Tanzania, land of splendor and grace

We took a trip to Tanzania arranged by Roy Safaris (P.O. Box 50, Arusha, Tanzania; phone 255 27 250 8010, fax 255 27 254 8892, e-mail roysafaris@intafrica.com or visit www.roysafaris.com).

We flew to London on Dec. 16, ’04, and then to Nairobi, Kenya. After a slight glitch on our flight from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro, we met our guide/driver, Salvatory, who with a gracious, warm smile welcomed us to Tanzania. We spent the next 13 days on a private safari for two in Tanzania, including a 3-night beach stay in Zanzibar.

We had a spacious, clean, comfortable Toyoto Cruiser with pop-up top for our journey through Kilimanjaro, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Serengeti, Ndutu and Ngorongoro Crater.

In the foothills of Kilimanjaro we stayed at a small inn, Nakara, where we had a third-story room with a view of the mountains. The next day we met our hiking guide, Julius, for the 16-kilometer day trek to Mandara Hut on Kilimanjaro. The tropical forest trek was a sheer delight as we enjoyed nature and learned from Julius about the mountain and its people. The immense expanses of green farmland where tribal cooperatives farm together left an indelible image in our minds.

From there we went to the national parks — with their arid dry land, a contrast. We saw the migration of thousands of wildebeests, among gazelles and zebras, from north to southeast. We also encountered lions eating a buffalo one morning and on another afternoon saw buffaloes “staring down” a couple of lions who were chasing them. Giraffes, monkeys, baboons, elephants, buffaloes and zebras were everywhere in numbers so great that we stopped counting them. On the other hand, leopards and rhinos were harder to see, yet we saw four leopards and six rhinos.

When we turned our glance from the wildlife to the people, we found another reason to rejoice. Despite the poverty, the Tanzanian people, with different tribal origins, gather together to celebrate social events and help each other in building houses and in making a regional drink, mege, for the feasts. Their smiles, openness and hearty handshakes made us feel a part of their lives and share the intensity of joy found in each moment.

Zanizbar offers a sad history that appears to chain its present to its past. However, there we also experienced impromptu moments of delight, such as when a Coastal Airline staff person recognized Henry’s Polish last name and greeted him in Polish!

The accommodations in Tanzania were absolutely phenomenal in both views and amenities. We stayed at Nakara Hotel for two nights in the only modest (but attractive) room we had on this trip, at Kikoti Tented Camp for one night (we had the only double-bed cottage), at Kirurumu Tented Lodge in the honeymoon cottage No. 20, at Serengeti Serena Lodge for four nights in cottage No. 18 (best view), at Ndutu Safari Lodge in room No. 35 (at the private end), at Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge in room No. 52 (incredible view), at Karafuu in the spacious beachfront cottage No. 25 (service a bit unattentive) and at Zanzibar Serena Inn in a top-floor suite with beach view. Food throughout was well prepared and delicious.

The roads were very good between parks due to recent investments, and very clean facilities at visitor centers welcome the multitude of travelers.

The cost for our trip — including flights in Tanzania, full board during safari, half board in Zanzibar and B&B at Nakara plus our private guide and vehicle — was $3,500 per person.

Both pretrip planning and attention to every detail during the trip make Roy Safaris the best company we have ever encountered. This is indeed a formidable recognition, since we routinely travel from Kashgar to Moorea to Machu Picchu!

In the expert and genuinely thoughtful hands of Roy Safaris’ staff (Susan, Sanjay and guide Salvatory), our Tanzania adventure left us with memories not only of majestic views, stunning accommodations and bountiful wildlife but of the gentleness and grace of its tribes, of villages and of each individual encounter. We can only hope that others will bond with its people and be as enriched with what Tanzania offers.

College Station, TX