Trekking the Great Rift Valley – A Story From Our Guests

Written by Thomson Safaris
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Leave your vehicle behind and explore Tanzania’s wonders by foot; our Great Rift Valley Trek has become a favorite among active adventurers who want to get off the beaten path during a safari.

The Great Rift Valley stretches from Lebanon to Mozambique and holds natural spectacles rarely visited by the ordinary safari goer. White lava volcanoes, red soda lakes, quiet craters, hidden waterfalls – trekkers get a unique opportunity to stretch their legs and see it all.

We caught up with guests Skip and Vicki Kitchner to get a first-person take on their trekking safari.

Trekking with Skip and Vicki

We had an African Safari on our bucket list since we retired several years ago. Vicki and I, who are active people, were concerned that a typical safari would be too sedentary for us. After receiving some names of people who have done the trekking safari and reaching out to those people, we were convinced a trekking safari would be right for us.

The River Tree Inn was very romantic. It was what we would imagine for an Inn in Africa. The rose petals on the linen made the room look like a dream, very nice. Arriving at Wasso, we were met by our guide Peta. We instantly loved his sense of humor and easy-going manner. He proved to be an excellent guide. Patient, knowledgeable and quick witted.

All the Nyumbas were exceptionally nice. The pictures in the brochure do them justice. We stayed in the Eastern, Central and Ngorongoro. What made the Nyumbas so inviting was the en-suite toilet and shower. Arriving at each Nyumba we were greeted by hot hand towels and delicious fruit juice. We loved it. The hot water bottles were a hit too.

On the trekking portion, the walk-in tent was also very nice. My wife and I are used to mountaineering tents and we found these very comfortable, especially with the cots. Add the fact of a shower and toilet, it eliminated the words “roughing it.”

 

Thomson safari guests hike through Empakaai Crater.Skip and Vicki hike through Empakaai Crater

Both the Empakaai Crater and Lake Natron site were perfect. The crews at each site were warm and inviting. At the Central Serengeti we were the only group there, and we were spoiled. John the manager and his staff were fantastic. We especially liked the ability to have laundry done.

At the end of a hike it is nice to have a shower and a glass of wine. The food at all locations was tremendous. We are foodies and were amazed by what the chefs were able to do. The food on the trekking portion was excellent in light of the circumstances.

We took advantage of the balloon safari on our trip, while it was expensive, it was a highlight. It offers a different perspective on viewing the animals. The breakfast and champagne at the end was a treat. We would recommend it if it fits into a person’s budget.

 

Trekkers hike the rolling hills of Maasailand.Trekkers hike the rolling hills of Maasailand.

The Land Rover was comfortable and clean. Even though we had many “Serengeti massages” in the vehicles, they were quite comfortable and afforded some great pictures. The back seats served to hold our day packs. While we had a breakdown (a blown gasket) in ours as we headed to Ngorongoro, we wish to commend Peta and Thomson for how well they handled the situation. Since the parks close at 6:00 and a replacement vehicle had to go through the park it, was great cooperation between Thomson, the Park and other safaris to communicate our situation and get a vehicle to us. Peta through it all remained calm and continued with his sense of wit.

Our trekking portion was better than advertised. Advertising does not do justice to the fantastic hikes that are part of this Safari. The hike down to the Empakaai Crater was good. The fauna was interesting and at the crater floor the flamingos and baboons were interesting and fun to watch.

 

Ol Doinyo Lengai in TanzaniaOl Doinyo Lengai stretches into the clouds.

The hike along the Great Rift Valley down to Lake Natron and the Maasai camp was truly a highlight. The hike started on a high windy and cool plain down to a jungle floor then up to a ridgeline along the Rift Valley. The Ol Doinyo Lengai (Mountain of God) is along the right. That hike is truly a highlight and one hiker’s will want to do.  Our waterfall hike was 45 minutes one way. Again, that was a beautiful hike to a beautiful setting.

 

Skip and Vicki find a waterfall with the Maasai.

The Maasai are a friendly people. The visit to a Boma initially was very interesting. The Maasai were curious about us as we were about them. Many spoke better English than we could speak Swahili.

However, the highlight for us was at Lake Natron. There, we witnessed the killing of a goat, the cooking of that goat, then the dancing, and chanting of the Maasai. Yes, I took part in the dance and chanting much to the chagrin of my wife. To us it was real Africa-Tanzania.