Touring the Western Kilimanjaro Pass
The Western Kilimanjaro region is fairly new to the northern safari circuit of Tanzania. It is not therefore frequented by hordes of safari makers. Little information exists. There is no National Park here and the area is contained in a private concession- a type of private park. It is a very special area sitting on Tanzania's borer with Kenya adjoining Kenya's Amoboseli Park.
I would strongly recommend this area for a few days if you find yourself planning a safari in Tanzania and truly want, unique, off the beaten track and an 'out of African experience'. Many destinations offer these qualities but Western Kilimanjaro truly delivers.
I visited this private concession this weekend. We left Arusha, my driver and I, heading toward Kilimanjaro. An hour out of Arusha we turned left and spent another ninety minutes on a very rough road. It was slow going as the 4 x 4 rattled slowly along the track whist all the time I was wondering if all this would be worth the effort. I was unsure of what to expect but had heard good reports about this new area and so looked forward to a pleasant experience.
My heart sank as we entered the camp. The tents were under local thatch and it all looked very basic; the luxury I was looking forward to, I feared, was greatly exaggerated. I was surrounded by African bush and the camp looked non existent. However, the camp is built into its surroundings, well hidden. .I soon realized that the en-suite tents and the entire camp is indeed luxurious.
No other vehicles were at the camp, [we were the only guests this weekend] and with no other camps in the area we were literally off the beaten track, just myself, the driver and the camp staff. We arrived in time for lunch and the food was superb, five courses, in elegant surroundings. As there were no other guests my driver/guide, who was also Maasai, joined me for each meal. The driver being with me turned out well as I got to know all the staff very quickly.
The rest of the day I spent relaxing around the camp, drinking in the surroundings. Relaxing and getting to know the local Maasai. The following day Kalisti [the driver] and I were joined by the camp guide and he showed us the surrounding area and where to find the animals. Seeing herds of elephant against the backdrop of Kilimanjaro was a highlight of many years spent in East and Southern Africa. We then drove to a big white stone that signposted the Kenyan - Tanzanian border and we stopped for photographs. After this we drove across the border and around the Kenyan Amboseli National Park.
On the last evening, as the sun waned, we drove to the top of a large hill just not far from the camp. We watched the sun begin to set, the clouds clearing around Kilimanjaro and the snows turning pink with the setting sun, whist below the acacia trees were silhouetted as the dusk seemed to be rising from the ground, upward. Then as I thought it could be no finer than this, the Maasai from the lodge came dancing and singing up the hill, bringing champagne as this was to be my last evening. We toasted a most enjoyable stay and the staff and Philemon sang Maasai songs and danced into the early evening. If ever I was in Africa proper it was this evening. Not a tourist or car in sight, Kilimanjaro and local Maasai warriors dancing and singing into the night. Words cannot express the emotions of that evening. One cannot have a more African experience than to spend some time in this luxurious, eco friendly camp.
If ever you come to Tanzania, I recommend this area, this camp. Forget everything else. Your African experience should start in the Western Kilimanjaro on the Tanzania - Kenya border.
Touring the Western Kilimanjaro Pass
By: JC Schwartz