Visa Mayhem in Tanzania, November 8, 2011
Never in our travels have we had to do this for a visa on arrival! ‘OMG’ is an understatement of the chaos we experienced to get a tourist visa to enter Tanzania. We arrived in Dar es Salaam thinking it would be the same old visa process like everywhere else and we were so wrong. We first filled out the immigration/customs card and then proceeded to the visa window, but then we noticed a lady taking passports and asking people to wait. So we approached her with our completed forms and she promptly sent us to the back of the room advising us that we need to fill out the separate visa application form in addition to the immigration/customs form. So we squeezed in-between hordes of people and filled out the visa applications and headed back to where another large mob of people were gathered but not in any kind of line, just in a big mob. We stood there for a while and then a man in a uniform asks if we are all together, we tell him yes, he grabs our forms along with our passports and our money and tells us to wait here (now I’m thinking, can this really be okay?) He disappears with our documents and passports and we are left standing in a huge mob of people (who are also looking like deer in the headlights). Then we see that the immigration people are holding up visa’s with the picture page pressed against a glass wall and calling out people’s names (but not loud enough for everyone to hear). The problem was if you were in the back of the ginormous mob, you couldn’t hear who’s name they were calling. So the people near the front had to repeat the called out name and then we had to go up to the window and get our fingerprints scanned on a machine. Once we were fingerprinted we had to step back in the mob and wait for our visa. Finally the man who initially took the forms, money, and passports, hands back our passports with our issued visa’s (what a relief).
We go out to arrivals and our driver Steve is there waiting for us! We laughed all the way to the hotel about the visa process and Gordon’s precious press pass (which didn’t help us at all in the visa mayhem). Gordon shows his press pass to Steve and he just split a gut laughing (I’m sure he thought we were all crazy).
The hotel was so crazy busy and our rooms weren’t ready when we arrived so they gave us complimentary drink passes to the bar (of course we use them). We decided to have dinner and OMG the food was amazing, we had coconut curry prawns and it had the perfect blend of spices and it was so flavourful, the chef even came out to see how we like it!
We finally got our room and unfortunately the rooms at this hotel were not fantastic (ours had a really bad musty odor and I slept with my buff over my face) but we heard this was the best place to stay in Dar.
November 9, 2011 – Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
We had to be up at 4:30 am to catch our flight from Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro. We agreed last night to all have breakfast together at 5:00 am, so once we were ready we knocked on Mom and Cheryls door and good thing because they never got their wake up call! I have never seen two ladies get ready so fast!
We had the same driver again (Steve) and on our way to the airport we spotted a fellow on a motorbike completely loaded with loaves of bread, it was hanging off the sides, the front and the back of his motor bike, all of it was stacked higher than the driver. Of course we make a comment about it and then I say that at least he will have a soft landing if he crashes, everyone howls, then I make another comment about the bread being air bags for the motorbike, well I thought Steve was going to have an accident because he was laughing so hard!
We managed to arrive at the airport in plenty of time and check in for our short flight. When we arrived at Kilimanjaro airport, we saw red carpets that were rolled up on the runway (the press pass was a good clue). We found out that Prince Charles and Camilla were on Safari at the same time as us, so once again Gordon pulls out his press pass and waves it around – too funny!
When we finally made it out of arrivals we quickly spotted our guide holding up a Naipenda Safari sign with our names on it. We find out his name is Modi and at that moment I smile a really big smile because I had read that he had once guided Oprah on a safari! I made a mental note to chat with him about that at some point along the way (this is going to be one hell of an interesting trip).
On our way to Kikoti Tented Camp in Tarangire National Park, we saw many Masai villages with round huts called Bomas.
We traveled for quite a while on a really rough road to our camp at the edge of Tarangire Park and it has to happen at least once, we have our first flat tire! Modi and Gordon change the tire quickly, us girls watch a tortoise, and we are on our way again.
While driving to the camp, we see Zebra’s and Giraffes – it was so awesome!
We finally arrived at our camp and we were shown a warm welcome by all of the staff, they gave us a welcome drink and a cool towel to wipe our faces. After our drinks they showed us to our tents – it’s definitely ‘glamping’ and our tented camp is beautiful, it is remote but the room/tent is so great. We have our own ensuite bath in our room/tent, the linens are beautiful, and everything is spotless!
Late afternoon we did a safari walk with a guide named Thomas and he took us to Kikoti Rock. On the way we saw many different animal tracks, a dik dik (tiny antelope), and lots of baboons on top of the rock. We stood at the base for a while admiring the rock and watching the baboons scale the sheer rock walls – so cool to see. We all climbed to the top and took in the sunset – what a view from up there. When we came back down we had some nice south african red wine that the camp delivered to the rock and we toasted Guafia (to your health in swahili).
When it gets dark you have to be escorted to and from your room, one guy in front with a gun and another guy following with a bow and arrow. I guess they need to keep us safe from the lions (it doesn’t look good if you lose a tourist).
November 10, 2011 – Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
We left camp at around 8:30 am to go into the park for a full day of game viewing. OMG we are the luckiest people, we see a male lion with a Wildebeast kill, we spent quite a bit of time just watching him. His stomach was huge, he must have been really full!
Then a short while later we came across a Leopard just lazing under a tree, what a sight and how fortunate we were because Modi told us that they are not that easy to see.
Modi served us a great picnic lunch and after several hours of game driving we were all pretty hungry!
Our game drive was 9 1/2 hours, so we definitely got our fill. On the way back through the park, we saw the Lion again but this time he was feeding on his Wildebeast kill, we watched him rip and tear his dinner apart, kind of creepy to watch but TIA (this is Africa). Then we headed back to camp for a huge dinner, they sure feed you a lot at every place we have been!
Animals we saw in Tarangire National Park:
Secretary Birds: (these birds made me laugh, they look like they are wearing yoga pants and they pace around like they are in heavy duty thinking mode. When they see something to eat, they stomp the hell out of it).
Lilac Breasted Roller:
Brown Snake Eagle:
Tanzanian Red-Billed Hornbill:
Bare-Faced Go-Away Bird:
Ground Horn Bill
Where we stayed in Dar es Salaam: Southern Sun Dar es Salaam
Where we stayed in Tarangire National Park: Kikoti Camp