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Arusha - Dar es Salaam - London - Bristol

Heading home

View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

With a free morning before our flight home, we were hoping for some decent bird watching in the grounds on Kia Lodge. There are, however, surprisingly and disappointingly, few birdies this morning.

House Sparrow


Some sort of butterfly or moth - I have been unable to identify it

Dwarf Yellow Headed Gecko

The Fork Tailed Drongo makes it the 158th trip tick (number of different species we've seen on this trip), of which 19 are lifers (new species to us).

Some of our lifers from the trip

We spend some time chatting to a Dutch lady by the swimming pool, chilling in the room, and having lunch, before it is time to leave. The transfer to the airport is by open sided safari vehicle!

We fly via Dar es Salaam, and have a great view of Tanzania's former capital from the air.


Soon the sun is going down and we sit back to sleep our way to Doha and onward to London Heathrow.



The only thing I worry about when we get to Heathrow, is that Big Bertha (my Canon 600mm lens, which, because of its size, I had to check into the hold) arrives in one piece. She does, and all is well in the Howard Household yet again. Now all I have to do is to edit the 55,000 photos I took. Footnote: it took me six months to finish!

Big Bertha in her solid housing.

The safari has been amazing from start to finish, with super accommodation, fantastic company, and some great bird and animal sightings. Thank you again Tillya and Halima of Calabash Adventures, and of course, the wonderful Malisa, without whom the trip would not have been what it was. Love you guys ♥


Posted by Grete Howard 14:54 Archived in Tanzania Tagged sunset flight airport tanzania birding butterfly gecko sparrow heathrow millipede drongo dar_es_salaam big_bertha calabash_adventures kilimanjaro_airport kia_lodge Comments (1)

Bristol - Arusha

Heading back to our beloved Tanzania

View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

For a number of years we have talked about visiting Tanzania during the 'Baby Season', ie. the time of year when the wildebeest and zebra return to their place of birth to to continue the circle of life with a new generation of babies.

Today we set out on the journey to make this happen.

Packing light is not an option when you are a photographer, and we are also taking a number of gifts for our Tanzanian 'family' this time. With my 600mm f/4 lens, known as Big Bertha, travelling in its own flight case, we are dangerously near the 60kg checked in luggage limit for the two of us.


Big Bertha has to be sent as Oversized Luggage, as does the soft bag with gifts, and we reluctantly wave them goodbye at the special desk at Heathrow, and watch them being wheeled off into the belly of the airport. “Take good care of my baby now!”



Once we are rid of the checked in luggage, we proceed through immigration and go to The Commission pub to grab something to eat.

Salmon with curried cauliflower

Fish finger toasted sandwich

Rekorderlig Strawberry and Lime

I didn't quite manage Dry January, it's another three hours to go. Cheers!

Qatar Airways

Thankfully the plane for the first leg of the journey (London to Doha) is not full, and we are able to spread out a little with three seats for the two of us.


There is a screaming child behind us, constantly screeching, crying and whining. While David finds it super-annoying, after years of working in a nightclub I can mostly tune out unwanted noise. I put my cervical collar on and drift off to sleep.



The city looks quite spectacular as we approach the landing, all lit up in the early morning. I try to take some photos through the aircraft window, but fail miserably.

To reach the terminal building, we have a long bus journey following a slow luggage truck around the aiport apron. One we get inside, we are a little dismayed to find our connecting flight to Tanzania is not showing on the Departures Board.


We follow everyone else downstairs to the departures hall anyway, where an official scans our boarding cards and tells us the gate number. It is a long way to reach the other terminal, and involves a train journey. It seems everyone in the entire airport are right here right now, and I find it a little uncomfortable when there is a massive crush for the down escalator.


Like we did on the first flight, we have plenty of space on the aircraft for the next leg too, with two seats each. By the time we take off from Doha, it is daylight, and we have a great view of the city below.


The flight is reasonably uneventful, and although I do manage to grab some sleep, it is very disturbed sleep as a result of taking Lariam this morning (antimalarial prophylaxis which causes dreadful nightmares), restless legs and the overwhelmingly bad BO wafting from the seat in front.


Approaching Kilimanjaro Airport, we initially fly over the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which looks surprisingly dry, with clearly defined animal paths. Later we see cultivated areas, with green patterned fields; followed by the urban areas of Arusha. I cannot believe how much more sprawling the city has become since the fist time we visited in 2007.

Kilimanjaro Airport

After landing at Kilimanjaro, the international airport servicing Arusha and the northern safari circuit, we have to wait ages for the aircraft steps to arrive. The flight goes on to Dar es Salaam, and a number of passengers are continuing rather than de-planing here. A very inconsiderate such lady passenger decides that re-arranging her luggage is much more important than letting the other travellers off the plane, and spends ages blocking the aisle. Eventually she reluctantly steps aside, while still leaving her trolley bag in the gangway for us to step over. Some people should not be allowed to fly!


Before we are allowed into the terminal building, we all have to line up outside and disinfect our hands.

There is a long queue for Visa on Arrival, and as we walk directly up to the immigration counter we are extremely grateful that we applied for ours before we left home.

Both Malisa (our driver-guide) and Tillya (the owner of Calabash Adventures, the company who arranged our safari) are there to greet us with enormous hugs! It feels like coming home to family!

Soon after we leave the airport, Malisa stops to get a small treat out of the car fridge for David – a Savanna Cider, David's favourite!


Gran Melia Hotel

We see the rear side of the hotel from a distance, and comment on how lovely the balconies look. Expecting to be driving to the other side of Arusha to check in to the A1 hotel (a modern but somewhat soul-less establishment), we are delighted to be staying here instead. Despite being a large hotel, the Gran Melia is extremely nice and a completely different class to the A1. We are greeted with the customary welcome drink before checking in to our room.


It is good to see that they are well ahead of the eco-game, using bamboo straws in their drinks





Our balcony looks out over the front of the building, and we love the plants on the roofs below, making the outlook softer, adding insulation and creating more of a green space!


We have a couple of hours before we are meeting Tillya and his wife Halima for dinner, so we take a walk around the resort.

The central atrium

Giant chess set on the patio

The lobby

The lounge

Sculpture at the entrance

The front entrance, providing a covered drop-off point for guests

Love the old car!

Ponds with mosquito-eating fish along the covered walkway from the drop-off point to the reception and lobby

The grounds are more akin to a botanical garden, with the large free-form swimming pool blending in with a natural lake and waterfalls, all connected by walkways and bridges.










Having known Tillya for 13 years, and also communicated with his wife on several occasions via email, it is great to finally meet Halima in person.


The hotel buffet is very nice, especially the dessert section, and we have a lovely evening catching up on news, hearing about Tillya's future plans and discussing politics and current affairs.

Tender beef kebabs, fried yam, a local green vegetable similar to spinach, taro crisps, chicken kebabs, prawns with sesame seeds and a spicy sauce, plus a bowl of delicious dhal

Some of the selection from the dessert buffet. Shhh, don't tell anyone, but I went back for seconds. With so many different dishes to choose from, it would be rude not to!

And so the first day (and second, technically, as we left the UK yesterday) of our latest trip comes to and end; and after 32 hours of travelling, it is a relief to get into bed.

Thank you Calabash for arranging yet another safari for us.


Posted by Grete Howard 07:51 Archived in Tanzania Tagged safari tanzania heathrow cider doha arusha big_bertha calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area kilimanjaro_airport qatar_airways savanna_cider the_commission_pub oversized_luggage malisa gran_melia_hotel psanone_supermarket tillya halima dessert_buffet Comments (5)

Arusha - Kilimanjaro - Nairobi - Dubai - Birmingham - Home

The long journey home

View The Gowler African Adventure - Kenya & Tanzania 2016 on Grete Howard's travel map.


Kilimanjaro Airport

At Kilimanjaro Airport we join a long queue just to enter the departure building, caused by the first of many, many security checks. Bags are X-rayed, as are the passengers. My watch has to come off (it’s plastic, so I don’t understand why.), and they thoroughly check my memory cards from my pocket.


Once we are inside the building, we join another long queue for check-in. There are three desks open; one has a problem with someone who has left their passport back at the hotel; a larger-than-life African woman is giving the staff at the second desk hassle, and someone is trying to check in a huge South African group at the third desk. Groan. This could take a while.

Eventually we make it to the front, but for some reason the attendant is unable to print our luggage tags (the boarding cards were fine), so it has to be hand written. Our final destination is Birmingham, England, which the girl has no idea of the three-letter airport code for. We rummage through all our paperwork and finally find it.

The African woman and girl whose partner has gone back to collect his passport, have been asked to wait to one side. They are both sobbing quietly. The large South African group is still there.

We proceed through the passport and boarding card check, to wait in some sort of pre-lounge, before being called through another X-ray. Shoes off, watch off, SD cards checked, dung beetle examined. Heads shaken.


The small plane to Nairobi offers very little legroom, but as it is nowhere near full, we are able to spread out. It’s only an hour flight anyway, so no big deal.


My last African sunset. For this time.


Nairobi Airport


At Nairobi Airport we go through another X-ray (hand luggage) and scanner (people) and make our way to the transfer desk to get our boarding cards.

The officer at the boarding gate security check (more X-rays and scanners) confiscates my loose safety pins! My passport and boarding card details are recorded in the ‘naughty people book’. The whole thing is pretty ridiculous as David’s safety pin goes through fine! Doh!


We have to endure another passport and boarding card check before being allowed into the gate waiting area, and again on boarding the plane. I am not really complaining – I would rather go through hundreds of security checks if it means that we are safe from people with ill intent.




Again the flight is not full, so we take a row each, and manage to catch a bit of much needed sleep (it's the middle of the night after all).


Approaching Dubai


This journey seems to have been one long queue - here we are waiting to get off the plane

On the transfer bus

Inside the terminal there are immense crowds waiting for the X –ray and security. The machine beeps at me, so I am pulled aside to be frisked in a private room. This is a great opportunity for me to practice my extremely limited local language skills; but my “Salaam Aleykum” is met with a huge smile and the question “You speak Arabic?”



All shopped out!

Sunrise over Dubai Airport


We have great seats on this A380-800, just behind the cockpit – they appear wider and longer than usual. Yet again we have a whole row each, making the seven-and-a-half hour flight considerably more bearable.



The approach to Birmingham Airport gives me a chance to photograph England’s Green and Pleasant Land from above.




And Birmingham.


The not-so-happy ending

The landing is extremely smooth and all is going well until we come to collect our luggage! Part of David’s case is missing. We’d both strapped an extra day-sack on to the back on the main bags, but someone has obviously stolen David’s and were interrupted taking mine off as one of the fasteners have been undone.



There is no way it would fall off by itself, so this is deliberate theft! We go to Emirates Customer Service desk to report it, but they refuse to lodge a report as only part of the luggage is missing. They send us to the Lost Luggage desk, who refuse to lodge a report, suggesting instead that we send them an email to report it. They send us to the police station to report it, as it is theft, not loss.


The police don’t want to know as it “could be just lost”. We explain that there is no way it would accidentally fall off, and eventually they very reluctantly take a report, but can’t give us a reference number for some stupid reason or another.

We come away feeling extremely frustrated as no-one seems to want to take ownership, we are being passed from pillar to post, which is the last thing you want after a 32 hours journey!

POST NOTE: When coming home I try to contact Emirates to claim for the lost items – guess what: they don’t want to know because we don’t have the ‘Luggage Irregularity Report Number’ from the original people who didn’t want to know! Grrrrr

Three lessons learned (thankfully there was nothing of any real value in the bag):

1. Don’t attach anything to the outside of the bag that can be removed, even if it takes a lot of effort.

2. Get the checked in luggage cling-film wrapped, especially if we are travelling through Nairobi Airport.

3. If we do suffer a loss of any kind, INSIST on a report!

The final insult

Lyn and Chris have been patiently waiting for us to finish dealing with the Emirates counter (10 minutes), Lost Luggage desk (10 minutes) and police (45 minutes), but we can finally call the Valet parking company and get them to deliver the car for us to drive home.

After just a few minutes the car arrives – complete with two scratches that were not there when we dropped it off. Chris very politely points them out to the delivery driver, who brusquely replies: “You have to prove it wasn’t scratched when we received it” and hands us an email address. Great! Another person with a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude.



Please take me back to Africa where we constantly received excellent customer service!

SECOND POST NOTE: The parking company’s photos taken at the time of delivering the car to them proved inconclusive (so they say), but they offer to pay for restoration of the paintwork as a ‘gesture of goodwill’. The good news is then scratches come off with some T-Cut and they refund the entire parking charge.


Back home we all agree what an amazing time we have had – and we start planning the next one

Posted by Grete Howard 06:42 Archived in Tanzania Tagged police home_sweet_home emirates theft kenya_airways lost_baggage kilimanjaro_airport nairobi_airport birmingham_airport baggae airport_theft police_report Comments (1)

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