Friday, 8 August 2008

Amani - or where time has stood still since German Colonial Times

Amani Medical Research Station Guesthous
(Tel. 027 264 03 13, ca. 15'000TzSh per resident and night, full board)

Amani Medical Research Station, located on a ridge within the Usambara Mountains, has been made a nature resorve some years ago, when rapid deforrestation became a threat to this fantastic ecosystem. Amani itself, with a government run simple but beautiful guesthouse, is like a German village preserved, and not changed in the last 100 years: the bookbinding atelier is still open, in the library there are hardly any recent books but lots of great atmoshere to do one's one studies, the post office is open every day, and staff super friendly, even though saddened that their centre has now moved to Tanga.
In the surroundings one can go for endless walks, hikes and bike rides through forest, tea plantations and garden landscapes. Rudimentary maps, and guides are available at the Amani Nature Reserve centre just a few minutes below the Resthouse, however you can easily go on yourself as well. There are plenty of people on foot along the tracks and trails to follow and ask.

Pangani - Tanzania's most Underrated Beach Resort

The Tides Lodge in Pangani
(Tel. 0748 22 58 12, e-mail:;, about 75US$ per person half board for residents, with special offers during low season)

Pangani is Coconut land, originally planted by slaves, and up to today supplying much of Tanzania mainland with coconuts. Old German administrative buildings have turned into coconut warehouses, and on the close to town beaches coconut huskes are piled up to enroumous amounts! Overall, Pangani makes a very nice place for a late afternoon stroll, and the local cultural tourism programme has a very good reputation.

North and South of town a number of beach resorts are scattered, which offer great value at much lower prices than in Zanzibar or South Beach. The most recommened comes in The Tides Lodge some 10km South of Pangani crossing the ferry, and large working sisal plantations to reach. Spacious and breezy bungalows are located directly on the sea, a beautiful and very affordable bar invites for sundowners, there is the option for snorkeling on a sandbank, sea cayaking, great walks in the beautiful surroundings, or a day trip into Saadani National Park or back into Pantani town. A special offer is the adjacent Beach House also rented by The Tides lodge on offer with half board. For lunch you stroll down the beach into the local fish market to get your catch of the day - the colder the water the higher the price...

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Ruaha National Park

The park's main attraction is obviously the Ruaha river, which attracts great numbers of animals to drink; unfortunately irrigation projects in the catchment area of Ruaha river have led to the situation that the river dries out at times. A result of an uncoordinated agricultural, tourims and development policies with a rather saddening outcome.

Before entering the park, extensive woodlands make part of hunting blocks. Thise forests make for a most beautiful landscape, with the tree conopy spreading to the horizon.

Ruaha Hiltop Lodge
(Tel. Mobile Alban 0717 21 42 70; e-mail:;; About 60US$ per person and night half board)

This Tanzanian run lodge is situated on a hillside with a fantastic view over woodlands, about 10km before the park gate. Food has a Tanzanian touch, bandas as small but clean and functioning, and breakfast comes on the terrace with the smashing view. Behind the lodge a steep tail leads on a mountain ridge, well worth to follow. There is even wildlife to be seen. Strongly recommended, Alban makes for a great host;

Tandala Tented Camps

More expensive than the Hilltop lodge, Tandala Tented Camps has a great reputation for very friendly hosts, loads of elefants in the camp, and good food! Warmly recommended, too!

Ruaha River Lodge, run by the foxes, is a great place to have lunch during your safari into the park. The restaurant, on a round platform with 360 Degrees view, overlooks a large stretch of Ruaha River, and you can observe almost everything from fooling around hippos to anxious giraffs arriving for a drink during your lunch! Take the binoculars with you. Also the place is full of Hyrax having a close look at you!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Iringa and Kisolanza

(A Diocese of Ruaha project, on the road to Dodoma right behind the clock tower; e-mail:

A good place to chill out with delicous tomatoe soup or savoury chocolate cake is Neema's Craft Coffee Shop in Iringa. Some of the young people serving you are deaf, and you will be challenged in making yourself despite this handicap understandable! The adjacent shop sells beautiful hand made paper, beading work, waving cloths of which you can watch how it is done;

Ruaha River Campsite
(Tel. Mobile 0755 03 30 24; e-mail:;

Located 14km before Iringa when arriving from Morogoro, the place is run by a British couple. A number of various styled cottages and tents are spread along Little Ruaha River. Food is excellent, and there is a nice trail along the river leading through coffee plantations and to impressive water falls. Otherwise the cottages seemed a bit damp to us and the Rhodesian Richback dog of the owners did not welcome our Castor! They also offer Swahili lessons and courses for resident students which are said to be very good;

Kisolanza Farm

(e-mail:;; Tel. Mobile 0754 30 61 44; Cottage with half board about 50US$ per person)

51km South West of Iringa on the main road to Mbeya is Kisolanza farm located. Next to an extensive farm with flower prodcution and fish ponds, an ever growing guesthouse business is developing within the farm grounds. There are bandas as well as a well equipped camp site awailable, but the highlight of a stay in Kisolanza farm is the kerozen lamp dinner in a semi ruined mud house, next to the warmth of traditional heating pots. A Maasai drummer calls for the meal, and food is excellent. One of the most special and unique dinners we ever had in Tanzania. Breakfast within the flowering farm garden are another great treat, and before you leave make sure you stock on fresh farm products in Kisolanza's famous shop. The farm grounds are also great for long walks.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Along old German Coffee Farms

Along the foot hills of the Usambara Mountains, Mount Kilimanjaro and Ngorongoro Crater the pioneer German colonialists have established their coffee farms – all of them beautifully located, at times they must have been incredibly remote and lonely – and nowadays some of them turned into guest houses and hotels, while many have disappeared in the 1930th when coffee prices collapsed. So travelling the North of Tanzania can very well be turned into a journey of coffee history in this country.

Irente Farm, Lushote (about 20 Min drive from Lushoto town)

Tel. Mob 0784 50 29 35 or 0784 67 40 46; about 60'000TzSh for the self catered flat, less for the rooms)

Irente Farm is run be the Lutheran Church, hosts a school for disabled children, has a biodiversity project reestablishing the original forest on the extensive grounds of the farm, produces delicious goat and cow cheese, mouth savoring jams, rye bread and quark, and all can be bought in the farm own shop just next to the cottage and rooms for rent. They are self catering, simple and very affordable, next to the old German farm house where now the manager Peter resides. You can go for walks and hikes through the garden landscape with a guide from Irente Farm. About half an hour walk from the farm is Irente view point spectacularely overlooking the Maasai plain from a rock some 1000m above, with no hand rail what so ever. Unfortunately, somebody has also built a huge and ugly hotel just behind, but if you try hard and go early morning you still can immagine old times Tanzania when looking from the view point into the raising mist and the small holder farms on the slopes, and extensive sisal plantations in the plains.

Makao Farm

(Tel. Mob 0754312896/7;, e-mail:

Makao Farm is another Colonial Coffee estate in the foot hills of Mount Kilimajaro, just a few kilometers off the main road between Moshi and Arusha (let yourself pick up at the main road, the last kilometers up to the farm are not signposted and difficult to find); Run by a German animal loving couple (including a friendly pack of about 10 dogs, peacocks residing on your car scratching it, and a dangerous warthog locked in a make shift yard), it is a paradise for horse riders. On offer are either rides through the extensive coffee plantations of the farm with great views on Mount Kilimanjaro and across the plain all the way to the Tanzanite mine, or several day horse safaris in the vicinity of National Parks (if you are not afraid of lions said to consider horses as a Sunday roast…). The horse rides are very professionally led, but most horses suitable for advanced riders only, particularly for taller and heavier riders (many are former Polo horses from Arusha). The farm house has been beautifully restored, good food is served on the old terrace around a table with a nice glass of wine and candle light; the new safari tent cottages seemed somber and a bit damp to us, the old restored papaya drier house definitely preferable, with a great little terrace, however inside also quite dark, and one is prone to hit one’s head each time going to bed or leaving it…A very special place, and as they say in their webpage: you are either an animal lover and enjoy it, or otherwise the visit might turn out into a night mare. All in all it seemed a little overpriced to us, with rates ranging from 120 to 180US$ per person and night, not including the rides.

Marangu Hotel, Marangu town on the foot of Kilimanjaro

(Tel. 0754 88 60 92; 027 275 65 94; e-mail:;

On the grounds of a former coffee farm as well, now turned into a park like garden with spacious double roomed cottages, Marangu Hotel is a reminder of the early Kilimanjaro climbing times, when in the village there were just two Hotels catering for mountaineers: Kibo, located slightly higher, and the said Marangu hotel. Investments have been modest for many years and thus all is simple, but value for money (90US$ for a double full board), and even though food still has a distinct “English note” it has over the years become a bit old fashioned, followed by tea and coffee in a large saloon, or you move across to the bar cottage which is nice too. Best of all is early morning coffee in the beautiful gardens surrounded by flowers, in your back Mount Kilimanjaro, and countless birds hanging in the trees to watch. Coffee comes under a warming hat and mugs are colorful – and new! If you do not intend to mount Kili (Marangu Hotel looked like a reliable organizer of Kili tours) the place is great for hikes in the banana and coffee “forest like” landscape of the mostly Chagga community, and numerous water falls; A newly opened shop just adjacent to the market square sells art craft and a good cup of coffee too, and it is nice to climb up to Kibo Hotel for a sundowner – if you are lucky they might even light the fire;

Gibbs Farm

(Tel. 027 253 40 40;; e-mail:

Gibbs farm has a rich colonial history. Located just on the border of Ngorongoro crater protection area, the logo of the farm does not come as a surprise: a huge elephant track leads behind the farm through the forest like a manmade road, linking the crater with Manyara National Park through now established animal corridors. Guided walks into the protection area are possible, up to the waterfall allowing for great views, and even further to the so called elephant caves, where animals come to lick minerals. The proposed hike to the crater rim as indicated on Gibbs Farm webpage is not always possible, as the trail needs annual clearing, so do not be disappointed.

Margareth Gibbs was a friend of Mary Leakey, the researcher that with her husband passed by often in search of good and fresh farm food, among else! Mary, as the story goes, then had some research money left, which Margareth invested into the first two tourist cottages. Recently, the extensive coffee farm has been sold, more cottages built and upgraded to very luxurious, out of Africa imitation places, beautifully located on a rim. However, they match little with the old farm house, and even less with the cattle and manure piles still maintained behind the house. We stayed in the old house of Margareth Gibbs, with a wonderful fire place, and an own little terrace overlooking the coffee plantation, spacious, and cheapter than the cottages. Food is great, mostly originating from the farm own huge garden, amended with goodies such as an excellent mousse au chocolat! All in all expensive, and prone for more changes into a luxury lodge only, but given its location, just 30Min outside the crater area entrance, still a pearl not to be missed.