I went to Tanzania in April 2014 and upon arrival, I was welcomed by the lovely Samina Bunker, Manager of GapGuru Tanzania. We drove to the house in Sekei, Arusha which is very diverse when it comes to social statuses of the residents. The house is located in a rather safe area, made even safer by the night guards Mr Lucas and Mr Petro. At night they will open the gate for you if you forget your keys in the house and they're very protective of the volunteers. I met Mama Sweet the housekeeper whose cooking is to die for! (I'm a foodie). There is always something different to eat, with vegetarian options as well. The house is kept neat and tidy by Mama Sweet and it's really cosy. There are two ensuite bedrooms which can accommodate up to 4 people (I think), and two other bedrooms with a shared bathroom across the hall. There are books to read for those who enjoy reading, and there's a small TV now too. The night I arrived, we went out for my welcome dinner at the Impala Hotel and had Indian food. It was really nice.
The following day I left for a 5 day safari. It was breath-taking! I met new people, made new friends and took loads of pictures! There are solar panels on most of the campsites and power in the car as well so you can bring your camera chargers along. Bring binoculars as well and buy a very good camera with a very good zoom to capture those animals that would be too far. The food on safari was amazing. Full English breakfast, roast chicken and sandwiches for lunch (I love chicken), - there are vegetarian options as well - and a 3 course dinner. I saw lions, leopards,hyenas, loads and loads and loads (literally thousands) of wildebeest, zebras, buffalos etc on the endless plains of the Serengeti, loads of elephants, giraffes and ostriches at Tarangire, hippos at Lake Manyara and rhinos in the Ngorongoro crater! I came so close to touching an elephant (although I didn't dare), it was phenomenal! We also visited a Maasai village and went into their houses (at a fee of 10,000 shillings which is equivalent to £4) and had a look around. They are very interesting people.
After safari I had induction with Daniphord, the co-ordinator, and we went to Namanga to get my working Visa at the Kenyan border. My typical working day started at 7am when I woke up to get ready for school. I made myself breakfast and walked 3 minutes to get the dala dala (mini bus) to Sanawari where the school I was working at was. The journey was about 10 minutes and then I'd either get a piki piki (motorbike) to the school, a dala dala if I'm lucky, or walk for half an hour to the Engilang'et School. The children are amazing! After meeting me, the next day a group of 7 came rushing to me to give me a hug and help me to carry my books to class. They respected me but they knew I was like a friend to them so they rarely hesitated to ask questions. The teachers were welcoming as well, which made it easier to fit in to the environment. After school I'd usually go into town and have lunch at the stadium restaurant which is a local place with great food. They make the best Chipsi Mayayi (chip omelette, I usually requested bits of bbq'd meat to be added to it too - amazing!), then I'd wander around town, discovering places and just trying to get accustomed to the environment. Saturdays or Sundays I went hiking with the Twende Hiking Group where I made new friends as well and enjoyed seeing Tanzania in a non-tourist way (ish).
My favourite hang out place was a cafe at Shoprite shopping centre on the left side, where there is great hot chocolate and free wi-fi. There are about 4 ATMs in that area, a Mexican restaurant which I never found time to go to, an ice cream parlour, a pub, art gallery, bookshop, you name it. On the right side, towards the NBZ bank (I think that's what it's called) right next to shoprite, there's a great, cheap souvenir shop with amazing, good quality things such as Maasai blankets and cool t-shirts. It's opposite the camping shop, next door to a 'designer' shop.
Another great place is Fifi's cafe which is very mcuh Western including the prices. The food is great there too. Every week we went out for dinner somewhere, and my favourite was Mt Meru Hotel which is very beautiful! Thursdays and Fridays they do happy hour so you buy one drink and get another one free. There's always a live band playing and the most delicious BBQ meat ever! I'd recommend the mutton/lamb as it's to die for, and for girls who like cocktails, try the Pink Mpenzi; it's got gin, rum, guava juice, grenadine syrup and something else. It's really good!
The only problems I faced were getting change on the dala dala and people trying to sell me things. I think that is something which will always occur as they really want to sell their items and art work etc. The trick is to be firm but not rude, and carry on walking without any trouble. Also, the sun! I'm black African and I've never had trouble with the sun, but in Tanzania I got sunburnt for the first time in my entire life. So if you're black African/Caribbean or whatever and you don't normally wear sunscreen, I'd strongly advise you to bring sunscreen, especially if you're on anti-malarial tablets as they increase your sensitivity to the sun.
During my final two weeks in Tanzania I did a short play with the kids and they managed to learn their lines in just one week! They are a lovely bunch to teach and they make it so much easier. I have no interest in becoming a teacher in future, career-wise, so I was unsure of my capabilities. But once you start, you become so passionate about it that you spend time at the house planning lessons, planning fun activities to help them to learn and impatiently waiting for the next day to come so they can enjoy whatever it is you have planned for them. It was all worthwhile! After leaving the school, I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro via Machame route. The first few days weren't that strenuous to me, except for the odd "wall" you have to climb over. I experienced altitude symptoms on the 4th day at 4,600m AMSL, so I did well. I didn't make it to Uhuru Peak unfortunately for health reasons, but it is so do-able! Coming down, for me, was more painful as it's constant downward sloping so my knees were quite worn out by the time we reached the gate. However, it was an amazing experience!
If you're wondering about how much money to bring, I'd say about £1,000 if you really want to enjoy yourself. You could go to Zanzibar on that as well which costs roughly $500 including flight, accommodation and food (that's about £350 or so), then tips for safari and Kilimanjaro, roughly £350 or less, then souvenirs and nights out. Try the roast corn while you're out there, and don't buy one that's already been sitting there for ages, buy a fresh one or one that's almost done so it's still soft and juicy. Another tip is if you're eating at a local restaurant, when they say "roast" it's not really roast, it's like a stew with loads of sauce on it. Don't fall into the same trap I did! Another great place to go to is Maji Moto (hot springs) where you can swim for the day in the clearest water I've ever seen. Also, check out the Arusha waterfall and the Cultural heritage gallery.
There's so much to see and so much to do in Tanzania, and I absolutely loved every minute that I spent there. I would truthfully recommend this trip to anyone and honestly say you will have the time of your life! Don't hold back and feel unsafe because Tanzanians are actually friendly and I know most Westerners aren't used to people being too friendly, you get suspicious but no need! Of course be careful not to be too friendly just in case there's one odd person with a motive, but trust me when I say they are harmless; it's just the African spirit to be friendly so don't worry too much! It's a true African adventure!