Today was the start of the overland portion of the tour. Travelling from Zanzibar to Victoria Falls is a route that I have wanted to do for years and so it feels great to be on the road again. But first, we needed to take the ferry from Zanzibar to mainland Tanzania.
Getting ready to leave Zanzibar
I’m not great with early mornings and so I didn’t sleep well last night – my brain wouldn’t let me in case I didn’t wake up in time. In the end, I was one of the first people to arrive for our breakfast which, while basic, was filling and set us up well for the long day ahead.
We left the hotel at 06:15, after being given our boarding cards for the ferry, and made our way down to the port to board our ferry to the mainland. The whole process was just as you would expect for a transport hub in Africa – chaos, with no obvious signage and people pushing each other out of the way every time they had to queue.
After having our boarding passes and passports checked we checked in our luggage and made our way onto the ferry which would take us to Dar es Salaam in only 90 minutes.
Our tickets were pre-booked for us by Intrepid but the ferry can sometimes be full so it’s always recommended to book in advance, even if only a day or two before you travel. This can be done online or in person at the port.
Another thing to note – there is no system for bags so make sure you take a note of which trolley your bags are put in (they are numbered) so that you can find them again at the other end. We didn’t, and it meant having to look all over the terminal for our bags at the other end.
Travelling on the Zanzibar Ferry
After boarding we sat near the front of the boat, which is a prime location as it’s near the door to the outside deck. Unfortunately they don’t let people sit outside until after departure but once we were out of the port the doors were unlocked and most of us went outside to enjoy the view. There aren’t many facilities on board so the outside deck often ends up being the highlight of the journey and for this reason the seats usually fill very quickly.
The views leaving Zanzibar were great. There isn’t much to see once you leave the coast behind, though, as you’re travelling across the open ocean. This can mean that it can be choppy, so if you get sea sick make sure you take a tablet before your journey. The seas stayed calm for us but, due to the speed of the ferry, it was very windy which caused problems for the girls wearing veils in the row behind us.
If you get sea sick then avoid the afternoon crossings as this is when the sea is generally rougher.
We were treated to some great views of Dar es Salaam on our approach although, as with the departure, the deck was closed once we got close to shore so we made our way inside to prepare to disembark.
The arrival process was as chaotic as the departure process in Zanzibar with people pushing all over the place, and no obvious signs. As Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania you need to go through passport control when arriving on the mainland. We battled through the crowds there, and the queue for security, before heading outside to board the minibus which would take us to where our overland truck was parked.
Driving through Dar es Salaam
It took around half an hour to travel by minibus to the Milimani City Shopping Mall, on the outskirts of the city, to meet the truck.
Intrepid always keep the truck on the mainland, rather than sending it over to Zanzibar with the passengers who started in Nairobi, as it gives the driver time to do any maintenance that may be needed. It also saves a lot of time since the group can take the faster ferry from Zanzibar, and the truck can avoid getting stuck in horrible traffic near the harbour.
Not only that, but a shopping centre is a great place to stock up on supplies for the trip ahead. The journey to the shopping centre was interesting – the traffic reminded me of the chaos of Cairo. Additionally, the side door didn’t close properly so a man had to stand next to it and hold it closed.
This is Africa!
Most of our group, other than a couple, opted to upgraded to single supplements to avoid having to share a tent. To make things even more comfortable we made the most of the supermarkets to buy extra supplies. Many of us, myself included, bought some pillows to use in the tents. I also bought two cheap day backpacks. I would use one of them as a grab bag containing everything I would need in my tent and the next morning, and I would use one when we were stopping in places where I wanted to keep my valuables locked up in my main backpack in the truck.
After a snack in Grano Coffee it was time for something that every overland travel enthusiast looks forwards to, getting on board the truck for the start of our journey.
Driving across Tanzania
There was a long drive ahead of us to the Mikumi National Park so, after boarding the truck, I settled into a seat near the front and just enjoyed the views. The scenery in this part of the world is spectacular, and there is just so much life to see, so I don’t mind the long travel days.
We stopped as a truck stop for lunch, although I wasn’t hungry due to the big breakfast and the cake that I ate at the shopping centre, so spent the lunch break exploring and enjoying the view.
It was already evening by the time we arrived at our camp site, at the Tan-Swiss Lodge near the Mikumi National Park, but I could tell that is a great place. The facilities look great, and it was clean which makes all the difference. Unlike a lot of places I have visited in Africa the water pressure was also good when I had a shower tonight. There is also a swimming pool which I won’t have time to use on this stop, as we are only here for one night, but there will be further opportunities to swim I’m sure.
Unfortunately it’s another early start tomorrow – a 06:30 departure for a game drive in the National Park – and so it’s early to bed for us tonight.
I wasn’t originally going to do the game drive tomorrow, since the cost in the trip notes was quite high. However, due to a reduction in business during COVID, they have reduced the cost of it by almost 50% and so I decided to go for it.
Life on the road
It feels great to be out on the road again on an overland tour. I’ve missed the sense of freedom that it gives, and the opportunity that it gives to get under the skin of a country. It’s a little strange only having 8 people on this tour but it does feel a lot more intimate.
Overlanding is the only way that you can truly appreciate a country that you visit, and the only way to see some parts of the world, so it’s a style of travel that will always appeal to me.
There’s a lot of energy and excitement on the truck at the moment with (most) people spending the day either chatting or watching the world go by. I’m sure that, as the trip continues, time on the truck will be used to catch up on sleep more and more, however.