East Africa, Tanzania and Zanzibar
by Sandra Barclay-Graham
KARIBU and JAMBO (Welcome & Hello) Click here to view Itinerary
Last month Sandra and her pearl's set off on a special Master Class Educational of World Journey’s to East Africa. Travelling with 4 other NZ agents, Kirstine our Escort from World Journeys and Lucille from Sales & Marketing of & Beyond in South Africa
It certainly was my idea of tenting ... well Glamping... and a real WOW experience and adventure !
I have been to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana 4 times before, however East Africa, Tanzania & Zanzibar was just as exciting ! I certainly renewed my love for Africa...
Three of the girls left NZ earlier and went trekking in Uganda with the gorilla's ( they were then known as the Gorilla girls ) After hearing their stories it is now high on my bucket list . I also had clients just return from doing this in Rwanda and they were the same saying it was a huge highlight and had real WOW, WOW magic moments ...in fact they were so lucky as to be able to buy another permit and go and do another day of trekking .
The lovely Palacina, The Residence & Suites in Nairobi was our first stay where we got to meet up with the " Gorilla girls" and Lucille . The Suites are stunning and certainly capture the feel of Africa. We were also given our own Personal Travel Journey of & Beyond to assist in remembering everything of our Journey ... Make sure you check out the boutique shop it is full of amazing interior goodies that you can even have shipped home....
We left from Nairobi 's Wilson Airport ( domestic) on Air Kenya Airlines bound for Meru National Park. On arrival at Meru Airstrip we were greeted with the real & Beyond welcome with tea/coffee and drinks along with that much needed cold towels .Our first safari was enroute to Elsa's Kopje Lodge , named after Elsa the lioness made famous by George & Joy Adamson's biographical book and film "Born free". It is the best upmarket location from which to view rhino in their natural habitat in Kenya.
Elsa's Kope lodge is almost invisible to the eye as you approach its home on Mughwango Hill .It blends into the rocky crags of the "kopje" (small hill).Every cottage is the ultimate-'room- with- a- view 'uniquely designed and crafted ,incorporating the natural features of the rocky hillside. Each
cottage is so different depending on the actual environment , as ours had a tree in which everything was built around... To me it was like Hobbitsville.
just so very quaint. There is an open bar area, lounge and dining room which has original artwork and photos of Joy & George with Elsa and her cubs. My favourite place was the inviting infinity pool overlooking the Meru plains. We were so fortunate to spend 2 nights here and I simply adored it.
Being woken at 6am by our butler with that lovely cup of tea or coffee with homemade biscuits prior to going on our game drive became the norm.
Moving onto Elephant Pepper Camp meant flying back via Wilson Airport to Mara North Airstrip ...It is situated in the middle of the protected Mara North . It is small and exclusive and the camp is located away from other lodges in the heart of the African bush. The spacious canvas tents are
wonderfully furnished with en suite bathrooms with eco -friendly flush toiletsand traditional safari showers. Nothing beats sitting around the camp fire sharing the days spotting and enjoying the sounds of the African night.
The next day we drove from Elephant Pepper Camp through to & Beyond Bateleur Camp - a drive of approx 2 hours with game viewing en-route .The Masai Mara National reserve in Kenya was named for the Masai people who inhibit the area. At & Beyond Bateleur Camp you slip into a world of hardwood floors, polished silver and sparkling crystal.
This is the true "Out Of Africa " in fact we went and had sundowners at the spot of the closing scene in the movie where Meryl Streep and Robert Redford pose on the cover of the actual DVD. The reserve is oneof the few places where it is possible to see the 'Big Five ' The term " Big Five " refers to lion, elephant ,buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros and was coined by big -game hunters as the 5 most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. It is best known for its annual Great Migration of more than 2 million wildebeest and 1000's of Thomson's gazelle, zebra and impala, game viewing remains excellent throughout the year. For the bird enthusiast 500 species have been recorded.
One of my great highlights staying at & Beyond Bateleur Camp was the opportunity to go ballooning and this was a real WOW day for me. Being scared of heights this was a biggie for me. However with the support of my sisters and an amazing company called " Sky Ship Balloon Safari's" I managed to do this and thoroughly loved the whole experience... I even have a certificate to prove it. It really is an incredible way to see the wild life and the balloon holds 17 ( along with our Captain). In fact they do not go as high as I thought they would .We even saw 2 lions who had just made a kill and were enjoying their meal just beside the airstrip. Next we were on a tour of & Beyond Kichwa Tembo Lodge & Camp which they are just rebuilding .We transferred back to Kichwa Airstrip where we flew again via Nairobi Wilson and onto Kilmanjaro International Airport. Leaving Kichwa airstrip we were waved off by our lovely friend Milka Kerubo ( the Operations Manager from & Beyond Bateleur ) and her team .
After clearing customs we checked in again for our onward flight to Manyara Airstrip on Tanganyika Airlines a 50 min flight.Again on arrival those lovely cold towels and a large G & T where waiting
beside our 2 4 x wheel drive vehicles ( One was mainly for our luggage) This is where we became 8 sisters as we had our first female driver/guide Lucy driving us on the 2 hour trip to & Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. This is where we saw our very first East Africa's BMW ( Bullock Moving
Wagon ) which is perched on the edge the world- famous crater which covers more than 8,000 km of pristine African wilderness .Inspired in design by the Maasai mud and stick Manyatta ( homestead) Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is without doubt one of the most architecturally spectacular safari
lodges in Africa. Each stilted , the camps thatch handcrafted mud and thatch suite is adorned with graceful antiques and grand chandeliers. The bedroom, sitting room and en suite bathroom boast floor to ceiling glass windows , overlooking the magnificent crater below .En suite bathrooms feature huge showers and chandelier -lit bathtubs. Personal butlers discreetly tend to your every need , bringing tea in bed, stoking the fireplaces and drawing luxurious baths . By the fireplace on a tray is set up with a sherry decanter and glasses , with a box of lovely fudge and chocolate . I just
loved it as it’s described as "Maasai meets Versailles" each of the camps has its own guest sitting and dining areas and viewing decks .The domed dining room, with its grand fireplace , turns every meal into a special occasion. One of the other guests another NZ 'er now living with his family
in Hong Kong was celebrating a milestone birthday so again there was a wonderful night of singing and dancing . Luckily we had 2 nights here I would recommend 3 if you could as there is so much to see and do. Whilst sitting out on our balcony it was lovely seeing zebra just wandering thru
the property. At night you are not allowed to walk from your suite anywhere without a staff member escorting you to and from dinner.
It was a very , very early start the next morning as we needed to be down at the crater by 6.30am and it takes over 30 -40 mins to get down there.
Fortunately we were the nearest lodge so we could beat all the other safari companies.The crater is truly something very, very special and stopping for our breakfast beside the Lake was just breath taking .. the animals that are sheltered in the woodland, lake , river swamp and plain numbers around 20,000 !!
The next day was another early start and our flight back from Manyara Airstrip to Lobo Airstrip where we met our guide and driver of & Beyond Klein's Camp. This was approx. 90 minutes by game drive. Klein's is set below the crest of the Kuka Hills it overlooks the vital corridor linking
the Serengeti and the Masai Mara. The camps thatched cottages with whitewashed walls and rich wooden floors look down to the valley below. Just adored the stone interiors of the guest areas which open up to breath taking panoramas and deep leather armchairs invite you to sit and take it all in. In the evening the blazing fireplace comes alive and the bar area is full of guests to gather and share
stories. Sadly we only had the one night .We did however get to swim in the lovely pool before our afternoon of visiting a local Maasi village , the local school and health care centre.
This is what I love about & Beyond they really do care and give back to the community .This is the opportunity to give any clothes etc to the children. We gave a bag of 100 balloons to the school which they will use on sports day.
We transferred back to Lobo Airstrip early morning having breakfast on the way , for our flight to Kogatende Airstrip where again we were met by & Beyond and transferred to the & Beyond Serengeti Under Canvas which was another game drive enroute of approx. 45 mins.We all had our own Bedouin -Style Tent each and we stayed 2 nights .They have en suite bathroom with our outside bucket shower .We even had our own butler each . Just adored the comfy big bed with the lovely
Egyptian cotton sheets . After an amazing lunch we actually had time to chill and write in our journals and have some quiet time.
What excitement the first night we had 3,000 Wildebeest run thru the camp... I never felt scared it was amazing ..Our final sunset in the Serengeti really made it for us all...there was an
elephant passing by a tree .. What an amazing memory and one I will never forget ....
Another early start and back to Kogatende Airstrip for our flight to Arusha. From Arusha we flew onto Zanzibar !( known as the spice island) To end your safaris with this is the perfect combination . Again we were transferred by & Beyond representative and said goodbye to our lovely 4 x wheel drives that
could hold 8 ... Into a minivan . The transfer to Stone Town took approx. 20 mins. We stayed at a prestigious Small Luxury of the World , Zanzibar Serena Inn .The inn was styled to represent the epitome of Swahili Style , ethnic elegance and Arabic opulence. The swimming pool is very inviting.
Stone Town is really worth the visit and lots to see and do and of course to buy. The spice market was amazing...
It was on the road again bound for Baraza Resort & Spa , it is Zanzibar's most exclusive boutique resort .However en route we stopped at Pongwe Beach Hotel for a site inspection and a stunning lunch. This is an ideal 4 star for families and those wanting a cheaper option than Baraza.
Baraza has just 30 villas , this stunning fully inclusive resort evokes the heritage of Zanzibar dating back to the era of the Sultans . A fusion of Arabic, Swahili and Indian design , with Swahili arches, intricate hand carved cement décor, beautiful antiques , handmade furniture and intricate brass lanterns.
We were very spoilt and upgraded to a 2 bedroomed, 2 bath roomed villa with our own swimming pool set in the lovely gardens . Along with going to the Frangipani Spa & Health oasis for treatments. A gorgeous 2 nights was spent here !
After breakfast the next morning it was off to see the sister properties along the beach from Baraza. The Palms and Breezes beach Club & Spa both of excellent 5 star quality .
We then left for the most amazing island where we were taken by a 30 min boat transfer to & Beyond Mnemba Island..... A private island off the northern eastern tip of Zanzibar.. It is the perfect destination to get away from it all This IS HEAVEN ON EARTH !!! Turquoise clear, clear water with dolphins swimming around... pure white soft coral sand beach and only 10 rustic palm -frond bandas on the entire island . The rule here which I loved was no shoes allowed.
The next day was free at leisure until our late checkout of 4pm .. The Water Club at Baraza had everything you could wish for from Kite surfing , Sailing , pedal boats, Kayaks , snorkelling , windsurfing .It was the perfect place to experience the very best of the Indian Ocean !!
We arrived back in New Zealand all bursting with stories, loads of photos and very happy memories of the sister's on tour !
My favourite saying now is .... I AM WHERE I HAVE BEEN! East Africa & Zanzibar I would certainly return to
& BEYOND, CHELI & PEACOCK SAFARIS, WORLD JOURNEYS & THE PRIVATE TRAVELCOMPANY IS THE ONLY WAY TO GO TO AFRICA!
Visit one of my favourites http://elsaskopje.com/