Our Life Changing Trip to Tanzania

We took our trip to Tanzania in June of 2019 so this post is long overdue!  I’m determined to release it by the end of this year but its been so hard to put into words the magnitude of this trip.  It took tons of planning due to the 3 locations with different terrains however I’ve combined lessons learned for all of them into one post.  If you’re ever considering going to Tanzania to hike Kilimanjaro, go on a safari, or visit Zanzibar please read the below tips!

Kilimanjaro

  1. Don’t fill your daypack with items – all you need is a water bottle and a snack.  In the beginning of the hike we stuffed our daypack with all our snacks, medicine, a change of clothes – the whole kitchen sink.  It definitely weighed us down especially with the higher altitudes that made everything seem heavier.  Put the remaining items in your duffle bag which your crew carries as they are more accustomed to the weight and terrain. 
  2. Check your gear – pack comfortable hiking/climbing gear and make sure your shoes are broken in.  Also, buy a cheap poncho and rainproof clothes/shoes as well as waterproof duffle packing cubes.  We’re lucky it didn’t rain for the majority of our trip but the last day it basically rained the whole day. We were soaked to the bone including the things in our duffle bag.  When you’re walking for 8 hours straight in the rain nothing can really shield you but Nelli had a cheap poncho that kept him relatively dry as opposed to my “waterproof” windbreaker.  Lesson learned – bring ponchos!
  3. Understand the number of people on your crew, calculate tip, and exchange a reasonable cash beforehand.  We were so shocked when we got on our bus that it had 10-12 people on it, we didn’t think they were all supporting just 2 hikers!  The hiking company should have a worksheet on their website for recommended tips and it can turn out to be $400-600 total so it’s good to talk beforehand and divide the money appropriately.  Obviously that’s a lot of money to carry around beforehand so make sure you can access an ATM at the end of the trip to pay for the team.  
  4. Carry a credit/debit card beforehand that can be used in Tanzania at an ATM if required.  We recommend the Charles Schwab debit card.  With this card, you incur no foreign-exchange transaction fees for purchases made with your debit card and any ATM fees you pay are rebated on a monthly basis.  Very little could be bought with a credit card so we ended going to the ATM 3-5 times during our stay.
  5. Obtain altitude sickness and diarrhea medications/treatment.  We religiously took our altitude medicine that we obtained from our travel clinic beforehand so we didn’t get altitude sickness.  We also did mini hikes during our trek to get us acclimated to the high elevation.  One side affect of the elevation and the altitude medicine was (TMI) diarrhea.  Just be aware and plan accordingly 🙂 Bring adequate cleaning wipes and toilet paper.
  6. Eat electrolyte blocks when you feel like you need an energy boost.  These were a life saver when we were doing the summit trek or a long stretch of an uphill incline.  We recommend the Cliff Blok energy chews in Strawberry or Black cherry favor.  During our summit night we may have popped 2-3 of these to push through the final stretch.
  7. Invest in hydration packs that are well insulated and do not freeze in low temperatures.  This is another summit trek tip!  We brought our water pouches but for the summit night it was sooo cold that the pouches froze!  Luckily, we brought some stainless steel water bottles that didn’t freeze.  Make sure to put every layer on because that night will be freezing!  
  8. Bring power banks and portable solar chargers.  If Nelli hadn’t brought these our phones would have been dead and we would have no pictures.  Make sure you bring the necessary resources to ensure your phones are charged if that’s what you’re planning to use to take pictures!
  9. Verify trail type with your lead guide and take advantage of hotel resources.  If you are interested in knowing what tour companies we used: Team Kilimanjaro for our Kilimanjaro hike and safari trip.  They also coordinated and booked our flights to Zanzibar.   They have tons of information on their site, are very affordable, and you can rent climbing gear from them!  Our friends used this tour company to go to Kilimanjaro and had a great experience and so did we!  For our base camp hotel we stayed at Outpost Lodge which is a favorite of Team Kilimanjaro.  They are very accustomed to hikers and we used a lot of their services like hiking shoe cleaning, laundry, and we were able to store or non-hiking suitcases with them.  
  10. Train for your hike!  I feel like this is a no-brainer but make sure you do some trails that are long distance (10-15 miles) but also short interval hikes (2-4 miles) that have a steep incline.  Also, try to mentally prepare for the hike.  Part of making it the summit is just the will to continue!  Good luck 🙂

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Safari 

  1. Verify itinerary and safari accommodations.  This was a big one for me!  Similar to checking the trail route for Kilimanjaro, know what you are getting into with the safari plan.  Verify which national parks you are going to and what are the sleeping arrangements.  I chose the cheapest accommodations which I thought was the “glamping” option.  I was a little shocked that they were similar tents to Kilimanjaro which were good quality and roomy btw.  Also,  I was very nervous that the tents were set up in the middle of the national parks with no fence or enclosure around us.  Luckily, other tour companies also pitched their tents in the same general vicinity but I got very little sleep thinking that a lion or monkey could barge in!  In fact, one night I did hear lion roar a few miles away and water buffalo munching on grass next to our tent.  At the end of the day, I don’t think I would have changed anything as it made for a unique experience but just know in advance if you want to stay in a safari hotel or tent 🙂
  2. Rent a telephoto camera lens.  This was a great idea from one of our photographer friends!  We did bring our SLR for this purpose and borrowed a lens from a local camera shop.  With this specific camera lens Nelli was able to take fantastic photos from a distance.  A camera phone will definitely not suffice for this part of the trip.  
  3. Bring a gator, sandals and layer up your clothes.  Its very dusty in a lot of the national parks so a gator would have helped.  Also, you start in the early mornings and it may be chilly and then later in the day it was very hot!  Layers helped a lot in addition to Chacos sandals which i wore in the communal showers.  YAY real showers!

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Zanzibar

  1. Don’t rush Zanzibar – we squeezed in Zanzibar at the end of the trip and I wish we would have tacked on an extra day to our 3 day trip. Zanzibar will require a little bit of planning and luck as most attractions are open at certain times and take reservations.  Also, rely on your hotel to give you recommendations on beach hotels/restaurants and they will take care of the reservations in addition to city tours. At this point of the trip, the hotel graciously arranged mostly everything as I was so tired from the hike and safari. Highly recommend staying at the boutique hotel Emerson Spice Zanzibar – we really enjoyed our stay! Here’s a short list of tips and places to check out.
    • Dinner reservation at The Rock Restaurant (book in advance of stay)
    • Nightly Forodhani Market – great street food (try Zanzibar pizza)
    • City tour arranged by the hotel (recommend to skip spice/fruit tour read: tourist trap)
    • Breakfast/snacks at Zanzibar Coffee House
    • Lunch/Dinner reservation at Emerson Spice (book in advance of stay)
    • Lunch/Dinner at the Emerson Hurumzi (book in advance of stay)
    • Old Slave Market/Museum – Definitely check out the museum hours and refuse to obtain a tour guide.  Walking through the museum exhibits was sufficient and very detailed. 
    • Book a massage at Mrembo Spa (I didn’t do this because of time but I wish I had!)

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3 thoughts on “Our Life Changing Trip to Tanzania

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  1. Hi guys! Thanks a lot for choosing to follow my blog. I’m so grateful for your support. I can’t wait to read more great posts from you. Please let me know if you’re on Twitter or Instagram so I can support you there as well.

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