Kigoma and Gombe
Trip Start Sep 12, 2006
16Trip End Sep 01, 2007
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We woke up at the Diplomatic Villa, Kigoma on Wed, June 7 and headed into town to look into 1) plane tickets for a weekend departure, 2) information on chimp trekking (was Mitumba really $300-$400?), and 3) to see the town. It was pouring and our new German friends were pretty sad since they had only come to Kigoma to enjoy the lovely beaches along Lake Tanganyika.
First stop... Precision Air, one of Tanzania's two and the only one that flies out of Kigoma. Precision is notoriously inefficient and the Kigoma office was no exception. After an hour, we learned that the Saturday flight was already booked, we couldn't pay with credit cards, that the ticket would be more than we had been quoted in Mwanza (since we would be staying in Zanzibar for more that 48 hours ... duh!), and that Precision offers student discounts (which no one has ever told me even though I have flown them multiple times!). The Germans decided to book for Thursday.
Next stop... the Aqua Lodge, a dingy and over-priced ($22/night for a double) place with icky sheets and hole-ridden mosquito nets. We went there because according to the various guidebooks, Aqua Lodge is also home to Sunset Tours, a budget tour operator. This basically meant that they had a laminated price list of all the stuff we already knew about Gombe from communicating with the park staff and reading quidebooks! We found out that we could hire a boat for $200 to take us to Gombe. Aqua Lodge is in a nice location on the beach, but it is very noisy since it is across from the power station. Ah, tradeoffs... lake view, industrial noise, and icky sheets... another day in Tanzania!
#3 Kigoma Hilltop... Next we took a long winding and very hilly walk up to the Hilltop, Kigoma's only luxury hotel. Oooh, it was lovely: pool, landscaping, great food, nice rooms. Ah, to live that way again! Our mission was not recreational, we were there to inquire about their camp. Turns out it is $400 and that does not include boat! Feeling dejected, we clarified that they were indeed talking about Mitumba (per all the guidebooks and internet). Turns out Mitumba is OWNED by the park and is only $20 per person/night. Yes! A nice man at Hilltop radioed the park and were in, reservations made for the next day. He tells us that we need to take all provisions including food and water with us, so we head back to town.
#4 Back to Aqua Lodge to organize boat trip! .Arranged to be picked up at 7 am.
#5 Back to Precision to book the Friday flight. We arrive at the office at 3:30 and it is closed! Apparently, the entire Precision Office goes to the airport for "airport time" where they double as check in, security, and baggage claim workers. We buy supplies (feta, veggies, water, fruit) and then head back to wait for the Precision staff to return. They finally come back at 7:00 pm and inform us that the Friday flight is sold out, as is Saturday's, Sunday's, and Monday's. We are feeling a little disheartened about facing the train again and don't really want to stay in Kigoma until Tuesday (another 6 days!), so we head back to the Hilltop for a nice dinner (3 courses for $10) with Astrid and Marco (aka the Germans). While at the hilltop, we befriended the restaurant manager who snuck us some beers (contraband at this Muslim-owned joint) and informed us that Jane Goodall, herself, would be at Gombe while we were there!
Slept fitfully at the Aqua Lodge ... was attacked by mozzies (please no more malaria!) and annoyed by the generator sound, plus I was just plain worried about the plane situation!
Woke up on Thursday am bright and early. Alli and I decided to keep our stuff in the room and take the minimals to Gombe (change of clothes, bathing suit, towel, food, and camera equipment). This cost us a bit of money, but made us feel much more secure. We examined our provisions and realized that our feta was in rough shape (mushy and odiferous) so we pitched it! Off to the boat in a taxi with a charming young man who took our first installment ($100) and then left us with
The boatride was amazing and even though it was pricey, it was great to be in our own boat instead of a crowded lake taxi.
Almost immediately, we saw saw chimps. The first group was comprised of two moms and their babies. They were sleeping in their tree nests. It was quite funny because just like in human life, the babies got up first and started toddling and then swinging around. The moms got up and tried to put them back to bed, but the kids just weren't having it. So the mom's had to get up and feed them. You could imagine the mom's thinking, "Come on kids, can't you sleep for another 20 minutes." We got to hang out with them for about an hour.
On our way back, we came across another (or maybe the same) group of chimps. This time we saw
The next morning, we got up before dawn and got our boat guys
I decided to go for a quick swim to cool off, Alli grabbed a soda, and we both agreed that it was better that we weren't catching the Friday flight since there was no way we would make it back in time. At about 1, we got into our boat and headed back to Kigoma. On our way out, we saw Jane Goodall's boat arriving in the distance.
Once we got back in cellphone range, I turned on my phone to see if there was any luck in getting a flight... we were in luck, the Germans had managed to get up on the Friday flight, but we had to get there and pay in 30 minutes. We jumped out of the boat and got to Precision in the nick of time! Our tickets took an hour to issue, then we had to change our clothes, repack at the Aqua Lodge and jump in a taxi. Luckily for us, Precision was running late so we made the flight to Dar. Taking no chances, I booked us a room at Q-Bar, a pricey but charming and amazingly clean guesthouse in the Msasani area of Dar, before getting on our flight. We got in around 8 pm, took a taxi, and enjoyed hot clean showers and great food (mixed seafood) before crashing.
Coming next... Zanzibar, Zanzibar, you can't get there in a car!
Where I stayed