Gorillas, Iconic Tanzania and Chole Island

Rwanda and Tanzania

Nov 24 2010 Written by:Heather Saunders

I have recently returned from an extended trip through Rwanda and Tanzania visiting a number of Epic’s key preferred properties.  I was fortunate enough to start with trekking to observe the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. This was one of the most rewarding and thrilling adventures I have ever experienced!  Despite having visited Africa many times before, this one hour with a band of gorillas, of which Agasha – a 200 kg male – is the head, was one of the most memorable of my life.

I then travelled to the Ngorongoro Crater, an absolute icon, where I indulged in the opulence of Crater Lodge. From there I travelled to the Grumeti Reserves (the Singita properties are stunning) and the northern Serengeti. The sheer vastness and stunning beauty of these open and expansive plains dotted with granite kopjes never cease to amaze me.  The migration hadn’t quite made its way south and I was just in time to witness a crossing of the Mara River.  I stayed in a traditional tented camp and loved the feeling of being connected to the bush once again – canvas, bucket showers and all the unmistakable sounds of Africa.

It was then down to the remote and contrasting Ruaha National Park, now Tanzania’s largest Park, and the land of the giant baobabs.  Although much drier than the north at this time, the landscape was nonetheless as picturesque and the game viewing as good.  Kigelia Camp is also a tented camp and was superb – spacious tents, great food and the staff were lovely.  I then hopped over to the Selous and to Sand Rivers, which is located on a bend in the Rufiji River with open cottages raised to take in the view and allow the hippos room to move at night.

I left the dust of safari for the coast and flew to Zanzibar where I enjoyed a walking tour of Stone Town and Matemwe in the north-east for some beach time, a perfect add-on to any safari and for those wanting to take in the culture and history of the island.

Chole Island and Chole Mjini Lodge was my next stop –  an untouched, pristine marine haven for diving, snorkelling and swimming with whale sharks.  The local village is supported by the lodge and the village visit was a highlight of my stay. I stopped in at the primary school and saw projects being undertaken here such as boat building, still all done by hand.  I finished with a luxurious night at The Oyster Bay, a beautiful boutique hotel in Dar es Salaam – before heading home.

Rwanda and Tanzania are two countries that should be put into everyone’s “top 10”.