© Mowgli Frere

From The Serengeti To The Sea

22nd October 2010

Arriving in Africa is a blow to the senses. It’s so different. The air is filled with earthy aromas, it’s hot and muggy and chaos rules. Rowena Carr-Allinson was immediately reminded why she had kept a place for Tanzania in her heart for such a long time…

My last visit, in the 1990s, seems like a lifetime ago, but the few – the very few – words of Swahili that I’d picked up then come rushing back to me. My brand new husband is delighted to hear that we’ll be fine if we need to say ‘Hello’ (Jambo), ‘Thank You’ (Asante), ‘Giraffe’ (Twiga) or ‘Elephant’(Ndovu). Further conversation may be limited...

We transfer via Dar Es Salaam’s tiny domestic airport (which has definitely seen better days) on to a 12-seater plane to Arusha, where we’re taken to the Arusha Coffee Lodge to freshen up before heading out on our Flying Safari.

This ridiculously luxurious trip is to take us across Northern Tanzania from Tarangire National Park to the Serengeti via Ngorongoro, before heading south for a few days in Zanzibar.

We settle into Elewana’s super plush 9-seater Cessna Grand Caravan’s huge club-class-style butterscotch leather seats and discover just how VIPs travel. We could get used to this. Very easily.

The wildlife feast starts even before landing at Kuro, a tiny strip in the midst of the bush. From high in the sky, I’ve already spotted my first (of many) herd of elephants in the surprisingly green floodplain below, and the two hour drive to the lodge spoils us with a pride of lions, giraffe, giant ostriches and more of those gentle grey giants…

Tarangire Treetops lodge, built around a massive 800-year-old Baobab tree, is a safari paradise, with 20 tree-houses overlooking the golden valley below. Our tree house is all wood: from the floorboards to the decking to the gorgeous rustic beam double bed, and even the twin washbasin stands.

During our two-day stay we follow Ndosi, our fantastic guide, on a walking safari, to meet the Masai, and on several drives to discover the ‘Small Serengeti’ wildebeest walking in single file, pocket-sized Dik-Dik antelopes, elephants mud-bathing, zebras by the hundreds, stubby warthogs, a rainbow selection of birds and my favourite, the graceful giraffes…

Our Flying Safari itinerary then takes us on to the Manor at Ngorongoro, set in a vast coffee plantation near to the famous crater. Bedazzled by the stunning scenery below, I’m momentarily cured of my fear of heights. The views are awesome, stretching on forever! I must say, being picked up by plush plane from a dusty red strip where just half an hour before the zebras roamed, is the ultimate luxury. A few minutes in our tiny, lovely Cessna plane and we’re transported to another world.

The whitewashed Cape Dutch style colonial Manor is terribly civilised. High tea is served here, complete with a pink-frosted Victoria sponge cake on a tiered platter, and we’re glad to shed our dusty safari kit in favour of something more formal for dinner.

Our beautiful room comes with its own fireplace, plus a glorious bathroom with Victorian-style claw foot tub, a friendly butler and an amazing view sweeping over the coffee plantation’s hills.

The next day we’re off to Ngorongoro Crater with Baraka, our new guide, who jokes that the drive is ‘an African’ massage’. We jolt along the bumpy road up to the rim of the Crater (over 2,200 metres) through the dense jungle. Heading down into its centre, we marvel at the amazingly different ecosystems – from lush tropical forest inhabited by baboons and rhino, down to the glimmering Lake Makat with its huge hippos, and the savannah where we see everything from a pride of lazy lionesses napping, a hyena with a kill, a cheetah sunbathing and wildebeest by the thousands.

Another 45 minute hop on our very own VIP jet, and we’re in one of the planet’s most renowned wildlife reserves: the Serengeti National Park, with long golden grass dotted only with umbrella Acacias.

If we thought we’d seen a lot before, we really get up close to nature here! Our new home, the Serengeti Migration Camp, is a tented wonderland where wildlife roams free. From the deck we spot hippos, giraffes, buffalo and elephants. We even ‘bump into’ some (thankfully shy) baboons, an inquisitive warthog, cliff springers, Hyrax, and, at breakfast, some very cheeky white fuzzy-faced monkeys who do all they can to pinch our bread.
Our huge tent is glamorously decadent, from the snazzy bathroom to the dark furniture and the extra details like the cognac carafe and zebra-skin case. The lodge also has a bean shaped pool and a viewing deck which becomes the social centre for cocktails at sunset. Definitely ‘Out of Africa’ chic – a perfect blend of colonial comfort and African soul. We’re expecting Meryl and Robert to turn up at dinner…

Our highlight? Watching a watering hole where thousands of zebras are being berated by an angry elephant, baby in tow. It’s like watching the Discovery Channel, live, against a jaw-droppingly beautiful backdrop.

The food is a highlight, too. I’m impressed at how they whip up fantastic gourmet meals every night out in the bush. How do they pull off that incredible hot chocolate mousse fondant?

After all that hard work watching nature’s finest, the plan is to take it easy in Zanzibar, at the glorious Kilindi. A tiny, dreamy 15 room boutique hideaway, it’s totally unique. Our lovely villa is split in two parts, with a ground floor lounge, a rain water plunge pool and gorgeous bedroom plus al fresco bathroom with the most amazing views. To the left, across the aquamarine waters, lies an uninhabited island; ahead is the turquoise sea in all its glory, dotted with the odd fishing dhow’s white sail. There’s not a building in sight along the crescent bay’s half-kilometre of fine coral-bright white sand… It’s utterly mind-bogglingly beautiful. Days are spent in a happy, lazy haze of sleeping, reading and being spoilt by the chef, but we also make it into StoneTown, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see the Sultan’s Palace, the one-time Slave Market, and the bustling food market.

Kilindi is all about barefoot luxury and a laid back attitude. We love the cosy bar, with its comfy leather sofas, flickering candles and beautiful stone bar set against a wall with a running waterfall. Dinner is always in a different spot, sometimes up on the roof terrace under the stars, sometimes by the stunning eternity pool, and the food is always delicious, fresh and exotic: grilled squid salad, seared tuna, lobster with mango or giant shrimps with aioli. It’s heaven.

Because it’s so simple, but so special, Kilindi is exquisite. Pure bliss.

all images by Mowgli Frere: www.mowglifrere.com

Getting There…

Oman Air offers daily direct flights to Muscat from London Heathrow, with regular onward connections to Dar Es Salaam. Prices from London to Dar Es Salaam start at £436, including all taxes.
Book through travel agents or online at www.omanair.com or call 08444 822309.

Elewana Afrika Fly Safari Package from £3,900 per person,
and park fees from £212. Call 01932 260618. Email: elewana@africa-reps.com or see www.elewana.com

Individual Rates:

The Manor at Ngorongoro, Serengeti Migrations Camp and Tarangire Treetops – from £400 per person / per night full board, excluding park fees.

Arusha Coffee Lodge from £111 per person / per night B&B.

Kilindi from £350 per person fully inclusive.

Find Your Local