Just Back: Tanzania and Zanzibar

Angela Hughes, of Trips & Ships Luxury Travel, just returned from an 11-day safari experience in Tanzania, Africa, with stops at the breathtaking beaches of Zanzibar. Here’s her report.

While most people take months, if not a year, to plan a luxury safari, we knew we had to jump across the pond and get to the Serengeti while the national parks were empty of tourists and the borders were open without COVID testing as a requirement.

Two weeks later, we were on Qatar Airways out of a desolate JFK airport connecting in Doha, Qatar, and touching down at Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro airport.

Qatar Airways did a great job of keeping all of their fliers COVID-safe, providing plastic shields to guests and keeping empty seats among them. Planes were flying at half the passenger capacity, giving us plenty of room to stretch out and relax on the long, over-the-water flight. Reaching Qatar was an eye-opener, as flights from all over the world were coming in and taking off and people were traveling as business as usual.

On our arrival in Arusha, we were met by Bernard Munyanziza of the luxury DMC Nziza Hospitality, and quickly transported to the Legendary Lodge. Set on the lush tropical gardens of a working coffee farm just outside Arusha, the Legendary Lodge dazzles with its beautiful garden cottages that come with private verandas. We relaxed, rode bikes through the farm and enjoyed the food and spa massages on site.  

Angela Hughes visited the Serengeti recently

A quick one-hour air flight from Arusha to the dirt airstrip of Kogatende landed us in Northern Serengeti with jeeps waiting and spare tires white labeled with my brand, Trips & Ships Luxury Travel.

Many describe Tanzania as Africa’s visual masterpiece, known for the “Big 5,” namely the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo. 

One of the main goals of our trip was to see the wildebeest crossing the Mara River, which is also described as the “Great Migration.” The best times to see the migration are between December and March or between May and November. Our expert guide, Cloude, recognized the animal movement pattern and immediately took us over to the crossing point on the Mara River, where we were able to observe what is called “the greatest show on earth,” the drama of the mass movement of wildebeest and zebras, as they made their way into the Ndutu Plains.

One of the main goals of Hughes' trip was to see the wildebeest crossing the Mara River.

For two nights, we checked into the gorgeous Nimali Mara Camp, a small, intimate safari camp with only 10 tents. I soaked in a beautiful copper tub, taking in the views of the savannah through open windows. The camp fits naturally into its surroundings, amongst the trees and boulders, overlooking the Serengeti with an infinity pool set within a natural cave. I woke up to giraffes and zebras roaming in front of my room. In terms of sustainability, I appreciated that the camp used solar power and energy-efficient lighting, in addition to using eco-friendly materials.

We spent the next two days at the Nyumbani Camp, a luxury camp in central Serengeti, in search of big lions and cats. We tracked lions, leopards, elephants and buffalo, who share the park with cheetahs, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles, topis, elands, waterbucks, hyenas, baboons, impalas, African wild dogs and giraffes to name a few. We visited the spectacular Retina Hippo Pool with over 200 lazy, playful hippos splashing around.

Angela Hughes stayed at Legendary Lodge.

On the fringe of the park is the Ngorongoro Crater, where we searched unsuccessfully for the near-extinct Rhino. We stayed on the outer slopes of the crater at the luscious, tropical Gibb’s Farm, founded in the 1920s as a coffee plantation.

The next two days, we stayed at the Sanctuary Swala, located in a secluded area of Tarangire National Park, where we continued to view elephants and birds.

Nimali Mara Camp had a tub with a view. 

A quick flight off-shore took us to the beauty of Tanzania, Zanzibar, which dazzled our senses with its Arabic influences and empty miles of pristine white-sand beaches. We stayed at the Xanadu Villas and Retreat, which is an hour’s drive from the exotic Stone Town and serves exceptional cuisine.

My takeaways: 1. Don’t overthink traveling abroad. The economic impact that even one group of tourists can bring to an area is significant for families around the world who are in dire need. 2. Now is the perfect time to travel with cleaner-than-ever flights and accommodations. 3. Getting outside of our “own bubble” helps restore our vision of humanity and why tourism matters!

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