A visit to the island is a pleasant prologue to Firelight Expedition’s Palahala, in southwest Tanzania’s Katavi National Park, where wildlife viewing reaches new heights. Arriving here invariably makes visitors feel like they are setting foot in an untamed wilderness—which it is.
The park is one of the country’s greatest treasures, with eastern Africa’s largest number of crocodiles and hippos. Lions, leopards, buffaloes and zebras are abundant, while the rare and endangered puku antelope makes an occasional appearance to the delight of visitors.
Palahala (prices are comparable to Lupita) consists of a series of eight luxury tents erected on the banks of the Kapapa River, a spot abundant with wildlife, including hippos, elephants, crocodiles and lesser game. The environmentally conscious permanent camp maintains a maximum occupancy of 16 guests to keep a low impact on its surroundings. It operates for nine months, only closing during the rainy season.
The tents are custom-made canvas suites with verandahs overlooking the bush. Game viewing platforms look over the river and old-fashioned hurricane lamps line the pathways in the evening. The outsized tents are furnished with comfortable beds, flush toilets, and electric lights.
Palahala’s remoteness makes guests feel like they’re on their own private park and this becomes manifest during game viewing expeditions and wilderness hikes, when the beauty of Tanzania and the richness of its animal life becomes self-evident.
Meals at the camp are sumptuous affairs and vary greatly. Dinners are usually served by candlelight near the river, where one can hear hippos splashing, or enjoyed in the bush on white linen tablecloths on tables and field chairs set up in the savanna where elephants and buffaloes graze.
Both Lupita and Palahala are perfect destinations for those who want to experience Africa as it must have been a century ago with luxurious modern conveniences thrown in for good measure.
In early 2013, Firelight Expeditions will begin an all-inclusive package (from about $7,000 pp dbl) for a 3-night stay at two of its destinations. It will include all air transport within Tanzania. A superb Tanzanian experience would be to visit all three, including the aforementioned Mwanga Moto, but the Serengeti trip, however, is available only in the period that coincides with the great animal migration.
Indigo Bay Island Resort & Spa,
Mozambique (October 2012)
British Airways: (800) 247-9297; britishairways.com
Firelight Expeditions: (949) 285-8660;
Tanzania Tourist Board: tanzaniatouristboard.com
Tanzania with Cox & Kings
Founded in London in 1758, Cox & Kings’ Tanzania tours are testimony to the firm’s impressive pedigree and vast experience in Africa. Yvonne Whitcomb, destination manager for Africa and Indian Ocean for Cox & Kings, the Americas, says that the country often seems tailor-made for exploration and adventure.
“The timeless majesty of Tanzania’s natural wonders has been enchanting explorers for centuries. It’s the perfect combination of beach and bush, offering pristine white-sand beaches, and some of the most incredible wildlife experiences in the world,” she says.
Cox & Kings offers tours to Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti and to multiple conservation areas within Tanzania.
Timeless Tanzania (from $5,985 pp land-only, to $10,125 pp for deluxe accommodations) is a 9-day tour that begins on the shores of Laka Manyara and continues to Ngorongoro. En route, travelers have the opportunity to walk with Maasai tribe people and study the marvels of the past at the Olduvai Gorge. Wildlife along the route includes black-maned lions and black rhinos.
Cox & Kings’ tours also visit remote parts of southern Tanzania where the Rufiji River winds through Africa’s largest wildlife reserve, the massive Selous Game Reserve. There are also treks to search for the endangered and elusive wild dog of eastern Africa, and enormous crocodiles. Other activities include game drives, river safaris and guided tours through the bush.
As its name implies, African Travel is a tour company with extensive experience in all facets of travel to the continent. Jim Holden, president, says that Tanzania “has it all” for “all types of travelers, including first-timers, multi-generational, young adventurers and repeat visitors.”
He highly recommends Tanzania because it has “some of the best wildlife viewing, with the yearly great wildebeest migration in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater” making it unique in the world.
“Tanzania is all about scale,” he says, “from the large migration, to the world’s largest free-standing caldera in the Ngorongoro and the wide spaces of the Serengeti.
He adds that, besides its “wide open spaces and uncrowded feeling” Tanzania offers multiple choices in both accommodations and experiences.
Kim Severini, v.p. of sales and marketing, agrees. She says that wildlife viewing in Katavi Province “can be described as nothing short of awesome, especially when one gets a close-up of large buffalo herds and pods of snorting hippos. At Mahale Mountain National Park, a hike through the rainforest results in encounters with the world’s largest known population of chimpanzee and eight other rare primate species.”
The company’s Great Migration Safari (from $6,795 pp, land-only) is a 9-day experience following the wildebeest herds through the Tangire zone and Ngorongoro; the Remote Katavi tour (from $7,335 pp, land-only) is a 9-day adventure as well that unwinds through the rainforest to watch the rare primates.
Goway Travel offers a wide range of adventure products in Tanzania that, according to Moira Smith, general manager of Africa and the Middle East, “range from really high-end luxury fly-in safaris, to overland circuits [with] first-class accommodations.”
Smith recently traveled to Tanzania, a trip she says, “reconfirmed to me why it is such an iconic African destination. No other destination in the world offers such incredible diversity of game viewing opportunities. And the names of the destinations within Tanzania say it all: Serengeti, Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro and Selous.…”
In addition to the impressive selection of Tanzania excursions, Goway features what Smith calls the country’s “unique aspect” in its mobile safaris, “which are seasonal luxury camps that follow the huge wildebeest migration. We also offer overland safaris for the adventurous and the young at heart,” she says. “And no trip to Tanzania would be complete without a relaxing stay on Zanzibar,” the picturesque archipelago that lies offshore in the Indian Ocean.
Through Dec. 15 the company is featuring Tanzania Sky Safari (from $6,628 pp land-only), an 8-day excursion where travelers—in addition to receiving a rare Tanzania gemstone—can enjoy hot air balloon rides over the Tarangire Plains and enjoy campfire dining in the Serengeti.
A sky safari makes sense, according to Smith, because when “one considers the immense size of Tanzania, it’s a logical and time-efficient way to cover the vast distances” between the country’s legendary attractions.
Swain Tours, with a long-standing reputation of offering first-rate trips to destinations around the world, offers an attractive package to Tanzania in its Into the Tanzanian Wilderness (from $10,760 pp, land only).
This is a 13-day excursion that includes visits to all the famous spots in the country including Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro, Serengeti and Selous.
According to Ian Swain, president, the latter is “an untouched area where game viewing is superb.”
He adds that the Serengeti is Tanzania’s oldest game reserve and offers the unique opportunity to observe the great migration of an estimated two million wildebeest making their way to Kenya. Thousands of animals die along the way and the journey is a gripping, deeply moving experience and a wonderful photographic subject.
(800) 227-9246; swaintours.com
Abercrombie & Kent
According to Jean Fawcett, media relations manager for Abercrombie & Kent, “Luxury safaris are very popular with families and are often planned to celebrate a milestone birthday or anniversary with multiple generations.
“Our Tanzania Family Safari combines the dramatic landscapes of the Great Rift Valley with a chance to view wildlife up-close and also meet local Maasai people. Guides help young travelers make a safari journal, cast animal tracks in plaster, and teach them how to use a bow and arrow. There are also opportunities to visit local Maasai schools and meet with the students.”
She adds that an ascent of “Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of our most popular trips to celebrate a 50th birthday” and that “Tanzania attracts solo travelers who enjoy active-adventure travel. The tours have been specifically designed to allow solo guests to share the experience with an expert guide and like-minded travelers and, at the end of the day, enjoy the privacy of their own luxury accommodations.”
According to Fawcett, “Tanzania is much easier to get to than it used to be. The country is now coming on board with more international flights and connections.”
Beginning in December, KLM will offer flights nine times a week to Kilimanjaro. While Qatar, Kenya Airways, Etihad, Turkish and Emirates will begin service soon.
So whereas the likes of Hemingway and Roosevelt had to spend weeks on boats, trains, etc., travelers can now arrive at Kilimanjaro on two flights from New York.
Abercrombie & Kent’s Tanzanian journeys range from $3,555 to $14,495 pp.
(888) 611-4711; abercrombiekent.com