Treading Through Tanzania

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One of the best ways to unwind and reward oneself for the years of hard work put in for one’s career is to take a long, exotic holiday. This is exactly what New Delhi-based designer Dharna Hassija set out to accomplish, and she did so with aplomb. Here we get an interesting and adventurous slice of the time when she, her husband – technology and IPR multi-preneur Abhinav Aggarwal – and their friends and family went about vacationing in Tanzania.

Our 20-day trip included a visit to Zanzibar, and an eight-day safari excursion through the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. It ended with a stay in the picturesque hill town of Arusha, the source of rare Tanzanite gemstones and snow-capped peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro.

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Zanzibar is one of the purest places that one can visit. An archipelago located on the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Tanzania, it took a 20-minute charter flight to go from the capital of Dar es Salaam to the white sand capital of Zanzibar, Stone Town. Once a colony of Oman, Zanzibar offered a glimpse of the Middle Eastern and African influence in its architectural history. What enchanted us completely were the turquoise and mint waters, tropical fish, and beautiful beaches.

We stayed at the Hideaway of Nungwi Resort & Spa, and the hospitality offered there played a major role in making this trip so memorable. Here they arranged an excursion for us which included taking a dhow boat from an emerald green lagoon to a sandbank in the middle of the ocean. We then sailed to a private island for a barbeque lunch, which was followed by watching the dolphins – an exciting experience for both kids and adults.

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As the island experiences two monsoons during which the rains can last anywhere between five minutes and five hours, Zanzibar is humid for most of the year. The best time to visit would be around June-September. As it’s a Muslim country, one should be conscious of the local culture. It is recommended to cover ones arms and legs when in Stone Town, or during meals at the hotel. A vacation is partly about experiencing the beauty of a place while being aware of the local population.

Considering that Tanzania has almost 42,000 square kilometres of national parks, a safari trip needs tobe pre-planned. For this trip we used the services of Kearsleys Travel & Tours. While going on a safari or a game drive is definitely an adventure experience, one must also be prepared to spend hours inside those customised land cruiser SUVs. Our trip started with a short flight from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza, and onward on a three-hour road journey to the Serengeti, one of the largest wildlife reserves in the world.

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Serengeti means endless plains, and that’s exactly what we saw. After we entered the Serengeti, it took us seven hours to reach our resort, the Serengeti Sopa Lodge, situated at the centre of the national park. It was amazing to see the harmony between the wildebeest and zebras as they took their annual 1,000-kilometre migratory trip across the Mara River, which divides Tanzania and Kenya. Coming close (often face-to-face!) to lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, rhinos, wild buffalos, and other animals was the highlight of the trip.

The resort was splendid. Custom lunch boxes were made for the safari followed by plenty of activity in the evening; attentive, personalised services made the day’s tiredness melt away. The chefs here even surprised us with chole and puri at the dinner buffet one night!

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From the Serengeti we continued our safari to the world’s largest un-flooded volcanic caldera, the 297-square-kilometre Ngorongoro Crater. It was once a volcano whose core imploded and top collapsed in, creating its own self- functioning ecosystem. Interaction with the Masai Tribe, flamingos, and other wildlife that we saw at Ngorongoro made the extended safari worth it.
A four-hour drive from Ngorongoro took us to the hill town of Arusha, which sits at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. Most tourists start their safari from Arusha, but we chose to end it there for some well-deserved rest after the hectic safaris. Tanzanite shopping and a stay at a nature resort helped us rejuvenate. The experience of witnessing those frosted peaks of Kilimanjaro, in the middle of Africa and just hours away from plains of tropical safari lands, was absolutely surreal.

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Tanzania emanates purity, boasts a lush environment, and is all about taking it easy. One trip to this beautiful country and you will always remember their motto, pole pole, which means slowly-slowly, the pace at which everyone should absorb this experience.    – Dharna Hassija