News Flash

On his last day in Tanzania, President Clinton became one of 360, 000 visitors annually to explore the World Famous Ngorongoro Crater. Often called "Africa’s Eden" and the "8th Natural Wonder of the World," this collapsed volcano (a “caldera”) is located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area . This is a natural sanctuary for thousands of birds, insects and animals such as lions, zebra, black rhino and wildebeest, all free to wander.
 
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 A Perfect Tanzania Holiday Please  

Source: Times Online, Chris McIntyre

Robin Raymond wants big game, stunning views and more from his Tanzanian safari and beach break. Our Africa expert delivers 

Rungwecebus kipunji, a new genus of monkey from Tanzania (Tim Davenport/WCS) 

Times Online Africa expert, Chris McIntyre 

We are a group of seven including three teenagers going to Tanzania in August for our first safari (approx. one week), followed by a beach holiday in Zanzibar (ideally about 16/17 days total). Our priorities for the safari are:
  • The Big Five
  • Not too many camps (less travelling)
  • Balloon safari
  • Not too busy (too many jeeps vieing for position etc.)
  • Stunning views
  • If possible flying between camps
  • Not too primitive (comfortable camps not necessarily luxurious)
  • Approx. £3,000 per person

    We have had varying reports, some favouring the north, some the south. We understand that the Arusha - Serengeti camps can be over-busy in August but that the variety and volume of animals and the views are better than Selous and Ruaha in the south. Conversely the camps in the south are reputed to be much quieter and by utilising internal flights between the camps the hours on the road (track?) are less. However, does this compromise seeing large quantities of animals or are they just as abundant as in the north? Another possibility could be to combine Selous with one camp in the north, is this possible and/or practical? Your thoughts please and some Expert Africa costings. Robin Raymond, by email

    Hi Robin

    Many thanks for your questions.

    The choice between northern and southern Tanzania is one that a lot of people battle with
  • and its a really interesting one. Theyre very different and your understanding is very close to the reality. The north has been visited by tourists for many, many decades; hence the routes are generally well-trodden and the volumes of visitors and vehicles in the more accessible areas are very high. Theyre attracted by the stunning sights of the great Rift Valley, the picturesque Lake Mayara soda lake, Ngoronongoro Crater and, of course, upwards of 1.5 million animals partaking in the Serengetis great migration.

    The closest parts of these areas are generally fairly easy to drive to from Arusha in a day or two. Hence much of the tourism in this region revolves around groups taking a driver and vehicle around the whole area. For your group of seven, your own vehicle and guide would be perfect (choosing a good guide needs care; some are shockingly bad).

    In price terms? if you want a "cheap" safari, then a week from Arusha can be very cheap, especially when the vehicle and guide costs are divided by seven visitors. £700 each for a weeks safari, including all accommodation, meals and activities is probably attainable. However, you would be staying in big, impersonal hotels, and being driven by more of a "spotter" than a good wildlife guide. However, if you want to use smaller, out-of-the-way camps in good, but more remote areas

    and so see many fewer other visitors, then youll pay two or three times that. Id argue that if youre going to the north at all, then this is worth it, but this makes a safari to the north where you see great wildlife, but dont see many people, often quite an expensive proposition.

    Youre considering a trip in August. See here for a useful moving map of the migration, and explanation of its route, and youll realize that in August the great migration is in the far north of the Serengeti. This is a stunning area, with relatively few visitors basically because its isolated and hence expensive to get to (by contrast, Kenyas Maasai Mara also host the migration then and its packed with people, and easily accessible so fairly cheap). A typical week

    s safari from Arusha by vehicle just hasnt got time to get up to the far north of the Serengeti properly. Its a very good two-day drive each way. A fly-in trip here would be a possibility, but quite expensive for a week eating up probably more than your budget in a weeks safari. In southern Tanzania the reserves Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park - are much more remote. Generally travellers fly between them, and stay at small, remote camps, using the guide and vehicles provided by the camp. The guiding standards are generally higher, and there are far, far less visitors around. The wildlifes excellent. However, nothing can compete with the migration of millions of wildebeest so youll see smaller groups of animals, but a similar variation of different species including four of the big five: lion, leopard, buffalo and elephant.

    The other animal in the Big Five, rhino, occurs in both the Ngorongoro Crater and the Selous Game Reserve ? but you are much more likely to see one in the Ngorongoro Crater (where, unusually, black rhino they are often seen in the open grasslands).

    Also on your wish list was ballooning which is only done in the Seronera area of the Serengeti; its spectacular, but a very busy area for most of the year. For stunning views

    theres quite a lot of these all over Africa its one of the continents joys! But the Great Rift Valley, in northern Tanzania, must take the biscuit here!

    If I were you, for a safari Id probably look first at a week split between the Selous and Ruaha using good camps, but not the top camps. Places like Impala Camp and Selous safari camp in the Selous, and Mdonya Old River Camp is Ruaha. These will give you a great safari with very few other visitors at a very reasonable price. Alternatively, if you want to head to northern Tanzania ? then perhaps fly in to a camp in the northern Serengeti for the migration, and just spend about four nights there. A short, sharp, top-quality safari

    followed by a longer stay on the beach. As you probably realize, staying on Zanzibar (or any of Tanzanias islands) is generally a lot cheaper than being on safari. Dont forget to look at the options on Mafia Island also if any of your party are serious divers or snorkellers; Mafia doesnt have the same quality of beaches ? but its a lot quieter than Zanzibar, and can have a much more exclusive feel for a similar cost.

    Hope this helps,

    Chris McIntyre is managing director of Expert Africa

    Got a question for our travel experts? Email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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 On Safari In Tanzania

 

 Source: Sunday Times, Sally Emarson

 

 A new mobile settlement follows the migrating herds in Tanzania. Sally Emerson visits with her teenage son


 

If I had to survive in the bush, I’d kill a buffalo," announces my son, Michael, aged 19.

"How?"

"I’d get a huge stone and crash it on his head."

The young Masai warrior who is with us begins to laugh, long and deep. This is clearly the funniest thing he’s heard in a while. It’s like a Masai telling us he would survive in London by asking a passer-by for £100.

"The buffalo weighs two tons," our guide chortles. He turns the idea over in his head. "Hit a buffalo on the head with a stone..." he repeats delightedly.

Some trips are holidays and some are much more than that – voyages into another way of thinking and feeling. A journey into the Tanzanian bush is a journey into another dimension. From the threadbare airport at Arusha, our small plane wafted Michael and me to Manyara airstrip; from there, we were driven to the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. The first glimpse takes your breath away. Ngorongoro is an 11-mile-wide volcanic caldera with a lake shimmering in the middle. Its 1,600ft walls turn the crater into an amphitheatre, a savage playpen for the animals that gather there to feed, drink – and be eaten.

The lodge is a hobbitlike community of thatched cottages, right on the rim. Step inside, though, and operatic silk curtains sweep down beside french windows overlooking the crater. There are immense beds, opulent in purple; the tissue box is made of porcupine quills; crystal beads hang from a chandelier. And when we returned from our first game drive, my "butler" had run an aromatic bath drenched in rose petals. I sank blissfully into the bubbles.

Down in the crater, the animals are so used to vehicles it was as though we were entirely invisible. Magical, bizarre, deeply luxurious, this is an astounding place. There are hippos, black rhinos, elephants and many thousand zebras, wildebeests and gazelles. We watched two young lions chase each other across the open plain, giving their deep, vibrant, almost comforting roar.

In the evening, after a dinner to make the gods jealous, we sat in leather chairs by an open fire, drank sherry and played poker – easy to feel like a god here. In the early morning I watched a cloud drift over the crater, while all around our cottage the buffaloes grazed.

THE NEXT leg of our safari was a searing contrast. We took a tiny plane out into the Serengeti, 120 miles from the nearest town, to a tented settlement without running water. This is Tanzania Under Canvas, and it moves every few months to chase the great migration of wildebeests and zebras.

My tent was right on the margins of the camp, and it made me uneasy, especially when I was told nobody had a gun. My whistle and torch didn’t feel like much protection from the lions. Not that staying there is a hardship. Like Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, it is run by CC Africa, and the mischievous camp manager, Bruce, welcomed us into the canvas "living room" erected just a week or two before our arrival, with its crystal glasses, leather-bound books and khaki sofas.

But there really are lions in the camp at night. I would have felt safer sharing a tent with Michael, and Bruce conceded that was perfectly reasonable – because then I would be only half as likely to be attacked. "It isn’t that he’d save you – it’s that while the predators munch on one, the other can escape. It’s the principle behind large herds."

Later, I read from Out of Africa as I tried to sleep. "The views were immensely wide," Karen Blixen writes. "Everything you saw made for greatness and freedom. Up in this high air you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart." On any trip, the best literature of the place intensifies and enlarges your experience. But for all Blixen’s delicacy of language, I still couldn’t sleep.

EARLY NEXT morning we stepped out into the gentle danger of Africa. A red dawn stained the skies, and I felt the space of a whole continent – at once exhilarated and relaxed by the rising murmur of insects, the famous light. That first day we saw a cheetah, a leopard and a pride of lions with their cubs. Most impressive, though, was the thunder of the wildebeests as they stampeded over a hill, carried by dust clouds like an apocalyptic vision. Watching them, I found myself thinking like a lion: here was a banquet it would be impossible ever to finish. Later we witnessed the fear and despair of baby wildebeests parted from their mothers, as vultures went jauntily about their business nearby.

"Where there’s death there’s life," said Ivan the ranger, matter-of-factly – yet he helped us to save one youngster by encouraging it to follow our vehicle.

But fear is part of the deal here, as I came to understand. Here you are not gods, as you are at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, and the experience offers a different kind of intensity. Spending all day watching the predators, and most of the night listening to them hunt outside your canvas wall, you soon begin to identify with the primal stimuli of the bush. You forget your wearisome human pride, and lose that sense of difference between man and other animals. I’d expected the worst thing about Tanzania Under Canvas to be the strip of tent separating me and the bush. It turned out to be the best.

Sally Emerson travelled as a guest of CC Africa

Travel details:
Africa Travel Centre (0845 450 1535,
www.africatravel.co.uk) can arrange a tailor-made, six-night itinerary combining the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (www.ngorongorocrater.com) with CC Africa’s Tanzania Under Canvas (www.ccafrica.com) from £3,095pp.

The price includes flights from Heathrow to Dar es Salaam with British Airways, three nights at Under Canvas and two at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, including all meals and safari activities, and internal flights and transfers. Or try Expert Africa (020 8232 9777,www.expertafrica.com), Aardvark Safaris (01980 849160, www.aardvarksafaris.com) or Safari Consultants (01787 888590, www.safari-consultants.co.uk).

 
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 Why Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania
 
 Source: http://www.uhurupeak.com/
 

Mount Kilimanjaro is a global household name. Many people and institutions have liked to be associated with it in their own way. Thousands have, over centuries, scaled it to different heights. Some to the extent of conquering its Uhuru Peak, which, at 5,985m above sea level, is the roof top of African Continent.

In reply to symposium questions as to where it is located, many would get in right. "It’s in Africa", they would say. But many again would find themselves at a loss when asked to specify where in Africa or even worse, why it is there.

The inbound tourism market, over times, came to believe Mt. Kilimanjaro is a Kenya product. Even unit very recently it was normal for passengers on international flights to watch documentaries sending the wrong message across. As a result, to prostitute Julius Caesar’s "veni, vidi, vici" a little, many visitors came, saw and conquered the Kili, but still left ignorant of its location.

 

Thanks to efforts put in by the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), the Tanzania Airport Authority (TAA). Tanzania missions abroad and, other stakeholders like Swiss Air. The inbound market has slowly come to not only understand, but also appreciate that one can see the gracious glacier-capped Kili from anywhere. But to climb it, on has got to travel to Tanzania.

To boost this campaign for driving the correct message further home, it could be much better even for the market to know why the Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania.

To lay a strong foundation for establishing why Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, logical demands that, in the first place, it is much better to establish why Tanzania is whereit is in Africa. This leads us back to civic scum-history teach in.

 

To qualify for statehood, Tanzania, like any other country in the world, must have boundaries defining its relation with neighboring African state, which in this case are Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.

The words "partition" and "Scramble" abound in African history books, What is common to both is that they can be traced to the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885. In the Tanzanian context, it is from this time to 1919 that boundaries were set. And strong but true, these boundaries resulted both from antagonism and friendship between the British and Germans! The First World War, after which Germany lost all the colonies, also had a hand in it.

After getting this nutshell information on why Tanzania is where it is in Africa, the question of why Mt. Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania sticks its neck out into the fore. What happened?

The 1880s witnessed a decade when European countries suddenly developed a special appetite for the East African part of the continent. By then their arrival format was the bible, trade and then the flag.

The German East African Company established itself in Areas over which the sultan of Zanzibar claimed sovereignty. These extended up to the Kilimanjaro. With that a conflict had been brewed in which the British, as masters of the sea, had to come in flanked by the French.

Kilimanjaro Climb, Horombo Hut to Kibo Hut, Mt Kilimanjaro

A delimitation commission was formed. But the British and the Germans were not 100% sincere to each other over the issue. For, the sultan sent troops under a British commander to hoist this flag on Kilimanjaro. The troops encountered a German team on similar assignment. German merchants had now acquired imperial protection. Through interested in the Kilimanjaro region, British merchants, however, had yet to establish themselves there.

The Wachagga chiefs were literally trapped between British, Germans and Sultan’s claims. Led by Mandara of Moshi, the chiefs are alleged to have signed treaties with all competitors. The scramble of Kilimanjaro had started. Negotiations moved to London. Several maps suggesting areas of influence were drawn. In every case each side wanted to improve its cut.

Eventually the two sides come to terms, in which the British got Mombasa and lost Kilimanjaro to the Germans. And vice versa, if it so pleases you. Mombasa belonged to the Sultan, who had since been sidelined. On November 1, 1886, Germany and Britain exchanged letters. The deal was concluded leading to the present Tanzania-Kenya border.

 Kilimanjaro Sunset

Founding Heads of State of the Organization of African Unity (AOU) now running as the African Union (AU) in their charter resolved to honour boundaries set by colonial powers. Based on this, therefore, there is no border dispute between Tanzania and Kenya governments.

So, Kilimanjaro is truly Tanzania, Only that by taking advantages of the silence of their Tanzanian counterparts, Tourism players in Kenya grabbled the change and presented the gracious Kili and exotic to Tanzania. To climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the inbound Market come to know, One had to fly to Mombasa or Nairobi.

Reading between the lines, the placing of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania provides an excellent menu for the inquisitive mind. Short of the Germans demands to push the border further up, the late Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere could have been born in Kenya. One needs the Aristotle touch to guess how the late Mzee Jomo Kenyata and Nyerere could have combined their philosophies in running Kenya political affairs.

 Beautiful glacier at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Likewise, the most aggressive business oriented Wachagga in Kilimanjaro could have been split into two identical groups living on either side of the Tanzania-Kenya border. Many be the first exemplary free cross border trade in Africa, could also be traced to Kili region.

So, now we know, Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania because Momabasa is in Kenya, as German Ambassador to Tanzania, Dr.Heinz Schneppen, rightly summarize it during his Goethe Institute and Association of Friends of the Museums of Tanzania-Sponsored address shortly before he ended his term of service in 1996.

Or as the association’s chairman Prof. Adolfo Mascarenhas put it: "Tanzania’s borders are the most positive heritage that the Germans left to the citizens of the country," Within these borders is the Kilimanjaro.

The highest peak in Africa. The highest free standing mounting in the world. The highest peak in the world with GSM service. The only place where one can see snow close to the Equator. The place where the entire world climate is summarized under the same sky.

Karibu Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

Apparently much of these ice fields on top of Mount Kilimanjaro have now disappeared, a product of global warming (Photo by Nyaminyami)

Source: Uhurupeak.com

 
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 Zanzibar: Of Sultans, Spices and White Sand Beach
 
 Source: The New York Times, Edward Wong
 

The scene at sunset along the harbor at Stone TOwn in Zanzibar, off Tanzania's coast.

 

FEW ferry rides in the world can conjure up the wealth of expectations that arise on the two-hour trip from the verdant Tanzanian coast to Zanzibar. The name alone has for centuries endowed this region with a promise of splendor.

One of the many twisting alleyways that wind through the town.

Typical shuttered windows in town.

Standing on the boat's deck, with the sun dipping low to the west, I watched as fishermen in catamarans paddled into small inlets. As we powered farther out to sea, the white sails of dhows began to appear on the horizon, a throwback to the days when the wooden ships regularly plied the trade routes between
Africa and Arabia.

We docked in the port of Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar Island (part of what is commonly referred to as the Spice Islands) and a city of labyrinthine alleyways and faded Omani palaces that is redolent of the glories of the old Islamic empires, more Middle Eastern in its feel than African. Women in full-length black robes streamed down the gangplank. A monsoon shower had swept in, drenching the port and sending everyone scurrying for the nearest taxi.

Tourism in Zanzibar and other Muslim islands off the coast of East Africa is undergoing a resurgence, despite the war in Iraq and bombings in the
Middle East that have frightened many Western travelers away from Islamic countries. Stone Town, the first stop for most travelers here, retains the atmospheric trappings of urban life in Muslim cities but hews to a much looser interpretation of Islam than many places in the Middle East. So while calls to prayer regularly resound through the streets, bars and restaurants serve alcohol with little restraint.

Other fanciful indulgences abound: luxury hotels fashioned from the former manors of wealthy merchants, a native cuisine that brazenly drenches seafood in aromatic spices, and white-sand beaches just a few hours' drive from the city.

The best way to see Stone Town is just to walk and, preferably, to get lost while doing so. My friend Tini and I hit the streets the morning after checking into the Tembo House Hotel, a former merchant's home right on the waterfront, and instantly found ourselves swept into the decaying opulence of the city. From the narrow passageways we ducked into the inner courtyards of old manors, pastel paint peeling from the walls.

What lends Stone Town its charm are the remnants of empire, all piled atop one another and inflected by the native Swahili culture. The Persians were among the first foreigners to settle here alongside the indigenous people. The island was colonized by the Portuguese starting in 1503, and brought under the control of Oman in 1698. The sultan of Oman eventually moved the seat of his kingdom to Zanzibar, which resulted in an artistic renaissance in Stone Town, with Arabic influence becoming much more overt in the designs of manors and palaces. In the late 19th century, the British Empire annexed the island, only to have it gain independence decades later, before coming under the rule of the government of mainland
Tanzania .

The shadow of the Arabian peninsula, just across the Indian Ocean, falls everywhere in Stone Town. We made our way through the twisting streets, marveling at the thick wooden double doors with their arabesque carved lintels and large brass studs. One narrow alleyway led to another, with branches veering off in all directions and plenty of dead ends. There were groups of men in white robes and skullcaps playing pool in small cafes, and cramped shops selling everything from spices to television sets to long rolls of multihued cloth. It had the same feel as Cairo or Damascus or Lahore - the urban design of Zanzibar is the same as the one imprinted all over the Islamic world.

Some of the most baroque edifices lie along the waterfront, including the former palace of the Omani sultans, which overlooks the harbor, and a towering old mansion called the House of Wonders, which has a museum of Swahili culture on the ground floor. There are surprising finds everywhere, like the pink Art Nouveau exterior of the Ciné Afrique, a shuttered movie theater in the north of the old town, along a street running east of the port.

One stroll took us to an Anglican church that stood on the site where slaves who had been brought in from the mainland were sold. Nearby was a small museum dedicated to the memory of the slave trade - two musty cells in a dungeon evoke the cramped quarters in which manacled Africans were once imprisoned, after they had been marched to the coast from the continent's deep interior and dumped on ships.

At night, locals gather at Forodhani Gardens, a strip of park on the waterfront right outside the House of Wonders. Before sunset, cooks begin setting up grills and tables along the water and laying out skewers of raw seafood. You can stroll along the stalls and pick different delicacies that are then grilled in front of you by lamplight, and wash it all down with mugs of fresh sugar-cane juice.

One popular attraction is a "spice tour," which virtually all the travel agencies in Stone Town run. Our guide, Fuad, drove us past the former home of the British explorer and missionary Dr. David Livingstone and into the gentle hills outside town, where sprawling plantations have been set up to grow and harvest cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, peppercorn and other spices. Stopping at one plantation filled with lush tropical plants, we rubbed some cloves between our fingers and sniffed it.

THIS is Zanzibar's cash crop," Fuad said. "But the Tanzanian government pays farmers so little for it that people often try smuggling it into Kenya." With that, he drove us to another plantation, where we ended the tour by devouring kingfish cooked in a rich coconut curry.

It is along the coast, though, that Zanzibar is at its most vivid. One day we took a minivan up to the beach at Kendwa, a small fishing village on the northwest shore of the island that is free of the crowds at the more popular backpacker resort of Nungwi. There was absolutely nothing to do there but laze around, eat seafood, read books and go swimming in the turquoise waters.

The beach had three or four small lodges with simple bungalows right next to each other, and the one where we stayed, Kendwa Rocks, had a reputation for having wild full-moon parties.

On our last night in Kendwa, we watched the blazing red orb of the sun sink into the ocean. The wind picked up and sped the dhows through the waters, their white sails puncturing the twilight calm.

Getting There

American citizens traveling to
Tanzania and Zanzibar require a visa. It can be obtained for $50 from the Embassy of the United Republic of Tanzania, 2139 R Street, Washington, D.C. 20008; 202-939-6125; www.tanzaniaembassy-us.org.

Several ferries run each day from Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, to the port by Stone Town. All the ferry companies have their offices in Dar es Salaam, and you need to shop around to find the best option (representatives can be found at the port). Azam Marine is one of the largest, and charges about $35; the trip generally takes two hours or less.

Air Tanzania,
www.airtanzania.com, and Precision Air, www.precisionairtz.com, have frequent scheduled flights between Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam. ZanAir, www.zanair.com, and Coastal Aviation, www.coastal.cc/zanzibar.htm, are charter operators offering regular flights; their schedules are sometimes subject to passenger volume. Flights take about 20 minutes and cost about $60.

Where to Stay

These hotels and restaurants are in Stone Town, Zanzibar's capital.

Tembo House Hotel, Forodhani Street, (255) 24 2233005;
www.tembohotel.com. Well-appointed lodging on the waterfront, in what used to be the home of a wealthy merchant. The rooms are spacious, and decorated with Zanzibari and Oriental furniture, ornaments and antiques, with wooden balconies overlooking a courtyard pool. Double rooms start at 94,500 Tanzanian shillings, or $105, at about 1,220 shillings to the dollar, year round.

The 15-room Africa House, Shangani, (255) 777 432340; www.theafricahouse-zanzibar.com. Converted from a gentleman's club founded during the era of British colonial rule, this hotel is rich in atmosphere. The terrace is a popular gathering spot for predinner drinks with a view of the sunset over the Indian Ocean. Doubles start at $65 in low season (April through June), $125 in peak season. The Zanzibar Serena Inn, (255) 242 233587,

www.serenahotels.com/zanzibar/inn/home.htm . Part of the upscale Serena chain found throughout East Africa and South Asia, this hotel is near Africa House and is known for its pampering. Doubles from $195 in low season; from $365 in high season.

Where to Eat

The Tower Top Restaurant on the roof of the Emerson and Green Hotel, 236 Hurumzi Street,
www.emerson-green.com, (255) 747 423266, has stunning views over the cityscape of Stone Town and the Indian Ocean. Seating is Arabian style, on pillows at low tables. Dinner costs $25, without drinks.

At Forodhani Gardens, the open-air night market on the waterfront by the House of Wonders, you point to raw skewers of seafood, which cost about $1 each, and the cooks grill your dinner in front of you.

Tembo Hotel and Africa House both offer respectable upscale restaurants. Africa House has a panoramic terrace perfect for drinks at sunset.

 
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 Of Men and Mountains: At 65, Why No?
 
 Source: New York Times, Jeff Gralnick
 
 IT was everybody's favorite question.

''You're doing what?''

Followed by, ''Whatever for?''

I was going to attempt Mount Kilimanjaro. Here I was turning 65, and there was Kilimanjaro. As the tallest mountain in Africa, it is one of the so-called seven summits -- the tallest peak on each continent, together a quest for the most serious of climbers. At 19,340 feet, Kilimanjaro is also the world's tallest freestanding mountain. A worthy challenge.

And there was also the business of validating that the cancer survivor was indeed surviving. But in the end, it was probably the fortune cookie that tipped the balance.

''As soon as you feel too old to do something,'' it urged, ''do it.''

And so in August I headed for Tanzania and the mountain with a bagful of equipment and a few questions, like what exactly was the fortune cookie getting me into?

The jumping-off point was the colonial era -- that is, German East Africa colonial era: Marangu Hotel, a wonderful little bed-and-breakfast in the southern lee of Kilimanjaro. And I studied the mountain, which does loom and does impress and does scare from every angle. My four partners, thrown together by Safari Experts, the outfitter each of us had found, were a retired pilot and his wife (cross-country ski racers and marathoners); a 42-year-old woman in the securities industry (triathlete in her spare time); and a 32-year-old financial writer (marathoner in her spare time). I was overmatched for sure. I was a gym regular in good shape ''for my age,'' but no distance runner, and the highest I had ever climbed was on a ladder to change a light bulb.

First the preclimb briefing: ''go slow'' (pole pole in Swahili, which is pronounced po-LAY po-LAY with an African lilt), never ''romp along,'' and ''remember, people do die on the mountain every year'' (and one would while we were on the mountain, hit by falling rocks on the more rigorous Western Breach approach). Then we and our 15 porters, 3 guides, and about 1,500 pounds of food and gear headed up, along with several hundred other climbers on this Sunday.

What kinds of people headed up the mountain? An Irish marching club of eight, seven of whom would ''summit,'' in climbers' speak; an English mother and daughter who would fail; three or four other European couples who got to the top; and our group of five, four of whom were going to reach Uhuru, the highest of the two peaks. And these were just the Marangu departures. Along the way we would bump into several young women from Japan; an improbable number of Germans and French, one climbing barefoot; and -- based on ball caps and accents -- a large part of the vacationing American college population.

And what's it like going up Kilimanjaro?

Stack a half-dozen Empire State Buildings; take out the landings; cover the steps with rocks, a layer of volcanic ash and a little mud; and insert 30 floors every time you think you are nearing the top, and you have it. And that was just Day 1, up through the rain forest and in the clouds all the way.

Where was the beauty, the grandeur? Where was the romance of the mountain?

Coming, was the answer.

Day 2 broke clear and took us up and over the clouds. ''Climbing steadily'' were the words in the trip description, and that is what we did. Relentlessly up. Seven hours to make an additional 2,600 feet. Passing and being passed by climbers we'd seen and would again, and some we wouldn't. Hard breathing and ''oh, wow'' moments as one stunning vista of raw mountain nature after another opened below us all along the way.

And the beginning of my nagging concern: Can I really do this?

Shira Camp is where we fetched up on that second night. A plateau covered with tents of all sizes and shapes. An international polyglot. Park rangers said that between climbers and support, there were close to 1,500 sleeping there that night, and worrying about the next day's effort. Day 3 was where ''climbing steadily'' would be fully defined and faces would begin to disappear. The Japanese women had turned back, we heard, and come morning, fewer people would be moving up than the day before.

And what would we do on Day 3? Find out about ourselves was the answer. We were going to push across high mountain desert -- almost vertical desert -- from just over 12,000 feet to just under 15,000. This was the day we would discover what altitude was about. This was the day I became sure I was going to have to vote myself off the island.

By the time I reached camp an hour behind my group, I knew I was done. You need two full lungs for this, and I no longer came equipped that way, having had one lobe removed just 13 months before. Over dinner my team tried to convince me I could do it, but I knew that if breathing at 15,000 feet was hard, then at 19,000 feet, where the oxygen dropped even more drastically, I was going to be toast and a drag on their effort.

But to go down from there, you have to go up more to reach a point on the trail that can safely take you the other way, so I still had another day to climb. Day 4 on the Machame route is about as scary a day as I can remember. In my life.

''Scramble up Baranca Wall'' is what the trip description said we would do, and in my mind I saw ''a wall.'' Fifteen feet. Maybe 30. It turned out to be about 450 feet, with the trail narrowing down to just the next rock to reach for, with nothing behind you or between your feet but open air.

''Where's the top?'' I kept asking. ''Soon'' the guides said while I tried to coerce glue out of my fingertips.

This I needed? Learning just how scared you can be and still function?

This was the experience of a lifetime. The only question was how much longer that lifetime would last. Three hours up ''the wall'' and four more of ups and downs to go.

I limped into Karanga camp fully an hour behind my crew, and in the dinner tent I let them know that it was time for me to give it up. ''Was I O.K. with it?'' was what they wanted to know, and I told them I was very sure that I was. Come morning there was an emotional group hug as they headed toward the summit, still two days away, and I started the nine hours down to the hotel on a trail which, though much faster, was every bit as rigorous to go down as the ones we had come up. But at the end there was going to be a hot shower and a flush toilet and a bed.

Back at the Marangu, where in the gardens when the distant traffic noise faded you could imagine it really was 100 years ago, I realized in an emotional glow aided by a Kilimanjaro beer or two that I really was ''O.K. with it.''

So I didn't summit. I had given it my best shot. Sure, lots do make it -- 60 to 80 percent of the climbers who attempt it, according to anecdotal records kept by hotels and tour groups -- but lots do not, and I was one.

But in the end, the summit would have been just a bonus. I had seen things I never expected to see and experienced things I never expected I would.

And isn't that enough? It certainly was for this climber.

JEFF GRALNICK is a former executive producer for ABC News and NBC News.

 
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 Former President Bill Clinton Visits The World Famous Ngorongoro Creater in Tanzania
 
 Source: U.S. Editorial
 
 

Photo: Former President Bill Clinton discusses Conservation issues with officials from the Norgongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA). Speaking with President Clinton at the Ngorongoro Crater are:From left: Bernard Murunya, Acting Conservator Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), Hon. Pius Msekwa, NCAA Board  Chairman and Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Saning'o Kaika Olle Telele, Member of Parliament NCA Constituency, also NCAA  Board Member. Behind Hon Telele is Metui Olle Shaudo, Chairman of the Ngorongoro Pastoralist Council and NCAA Board member.

Arusha, Tanzania ,August 21, 2007. Former President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation, spent six days in Tanzania, the largest country in East Africa.  He was there to announce a critically needed subsidy to improve malaria treatment in the country.  

On his last day in Tanzania, President Clinton became one of 360, 000 visitors annually to explore the World Famous Ngorongoro Crater. Often called "Africa's Eden" and the "8th Natural Wonder of the World," this collapsed volcano (a "caldera") is located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area . This is a natural sanctuary for thousands of  birds, insects and animals such as lions, zebra, black rhino and wildebeest, all free to wander.     

The Norgongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) was  established in 1959 to protect an area covering 8300 square kilometers. Only indigenous tribes such as the Masaai are allowed to live on this land. Olduvai Gorge ("The Cradle of Mankind") , Lake Ndutu and Masek are also within its borders. Lush highlands surround the Crater, falling away to tawny plains and alkaline lakes of the Great Rift Valley. A descent down the rim passes rain forest and thick vegetation, and the flora opens to grassy plains throughout the crater floor.

Hon. Prof. Jumanne Maghembe, Tanzania's  Minister of Natural Resources & Tourism, stated, "we are pleased that Former President Clinton was able to see for himself the success resulting from what started as a pioneering experiment in multiple land use where pastoralism, conservation and tourism co-exist in a carefully managed harmony."

Bernard Murunya, Acting Chief Conservator, NCAA, who accompanied President Clinton, said "the Former President spent seven hours game viewing and experiencing first hand the majesty of the area. He was extremely impressed with our efforts to protect what is a unique ecosystem, one of the few such places in the world."

Besides vehicle safaris, hiking treks through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are becoming increasingly popular with visitors.

For more information on Tanzania visit www.tanzaniatouristboard.com in the US, contact Tanzania Tourist Board (212) 447-0027; This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it  For information about the Ngorongoro Crater, visit http://www.ngorongoro-crater-africa.org/ 

 

Photo Credit: TTB/ Karen Hoffman

U.S. Editorial
Karen Hoffman

Phone: 212-447-0027

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 Tanzania, Home to Africa's Largest Game Reserve
 
 Source: Times Online
 
 

At the largest game reserve in Africa, there’s nothing between Brian Jackman and the big cats

Dar es Salaam is where the adventure begins. This is where you down-size from a jumbo jet to a six-seater Cessna bush plane and head into the wide blue yonder of the Tanzanian bush. Half an hour later, lurching from thermal to thermal in the hot African sky, you look down and see the plane’s shadow skimming over an infinity of savanna and miombo — the dry, deciduous African woodlands that run south for a thousand miles.

There is no settlement of any kind. Not a village or a field or even so much as a dirt road to tell you where you are. Only the gleam of a mighty river up ahead, coiling between pale quartz sandbanks the size of Blackpool beach.

"There it is," calls the pilot over his shoulder, and soon you are banking in a 45-degree turn, low enough to see the hippos in the coffee-coloured water, the glimpse of a thatched roof among the trees, and a bull elephant shaking his huge ears in displeasure at being disturbed. Then you are down, bumping along a dirt airstrip bulldozed out of the bush and stepping out into the blowtorch heat of a Tanzanian winter’s morning.

Welcome to the Selous, the biggest, wildest game reserve in Africa. Imagine, if you can, a wilderness the size of Ireland, with not so much as a square metre of tarmac and no habitation of any kind except for a handful of safari lodges.

Although people are few, there is no lack of game. You want to see elephants? The Selous has upwards of 60,000. Hippos? Let’s settle for, say, 40,000. Lions? Doing very nicely, thank you, with a pop- ulation of maybe 4,000. To which you can add untold numbers of leopards and giraffes, zebras and antelopes, at least 110,000 buffaloes and packs of highly endangered wild dogs, whose last true stronghold this is.

EVER SINCE I first read Sand Rivers, Peter Matthiessen’s African classic, I had dreamt of visiting the Selous. Now, here I was, and within an hour of checking into the Selous Safari Camp, I heard the sad, soft, hooting call of dogs somewhere out in the autumn-coloured woodlands.

Looking out across Lake Nzelakela, Selous Safari Camp is a bush home fit for princes. In 1997, Prince Charles stayed here with William and Harry. Now, having just been taken over by CC Africa, the South African-based safari specialists, its 12 ensuite tents are about to receive a luxurious makeover.

Yet for all its creature comforts, the camp retains its sense of the wild. There are no fences between you and the animals, so it came as no surprise one morning when a bull elephant wandered in and strolled directly beneath the high wooden deck on which I was having breakfast.

Awake at first light, I set out on a game drive with a guide called Apollo. Soon we were deep in the woodlands, surrounded by glades of flat-roofed terminalia trees, with here and there a dark, shady tamarind, and giant grey baobabs as old as Stonehenge.

Impala were browsing under the trees, but most of the game had moved down to the lakeshore, and it was here that we found two lionesses at rest with seven cubs. "We often see lions here," said Apollo. "It’s a good spot for them to ambush animals coming in to drink."

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The lake is a magical place. Borassus palms soar from its depths like the temple columns of a lost city, and at one end of it is a skeletal forest of silver-grey leadwoods. The trees have been dead for nearly a decade, killed off by rising water levels, but so dense is their wood that they could still be standing 40 years from now.

For a closer look at the lakeshore wildlife, I embarked on a cruise in an aluminium boat. The scent of wild jas-mine hung on the air. Clouds of bee-eaters fluttered and swooped around their bank-side burrows. Buffaloes glowered at us as we drifted past, and once, an elephant emerged from beneath the palms to blare stridently as he advanced towards us.

IN MIDWEEK, I moved on to Sand Rivers, just a 10-minute hop away by air. It has been in existence for barely a decade, yet already it has become something of a legend, and its location on the banks of the Rufiji is stunning. Eight thatch- ed cottages, all furnished in understated luxury, with ensuite bathrooms and wide verandas, overlook a vast, sunset-facing bend in the river. Below the crescent-shaped swimming pool, where the river swirls between the rocks, lives a hippo known as Jacuzzi Jake.

On a really hot day here, there is no better way to stay cool than to cruise upriver for a picnic breakfast at Stiegler’s Gorge, with eyes peeled for leopards and trumpeter hornbills. Stiegler was a Swiss adventurer, killed here by an elephant; but hippos seemed to be a more obvious hazard as we puttered upstream. Forget the great white shark. Hippos are the Jaws of Africa, and to bump into a territorial Rufiji bull — one ton of pure testosterone with cavernous mouth and curving tusks — is an experience best avoided.

But if you really want to increase your bush cred, you must forgo the lodge’s five-star comforts and go fly camping for a night or two. Sandor, a former British army officer with a heavy rifle and a thousand-mile stare, was an ideal companion for a walking safari in thick bush where elephant or buffalo might be lurking; and so was Emanuel Senkoro, my other companion, a hawk-eyed guide from Kilimanjaro.

The baboons were still in their treetop roosts when we set off. It was Sandor’s plan to try and intercept a herd of elephants on their way back from the woodlands where they had been feeding in the night. Sure enough, we came upon a group of eight, led by a large matriarch with long, thin tusks, and hid in the rocks on the side of a valley to watch them trooping past, no more than 25 yards below.

Suddenly, an impala began to snort in alarm and I heard Emanuel snap his fingers. "Look, chui," he hissed. The leopard had not seen us and strolled across an open glade on the opposite side of the valley, its tail curved in an elegant question mark.

Towards evening we made camp at an idyllic site: the middle of a wide sand river that had flowed in the rainy season, but was now bone dry and crisscrossed with animal tracks. For the uninitiated, fly camping means sleeping in a tent, which at Sand Rivers consisted of nothing more than a groundsheet and a mos- quito net propped up on four beanpoles.

But the bed was comfortable and I lay for a while, watching the oil lamps flickering around the camp perimeter and the Milky Way shining above, while elephants passed by like silent shadows. Somewhere, not far off, a lion began to grunt, and it was somehow satisfying to know that nothing lay between the big cats and me but a flimsy sheet of gauze.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 16 June 2010 )
 
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