach to Nungwi village. The five course dinners, included in the rate, are consistently excellent and always include a seafood option. Meals are taken in a soaring, open-air thatched banda, with a quirky bar made out of a dhow in one corner. As there are only eight rooms and 3 suites, the hotel has an intimate boutique hotel feel. The suites, located closer to the ocean, are extremely spacious and offer good value. Pros: great food; friendly, attentive staff; the hotel can arrange tours and snorkeling. Cons: basic rooms; swimming depends on the tides. | Rooms from: $130 | Nungwi Peninsula, Nungwi | Zanzibar | www.thezanzibari.com | 8 rooms, 3 suites | Some meals.

In Stone Town

Beyt al Chai.
$ | B&B/INN | This former tea house recalls days gone by. The ornate wooden staircase takes you to the guest rooms and the lounge—a great place to read a book, write postcards, or sip a cool drink. The rooms have high ceilings, thick walls, and small windows that keep out the heat. The carved wooden four poster beds are draped in mosquito netting, adding a sense of relaxation. There’s a good restaurant downstairs. Pros: unpretentiously authentic; excellent location; children under 2 free. Cons: basic; breakfast not great; expensive | Rooms from: $230 | Kilele Square | Stone Town | 0774/444-111 | www.stonetowninn.com | 5 rooms | Breakfast.

Emerson Spice Hotel.
$ | B&B/INN | Two gorgeous historic buildings right in the center of the maze of alleyways that make up Stone Town have been converted into a hotel with whimsically wonderful rooms, each with a different theme. Each room is massive, and most have balconies with views out onto the town. Traditional Swahili furniture, stained glass window detailing, ornate drapes, and high mosquito-draped four-poster beds (that you need a step to climb into) complete the romantic Zanzibari feel. Plans include more rooms and a swimming pool and spa. There’s a downstairs café and an excellent rooftop restaurant. Note that taxis can’t drive right up to the hotel, so get your driver to walk the final stage with you. Pros: each room has a mobile phone for usage during your stay; enormous rooms; authentic ambience. Cons: lots of stairs; no mod-cons such as Wi-Fi, TV, or fridge; rooms can be gloomy. | Rooms from: $200 | Tharia St., Kiponda | Stone Town | 0775/046-395 | www.emersonspice.com | 11 rooms | Breakfast.

Fodor’s Choice | Kisiwa House.
$ | HOTEL | This stylish boutique hotel, housed in a beautifully restored 19th-century Zanzibari town house, manages to combine old-fashioned authenticity—steep wooden staircases, high ceilings, an inner courtyard, and pretty rooftop restaurant—with modern touches, such as the contemporary art on the walls, flat-screen TVs, and large, modern, luxurious bathrooms that have bathtubs as well as showers. Large windows allow in plenty of light and fresh breezes. There’s a lounge on each floor with plenty of space to relax, and the breakfasts are terrific. The courtyard restaurant is open to nonguests. Pros: rates are very reasonable considering the amenities; great location; free Wi-Fi. Cons: lots of steep stairs; no views from the rooms. | Rooms from: $195 | 572 Baghani St. | Stone Town | 024/223-5654 | www.kisiwahouse.com | 11 rooms | Breakfast.

The Zanzibar Serena Inn.
$$$ | HOTEL | On one side of Shangani Square, on the fringe of Stone Town, this breathtakingly beautiful hotel is the result of the exquisite restoration of two of Zanzibar’s historic buildings: the old Telekoms building, an original colonial-era building, and the Chinese doctors’ residence, where several local Chinese doctors practiced their traditional medicine. The Serena is as good as it gets. As you step through the front doors, polished stone floors with inlaid tiles, carved arches, fountains, antique furniture, and high ceilings will take you back to a time when gracious living was the norm. Your sea-facing room looks out over a small beach or a huge palm-filled courtyard with an inviting pool. Be sure to watch the sun setting over the Indian Ocean as romantic white-sailed dhows drift by in the golden light; it will be an unforgettable memory. Spacious rooms with en-suite bathroom feature hand-carved four-poster beds, hand-carved doors and window frames, walls thick enough to repel any sultan’s army, cool stone floors, hand-carved furniture, and a balcony you won’t want to leave. Don’t miss a sumptuous seafood dinner at the Terrace Restaurant or a snack by the pool looking out to far horizons. At night, local musicians play authentic Zanzibari music. If you want sun and sand, visit the hotel’s private beach at Mangapwani, just 25 minutes from the hotel. Enjoy a beautiful beach and excellent seafood served by the attentive staff. TIP It’s worth paying an extra US$50 per night to get a prime room with a huge balcony directly overlooking the beach. Pros: gorgeous location; superb historical ambience; exclusivity. Cons: lots of stairs; often fully booked; on-site beach not great. | Rooms from: $590 | Shangani St. | Stone Town | 024/223-3051 | www.serenahotels.com | 51 rooms | Breakfast.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents