Easily one of the best months of my life was spent traveling through Tanzania. The culture, the scenery, the people. It was an incredible experience. My ultimate trip to Tanzania was split into three sections: a safari through the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, a summit hike on Mt. Kilimanjaro and some beach time on Zanzibar. For those of you who don’t know your geography, Tanzania is located in East Africa, directly south of Kenya and Uganda. Tanzania’s Eastern border runs up against the Indian Ocean. To the east of the mainland is a cluter of islands in the Indian Ocean which makes up Zanzibar.
As I mentioned, the first part of my ultimate trip to Tanzania was spent on a safari. The Serengeti is considered one of the ten natural wonders of the world. After my short week spent watching the great animals that call the Serengeti home, I can see why it is considered a natural wonder. This place was incredible!
I was there in January, which was right when all of the female animals were giving birth. I saw every type of baby animal imaginable– baby giraffes, baby elephants, baby monkeys, baby lion cubs, baby gazelles. It was amazing! I even saw a gazelle give birth in the Ngorongoro Crater. I traveled with a group of about 20 people (give or take). We piled up every morning into a large safari-style van and spent hours watching all the animals we came across. We camped at night. It was magical.
The second part of my trip to Tanzania was focused around Mt. Kilimanjaro. There are six official routes you can take to the top of Africa’s largest peak: Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe and Machame. I hiked the Machame Route, which is nicknamed the Whiskey Route. Some people hike the route in just six days, but the group I was with opted to do the hike in seven days (up and down). The Machame Route is considered one of the harder routes, but it is also one of the most popular ways up Mt. Kilimanjaro.
The days are long and the hikes are steep (including a trek up the Great Barranco Wall) but the views are well worth it. On the fifth day we had a pretty short hike in the morning (only about four hours). We took a short afternoon nap, woke up and had dinner before making the final accent to the top.
We started that final hike up hill just before midnight and summited around 6AM on the 6th day of the trek. I made it just in time to watch the most spectacular sunrise in my entire life. It snowed several inches (if not a foot or two) the day before the summit, so I had the amazing opportunity to see the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro covered in snow. There are many people who hike Mt. Kilimanjaro who don’t see snow at all. That hike was the most challenging physical and mental thing I have ever tackled in my life. Reaching the summit is one of my prouder accomplishments.
The final leg of my trip to Tanzania was spent on Zanzibar. I only visited one of the bigger islands called Unguja which is commonly referred to as Zanzibar. Even though Zanzibar is a part of Tanzania, it feels like a completely different country. The culture is different, the vibe is different and the scenery is different. I spent a few days in Stone Town which used to be a hub for trading spices back in the day. Many spices are still produced there, including nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper. There are a lot of tourists on this part of the island. I remember the ocean was dirty and brown. We were advised by the hotel to not go swimming in it (which was unfortunate because after a long hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro, a swim in the Indian Ocean sounded incredible). We visited busy markets and bazaars in Stone Town. I bought a few pieces of artwork to take home with me. Everything had lots of color and was very vibrant. There were tons of Arab houses and mosques. The architecture was beautiful.
After Stone Town, we headed to the other side of the Zanzibar Island to Paje Beach (only about a 45 minute car ride). Paje Beach is breathtaking. It is a white sand beach with a spectacular view of the Indian Ocean. I spent most of my time sunbathing on the beach, swimming in the ocean (which was safe to do there) and eating fresh fruit. It was the perfect way to end the ultimate trip to Tanzania.
Have you ever been to Tanzania? What did you think? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out Seattle Bloggers for more great getaways from Seattle.