Committed to creating unique, African safari travel experiences. We go where YOU want, and depart when YOU want.

Travel Tips

Activities to Do in Karatu Tanzania

Activities to Do in Karatu Tanzania

karatu Activities to Do in Karatu Tanzania

Karatu, Tanzania is a colorful  town which serves as a relaxing pause after wildlife safari. Located along the northern safari circuit, Karatu serves as gateway to the Ngorongoro Highlands and is located between Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater.

Due to its location, many safari goers end up overnight or stopping here for a quick break earning it the nickname “Safari Junction”. The busy downtown of Karatu is a mix of old and new with safari vehicles, local buses, and brightly colored  tuk-tuks riding alongside Maasai herders and ox-carts, while just outside town cultivated Iraqw farms and villages merge into the green vegetation of the Ngorongoro Forest.

Whether you are looking for cultural tours, hiking and biking opportunities, a chance to enjoy a slice of peaceful rural Tanzania, or simply a break from the dusty safari game drives, we think you should consider a stop in this underrated town. Here is our list of the top 10 things to do in Karatu Tanzania based on our visit. 

Top 10 Things to Do in Karatu Tanzania

As we noted, there are few guides written on things to do in Karatu. In fact, here is Lonely Planet’s description of Karatu: “This charmless town 14km southeast of Lodoare gate makes a convenient base for visiting Ngorongoro if you want to economize on entry fees” and the popular guidebook lists practically no suggestions for things to do.

We would not say Karatu is charming exactly (not sure we’d describe any of the towns in Tanzania as “charming”), but we found Karatu to be a delightful bustling town that serves as a great stop for a bit of relaxation between game parks and an excellent place to engage in some cultural tourism.

We chose to explore the area with a local guide and specifically arranged a few different guided tours with friendly and knowledgable Richard Njuga, coordinator of the Ganako Karatu Cultural Tourism Program. Proceeds from the cultural tours are used to support local environmental, educational, and health projects through KCECHO, a non-profit organization in Karatu. Almost all the listed experiences in this article can be arranged through Ganako Karatu and your hotelier who might offer additional options as well. Below is our top 10 things to do in Karatu in no particular order.

Take a Karatu Town Tour

A great way to  spend a couple of hours is to take a stroll around the town of Karatu. Visit the marketplace where you can explore rainbow-colored stalls and small shops that sell a bit of everything from vegetables and spices to Tinga Tinga paintings and carved wooden ornaments. This is a great place to barter for souvenirs and mingle with the locals. Along the way you might want to stop at a street vendor for a local snack such as fried cassava, chapati (fried flat bread), or fried bananas.

Keep a look out for the little mobile kiosks alongside the main road which have some colorful American namesakes such as the Mrs. Obama and John Kerry gift shops (there is also a Obama Hotel in town) which were featured in the The Amazing Race. In addition to the marketplace, we’d recommend venturing to one of the local brickmaking sites as brickmaking serves as a major industry in the area and the process is interesting to watch. If you are interested in a richer exploration of the town, consider booking a guided tour which can likely be arranged from your hotel or through the Ganako Karatu Cultural Tourism Program. 

Drink the Local Coffee

Tanzanian coffee may not have the international recognition of coffee from nearby countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya, but coffee has been grown in Tanzania for centuries and is one of the country’s largest exports. Karatu is an ideal growing area because of the mineral-rich volcanic soil and the altitude of the northern highlands.

There are a number of coffee plantations in the area, including the plantation at the well-known Gibb’s FarmShangri-La Estate  which produces NgoroNgoro Mountain Coffee, Blackburn Coffee Estate, and Ngila Coffee Estate. You can decide your level of interest in the local brew from simply sipping some of the local coffee at your lodge, buying a bag of beans to take back home, visiting a coffee plantation to learn the coffee production process, or actually staying on a working farm and coffee plantation such as Gibb’s Farm or the Shangri-La Estate.

Visit a Local Brewery

Travelers should try the local coffee while in Karatu; however, we also found out that Karatu has another type of brew for those wanting to be a bit more adventurous. It is probably best to visit with a guide but almost any local can also point you towards the brewery. We followed our guide Richard away from the market and through a maze of streets to the local brewery. The beer is boiled in one smoky room and stirred, fermented, bottled, and drank in another large room.

For less than a dollar, you are welcome to sample a cup of the beer. Richard asked that they give us beer that had been recently boiled to avoid any gastrointestinal issues (the safety and sanitation standards are not exactly up to par with Coors). A woman used a ladle to scoop a plastic cup full of beer from a plastic bucket of warm beer. The beer was warm and chewy as there were grains still remaining, but surprisingly it was mild and smooth in flavor. We made some quick (and tipsy) friends at the brewery before parting who seemed amused at our visit. We also walked by some other local people nearby who were grinding corn and other grains to be used for beer and spirits.

Volunteer your Time to a Worthy Project

There are a number of potential volunteer and charity opportunities in and around Karatu where you can benefit the local schools and orphanages, community centers, churches, or environment. Such opportunities can take place over the course of a day or last months depending on your interests and background. Remember that while you may want to work directly with kids, unless you can devote a significant amount of time (e.g., be a steady presence), it is less disruptive to children to help in other ways such as building school furniture, putting up a fence at the local orphanage, collecting school supplies, or painting a classroom.

It is best to commit to a project in advance so that the organizer can be prepared for your visit. Even if you don’t want to volunteer your actual time, you can still donate to a local project by donating money or supplies (e.g., school or medical supplies). Given our healthcare background, we took the time to visit the non-profit Foundation for African Medicine and Education (FAME) clinic and hospital founded and run by American husband-wife team Dr. Frank Artres and Susan Gustafson. Our visit here and discussion with both “Dr. Frank” and Susan was really inspiring and the clinic is an amazing example of what people can do when they dedicate their time to making a difference! Free guided visits to FAME can be arranged but must be done so in advance.

Explore the Karatu Iraqw Market

On the seventh day of each month a large market springs up in Karatu with a smaller version also taking place on the 25th of each month. This bimonthly market with local Iraqw vendors sells handicrafts, livestock, food, spices, clothing, household goods, pottery, and other items. A visit to the market is a great opportunity to pick up some unique souvenirs and stretch your legs. If your visit doesn’t correspond with the dates of the market, you can still visit the marketplace in Karatu town. 

Learn about the Iraqw culture

The Iraqw people are a Cushitic-speaking ethnic group who are well-known for their agricultural skills. The Iraqw have a large presence in the Karatu region and you can learn more about the Iraqw culture by interacting at the local markets, visiting a village, or even arranging a homestay. We took a hiking tour with Richard at Ganako-Karatu to an area studded with small Iraqw villages, farms, and homes just outside of Karatu. While many Iraqw now live in more modern housing, some Iraqw still live in traditional Iraqw houses made of mud, sticks, and straw.

Historically, the Iraqw and Maasai were warring tribes (there is still some animosity between some members of these groups) and the Iraqw devised a way to keep the Maasai from being able to steal their cattle by building their homes up against hillsides and keeping the animals inside the home. At night Maasai raiders would not be able to locate the homes or animal pens as they’d walk right along the roofs without realizing the Iraqw were dwelling inside with their goats and cattle. Along the hike we were able to see some of the traditional homes, meet some locals tending to their animals and crops, and even got to both try our hands at grinding and pounding maize.

We also visited a homestead of a lovely Iraqw woman who lives with her eight children and her mother in a traditional home. Sadly the husband/father ran out on the family several years ago, making it very difficult for the family to earn a living. We were offered seats on wooden stools and cups of hot tea. While no one in the family speaks English, we were able to converse a bit with the family with Richard serving as a translator.

Chickens, goats, and dog walk in and out of the home with a goat pen located in the center of the home and a cattle pen outside. It was very humbling to see how simply the family lives and it is clear that they sometimes struggle to be able to feed and clothe themselves. There was definitely something voyeuristic about the visit akin to slum tourism, but we learned from Richard that this family depends on the supplemental income from visits (Richard provides them with some money from each tour and they often receive tips from visitors) to be able to provide for the children. If you visit a homestead, it is appreciated if you leave a small monetary (preferably in Tanzanian shillings) or food donation to the visited family if you enjoyed their hospitality.

Search for Elephant Caves and Waterfalls in the Ngorongoro Forest Highlands

Nature lovers will want to consider a walk in the Ngorongoro Forest Highlands which is a nice compliment to a visit to the Ngorongoro Crater. With a guide, you’ll learn about medicinal plants, view a number of bird species, watch waterfalls tumble down a cliff, and see the elephant caves. If you are lucky, you may also see a number of animals who live in the forest such as elephants, buffalo, baboons, and various reptiles. The so-called elephant caves are where elephants, as well as a number of other species, come to extract salt and other minerals from the soil.

We saw lots of evidence of elephants and buffalo along the paths in the form of dung, vegetation destruction, and footprints, but the only animals we spotted were baboons and birds. The entrance to the trail is located near Gibb’s Farm and while you can come here independently or with a local guide, you’ll be required to have one of the Ngorongoro Conservation Authority guides with you once you pass the entry booth. The Endoro Gate Post is open from 7:30am – 4:00pm (7:30-16:00) and the hike is best done in the cooler morning hours as it requires some moderate exertion. Come prepared with sun protection, good walking shoes, and insect repellent and remember that while your chances of seeing a buffalo or elephants aren’t high these animals walk these same paths every day.

Hike or Bike in the Countryside

If you need a break from being cooped up in a safari vehicle all day, Karatu is a place where you get out and explore on your own two feet. Whether you want to bike along a dirt country road to take in pastoral scenery, hike inside the lush Ngorongoro Highland Forest, or climb a hill for some great views, you can find something that will appeal. Tours catering to specific interests such as medicinal plants or ornithology can also be arranged with a local knowledgable guide.

Also, just because you are outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area doesn’t mean the animals stick to the boundaries, and buffalo, elephants, baboons, hyena, bushback, and other animals are often spotted around the countryside of Karatu. Ask your hotelier for help in arranging for bike rentals (consider if you’ll need regular bikes or mountain bikes) and to find out about scenic walking and hiking opportunities.

Use Karatu as a Base for Day Trips

Many budget and camping safari operators use Karatu as a base for visits to the nearby Ngorongoro Crater as the town is located not far from the gate to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and a stay in Karatu may save money on entrance fees and lodging. In addition to visits to the amazing Ngorongoro Crater, Karatu can also be used as a base for day trips to Lake Manyara, Lake Eyasi (where the Hadzabe Bushmen reside), Mlima Nyoka (climb “Snake Hill” for some great views), Oldean Village (a historical German settlement), and hikes along the Rift Valley. It can also be used as a base to visit Tarangire National Park, but we would not recommend it as it is a long drive. Depending on the day trip, you’ll want to take into account the extra time you might need to spend driving back and forth in relation to any cost savings or added convenience of staying in Karatu. 

Relax and Recharge 

Most travelers arriving in Karatu have been riding along dusty, bumpy roads, standing in Jeeps to observe the local wildlife, and eating lunches out of a box. Some are only a day or two into their safari while others have been at it for a week or more. Karatu is a perfect place to relax and recharge your traveler batteries. It can be the perfect place to enjoy a soft bed, a day without a full safari sightseeing schedule, and the peace of rural Tanzania. Karatu offers a range of accommodations from basic campsites to luxury lodges.

We stayed for two nights at the Karatu Simba Lodge and enjoyed having two full days to sleep in, relax by the pool, do some reading and blogging, go hiking, and take in cultural activities. If you are looking for some extra luxury, consider booking a lodge with massage and spa services such as Gibb’s Farm or Kitela Lodge. As amazing as seeing lions and elephants every day can be, sometimes you need a break to better appreciate the experience and to give your back a break from those bumpy roads!

So there are our top 10 things to do in Karatu Tanzania! We found Karatu to be a delightful bustling town that serves as a great stop for a bit of relaxation between game parks and an excellent place to engage in some cultural tourism. Those traveling through Karatu may want to spend a day or two exploring this often overlooked town.

Do you agree with Lonely Planet’s opinion or would you consider a stop here to explore this colorful town? If you’ve been, we’d love to hear about your visit and opinion on things to do in Karatu. Any questions about visiting Karatu, just ask us!

Volcanoes to Climb in East Africa

By in Kenya, Safari No Comments

Volcanoes to Climb in East Africa

mount kilimanjaro 640x426 Volcanoes to Climb in East Africa

Africa has much to offer those willing and brave enough to venture to this beautiful continent. Many activities are at every tourist’s disposal, including safaris deep into the Serengeti, shopping in the many local markets and bazaars, or even a visit to one of the many pristine beaches found in the North and South.

All of these are great options to consider during one’s trip, but nothing will be quite as memorable as a climb to the top of some of the most beautiful (and still active) volcanoes this side of the world has to offer.

The most well-known Kilimanjaro is talked about and often frequented by climbing enthusiasts from around the world.

Below are the 8 best volcanoes you have to climb during your next trip to Africa.

1. Mount Kilimanjaro

mount kilimanjaro hikers underway 640x480 Volcanoes to Climb in East Africa

Mount Kilimanjaro – Hikers Underway on Their Journey

Mount Kilimanjaro, nicknamed as the roof of Africa, has earned its name for good reason – if you reach the top of this mountain, you’ll be at the highest point in all of Africa. Not only the highest mountain, Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest dormant volcano.

Kilimanjaro is a great place for intermediate climbers since technical skills or special equipment are not a requirement to be able to complete the climb. Rather, one must simply be in great physical condition and be able to undertake extreme physical exertion during this climb.

Starting at the bottom, you’ll have six different routes you can choose to take, all of which include their own level of difficulty. Choose accordingly, as not only the difficulty varies, but also the scenery you’ll be taking in during your climb to the top.

2. Mount Meru

mount meru 640x480 Volcanoes to Climb in East Africa

Mount Meru – Known as Mount Kilimanjaro’s Neighbor

Known as Kilimanjaro’s neighbor, Mount Meru is the second-highest mountain in Tanzania measuring in at nearly 4,565 meters high. Living in the shadows of Kilimanjaro’s legacy, Mount Meru offers an excellent climb with both impressive views and a diverse rainforest that will accompany you for most of your journey.

For climbers who wish to climb Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru is an excellent starting point to first become accustomed since both ranges are quite similar to one another. Expect the full climb to require between 3-4 days.

3. Mount Kenya

mount kenya 640x480 Volcanoes to Climb in East Africa

Mount Kenya – East Africa’s Most Difficult Volcano to Climb

Kenya’s highest mountain, Mount Kenya, has its highest peak measuring in at roughly 5200 meters. This extinct volcano is considered as East Africa’s most difficult technical climb, requiring climbers between a half week and up to a full week to complete.

The peaks of Batian and Nelion both require technical climbing ability, whereas Lenana is a better option for those with no previous technical climbing skills.

4. Mount Elgon

mount elgon 640x480 Volcanoes to Climb in East Africa

Mount Elgon – Packed with Caves, Gorges and Waterfalls

Mount Elgon sits between the borders of both Kenya and Uganda, and contains 5 total peaks. The two highest peaks include Wagagai (4,321 meters high, located on the Uganda side) and Sudek (4,301 meters high, and found in Kenya). Packed with caves, gorges and waterfalls, expect plenty of beautiful sights along the way.

In order to climb Mount Elgon, you’ll need to hire an official guide. One should also expect to spend about 5 days total when climbing to its highest peaks.

5. Simien Mountains

mount simien 640x480 Volcanoes to Climb in East Africa

Mount Simien – Home to One of Africa’s Rarest Species

The Simien Mountains include an array of peaks above the 4,000 meters’ range including the well-known Ras Dejen, at 4,533 meters. Located in Ethiopia, the Simien climb is a great option if you’re interested in wildlife and visiting one of Africa’s rarest species – the Ethiopian wolf. Additionally, the gelada baboon and Ibex can be found in the range’s gorges and valleys.

The climb length varies greatly, and depending on the chosen route, expect to spend anywhere between 1 and 12 days on this mountain range.

6. Mount Karisimbi

mount karisimbi 640x480 Volcanoes to Climb in East Africa

Mount Karisimbi – Sitting Between Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo

At its highest peak, Mount Karisimbi is situated at roughly 4,507 meters, and the fifth highest volcano in Africa. Mount Karisimbi is situated between Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo, and finds itself located inside of the famous Volcanoes National Park. Along the climb, expect to see various primates, as well as the popular gorillas that inhabit the park.

The total climb will require 2 days, including one night of camping.

7. Mount Nyiragongo

mount nyiragongo 640x480 Volcanoes to Climb in East Africa

Mount Nyiragongo – Home to The World’s Largest Lava Lake

Mount Nyiragongo is yet another active volcano located in East Africa, with a total elevation of 3,470 meters. Certainly one for the more adventurous types, this volcanoes’ most recent eruption recently occurred in 2002, and it continues to be active.

This volcano is home to the world’s largest lava lake, and is another great reason why this climb is worth your time. A spectacular night view from the top directly into the caldera, no climb is complete without a night spent in the mountain’s tiny man-made cabins.

Expect two days to complete the hike up Mount Nyiragongo.

8. Mulanje Massif

mulanje massif 640x480 Volcanoes to Climb in East Africa

Mulanje Massif – Africa’s Largest Unbroken Climbing Wall

Also known by its name Mount Mulanje, Mulanje Massif reaches an elevation of 3,002 meters at its highest peak, Sapitwa. Scattered along the hike, many rental huts can be found which make this mountain also a popular destination for campers and hikers alike.

Most of Muljanje Massif’s peaks can be reached without the need for technical climbing. It is worth the note that the first day of the ascent is very steep, and can be quite demanding.

This mountain range also includes Africa’s longest unbroken wall, allowing rock climbers an uninterrupted 1,700 meter climb.

Uganda Gorilla Permits Increase

Uganda Gorilla Permits Increase

Uganda Gorilla permits Increase by Uganda Wildlife Authority

372afd3f e121 4935 a46a 77125c9bddfa Uganda Gorilla Permits Increase

The Uganda Wildlife Authority has announced an increase in the price of gorilla permits that will now cost a flat fee of 600USD in both low and high seasons for all visitors effective immediately.

This price increase will also affect tourists who had already made bookings for the low seasons of April, May and November.

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) raised the price of Gorilla permits to be able to suitably compete with Rwanda whose gorilla permits had seen an increase from 750USD to 1500USD.

With that in mind, all 2018 Set Departures organized by Nature Bound Africa will require  750USD supplement to make up for the increase in price for gorilla permits.

For more information please reach us at info@natureboundafrica.com  OR call us on +255 784 737 413

Air France Return to JKIA

Air France Return to JKIA

Air France Return to JKIA – Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after 18 years. 

Kenya is back on the world tourism and travel map. With this and direct flight to USA, Kenya will be a hot cake. Everyone will need to book early in 2018. Save more that 15% for early booking via – www.natureboundafrica.com

Airfrance Air France Return to JKIA

Africa Tales About Animals of African Savannah

Africa Tales About Animals of African Savannah.

Marangu Market Africa Tales About Animals of African Savannah

History shows that before the coming of colonialists in Kilimanjaro, the Chagga were well organised under small chiefdoms ruled by local ruler called Mangi or Wamangi. These chiefs ruled their subject using forces which were blessed by history, culture and traditional believes whereby the African leopard was regarded as spiritual symbol of the ruling class.

It said the pre-colonial traditional way of life in many parts of Tanzania including Kilimanjaro rain forests was a favourite home to big mammals of the savannah including African leopards which wander freely around villages in the whole area.

Different factors contributed to conservation of wild animals including the flourishing of the African leopard inside forest around Mount Kilimanjaro which was enabled by customary laws and traditional beliefs protected these big cats.

In Kilimanjaro those days, the leopards thrived in tropical rainforest which stand from 2,800 to 1,300 meters above the sea level through the Agro forest which today is found between 1,600 to 1,200 meters above the sea to the savannah forest which is on 1,600 to 700 meters above sea level.

It’s also said that due to the public support, during those days leopards of Mount Kilimanjaro were big but not dangerous although it is believed sometime they were able to break into a house to snatch a sheep or goat.

In those days the number of African Leopards grew bigger in the forest around mount Kilimanjaro because rules of pre-colonial Chagga did not allow anyone to hurt the spotted cat because it was regarded as sacred animal of the land.

In those good old days it was common to see a leopard during day time, not only that the big cat was allowed to wander into a house whenever it feels threatened by uncouth people.

From Machame, Rombo, Kibosho and Marangu it is believed that every clan had its own spiritual leopard which is believed to be responsible to protect members of the whole family at night.

Positive SSL Wildcard