Review by: Kaitlin Mullen

Overall Impressions

Wow! This was a trip that my family and I will be talking about for the rest of our lives. Having rescheduled 4 times due to COVID-19, the anticipation was electric. We were nervous to travel from the USA to Africa given the current health conditions, but from the moment we left JFK we felt safe. We flew Qatar Airways via Doha, Qatar to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. The airline required every passenger to wear a face mask and face shield throughout the flight. When we arrived, our transfer was waiting when we walked out of the airport. Everything was coordinated perfectly and we did not have any glitches in the itinerary. Overall, very impressed with the accommodations, especially the AndBeyond properties. Everything was spectacularly clean and we felt very safe. The air travel within Tanzania was simple and well coordinated. The actual game drives were unbelievable. Being that not too many people are traveling these days, we basically had the entire Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti to ourselves. The animals were spectacular. The food was out of this world. Overall, every aspect of this trip was made to make us feel like kings and queens and it was well worth the wait.

Countries Visited

Tanzania

Tanzania truly is a beautiful country. Every person that we met was kind and easy to talk with. They were excited to have us "tourists" return and went out of their way to make us feel welcomed. Most importantly, we felt very safe along our journey. Even the wildlife were not intimidating.

Accommodation Visited

Onsea House Country Inn and Guest Cottage

What a special little inn this is! The owner and chef, Axel, greeted us upon our arrival. We had one room in the main inn and then the two rooms in the guest cottage. The pool was exactly what we needed to relax and recharge after a long 30 hour journey from New York. The property is gorgeous with a nice view from the main deck. The Inn follows COVID safety protocol and the weather was perfect to eat all our meals outside on the deck. The meals Axel made us were spectacular. He took the time to sit and talk with us. He reviewed how the inn came into existence and how his goal is to educate his employees so they can further advance themselves in the tourism industry within Tanzania. Overall, a wonderful spot to stop before starting the safari adventures.

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

We have been fortunate to stay in some amazing places throughout our travels, but this lodge is like nothing I have ever been to before. From the moment you arrive at the entrance gates, you feel like a royalty. They welcome you with open arms, and a literal song and dance upon your arrival. In a COVID-19 world, they had a bucket with warm water and soap to wash your hands as soon as you exit the transfer vehicle. Hand sanitizer was plentiful and all the staff were wearing masks. It truly is a game lodge at the top of the world. The views over the crater are special and watching the sunrise/sunset from the main deck of your private cottage deck is unreal. The accommodations are elegant and unique with each suite feeling intimate and exclusive. The private fireplaces, rose petal bath and sweet treats in each bungalow are just some of the amenities this luxurious resort has to offer. The staff provide unbelievable personal service. The food is absolutely spectacular. Highly recommend the Crater Lunch during the full day tour in the Crater. This is anything but a picnic lunch - We felt like we were at a wedding! The crystal glasses, the rose petals in the ice bucket, the full-service bar, the buffet gourmet vegetables, beef and chicken, the dessert bar! We traveled for my mom's 60th birthday and this is one meal that she will remember for the rest of her life. The animals in the crater are also so special. It is a fishbowl of wild life and the guides were spectacular at knowing where the animals would be and their expertise about the behaviors was mind-blowing. It truly is a 5 star experience.

Serengeti Under Canvas

My family and I had an unforgettable experience at the Serengeti Under Canvas southern camp location. There were 7 of us total and we had originally planned to travel in May but due to Covid-19, we rescheduled for August of 2020 and eventually made the trip in December 2020. We were absolutely blown away by the experience. It is the epitome of luxury "glamping." You are immersed in nature, but are never uncomfortable in your accommodations. The staff was extraordinary, so friendly and informative, making us feel like family. Ben and his fellow butlers, chefs and other camp staff were always 2 steps ahead of you in what you would want and need. Their intuitions for excellent service are unparalleled. When we returned from a rainy game drive, they had umbrellas and rain boots waiting for us upon arrival. They memorized what each person preferred to drink and had it waiting on a gold platter for us when we returned from a long day in the Serengeti. We lucked out and had Felix as our game drive guide. He quickly became a good friend for all of us during our stay. His humor, knowledge and expertise about everything on safari was impressive. We went at a time when there were not many other safari trucks, in fact there were none, in the entire Serengeti. The pressure was on to find the animals all by ourselves as we could not just look for other trucks and know they were looking at something cool. Felix's intuitions for spotting the cheetahs, elephants, lions etc made our trip to Africa worth it. Some highlights included seeing 26 lions in 1 day, a pair of lions mating, hyenas devouring a carcass, a pair of cheetah brothers looking for a kill, and giraffes enjoying dinner with a beautiful sunset. To witness one of the 7 new Wonders of the World in The Great Migration is extremely special and fascinating to watch. Felix's passion for his job is evident and he truly is the best! Additionally, the experience of having breakfast in the middle of the wide open Serengeti with the sounds of animals not far away cannot be beat. They offer laundry service and WiFi. The fact that they can cook the gourmet meals in a mobile campfire type kitchen is shocking. The COVID protocols were followed throughout our stay, making us all feel very safe. Hand sanitizer was plentiful and each staff member wore a mask, correctly. Highly, highly recommend staying at this camp for your Serengeti experience.

Arusha Coffee Lodge

This accommodation was exactly what we needed for our last night in Tanzania. The rooms are gorgeous and clean. I must admit, however, the coffee tour was a little less than what we were expecting. The coffee beans are grown on property so you tour the property to learn how the beans are planted etc and then see how they are roasted at the gift shop. I think they could have done a better job in the presentation of this tour. Overall, it is a standard hotel and we had a nice experience.

Staff Review

I first reached out to Monique in September of 2019 to help us plan a trip for my mom, 3 siblings, my husband and my brother's girlfriend to go to Africa to celebrate my mom's 60th birthday in June 2020. Having never used a travel agent preferring, and actually enjoying, to plan all my trips myself, I did not know what to expect. However, I knew I needed guidance since their were 7 travelers and I wanted to make sure we were safe. Thank goodness I found Monique!! We ended up flying JFK to DOH to JRO, Tanzania. We stayed one night in Onsea House in Arusha, two nights in Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, three nights in AndBeyond Serengeti Under Canvas, one night in Arusha Coffee House and on the last day, we did a day hike on Mt Kilimanjaro before returning back to New Jersey, USA. From our first interaction, she was incredible to work with! Extremely fast to respond via email. She takes the time to explain everything in great detail and is honest about her opinions and suggestions. Being that she is based in South Africa, she always made time to speak on the phone with me with what worked best on New York time. Her expertise on bookings in Tanzania was spectacular, extremely informative and knowledgeable. Monique came up with a few itineraries for my family and I and was able to tweak them based on our allotted funds and what worked best for all of us. We were all set to travel in May 2020 but due to COVID, we of course had to cancel. Monique was amazing at advocating for us and rescheduling for August 2020. Unfortunately, as things in Tanzania were only just starting to open to tourism again and the status of COVID in the USA was not any better, we moved to December 2020. Monique ended up rescheduling our trip four times total!! Not an easy task. Our trip was a great success and one that my family will remember for the rest of our lives! There were no glitches in the itinerary she built for us. The transfers between the lodges, charter flights and day hike to Mt Kilimanjaro were seamless. Her recommendations to stay with AndBeyond Serengeti Under Canvas and AndBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge made our trip so special. She notified each location that we were traveling for my mom's birthday and so we had a celebration in each lodge, and even at the Shira Camp on Mt Kilimanjaro where we did our day hike. The guides even carried a cake to enjoy on Mt Kili! I believe Monique was behind all of this. A side note as well during these COVID times, my family and I felt extremely safe traveling around Tanzania. The accommodations were educated on safe covid protocols, each with plenty of hand sanitizer and staff appropriately wearing masks. Majority of the experience is spent outdoors in the fresh air. When we were hesitant to travel due to needing to get a negative covid certificate prior to returning home to JFK, I had emailed her with any advice she may have. Within a few hours, she had coordinated a location where we could set up covid testing in Tanzania. Luckily, we made some changes and avoided this completely but it just showed how many connections she had. She even had people on the ground in Qatar to help us figure out the covid situation there. Monique truly helped us build a once in a lifetime trip and held our hand through the entire process of dealing with COVID rescheduling. We were so lucky to work with her and I highly recommend her for your future travels.