Return to Tanzania
Nicky Brandon, Ker & Downey’s Director of Marketing and Sales, embarks on a journey to the country of her childhood and discovers a modern safari wonderland. As told to Rina Chandarana
I still vividly remember the road trips I enjoyed as a child. My parents would pile their three daughters and a bunch of supplies into a Land Rover and set off from our home in Dar es Salaam. My first foray took place when I was just four years old. Our family camped in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, where flamingo flocks wade and zebra herds wander. This first out-of-city excursion left a lasting impression. At the time I didn’t realize it, but my parents were pioneers of safari. They were indeed nomads, and that quality has been passed down to me.
Since those days I have experienced so much of Africa, but Tanzania still holds a special place in my heart. It was a great country to grow up in; we could to go to the beach and sail, or head inland to see the wildlife. It had been 20 years since my last visit to Tanzania and as I prepared for my return, I wondered what I would experience from a place that is so familiar. My journey would bring me to the less-frequented southern safari circuit, a part of Tanzania far removed from the crowds and more representative of raw Africa. Luxury camps from the Asilia family of properties were ready to welcome me back.
After a flight into Dar es Salaam, eyes wide and taking in the city's updated appearance, I was whisked off to the Oyster Bay Hotel. The colonial-era maternity hospital was once a sprawling hotel and has been transformed into a more intimate boutique space. Being here brought back fond memories of when I used to play in its gardens after enjoying fancy lunches of freshly-caught lobster. Whether you're simply overnighting in Dar or staying a day or two, this is a serene starting point for a southern circuit itinerary.
My safari began when I hopped on a short flight from the city to the Selous Game Reserve. The luxury eight-tent Roho ya Selous camp is set up less than two miles from where I used to camp with my family. The difference back then is that it would take two days to arrive after road-tripping though the African wilderness. We had to take our own water, food, fuel, tents . . . everything. My father would set up our camp and for four to six days, we would all sleep under the stars. At Roho ya Selous I experienced a low-stress fly-camping excursion, an updated version of my family’s rustic sleep-outs. All set-up and details are taken care of for you of course — fly camping is a must-do to connect with the surroundings.
The next stop on my modern-day Tanzania safari was Ruaha National Park. I found Kwihala Camp’s six individual tents nestled between the trees. Clean lines and canvas evoked the era of the colonial explorers — elegant and eco-friendly with a vintage twist. Here I gathered with fellow travelers around flickering lanterns in the evenings to trade stories about our favorite animal encounters. Wildlife enthusiasts will love Kwihala — this is where you can really get up-close to the animals. I experienced the most fantastic safari walk here. It was totally wild and unlike anything I had ever done in my life. We bounded along over rocks and into places in the landscape I never would have been able to get to without a guide leading the way. I'm surprised that I always learn something new from my guides on safari, no matter how much I think I might know about a place or an animal.
My last stop was at Jabali Ridge where I enjoyed beautiful views of palms and baobabs. In my family road trip days, we stayed at a modest camp in the area, and it was nothing like what I experienced this trip. The plunge pool at the lodge was a welcome treat after a long day on safari, and afternoon tea was a soothing wind down. If tea isn't your thing, a gin and tonic is always available from the massive gin bar (quite elevated compared to the days when my parents had to settle for packing their own Konyagi).
After so many years away from my country of birth, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I was happy to see that a lot has stayed the same. The marvelous wilderness that captivated me as a child had been carefully preserved and the new properties nestled perfectly within. It was all very familiar and yet new and exciting, and my trip left me with the urgent desire to share.
I can confidently say that the next time I return to Tanzania, I won't be alone. Compared to when I was a kid, traveling with families has never been easier. Parents who bring their children to Africa, and especially Tanzania, have the option of overnighting in spacious villas, available for exclusive use. My kids are desperate to visit the places from their mother’s childhood, and I'm looking forward to sharing that history with them one day.