Kapolondo Expeditions - 11 Day Luxury Safari and Zanzibar
Written on: June 01, 2016
I visited in May 2016
I move a lot for work, and I'm a very frequent traveler having been to probably 40-something countries and counting. It's kind of a tradition of mine that I take a trip every year on my birthday. Six months prior to it, I must have seen something online about Ngorongoro Crater or Zanzibar, and it really stuck in my head. After about a month of consideration I took about as much time off as work would allow (15 days), and used 2 years worth of American Airline miles to get first class most of the way and back to Tanzania! It would be quite an undertaking, given that I currently live in Hawaii. Because of the AAdvantage miles and American's partners, I had to fly east Honolulu-Phoenix-NYC-London-Nairobi-Kilimanjaro. I told one of my good friends about the trip (Danielle, who lives and works in Korea) and she was all about coming along. She flew west from Incheon and I flew east from Honolulu. We met up in Nairobi and flew into Kilimanjaro together. It was a long trip for both of us for sure!
Rewinding a bit...once I had the flights booked, I just needed a tour company. More specifically, I needed a tour company that could accommodate the dates that I had already booked for flights, and the things I wanted to see (Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Zanzibar). It took about a week of searching to find a company that had good reviews and fit the criteria I wanted. Then I found Kapolondo Expeditions on the Safari Bookings website.
It was a luxury tour, so it wasn't cheap ($4620pp)...but for what we got it was a great value, and by the way, if you look around, safari's aren't cheap. They could accommodate any dates we wanted, the tour was private (just us, guide, and driver), and the owner, Tony, was very responsive on emails and made sure that every detail was taken care of.
Our guide, Elias, was the best part. He is actually Tony's father and he's retired from being a superintendent in the Tanzanian Park Service! He knew everything about every animal, plant, etc. Who could possibly be a better guide than Elias? We got really lucky having him as our guide - ask ahead of time for Elias, he was great. Also, James, our driver handled all the rough roads and brush like a champ... not easy terrain in some places.
The tour itself started where they met us at Kilimanjaro Airport. They were on time with a sign. They brought us to Arusha for breakfast and a meet and greet with Tony, and then we were off to Lake Manyara for lunch and on to Ngorongoro. We stayed at Serena Ngorongoro Lodge, and it was amazing. The hotel is built of all kinds of decorative wood and stone right on the rim of the crater, it has a luxurious yet rustic feel. The crater itself was full of wildlife and made for some good safaris over those 2 days. The only animals we didn't see in the crater were cheetahs.
Next it was on to the Serengeti. Absolutely fantastic! We saw every animal possible and we got so lucky because the great migration was still going in in May (usually over by March/April). The Serengeti Tortillis camp was one of the best parts. This place was phenomenal. Our tent had its own bathroom and shower, the beds were nice, we had a private veranda where you can sip wine and listen to the lions roar in the distance at night. The staff were unbelievably friendly and took great care of us. Elias told them it was my birthday and they sang the Jambo song and made me a cake. I was sad to leave this place.
Next stop was back to Lake Manyara to the Serena Manyara Lodge. This is another very good hotel with a nice pool on the edge of a cliff and a bar and restaurant. We did one last safari down by the lake and stayed our last night on the mainland here. Kapolondo Expeditions surprised us with a private breakfast that morning with a table for two set near the edge of the cliff, 2 private chefs, and our own personal waiter - nice touch...great service. We then drove back to Arusha and got our flight to Zanzibar. This was the end of the guided tour. Elias and James were really great. They were very knowledgeable, personable, and great companions for the first 5 days.
In Zanzibar, we stayed at Sea Cliff Resort on the northwest side of the island. Again, all the transfers went smooth and everything was taken care of. This resort was a slice of heaven for sure. The bars/restaurants were great, the two infinity pools, the pier to watch sunsets, the spa, the food, the service. We also booked a few excursions with the hotel - to Prison Island and a tour of Stone Town. Also on the actual evening of my birthday we paid the guy who originally picked us up at the airport about $80 to take us all the way out to the northeast side of the island so that we could have dinner at the Rock Restaurant (if you've never heard of it, Google it, trust me). The drive is about 90 minutes and he sat there for 2 hours and waited in the van while we enjoyed the scenery and dinner. That was $80 well spent.
In conclusion, I can honestly say that this was probably my favorite trip yet. That is saying a lot because I've taken amazing trips to Cambodia, Iceland, Brazil, Peru, French Polynesia, New Zealand, etc. etc. I've been all over...and this was one of a kind. Kapolondo is a legit company...I know, trusting a website from half a world away can be worrisome, but I've never been happier with my travel experience. Tony takes care of everything, and you are in good hands with them. You can look him up on the internet, read the reviews, and on Facebook as well to make yourself feel better. I'd leave my email for you to ask questions, but I don't want random strangers contacting me! By the way, remember to ask for Elias as your guide, and enjoy your trip of a lifetime!