Rupert’s updates

I recently travelled overland from Zanzibar to Rwanda and found your Bradt guide invaluable.  Bus from Dar to Dodoma then Mwanza, ferry to Bukoba, minibuses/taxis to Kigali.
For what it is worth, I offer the following updates.
Zanzibar, Pongwe:  Seasons Lodge Hotel, next to Pongwe beach Hotel, new, opened a few months ago.  Very good.  Santa Maria Coral Reef appeared closed.
Mainland trains:  Dar-es-Salaam to Dodoma not in service.  Dodoma – Tabora (and beyond) OK, twice a week, Wednesday and Sunday.  I witnessed the departure from Dodoma on Wednesday at 9.00 a.m.  Tabora to Mwanza not in service (since about 2009).
Dodoma-Mwanza main road all tarred.  Had one bus Dar-Dodoma (8 hrs) and another Dodoma-Mwanza (9 hrs)(it had started in Dar).  Bukoba-Rusumo tarred except a 30-mile stretch north of Biharamulo (new road under construction).
Dodoma:  CCT Hostel OK, single room now TZS 11’000.
Mwanza:  New Pentagon Hotel OK;  Deluxe Hotel now a brothel!  New:  upmarket Gold Crest Hotel opposite New Mwanza Hotel.  Fourways Travel agency gave wrong information on ferry to Bukoba (wanted to sell us flights there instead!)
Mwanza-Bukoba ferry.  “Victoria” goes twice a week.  We left on a Thursday at 9.00 p.m, arr Bukoba 7.00 a.m. after short stop at Kemondo Bay Port.  Second class cabin (6 bunks) TZS 23’000.

Mohamed Coach from Lilongwe to Dar Es Salaam

Never take the Mohamed Coach Bus Company between Lilongwe (Malawi) to Dar Es Salaam… the bus is old, and the drivers without any responsibility, they make no toilet-stops but they stop more than 20 hour on the border without telling anything (I discover that this is usual – because of business people trying to cross the border with a lot of stuff) so that the trip take more than 40hours!

Kigoma & Gombe Stream

We flew to Kigoma. Precision Air does not currently have any flights. I was told in Kigoma that they are waiting for the runway to be fully paved in October before flights resume. They also said the president promised to make the airport international in the future. Air Tanzania was our only non-charter option. The flights were very full. Advance booking is required. They fly daily and on some days stop in Tabora, other days are direct. Buying a return fare is significantly cheaper than buying a two one-way fares.
– We were told the Liemba can run weekly or by-weekly, depending on the month.
– Apparently the train from Kigoma is only leaving once a week (on Sundays).
– To privately charter a boat from Kigoma to Gombe cost us $300 (return) – not the 80k TZS (one-way) indicated in the book. This was confirmed by other travelers. Given that a one way trip consumed about 30L of fuel the $300 price is realistic. The boats can hold about 10 people and are covered. They can be hired through the Mkuzi Hotel located in the Kibirizi port.
– Gombe has new accommodations that were built in 2006. There are about 5 rooms, each with a double-bed. They are quite nice by hostel standards. There’s additional accommodation in the rest-house and at the Park HQ… but these are secondary. Meals can be easily arranged but are pricey. $15/dinner or lunch. $10 for breakfast. Water, beer and soda can also be purchased at the park. The park does have a proper passenger boat. I couldn’t get a clear answer as to what it’s used for. I did hear separately that in the future, they are supposed to get their own boat to ferry tourists to and from the park. I tried to find out if that was the use of the boat I saw but I couldn’t get a clear answer. The per party cost for chimp tracking is $10. There are very few people in the park (never more than one other group of people). A generator is turned on from the evening to the morning, so it’s possible to charge batteries, etc… The research station offers free wifi if you’re close enough to the building.
– The Hilltop Hotel’s restaurant only had a fixed menu.

Jesse Lehrman

Scandinavia & Dar Express Coaches

We were told that Scandinavian Express no longer operates in Tanzania. We took Dar Express from Arusha to Dar and Kilimanjaro Express for the return trip. Both buses included a complimentary bottle of soda and water. Both stopped for lunch at a place that offers a quick buffet lunch (take away is an option). Kilimanjaro had a much nicer bus (better than any North American buses I’ve been on). The Dar Express bus  was on-par with North American buses. Our Dar Express experience went without a hitch. We booked our Kilimanjaro Express ticket at the DAR airport. There was a bit of confusion when we arrived at the bus terminal as our seats had been given to someone else (various excuses given). For most people, this wouldn’t be an issue but I’m very tall so the front seats are very important for me on a long trip. Our bus also ended up leaving an hour later than scheduled. The Arusha Dar Express office (along with many other companies) was located about 500m East of the bus station (I think on Makao Mapya Rd). Not north as indicated in the guide.

Jesse Lehrman