I loved the safari, enjoyed meeting the Masai and had the most amazing time exploring Kenya. Now for a different kind of adventure. I decided to go to Mount Kilimanjaro. If climbing Kilimanjaro has been on your wish list, I discovered it was one of the easiest things to organize.
Two options to get to the climb, catch a short flight from Nairobi, Kenya or a shuttle bus, which takes five hours and drops you off at Moshi, Tanzania. Arriving, in the city of Moshi you will find quite a few hotels that are filled with people that have just started the climb or about to start the climb. The excitement of being in the mountains and the suntanned faces of those returning from the climb to the summit are everywhere. Hotels vary from reasonable to backpackers’ delights. If you choose the Impala Hotel it is quiet and nice and very affordable with prices less than $125 per night.
If you want to start from the base of the mountain I suggest visiting www.maranguhotel.com. The Marangu Hotel is owned by Fie and she will outfit you from top to bottom and organize the complete climb. Just show up at her front door and she will make sure you are climbing the next day. She is pretty amazing.
There are different climbs to attempt, and they can take five days or seven days. There are also beautiful national parks that make for a great safari. While at Arusha National Park, I did see the white monkeys. If you love coffee I have to say some of the best coffee I have had in years was the Kilimanjaro brand. Also a funny story, I met the vice president of Starbucks at the Impala. What can I say, was he looking for coffee beans.
After climbing Kilimanjaro, I decided to visit the city of Zanzibar, Tanzania. As you land in Zanzibar you see the white sandy beaches, the port with many ships and the city made of coral and limestone. It’s a magical oasis of cobblestone roads, beautiful courtyards, exotic small restaurants, ornate balconies, Arab-style houses with buildings of Indian influence and lively street-side vending stalls.
Visit the House of Wonders, the Palace Museum, Old Fort (built in the 1700s), the slave market, and the old Persian baths. I suggest a few days in Stone Town staying at the Zanzibar Grand Palace Hotel. The hotel and its staff are the most thoughtful, and if any problem occurs they will stand by you in any situation. The price at this hotel is approximately $125 per night.
For those who want the lavish lux experience, the Serena Hotel, around $300 per night, has the most spectacular views. For high rollers, visit Mnemba Island Lodge, which runs around $1,250 per night per person. A private oasis, it’s a short boat ride away. In Stone Town, enjoy the shopping and stop and have drinks at the Mercury Restaurant.
After a few days of shopping and sightseeing, I suggest renting a car from Omar, firstname.lastname@example.org. His prices, at less than $40 per day, are very reasonable. Take the car on a drive around the island. On one side of the island you can go swimming with the dolphins. Go to the Seaviewlodgezanzibar.com and ask for Mohamed; he manages four cottages right on the edge of the water. The rooms here are less than $40 per night.
Or go north to Nungwi, much more crowded but the bigger hotels will be located there and very popular with all the tourists. The diving is great as the water is turquoise and clear, while the sand is white and beautiful. There are many hotels but the problem will be they are not on the best of roads. Expect a bumpy ride on your way to paradise.
The food is amazing, if you like fresh fish. For cocktails, I suggest anything made with fresh passion fruit. The people traveling here are often English, Irish, Germany or Italians. Everywhere I went I met friendly people and the opportunity to strike up a conversation with everyone was easy and fun. I enjoyed Zanzibar but felt it was time for another adventure.
I made my choice based on time. I realized, I had to start my return to Nairobi and therefore, headed for Mombasa. Mombasa has the beautiful Tamarind Village Hotel with majestic views of the Indian Ocean. The rooms are gorgeous as well as enormous. It feels like a home rather than a hotel room with balconies facing the sea. I had a kitchen, living room and dining room. The hotel also has a casino and a dhow that can take you out for a night of dining and sailing.
Take a taxi into the city and explore old town, the harbor and Fort Jesus, a Portuguese fortress built in 1593. The city is beautiful, and I wished I could have stayed longer, but it was time to catch the train from Mombasa to Nairobi. The train does not run everyday and I would say you will need to give yourself a buffer to make sure you don’t miss your connection, but it is something to enjoy a train ride through Africa. The trip is almost finished but the last day of travel can be relaxing and fun. Spend some time in the dining car and take the sleeping compartment back to Nairobi.
It’s time to leave Africa, but you know you will return as three weeks is just not enough to see all that this place has to offer.
Helen spent years traveling across the world as an importer, selling clothes, fabrics and jewelry. To learn more about Helen’s trip, contact her at email@example.com.