As we were waiting at Brisbane airport to catch a flight to Tanzania, I could hardly contain my excitement. It was my first trip ever to sub-Saharan Africa, and we had incredible travel plans…
- The biggest one: climbing Mt Kilimanjaro – a project that we worked on for months to associate it with collecting funds and raising awareness to fight Breast Cancer with our Hike For Life project.
- Before that: a safari to some of the best parks in Africa for an unbeatable wildlife experience
- And finally: a relaxing time on tranquil, idyllic beaches of Zanzibar…
But first, we needed to reach Arusha where our adventures were starting.
Flying to Tanzania
If you have a quick look at the map, it does not seem that much of a trip to go from Australia to Tanzania: we only need to go across all Australia and the Indian Ocean to reach the East Coast of Africa from Brisbane (12,000km).
Of course, it is never that easy to travel from Australia, and there was no direct flight… It took us a bit more than 24 hours in the air: Brisbane – Bangkok – Nairobi – Dar Es Salaam (16,000km). From Europe, there are many more direct flights that make the trip to Tanzania quick and easy with almost no time zone difference: this is a great destination even for short holidays!
On our last flight from Nairobi to Dar Es Salaam, we had a fantastic surprise: we flew close to Kilimanjaro. Our eyes were stuck on the window until we could see the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro drilling the clouds. Wow. What a feeling! We were going to be at the top of this Mount that is almost as high as our plane. Really? I knew Mount Kilimanjaro was almost 6,000m high, but I never realised it was the altitude of a plane flight… It made me a bit nervous and excited at the same time!
We finally reached Dar Es Salaam for our first taste of Tanzania where we spent three weeks in total.
From Dar Es Salaam to Arusha
We could have chosen to fly directly to Arusha, but I loved the idea of seeing a bit more of Tanzania… So we spent one night in Dar Es Salaam and then a full day in transit by bus from Dar Es Salaam to Arusha.
Dar Es Salaam
When we exited the airport, many taxi drivers came straight to us: it was a bit intimidating, and we had no clue on how to actually know if they were official or not. When we read guide books about Tanzania, they were highly insisting on being careful not to board a fake taxi and highlighting a lot of the pickpocket risks. Of course, I do not deny that these risks exist, but our experience was much better than what was described in the guidebooks.
After the long travel, we expected to need some rest so we chose a nice hotel near the ocean.
The DoubleTree by Hilton* happened to offer a great deal when we did the research. It was not easy to find a hotel presenting a fair price/quality relationship.
We actually did not visit at all Dar Es Salaam: although it is Tanzania’s largest and richest city, it is an economic centre and not a tourist destination – except for transit.
We were lucky to arrive on time for the sunset on the water, and also on the last day of Ramadan (a third of Tanzanians are Muslims) so we could enjoy a nice buffet for the occasion!
Dar Es Salaam is the largest city in eastern Africa by population: for my first steps in sub-Saharan Africa and after such a long trip, I did not feel at all the envy to get lost in the streets… So we opted for the easy solution and asked the hotel to help us organise our transit to Arusha before leaving Brisbane. They put us in touch with Gemini Safari, who arranged the booking for the bus and the transfer from the hotel to the bus. The bus station was a mess and crowded: I was very glad that we had a local we could trust to take us to our bus. Honestly, when I checked the information on our bus tickets, it stayed a big mystery to me how he could manage to find the bus we needed to board!
Bus trip to Arusha
Our bus – Dar Express – was scheduled to leave Dar Es Salaam at 7 am. It took us about 10 hours to reach Arusha.
It was an exciting experience. We could see the scenery and the lifestyle changing as we were going out or close to big towns. We spent most of our time with the eyes stuck on the window, and everything was interesting to comment on. What marked us the most:
- The driving: a two-way road can quickly become a four-way road if your bus wants to pass a smaller bus, who is already passing a motorbike while a car is coming in front of us. Our bus driver was not too bad, but the behaviours from other bus companies were scary when you are used to French or Australian standards!
- The women: they were the ones we could see working in the crops, carrying heavy stuff most of the time on their heads… Impressive!
- Coca-Cola: their logo is just everywhere, even in the smallest village…
We read in guide books that they took the US dollar everywhere in Tanzania and made the mistake to have no Shilling on us. I guess they did not expect us to go to remote villages where they didn’t want dollars. And as you can imagine, they did not speak English nor French in the small villages… That was a good experience to try the Swahili I learnt when I was a kid watching the Lion King! As Pumba & Timon taught us, “Hakuna matata” means no worries… then they may understand “hakuna shilling… dollar ok?”. I think they did, but even if I was willing to pay a higher price, they still refused my dollar notes. We spent 10 hours in a bus eating mint lollies and chocolate bars… an excellent diet! It was the only time we faced this small issue, as US dollars were accepted everywhere else we visited.
As we were approaching Arusha, we saw the massive base of a mountain going into the clouds. We first thought it was the base of Mount Kilimanjaro and got very excited, but it was actually Mount Meru, another big mountain not too far from it.
When we arrived at Arusha bus station, a driver booked by our safari tour organiser was waiting to take us to our hotel. Too easy! We joined the rest of our group for a relaxing time at the hotel and a briefing before leaving for the safari the next morning. Stay tuned for the blog post coming soon!
Have you ever been to sub-Saharan Africa? What marked you the most at your arrival? Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear about your experience!
Where is Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania)?
Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania is on the East Coast of Africa.
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