Off the beaten track trip report – June/July 2013

Lindsey and John write:
We live in Kampala, Uganda. Over June/July 2013 we drove to our previous home in Malawi via Tanzania, and thought the notes below may be of interest to your readers.

OUTWARD JOURNEY – June 21.

 

Kibondo – Sanjere Guest House.  OK rooms, nets and hot showers.   There are two buildings, the Sanjere and the New Sanjere Guest House.  We stayed in the New – TS20,000.

Kigoma – Jacobsen’s Beach, camping.  Lovely camp site.

Note – new TANAPA rates came in force from July 1, offering East African residents/ex-pats reduced rates.

We visited Ujiji and enjoyed the lecture by the caretaker, exactly as you described, except his opening gambit was: “which country are you from?  UK?  Do you know Michael Palin?  I know Michael Palin.  He sent me a copy of his book.”  We found the museum and the caretaker both charming and informative, though the mango trees seem to be three generations descendants of the original.

Driving from Kigoma via Uvinza to Sitalike, the road is now undergoing a major Chinese improvement.  Some parts were still 4 x 4 only but soon it will be easily navigable.  We understood this was to help open up the agricultural produce of this western part of Tanzania to markets across the country.

Katavi National Park.  The TANAPA staff only offered camping next to the staff houses – no remote campsites at all.  And they were not at all interested in being helpful.  In fact, we found them unwelcoming, in contrast to the staff at Riverside Camp, right beside the entrance just after Sitalike town.  The camp is on a lovely setting, with hippo and a vast range of birds watching the campers.  The staff provided buckets of hot water, as the showers could only run cold.  TS15,000 per person per night.

You comment on the tsetse flies was an understatement. Our daily drives into the park became almost unbearable so we cut out stay short.

We saw no big cat but did see the many pods of hippo and a huge herd of buffalo way in the distance.  More disturbingly, we also saw a local woman not in TANAPA uniform and way from any posts/housing wandering on the riverside, obviously out looking/inspecting something.  She was not disturbed by being watched.

Lakeshore Lodge and Campsite, Kipili.

If there is anywhere close to paradise, this must be it.  On the entrance wall, the South African hosts Chris and Louise Horsfall have painted ‘come as guests leave as friends’.  That is exactly their philosophy.   We camped and were delighted that the campsite was finished to the same high quality as all the other accommodation.  The sinks were under a huge, shading mango tree.   The 100% home cooked food was excellent and good value.  Louise has taught the locally employed chefs, bringing employment and income to the local village.

We dived in Lake Tanganyika and just enjoyed the atmosphere.  People were also using here as a base to travel to Gombe (on the Liemba). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

From here we planned to visit Kalambo Falls from the Tanzanian side but our gps and our map belied the reality.  We followed some roads which ended in the middle of villages, not at Kasanga, and we hit the border post at 5.55pm on a Sunday evening completely by mistake.   It seemed completely deserted as the sky darkened.  Then three men emerged.  They were the immigration and customs officials of Tanzania and immigration for Zambia.  So, with a few friendly admonishments, they completed our paperwork and we were on our way, in fact with huge cheers from a large group of children who had just emerged from a community church (we think).   We were the first car for three days.

However, here, yet again the Chinese funded roadworks were very apparent and the border road was undergoing major improvements… not so on the Zambian side, which was one of the worst on our trip!

 

RETURN – MALAWI to UGANDA July 25/29

We’ve stayed a few times in the Lake Hill Lodge in Singida (approaching from the south turn right at the roundabout crossroads, then first? left) and find it excellent value for the rooms and the food.

This time we wanted to see if the ferry to Port Bell, Kampala, had restarted so we drove to Mwanza.  Here we made a big mistake.  We found there were no boats direct to Kampala so we eschewed the option of Bukoba and decided to drive.  We caught the ferry to Kamanga.  Oh boy, the roads on the other side were HORRENDOUS in their hard ruts.  In fact the most direct route from Kamanga to Sengerema was blocked with a drift bridge down about two-thirds of the way down!

We should have retraced our route to catch the ferry to Busisi, as those roads are tarred.

Anyway, we made it to Geita very late at night, found some very expensive but only moderately equipped guest houses but got lucky with Kilimanjaro Motel and annex apartment , Plot 25, General Tyre Street, GGM Road (0282 520463/0784 364876).

Just north of Muleba we’ve also stayed at Paradise Lodge, on the main road, (0282 224077) which again offered good quality basic accommodation (nets and hot showers and a good breakfast).

 

Lakeshore Lodge and Campsite, Kipili

We are not in a habit to send feedback about an establishment to guidebooks, but after returning from a trip to Tanzania; found a gem that we didn’t find listed in your guide.

It is in a remote location:  Kipili, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.  Its called Lakeshore Lodge and Campsite and is run by a wonderful South African couple, Louise and Chris Horsfall.  Their website is:      http://safaritourtanzania.com

The location couldn’t be more amazing. They are right along the water, and not infrequently guests get to listen to hippos as they eat dinner set out on lovely tables that line the beach. The water is refreshing and the swimming great. There are beautiful mango trees and gardens and wonderful hikes and walks around the lodge.  They helped us not only arrange, but transported us to Mahale National Park to see the chimpanzee colonies, arranged for us to visit some local villages, and provided kayaks and snorkling gear for water adventures.  We had previously spent a week in Zanzibar and in retrospect can’t see a reason why one would go when Lake Tanganyika is just as beautiful and a so much more pleasant venue for someone who is looking for a wonderful beach holiday away from the crowds and intensity of a resort location.  There are plenty of things to do around the lodge including scuba diving, going on sunset cruises, renting mountain bikes or quad bikes….. They have a great collection of books, board games, and card games that are perfect for a relaxing day at Lake Tanganyka.  they also offer safari tours to Katavi National Park, though we did not go there

Rooms: The rooms are comfortable, clean, and luxorious. We stayed in their chalets that open right onto the beach, and we slept with the door open. The shower is very nice, bathroom exceedingly clean and they have done a fantastic job fine tuning the rooms and administrating to every detail be it to the shampoo and soap dispensers, issues of privacy, decorations using local items, and the service.  The rooms are immaculately clearn, outlets all work, their laundry service prompt and free of charge. Privacy is also of the upmost concern, and the night is so quiet that all you can hear is the sound of the frogs and lake.

The food is not only exceptional, all locally produced, and as close to an “African gourmet” style as one can imagine.  We hear that in the off season their locally groomed chefs are employed to watch the food network to fine tune their inspiration.   Meals being served either under the stars or (weather permitting) on an enclosed patio. They also have a fully stocked bar.

The service was impeccable.  This  was made all the more incredible since the owners hire only locals from the village and personally train them.  The staff is not only very friendly but we felt like they were concerned about our every comfort. The two owners, Chris and Louise, are lovely people. They are warm and friendly, would to our great pleasure occasionally join us for meals (as they do all guests when feasible) and great people to converse with. They have done an incredible job creating this lodge.

Ethics: One thing that we looked for, especially traveling to a third world country as poor as Tanzania, were resorts that were non-exploitive and supportive of their community. This place definetely met our requirements. They only hire people from the nearby village and they have trained their staff on everything from hospitality and construction anhd hamdyman skills. Also, much of their purchases of food and goods pump money into the village’s economy. They essentially are a training center for the locals and we noticed had not only a fantastic relationship with the local villagers, but also provided much assistance to the villagers themselves.  From what we can tell use the highest employment standards, for example providing health care for their staff in a country where health care is beyond the reach of so many.

Bottomline: This place is warm, friendly, beautiful, stunning, and luxorious. This is a must stay place for anyone, couples or families, that is traveling in Tanzania.  The only draw back is that they are in a very remote section of the country, though they were extremely helpful researching transportation for us.  Frankly, the remoteness was one of the draws and made this place all the more exotic.

Aryeh

Lake Shore Lodge & Camp Site, Lake Tanganyika

The following details about Lake Shore Lodge & Camp Site are provided by the owner-manager Chris Horsfall

LOCATION – Near Kipili Village, On The Shores Of Lake Tanganyika, South Tanzania, GPS (South 07.43427, East 030.59054)

CONTACT DETAILS – email: info@safaritourtanzania.com, website: www.safaritourtanzania, phones: +255 76 3993 166, +255 756 930 290, +255 752 540 792

An owner-managed business in remote Africa, on the banks of Lake Tanganyika, offering world class service and accommodations with a huge array of activities on offer.   Built on 55 acre farm, with 400 metres of private beach, with organic vegetable garden and orchard.

ACCESS OPTIONS:

  • Daily bus service from Mpanda, Sumbawanga and Mbeya, right up to closest large village called Katongolo, where vehicle pick up can be arranged by management.
  • MV Liemba – The National ferry, which operates every other week, leaving Kigoma on Wednesday afternoons, arrival in Kipili Thursday evenings, boat transfers to the lodge by prior arrangement with management
  • Road – from Mbeya or Kigoma, currently all roads are being surfaced, so access is getting easier by the week, to be completed by end of 2013
  • Flights – by Charter into Kipili village, contact management for Company details.
  • Vehicle Transfer – from Katavi National Park
  • Speed boat transfer – from Mahale Mountains National Park

ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS :

Camping  – ($12 per day)  Choose one of 5 pristine camp sites, each placed under 80-year old Mango trees, with spotless ablutions, hot and cold running water, fire places for cooking and individual benches for eating

Lawn Bandas – ($85 per person per day, full board).   Well appointed spacious rooms, with twin queen-sized beds, under a huge mosquito net.  Comfortably spaced on a lovely lawn overlooking the lake, with very close by ablutions.

Luxury Beach Chalet – ( $ 295 per person per day)  “African Zen”, luxurious rooms, with own private beaches, hammocks and Zen Gardens, perched right at the water’s edge.  Enjoy 400 meters of sandy beach with crystal clear water on the door step.

Meals in Organic Restaurant: Breakfast $7, Lunch $10, Dinner $15.  Meals are done on an 8-day rotational menu, using home-grown fresh vegetables and herbs grown on the property.  Meals are international cuisine and normally 3-courses, all made to order so prior bookings required.

ACTIVITIES:

KATAVI NATIONAL PARK

Day trips are possible in fully-equipped Safari vehicles

MAHALE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

3-day trips can be arranged via speedboat, including fly camping along the way, an absolute MUST for adventure seekers!!

Scuba Diving   $70 per person per dive, all equipment and boat hire included, (packages available), only PADI Qualified divers

Kayaking – ½ day $25, full day, $60 with picnic lunch

Snorkeling – ½ day $30, full day $70 with picnic lunch

Quad Biking – ½ day$90, full day $185 with picnic lunch

Mountain Biking – ½ day $15, full day $40, with picnic lunch

Daily Birding boat trips and booze cruise – $20 per person

Fishing, waterskiing & Boat Hire

  • Beach Hopper – 34 foot Sea Spirit speedboat with twin 150 hp outboards ($80 per hour, excluding fuel)
  • Adelina – 26 foot Yamaha hull, with twin 75 hp outboards, ($40 per hour, excluding fuel)
  • Crazy Christina – 19 foot Yamaha hull with single 60 hp outboard, ($20 per hour, excluding fuel)

VEHICLE TRANSFERS:

  • Kipili to Katongolo – for daily bus access from Sumbawanga $20
  • Kipili to Sumbawanga – $285
  • Kipili to Katavi National Park-  $310
  • Kipili to Mbeya – $635