Simbamwenni Lodge and Campsite, Morogoro

Simbamwenni is a new budget to midrange lodge and campsite situated in 6 acres of peaceful tropical gardens along the Ngerengere river within 10 minutes of central Morogoro. It looks like a good set-up for nature lovers wanting to explore the Uluguru Mountains and other places of interest around Mikumi. For more details visit their informative website www.simbamwenni.com.

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New VAT regulations on Tanzania safaris

Thanks to Wouter Vergeer of www.safaribookings.com for alerting us to the fact that Tanzania’s safari industry has been thrown into a state of confusion by the government’s  unexpected introduction of a value-added tax (VAT) of 18% to many tourist services previously exempt from VAT,  applicable as at 1 July 2016.

Visits wanting to know more about the changes and its effects are pointed to this detailed overview by Wouter: https://www.safaribookings.com/blog/350.

 

 

 

Independent travel in the North

Goran writes:

Route travelled: Arusha (for Mt Meru, Kilimanjaro, Safari (Lake Manyara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Arusha NP) and Mto wa Mbu)- Moshi-Mambo-Mtae-Lushoto-Dar es Salaam-Zanzibar

Places visited: Arusha, Mount Meru, Lake Duluti, Kilimanjaro NP, Moshi, Usumbara mountains (Mambo, Mtae and Lushoto), Dar es Salaam, Lake Manyara NP, Serengeti NP, Ngorongoro, Mto Wa Mbu, Arusha NP, Zanzibar

 

NB: some practical info may be outdated as the report is more than a year old.

 

Travel period: Feb 2014

Exchange rate: USD1=TZS1600

 

 

No idea how useful this post is going to be to proper proper independent travellers. Visiting attractions inside national parks in Tanzania attracts astronomical costs – these come in form of park fees coupled with tour operators’ organisational charges. Still can’t make my mind up whether the costs of safaris or climbing Kilimanjaro could ever be justified for being this high – one thing though, these won’t turn into a disappointment and may even rank as your top travelling experiences. There are places that could be visited totally independently and these are as impressive in their own way: Usumbara mountains and Zanzibar; Usumbara has to be the best kept secret of Eastern Africa and the beauty of Zanzibar’s coastline and beaches has to be seen to be believed.

 

 

Visa

 

Pain-free VOA available at DAR and KIA; otherwise at TZ embassy in your country, also pain free but you’d need to provide a photo with your application form.

 

People

Enjoyed the hospitality and kindness of Tanzanians throughout the country. People were nice and friendly even in areas where some hassle can be experienced by those touting for tour operators (or touting for themselves).

Safety

Felt safe everywhere in daylight hours; I made no attempt to walk after dark in Arusha, Moshi or Dar other than a block or two away from my accommodation and even that was done if streets were well lit. Not sure if attacks on foreigners are increasing, but I know the attacks on tourist (mugging and robbery) happened before and after I visited these three urban areas.

Corruption

Tanzania mainland was OK; Zanzibar has to be the corruption capital of East Africa. Uniformed officials are the usual (worst) offenders.

 

Getting to Tanzania by air

Quite a few airlines now fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport; convenient for those planning safari or mountaineering. KIA is in the middle of nowhere though and it is around USD50 to get to Arusha. Another option is to check the schedule of Impala Hotel shuttle bus. Or there is a shuttle picking up Precision Air passengers. These shuttle buses have to be cheaper than taxi. I heard that some people walk 4-5km to reach the junction on the Arusha-Moshi highway; my advice is not to attempt this for many reasons, both health as well as safety could be compromised by attempting this walk.

 

Arriving to Dar es Salaam is an option too and then connecting with local airlines. Or connecting with buses or trains; or ferries to Zanzibar.

 

Around Tanzania by air

 

We used Precision Air for three flights and there were no major issues with them. On time twice, once delayed for a couple of hours due to torrential downpours in Arusha.

 

Getting to Tanzania overland from neighboring countries

 

Kenya: easy; Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi: possible. I got bored with so many options where this or that depended in TZ (like whether you’re travelling through a national park which invites a surcharge on the top of the bus fare) so I decided to fly from Kigali, Rwanda to Kilimanjaro International.

 

 

Ground transportation

 

 

Bus

I think the quality of the service was similar to Uganda and buses were bigger and more comfortable than in Rwanda or Burundi. There was no overcrowding on big buses. Main highways plagued with roadworks.

 

Mini bus (matatu)

Cheap and useful for short distances, but very overcrowded and stop wherever there are passengers to be collected or dropped off.

 

Moto taxi (boda boda)

Didn’t have a chance to use them as much as in Uganda and Rwanda. Used them in Arusha occasionally and in Usumbara mountains. No helmet provided.

 

Taxi

 

Used one from KIA to Arusha and from Dar city center to Dar airport. The first one had the price fixed and the other one was pre-booked with the hotel. Don’t know how cheap or expensive taxis are in TZ to be honest.

Road safety, conditions and signposting

Many major highways were ridden with roadworks on the mainland. Zanzibar roads were ridden with police posts – a “coffee money (tips)” post as the locals call them. Saw no major accidents or crazy driving and signposting seemed adequate.

 

Money

There were plenty of ATMs in urban areas dispensing TZ shillings. No problem with using USD cash to pay for services either.

 

Costs:

 

Accommodation, food, drinks and public transportation outside of NPs are not an issue and neither it is hiring guides or bikes in Usumbara mountains. Costs of travelling independently in Zanzibar are significantly higher than those on mainland TZ. Safari and climbing Kilimanjaro are expensive.

 

Accommodation

No nasty surprises with accommodation in Tanzania, but do check your room before paying. Budget accommodation harder to come across in Zanzibar.

 

Food and drink

Lots of cheap eateries everywhere; family run establishments were the best value for money, but the variety of dishes on menu available would almost always be 2-3 – usually what the family eats on the day. The breakfast experience could be good for those not seeking to indulge on meat first thing in the morning. Tea and coffee available everywhere – much better when it comes to coffee availability compared to Uganda or Rwanda.

 

Annoyances

 

Touts in Arusha and Moshi. Also, it’s very hard to choose a reliable tour operator. I thought of going for those recommended by other independent travellers (including those recommended here on LPTT), but this could be misleading – if someone was good for you it won’t necessarily mean that they’d be good for me. The sheer choice of registered TO with TZ tourist board is mind-boggling. This coupled with the unregistered ones makes it very hard to make the right choice. Also, bureaucracy and completing paperwork in some NP parks is so slow, but not as slow as the rangers they assign to you – Arusha NP for the Mount Meru climb in particular.

 

Overcharging

Nobody attempted to overcharge in the restaurants – the bill was corresponding to prices on the menu. I was paying what Tanzanians were paying on public transport. I found that overcharging in general was not a problem like in some neighboring countries.

 

Language

English widely spoken in urban areas, but Swahili definitely useful especially in countryside. Learning a few phrases like polite greetings exhanges will win friends in Tanzania. Also, I found Swahili to be a very beautiful language and very easy to read and pronounce.

 

 

Travel literature

 

Bradt Guide to Northern Tanzania is great; well written and very helpful with no major inaccuracies. And the maps were fairly useful too.

 

Organising safari

 

I provisionally booked my safari well in advance. Wrote to five TOs and three came back to me straight away, never heard from the other two. Two out of three gave up on me when I asked for modifications of their advertised itineraries. The final itinerary was ok, did lots of correspondence but got there in the end. Went for companies recommended by two friends of mine and went for three companies recommended by some members of LPTT. I did my final negotiations and paid once I arrived in Arusha some two months later. Also, I heard some horror stories of safari’s starting late in the day, too much time wasted for breakfasts, make up etc. I got the TO to confirm I won’t be having such issues and instead will start game rides at the crack of the dawn and have a longer afternoon break. The deal was honoured.

 

One thing I noticed is that others’ recommendations and positive experiences aren’t always true indication that you’ll be enjoying the services provided by the same TO. Things change quickly with those and the turnaround of staff organised by TOs is phenomenal in many cases. Generally, you’ll be seen more as a milking cow than a paying guest and I often felt that people employed in tourism industry in Arusha simply do not care to leave good impressions and hope that their clients may one day recommend services to others interested in e.g. safari – no, they’re often obsessed with one thing on their mind: how to get the most out you there and then. This was disappointing. I’d definitely won’t be recommending my Kilimanjaro/Mt Meru TO; more about the safari TO below.   I still don’t know if the fierce competition is to be blamed or a very decent buck to be made out of tourists – probably both. One thing I noticed too was that no mountain guide nor driver nor safari guide/driver nor porter nor cook that we had (we had 8 different people acting in these roles) was full time employed by the TOs we used; their primary job was usually something totally unrelated to the tourism industry. Maybe they treat their safari jobs as a source of their secondary income and as such this is an opportunity to try to make out of a tourist as much as possible.

 

 

Travelling with kids

My brother and my 11 years old niece joined me for two weeks in Tanzania. The kid enjoyed our safari, Mto Wa Mbu Maasai experience and Zanzibar. She was living the dream. I was left with impression that Tanzanians love welcoming kids as visitors to their country.

There was absolutely no problem on travelling around with a child, on the contrary, people were happy to see one on a visit to their country – Maasai were super happy to see that someone finally decided to bring a child on a cultural visit to their village.

Travelling with a child this old, or younger, attracts some discounts if you can fit the child in your tented accommodation or into one room at the lounge. Travelling with more than one child when they need their own room/tent would mean that there would be a very few discounts, if any.

 

Tipping

They never seemed to be happy with the party of one even if you leave the recommended percentage of your total price; it’s not only me who noticed this – more the merrier and it makes sense. I had an impression that cooks and porters get paid very little which makes you wonder where the money you pay go.

What follows is my personal account of experiences travelling through parts of Northern Tanzania and Zanzibar with practical information that hopefully some may find useful. It also includes recommendation on things I’d do differently if I’m to repeat the experience.

NB: some practical info may be outdated as I visited the country some 18 months before this travel report was written. I haven’t done any research on prices now and I don’t know what % should be added to prices I quoted in TZS. USD is now some 13% higher in value compared to 18 months ago.

 

 

Kigali, Rwanda – Arusha

I got bored with so many confusing options on how to cross overland from Rwanda to Tanzania; so many things to worry about on the way to Arusha after crossing the RW/TZ border. The other option of crossing the border from Burundi to Tanzania was out of question as there were no useful LPTT’s posts on this topic; my travel literature LP pdf file on Burundi was a waste of money; and the visa for Burundi was valid only for three days. One thing: some useful posts sprang up recently on how to cross from Burundi into Tanzania; those who want to explore this option should have a look at Burundi’s branch.

I flew with Rwandair from Kigali directly to Kilimanjaro International. I made this booking a couple of months in advance and wanted to bring the departure date forward. Got surprised to find out that Rwandair allows one change of date free of charge.

Kigali to KIA was a fantastic flight! Get the left hand side window seat so you could see eastern Rwandan Lakes, Lake Victoria, then flatlands of Serengeti, the most fantastic views of Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano cone, more lakes, Ngorongoro Crater, then you fly above the Arusha town very close to Mount Meru and you get to see Arusha NP too with its lakes and crater before you land in the middle of nowhere. Kilimanjaro wasn’t visible when I flew.

 

Arusha

This place is not too small, but it’s not a megalopolis either. There’s little to see but it’s not ugly; liked the pink façade socialist housing. It’s a nice place to base yourself and explore around and try to organise your safari, Mt Meru or Kilimanajo climbs. Felt safe in daylight, but not after dark. I stayed at Kitunda Guesthouse, shared facilities and it was fine. Bit noisy. Dinners always in the eatery opposite and never paid more than 4k including one soft drink. Breakfast always at the coffee place down the road to the right upon exiting the guesthouse (close to junction with the main asphalted road).

It says in Bradt guide that Monje Guesthouse enforces rigorously anti flycatcher policy. This might have been the case once upon a time, but now they welcome services provided by the aggressive touts. On the top of that they tried to sell the Mount Meru climbing package at the cost of USD900; this went down to USD600 after one question only: why so expensive? Still, I didn’t want to go with them to Mt Meru.

 

Swimming pool at Impala Hotel for 10k. This hotel has its own KIA shuttle, no idea about the costs.

Coffee at Café Africa in the city center is good.

Internet Cafe in Kanisa St won’t allow wifi connection; wifi connection at Internet Prosperous on Colonel Middleton Road possible for 2k p/h; Internet cafe on Stadium Road next to the supermarket 1k p/h but won’t allow wifi connection.

The worst aspect of Arusha was the endless touting – you cannot walk more than five minutes before being intercepted by someone trying to befriend you in order to sell safari. This could be far from a good nature negotiations, chancing it or trying luck; the tout may turn aggressive knowing that you don’t have your safari sorted and refusing to listen to his proposal. I saw them going crazy with foreigners shouting and using abusive language when turned down. Best to avoid entering into any conversation whilst on foot sightseeing Arusha.

I’ve organised my safari and Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro climbs in advance and all I had to do was to negotiate fine details and pay. I wasn’t overly happy with my guide and organisation with the climbs, see below about this. Safari itself was great and would recommend to certain extent the TO we used. Feel welcome to PM as there are some aspects of this TO, both positive and negative, that I don’t want to make public.

 

Mount Meru

Climbing Mount Meru was fantastic when it comes to the trek itself and the views. Some use it as a warm up to their Kilimanjaro climb but others climb Mount Meru only. The climb is great for its magnificent views: views of Arusha NP, mountain itself with its beautiful crater floor and volcanic cones, as well as views of Kilimanjaro. We had 3/3 days of great unobstructed views of everything so consult your guide book on best times to visit. I would rate this climb as more exciting than climbing Kilimanjaro.

Warning re the views: views of Mt Meru and Arusha NP are almost always guaranteed, but views of Kilimanjaro from Mt Meru are hit and miss: Kilimanjaro was visible on 3/3 days when I climbed Mt Meru, but the whole of Kilimanjaro was shrouded in cloud on 6/6 days when I was in the region on the second occasion.

Possible, in theory at least, to organise the trip independently, but you’ll be still heavily dependent on taxis to arrive at and depart from Arusha NP. Worst of all, you’ll be very dependent on the NP rangers which have to be the worst, the laziest, the most inefficient and the most corrupt compared to some 15+ NPs and natural reserves I’ve visited in four countries on this East African trip. More about this below.

Possible to organise the Mt Meru climb (semi) independently. It works out as maybe USD100-150 cheaper than going through the modestly priced TO in Arusha. You would need to organise the drop off at and pick up from Momella Gate. You’d need to take all your food with you, and this is fine if you’re going on a three day trip. You’d be able to leave what you don’t need for safekeeping at various points (lodges) on the trek. No need to bother with hot water bottles as everyone trekking with a guide/porters will donate some hot water for whatever you need it; don’t forget your teabags/instant coffee sachets and a plastic mug. Benefits of organising the trek independently are the reduced cost obviously and you’re not dependent of the guide. The biggest disadvantage of doing this trek independently is, in my opinion, the fact that you’re so dependent on park rangers to guide you firstly on Day 1 then on the night of climbing the summit, see the moan below. Also, I’d go for three days as those who went for four days felt they didn’t get the best value for their money; there was no real benefit of being there for the fourth day other than spending one extra day on the mountain. See below on what happened on the fourth day with those who paid for this extra day.

 

Skip to the next section if you don’t want to read me moaning about the experiences with park rangers and services provided by my guides.

 

  1. The most unfortunate aspect of climbing Mount Meru was the service provided by the NP rangers. You need the services of the Arusha NP rangers regardless if you’re climbing independently or with a guide. You’re depending on Arusha NP rangers for all sort of things: issuing permits, checking you out and accompanying whilst trekking. Having them around at Mt Meru’s lower slopes is understandable as you’re being guarded against buffalos. These could be dangerous animals especially when isolated or lost in the forest by being separated from the herd. But it’s what’s happening on the upper slopes that annoys in particular. The following affects all Mt Meru climbers.

 

Firstly, it took ages to check in. Everyone was there by 10am and we started ‘climbing’ at 1pm, far too hot to start the climb. We took the longer 11km route which follows the main road towards the first camp. And it took almost 5 hours to complete this hike. We only had three stops: the fig tree, a small waterfall and somewhere else. The pole pole attitude was driving me and some other hikers crazy. This distance could have been covered by not more than hiking for 3 hours including a couple of stops, but it took twice that long. Yes, there are faster and slower hikers everywhere and the guides or rangers elsewhere would divide the hikers into two or even more groups and let everyone hike at their own desired pace. Here we had to stick in this group of 30+ with the lazy ranger in front and the useless one at the back. Never mind.

 

The night of the summit ascent: us who had guides mercifully needed no rangers’ help, but the independent trekkers did. They drove them crazy and some missed the sunrise. Others, those in Africa for the first climb of their trip and acclimatising for the Kili climb, missed the sunrise big time, but this was not the rangers’ fault; it was just them being slow. Fine.

 

Then drama and embarrassment on the way down. It was only 5 of us who paid for the three days trek out of the 30+ group and this meant descending from the summit to the park entrance gate in a day. Others who paid for four nights stayed at the Camp 1 used for Day 1 when going up. The five of us were gently reminded that our NP fee includes the X amount of USDs that covers for an emergency rescue. OK… And that would mean the 4×4 would be sent to pick us up from the park entrance to where we were, that was the Camp 1. The guide explained this was a regular practice as some people feel tired and there’s help at hand. We first thought, OK if this is how it works, but then they asked us to fill in forms and state pulled muscles or sprained ankle injury for the record so they can send the emergency vehicle – and this came from the rangers. We had a little chat and decided that we don’t want to have anything to do with this. They got upset and assigned one very unhappy ranger to escort us down to the entrance gate. We just couldn’t believe they’re doing this just because they didn’t want to walk some odd 8km downhill!

 

One more thing if you’re thinking of organising the trek to Mt Meru ‘independently’. The 4 day trippers paid fees for 4 days in the park and they hoped they’d be allowed to visit some other attractions within the park on the fourth day considering that the descent from Camp 1 to the entrance gate would take no more than three hours via the shortest route. They asked for a vehicle to be arranged so they can see Momela Lakes and views from the mini Ngorongoro crater, but this was denied and they were kicked out of the park as soon as they reached the park gate.

 

My guide was not that bad. He was always on time and pretty much organised and efficient and he was genuinely concerned that I have everything I needed to wear on the mountain. It was annoying though to hear him going on about drinking water, doing this and not doing that and it was him who was setting a wrong example by not doing anything we were told to do. It was like he was the one who was the experienced in everything and we were treated as we had no clue how to behave on high altitude mountains. The worst thing was the pole pole up the mountain, far too pole pole for our liking; but it was ‘catch me if you can’ down the mountain. Also, it came as a shock when he pulled out the book written sometimes in the last century on who to tip and by how much to tip on mountain hikes.

 

Lake Duluti

This was a liberating experience as no guide nor ranger is required to visit the lake. The lake is nice and if patient there is surprisingly a lot of wildlife to be encountered.

Two options to reach Lake Duluti from Arusha: 1. Bus to Moshi from Col. Middleton Rd for 2.5k then get off at Duluti; 2. Dala dala towards Duluti for TZS500 from the upper section of Col. Middleton Rd. In both cases, get off at the village of Tengura at Serena Lodge signpost (signpost is on the left, can’t miss it). Or ask the driver/conductor to be dropped off at this signpost.

Once at the signpost follow the different signpost to the Forest Reserve Office some 10 mins from the main road. It’s also possible to reach the lake from just before you enter Tenguru, but there’s nothing to direct you to the lake from this junction.

It’s 20k for self-guided walk which was great; I was left alone for the first time in Tanzania. It’s 50k for the guided walk and it’s maybe 35k p/h for canoeing on the lake.

It takes maybe 1.5hrs to circumnavigate the lake on foot and you can spot many birds, some monkeys, butterflies and monitor lizards. The trek ends at Duluti Club, ask locals to direct you to the main road; they’ll indicate the shortest route. No worries if you end up somewhere different on the main road to where you were dropped off. Just flag down any packed dala dala Arusha bound. Feel free to refuse the ride if too packed, eg there’s no seat available, just wait for 2mins and another dala dala can be flagged down. There’s Resha’s eatery opposite the petrol station where you may end up on the main road waiting for your dala dala. The food is good, don’t let the exterior architecture put you off.

 

Kilimanjaro

Climbed the Marangu route and I have a mixed feelings about it. Climbing Kilimanjaro features great expectations, but also all sorts of anxieties. It’s an amazing sense of achievement if you manage to make it to Uhuru and probably you’ll have a story to tell. Climbing this route comes at a cost though.

Firstly, the Marangu route is overcrowded. Secondly, it’s too short, i.e. the ascent is far too fast resulting in a phenomenal drop out. Thirdly, the views are repetitive, but guides swear this route and one other are the most exciting routes when it comes to views; you only get a sensation that you are actually climbing Kilimanjaro on the day before summiting, that is, when you finally get to see its snow covered peaks.

This is how it went for me, a day by day account:

Day 1: picking up supplies on the way from Arusha to Moshi as well as picking up the cook and porters. Arriving at the Marangu gate around noon. Then the usual bureaucracy when it comes to permits issuing; it takes ages. We finally started the trek around 2pm. Trekking through the high altitude rainforest was OK, but very repetitive. Sleep with hordes of others at Camp 1. Far too busy.

Day 2: It was so busy that some disgusting trekkers found it convenient to using shower rooms as a toilet in the morning. Camp 1 was packed. The trek on Day 2 was another monotonous hike; now you loose forest and trek through moorlands. Some very nice flowers though and later, towards Camp 2, lobelias. I think accommodation and facilities at Camp 2 were slightly better, but this place was heaving with us going up; there were also people from the day before who were staying an extra day to acclimatise; and others on their way down.

Day 3: finally some changes in landscapes as we entered the alpine desert where two volcanic caps were clearly visible: Kibo resembling a fat symmetrical cone with its peak severed off and the other beautiful rugged one resembling a peak of mountains like Alps, Andes or Himalayas. Camp 3 underneath Kibo was the worst; it was very cold inside and many people started feeling the effects of altitude sickness.

Day 4: the summiting attempt may begin at any time between 11pm and 2am; this depends how the guides see you fit. The goal is to reach Gillman Point (Kibo’s rim) before dawn so you can conquer the final 200m attitude by hiking for 1.5-2hrs in relative daylight. See bellow about our experiences on Day 4.

The hike from Camp 3 up to Gillman Point is slow and the drop out rate due to altitude sickness is phenomenal. The big groups get all human resources mobilised at this stage including the porters so these can take down the sick climber one by one so the main guide can remain with the rest of the group. I was impresses that all guides that I met on that night were taking seriously the altitude sickness problem and were able to recognise the symptoms well before any serious damage to health has been done. Those with the altitude sickness symptoms were ordered to go back to the camp and the porter has been assigned to escort them back. Those who made it to Gillman Point and felt fine shouldn’t have too many difficulties covering the final 1.5-2 hours trek to Uhuru; that is in ideal weather conditions. See bellow to what happened to us upon reaching Gillman Point.

Hopefully you reach Stella Point and then Uhuru is just a short distance away. Feeling great and excited and maybe even emotional upon reaching the summit; you stay there as little as possible for the pic to be taken before being nagged by your guide that you must go down asap. Then back to Gillman Point, but now it can be difficult to descent Kibo’s slope in case of snow cover. Your waterproof trousers come handy as you use them to slide down instead of walking that carries a risk of falling or breaking a limb or worse. They’ll let you rest for 30mins or so at Camp 3 before being asked to continue to Camp 2. I and few others refused to have only this little break and we went to sleep for two hours. Climbing down to Camp 2 was easy after what you had to go through the night before. And there’s so much oxygen, you can really feel the difference.

Day 5: an easy descent to the Marangu gate via Camp 1; we were at the gate around noon, but if trekking with a group then you could end up at the gate as late as 5pm.

What follows is my personal account of what really happened on Day 4; problems with the guide; park visiting bureaucracy, costs and value for money; and how I’d do things differently if I was ever to climb Kilimanjaro again.

Skip to next section if you catch yourself yawning.

Marangu Route, Day 4, 7th Feb 2014: Three of us were selected by our guides as fit to start climbing the slopes of Kibu at the latest possible slot which was the 2am one. Great, I was well accustomed to altitude by climbing in Rwenzoris, Virungas and Mt Meru before climbing Kilimanjaro. The other guys were on Mt Kenya and Mt Meru before this. None of us experienced any difficulties and we were always the quickest and first to arrive at every stage of climbing Kilimanjaro. Good stuff.

So we started our ascent at 2am. It was snowing outside, a light snow. And it wasn’t too cold considering the altitude. We went up zig zagging the slope of Kibo and started overtaking other climbers. The amount of people dropping out was astonishing; you could really tell those people were not well. The snow showers intensified, but there was nothing to be worried about; the protective clothing we had was of a good quality. We arrived before everyone else (overtook all others) at Gillman Point 5700m altitude, at around 6am and this is when the drama starts.

As soon as we reached Gillman Point (the rim of the crater) the snow shower turned into a blizzard. The snow felt on my face as someone was throwing a dozen of needles per second at high speed. I took my glove off so I can pull the bottle of water from my rucksack and the skin cracked around my finger nails from cold and I saw droplets of blood forming. The worst thing was that I couldn’t warm up my hand for the next 15 minutes or so. The wind become stronger and we were walking through some 30cm of snow. Everything was frozen: hair sticking out under the hood, our rucksacks and our shoes. We were walking very slowly and making some progress. Then the wind turned really really strong that we had to walk sideways and occasionally duck down in order not to fall or even be blown off. The wind was so strong that we had difficulties breathing. This happened some half way between Gillman Point and Uhuru.

This meant that those minute amounts of oxygen available up there were difficult to get absorbed by our lungs and what follows was something I don’t ever want to experience again. I felt dizzy and very slow. I was unable to talk properly; it took me ages to understand what someone is saying and probably twice as long to respond; and I really wanted to sleep. It was so bad that at one point I thought I was going to die. Later I spoke to some other people who made it that far and they told me they had the same feeling and I know now these are the symptoms of High Altitude Cerebral Edema. Or it just could have been hypoxia. I’ll never find out.

We were only 30mins away from Uhuru when the wind suddenly weakened and it stopped snowing. I was just keeping my eye on these two fellow climbers and kept encouraged by their progress; they were some 20-30m away in front of me. I thought: it they can make it so can I. The girl was so week and close to collapsing so the guide and her friend had to hold her so she stays upright and on her feet. If at any point these two guys turned back and said they want to go back, then I’d admit defeat and turned back with them.

We finally reached Uhuru but I don’t think any of us felt we achieved something amazing at that time. I remember their guide congratulated me, but all I managed to reply was something along: mmmmh. My guide took my camera and I posed for pics with the Uhuru sign behind me. He kept pointing the camera at me holding it and it was taking ages to take a pic. I finally managed to utter something asking like if everything was ok, but my oxygen starved brain took some time to understand the reply. The guide was saying that the camera was video recording and he was unable to take a pic. This accidental video recording with me taking ages to respond is probably my most precious souvenir from my travels. And another 20secs video I took when the lull in weather happened when I recorded the 360 degrees panorama at Uhuru; not because of landscapes, but because of my breathing that sounded shaky and mournful; not loud but quiet and strange. This sounds like an adventure now, but it didn’t feel like that up there. I just had one thought on my mind at that time: just get me off this mountain. The blizzard returned on or way to Gillman Point and by the time we reached it we were so week.

We met only a handful of other people heading toward Uhuru on our way back to Gillman Point, but at that time we couldn’t care less where the others were. Then we discovered that only the first nine people from the Marangu route who reached Gillman Point that morning made it to Uhuru; the guides decided not to proceed with others after the bad blizzard kicked in. And the whole of the Machame route was forced back some 700m before reaching Stella Point. This means that only nine people made it that day out of 250+ on the Marangu route and whatever the figure was for the Machame route. We only realised how lucky we were the following evening when we were able to calm down and partially recover from the night before.

Anyway, the wind weakened once we were back on the slopes of Kibo and it was possible to breathe again. But now there was a new challenge: it snowed so much that it was almost impossible to walk back using Kibo’s zig zag path. Instead we were sliding down using our waterproof trousers for sledges. We were told we have 30 mins rest at Camp 3 before we head to Camp 2, but we told the guides we needed to sleep and we had a two hour nap; these two hours rejuvenated our bodies.   No problems with going back to Camp 2.

 

Issues with my guide:

I had the same guide for both Mt Meru and Kilimanjaro. I should have really booked these two climbs separately just in case I wasn’t happy with the first climb so I can try someone different for the second. Well, it made sense at the time to pay everything together, but that was a mistake.

My guide had the easiest job on the mountain as I’m a very low maintenance client demanding nothing extra and, what they usually appreciate, is the speed and efficiency we do the climb. I don’t complain about the food, I don’t demand semi skimmed milk and flat lattes with cinnamon flavouring. And I felt they appreciated that.

What I really wanted from my guide was to do his side of the deal and provide guidance and not to be a hypocrite. Going up had to be pole pole, but going down was again ‘catch me if you can’. It was annoying having to listen to ‘do this, do that and drink water’ when he wouldn’t do this nor that and neither would carry a bottle of water let alone drink any. Fine.

The worst bit was that I felt abandoned and totally betrayed once in the snow blizzard when we passed Gillman Point. I didn’t know what was happening with me at that stage, but again it was pole pole up to Uhuru. Then he put such a pressure on me to go back as quickly as possible even though I never felt weaker in my life. I understood he wanted us out of there in case the blizzard came back. But on Kibo’s slope towards the Camp 3 he got so impatient that he went 500m ahead of me; the weather conditions were fine at the slope. Then he said that 30 mins is what I should be getting at the camp to rest. Our reply was that we need to sleep and that he should get us in two hours. We told the guides that they’re free to go to Camp2 as we don’t need their help to get there; we were just so weak that we needed to sleep and that’s what we did in the end. He behaved nicely after he realised I was so angry with him. He did, however, found it necessary to mention how the porters and the cook should be tipped by quoting some travel literature. I ignored him and gave him on the last day 10% of my cost in TZS in front of everyone so he could distribute the tips however he likes it.

The only thing I was grateful to my guide was his advice about what to wear up there and how to dress properly. And the rest of his services I want to forget; really lost desire to have a guided trek ever again.

 

Park visiting bureaucracy, costs and value for money

Climbing Kilimanjaro is expensive and almost exclusively reserved to visitors coming from the developed world. The costs correspond to demand which, judging by climbing Marangu Route, is insatiable. Luckily you don’t have to do anything with the rangers on this hike, but the bureaucracy when it comes to permit issuing is there and it’s boring. Yes, the amazing sense of achievement is there and now I think no money can buy that feeling, but the quality of service and facilities are poor value for money. This is my opinion only, but it’s shared by many who I met on Marangu Route.

Things I’d do differently if I’m to climb Kilimanjaro again

Firstly I’d get a reputable and responsible tour operator, but the problem is how to find one among the scores of those registered with TZ tourist board. As with safaris, the recommendations posted on this forum can be misleading as I may have a completely different experience with your recommended tour operator. For example, TO may change the guide and have someone terrible as a cook. And how do you go around the prices for climbing Kilimanjaro when this can range from something like USD1200 to maybe USD2000 pp, or even couple of times more than this when booked abroad? The logic of paying more in order to get a better services doesn’t apply when climbing Kilimanjaro. This is a good post to have a look before start searching for a TO:

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/africa/tanzania/tips-on-climbing-kilimanjaro-on-a-budget-and-responsible-tourism?page=1#post_21242153

Then I’d definitely do some prior acclimatisation as I did on this trip; it really helped. I’d choose Machame route over Marangu even though I don’t feel comfortable sleeping in tents at high altitude – this is how Marangu Route with people in their hundreds is off-putting. Finally, I’d carry the oxygen bottle but would only use it if necessary before climbing the last few hundred meters of altitude. That is, if I could go as far to Gillman Point or Stella Point. I don’t think this is cheating if you need it only at this altitude. It would be pity to give up because of, e.g. difficulties of breathing due to horrible weather as it happened to us up there.

 

That’s it re Kilimanjaro.

 

Moshi

An ordinary town with an extraordinary backdrop! Hope Kilimanjaro reveals itself for the duration of your stay in Moshi. (Un)safe just as Arusha. Kilimajnaro Backpackers charges 16.5k p/n; hot water and wifi available.

 

Usumbara Mountains

This was the most pleasant surprise in Tanzania. The mountains are beautiful with roads passing through some breathtaking landscapes and lovely villages. Plenty of activities such as hiking, biking, cultural visits and more are all available to arrange inexpensively, yes, you read it right, inexpensively!, in Lushoto. This is because Usumbara Mountains are not, well, not yet, designated as a national park and the usual NP fees don’t apply to the region.

Possible to get to Lushoto directly from Dar as well as from Arusha and Moshi. Possible to get on a direct bus from Arusha/Moshi all the way to Mtae village via Lushoto and Mambo. Yes, this is possible despite to what your guide book may say. The road from Lukozi to Mtae is bad in sections and you may want to explore alternative ways of getting back.

I travelled from Moshi on Fasaha express service (Chakito Long Way is their agent at Moshi’s bus station) to Mambo via Lushoto on Mtae bound bus. Forgot to note how much it was, but I don’t think it was more than 20k. Fasaha bus departs Arusha at 6.3am and picks up passengers in Moshi at 7.30am. Then on boda boda from the Mambo junction to Mambo Cliff Inn.

It’s worth staying at Mambo Cliff Inn for views as well as for the cost. However, the food service was the slowest in Tanzania even when you preorder. They also had issues with running water when I was there. I had a word with the owner, Mr Ndege – who happens to be the manager at a far posher Mambo Viewpoint 10 mins uphill – and he assured me that things will improve in Mambo Cliff Inn. I used Mambo Cliff Inn to sleep and eat only but had to go to to Mambo Viewpoint for arranging hikes, accessing the web or charging my phone battery. Mr Ndege can inexpensively arrange the day hikes as well as provide information on transportation in the region.

See this on what to do in Usumbara mountains:

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/africa/tanzania/walking-in-usambaras?page=1#post_21419593

I arranged boda boda back with my Mambo/Mtae guide to Lukozi when I was done with Usambaras in order to avoid bad section of the road. We went via Mamboleo and Manolo so I got to see some new landscapes and the ride was fantastic. Really beautiful scenery. More to this, the villagers in this region are so not used to seeing mzungus and they literally froze and stopped doing whatever they did upon laying their eyes on me. The boda boda driver found this amusing and laughed so much that at one point I thought he was gonna wet himself.

Stayed for the night in Lushoto, but I found it uninspiring after what I experienced around Mambo and Mtae.

It’s possible to get a ticket in advance for the bus ride to Dar, but you’d need to go to the junction on the main road and get one. The junction is maybe a couple kms away from Lushoto city centre; 1-2k on boda boda from Lushoto city center.

The bus ride to Dar was 15k on Shambala Express departing 7.30am; it departed 8.45am actually. It took maybe 8 hours because we spent almost 3 hours sitting in traffic on the immediate approach to Dar due to roadworks in many sections of the main highway.

 

Dar es Salaam

I had to go there to pick up my brother and my niece. There was really not much which would keep me sightseeing for more than a couple of hours. We had an hour long taxi tour for USD15 and walked only around the fish market which was the most interesting sight in Dar. Taxi to the airport was an additional USD20.

Dar’s bus station is at least 8km from Kariakoo/city centre; taxi asked for 25k, but boda boda will do it for 8k.

 

 

Safari

See above on how I organised safari and safari with kids.

We did Lake Manyara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Arusha NP. If we were again to spend 4-5 days in this part of Tanzania then we’d swap Lake Manyara for some extra time in Serengeti. Arusha NP was amazing and we were surprised to find out that only a handful of visitors make an effort to visit this park. One thing I’d do differently would be not to stay in Arusha NP but in Arusha city on the way from Ngorongoro then get as early as possible to Arusha NP the next day. My ideal 5 day safari would be:

Day 1: drive all the way to Serengeti, overnight in Serengeti

Day 2: Serengeti, Serengeti overnight

Day 3: Serengeti, Serengeti to Ngorongoro, overnight in Ngorongoro

Day 4: Ngorongoro, Ngorongoro-Mto Wa Mbu ; Mto Wa Mbu cultural visit with Mto Wa Mbu Cultural Tourism Programme then overnight in Arusha city

Day 5: Arusha NP for a half day or for the whole day: Momela Lakes and the crater visit are great. Be at the gates as soon as the park opens in the morning and share the park with almost nobody. Ask the driver to take you to the Kilimanjaro lookout(s) which are located along the ‘main road’ to camp Day 1 on Mt Meru climb; this is in case you’re for the whole day in Arusha NP and of course, providing Kilimanjaro unhides itself from the shroud of clouds on the day you’re visiting.

We stayed in all sorts of accommodations: tent, tented accommodation (tent with beds inside) and lodges. The Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge was SO not me holidaying around and it was full of well off Europeans enjoying luxury and being snobbish; I stayed there because of my niece. However, it’s worth staying at this lodge for views from your room (last/first light of the day). I’d definitely stay in tented accommodation only if I was to repeat my safari experience. Nothing wrong staying in tents for those on tight budget.

One thing I thought of as a clear rip off was the Balloon Safari. Yes, the experience must be great especially if you’re there at sunrise on a clear sky day, but USD500 (plus some more money for whatever fees they thought off) for an hour in hot air balloon was expensive. They take pride (and justify the price) for offering Out of Africa experience after the balloon ride which includes Champagne breakfast under the acacia tree served on China with silverware and the service staff as in the colonial days. Which all sounded a bit perverse to me. I asked them to quote their price just for the balloon ride and asked if there would be any child discount. I received negative answer to both questions and decided not to pay that much money as I was genuinely only interested in the hot air balloon experience.

We loved the Mto Wa Mbu Maasai cultural experience organised by Mto wa Mbu Cultural Tourism Programme; my niece was really excited with what she experienced on the hour long visit.

 

 

Zanzibar

We based ourselves in Stone Town and hired a car with the driver to visit various parts of the island. We also had a day tour to Prison Island snorkelling off the coast of Bowe and spending the rest of that day on the sand bank. If doing the day excursion make sure you ask in advance for the sun shade to be provided. The excursion was excellent at the cost of USD35 p/p and we got this organised through Sena Tours.

Taxi from the airport to Stone Town is USD10; Kiponda Guesthouse was USD75 p/n (family room with four beds), otherwise USD30 p/p p/n for other rooms. Kiponda Guesthouse was superbly located with good breakfast and it was very clean.

Walking tour o Stone Town was USD10 and it included some entrance fees; very interesting 2.5 hours around Stone Town. You can get a free map of Stone Town at the Tourist Information Office at Portuguese Fort.

Green Garden restaurant was excellent, but good luck finding it.

Our driver charged USD100 p/d and this included all waiting times; this was organised through Kiponda Guesthouse.

We didn’t regret basing ourselves in Stone Town, on the contrary, we loved it. I’d definitely hire a car next time from the airport as driving around the island seemed very easy. There are permanent police posts around demanding ‘coffee money’ from locals, but mzungus seem to be exempted from this extortion. Another nice place to maybe relocate after Stone Town would be Kendwa beach in the far north of the island. The beaches are beautiful in the north and swimming is not affected by tides as in the east of the island. We didn’t like beaches in the east to be honest; one long stretch of sand turning into mud plains at low tides. The Rock restaurant has to be seen to be believed at high tides; the location, ambience, water and the colours of the sea will make this an unforgettable experience. The food is expensive as in a good restaurant in Western Europe though.

One thing impossible to miss was corruption in Zanzibar. Those in authority seemed to be the worst offenders. The airport staff too asks for tips. And things go missing at the airport from bags with pockets that can’t be locked.

Car rental from Roadtrip Tanzania

 

Okke de Backer, the owner of Roadtrip Tanzania, an offshoot of the well-established operator Roadtrip Uganda in neighbouring Uganda, has sent in the following info:

Roadtrip Tanzania: the most adventurous, fun and affordable way to explore Tanzania. Based in Arusha,we are the company in Tanzania offering self-drive car and camp rental, from 65 USD / day. For this you drive a Toyota Rav4, a recreational 4WD.

Since 2012 we have been operating Roadtrip Uganda. Thanks to the great response of Roadtrippers there this is now Uganda’s leading self-drive company, managing a respectable fleet, inspiring travellers and generating numerous adventurous travel stories.

We believe that exploring Tanzania is the most fun at your own pace. Instead of fully organized tours at rather expensive lodges where everything is arranged for you, we offer a low-budget option for the independent and adventurous traveller. There is not much to offer for this group of people, apart from travelling with public transport. Our rates are competitive, our vehicles are comprehensively insured, and they come with all the camping gear you need (tent, mattresses, sleeping bag, chairs, stove, cooking set and utensils, cooling box, headlights, roadmap and Bradt guide).

Crossing the border to neighbouring countries is possible, and we can arrange pick up and drop services, a driver or suggest itineraries and places to stay/camp.

If you would like to experience the privacy and flexibility of self-drive, but peace of mind about which route to take and where to stay? Than go on one of our competitively priced pre-booked tours. Each self-drive circuit offers a carefully planned route with overnight stays in pre-booked accommodation.

Please visit our website for more information: www.roadtriptanzania.com.

 

Travel in Kagera

Rupert Gude of VSO has kindly forwarded us this VSO Volunteers Guide for Kagera Region – lots of useful info for travellers heading this way:

LOCATION AND CLIMATE

Kagera is on the western shore of Lake Victoria in northwest Tanzania. Bukoba is the regional capital and largest town. Kagera Region borders Uganda to the north, Rwanda to the west, Burundi to the southwest and Kigoma Region to the south.

The climate is sunny and warm but can get cool during the rainy season. There are two rainy seasons each year from February to May and October to December. A lightweight raincoat, waterproof shoes and an umbrella are essential in the rainy season and some warm clothes for the evenings. Rains occur almost every morning from March through May. It rarely rains in the afternoon.

The region is split into 6 administrative districts: Bukoba Town, Bukoba Rural, Karagwe, Muleba, Biharamulo and Ngara.  VSO currently works in Bukoba Town, Bukoba Rural, Muleba and Karagwe Districts.

PEOPLE AND OCCUPATIONS

Kagera Region has a population of over one million. Bukoba Town has about 100,000 people. The main ethnic group of the region are the Bahaya who speak Kihaya. Most people in Bukoba town speak Kiswahili, and basic English is understood at many shops. The main occupation throughout the region is farming. The number one commercial product is coffee, and the main food crop and dietary staple is matoke – large green bananas. There are many NGOs, volunteers and other wazungu (ex-pats) working in Bukoba and the surrounding area.

NATIONAL PARKS

Kagera is home to beautiful parks.  The best source of information about these and other sites of interest is probably Kiroyera Tours next to the Market in Bukoba. VSO volunteers have worked there in the past. William Rutter, Tel. No. 0713568276 takes care of all reservation at Kiroyera and is very knowledgeable about the region. Below are summaries of Kagera parks.

  • Rubondo Island is located south of Bukoba in Lake Victoria. It is home to giraffes, elephants, sitatunga, hippos, crocodiles and dozens of bird species. This is a great weekend destination for relaxing walking, vehicle and boating safaris.  William at Kiroyera can make all travel arrangements.
  • Ibanda Game Reserve is worth  a visit but you need to book and it’s best to provide your own transport.
  • Burigi/Kimsi, Biharamulo are mentioned in some travel guides. However do not expect to see animals and you may require a police escort to travel through these parks.
  • National Parks outside Kagera – Travel to National Parks outside Kagera, such as Serengeti can be arranged through Serengeti Safaris in Mwanza. They are very reasonable.

SERVICES

Power Tanesco (Tanzania Electric Supply Company) supplies the region’s electric. Their offices are near the Red Cross in Bukoba and near the NMB bank in Muleba.  Their electricity is imported from hydroelectric dams in Uganda. Infrequent power cuts should be expected but they do not last long.

Phone – Mobile service is available from Vodacom, Zain, and Tigo. Text messaging or SMS is the most common form of contact between volunteers although the email is gaining ground.  It is possible and inexpensive to SMS to Africa, Europe, North America and the Philippines.  Mobile phones can be bought in many shops around Bukoba.  If you brought a phone from home that is locked to your old network, there are local fundis (literally ‘fixers’) who can unlock them. See Mr. Majid in Bukoba to buy a new phone and/or to unlock old ones.  His number is 0713238808.

TTCL, Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd, operates the land line service.  They have offices in Muleba and Bukoba.  The area code for Kagera and Mwanza is 028, Dar is 022. The international code for Tanzania is +255. Note: If people back home are calling you, have them drop the 0 of your phone number. Thus if your number is 0784777822, people back home should dial +255784777822.

If you have a phone which is able to connect to internet then both Zain and Vodacom provide this service. It is best to buy an unlocked 3G or 4G phone and bring it with you. These phones are expensive in Bukoba.

Banks –In Bukoba there are three banks: NBC, CRDB and NMB. NMB also operates in Kayanga and Muleba and CRDB has a branch in Karagwe and a travelling branch that goes to Nshamba every Thursday.  Ask other volunteers about their choice of banks.

National Bank of Commerce (NBC) – Box 843, 2220398. This is located near the Catholic Cathedral and post office. They provide savings accounts, forex accounts, foreign exchange services, wire transfers, cheque cashing, and a 24 hour ATM that accepts NBC, CRDB and VISA cards. To start an account, bring three passport photos, at least 50,000 TSH, your working permit (incl. a copy of your letter of exemption), your passport and an introduction letter from your employer. Open M-F 8:30-3:00, S 8:30-12:30.

CRDB – Box 1804, 2220909. CRDB is located near the bus station, Cyber Centre and Danico. Services are similar to NBC including a 24 hour ATM machine that accepts VISA.  To start an account, bring three passport photos, at least 50,000 TSH, your working permit (incl. a copy of your letter of exemption), your passport and an introduction letter from your employer.

National Microfinance Bank (NMB) – This is located near the NBC bank in Bukoba and on the main road in both Kayanga and Muleba. They offer basic banking services and their ATM machine only accepts NMB cards.

Kagera Farmers Bank – This is a farmers’ Bank situated only at Bukoba opposite the Regional Administrative offices along Aerodrome Road. Services are limited and there is no ATM facility.

SECTION I: TRAVEL

Travelling in Tanzania changes all the time. There is currently a tarmac road from Mutukula on the border of Uganda that runs 40 kilometres south of Bukoba to the village of Kagoma. With the ongoing construction work, it is expected that by the end of 2010 it will connect Muleba to Mwanza. The parts that are finished guarantee a smooth ride, but the rest of the roads are rough, so prepare for a bumpy ride. Travellers to Biharamulo need to be to be aware that there have been reports of cars, dalas and large buses being attacked by bandits hiding in the game reserve. Its advisable to complete your journey before it gets dark.

Below is a summary of the basic options available.

TRAVEL TO/FROM KAGERA IN TANZANIA.

If you are coming to Kagera from elsewhere in Tanzania, you can travel in a variety of ways. The most common are:

By Air: The Bukoba airport is on Aerodrome Road near the Lake. The airport facilities are currently being upgraded possibly to international standards. Bukoba is connected to Mwanza via Auric Air. They operate three to Four return flights daily. Flights to and from Mwanza on Precision Air connect Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Nairobi and recently Entebbe. ALWAYS confirm your flights two days in advance.

The Auric and the Precision Air (028 22220545) shared office is near the bus stand. If it is difficult for you to get there, call William at Kiroyera (0713568276). He can make reservations for a fee.

By Boat: The ferry MV Victoria leaves Bukoba on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 9.00pm (after the horn sounds twice) and arrives in Mwanza the next morning around 6 to 8 am. It leaves Mwanza on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at about 9 pm and arrives in Bukoba the next morning around 6 to 7 am. The boat stops first at Kemondo Bay, so make sure you don’t get off too early. First class costs 35.000 TSH, with two per cabin. Second class sleeping costs 25.500 TSH with six per cabin, second class sitting costs 20.500 TSH.  Third class costs 15.000 TSH and is seating only and very crowded. Passengers in third class are vulnerable to pick pockets and thus this is not recommended. Book tickets in advance at the port when the boat is in or have William at Kiroyera make reservations (0713568276). Note: William is very good at getting tickets even when they claim to be sold out but charges $5 commission a ticket

By Train: Trains do not come to Bukoba, but there are trains from Mwanza to Dodoma which take at least two days (out of action since December 2009 but being repaired.) You can also travel from Kigoma via Tabora. First or second class is recommended; book well in advance.

By Bus: The bus stand is in the centre of town. Book tickets in advance at Bukoba bus stand. Dolphin, Falcon, and Gateway Buses run to Kampala and back on daily basis. It takes 5 to 6 hours single journey. They leave town between 6 am and 7 am and costs 15.000 TSH. Buses also run from Bukoba to Nairobi for TSH 44,000 and Dar for about 65.000 TSH. There is a bus service fron Bukoba to Dar that takes 28 hours via Muleba. But if you want to go to Nairobi, the best way to travel is to take the ferry to Mwanza and from there the bus which costs around 30.000 TSH. NB When travelling to neighbouring countries, establish Visa requirements and costs.

TRAVEL IN KAGERA

Minibus (daladala): Bukoba is the hub of all public transport in Kagera. Daladalas form the core of this basic network. They leave when full, which can often involve a very long wait. Unless you have access to a car or a lift, you will need use dalas throughout your stay in Tanzania.

To/From Muleba, Rubya and Nshamba: Daladalas run daily from Bukoba to Muleba (2500 TSH ). You can change dala in Muleba and travel on to Nshamba (1000 TSH ), and Rubya (1000 TSH ). There are three dalas that run from Rubya to Muleba to Bukoba every morning (3500 TSH ). They leave Wamata near the hospital in Rubya Center at 6 and 6:30 am.  You can also get the dalas from the post office or in Nyakalembe.  If you miss the morning dalas, you can catch slower ones throughout the day.  From Nshamba you can travel to Muleba or Kamachumu and then on to Bukoba. Wait at the crossroads in the centre of the town. In Muleba the dala stand is north of town. From Muleba you can get dalas to Bukoba, Nshamba/Rubya and Biharamulo.

Kamachumu: Dalas go from Bukoba to Kamachumu to Ndolage to Nshamba everyday. In Ndolage wait for dalas outside the hospital gates. In Kamachumu, get the dalas at the crossroads in the centre of town.

To /from Karawage: Dalas and buses run daily from Bukoba to Karagwe. From Karagwe daladalas go from the market area to various destinations within the district including Omrushaka which is about 6 Kms away and all the journeys start here. The road is tarmac for 50Kms from Bukoba to Kyaka but changes to earth road for the rest of the 55Kms to Kayanga. The 6 Km section between Kyaka and Omrushaka is bitumen. The rides are bumpy. To Bukoba (2-3 hours ride) – 5000 TSH (buses go about 4 times a day and dalas operate through the day)  Please note that dalas in Tanzania leave when they are full and have no set times.

Taxi:  Taxis can be found at the market, near the bus stand and at the port. Short journeys in Bukoba cost at least 2,000 to 3000 TSH regardless of the number of passengers.  A taxi to Rubya is between 40,000 to 50,000 TSH, to Muleba usually costs 10,000 less.

Personal cars: It’s not unknown for volunteers to buy their own car or motorbike. Be careful. Talk to a good mechanic and get it looked over before you buy (See Naushad’s Toyota Garage near the post office or the ELCT Garage).

There are petrol stations in Bukoba, Muleba, Nshamba, Kamachumu, Kemondo Bay, Kyaka, Kayanga and Nkwenda.  Fuel costs 1,650 TSH a litre.

TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF TANZANIA

Kagera borders Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. It is advisable to check the security situation of your destinations  before travelling.

From Bukoba to Kampala, Ugandat takes about 6-8 hours. The exchange rate is approximately 1,000 TSH to 1,300 USH.  The visa costs 50 USD for any length of time including transit. It is however free for members of COMESA. Kampala is a great getaway place. There is a lot of good shopping. You can hang out at the mall, go to the cinema, visit the Belgian butcher/deli, go clubbing and have a good meal.  It is also easy to fly from Entebbe to Europe with BA, Emirates and KLM.  The Dolphin Bus runs from Bukoba to Kampala 7 days a week. From there you can go to Nairobi and Dar.

You can also get to Kampala from Karagwe. This is however a more adventurous route involving a ‘shunting shunting’ to Kyaka (which means getting on and off various daladalas stopping in many places) and from there take a daladala to the border. From the border you can either get a bus to Kampala. However, the easier route would be coming to Bukoba, spend the night there and take the direct bus in the morning.
Kenya is easily accessible via Kampala, Kampala to Mombassa is about 24 hours changing buses in Nairobi.  Direct flights are also available to Nairobi from Mwanza, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Entebbe.

Rwanda (Land of a Thousand Hills) is only a day’s travel away via Rusumo Falls at the Tanzania-Rwanda border.  At the moment travel to Rwanda from Tanzania is not as safe as via Uganda because of local bandits in the game reserves. When the new road from Muleba to Biharamulo is complete, the security situation is expected to improve. Most people choose to enter Rwanda through Kampala, Uganda. Kigali (Rwanda’s capital) is 9 hours by bus from Kampala (Regional Coach) and costs about 15.000 USH.  Exchange rate in Rwanda is 1,000 TZ = 500 Rwandan Francs.

The country is currently stable and is home to over 50 VSO volunteers.  There are many things to do there. Visit the beautiful Lake Kivu and the Mountain Gorillas, made famous by Diane Fossey in her book ‘Gorillas in the Mist”. In Kigali the Genocide Memorial Centre is definitely worth a visit. Here they can also refer you to some actual genocide sites in the country that you can visit.  If you want to know more about the 1994 genocide, the book written by Romeo Dallaire (the leader of the UN mission in Rwanda) ‘Shake hands with the devil’ is a good reference.

SECTION II: MAIN SETTLEMENTS OF VSO VOLUNTEERS

The regional information packs were originally written to give new volunteers a better idea of where they are going to be living as well as what is available locally.  Basically they try to answer the question, “What do I need to buy in Dar before I go to my placement?” This is a hard question to answer. The best advice is to bring with you anything essential health wise (medicines etc…) and any special items you must have. After that between Bukoba and wherever you are placed, you should be able to find all the basic things needed to set up your home: pots, pans, plates, knives…  All electrical good can be bought in Bukoba: kettles, ovens, hot plates, fridges, Christmas tree lights, computers, printers, stereos…  If they are not there, they can often be ordered.

Kagera is a fertile region, growing its own potatoes, sugar, beans, bananas (lots and lots of bananas), and a variety of fruits and vegetables.  Beef is widely available, as is chicken, pork, and Tilapia and Nile Perch fish from Lake Victoria. Beer and soda are found almost everywhere. Imported items such as pasta, chocolate, spirits, Heinz ketchup, sausages, ice cream, mayonnaise, Pringles and much more are found in the small supermarkets in Bukoba. In Bukoba there is a factory making Tanica Instant Coffee, at Kamachumu they bottle their own Kabanga Spring Water, and in Kyaka there is a cheese factory that makes Gouda type cheese (also found in Bukoba).

BUKOBA TOWN

SHOPPING

Market (Soko Kuu)

The Bukoba market is fairly large and in the centre of town. There are sections for fruits, vegetables, matoke (green bananas), grains, meat, fish, clothing, and assorted items both in and around the covered market area. Most food items are sold by the kilogram. Prices do vary according to seasons.

Supermarkets

Most are open daily 9.00am to 8.00pm and closed 1.00 – 3.00pm

  • Fido Dido Supermarket – Many packaged and some refrigerated western goods, including bread and many types of biscuits and soft drinks. Customers themselves select items from shelves like in most Western supermarkets. Prices are expensive as most items are imported from Uganda and Kenya.
  • Dollys Cash and Carry, at the corner of Fupi street – Many western goods. Prices higher than Fido Dido.
  • Hussein, opposite the market on Kashai Road open all day – Many western goods, cheaper than Fido Dido.
  • Blue Shop – On road to ELCT Bookshop, fair prices, packs and stocks Basmati rice.
  • Mayawa Shop – Opposite the Lutheran church sells mushrooms, vanilla and rosella leaves.
  • Me and Yu – opposite Lutheran Cathedral – Many western goods

Office Supplies

  • Kagera General Traders – Many office supplies including stationery, art supplies and diskettes. On the main street across from the market.
  • Migini Secretarial Services – One office is across from the market, and another is near the Lake Hotel. Sells many basic office supplies. Photocopies are 100 TSH each.
  • Benny Bazaar – Many office and computer stationery and supplies including diskettes and ink cartridges.

Books

  • ELCT Bookstore – Located in town near the Ismaili mosque. A variety of stationery, English and Swahili school books, office supplies and local handicrafts.
  • Catholic Bookstore – On Sokoine Street near the Net Pharmacy.
  • Bukoba Public Library – Near the NBC bank. Many books in English and Swahili, though many are old and musty. Good selection of African history and literature. To borrow books you need to become a member.

Computer Supplies and Services

  • Bukoba Cyber Centre – Repairs computers and sells computers and computer supplies, including floppy, CD-R and Zip disks, modems, printer cartridges, etc. Hussein and Hasnain are the town’s computer experts and conduct computer training but are usually very busy.
  • Danico – Sells office machines, computers and computer supplies and conducts inexpensive computer training. Has branches in Mwanza, Dar and Arusha.
  • Other computer training centres – Bukoba Computer Centre near the post office (run by Hussein of the Cyber Centre), Scientific Business Training Centre near the bus stand, Computer Training Centre behind the market.

EATING AND DRINKING

AFTERNOONS

Rose Café – Next to Cosmopolitan. Pilau, matoke, beans, sambusas, mchicha, fruit juice, etc. Run by Zully and Moshi who both speak good English.

ELCT Café – next to ELCT bookshop. Excellent breakfast (pancakes, milk coffee, sandwiches) and quick lunches (buffet set up).

Kashozi Snacks – Inexpensive fish, rice, bananas and pilau.

Ujirani Mwema Restaurant – Near TTCL. Inexpensive meat, fish, rice, matoke, beans, mchicha. Breakfast includes eggs, chapati, cake, omelet, tea and juice.

Space Bar (formerly Soft Rock) – Around the corner from the Red Cross. Chicken, mshikaki, chipsi mayai, many drinks, TV.

Immigration Café – In the Immigration Office on the road to the port. Inexpensive fish, beef, rice,  matoke, beans, sodas.

Regional Office Café – Outside the Regional Office near the Lake Hotel, marked with Pepsi symbols. Inexpensive fish, beef, ugali and matoke. (Sodas available across the street.)

Maendeleo Café – Next to Kiroyera tours.

Hesseki’s – near the market sells ice cream

888 Café – One block up from Hussein’s Shop on Kashai road.

EVENINGS

Lake Hotel – TV, music, indoor restaurant and outdoor beer garden. Popular for parties.

Walkgard Hotel – on hill above the lake.  Swimming pool 3000 per day. Excellent Chinese and Indian foods and good vegetarian options.

Walkgard Annex – next to Victorious Perch. Pleasant surroundings, good food.

Yaasila Top Hotel – Next to Spice Beach Hotel.  The service is slow, the food varies from pretty good to not bad!  A nice beach location, with pool table. Fantastic for watching the full moon rise.

Bukoba Club – Popular hang out near the Lake Hotel for both Wazungus and locals. Mshikaki, chips, chipsi mayai, Fish, Chicken, outdoor beer and sodas. Tennis, table tennis, snooker, darts.

Kolping Hotel – Quiet, on the hill overlooking the beautiful lake. Good food but slow service. Try their buffets, fish, Rosemary Chicken, pizza and vegetarian dishes. Accommodation and good conference facilities.

Victorious Perch Hotel – Tourist hotel near Linas Night club. Hospitable and good food.

Smart Hotel – The other side of the North side of Bukoba airport. Nice food and surrounding.

Spice Beach Hotel – OK food, nice location on the lake, conveniently near the port.

Kiroyera Campsite – 300 meters past Bukoba Club Bridge towards Yaasila. Good food, although can take a long time to prepare. Book your meals well in advance. Excellent view of Lake Victoria, relaxed setting (hammocks, beach), beach camp fire – give advance notice. Accommodation is expensive for the standard supplied.

Prince Motel – on Uganda Rd almost opposite Walkgard Annex. Good food but long wait. Good place to watch sport on big TV.

OTHER THINGS TO DO

SPORTS

The Bukoba Club has tennis, snooker, table tennis and darts. Locals play different games eg volleyball and football on the open grassy area near the Bukoba Club most afternoons.  The Kaitaba Stadium hosts football matches and other events including concerts. The Red Cross has an indoor basketball court, Swim at  the pool at the Walkgard hotel. Watch the football at Space Bar, near Bukoba hospital and the Red Cross, Lake Hotel and Prince Motel.

DISCOS

Two discos in town are Lina’s (near the immigration office) and Casino (on the road to Muleba). Lina’s is more a ‘mzungu’ place (open all weekend) and attracts many concerts, whereas Casino is a very local disco (only open on Sundays).

LOCAL VISITS

The town boasts a number of historical buildings dating to the German colonial period.  There are a number of nearby beaches worth a visit, including Bunena rock beach which is within walking distance of town, south of the port and great place to watch the full moon rise. The lake is infested with bilharzia, so swimming anywhere is risky, but some places are relatively safe eg Maruku Beach. Visit Bukoba Museum – good wildlife photos. Visit Rubale Forest waterfall and cave along the Bukoba Maruku Rd. Lots of lovely walks can be made from the town.

There is a picturesque fishing village about a 20-minute walk from town, on the other side of the airport and Nyamukazi.  Musila Island is a short distance from the shore and accessible by boat. It has a small fishing village and is enjoyable to visit.

Kiroyera Tours can help you out with any tourism information about the region like the rock paintings and the Lourdes shrine or a tour of Bukoba town.

PLACES TO STAY

Accommodation can vary from 15,000 to 30,000 – check prices

  • Lake Hotel – Expensive rooms – about 20,000 with fans and mosquito nets.
  • New Upendo Lodge – on road opposite CCM headquarters. Lounge, bar, TV. About 18,000 for double room.
  • Walkgard Hotel – On hill above the port (approx 30,000 single, 60,000 double) rooms are nothing special.
  • Walkgard Annex – expensive (approx 25,000) but clean and central
  • Prince Motel – good service
  • Kolping Hotel – On the hill overlooking the lake. Bed and B/fast (30,000 single, 40,000 double, suites  available
  • Victorious Perch Hotel – Opposite Linas night club (40,000)
  • Smart Hotel – The other side of Airport. New 30,000 and 40,000 for singles and doubles. Suite available.
  • Yasila Top Hotel – Next to spice beach.  Nice location.  Ask for room at the front (budget rooms 20,000 )
  • Spice Beach Hotel – On the lake between the Lake Hotel and the port. (20,000)
  • Bukoba Hotel (ELCT) – Near the Lake Hotel. Reasonably inexpensive rooms (about 14,000). Comfortable, clean, relatively safe, hot water, AC, TV room. Alcohol free.
  • New Banana Hotel – On Zam-Zam Street off Kashozi Road. (15,000)
  • Kiroyera Campground (20,000 -26000) – traditional Haya huts. Camping available.
  • Invite Lodge – behind the Catholic Cathedral near 888 Cafe. Recently renovated. 15,000 -18,000

COMMUNICATIONS

In Bukoba you have Vodacom, Zain and Tigo (the first two most commonly used). Internet you can find at Bukoba Cyber Centre, the Post office, Dan’s Internet Café on the Jamhuri Rd nr CCM HQ, New Upendo Lodge (run by Majid) and TCCIA (chamber of commerce) rates are 1,000 TSH per hour. Emails and internet will work on your mobile if you have the right phone and is not very expensive. Bukoba Hotel (ELTC) has it’s own usually more reliable internet connection but charge a minimum 1,000 for half an hr. Hotels often have their own internet connection.

Tanzania Telecommunications Company, Ltd. (TTCL) – Near the Nyumba ya Vijana and Red Cross (and has a tall tower). International phone calls from one of two phone lines. A fax to Europe is about 3,500 TSH per page. Less busy in the late afternoon and evenings.  They will install a pay as you go telephone and internet for about 100,000.

The Post office is near the NBC bank.  It offers all basic postal services, you can rent your own post office box there (10,000), send parcels and EMS money.

HEALTH

Government Hospital – Near the Red Cross.

Ndolage Town Clinic – Near the NBC Club.

St Therese’s Bukoba Medical Centre – 2220510. Zam-zam Street off Kashozi Road.

Net Pharmacy – Box 1662, 2221400. Sokoine Street near Mosque Street. Modern looking and fairly well-stocked.

MK Pharmacy – opposite Rose’s Café

KARAGWE

KAYANGA

Karagwe District is one of the five rural districts in Kagera Region with a population of approximately 400,000 people. The district borders Uganda in the north and Rwanda in the west. The Kagera River runs through the district. Kayanga town is the main administrative town in the district. It is located on top of a ridge so there are spectacular views from the town. The valley is swampy wet lands.

The town is fairly quiet and has limited resources and communication; however one can get the essentials food and household goods. Weather is variable and can get very cold and mist rising from the valley early morning and night time. The district council headquarters are based in Kayanga and there are various NGO’s who have their offices around the town. It has a post office, police station and two banks, NMB and CRDB (has an ATM machine which takes VISA card as well as local Tembo card).

People of Karagwe are very friendly and helpful. The main languages spoken are Kiswahili and the local Kinyambo. English is spoken by office staff at the NGO’s and district council, but little at the market and shops although people will try and understand you. Basic greetings are very important in this area.

Currently there are 3 VSO volunteers and couple of volunteers from other agencies in Karagwe. There is a mission and couple of NGO’s who have short term volunteers on a regular basis. Weekends and evening can be quiet and one has to make their own entertainment. There are some great scenic walking areas around Karagwe as well as a dala ride away. Transport is available to most destinations around Karagwe district, and daily services to Bukoba.

GAME RESERVES IN KARAGWE
There are two Game Reserves in Karagwe. These are Kibanda & Rumanyika.
Kabanda:
1. Write a letter to the Manager of the GR to ask permission to visit, giving details of date, number visiting, whether a day visit or staying etc
2. Await answer before arriving.
3. If staying overnight, they will prepare tents for you. There are no vibanda. There is no food or supplies of any sort, except firewood. You would need to take all supplies & be self-catering.

4. Manager Game Reserve Kibanda
PO Box 47,  Karagwe.

Tel: 0784 460260 or 0754 460260

5. Better have a vehicle of your own. If not, you can use their vehicle inside the Reserve if you supply diesel. If you have no transport, arrange to be met at roadside. Its best to take spare diesel.
6. Visits are free!!!
7. Game: all sorts, & it’s a shooting park too if anyone wants to book shooting.

Rumanyika:
Much the same, but not much in the way of small animals, & no accommodation overnight, only day visits.

Don’t forget there are ‘hot springs’ in Ntangata, Mabira. Interesting, very hot, very natural ie totally uncommercialized. Need transport to get there.

SHOPPING

You can buy most basic food and household items, including electrical goods, in shops around the Market area. For mzungu type items, one has to go to Bukoba. The market is best for fresh fruit and vegetables although it lacks variety. Market days are Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Green bananas are the staple diet in Karagwe area and available all year round. Fruits include pineapples, sweet bananas, tomatoes, avocados etc. Other shops include hardware, fabrics, stationery and services such as printing and photocopying… Omrushaka, which is 6Kms away and a taxi ride (500 TSH) also, caters for similar things.
EATING and drinking

The restaurants and bars will only serve local food such as matoke (cooked green bananas), rice with meat or fish, and beans. These café and restaurants are open during the day six days a week except for Sunday. At the Bar’s one has to orders food in advance. Places to eat and drink include:

  • Tonya’s Bar  – as you enter town from the Bukoba road on the right hand side
  • Diana’s Bar – near the football ground
  • Zebra Bar – on the main road opposite Tindamanyile Guest House
  • Roiders café – near market place
  • Upenda café – opposite Roiders cafe
  • Kahindi’s Café – Inside the market place around the edge, its walls are painted blue
  • Mama D’s – entrance around Dala dala area

PLACES TO STAY

  • Dutch Guest House (expensive – 15,000  per night)
  • Side View Guest House – opposite the Lutheran Church around the back of the market area of town
  • Misha guest house – about half hour walk but has great scenery

COMMUNICATION

There is a Public Telephone at the Post Office. Mobiles get a good reception and there is an internet café near the football ground.

HEALTH

Nyakahanga Hospital, 7km South of Kayanga
Malaria testing place – on street on outside of market area.
Dispensary – find ACCORD offices ask in there!

MULEBA

Muleba District, a former division of Bukoba District, gained its autonomous status in 1975. It started operations as the fifth District of Kagera Region in 1984.  The District Council Offices are situated at Bomani on Boma Street near the Posta. Muleba consists of 5 divisions: Muleba, Kimwani, Nshamba, Izigo and Kamachumu. The geographical area covers an area of 3444 km² of land and 7925 km² in Lake Victoria which includes more than 20 islands.

The 2002 National Census counted 386,328 people in the District with 10,732 in Muleba town.  Muleba is situated in the eastern part of Kagera Region. It is bordered by Lake Victoria to the east, Biharamulo to the south, Karagwe to the southwest and Bukoba to the northwest. It is comprised of low hills, escarpments and savannahs. The Ngono River runs through the District from south to north and joins the Kagera River before entering Lake Victoria. The average temperature is between 25°-33° C, and the rainfall ranges between 800-1500 mm per year.

Currently there are no volunteers at Muleba town but the district has eight volunteers stationed at Nshamba, Rubya, Ndolage, Kamachumu, Katoke Teacher Training Callege and Kagondo hospital.

Muleba was known throughout Kagera for its Mali Juice. This was a local product made from fresh fruits. This Belgian funded project supported Muleba farmers and the community in general. The factory has since closed down and the farmers are trying to revive the same.

SHOPPING

Muleba’s main street has been decimated due to the construction of the Bukoba to Mwanza road. Currently most shopping occurs one street over to the west on a parallel road.  The merchandise varies from kangas/kitenge to groceries. There are also more specialised shops like the vet shop, liquor store, stationery, car spare parts, pharmacy and mobile phone voucher cards providers.

There are two markets. The central market in town is open from Monday to Saturday.  The Saturday market is located south of town in large field. Both these markets have a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables including eggplants, avocado, ginger, peppers, passion fruit, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and egg. Fresh fish, brought from the Lake, and live chickens are plentiful. New and second hand clothes and materials can be purchased. More fancy articles like pasta, wine, newspapers, dishes, soaps, bicycles, condoms, sanitary napkins, and Ngao can be found in special shops west of the market.

EATING AND DRINKING

There are many places to eat and drink local foods. The New Bingo serves a standard fare of rice/matoke and nyama. The New Generation has small eating area outside. The Upendo Bar is just next to the liquor store in town. Kantanyayo Hoteh and Guest House offers fair local dishes of beef, chicken, fish, rice, matoke etc and drinks. Mama Gamas is a bit out of town and it is best to call ahead to order. Their menu consists of chicken, matoke, mishkaki, and delicious kachumbari. The kibandas add to the nice atmosphere. Drinks can be had at any of these restaurants. There are also some local pombe bars selling the traditional banana beer and gin. Ask around.

OTHER THINGS TO DO

  1. Kagera has a history of Kingdoms and Chiefdoms. Before Independence, Muleba had its own chiefs. Opposite the Posta, there is still an old house which was the residence of the last chief. Many important visitors have been given a tour there, so make sure to ask for yours.
  2. From Muleba you can easily walk to the escarpment and then down to the Lake. It takes about an hour and a half.  From the Kiholele Escarpment  you can enjoy the magnificent view and after a rest continue for another hour and a half down to the lakeshore.
  3. Other walks can be taken to Rubya/Nshamba, crossing the Ngono by boat (+ 4 hours). If you have a piki piki or a bicycle, you can easily travel to nice surrounding areas. South of town is Kimwani where there is a small beach. Red dirt roads and lush green valleys are common and also the occasional herd of Watusi cows. Bring your camera!
  4. There is an official football field and training place south of town. Youngsters are often found playing net ball next to the Bomani Offices. The new Youth Centre (under construction) has many sports activities planned for both indoors and outdoors.
  5. E-mail services are now available and there is a public phone at the Posta and Vodacom and zain have coverage in the area.
  6. From Friday to Sunday, discos are staged at Mali Bantu. California is another joint for entertainment. Try them also for celebrity functions and concerts.

HEALTH

Muleba has a big dispensary at Kaigara, about 2 km north of town on the Bukoba Road. Complicated medical cases are sent to Rubya District Hospital. Ndolage and Kagondo Hospitals are a bit out of the way, but offer good services including dental and optical treatment.

It is wise to use malaria prophylactic while staying in Muleba since there is a high incidence of malaria. Regular use of mosquito repellent, coils and bed net will help. Boiling and filtering your water is necessary since the water quality is poor. There is a high prevalence of HIV/Aids in the District and in Kagera in general. Precautions are strongly advised.

If you are driving a piki piki, be aware that the roads are steep, dusty, rocky, slippery and sandy. In all cases, use your common sense and don’t take risks.

NDOLAGE

Ndolage is situated on top of an escarpment overlooking Lake Victoria.  It is just over 1 hours drive south of Bukoba. It is located next to the town of Kamachumu.   Ndolage is built around Ndolage Hospital, an Evangelical Church of Tanzania, (ELCT) facility.  Ndolage is a small village, but there are shops with all the basic necessities of life, plus a small hotel and a couple of bars.  Kamachumu, home to many more shops and a decent market, is a 15 minute walk away.

Sunrise from the escarpment in Ndolage is superb.  Ndolage boasts some of the best examples of African bird life to be found anywhere in Tanzania.  There are a variety of habitats allowing home to a diverse selection of birds from the tiny but startling fire finch to the huge and majestic fish eagle.

SHOPPING

Outside the gates of the hospital you can buy basic food stuffs: flour, eggs, sugar, meat, fruit and veggies.  For a larger variety go to Kamachumu  which has many more shops selling everything from food to stationary, clothes and hardware items.  Kamachumu is also home to the local post office, tailors, hair dressers, and the usual selection of Tanzanian shops selling a random range of things.  The Sunday Market sells clothes, crafts and food.

EATING AND DRINKING

Outside the hospital gates is the Sunlight Café which serves standard Tanzanian fare at a good price. In Kamachumu check out the Kamachumu Inn which is a nice place for a drink or dinner.  Try their Kamachumu Fried Chicken.

Outside the hospital grounds there are a couple of local nameless bars. Kamachumu has many more little bars and cafes where you can partake in some refreshments.

OTHER THINGS TO DO

Hike. Ride a bike. Bird watch. From the hospital you can walk to the famous Bugonzi Falls in 10 minutes. These falls can be seen on the road to Muhutwe as you begin your assent to Ndolage. If your legs are long (at least one metre) then you can climb down a vertical ladder and walk under these falls and feel the full force of  tons of water (in rainy season) dropping 120 m to the villages below.  One word of warning: the climb back up is exhausting.  Ask someone in Kamachumu to take you to visit the traditional Bahaya house a short walk out of town.

COMMUNICATION

The hospital is connected by land lines. You can use both Vodacom and Zain. Ndolage Hospital has internet access thanks to a grant from the British High Commission procured by VSO volunteers in 2006.  The post office is on the road between Kamachumu and Ndolage, beside two large radio towers.

PLACES TO STAY

Outside the hospital is the Betania Guesthouse, cheap at 5,000 per bed. It is basic and clean. If you’re looking for an upgrade, go to the Kamachumu Inn in Kamachumu. It costs 15,000 per night. Rooms are self contained and have a TV.

HEALTH

Ndolage Hospital can help with all basic medical needs, malaria testing etc.  They also have a dentist and optician.

RUBYA

The village of Rubya received Catholic missionaries over 100 years ago. It is located on the edge of a beautiful sandstone escarpment overlooking Lake Victoria and Muleba to the east. It sits at an altitude of about 1500 metres above sea level. It is 20 Km from Muleba and about 80 Km from Bukoba.  The village is built around Rubya Hospital (District Hospital for Muleba – they celebrated their 50 year jubilee in 2006), The Rubya School of Nursing and Rubya Seminary, which celebrated its centenary in 2004. These are all part of the Catholic Diocese.  The village also has a Humura Secondary School, three primary schools, a carpentry school, a mechanics’ training centre and a builders’ school.  In Rubya Centre there is the Catholic Cathedral, the Posta, Rubya Mseto Primary School, Hawaka Store and a small restaurant.  Nearby is Nyakalembe, a shopping center where most goods can be purchased. Adjacent to Nyakalembe is the Sunday market. A15 minute walk south from Rubya centre are a Lutheran parish church and a Mosque.

SHOPPING

Nyakalembe is a village adjacent to Rubya and is home to most of the local shops. Basic foods like bread, Blue Band, instant coffee, milk, meat, soda, beer, flour, sugar, rice, tomatoes, onions, occasionally fresh fish and pork and many other things are available.  There is a stationary shop, two hardware shops, many tailors, basic pharmacies (the Hospital pharmacy is better), hairdressers and a large number of shops selling pots, pans, buckets, string, bits of rubber and other random things.  Go and explore. The people are friendly.

The highlight of the shopping week is the Sunday market in Nyakalembe. It is a place to shop and meet friends. Things start to pick up around 9 am. The market has a wide selection of fruit and vegetables depending on the season. These include: pineapples, passion fruit, mangoes, papaya, lemons, avocado, cabbage, spinach, carrots, peppers, sometimes potatoes.  You can also buy fresh fish and meat, eggs second-hand clothes, and local crafts.  It is good fun and hassle free.

In Rubya itself, the hospital market (south of the market) sells fruits and vegetables. There are also a few local restaurants here. The parish Hawaka shop sells sugar, flour, rice, loo roll, soda and beer.  The Seminary and the Rubya School of Nursing have shops with a photocopiers and binding services.

The post office sells basic stationary as well as the standard post office fare. The postal service to Rubya is slow and may not always be reliable.  The postal service to Rubya is slow but reliable.  The staff are very nice. Make it a point to get to know them.

EATING & DRINKING

In Nyakalembe eat rice, matoke and nyama or chips and mayai at 3 restaurants located on the road that goes to the sokoni. In Rubya try Hawaka Restaurant, opposite the Parish Church. It serves bananas/rice with meat, not bad.  There is also a restaurant next to the bus stand by the hospital. It serves rice, matoke and nyama for 1000 TSH.

The Hawaka Shop, opposite the parish, has a friendly bar with TV.  You can also wet your whistle at the two dukas next to the bus stand. In Nyakalembe try the restaurant on the way to the sokoni. If you go to Nyakalembe at night, go with Tanzanian friends.  No volunteer has ever has a problem, but it’s best to be safe.

OTHER THINGS TO DO

  1. Hike. Sit on the escarpment and soak up the view. Walk through the shambas and talk to folks. Sip a beer at one of the many bush bars.
  2. Walk to the waterfalls: they are located a two hour walk north of Rubya. To get there leave the village on the Busindi Road. Pass Busindi town and walk down the hill. Where the road forks, take a right. The road soon become a path. Follow the path until you come to a white house. Ask for directions there or continue straight ahead. When you come to fields, slowly walk down the hill.
  3. Walk to Muleba and have lunch at the New Bingo. To get there you basically walk down the hill from Rubya and go to the Greek Orthodox Church. Once there ask people where you can get the boat to cross the river. The boat looks more like a wooden box that once housed a refrigerator (Cost 100 TSH). From there walk east to Muleba. Time 3 to 5 hours depending on your ambition.
  4. Cycle to Muleba, Nshamba, or Ndolage. Jog…
  5. Visit your friends and colleagues. Once you have made some local friends, visiting them at home is always nice.  You are generally always welcome. Sunday is the Tanzania day of visitors.  If a friend’s family member dies, it is common for everyone to go and visit and pay their respects.  Your friends will appreciate it if you go.
  6. Weddings are a great way to see the local Haya traditions.  They are also a good place to dance.  Take a small present (plates, cups, a cooking pan, a small amount of money).  Don’t be surprised if before a friend’s wedding, a friend of your friend comes to you with a sign up sheet for donations towards the cost of the wedding.  It is a local custom.
  7. Read War and Peace, Anna Karina, Moby Dick, and The Complete Dickens.

PLACES TO STAY

The best options are at Rubya Hospital or Humura Secondary School. At the hospital you can rent a room for 5,000 a night in their guest house. Contact Mr. Nestor (0784 770 650). Be sure to call ahead for they may be full. You can also stay on the campus of Humura. They have a living room/kitchen/bedroom suite for 5,000 a night. They have weekly and monthly rates. The view of Lake Victoria from here is fantastic. Call 0178 052 090, 0785 768 353, 0681 940 003 or email jonathancoolidge@yahoo.com to see if the suite is available.

COMMUNICATION

Use Vodacom or zain. You can also use the internet at the hospital for 500 an hour.

HEALTH

Rubya Hospital has experienced Tanzanian medical staff, a lab for Malaria testing, a pharmacy, three X-ray facilities, physiotherapy, and an airstrip.  Volunteers will be able to receive basic medical procedures, but if it is serious, contact the IST Clinic in Dar.

Banditry in the Lake Victoria region

There is still occassional banditry on some roads. The forest just north of Biramamulo has some fugitives. In September 2008 they held up a coach and 3 passengers were killed and in October 2009 again a bus was stopped, a policeman, and a guard were killed. However many buses pass through here every day without trouble, usually with a police escort.

Surprisingly for Kagera some bandits held up about 7 cars on the Kamachumu road in Sept 2009 at 7.15 pm and took money and mobile phones. I heard rumours that they tried the same thing in February but the ploice were tipped off and they were shot dead. They were from out side the area.
The same story, dont travel at night!
I think one always has to have an eye in the mirror for cars that are tailing one and not driving with the foot flat down. I then accellerate and see if they keep up, if they do I stop on some pretext to buy tomatoes at the next village.

Rupert Gude