Tanzania Cycle Safari by Exodus Leader and overseas partner Mark Faulkner
Exodus Leader and overseas partner Mark Faulkner recently tried and tested our new trip the Tanzania Cycle Safari. He described it as ‘a trip that promised more than expected’.
Waving good-bye to one very envious wife, (note to self, mustn’t forget a present) I set off from Heathrow to start a truly superb cycling trip discovering Tanzania. The brochure promised cycling and safari, which I can now say was the least it delivered. Nothing prepares you for giraffe and zebra galloping past when out for a day’s potter on the bike. What was also delivered was a close up, friendly and well received view of the culture and people who live in Tanzania, the biggest tribe being the Masai. Bikes are loved worldwide and, this is a fact, there is no better way to introduce yourself to a remote tribal village than cycling into it. Yes, you will cause a stir and yes, you will be the centre of attention, but rolling by at 5 mph, stopping to shake a few hands, trying to have a chat, these are real experiences not encountered when travelling by bus.
This was my first visit to Tanzania and the excitement on the plane was building as we banked around the icy summit of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and touched down on African soil. After clearing customs, there to greet us was Julius, our leader for the trip. We all new it would go well from here on in. Tall, lean and with dreadlocks flowing down his back, Julius had a warm smile, an easy manner and a kind of local African cool which one felt would open doors. Exodus now, where possible, uses local leaders as opposed to UK leaders and this trip demonstrates perfectly the benefits. We found, as we were discovering this new country, having Julius as our leader, born and bread in Tanzania, all our questions were easy to answer and he smoothly introduced us to people and experiences far better than an imported westerner would ever manage to do. With a trip like this, which is overflowing with local interest, we would have wanted no one else.
More about the biking, this after all is a cycling trip. We all hired bikes which turned out to be a good decision. We were given shiny, new or almost new, full suspension western spec’ mountain bikes. Throughout the trip Juma, our second cycling guide, took care of all our bike maintenance needs. This was a full service trip and each day we were handed a clean and newly oiled bike, we could not have wanted for more. The cycling was excellent too. As the villages we visited were connected by dirt road, or in some cases no road at all, then this trip had to be classed as off road. That said it is also open to the novice cyclist. The terrain under tire changed constantly from dirt to sand then dust to rock, and we had to keep our wits about us, but the pace was steady and if needed, at the odd fiddly bit, we could always get off and push. Julius would tell us what was coming up and knowing the support Land Rover was never far away, (one can always hop on board for a mile or two) all the group managed to enjoy a full days cycling.
The cycling was varied too, one day we would be heading from Masai village to Masai village, others we would be on the wide open plain watching buffalo gazing and flamingos gliding overhead to land on a near by soda lake. Other days the track was hard packed and we would eat up the miles gently climbing and descending over rolling agricultural terrain. Finally on our last days cycling, near lake Natron, we saw a distant volcano erupting. This was a first for me, and obviously can’t be guaranteed on every trip, but just goes to prove that one never knows what the next interesting thing to happen will be.
All of this and we haven’t even mentioned the Safari. Tanzania is rightly famous for the Ngorongoro crater and Serengeti wildlife parks. My descriptions could not do the safari justice, but suffice to say if you like animals you will love the safari. As with all wildlife nothing can be guaranteed but we saw; migrating wildebeest, dozing leopard, a pride of frisky lionesses eyeing up an unsuspecting warthog, a crocodile, hyena with their cubs, an enchanting herd of elephant (I personally think they are the most interesting as they are always interacting and doing things), hippos out the water grazing, giraffe not more than arms reach from the vehicle, zebra and monkeys of course and one girl in the group narrowly missed stubbing her toe on a well disguise and wild looking tortoise hiding in the grass.
Finally I must make mention of the behind the scenes support and crew. Everyone was charming, friendly and efficient. Our tents were large and new and were always up and waiting for us, the food was great, the beers and drinks crates were magically re-stocked, and the campsites were either 5 star will pools and a bar or remote and wild but stunning in their location. We all had a wonderful time, and all of us received a lot more than we bargained for with animal sightings, culture and volcanos. I’m even sure Exodus has some new converts as “what trip next” was a regular topic of conversation.
As you have probably picked up I have had a great time and if asked to summarise in one sentence I would describe this holiday as a discovery trip by bike in a country that delivers more than it promises.
Mark travelled on our Tanzania Cycle Safari.