A magical mystery tour
“Asim booked the honeymoon entirely on his own. I didn’t know where we were headed until we reached the airport and were standing in the queue to check in.
“Of course, I had had to have a number of inoculations, but Asim had written instructions to the practice nurse which he handed to me in a sealed envelope.
“Whilst in the queue, Asim handed to me an itinerary which revealed that we would be heading to the Serengeti for a week on safari and then hitting the beach at a resort on Pemba.”
Touchdown in Tanzania
“We flew to Dar es Salaam, arriving the next morning, and then took a small plane to Arusha, where we were met by our safari guide, who drove us to the Kigongoni Lodge where we relaxed by the side of the pool for the rest of the day, reading and snoozing.
“At 8am the next morning, we were picked up by our safari guide and embarked on an overland safari through the Northern Parks of Tanzania. The tour was operated by Tanganyika Expeditions, one of the oldest safari companies in Tanzania. We drove from the Lodge past the airstrip and on towards Makayuni. From Arusha, the road headed east, through coffee plantations and out across the increasingly dry and open Masai Steppe. Past the Monduli turnoff, the landscape became noticeably more rural, populated with thatched villages and Masai herds.”
Spectacular volcanic scenery
“After about an hour, the wall of the Rift Escarpment loomed into view, with the highlands of the Ngorongoro rising beyond. Past Makayni we crossed the flat steppe on the road to Manyara. The Rift Escarpment rose steeply and, with the lake at its foot, the forest on its shores standing out against a parched-ochre landscape.
“From Manyara the road climbed the Rift Valley escarpment and headed out across increasingly beautiful and well-watered farmlands, rising gently towards the forested slopes of the Ngorongoro Highlands. From Karatu the road rose through the last of the fields to enter the forest at the Ngorongoro Park Gate. Whilst our guide filled in the forms, we guarded our vehicle as the baboons investigated the possibility of pinching our stuff. Between the Rift Escarpment and the Serengeti lies the Ngorongoro Highlands, an area of spectacular volcanic scenery, centred around the Crater. The majority of Ngorongoro is a mixed-use conservation area, with Masai tribespeople and wildlife living side by side.
“At the entrance of the Park, the sealed road stopped, and from there we proceeded by way of dirt track, plunging directly into the forest and them climbing into the highlands. As the road wound around switchbacks we saw evidence of elephants having gouged into the direct banks (to extract minerals) but we did not see the shy forest herds. There was a real sense of altitude – with cloud forest appearing increasingly like jungle, tall spindly trees draped in lichen, the cover giving way now and then to views over the farmlands below and, in the distance, the Masai Steppe.”
Greatest views in theworld
“All of a sudden, the road emerged from the forest to a junction: the jaw-dropping view in the Crater was simply incredible. We clambered out of the landcruiser, and soaked up what has to be one of the greatest views on the planet.”
Crater of creatures
“Shortly thereafter we arrived at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, where we were introduced to George, our personal butler, and shown to our cabin, which had fantastic views over the Crater. We spent some time looking through a telescope looking for game in the Crater below.
“At a ridiculously early hour the next morning, we were met by our guide and we were the first vehicles into the Crater. The Crater has a diameter of over 20km, and is the world’s largest unflooded caldera. It is an amazing sight. It was, apparently, created over two million years ago by the collapse of an enormous volcano. Today, the crater contains a microcosm of East Africa, with plains, soda lakes, forests, swamps and springs. We were hugely fortunate to see, within minutes of entering the crater, zebra, buffalo, hyena, elephants, a black rhino, cheetah and lions, including, amazingly, a couple of male lions who crossed the road right in front of our vehicle. They were so very close that we both unconsciously held our breaths until they had passed. We had the most incredible lunch of several courses which our guide produced out of the back of the vehicle and proceeded to set up on a folding picnic table.
“Once we left the crater, and arrived back at the Lodge, we were met by George with cold beers and towels, before entering our room to find that the bathroom had been scattered with rose petals and the bath run.”
Lions and leopards
“The following day, we headed out from the Lodge, around the crater rim to the Western Descent Road, where we branched west, down the grassy outer slopes of the crater and on towards the Serengeti plains far below. The southern plains provided numerous giraffe and antelope of many different kinds.
“After entering the Serengeti, we saw tens of lions – including lion cubs – and eventually, just as it was becoming evening – were lucky enough to find leopards. We then travelled to Sayari South Camp, a tented camp the location of which had recently moved and which took some finding. That evening, we ate in the light of lamps which attracted more kinds of bug than I had ever imagined.
“My soup was a veritable Monster’s Ball. But the sense of staying in an itinerant camp was obvious when, the next day, we saw more and more of the Great Migration: hundreds upon hundreds of wildebeest travelling together, surrounded by swirling dust.”
Nomad Safari on foot
“We then travelled into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, for a two-day safari with Nomad Safari Guides. The area is a game-controlled area rather than a national park, which made for a more intimate bush experience. We left the roads, and headed across the plains. Our guides really proved their worth: they had eagle eyes and a great deal of knowledge.
“In this area, we experienced some amazing sights. We witnessed a gazelle giving birth and watched with baited breath, and in fear of the arrival of hyena or jackals, as the mother taught her awkward looking offspring to stand and walk. And, as we sat down to a packed lunch, we spotted, across the plain, a Masai warrior dressed in traditional, striking, red. The warrior got closer and closer, and then, as he reached us, parked his spear in the ground, took a seat and shared with us our food and drink. In this part of the trip, we stayed in one of a number of yurks, each of which was luxuriously furnished. From here, we enjoyed a walking safari, seeking wildebeest and cheetah close up, and a night safari.”
Diving at Fundu Lagoon
“After a week in the bush, we then flew from the Seronera Airstrip to Arusha, and then on to Zanzibar before the final leg of the flight to Pemba. We were met from the plane by a driver from our intended destination of Fundu Lagoon.
“The route taken headed down the main South Road, alone the spine of the island, with its beautiful, hilly, interior. We passed through clove plantations, stands of mango trees and scenic villages, before arriving at a large jetty where the Fundu boat was waiting. The boat quickly left Mkoani Port behind and headed up the coast to the remote lodge location.
“We spent seven nights at the Fundu Lagoon – a beautiful resort where the owners take great care to protect the environment and to promote the needs of the local population. We spent each morning at a nearby island, where the diving and snorkelling and swimming were fantastic. Each afternoon was spent by the pool, reading books from the hotel’s extensive library.”
“The final leg of our journey was a night in Zanzibar Stonetown, where we had dinner in the rooftop restaurant of Emerson & Green before heading back to Dar es Saleem for our flight back to reality.”