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Off the beaten track

The best of both worlds: Tanzania and Zanzibar

Stephanie Rock March 20, 2014

Zebra

As a wildlife lover and outdoorsy girl, a safari had long featured on my travel wish-list. So when the opportunity to visit Tanzania and Zanzibar popped up last year, I jumped at the opportunity! I couldn’t wait to embark on a little adventure on the lookout for lions, elephants and more. And being able to stay on the picture-perfect island of Zanzibar for a few days afterwards seemed like the perfect ingredient for  an African adventure to remember.

Myself and a colleague, Barbara, who is a travel designer in our Tailormade team, met the rest of our group in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and boarded a light aircraft which flew straight into the heart of the Selous National Park. At 55,000 sq km, it is four times larger than the Serengeti, the more famous of the two safari destinations in Tanzania. On touchdown, we jumped into one of the camp’s 4x4 jeeps and travelled to the Selous Riverside Safari Camp, our home for the next two nights.

The camp was just as I pictured it, tents hidden among the bush, a communal area overlooking the Rufiji River and even a swimming pool to cool off in ! We were escorted to our tents by Masai Warriors from the local village, our suitcases perched on their heads. Not your average pop up tent used for a festival or a weekend in the U.K, these were  decked out with a four poster bed, traditional African-style furniture and en-suite bathroom complete with hot water! After enjoying a candlelit dinner I had an early night, drifting off to the gentle sound of crackling insects and baboons rustling in the trees.

We set off early the next morning and as we entered the reserve, I spotted some giraffes in the distance and eagerly started snapping away on my camera, little did I know that half an hour later, these beautiful creatures would be just steps from our jeep. We headed towards the lake, where we saw groups of hippos snorting and grunting as they lazed in the shallow water, crocodiles perched on the water’s edge and many species of birds including Egyptian geese, which funnily enough, were ‘walking like and Egyptian’ in a single file line along the shore!

Other animals we spotted throughout our safari included impalas, referred to as the ‘McDonalds of the bush’ as they are popular prey for many predators and have an M shaped mark on their rear.  We also spotted water bucks, zebras and warthogs, but we were all in search of the famous ‘Big Five’ – lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalos and leopards. First up on the ‘Big Five’ list were a herd of elephants hidden in the bush, shading themselves from the African heat. We were lucky to spot a baby elephant, which our guide explained was only a couple of weeks old.

One thing about the Selous Game Reserve, particularly during the wet season, is the challenge of finding these elusive animals hiding among the dense bush, and makes spotting one all the more rewarding! This is exactly how I felt when I first laid eyes on a lion cub, perched in a tree. To come face-to-face with this magnificent creature, one which would grow to become a fearsome predator, was quite a treat and something I’ll never forget.

On the last stop of the day we witnessed a group of buffalos crossing the river below. Three out of the ‘Big Five’ felt like quite an achievement in one day and with a camera full of shots and memories to last a lifetime, I can truly say this safari has been one of the best experiences of my life!



After a second night in camp, we were up and off to our next destination, Zanzibar. And my, were we in for a treat! We spent a night at each of the Zanzibar Collection hotels, sat side by side along the south-east coast of the island. My first night was at the four-star Breezes Beach Club and Spa, a lovely hotel suited to couples and families. My favourite part was The Tides, sat directly on the beach this private restaurant for two is perfect if you are celebrating a special occasion, or even thinking about popping the question!

The next day, I moved along to the exclusive Palms Beach, which features just six private villas complete with their own plunge pool and private beachside cabana. This hotel boasts a truly intimate feel and is the perfect location for a honeymoon or extra special holiday. Each member of staff provides a faultless, personal service and on all inclusive, you’re literally waited on hand and foot! A highlight of my stay was being served afternoon tea in my cabana, overlooking the pristine beach. Pure bliss!

Beach

My third and final night in Zanzibar was at the Baraza Resort and Spa, but from looking at my photos you may be mistaken to think I was staying in the Middle East! Each of the 30 villas is fit for a King, with opulent white and gold decor fusing Arabic, Swahili and Indian influences.  After a quick dip in our private plunge pool, we headed to a shaded area on the beach for a palm weaving class. The hotel holds several activities each day, which is a great way to learn some of the island’s traditions and also to escape the hot sun for an hour or two.

Spa

So, did my trip to Africa meet my expectations? No, it exceeded them! Not only have I caught the ‘safari bug’, but Africa remains high up on my list of places to visit. But where to next? Cape Town and Kruger National Park, the Masai Mara in Kenya? I guess I’ll have to wait and see!