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Published: November 14th 2016
KLM Amsterdam Leg
Leaving a very wet UK
We are so excited to be travelling back to Africa, this time to Tanzania in East Africa which we are sure we will enjoy as much as we did visiting Southern Africa. As there are no direct flights from the UK we had to stay overnight in Amsterdam before continuing our journey to Tanzania.
It only took us just 44 minutes to get to Amsterdam from Heathrow - a really short hop, just time for a snack on the plane and we were descending over the intersecting canals crisscrossing the city. We stayed at the Citizen M hotel which has a self check in which went really smoothly, we were able to choose our room location and view and were issued with a card key without speaking to anyone and issued with a receipt telling us to check out before 1100 hours the next day!
The room was modern, light and clean with a large superking sized bed stretching wall to wall, free wifi and even UK 3 pin plugs! Paul had a large TV over the bed as well as a view of the aircraft arriving and departing in the airport so did not moan to much about
Citizen M Hotel - Amsterdam
The 'first' person we met at check in !!
not bringing his iPad!! We had to lose weight (not body) somehow as we wanted to travel as light as possible but still had 13 Kgs each … …
Citizen M was very quirky and we laughed when we read the wording on the receipt which said, 1. ’smoking is not allowed at citizen M and smoke detectors are in place, smoking in your room will be charged at €150 (those funky e-cigarettes are not allowed either)’ 2. ‘Please lock away your valuables (wedding ring, laptop, lucky socks), we are not responsible for their loss if left in the room - enjoy your stay’ … … …
We would definitely stay at one of their hotels again - they have them all around the world and three in London so will check that out some time.
OUR TRIP PLAN
Tanzania is a large country so we have decided to concentrate this visit on the Northern Circuit which is a collection of National Parks, reserves, conservation areas and wildlife concessions. These include the Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area which includes the crater and highlands, as well as Arusha National Park at the
foot of Mount Meru. We will also visit the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro, Lake Manyara National Park and Tarangire National Park.
All these areas exist to preserve and protect an incredible abundance of seasonal and resident wildlife and their habitats, including the world's largest annual mammal Migration of millions of wildebeest and zebra. This is one of the reasons we are visiting at this time hoping to see lots of wildlife and also be lucky enough to view the elusive Cheetah which we never did see in the wild on our 3 month journey around Southern Africa. Although we did have an excellent up close experience at an animal sanctuary along the Garden Route, so keep your fingers crossed for us this time … … …
A LITLE BACKGROUND ON TANZANIA
One of the oldest inhabited areas on earth, the African Country of Tanzania was founded in its present form in 1964 when mainland Tanganyika (formerly a German and then British colony) merged with Zanzibar (Arab ruled) after both gained independence.
Officially the United Republic of Tanzania it is a large country with a population of around 50 million compared to the UK which is
currently about 65 million. It is located in Eastern Africa within the African Great Lakes region, although parts of the country are actually in Southern Africa.
It is bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique to the South and also by approximately 500 miles of Indian Ocean to the East.
Tanzania is mountainous and densely forested in the northeast, where Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain is located. To the north and west lie Lake Victoria, Africa's largest lake, and Lake Tanganyika, the continent's deepest lake, known for its unique species of fish and to the southwest Lake Nyasa.
Dodoma is the capital city although Dar es Salaam, the former capital is the country's largest city, principal port, and leading commercial centre. Dar es Salaam is also the starting point for the majority of Tanzanian southern safaris, and also the connecting hub to the islands of Zanzibar.
ARRIVAL IN TANZANIA
We flew from Amsterdam into Kilimanjaro Airport a 9 hour flight. The airport here is close to the Tanzanian northern safaris so we did not have too
far to travel to our first stop. We were staying on the outskirts of the town of Arusha, which was originally a Maasai village but now a busy town.
Situated near the Kenyan border, the bustling town of Arusha is a major transport hub which acts as a gateway to the cluster of wildlife reserves to the west which includes Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. From 1978 it has risen from the ninth largest town to second largest, with its suburbs spreading out over its numerous volcanic foothills.
Arusha was must bigger than we had expected and most tourists would probably describe it as a chaotic African town, similar to many cities and towns on the African continent but it had a nice vibe which reminded us of our time in Southern Africa - yes we were back in Africa at last.
So we had arrived and joined the queue for ‘Those with a Visa’ which was much quicker than “Those without’ … … Our luggage had already been taken off the belt and we passed through the formalities really quickly changing some dollars for the local currency the Tanzania Shilling. Paul thought he
was rich as the lady handed over a huge wad of notes but 2,700 Tanzania shillings = £1 . … …
JAMBO! HELLO AND WELCOME
Before long we were outside the airport and looking at a sea of faces all holding up names but we soon found Justin who was going to transfer us to Rivertrees Lodge where we would spend our first two nights before heading off on our long awaited safari.
As he drove us through the town we could not see a lot as it was quite dark now but the roads were busy with large transport lorries and local buses were unloading workers at the side of the road with people walking along the roadside on their way home. Our driver, Justin pointed out Mount Meru that loomed like a dark shadow over the town.
Situated on Mount Meru’s sloping foothills and on the banks of the Usa River, Rivertrees Lodge was once an old Coffee farm. From the grounds it was possible to glimpse both Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro. Back in the region’s distant past Blackburn Estates cleared the bush and made the most of
the mountains rich fertile volcanic soils by growing rows and rows of coffee beans. Over time, the soil proved too acidic for its crop, and the farmhouse was then converted into a guest house welcoming travellers from all around the world and then into its current larger lodge.
As we pulled off the tarmac and headed along a dirt track we could hear the loud calls of Blue and Vervet Monkeys all around us, hopefully we would see them in the morning. On arrival we were greeted with a welcome drink and our luggage was placed into a large wheelbarrow and we were directed to our thatched room in the gardens. Our room was dark as most rooms are in Africa, to keep them cool but on the centre table was a huge bowl of pink roses and a large bed covered in a mosquito net which was very welcome and enabled us to get quite a good nights sleep!
The service at the lodge was excellent all the staff were extremely friendly and helpful and we learnt our first words of Swahili, Karibu (welcome) and Asante (thank you) as well as Jambo which means (Hi).
It was a pity Paul did not learn the dialect from his father who had spoken the language fluently from his time spent in the country in the mid 1930s.
After breakfast we walked around the 10 acres grounds - it had such a peaceful setting and you could see why it was called Rivertrees, as a fast flowering river meandered around the thatched rooms and tall trees reached up into the canopy. There were many trees that we did not recognise but we did know the beautiful red flame tree and the purple flowering jacaranda such iconic trees. Also fruiting banana trees and colourful bougainvillea and hibiscus, shrubs which daughter Sharon & Geoff always had flowering in their garden in Dubai. The lodge was a haven for wildlife as we awoke to a delightful morning chorus and as we walked around we could hear the distinctive call of a bell sounding bird but was not sure what it was yet … Colourful butterflies swarmed on the flowers and large and small colonies of ants scurried across the tracks and disappeared into the bush.
On our walk we spotted several birds including the stunning
African Paradise Flycatcher, Green Winged Pytilia (the male has a bright red face). Paul spotted a small nest and we were lucky to see a male Collared Sunbird dive in to feed its young. At lunch we spotted our first chameleon climbing up a nearby tree - do not know much about these reptiles but think it is a two horned chameleon perhaps other bloggers can enlighten us? We did not get to see any of the resident Blue and Vervet Monkeys but our host said that someone had spotted a black and white Colobus in the grounds the day before which was quite unique for the lodge.
What a magical first day and hopefully tomorrow will be just as rewarding - see you there … … …
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