We thought a week in Africa wasn’t quite enough to see all the gorgeous landscapes and wildlife, so we opted to push back our departure date on our flights. We made arrangements with Base Camp Tanzania, a tour company out of Arusha, to spend a few more days in Tanzania.
A shuttle takes us from our hotel in Nairobi to a local transport depot where we board a small bus with locals for our half day trip to Arusha. Our luggage goes on the roof of the bus.
A couple of hours out of the depot, we arrive at the border crossing. We each take our luggage into the combined countries immigration and customs offices and begin the process of getting into Tanzania. We have to present our yellow fever vaccination records before we can proceed.
The entire bus load of people are in line with us. It takes less time than I would have guessed, maybe 30 minutes for us all to clear immigration, after which we all go outside to meet the bus on the other side of its inspection. We load up and carry on. Kilimanjaro is only about 40 miles out to my left but I can’t see it for all the clouds today.
The bus makes another stop at a small gift shop where we can also buy snacks in a canteen or stretch our legs in the shade of bright red Flamboyant trees. When the driver returns from his break we all climb aboard again for the last stretch to Arusha.
Less than an hour later we arrive. It’s a crowded depot in which we land, filled with hawkers and taxi drivers eager to take us to their cousins’ lodges if we need a place to stay. It takes a little bit of sorting and talking to make sure we get where we need to be, but eventually a small van takes us to the Ilboru Safari Lodge where we will settle in for the night. The drive to this gorgeous hotel provides us a view of some of the city and neighborhood.
The Ilboru is gorgeous. The staff are impeccably gracious and warm. We get a chance to meet the owner, a Dutch woman who moved here years ago.
We relax and enjoy cocktails by the pool and have a drink with Achmed, the owner of Base Camp Tanzania, before going upstairs to the restaurant to indulge in some culinary magic. Achmed calls himself Achmed the Terrorist, making light of the comedy opportunity that exists from Jeff Dunham’s creation. Achmed was originally from the UK but has been living here for many years. He’s hilarious. Gregarious. A little dirty. And surprisingly a little cultured. And I like him immediately. He’s the real deal. He goes over our itinerary with us and let’s us know that Sylvester will pick us up in the morning, early, so we can make our safari camp in the Serengeti before dark.
Heather and I each get the royal treatment by taking advantage of the spa services in the form of a massage. And then we make our way upstairs to indulge in the culinary bliss in the Ilboru’s restaurant. The Executive Chef Tom is also Dutch, and a wonderful host. He’s so friendly and funny and allows me a few questions and peeks at the back of the house. We have a lovely conversation with Elisante, a pleasant young man, who is studying tourism and hospitality and whose service is impeccable.
I’m always interested in the hospitality business side of the experience too.
Sylvester meets us bright and early as promised the next morning and we make our way out of Arusha toward the Ngorongoro Crater, and up its sides to the rim where we stop for a picnic lunch that our hotel has sent along.
Three buses full of school kids on a field trip are loading up as we arrive. I can’t imagine having the Ngorongoro Crater as a field trip option for kids. Incredible.
After lunch we make our way down into the Crater and out the other side and bounce and bump our way along the rugged gravel and sand roads toward Serengeti National Park.
We see lots of wildlife on our way to our safari camp. The sky overhead is more impossibly wide than I think I’ve ever seen. While it’s dry there seems to be a lot of grass for the animals.
Our tent is comfortable and cozy. Guards escort us back and forth from it to the main tents for dinner, and bring us hot water by the bucket full for showers.
I soak in the sunset and dusk before we head to dinner, after which we retire to the fire to listen to the night birds.