Friday, May 30, 2014

Two nights in Arusha, Tanzania

We were on holiday. So we were in no  hurry. We had enjoyed the relaxed Namanga border crossing experience between Kenya and Tanzania. The areas around the Clock Tower in Arusha appeared to be quite peaceful, good for a night before and after safari. We experienced traffic jams on our way back in the middle of the afternoon, though, as we passed congested areas full of stores selling hardware, construction materials, automotive spares and the like. 

Our Tour Operator Safari Multiways had thoughtfully suggested that we stay at the Arusha Naaz hotel which is conveniently located only a few hundred metres away from his office in the Tanganika Farmers' Association building near the Clock Tower. 

The reviews on TripAdvisor were negative, though dated. Since I did not want to risk it, I asked for a change, and that is how we landed up at Outpost Lodge. 

I must mention that we went across to Hotel Naaz on the first evening to take a look. It met or even exceeded our moderate expectations, suggesting that sometimes travelers may not take the trouble of writing positive reviews. We looked around several rooms, found them suitable, and told the manager that we would be back after our travels. 

Our first night was at Outpost Lodge, built in a garden environment down a quiet street. A bunch of stray dogs got active that night on the street. Being familiar sounds, that did not bother us very much.

The rooms were reasonably well appointed. The skylights made the room appear bright. That was a nice touch.

Hot and cold running water was available. Shampoo was provided, but we preferred to use our own shampoo. After all, we had taken the trouble of carrying some with us, and may not get a chance to use much of it during our stay at Campsites.

The Simba Restaurant was a comfortable place for dinner that night. We were the only guests for a long while. A group of visiting college students and faculty trooped in late at night.

The menu was quite extensive, plenty of Indian dishes which we did not want to sample. We don't want home food on holiday, do we? So we opted for African Beef with Mashed potato and Salad.

Small bottles of local beer for me. As always, try the local offerings!

A few things were rearranged in our bags during the night and early morning. Dry tissues, wet wipes, flashlight, chargers, batteries and a few medicines were kept within easy reach. We were the first ones in the cafe for breakfast the next morning. Cheerful staff and a buffet spread greeted us: cereals, milk, bread, spreads, tea, coffee, fruits and eggs to order. Good enough!

Amos and Moses were punctual, and we loaded our bags in the 4x4. Probably a little apprehensive, but excited.

All aboard! Ready to roll by 07:30 AM. Tarangire, here we come!

=== Arusha -- Tarangire -- Serengeti -- Ngorongoro -- Empakai Crater -- Lake Natron -- Arusha ===

Second night in Arusha

We're back after our fabulous experiential trip. As planned, we showed up at the Naaz Hotel by the Clock Tower. The rooms and property are maintained very well. 

Our room was also clean. We had peeped into 4 or 5 rooms during our first evening in Arusha, we found all of them to be clean and well maintained. Only one of them did not appear good enough, that was because of the odour of cigarette smoke hanging about the room. The other rooms were just fine. The only other minor complaint is that the bathroom was small, and the shower cubicle needed some effort for the doors to close. Well, at least there was a shower cubicle in there. Hot water was also available via the small 'instant geyser' setup. We were not expecting 5-star and were not paying 5-star rates, either.  Moreover, the staff was very pleasant.  

The other positive about the Naaz Hotel is its location, within shouting distance of the Clock Tower. 

We strolled around that evening, and stopped by a few coffee shops and restaurants. 

Travelers' needs are well taken care of in the area. Several ATMs, cafes, restaurants and super markets (where I bought coffee powder!), all within 5 minutes walking distance. Clouds and mountain in the background were a bonus. 

Lots of public transport available nearby. A 'dala-dala' (mini bus) had an interesting sticker on the rear window, good enough to get Junior excited. He's an avid follower of EPL and UEFA games. 

A couple of cafes and restaurants were open till very late in the vicinity of the Naaz. Good for a filling, steak dinner. We felt quite safe strolling around in the cool evening. 

We were due to leave the Naaz Hotel at 07:00 AM the next morning, to hop into the Impala Shuttle to Nairobi. The restaurant at Naaz opens at 07:00 AM. So I went down at 06:00 AM and asked them whether any light breakfast options would be available at about 06:45 AM. Sure, they readily agreed. The cook made omlettes for us, which along with juice, bread, spreads, and coffee was an extremely reasonable breakfast. Very kind of the staff to allow us in while the restaurant was still being cleaned and set up.

The Impala Shuttle was quite punctual, it left the Impala Hotel at 08:05 AM. There were a total of six passengers on board. We got a rare glimpse of the top of Mt Kilimanjoro on the way to Namanga. Junior's project for the future: climb Mt Kili! 

The ride from Arusha to Namanga was about 1.5 hours. Being our second crossing, we had become Namanga experts by then. We had to fill in a YELLOW immigration form in the Tanzania exit office. The 150 metres walk across the border took us to the Kenya entry office. We had to fill in the common BLUE form here, and had to tick the Exit box. The officer at Namanga on the Kenya side asked us whether we had YF certificates, and was satisfied seeing them in our hands. The duration of the stop at Namanga was about 45 minutes. 

The Impala Shuttle dropped us off at JKIA about 3 hours later, at about 13:30 HRS, on schedule. Check-in and immigration were smooth. The lady took a look at our Yellow Fever certificates.  By then it was time for a snack at JKIA. We located a restaurant at the far end of the terminal. There are several duty free stores, but restaurant options are highly limited. 

Not sure what Junior was up to, whether he was reading or whether he was taking a photo of his sandwich. 

So, that was our memorable holiday, very unique. As many memories as the number of Wildebeest we encountered in Kirawira in Western Serengeti. It was about losing count of the number of Lion sightings and the number of Lions we sighted, several Leopards and Cheetahs, hundreds of Ellies and Baobab trees, beautiful birds, star filled night skies, the endless Plains with grass waving in the breeze, the Craters, Crater Lakes, Soda Lakes and the stark beauty of desert-like Natron. Besides the quality wildlife, the landscapes and hikes enchanted us. 

The chance to have an "on-the'ground" holiday that included traveling in a 4x4 with our belongings, spending so many happy moments with Amos and Moses, camping, avoiding going to the loo in the middle of the night in unfenced campsites, wandering around local stores and markets, not to forget the 'Nyama Choma' evening, were all highlights of our amazing holiday.   

I had gotten a little worried after a few days into our trip that Junior may not be enjoying himself. I was sitting cross-legged inside the cramped tent in Nyani Campsite in Serengeti, rummaging through our bags in the light of a single flashlight. I had asked him apprehensively: "So, how's it going?" He had answered very briefly: "Beyond expectations". He did not have time for me. He was extremely busy, in the middle of zipping and unzipping the tent flaps, heading out, playing with camera apertures and exposures in his attempts to get perfect shots of star trails in the pitch dark night sky. 

Back home, Junior declared: "Tanzania felt like Africa." I guess he was referring to the amazing variety of landscapes, the fabulous wildlife and the lovely people experiences.

My thanks to superb help received from the TripAdvisor Travel Forum, and to Safari Multiways for having made our holiday incredibly unique and memorable.  

What did we use a lot? 
- Warm clothing (could have done with some more inside the tent at night in the rim of Ngorongoro Crater)
- Two pairs of footwear (one mid-range hiking pair and one general use spare pair)
- Tissues, wet wipes
- Flash light
- Two cameras (Canon D500 DSLR with 18-55mm and 70-300mm lenses and a Fuji FinePix HS30EXR, 24-720mm)
- Tripod
- Mobile phone charger, Camera chargers and several 4GB and 8GB memory cards.

If you have come this far, thank you for helping us relive our serious "Trip of a Lifetime", our second holiday in East Africa. Seven Lions in 2013 compared to about 70 Lions in 2014 about sums up the overall impact, not to mention the craters, crater lakes and hikes! 

May I wish you 'Kwaheri' and 'Safari Njema'.


Related posts in this series:

Namanga Border Crossing

The Gentle Giants of Tarangire

Tarangire revisited

Endless Serengeti Plains

Migrating herds, Crocodiles and Vultures at Kirawira

Big Cats of Central Serengeti

Camping under African skies

Flamingos at Empakai Crater Lake

Ngorongoro Crater - Wildlife, Maasais and Flowers

Campsite food and Nyama Choma in Mto Wa Mbu

From green to gray, the stark beauty of Lake Natron

Videos - Tarangire, Central Serengeti

Videos - Central Serengeti, Western Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Natron

Two nights in Arusha



  1. Wow, really its interesting place for everyone...Thanks for sharing these post.
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  2. Nice travelogue.
    Interesting read about father -son adventure trip.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Very nice and usefull information. thank you for documenting it.


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