June 30th, 2020

Honeymooning in Tanzania with Bonamy Travel

Written by:

Emily Hardman




My husband, Tom, and I booked our honeymoon through Bonamy Travel to visit Tanzania and Zanzibar - a trip of a life time! 

The flight time from London to Tanzania is roughly 9 hours long so Tom and I made the decision to stay in the city of Dar Es Salam for one night before we started on our safari journey. 

Having caught up on some Zzzzs, we arrived in Ruaha the next day via mini airplane (an experience in itself that was unbelievable)! 

We were welcomed by a small family of elephants as well as a number giraffe, zebra and impala surrounding the landing strip - as someone who has spent their life growing up in the English countryside, it felt like I was stepping into a scene from a movie set rather than this happening in real life. 

Elephants crossing the river - Emily Hardman & Tom Spencer

We were met by Geoffrey, our guide, who would be showing us around Ruaha in his jeep whilst we were staying at Ikuka Lodge - Geoffrey has 10+ years experience as a guide in Ruaha and knows the park like the back of his hand - we adored him and hung off of his every word. 

Safari in the Ruaha - Emily Hardman & Tom Spencer

From the offset he taught us the names of every bird that flew close to us, testing us every so often, how to read tracks ("fresh tracks") of the animals that had left their trail behind them, and what an 'ALT' was (an animal looking thing - essentially an abbreviation for anything that gets spotted by someone thinking its an animal, but it turns out to be a rock or a bank of sand to everyone's disappointment/enjoyment). 

Whilst we were staying in Tanzania, the weather was extremely wet (which fortunately for us, didn't detract from seeing the animals at all) but what it did make, was for some extremely fun muddy road racing. 

Raincoats on - Emily Hardman & Tom Spencer

I remember Geoffrey getting a radio call from one of the other guides in the park and without telling us what the call was about, he turned to us and said "put your belts on, I need to drive fast"; the next thing we knew we were flying around in the back of the jeep, mud flying at the wheels - in and out of every sized pot hole you could imagine, killing ourselves laughing from all the bumping around. 

When we got to our destination, Geoffrey revealed, what all the madness was in aid of - a large female leopard lying up in a tree!! We sat there for about an hour just watching this majestic animal and couldn't take our eyes off of her, it was incredible to be so close to something so beautiful. 

A leopard looking on - Emily Hardman & Tom Spencer

On another day whilst staying in Ruaha, we saw a large family of elephants crossing a river (with a tiny baby in tow) - something that Geoffrey said, he hadn't seen in many years - (we knew it was a big deal as he sat there live streaming it to Facebook) - all whilst sipping on our G&Ts with the sun going down in the background!

In addition to the marvellous wildlife and the brilliant tour of the park, Ikuka Lodge, where we stayed was absolutely out of this world fantastic. The views are breathtaking, and we were lucky enough to be able to see a large storm roll in over the park - deafening thunder echoing across the valley and lightening turning the entire sky white - something I will never forget. 

The amazing team at Ikuka - Emily Hardman & Tom Spencer

The staff at Ikuka were our absolute favourites - so much personality runs through that place that every time I think about them, I smile. I felt like we really bonded with the staff - particularly Seif, Annie, Luka and Freddie - we miss them all!

Freddie, the friendly giant (and only 19 at the time) spent time teaching us Swahili and had the biggest smile every time he came to walk us to or from our room. And to top it all off, the food was fantastic - and so much of it!! The staff even made traditional 'Ogali' for us, changing their menu, after we mentioned we'd like to try it whilst we were staying in Tanzania! If we had gone home at this point and called the trip there, I would have been delighted, but we still had two more places to stay.

Dinner at Ikuka - Emily Hardman & Tom Spencer

Four nights at Ikuka Lodge flew by and next thing we knew, we were boarding another mini airplane to travel a short way to Selous where we stayed at Sand Rivers Lodge. Here, we met Hamadi and his apprentice Penda (which means 'love' in sawhili). We learnt that Hamadi had been a ranger before joining Sand Rivers as a guide and had some absolutely incredible stories about his life. Tom and I were intrigued to know how Sand Rivers would be able to 'top' Ikuka Lodge, but it really was just as brilliant and gave us many different memories. 

Hamadi spent time schooling us about the plant life in Selous and on our first trip out in the jeep with him, he stopped by a small bush and picked off what looked like a very tiny lemon. He explained it was an akesha fruit, and popped it into his mouth. 

He asked me to try it as well and having watched him eat one, I trustingly sniffed it and then put it straight in my mouth in one - it was a matter of seconds before the taste of it exploded in my mouth and I felt like I had just taken a swig from a bottle of very strong perfume - I coughed and spluttered much to his, Penda (and Tom's) amusement and the taste didn't leave my mouth for a good hour! Lesson learnt. 

Chamaeleon at Sand Rivers - Emily Hardman & Tom Spencer

The wildlife in Selous is similar to that of Ruaha, however we saw many more giraffe and hippo. We also managed to see Hyena, Wilderbeast, African buffalo and Waterbuck which we hadn't seen in Ruaha - seeing the hyena in particular was pretty thrilling (having been terrified of them since watching the Lion King as a child!). One morning we set up camp for breakfast at a short distance from a large family of hippo noisily taking a bath. On another day, we were also lucky enough for Hamidi to take us on a private walking safari which was absolutely incredible and we saw a mother hippo with her (marginally) smaller son walking around foraging for food. 

We were instructed to stand down-wind from them because although Hippo haven't got the best eyesight in the animal kingdom, apparently they have a very good sense of smell! Hamadi was extremely professional, kind and caring - he had a fantastic way about him that made you feel like he was very protective of you - almost like a friendly parent. 

On the walking safari and without us knowing, he had kindly arranged for his apprentice Penda, to drive ahead to the top of 'Rhys' Hill' where there was a bottle of champagne and some refreshing snacks waiting for us at the end of the walk. The view was breathtaking and the whole setup left me close to tears. 

Sand Rivers lodge itself is stunning and our room was fantastic - it even included our own plunge pool. The reception area also sometimes houses a resident bush baby in the evenings which the staff have affectionately named 'Jocelyn' - she's absolutely beautiful and very friendly with these beautiful saucer eyes!

Fabulous birdlife in the Selous - Emily Hardman & Tom Spencer

When it was time for us to leave, Hamadi drove us in our jeep to the airstrip one last time. Taking off and watching him wave us off, I found myself really emotional to leave such a truly inspirational and charismatic person and such a magical place. 

Our final destination was Pemba - an island just off of Zanzibar. We were collected in a taxi from Pemba airport and driven to a small jetty where we were greeted by a group of kids shouting 'Jambo, Hello' and jumping off the side of the jetty into the water. We boarded a small speed boat which took us to Fundu Lagoon - a 15 minute journey by boat saw us arrive to the hotel manager waving and welcoming us from the long jetty that stretched out from beautiful white sand. 

Ultimate relaxation on Pemba - Emily Hardman & Tom Spencer

Georgie, the manager was extremely friendly and walked us to our little hut on the edge of the beach - quiet, serene, absolutely beautiful. Inside our hut were two stunning kimono's, a wicker bag and two wicker hats, which we wore for the entirety of our stay - word of warning - the wicker hat has a wide brim and doesn't fit through the hut door!

Beach accommodation - Emily Hardman & Tom Spencer

Georgie left us to sit on the two loungers that were perfectly positioned in front of our hut, looking out at the sea, with a bottle of champagne. 

The following day, we woke up to absolutely stunning sunshine and decided to take a half day trip to Misali Island - a 20min boat ride away from Fundu Lagoon. Misali island is absolutely stunning and feels deserted - the sand is incredibly white and the sea is crystal clear and turquoise in colour. 

Our deserted beach - Emily Hardman & Tom Spencer

We went snorkelling close to the island and saw some amazing tropical fish. Once we'd spent an hour or so snorkelling, we got back into the boat to travel back to Fundu. On the way back, the guides started shouting and slapping the side of the boat and we had no idea what was going on until a pod 15 dolphins started swimming in front of the boat! 

They were close enough to touch and swam in front of the boat for 10 minutes - it was a memory that I won't ever forget!

A little slice of heaven - Emily Hardman & Tom Spencer

Over the next few days on Fundu Lagoon, we ate some absolutely delicious meals and even had a 'Swahili inspired' evening with traditional Ogali. Every night, the manager chooses where you as guests will eat - so one night we ate by the pool, the next night on the beach, another night in the restaurant and then we also opted to have a private beach dinner. It is a FANTASTIC hotel. 

Toasting the end of an amazing honeymoon - Emily Hardman & Tom Spencer

That concludes our honeymoon of a lifetime. Tanzania (and Zanzibar) is a truly spellbinding place, full of friendly faces, amazing wildlife and incredible food. 

We cannot thank Bonamy enough for organising the trip and hope to be back to celebrate an anniversary in the not so distant future. 

Thank you Toby and James!

Emily Hardman

Many thanks to Emily and Tom for writing this fantastic overview of their honeymoon to Tanzania.

Thanks for reading,

The Bonamy Travel Team

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