The land of beautiful beaches, warm weather, sprawling Serengeti plains, the highest mountain in Africa, and of course… Freddie Mercury – Tanzania is a land filled with delights and discoveries second to none.
Our home away from home for the four nights of our stay was the picturesque four-star Southern Sun Dar es Salaam hotel, which is located very centrally in the suburb of Kivukoni, a beautiful old neighbourhood with architecture harking back to its Arabic heritage, which adds to the air of history and adventure that exudes from this city.
The hotel is modern and beautifully decorated in dark, polished woods and leather, with an exotic Moroccan theme running through it – artfully blended with an intrinsically African feel as well, from the arches and carved wood work partitioning’s to the fresh green plants and gleaming tiles (it’s too hot for carpets in this part of the world.)
The hotel offers comfortable and spacious accommodation – our Executive room was beautifully decorated in whites and blues and the view out over the hotel pool and the city, with the sea in the distance was a very welcome sight after having missed our connecting flight and spending some time in the airport in Nairobi.
All amenities are supplied in the room, from a tea and coffee station, workstation, DStv, bottled water (vital for foreign travellers), as well as bath and a shower in the en-suite bathroom.
Head back to ground floor to go exploring and push open the heavy wooden doors that lead to the Baraza Café, Grill & Bar – one would be forgiven for thinking perhaps you were about to enter a middle Eastern souk, and the delicious aroma’s wafting from the kitchen are enough to set your mouth watering almost immediately.
The fusion menu offers a wide variety of options from the standard burgers and salads to tasty local fresh fish, calamari and meat cuts and we have to just mention the Baraza Swahili Prawn Curry which was such a hit that we had it two nights in a row. You will certainly not be stuck for choice, and the service was efficient and friendly.
At the rear of the hotel you will find the crystal-clear pool, with surrounding lush gardens and this is where we spent a few days gathering our thoughts and enjoying the beautiful peace and tranquillity of this lush area, complete with cocktail in hand, of course!
The hotel also has an upmarket gym, lightning speed Wi-Fi and conferencing facilities, and although predominantly a business hotel, it served as the perfect, central base for our exploring and adventures during our time there.
A stroll through the streets in the morning is a refreshing look at how the locals live their day to day life, although it does get quite warm around midday, and the hotel is situated right next to the well-known botanical gardens, with an interleading gate, and a walk around these is highly recommended as well.
Within walking distance is the General History Museum in which we spent a morning exploring more about the rich and diverse cultural heritage that moulded this country in to what it is today. Also, in close proximity is the Dar es Salaam Zoo, and the Kivukoni Fish Market is something to be seen to be believed.
We utilised the services of a driver and tour guide during our stay and found that not only the most affordable and efficient way to get around, but also appreciated his recommendations on the best things to see, and what to skip, too.
A trip out to Oyster Bay and Coco Beach is a must – and do stop by Tinga Tinga Market to purchase some beautiful paintings, art work and other memorabilia to take home with you.
If you are feeling peckish on your trip, The Slipway in Oyster Bay offers a selection of restaurants, shops and some cool local eateries as well – we enjoyed a traditional beef stir-fry with rice and a side of leafy greens resembling spinach, which was not only delicious but a bargain, located in what used to be a shipping container that has cleverly been turned in to a bar and eatery with funky artwork and paintings adorning the walls.
A two-hour ferry trip away lies the beautiful island of Zanzibar, birth place of the formerly mentioned Freddie Mercury, and no visit would be complete without a walk around the historic, and bustling Stone Town.
Pop through the thin, and relatively well disguised doorway, in to the iconic Mercury House, take a walk around the Palace Museum (Beit al-Sahel) which is really informative and a great way to understand the history of Zanzibar, as well as a stroll through the remnants of The Old Fort (Ngome Kongwe) and shop local artefacts, jewellery, teas and coffees and fabrics in one of the ‘bazaar’ like shopping emporiums – all airconditioned and a welcome respite from the heat outside.
While waiting for your ferry, make sure to have a drink in the Mercury’s bar which is located right next to the ferry terminal and looks out over the bay and the harbour, this is an ideal spot to watch the hustle and bustle of cargo being loaded and unloaded off the myriad of vessels heading in and out, and the local fisherman, who rest in the shade repairing their nets before their afternoon departure out to sea on the iconic local ‘dhow’ boats – recognisable with their pointy three sided sail.
After a day spent exploring in the busy city, returning to the hotel was always a pleasure, the peace and quiet within its walls a balm to the soul.
We have to give a special shout out Israel, who looked after us during our stay like we were part of his own family, just giving that extra personalised touch with his expert recommendations and sunny greetings – and certainly made our trip a whole lot more fun from arrival to departure at the hotel.
Travel to Tanzania is relatively affordable – we flew with Kenya Airways from O.R Tambo International Airport to Nairobi Airport and then another hour’s flight from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, and were collected by a shuttle, which we had pre-booked with the hotel and SAA also fly daily to Dar es Salaam. As a South African citizen, you do not need a visa for trips shorter than 90 days.
The best months to visit Tanzania are June to October as it is the dry season and if you would also like to view the game in The Serengeti, then June and July are your best months.
Tanzania is a tropical country, so do make sure that you research malaria areas, and plan accordingly with medication etc.
Find out more about the Southern Sun Dar es Salaam hotel online on their website here…