I traveled around Tanzania for two months, renting comfortable budget rooms ( $15-$20 per night), roaming from Dar Es Salaam to Arusha to Moshi. At the end of my trip I decided to head to the coast to enjoy an all-inclusive resort along the Indian Ocean.
I sent an email to Peponi Resort requesting a room and asked if I had to pre-pay to reserve. A day later, I received a booking confirmation and a note stating payment upon arrival is okay. Cool, I really didn’t want to send my credit card information.
I set off via bus from Moshi, it’s an eight-hour trip to Tanga’s bus station. I bought my ticket two days before departure to insure I got the seat that I wanted, right behind the driver. The fare cost $6.65usd (15000). Why that seat? It has the most leg room on the bus and there is a metal bar behind the driver. I can secure my LocTote flak sac and backpack to the bar and leave the bus at rest stops; not having to haul my belongings with me.
A son escorted his elderly father onto the bus and sat him next to me, then asked if I could help his father by administrating eye-drops every four hours. The man’s hands shook uncontrollably; I assured him that his father would be taken care of. The old fella didn’t know any English and my Swahili is minimal, but he and I had a pleasant journey, communicating with smiles and miming.
At the halfway mark, the driver stopped for a bathroom and food break. I brought along a banana, an orange and some cookies. Baba (what men are referred to, meaning father) didn’t purchase anything to eat nor had a sack lunch; so I gave him the more filling of the two fruits and shared the cookies.
Outside the city limits the bus pulled over and everyone was getting off. I had no idea what was going on, we were not at the station yet. My seatmate motioned for me to come with him, so I followed.
He pointed to the dala dala (small local bus), so I climbed aboard and went to the back; shortly later, he boarded too. About ten minutes later, the driver pulled over and my companion exited. I was left to my own wits.
The sun was setting and I had a very important decision to make; how was I getting to my accommodations, an hour’s drive away. If I took the dala dala, I would be let off at the mouth of the driveway and would have to walk who knows how far, in the dark, with the possibility of wild beast lurking about. If I took a taxi, it would cost $60. If I took a bajaj (tuk tuk) the cost would be less. The sky was growing darker and my concern grew each minute.
Upon arriving the vultures swooped in on their prey…. me. I’m the only white person on the bus, so it wasn’t hard to pick off the weakest link. Before the bus even stopped a man was at my window, hawking for my business.
I asked him if he knew where Peponi Resort was and he did. I told him that I needed to buy my departing bus ticket, before I did anything. He agreed to take me to the bus office and then out to Peponi’s in his bajaj. I didn’t have minutes to waste, so I agreed on the set price of $2.21 usd (5000tz) to take me to buy the ticket and $31.03usd (70000tz) to transport me to the resort.
The ticket was purchased easy enough, costing $6.20usd (14000tz) for the six-hour ride to Dar Es Salaam; again, super cheap, so I didn’t mind when my receipt was wrote out for 13000 shillings. He pocketed .44 American cents, no big deal to me. There are opportunist everywhere in Tanzania, as the saying goes, “choose your battles.”
The dirt road out-of-town went from bad to worse to okay to my teeth are going to rattle out to okay again. About twenty-minutes in, we came to a check-point. The officer came over and asked me if I understood my driver and our price agreement, which I said I did, then he talked to the driver. I watched both men talking, not understanding anything more than body language. It took about five-minutes, then we were on our way.
Once away from the cops, my driver’s tone changed from “all is well” to “oh, this is far, I deserve ninety for this trip.” I reassured him that he would be taken care of. I did not let on that I had no intention of parting with anymore money than we agreed. He knew how far it was before we took off and condition of the road. I was in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, in a foreign country, with a strange man in the jungle…. my mind flooded with all the possibilities of going against his greed. It was in my best interest to play along with his game.
An hour later we arrived; I grabbed my gear and handed him his cash, before I went inside to the reception area. I heard him saying angry words to himself as I walked away. A minute later he came inside demanding more money. Thankfully the receptionist spoke perfect english and I explained the situation. He told the bajaj driver to leave, but he wasn’t going, so I handed him 5000tz for a tip. Now he was happy sucking a few more shillings out of me and instantly became my best friend once again. He told me to text him for my return to town and he’ll come get me. I thanked him and he was on his way. Once the door closed, I told the receptionist “there’s no way I’m using that guy.”
Just figure as a foreigner, you’re going to pay more for transportation. Ask your hotel or homestay the going rate and stick to your guns, or just be okay with paying more. If you will be using the same driver over the period of your stay, they will give you the local’s price if you ask.
*The resort will have a taxi driver meet you at the bus station if you ask them. I just wanted to figure it out on my own, it’s part of the adventure.
Peponi Resort is fantastic and I highly recommend a few nights stay. You have the options of renting a banda (bungalow) or a tent. There is also a campground with showers for those who have their own supplies. The all-inclusive bandas package starts at $75 USD per night for a solo traveler; includes light breakfast and dinner. Ten minutes away is one of five top beaches in the world, Pangani Beach. If you want to stay somewhere quiet and secluded, verses Zanzibar, check out the Tanga area. It’s also lighter on your wallet.
It was a beautiful day, so I went snorkeling with a gal and her dad who were traveling together by car around Africa.
The tide was out, so we walked about a quarter mile across jagged rocks to the man-made boat. I was happy Peponi supplied me with water shoes.
I’ve been snorkeling before, in Mexico and Galapagos Islands; I wasn’t impressed by this reef, since it wasn’t full of fish living amongst it, but supposedly, it’s one of the most healthy reefs left in the world.
All was going fine, then, I felt a pinch on my butt. A jelly fish stung me. I didn’t see any creatures floating about the water, so it must have been a really small one that got between my body and my swimsuit. I climbed up the ladder and asked the captain for his assistance in removing the barb from my behind. I’m pretty sure he didn’t mind.
After an hour examining the reef, we went to an island that protrudes from the ocean during low tide. The crew of three made a canopy for us, laid out a blanket and provided chilled beers and the lunch we ordered. In my case, that was a prawn and avocado salad…. yum!
The last night at the resort I was laying on my bed, mosquito net tucked in on all sides, just as I fixed it upon my first days arrival. My focus was on my phone screen, reading a text, when I heard a plop right next to my head. I turn to see a centipede the length of my blow-up pillow inches from my face. The crazy insect dropped from the net, I imagine with the intent to make a meal of me.
Surprisingly, I stayed calm and picked up the pillow, walked to the door and dropped the wanna be assailant outside, asking it not to return. No, I didn’t kill it.