Enjoy this music video of highlights from my recent trip to Tanzania! It was tough narrowing hours of video down to just a couple of minutes, but somehow we managed to get dozens of animals and five national parks in there. I think my favorite capture is the cheetah stalking and chasing its prey in the Serengeti. What’s your favorite footage?
Today has been a bittersweet day for me. I’m looking forward to going home but sorry to say goodbye to this beautiful island so soon. My flights are a charter plane from Zanzibar to Dar Es Salam, then a KLM/Delta route to the United States via Amsterdam. Fortunately, my flight out of Zanzibar isn’t scheduled until 6 p.m., so I was able to visit a few more lodges, enjoy a spice farm tour, and have a late lunch at Zanzibar Serena Inn’s seaside restaurant in Stone Town before heading for the airport.
After breakfast at Essque Zalu, I headed to Matemwe, a town on the east side of the island’s northern tip. Matemwe is popular with travelers because the sand there is fine and powdery. (Some other parts of the island have coarser sand or lots of coral, both of which require the use of watershoes when wading.)
I visited a set of three neighboring sister properties called Matemwe Lodge, Matemwe Retreat, and Matemwe Beach House. Matemwe Lodge consists of 12 villas: six two-story villas with a king-size bed on the first floor and a twin bed on the second loft-style floor, and six one-story villas with one king-sized bed. The villas do not have air conditioning, but have a layout that takes advantage of the sea breeze. Guests at any of the three properties can sign up for snorkeling and diving lessons. Other optional activities include a reef walk, village walk, and sailing. Or just hang around the property to swim in one of the lodge’s two pools or play chess on a large outdoor board.
Matemwe Beach House is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage for groups of up to six people. It is the only of the three sister properties that allows children under six years old. The house has its own private pool and kitchen, as well as a personal chef and butler service.
Matemwe Retreat is a more secluded property up the hill from the beach. It has four villas that feature a rooftop patio with plunge pool. The first floor includes a master bedroom and a large veranda that looks down on the ocean. Meals are prepared by a personal chef and served in the dining area of the veranda.
We then headed south to Mchanga Beach Lodge, which was opened 6 years ago by an expat American and her German husband. The lodge has 18 units, including two garden suites that sleep up to 4 people each. Each room has a small sitting area that looks out onto the ocean. The lodge focuses on fresh food with local flavors, even harvesting coconuts from its own trees to use in food and drinks for guests.
Speaking of local foods, it wouldn’t be a trip to Zanzibar without sampling some of the locally grown spices. I stopped at a spice farm owned by a cooperative of local farmers for a tour. The farm grows a large variety of spices. Cloves, cinnamon, allspice, vanilla beans, black pepper, lemongrass, turmeric, ginger, annatto, cardamom and hot pepper were just a few of the plants that our guides showed us. The farm also grows some delicious tropical fruits. After our tour we sat down to drink lemongrass tea and sample mango, jackfruit, pomelo (a bit like a grapefruit but without the bitterness), and local varieties of oranges and bananas that you can’t find in the United States.
Our last stop before the airport was Zanzibar Serena Inn for a late lunch. Located in Stone Town, the luxury hotel is right on the beach. We enjoyed the ocean breeze from our table at the hotel’s sea front restaurant. It was lovely to be able to enjoy the Indian Ocean right up to the end of my trip!
I awoke to the sun rising over the crystalline blue Indian Ocean. After a quick breakfast, we headed out to visit beachside lodges and resorts around the island.
Our first stop was The Residence, a beautiful 5-star resort on 79 acres on the southwest coast. Each of the 66 private villas has its own 8-meter pool and either a view of the beach or the resort’s well-manicured gardens. Visitors who want a larger pool can take a dip in the resort’s main pool — a glass-walled infinity pool that Conde Nast recently named as one of the top ten swimming pools in the world. Onsite activities include bicycling (each guest receives a bicycle to use during the stay), boating, a spa, fitness center, snorkeling, and dolphin safaris. A Kids Club offers activities for young ones ages 3 through 12, and an onsite petting zoo and bird sanctuary are fun for children of all ages.
We then visited Breezes Beach Club and Spa. I loved the lobby building, which was furnished with Persian-style brass lamps and intricately carved furniture. It also smelled like heaven, thanks to large urns of whole cloves and cardamon pods lining its open-air walkways.
The 74 air-conditioned rooms are similarly decorated, and each room has an assigned umbrella and set of loungers on the resort’s private beach. Diving excursions and spa services are available on site.
Konokono Beach Resort recently reopened after a two-year redesign and expansion project. Located on on Chwaka Bay on Zanzibar’s east coast, it now has 24 villas (up from 14) and a gorgeous seaside restaurant and pool. I was tempted to take a dip, but alas I did not have my swimsuit with me.
However, we did enjoy a delicious lunch in the outdoor boma, which was built in the Zanzibar style with modern touches such as Italian-designed metal chandeliers. The villas themselves are spacious and airy, with their own verandas and plunge pools. Other villa amenities include air conditioning, cable television, and a coffee station.
We then headed back toward Zanzibar’s northern tip to Essque Zalu Resort & Spa, our lodgings for the night. Essque-Zalu has been rated the island’s number five lodging by members of TripAdvisor, so I was excited to check it out for myself. I immediately saw why it ranks so highly. Essque Zalu is a luxurious retreat with a spacious lobby, three restaurants, three bars, a gorgeous swimming pool, and a high-end boutique featuring original fashions and art. It has 40 spacious suites and nine three- and four-bedroom villas with kitchens and outdoor jacuzzis, the latter of which are an excellent option for families.
Our host gave us a tour of the large spa. It offers massage, facials, manicures and pedicures using highly rated Africology products. Treatments may be given at the spa or at guests’ villas. We walked down the jetty, which goes out over the beach and water and has a restaurant at its end. Guests can access the beach and swimming from steps that run along it. After settling in our villa we had an outstanding dinner at The Market Kitchen, Essque Zalu’s main restaurant. There were three four-course offerings: a European-American-style meat option, a vegetarian option, and a Swahili option. All were delicious.
For more pictures of Essque Zalu, visit my Essque Zalu Facebook album.
Today I bid farewell to Tanzania’s mainland. I was sad to leave such a beautiful place, but excited for my next destination: Zanzibar, a Tanzanian island in the crystal blue waters of the Indian Ocean.
I spent this morning in the Serengeti in Pioneer Camp’s lounge, talking with the camp manager about local wildlife and enjoying the antics of the yellow-spotted rock hyraxes on a neighboring outcrop. One of them even climbed up toward the edge of the lounge platform to wish me a pleasant trip. (At least that’s what it looked like the creature was trying to communicate, going by the smile on its face.)
On our way to the Seronera Airstrip in the heart of Serengeti National Park, we came across a herd of hundreds of buffalo crossing the road in double- and triple-file. It was an astounding sight, with buffalo trailing toward both ends of the horizon as far as the eye could see. It’s the most buffalo I’ve ever seen at once. Our guide Modi said that they were all heading toward a watering hole down the hill. Cape buffalo don’t always travel in such large groups. But since the dry season has been long, watering places are fewer and farther between, so they were all headed to the same place.
We also saw a young male lion guarding a recent kill. Although adult males generally don’t hunt for themselves — leaving it to the females of the pride to do the work — young ones that haven’t yet found females to support them do hunt for themselves. We also saw two very well-fed female lions by the side of the road; they had eaten so much that their bellies were distended. Other members of the pride were scattered here and there in the grasslands behind them.
Last but not least, we saw a cheetah on the hunt. Unlike the cheetahs we say successfully hunt the other day, this one was by itself. When we first saw her, she seemed to have its eye on a group of mongooses that were running around under the trees. But as they came closer and she looked away, it became apparent that she was holding out hope for more substantial fare. There was a lone Thompson’s gazelle in a tree grove one- or two-hundred yards away, and she set her sights on it, moving so stealthily that we were certain she would bag this prey. But we were wrong: the Thompson’s gazelle managed to bolt away just in time.
And then it was time to say goodbye to our guide, Modi, and to the Serengeti. We got on our 13-passenger charter plane with Excel Air and flew to Zanzibar via Arusha, enjoying incredible views of the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and the Indian Ocean on our way.
The midday weather in Zanzibar was a change from the Serengeti. Not surprisingly, it felt like a tropical island: a bit hotter and more humid than the mainland, but with a refreshing ocean breeze that made up for the difference. The culture is different here, too. While the majority of the population here is ethnic Swahili, Zanzibar was colonized by Portugal, Oman, and Great Britain before becoming an independent state in 1963. In 1964, it merged with Tanganyika on the mainland to form Tanzania. Zanzibar holds an important port on the spice route, so Indian and Persian traders have also influenced the culture. Ninety-nine percent of Zanzibar residents are Muslim.
Upon our arrival in Zanzibar, we took a brief driving tour of Stone Town, the island’s historic and cultural center. With narrow streets and white building, the architecture is reminscent of a Middle Eastern market. There are plenty of shops where visitors can purchase art from the island and mainland, as well as restaurants that reflect the variety of cultures that are part of Zanzibar’s history: Indian, Persian, East African and Middle Eastern. Music fans take note: Stone Town is where Queen’s Freddie Mercury grew up, so make sure your guide points out his childhood home to you!
We drove along the coast to familiarize ourselves with the island, then checked in at Shooting Star Lodge for the evening. Located on a hill above a private beach, Shooting Star has a relaxed, bohemian feel that encourages guests to slow down and enjoy the island beauty. As the locals here say in Swahili: “Pole, pole!” (“Take it easy!”) Rooms are simply appointed with Indian, Persian and local fabrics, and most include a veranda with an ocean view. Next to the open-air lounge, an infinity pool for swimming overlooks the beach. It’s a great place to watch the sun rise over the ocean.
After the sun set, we had a great view of the southern sky. Thanks to the ocean, there weren’t a lot of lights to interfere with the view, and I saw many constellations that we don’t get to see in the northern hemisphere this time of year.
Elewana means “harmony” in Swahili, and the Elewana Collection of lodges in East Africa seeks to bring harmony to its guests and to harmonize with the natural environment.
The Elewana Collection includes seven boutique lodges and hotels:
- Arusha Coffee Lodge, a group of 30 cottages on one of Tanzania’s largest organic coffee plantations, at the base of Mount Meru. Guests have the opportunity to learn about coffee harvesting and roasting, and to sample beans that are grown and brewed on site.
- Tarangire Treetops features 20 tree houses and elevated guest rooms built around the trunks of enormous baobab and marula trees. It is in a private game reserve bordering Tarangire National Park, Tanzania.
- In Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Serengeti Migration Camp provides 20 luxuriously appointed tents that blend seamlessly with the surrounding rocky outcrops. Serengeti Pioneer Camp is an intimate 10-tent camp with a low ecological footprint.
- The Manor at Ngorongoro is located on a large coffee estate next to Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania, and includes 20 spacious Cape Dutch-style cottages. On-site activities include horseback riding, bicycle trails and coffee processing tours.
- Kilindi Zanzibar is a 15-room beach escape that combines Scandinavian minimalism mixed with the dramatic overtones of Middle Eastern architecture.
- AfroChic Diani Beach is on the white sands of the Kenyan coast near Mombasa. Situated near an 18-hole championship golf course and local boutiques, spas, craft markets, it’s an excellent place to unwind at the end of a safari.
Named Tanzania’s Leading Hotel by the World Travel Awards in 2011 and 2012, Zanzibar Palace Hotel is stunningly decorated in a mix of Arabic, Indian, Persian, Swahili and English designs that reflect the island’s rich multicultural history.
Zanzibar Palace Hotel is a nine-room boutique hotel in the heart of Stone Town, the historical center of the international spice trade. Step out of the hotel and into a fascinating maze of narrow streets and alleyways that lead you past mosques, ornate homes, shops and bazaars – then find yourself on the seashore, looking out on the blue waters of the Indian Ocean.
Each room in Zanzibar Palace Hotel has a full array of modern conveniences, including air conditioning, high-speed WiFi, a flatscreen television, digital safe, and high-pressure hot and cold water. Ceiling fans, mosquito nets and hotel-supplied bathrobes keep you comfortable. The staff has thought of the little things that will make your stay more pleasant, such as reading lights attached to the beds so you don’t have to reach through your mosquito net to turn your bedside lamp on and off. They can even supply you with reading glasses if you forget yours!
Additional amenities include an on-site restaurant, bar, guest library, and a spa that offers massages, facials, body scrubs, manicures and pedicures in a lovely, relaxed environment.
Zanzibar Palace Hotel is an ideal home from which to explore one of the world’s most beautiful islands.
Luxury awaits you at the Delta Dunes lodge in Zanzibar. Delta Dunes, “The Wild Place by the Sea,” is a lodge uniquely combining beach, river, and bush that combines its signature “castaway” style with first-class comforts and amenities. Each of the 7 dune cottages are built from driftwood, mangrove poles and thatch and feature large, sunny en suite bathrooms with flush toilets and hot and cold running water. The marvelous views are never obscured in the completely open cottages. Netting encloses the enormous double beds. Family cottages accommodate 4 people, and each cottage is equipped with a 2-way radio.
Perched on top of miles of rolling rippling sand dunes with fabulous views overlooking the old delta of the Tana River on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other, this is the only wetland of its type in Eastern Africa. Explore this unique combination of beach, river and bush. This phenomenal location teems with incredible bird life; aquatic life and wildlife coupled with endless miles of vast uninhabited beaches.
When you’re ready for replenishment, we offer delicious, freshly caught seafood, ice cold drinks, gourmet breakfasts and warm friendly service. Meals are served al fresco, so you can dine and lounge while perched on top of a sand dune with fabulous 360 degree views. Evening meals are served in the lower, more protected area of the lodge.
Delta Dunes offer opportunities for a wide variety of activities, including boat trips, game and bird-viewing by boat, sundowners, river tubing, local cultural trips, surfing, guided walking safaris, creek fishing, kayaking, sand yachting and water skiing. For those who want extra pampering, spa treatments and massages are also available.