I’ve been meaning to write this up since I got back but work and life keep getting in the way, you know how it is. As the year draws to an end though and I start to think about where I want to travel next year it only seems right to reflect on this epic trip, especially as the initial holiday blues are now well and truly over.
So for those of you that don’t know about Flash Pack, they are the brain child of a first date back in 2012 when Radha Vyas and Lee Thompson discussed how they had noticed a gap in the market for group travel holidays for single people in their 30’s and 40’s. Fast forward to 2018 and the company is growing all the time with adventure trips all over the world and for the last year or two I’ve been more and more tempted to book a trip. Back in July I finally decided to bite the bullet and book up as a Flash Pack Insider for one of their new trips, Tanzania and man am I glad that I did. Heres a run down of my African adventure, hopefully it inspires you to take a leap and book a trip of your own.
Flash Pack trips include pretty much everything apart from your flights and drinks, as this was my first one I decided to book up a flight that got me in the day before the trip actually began and book an extra night so I could just relax. It meant I was the first there but over the next 24hrs everyone else gradually arrived and once a few of us sat down for our first beers the holiday began and I could instantly see that these trips really do attract like minded people. One nice touch is that they add you all to a WhatsApp group a month before the trip so you can start to get to know each other and chat about what to pack etc.
Our first night was in Arusha, there wasn’t too much to do here but as everyone was tired from their journeys from as far afield as Australia and the US it was more about getting to know each other over our first group dinner, winding down over a couple of beers and finding out the plan for the next 9 days from our guide Gilbert.
Day two was an early start, as we hopped in our jeeps after a quick breakfast to start our 300km day driving towards our camp just outside Serengeti national park, Mapito Tented Camp. After a quick lunch stop and tour of the museum at Olduvai Gorge where the earliest human remains were found. On the road we spotted our first animals, which was a magical moment for us all. Seeing these animals in their natural habitat for the first time is one of those feelings that is hard to put in to words but really makes you appreciate nature. The first animals ticked of our to see list were zebra, giraffes, elephants and lions. Not a bad first day.
The tented camp was great, one of my highlights of the trip was definitely sitting by the camp fire, under the stars with the Milky Way clearly visible and a bottle of beer in hand while we all caught up on our days and what we’d seen. Although these were tents, they were huge and felt more like a hotel room in a tent but the outdoor shower and bathroom was a great novelty (until you felt all the insects under your feet when you needed the toilet in the middle of the night ha).
The second day was another early start and a slight change to the original itinerary, but this basically meant we got to go deeper in to the Serengeti and have a longer game drive. We were out in the jeeps for around 7-8hrs this day and the amount of animals we saw was crazy, we event had multiple leopard sightings. These guys are notoriously hard to spot as they hide in the trees but we spotted two separate pairs, one about 10 minutes from camp (eek!!).
As well as this we came up close with giraffes, zebra, elephants, cheetahs, vultures tucking in to fresh prey, lions, the super cute velvet monkeys and warthogs. When we got back to camp we had an hours walk in to the Serengeti to watch the sunset, another major highlight. It was like being in the Lion King, I mean literally as we played Circle of Life while watching it.
After another long, exciting day of game drives it was time for dinner and then to get around the camp fire or bush TV as our guide called it. Tonight there was a slight difference though, it had been arranged for a Masai tribe to join us and perform for us. It was amazing to be up close with one of the local tribes and see one of their ritual dances and also partake in it. Luckily most of the videos I have are too dark so you can’t see me trying to work out what was going on as I led the dance around the fire (falling over at one point but we’ll gloss over that detail ha).
Day 4 of the trip involved making our way in to the Ngorongoro Crater hoping to spot the one last animal from the big five and spoiler alert as rare as they are we managed to spot one. What a moment. It’s so sad to think these beautiful animals are almost extinct so it feels extra special to have seen one in the wild. The crater is also known as the Garden of Eden and is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera. It’s home to around 25,000 animals including 26 black rhino, 7,000 wildebeests, 4,000 zebras, 3,000 eland and 3,000 Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles [source: ngorongorocrater.org].
After the days adventures in the crater it was time to leave the safari behind us and spend a night in the Farm of Dreams Lodge. This lodge is broken in to a series of mini themed villages and was a lovely place to unwind after an unbelievable few days safari.
Next morning it was back on the road again and back to Arusha where we would spend the day relaxing by the pool overlooking Kilimanjaro at Kigongoni Lodge, with beers and cocktails in hand. We were the only people staying at this lodge so we literally had it to ourselves. It was great to get to know the group better, share stories and relax in and around the pool before we embarked on the second half of the trip in Zanzibar.
Day 6 and it was time to head to Arusha airport, easily the smallest airport I’ve been to. Once we were the plane it took about an hour to get to Zanzibar and then we hit the road to the north of the island to spend two days in Nungwi at the Hilton by DoubleTree. Compared to all the other places we stayed this was the least fitting with the trip with it being such a big hotel it didn’t feel quite as boutique or private as we’d been used to but this doesn’t mean it was a bad place to spend two nights. It had everything you’d expect from a Hilton, private beach, pool, huge restaurant, poolside cocktails and decent rooms. Once we were checked in it was time for some sun-downers on the private beach area before dinner. Its rare I just relax on holiday but I have to say this trip was the perfect balance of busy days and downtime.
Today was the penultimate day of the trip and it was a sun filled day out on a traditional Dhow boat. The morning was spent snorkeling before heading to a beach BBQ of fresh sea food. We got to snorkel with a variety of fish and at one point even spotted some dolphins which we got to swim near. After lunch we put the sails up, drank beer and sailed back to the hotel.
For the final day of this amazing trip we moved on to our final location about an hour and a half drive away, the Dhow Palace Hotel in Stone Town. On the way we stopped off at a local plantation for a guided tour and some spice & tea tasting. This was followed by a unique chance to go in to one of the villages and visit someones house where they had prepared us a fresh octopus curry. Following this we checked in to the hotel and had a guided tour around the streets and the slavery museum. Sadly it was time for the trip to come to an end but not before our final meal in a local restaurant.
There was so much to reflect on on this trip and so many friendships forged, we’ve even planned some trips to catch-up next year. I was worried before going on this trip whether we’d all get on but couldn’t have asked to meet a better group of like-minded travelers. From chatting to people that had been on previous trips I heard similar stories about how well the groups got on, so if you’re looking for a fun adventure that will push you out of your comfort zone and you’ll meet some great friends then I fully recommend a Flash Pack trip.
If you want to book this trip yourself then head here and let me know how the trip was for you. If you want to read more about how Flash Pack came about check out this recent article in Forbes or check out this video below.