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Trip Report - Irente, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar

Littleton, Colorado
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Trip Report - Irente, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar

Days 1 and 2, November 16-17

I flew on Lufthansa from Denver to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Addis Ababa (with a stop in Khartoum), then Ethiopian Air to JRO. I had already decided I would rather take the KLM routing in future, because it gets in at a better time of day and I'd rather have 1 short flight in the US and then 2 long international flights instead of 2 long flights and then 1 short. Cementing that conviction is Ethiopian Air’s cancellation of the JRO flight (no reason given) that left me in Addis for the night. Imagine the confusion and inefficiencies of rebooking everyone and writing out hotel vouchers by hand. It took a couple of hours to get sorted out and get to the hotel.

Day 3, November 18

I left Addis Ababa at 10:20 am and arrived JRO at 1 pm. Greeting us at the door into the airport were people checking everyone off the flight for a yellow fever certificate, perhaps because we had flown from Ethiopia. I had mine, so it was no problem. I also had my visa and hadn’t checked any luggage so I was at the front of the airport 5 minutes after we landed.

My Tanzanian friend picked me up and we drove to Irente in the Usambara mountains. Took 5 hours with a few brief stops along the way. The original plan had been to visit Mkomazi National Park on the way to Irente, but since they cancelled my flight the night before, we skipped the park. I stayed at Irente Cliff View Lodge 6 kms from Lushoto, a beautiful location but definitely lacked some service standards and there were noisy barking dogs all night for 2 nights.

Day 4, November 19

I hired a local guide and hiked to Yogoi viewpoint and Magambi rainforest. On the hike, we saw a huge cave built by the Germans after World War I to hide from the British. Now it’s full of bats. It’s a beautiful area and very green, also cooler than at lower elevations. Locals brew sugar cane beer in the area. I was able to drink only 1/3 of a glass.

We enjoyed a sundowner at Irente Viewpoint and ate a terrible dinner at Turamini Hostel.

I was surprised at the large number of Muslims in the Usambara Mountains. I expected to see them in Zanzibar, but didn’t expect them in the mountains.

Day 5, November 20

A 6 hour drive to Bagamoyo. My friend was stopped 5 times by police. One officer asked if he had a fire extinguisher, emergency flares, and other things all required by law. He then asked if he had a first aid kit. My friend said it’s not required in a private vehicle but he asked if I had one. I pulled out my plastic bag of 3 ounce liquids from the plane, which he showed the officer who said, “I can’t find anything. Just give me some money, man. Anything.” My friend didn’t give him or any other officer any money (although I heard on the way home 3 days later, he got stopped 5 times and paid a bribe every time). Maybe the mzunga in the car kept him from having to pay on the way down.

Day 6, November 21

Saw the Kaole Ruins outside of Bagamoyo and walked around the town, including seeing the thriving fish market. Bagamoyo was the last stop for slaves from East Africa before they were shipped out. The pleasant, quiet town is full of history and had few tourists. Entrance to the Caravanseri was 20,000 Tsh (about $13), which seemed outrageous, especially since the guide said there really isn’t much to see inside. He and my friend argued vociferously with the staff that the charge was too much, but they wouldn’t budge. I chose not to pay. I swam in the ocean. I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of mosquitoes. I stayed at the Bagamoyo Country Club, a very pleasant hotel right on the beach.

Day 7, November 22

It took 2¼ hours to drive to Dar, a long amount of time for a short distance. The roads were crowded with traffic, and there was lots of roadwork, as they add more lanes to the highway. I enjoyed the 2 hour ferry crossing to Zanzibar. The helpful taxi driver who took us to the ferry escorted us all the way to the waiting area while carrying our bags. The ferry company told us to arrive 1½ hours before departure to check in, which was far longer than needed. I paid $5 extra for seating in the VIP or Premium section; it was well worth it. When I arrived in Zanzibar, they had me fill out an "exit" form, which was blue like the entrance forms for Tanzania, not yellow like the exit forms. They also stamped my passport.

Ate lunch in Zanzibar and enjoyed swimming in the hotel pool at Dhow Palace, a great place to end my trip. Dinner was at the Livingstone Restaurant on the beach, where I took off my shoes and dug my toes into the sand.

Day 8, November 23

I hired a taxi for a ride to the Jozani Forest to see the red colobus monkeys. A guide is included with the entrance fee. It was a pleasant walk through the forest and great monkey sightings. There were even a few black colobus monkeys there too. That was the only wildlife of the trip. Sigh.

The Dhow Palace has a lovely rooftop, which was a great place to enjoy a sundowner. Dinner was at Monsoon Restaurant (disappointing) and then we enjoyed a drink at the Africa House Hotel on the deck looking over the ocean. There is supposed to be live music there on Friday nights, but there wasn’t any that night.

Like in Bagamoyo, I was surprised at the lack of mosquitoes in Stonetown, although something bit me, because when I got home, I had bites all over my body.

Day 9, November 24

I flew from Zanzibar to Dar on Precision Air. Based on comments on Trip Advisor, I booked a ridiculously early flight so if I got bumped, I would still get to Dar on time for my homebound flight. I also arrived at the airport really early for the same reason. There was no need for concern, as everything was on time and there were plenty of empty seats on the flight. I wouldn’t do that again, as it just made the entire return that much longer and it’s very hot in the Zanzibar airport with little to do. The Dar airport has a pleasant cafeteria before you go into the international terminal.

Day 10, November 25

I flew Swiss Air from Dar to Zurich (with a stop in Nairobi), then Lufthansa from Zurich to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Denver.

General

All my flights coming and going were Star Alliance (I used miles for a free trip). All were crowded, and none offered great legroom.

I missed seeing wildlife this trip, and I was happy to see another part of the country after doing the northern circuit last June.

Everyone was very friendly and helpful. I felt safe throughout. Even when people approached me to sell things, they weren't pushy or aggressive.

Squat toilets were everywhere. Some had toilet paper; some didn't. All had faucets or buckets in the stall for washing.

Isle of Man, United...
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1. Re: Trip Report - Irente, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar

Thnks for the report. An interesting change from the usual. Shame you missed out on Mkomazi.

That Highway is notorious for the "Traffic Cops" and their little earners.

I never paid either. We got stopped for 'speeding', they love their little guns.

I asked where the 50 sign was. "It has fallen down sir!" Right well when you put it back up I will pay!" He laughed and waved us on!

Edited: 07 December 2012, 23:28
Littleton, Colorado
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2. Re: Trip Report - Irente, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar

Yes, the police were very good natured. And no one stopped us for speeding, just checking for other things. It is a shame I missed Mkomazi. I was looking forward to a more out of the way national park.

Ontario, CAN
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3. Re: Trip Report - Irente, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar

Hi Adv..... gather you enjoyed the Lushoto area and the Usambara mountains....but not impressed with Irente Lodge then? Did you post a review? Just trying to ascertain whether we can tolerate the level of service for a couple of nights or just look elsewhere to stay!! Thx

Minneapolis...
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4. Re: Trip Report - Irente, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar

Thanks for the report!

I'm sad to hear your experience at Irente Cliff View Lodge was the same as ours, more than a year after we stayed there. We hoped reviews like ours might get through to the ownership that the on-site management is not up to the task. Wonderful location, pretty sad food and service.

Ontario, CAN
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5. Re: Trip Report - Irente, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar

Adv.....think I've found your review of Irente.....thanks!

Littleton, Colorado
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6. Re: Trip Report - Irente, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar

Idiotsabroad, Yes, it is too bad about Cliff View Lodge. I heard from a local that it is owned by someone in Dar who doesn't seem to care much about it. He goes through managers every 2-3 months. Apparently there was a good manager there recently but he didn't last long either. It's unfortunate because it's a great location. I almost didn't stay there based on your review and decided to do it anyway. The worst part, and I'm not sure if I mentioned it in my review, were the dogs that barked all night long both nights I stayed there. They didn't bark during the day at all. There was a sign in my room saying not to wander around after dark because they "let a dog out." There was more than one dog barking, and it sounded like it was on the property. Made it very hard for me to sleep.

Littleton, Colorado
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7. Re: Trip Report - Irente, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar

Canuck, glad you found my review. Yes, I liked the mountains and the Lushoto area and would definitely return. Pick up a lunch from Irente Farm (not associated with Irente Cliff View Lodge). It's very good.

Addis Ababa...
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for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
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8. Re: Trip Report - Irente, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar

I gave some city tour service in Addis for people who transit through the airport.

Some of my customer experienced the same situation as you did.

Sometimes people spend some long hours almost a day in the airport waiting for the next connection . It is just hard to spend the time like this . So much boring day in a boring airport almost with no facility for recreation .

no one think about getting out and breath the open air. See the people and the city attractions . Some smart travelers knows what they do contact me and arange a city tour for them. Just a nice one tailored for them. If you have some a long transit in addis ababa again contact some local tour guyed who meet your expectation and have fun in Ethiopia .

Warmly,

9. Re: Trip Report - Irente, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar

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