Review by: Laura Paasch

Overall Impressions

Just to start, I have wanted to go to Africa since I can remember. My only regret is that it took me this long. My recent trip was beyond anything I could have expected and I can't wait to go back.

Countries Visited

Kenya

My first introduction to Africa was when I landed in Kenya. We were greeted by a friendly face holding a sign with our names on it. Things went smoothly and we were soon at Hemingways. By that time, I already knew I would love everything! The people we met along the way in Kenya were beautiful, welcoming and so proud of their country. Our first guide Jimmy, is now someone I keep in contact with. I truly enjoyed all of the people and the places we stayed.

Tanzania

My first introduction into Tanzania was the Lemala Ndutu & Mara Tented Camp. Once again, everyone we met along the way was welcoming and showed us such hospitality. Even all of the pilots seemed to just be truly enjoying life!

Accommodation Visited

Hemingways Nairobi

Hemingways was a fantastic introduction to Kenya! The hotel and grounds were beautiful and the food was amazing. The hospitality couldn't have been better. We were also able to go visit the giraffes next to Giraffe Manor, as it was only a short drive. I certainly would recommend, and did recommend, this hotel to anyone flying into or staying in Nairobi.

Saruni Rhino

I can not say enough about Saruni Rhino. This was my first introduction into the world of safari. We had an absolutely incredible time here. Pulling up to the camp, which is truly in the middle of nowhere, we could see the beauty of the area and feel the tranquility. The entire staff made our stay magical, educational and like home. Our guide Jimmy made sure we got the most out of every day and was truly incredible. We had Francis and Martin as our welcome home crew each day and they made our meals wonderful. Simba's cooking was the best we had on our trip and I miss his homemade granola! Sammy was there to guide each day and make sure everything ran smoothly. When we left, we were sad. We felt that, in three short days, we were saying goodbye to a true family. On our way in, we encountered a group leaving who remarked, it's quiet out there, in kind of a rude way. We didn't really know what they meant or that they had decided to go to the Saruni lodge for their last night. Apparently, there are many more animal encounters at the sister lodge, which is also bigger. It was also very dry surrounding Saruni Rhino and some people may not like that. The drive from the airport is a full 2 hours, and may not be for everyone. However, the charm of Saruni Rhino is the isolation. We happened to be the only 2 people there and absolutely soaked it in! We loved the peace and tranquility and that we had to work to find the animals. The best part was the Rhino tracking. It was not intrusive and we respected their space, which was very important to the guides and to us! To see them in their true state was incredible. We also had a visit to the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary that brought tears to our eyes. I can't say how amazing our stay was and I wouldn't have changed one thing about it. In fact, I would love to visit again in the rainy season.

Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp

Kichwa Tembo was an entirely different next stop on our journey. It was more of a resort with shops and plenty of people around. We had a singing welcome and felt right at home. The grounds and the rooms are beautiful. It's nestled in a bit of forest with monkeys trying to get into your rooms! Taking a shower while looking out into the forest was so great. We were amazed at the amount of animals in the Maasai Mara, which almost felt too good to be true! We had a wonderful guide and were able to see so many of the animals right up close. Ranna (spelling?), the host was perfect at her job, making sure to touch base with all of us daily and showing genuine interest in our stay. There were some food-related issues, mostly due to some loss in translation, and the fact that we were vegetarian. However, they tried their best. I would certainly recommend Kichwa Tembo.

Lemala Mara

Another incredible destination! The entire staff in this camp went above and beyond to make our stay. Bruno, our talking shower (made singing shower) was the happiest person ever. He made us laugh the whole time. Not only is the camp quite isolated and peaceful, but is somehow also just 5 minutes from the airport and has animals around all at night. Our guide was new to the area but made sure we saw things that most people never see! We witnessed an hour long migration, saw lion cubs, and a cheetah pursuing her prey! We also saw the ever elusive leopard. Overall this was a great combination of tranquility and animal sightings. I would absolutely recommend it.

Lemala Ngorongoro

All of the things true of Lemala Ndutu & Mara Tented Camp can be said of Lemala Ngorngoro. In fact, we wish we would have stayed 2 nights here rather than moving to the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. We went on a beautiful and educational hike with a Maasai member of the staff. Another group had set it up and, upon my request, we were able to join. Once again, we were made to feel at home with amazing hospitality and food. Our visit into the crater the next day was certainly incredible as well. We did wish we had known more about the surrounding area as we would have made a point to see the Olduvai Gorge.

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

The beauty of this lodge can not be overstated. It has incredible views of the Ngorongoro Crater below. The hospitality and atmosphere of the main dining area was just perfect. The rooms are gorgeous. The food was plentiful, presented beautifully and delicious. However, the rooms are very cold and we were shivering even with the fireplace on. There are heating pads for the night but otherwise I could not be in the room and mostly enjoyed the main dining area. Also, while this is a perfect romantic destination for couples, the rooms are such that there is no barrier for the shower and bath. For my friend and I, staying at the Lemala Ngorongoro was a much better option. With that said, this hotel is gorgeous and perfect for couples. I am certainly glad to have seen it and would definitely recommend it.

Gold Zanzibar Beach House and Spa

The Gold Zanzibar Beach House and Spa was a perfect end to our journey. The grounds are beautiful and situated right on the beach. Our room was great and the staff went above and beyond. On our first night, we met the chef and told him we were vegetarians. From then on he went out of his way to make sure we were well fed! He made us a special pizza and offered anything we wanted, even though the options for vegetarians were plentiful. The host made accommodations for our last day. We were able to use a day room, as our flight home was very late, which made all the difference. Also, the spa is on par with any 5 star hotel, and I was there several times. The drive from the airport is quite far, however. Also remember this if you make a day trip back into Stone Town. A visit to the Jozani forest is a must. However, you must know to go very early if you want to see the birds.

Staff Review

Claire was wonderful! We had contacted numerous companies and had a hard time making decisions. This was our first trip to Africa and wanted it to be perfect. From the start, Claire made me feel at ease. Her background and knowledge of Africa and the places we would visit was invaluable and comforting. She worked very hard to make a personalized plan that fit for my friend and I. We made numerous changes and Claire was patient and understanding. When we had a finalized plan, we spoke on the phone and she talked us through the entire trip. By the time everything was all set, we were confident we had made the right decision. Also, I was happy that each step of the way someone would be there to guide us. Our trip exceeded expectations and Claire was available the whole time, as she said she would be. We had a couple of COVID glitches and Claire was able to help arrange everything. I am quite certain that Claire is an invaluable asset for Mahlatini!