Our final night in Zanzibar, the sunset is even more stunning than last evening’s record breaker, and Tay and I unanimously agree to vote it “sunset of the trip,” which is a bold statement considering some of the day’s ends we’ve seen. But the colors, the length, the wide-angle span of it makes it a no-contest, and we celebrate with yet another seafood dinner on the beach. In the morning, in a light drizzle, we pack up and bounce through puddled, potted roads to the airport on the other side of the island, where we board a Precision Air flight to Dar, then another to Northern Tanzania.
No, we are not climbing Kiliâ€”the costs are simply too high for the seven-day expedition and besides, it is out of season, completely obscured by clouds when we land. But later that evening, the weather clears and we behold it: the world’s tallest free-standing mountain, the roof of Africa, the snows of Kilimanjaro.
Alas, Tanzania will still lighten our bank account considerably, what with Dar’s overpriced hotels and the enormous national park fees that work into our safari bill. Luckily, I just received a surprise royalty check from my publisher which covers most of the cost of our six-day safari (thanks to readers of Moon Handbooks Belize, travel begets more travel!).
Through the BootsnAll Insider network, we have arranged to meet with Mohammed Shabhay, of MEM Tours and Safari, the same reputable outfit that took 31 BootsnAll members to the summit last year, and which handles many of their other trips to Tanzania. He sends his drivers to greet us at the airport and take us to his inner office, a spacious affair equipped with all the latest information technology (I’m on his blazing WiFi network to type this).
After deciding on our itinerary, we chat a bit longer, Mohammed telling us how he has built this company over the last 12 years. When he formed itâ€”a taxi driver with a $1000 investmentâ€”there were only four other safari companies in Moshi. Now there are 45. He handles more than 7,000 clients a year, a staggering number considering the logistics of getting people up the mountain and out into the bushâ€”and, more importantly, back home safely.
It is too wet to camp, he says, and the rate he gives us for staying in lodges is barely higher than the bush rate anyway. The big decision is whether or not to end up back in Moshi (what 90 percent of Kampala-bound clients do, retracing 700 km in order to board a 24-hour bus through Nairobi to Kampala), or end the safari at the Ndabaka Gate of Serengeti National park, from where we will take a public bus to Mwanza, Tanzania’s second largest city, on the south shore of Lake Victoria (the world’s second largest lake). From there, we can boat, bus, or fly to Bukoba and then cross into Uganda, he says. This option sounds more interesting, and we go with the 10 percent.
But first, a day and a half in Moshi, at the Zebra Hotel.
And then, the Bermans go on Safari.