Leaving the excellent kenya rock climbing behind us, we’ll point our nose south and cross into Tanzania. Now there is fabulous rock climbing in Africa, but Tanzania doesn’t have the best of it. So we’ll keep our time here short, but not too short as everything else about Tanzania is top quality and will provide memories to last a lifetime. It boasts Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro. It has the breathtaking Serengeti Game Park and the Ngorongoro Crater. It has active volcanoes and salt-pans that are home to thousands of pink flamingos, and on top of all that, it has the bounty-advert beaches of Zanzibar!
Crossing the border, we’ll first head to Arusha and we’ll stay at the aptly named Snake Park. Ask Ma for a round of Hot Rock Hurlers but don't try to top the leader-board. I’ll say no more... This is the base from which we will arrange multi-day trips into one of nature's greatest triumphs, the Serengeti National Park and the neighbouring Ngorongoro Crater – a 250 square kilometre caldera that houses over 30,000 large mammals – the densest population on earth.
The Maasai have ancestral grazing rights within the crater, and it is awe inspiring to see a pride of lions slink off at the distant sight (& smell) of a tall Maasai, still bearing his traditional spear. Indeed, the very name Ngorongoro comes from the sound of the bells worn into battle, said to have terrified all enemies into submission. Unquestionably, this safari will be etched forever into your memory. From Arusha we can also take a trip out to the stunning sulphurous crater of Ol Doino Lengai, the largest active volcano in the Rift Valley.
We can spend a night or two staying in a traditional Maasai village, see the shimmering salt flats and thousands of pink flamingos, then climb the volcano under cover of darkness to see the dawn of a new day in the wild plains of Africa from it’s summit crater. There will be several folk on board with stiff necks… from gazing upward at the huge bulk of Kilimanjaro, and with designs on the summit. Kili was originally located in Kenya, and in a fabulously colonial act, the mountain was given by Queen Victoria of England to her German cousin as a birthday present.
To make this possible, the international border had to be moved over 50km so that Kili could be newly accommodated within German Tanganyika (Tanzania.) Kili is not on the main schedule because the cost of climbing it would add significantly to the overall trip cost, with its mandatory guides and porters. However, if you’ve got summit fever then we can arrange the 7-day trip to the summit, and you can then catch us up a couple of days late on Zanzibar.
Leaving Arusha, we travel southeast to Dar-es-Salaam for our first sight of the Indian Ocean, sleeping under the stars and palm trees on the beach before boarding our ferry to the ancient sultanate island of Zanzibar, hopefully avoiding a repeat of the sea rescue we had to undertake last time, having been on a ferry that struck & sunk a fishing dhow! The Lonely Planet describes Zanzibar as:
"The annals read like a chapter from "The Thousand and one Nights" and doubtless evoke many exotic and erotic images in the mind of the traveller. Zanzibar has lured travellers to its shores for centuries, some in search of trade, some in search of plunder, and some in search of an idyllic home. There is plenty to do and see in and around the Old Stone Town with its narrow winding streets, crumbling forts and elegant seafront gardens. With spectacular beaches and some world-class diving and snorkelling, many people just stick to the beach, though the historically interesting interior of this ‘Spice Island’ is equally fascinating."
We’ll sit and sup a G&T in The Cafe Africa, and we’ll watch the orange glow over the Indian Ocean as an Arab dhow sails past the setting sun and dolphins play in the harbour. Zanzibar also happens to be one of the most photogenic bouldering spots on the entire trip. The sharp shelly rock is submerged at high tide and provides several kilometres of amusing 45-degree problems, often with a heroic mantel finish onto a bar or cafe terrace. Further along the beach you can hire kayaks, dinghies and there's even a racing catamaran for the nautically minded.
As Dave said on his last visit: "...an island smothered in coconut palms and banana trees. It only has one beach, this just happens to go around the entire perimeter of this idyllic haven. Driving on hired scooters from one end to the other takes about three hours. The islands northern coast is walled by a 15-foot overhanging and massively featured cliff above a soft white sand landing. Perfect for bouldering when the sun is cooler. That is of course if you really can't get enough of tearing skin off your fingertips. I decided to take the other option.
The boat looked old, the captain appeared to have no clue and there was not one dolphin in sight. We continued to chug out off the southern tip of the island. In case it really was to be a fleeting glimpse I donned my fins, mask and snorkel to be ready to get my look at one. Still no dolphin. Felt a bit daft so took the mask and snorkel off. Suddenly the captain pointed. "There, see the grey fin". Grabbed my mask, shoved it over my face and leapt in. The mask fell off and I swallowed a good portion of the sea. Recomposed I dived down ... Wow.
There were about 10 dolphins swimming around curious to see what ungainly fools have jumped in this time for them to laugh at. The visibility was crystal and experience of swimming with the dolphins was incredible. After a couple of hours the dolphins had had all the laughs they wanted and swam off out of sight. We returned to the beach for lunch. Some grilled fish and coconut sauce provided by the captain to kick things off. I went in search for more. I managed to buy two octopus from a fisherman that we baked on a fire, and collected a few coconuts to drink the milk. This truly is paradise."
Leaving the paradise of Zanzibar, reunited with our Kili summiteers, we’ll drive south through Baobab Valley to the Riverside Camp, where the roads are lined for 200km with mostly unexplored boulders. We can stop for a few hours, or maybe a few days, to play on them and see just how good they are before heading into Malawi.
Malawi, the “warm heart of Africa” is, for many people, their favourite African country. We follow the sandy shores of Lake Malawi past lush mountain slopes covered with mango, banana and papaya trees. The people here are sensationally friendly, and often perfectly happy to give you a ride on the lake in their dugout canoes - they'll want some help with the fishing though. Malawi has become a byword for rest and relaxation amongst travellers and the pace of life here is certainly that. After crossing the border, we will spend a night or two at Chitimba Beach.
White sand, blue waters, palm trees, waterfalls and the night-time calls of wild monkeys, this is the perfect place to wind down with a cold beer before our last drive day into Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. We’ll stay at Camp Mabuka, run by two veteran overlanders who love BiRT, welcoming some new faces and bidding farewell to old friends.
Prices include food, accommodation, transport and most national park fees throughout Africa. You need to add visas, insurance, flights and beer! I can provide further info on all this on request.
Also see tour packages in:
Africa Kenya Tanzania Malawi Outdoor: Mountain Ranger Mountain/Rock Climbing
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