I was in Tanzania for three weeks altogether, and spent the first week doing the real thing – living in a village near Kilimanjaro.
I could only do that because my sister was teaching English at the time and got to know some people that we could stay with. If you want the genuine article I’d recommend getting in touch with a gap year project organisation to see if you could stay with them for a little contribution.
It’d be worth the extra hassle of organising it, I’ll never forget it. Memories include the village’s choir singing to us as we got out of the taxi, eating fresh sugar cane, and eating something called potato fruit which seems to be pretty unheard of.
Picture shows the house we were staying in, owned by the richest family in the village. Other houses were made of mud and wood. They were all very welcoming and were fed several large meals by families insisting that we should eat with them.
We went on a very luxurious Tauck photo safari trip where we were shepherded around from park to park, mostly to see animals. While we had some opportunities to interact with the people of Tanzania, the trip was geared towards mostly parks and photography. We stayed at a variety of fantastic hotels, most of which are actually located within the parks. We also saw Olduvai Gorge, Lake Victoria, and other sites. Our safari was very “guided”, though we did visit towns and villages along the way. The company drove us from place to place as a great big gangly group of tourists, with a dedicated guide, 5 vehicles with drivers. The drivers were fantastic though—licensed educated guides who could spot animals you’d never see, tell you everything about them as well as answer any questions you have about animals, africa, life or anything else. It was a fantastic trip depending on what type of experience you are looking for. I highly recommend it as a luxury safari.
If you are looking for more of a cultural exchange like ‘rewind’ talks about above then this is not your trip. We did arrive in Arusha a few days early and had a day there to explore the town, but it was topical at best. The people we met were everywhere, even complete strangers, were unbelievably friendly, but it was still a very alien experience.
Regardless of how you go I highly recommend going. Africa is truly an amazing place. As soon as you get off the plane you can just feel it. You will not regret taking a trip there.
While I enjoyed the safari tour I went on with two friends (my reason for going), our unexpected jaunt to Tanga was more memorable for being off the tourist track, and allowing us to talk to a variety of people who live in Tanzania. Also the beach is fantastic! If you do go there, the Hotel Mkenge (I think that’s the name) seemed the nicest.
Everyone we met was very friendly. My advice is, pick an area of the country you want to explore, then ask hotel staff for suggestions of other destinations. Or if you take a bus, talk to the people on the bus. Many people speak English. (A word of warning: there is no “ticket office” when you buy bus tickets, just vendors milling about, all charging you a different price. Definitely haggle! Same with taxis when you get to your destination town.)
Arusha is also worth a visit I think; it’s the largest town in eastern Tanzania. We only spent half an hour or so there and I wish we could have spent a day walking through the street markets.
Of all the safari stops, Ngorogoro Crater was the most amazing. It is one of the most beautiful spots in the world, even if it is a common destination I recommend going there. (The photo is of hippos in the crater.) You will probably need some sort of official tour to go there, but maybe you can find one that will also stop at a couple of villages on the way so you can see how the people live, as well as the animals.
I really liked my time in Zanzibar, I stayed at Jambo Bros up north and hung out at the beach, etc. The spice tour was touristy but still really interesting. In Stone town they have a cool evening food market. The vibe is different there than even in Dar, which I liked too. Didn’t get to the countryside.
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