The ultimate safari trip to Tanzania with & beyond
Fly – in safari including Arusha, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Mnemba Island/Zanzibar
For many years, I have been longing to do a fly in Safari in Tanzania, and finally this plan came to fruition thanks to &beyond Africa.
& Beyond is one of my favorite safari companies in africa and beyond, as I have travelled with them for many years, starting with Ngala safari lodge in the Timbavati, and Kirkman’s in the Sabi Sands. IcI have visited their lodges in Phinda, in Zululand and done their Okavango Delta circuit two times already, plus staying three nights at their magnificent Sossusvlei Desert lodge in Namibia. I have done a trip to India , to the national parks with them as well as a wonderful journey to the land of the thunder dragon recently, Bhutan.
They also have opened some lodges in south America, where I have visited their Vira Vira lodge in the chilean lake district.
I had already visited the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro crater about 20 years ago, and it was a wonderful trip indeed.
I remember we had a driver and he drove us all over the place. The first park we visited was Tarangire Park and it took quite some time to get there and to the Ngorongoro Crater and from there to the northern or Western Serengeti.
I remember that we saw the migration and were in the middle of the zebras and wildebeest, and then we drove the whole day to get to the western corridor, where we stayed at the wonderful Kirawira camp.
I remember this trip being very very long and rather tedious and extremely tiring for the driver and for us. We drove around in our own safari vehicle with an open roof, but with our luggage and it was as if we were living in this vehicle. Obviously this is one of the standard trips in eastern Africa, but there is a better way to do this and I’ll explain why.
& Beyond Africa has a wonderful offer, which is called fly me around East Africa, and indeed this trip includes a small aircraft flight from each Lodge to the next, which shortens your travel time enormously and gives you a wonderful view of the Serengeti and the landscape from the sky, this is incredible. This time we did exactly this trip with the help of & beyond Africa.
From Zurich we flew to Arusha on a non-stop daylight flight with Edelweiss, a subsidiary of SWISS airlines. We arrived at Kilimanjaro airport in the evening and stayed at the four points Sheraton hotel in Arusha which is in the centre of town. It is a very convenient and beautiful Hotel with well appointed rooms. Beautiful gardens, service is good and it is affordable so there was not a problem of staying there, especially because we only had one night and the next morning we had to go to Arusha airport to take our flight to the central Serengeti.
We were booked to Serengeti under canvas in the northern Serengeti near the Kogatende area, because normally at this time of the year, we would have been lucky to see a part of the migration coming back from Kenya.
Climate change has struck because the rains had begun a bit earlier this year, so all the migration already had left the northern part of the Serengeti and was heading south. This was the reason why we were rebooked to the camp in the central Serengeti.
Actually & beyond has a number of mobile camps in the Serengeti called Serengeti under canvas and it is camping at its best:it’s glamping. Those tents are stunning. They are large, you have carpets, a real bed ,antique furniture, a real toilet and a hot bucket shower for two so they’re two showers in the back of the room. You also have a small deck with confortable chairs and all the amenities you would expect of a luxury hotel , but with a difference This one being in the middle of nowhere.
Finally, we took our flight and arrived at the Seronera airstrip, where our Ranger/ Driver from & beyond was waiting for us, and we started on a game drive all over Central Serengeti, arriving at the camp in the afternoon, or let’s say in the late afternoon, ready for drinks and a nice shower and freshening up before a wonderful dinner around a big fireplace. They had just built the camp three days ago so we were the first clients after the camp had been moved from northern Serengeti. Well I must say that we have the usual & beyond quality! & beyond is always good for making your trip something special!
The next morning, we got up very very early, at 4 o’clock in the morning because we had booked a balloon ride over the Serengeti.
We were driven to the launching site of the balloons where about five or six balloons were being filled with hot air. We got into our balloon and it was a wonderful flight over the Serengeti, which was already lush and green because there had been some rains. We could see elephant, zebra, even lions and leopards from above! Incredible experience! I must say it is relatively expensive, but it’s worth every penny!
Once we got back to our wonderful camp we had lunch and in the afternoon we went out on a long drive again where we saw plenty of animals. It must be said there is one drawback in the Serengeti as in all the public national parks in Africa, you cannot go off road.
So if you see lions or leopard or anything special, you will find about 20 jeeps around the animals so this is one of the major drawbacks I see in the Serengeti and East Africa in general. I mean it does not really make your experience less good than in the private parks, but still, it can be rather bothering for myself and for the poor animal, so I do indeed prefer the private reserves around the Krüger Park for example, or in Botswana when you have much less tourists than what you would have in the Serengeti. Please don’t get me wrong, the Serengeti is the place to visit in Tanzania, with the stunning landscapes and the abundance of wildlife, but you have to be aware of the fact that many other people will be there watching the animals.
The good thing about Serengeti under canvas is that it is in a secluded part of the park so you don’t have anyone around you. In the morning when we drove out to get us to the airstrip we saw a cheetah that was sitting on the side of the road, and we were able to watch it from our car for half an hour. This cheetah was actually hunting, but on the other hand, obviously we were disturbing him, but it was just our one car, and that was fantastic to watch.
From the central Serengeti airstrip we flew all the way to Lake Manyara airstrip, and from there we were picked up by our Ranger who took us to the magnificent, incredible, out of this world & beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, which is a legend in itself!
I remember when we stayed at Ngorongoro Serena Lodge years ago. We were kind of eyeing this & beyond Lodge over there and thinking we will be never able to afford this, but we did this time and it was a wonderful experience. The Lodge consists of two separate camps with a number of little houses with a chimney, beautiful decoration ! Each little house has a viewing deck overlooking the crater. The Lodge is reminiscent of a renaissance french castle! That’s why & beyond says Maasai meets Versailles! Everything is decorated with red roses with wonderful furnishing and beautiful fabric and materials, beautiful furniture. One could say it is completely overloaded and does not correspond to Africa! But it is an event in itself. Everything plus the service is impeccable. I must say this Lodge is the place to go!
Unfortunately, I must say that as a travel agent but also as a potential client, that there is talk about this Lodge being taken down and completely refurbished and a completely modern and new lodge being built there. So, you need to go now! That would be such a pity and I hope & beyond rethinks its policy, and keeps this Lodge as one of the iconic lodges in Africa. All clients I talked to said this Lodge must stay the way it is and I am really thinking about potential clients who would like to visit this lodge in their lifetime and find out that it has been replaced by some different and modern Lodge. I am sure & beyond is going to do a wonderful job there because they are known for building very modern and really fantastic lodges, but in this case I would keep this iconic Ngorongoro Crater Lodge the way it is !
We stayed at Crater Lodge for two nights and we drove down to the Crater the first afternoon at 3 o’clock. This is actually the best time to go to the crater because all the tourist vehicles have started to drive back up again and you have the crater almost to yourself . It means that you are able to watch flocks of thousands of pink flamingoes in the water of the Salt Lake in the middle of the crater! What a magnificent sight! What a magnificent sight! There were hippos, lions, wildebeest, zebra and many animals there. This is a fantastic experience as you have them almost for yourself!
After that at around 5 o’clock we started our ascent to the crater rim again. At the lodge we were having some drinks next to a wonderful fire watching the crater. When it started getting dark suddenly there was a whole herd of buffalo walking through the Lodge. Can you imagine that one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, one of the big five, just walking through your Lodge! What a thrilling experience ! The same goes for a herd of elephant that would walk through the lodge from time to time during the day. You see zebra and some gazelle walking through the Lawns of the Lodge. Well that is very convenient lawnmower I would say….
It said service was impeccable. Dinner was excellent and the setting, out of this world! The next day we drove down to the crater floor at 9 o’clock for a whole day drive. Obviously at this time there were many other safari vehicles and we had the same problem as we had in the Serengeti, as when there were lions, there were about 20 cars around them. Obviously it’s national park and everyone can go in. t is not private game reserve as we are used to see in the greater Krüger but okay, you have both sides of the story here.
We found a wonderful picnic place with another 20 or 30 other cars as well but still we had a wonderful experience in the crater! The landscape it’s just breathtaking and I am already longing to go back soon.
We drove up, had a wonderful dinner, and the next morning we were driven to lake Manyara airstrip again where we were picked up by our new ranger to take us to the lake Manyara tree lodge by & beyond. I must say that lake Manyara is not really the best national park I would recommend in East Africa or Tanzania. I think the Tarangire Park is perhaps somewhat more interesting with lots of Baobab trees and a large population of elephant. We didn’t visit it this time, regrettably.
The road to Lake Manyara Lodge is quite long and bumpy. Beautiful landscape, no question, but very few animals.
And I think this is one of the main drawbacks of Lake Manyara National Park.
Everyone talks about the tree climbing lions of Lake Manyara, but I’ve never seen them. I mean we did see some lions on the road the second day but I had seen some tree climbing lions in the Serengeti. The lodge itself is beautiful. The room is well appointed, on stilts , in the middle of the forest. Rooms are large, in the middle of the forset. They have a bathtub and an outside shower. Service is impeccable and everything is very nice.
Only thing is that you go out on game drive for hours, and there is not very much to see.
After seeing the abundance of wildlife in the Serengeti and especially in the Ngorongoro Crater you can be a little bit disappointed in Lake Manyara National Park.
Plus we were a bit unlucky because it started to rain and I must say also that as a travel agent you have to know that this lodge is very remote. It’s very intimate and it is not a lodge for honeymoon couples, for example. I noticed this because there were two couples in the Lodge, and you should’ve seen their faces. They were not happy, and this is something to take into account as a travel agent. Don’t send honeymooners to Lake Manyara, send them to the crater, to the northern Serengeti or Grumeti but not to Lake Manyara!
After two days at Manyara we were driven to the Manyara airstrip again to get our flight to Zanzibar.
Now, let me talk about Zanzibar. Normally what you would do after eight or 10 days on safari is taking a few days to relax on the beach. And what’s better than Zanzibar, the spice island, with beautiful beaches and sun. The name itself evokes paradise.
& Beyond has a very special treat for you, which is called Mnemba island on the north eastern coast of Zanzibar. There is this little private island where you are taken with a small motorboat. Mnemba has only 12 rooms and is seen as one of the most wonderful beach resorts in the world if you like the isolation and if you like to rough it a little bit in a luxury setting.
Don’t get me wrong! Mnemba is an experience! It is very small and you are in very nice and rustic little houses with all the amenities and things you need with a beautiful bed , furniture but everything is rather dark and the problem and the unlucky situation we had was that it was pouring for two days.
We were able to swim in the sea for about half an hour because the Sun was shining for an hour only when the sun came out, but for the rest of our time it was raining! The rainy season started early, beginning of November.
Mnemba is extremely expensive. Obviously you have all the service, you have wonderful food and everything you want but I would still say it is not worth the money. We had bad weather and it is nobody’s fault that is clear.
I actually was thinking of all those people who had spent thousands to stay there for some nights and having to cope with this terrible weather.
The island has been suffering from rising sea levels, and the eastern part has been destroyed. The lodge will be closed and rebuilt next year, the rooms will be closer to the sea, with a view. Somehow, the island has shifted and the rooms are too far in the forest with no views.
After two rainy days in Mnemba we went to southern Zanzibar and stayed at The Residence on the south western coast. This was nice and we were lucky to have a beautiful sunny day before flying back home via Zurich.
The Residence in Zanzibar is one of those typical result hotels you find everywhere, and which I do not like!
We had a large room with a private pool, beautiful terrace, beautiful landscaped gardens. Everything was nice, a large pool, some activities,etc. It is one of those resort hotels where you would be sitting in a large dining room for example, with a buffet ; this is something I hate! Plus the food offered was just not good!
Luckily they had a smaller a la carte restaurant on the side where we could have dinner and that was all right. I must say that the quality of the food at The Residence was not at all good and I would not recommended to clients. There are other options in Zanzibar.
It was a wonderful trip. It is indeed a journey I would like to offer to my clients, especially the & Beyond « fly me to East Africa » offer.
Perhaps the best option would to go to Grumeti , plus three nights at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge , and perhaps two nights in Northern Serengeti, at Klein’s camp in a private concession, or Serengeti under Canvas.
There is also is an option of staying in Kenya and Masai Mara as well where & beyond has two lodges, but the crossing the border between Kenya and Tanzania is quite a cumbersome experience so I don’t really know if this the best option.
Please do come to East Africa! I would love to organize it for you!
It is the classic Safari in Africa and & beyond knows how to do this.
Thank you very much & beyond!
See you soon somewhere in Africa!