This is our last day in Tanzania (not counting the few hours I will spend here in the wee hours before our 3:30 am departure tomorrow). Our tea and wake-up call was at the usual 6:30, but this morning we are packing for the return flight to Dar es Salaam. After breakfast we paid our camp bill and said goodbye to the staff. On the way to the airstrip, Zach tried one more time to spot the baby hyenas with no luck.
Our charter plane took our group on the short flight back to Dar. Our pilot this time is from Nigeria. Our bush pilots have been from all over-Spain, South Africa, and Nigeria. Most of our group is transferring from the domestic terminal to the International one headed to Poland, Dubai, Kansas City, and California. The rest of us have early morning flights and are staying in local hotels.
Donna and I are back at the Southern Sun and this time we have the opportunity to enjoy its many amenities. After check-in and our welcome drink, we headed upstairs to enjoy the air conditioning and free Internet service. It was my opportunity to let everyone at home know I was doing fine.
Later we went downstairs to have lunch by the pool. It was a lovely setting, looking more like a pool at a villa than a hotel pool. The water was too cool to get in and there was no privacy from all the business people there to have lunch outside. We also visited the hotel gift shop and found some colorful items. The traffic in Dar is just horrible, so neither Donna nor I wanted to mess with a cab ride to and from the market.
We finished out the afternoon with massages. They were a little more extensive than a woman’s massage at home (Having spent the week having to use the open toilet in front of each other and stripping off wetsuits and swimwear on our countless dive trips together, Donna and I no longer have any modesty in front of each other.) Two lovely African women came to our room and we each had a massage on the two double beds in our room. When my tummy massage made a funny slapping noise, Donna asked the masseuse to just “massage the fat off of us”. That got one of the ladies laughing and after she translated the other joined in. It was a funny moment shared by women of different backgrounds and cultures.
Unsure of what kind of meals we would get on the planes home and knowing we would miss breakfast in the morning, we decided to have a light dinner at the hotel. Packed and ready to go, we got a couple of hours sleep before our 12:30 am wake-up call. Reed and the driver were in the lobby when we came down and after a quick checkout we were headed to the airport by 1 am.
The check-in process was a little confused. Donna wanted to try to upgrade her ticket, but she was told that they didn’t sell any tickets at the airport. They did a lot of the entry by hand. Fortunately, they can check the luggage through all the way to Houston. Both of our flights are on Turkish Airlines. We have an eight-hour flight to Istanbul and then a thirteen and a half hour flight to Houston.
We enjoyed the time in the “executive” lounge with Reed before the flight. It was a little more rundown than most airport lounges, and the snacks looked like they had been there at least 8 hours, but there was internet service and we did a final email check and looked through some of the pictures we had transferred from our cameras.
Just before we got on the plane, we saw Ken whose flight left two hours after ours. Ironically, Reed, Donna, and I were all on the same row-Donna and I in aisle sets on the plane to Istanbul. I got lucky and the guy next to me moved. Donna and Reed were not so fortunate. The middle seat guy wanted Donna to change (She refused.) and then proceeded to spill into her seat anyway. He spent most of the flight with his head on Reed’s shoulder. (That I wish I had a picture of.) We said goodbye to Reed at the transfer point.
In Istanbul, Donna and I enjoyed the Star Alliance Gold Lounge, which offered all kinds of beverages; a full lunch buffet; a pool table; and even a child’s play area. It may have been the nicest airport lounge I have ever been in. We just had time for lunch and a potty stop before our next flight.
Boarding was extremely confused and we were bussed to and from the planes for both flights in Istanbul.. This time we are in the same row with a seat between us. At the last minute, a tall Ukrainian man sat in the middle seat. He had been on a month-long holiday with his family at home. Sergei is a first officer on Royal Caribbean cruise ships. He comes from a seafaring family in Odessa. He is married with two children and told me he actually enjoyed his work on cargo ships better than the cruise line; on the cruise ships people are always complaining to him about things he has no control over like the food. He doesn’t drink at all while he is on the ship, so he is enjoying the free alcohol on the long flight over. He said he doesn’t sleep well on planes and has spent most of the time walking around or talking to Donna or I. We both enjoyed the company.
Well, I will sign off here, as this is the end of my international adventure. We are about to hit the US coast and have about 4 hours left in the flight. Fingers crossed that the bags make it. Now I can look forward to seeing Rocky who is picking me up at the airport.
A photo safari in Africa was a top priority on my bucket list and nothing about this trip disappointed. In fact it exceeded my expectations. I would absolutely recommend the camps we stayed at-Jongomero and Siwandu (both operated by Selous Safari Company). From the people I spoke with, the caldera (with rhinos) and the Serengeti (wide open areas with large herds of animals) are the other two Tanzanian locations to consider. This is not an inexpensive vacation, but I promise you it is worth every cent. Until the next adventure…Natasha