I never thought I’d be eating fish and chips in the middle of Tanzania. But after a 2.5 hour drive from Arusha, we landed at Nimali, and our first meal was this great British staple. It was as far away from East African cuisine as it gets, but it was an apt – and very delicious -welcome for two Brits who had recently landed on Tanzanian soil.
Nimali is a luxury safari camp on the eastern boundary of the Tarangire National Park. The journey here from Arusha takes you past farmland, Maasai villages and cattle grazing on the barren land. For the last 40 minutes or so, the tarmac turns to uneven, pothole-filled earth. So you need to hold tight onto the safari vehicle – there are a LOT of bumps!
Just when you think you’re almost at Nimali, another stretch of bumpy track appears.
It’s a long way, but it’s worth the teeth-chattering ride, as you spot Maasai tribesmen herding their cattle and children waving enthusiastically from their copper-red bomas. This part of Africa is absolutely beautiful.
We decided to stay at Nimali as a handy stop-over for exploring the Ngorongoro National Park. We weren’t able to fit in game drives in the Tarangire, which is what most guests will do when they stay here (at an additional fee for your driver, vehicle and park entry). But we discovered, there’s a 1,200-acre concession area that surrounds Nimali and it fringes both the Tarangire National Park and Wildlife Management Area. You can take game drives in the concession at no extra charge and this vast area of wild bush, hilly peaks, striking baobab trees and various game, proved to be an impressive place to explore.
On our way to Nimali, we were treated to a quick preview of what they call ‘Sunset Hill’. As its name suggests, this is where the guides at Nimali take their guests for sundowners. And while it’s a very bumpy and steep ride up this craggy peak (I actually thought I was going to fall out of the car at one point!) the views from up here are extraordinary. But more of that later. Let’s get back to the camp.
Nimali actually means ‘beautiful place’ or ‘wealth’ in Swahili and it really lives up to its name. Six good-sized tents are located around the grounds and there’s a very chic open-air dining and relaxation area which overlooks a small pool. Everything feels like an authentic African safari, yet with a simple, contemporary feel.
We loved sitting by the pool and watching zebras and warthogs drop by the watering hole just metres in front of us. And twice during our stay, we watched elephants drop by. With no elevated platform or fences, this felt almost closer than the encounters we had at Anabezi and Sausage Tree camps in Zambia. But everything here is super relaxed. As long as you make no sudden movements, enjoying the wildlife from such close proximity is absolutely fine.
What I love about safari, is you almost always manage to spot or learn something new, each time you go on a drive. For example, have you ever seen the secretary bird? This super long-legged bird has the most striking ‘strut’ and completely took us by surprise! During our stay here, we also spotted a giraffe, impalas, waterbuck and a variety of birdlife in the concession area alone. We also bumped into one or two ostriches protecting their eggs along the way.
Inside The tents at Nimali
The tents at Nimali are very neatly done. They are all canvas which makes you feel excitingly close to the bush. But they have a front door and windows and feel as comfortable as staying in a hotel. Expect modern wooden furniture, a four poster bed and an impressively modern bathroom with his ‘n’ hers sinks and large cubicle shower. You can also enjoy all the creature comforts such as an electric fan, luxury bath products, a hairdryer and plenty of storage space for your clothes. This is my kind of camping!
You may come across a few insects and lizards during your stay (and I have to say, in Tanzania, you must beware of the tetse flies, they’re evil little things!) But if you take plenty of mosquito spray and make use of the insect spray provided, you’re in a good place to have a good night’s sleep. The natural sounds of the bush are both your alarm clock and your lullaby.
Food and Drink at Nimali
The food was a huge part of our stay at Nimali. So if you don’t love food, Nimali might not be for you! Early each morning, we were brought a tray of tea and delicious home-made biscuits which we enjoyed on our private decking overlooking the riverbed.
I loved unzipping our tent and stepping out into the morning sunshine in my bathrobe and slippers.
Breakfast was a sophisticated affair with fruits, cereals, pancakes and eggs anyway you wanted.
Lunch and dinner were equally stylish and well thought out, with tasty salads, chicken dishes, Moroccan style rice and tangy sorbets being just some of the highlights. We absolutely loved the soups at Nimali and the fantastic South African wines. Our lovely waiter, Serafin was constantly available to wait on us and teach us the odd bit of Swahili. And those fish and chips on our first day were definitely a highlight!
While the food was quite rich at times, chefs Anton and Royeb – who are better known as ‘Big Buffalo’ and ‘Small Buffalo’ – impressed us no end. One night, following our request, Big Buffalo and Small Buffalo cooked us up a spread of traditional East African Nyoma Choma. It was great to try out some local cuisine as well as sample their more upscale fusion cooking and it was served on a beautiful candle-lit table by the campfire.
You can be as active – or as relaxed – as you want at Nimali and we loved just spending time by the pool watching the wildlife come and go.
I also made myself at home by claiming the lovely desk in the safari camp lounge as my African ‘office’.
One of our highlights was a private visit to a local Maasai village which the team at Nimali managed to organise for us – it was a completely eye-opening experience (more on that in another post). Sundowners on Sunset Hill was also fantastic which you MUST do if you ever visit!
On our final day, it was time to head west, through the great Rift Valley to Tanzania’s famous Ngorongoro National Park, which Nimali helped us arrange.
Nimali was just a taster of what the Eastern parks of Tanzania have to offer, but it was one of the most peaceful three days of our trip.
Tanzania is intriguing, surprising, alluring, and most of all, a beautiful part of Africa. And who’d have thought, the fish and chips here are pretty amazing too…