A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go

A few months ago we stumbled across an article from late 2017, saying how the Northern Lights were going to be decreasing for almost the next decade! While we did catch a brief glimpse in Lapland (northern Finland) when we first met almost nine years ago, we didn’t get to see the full sky filled with a beautiful display of aurora. This would be our last chance, so to speak, to try to catch the Northern Lights for the next few years.

Click here if you want to skip to our 5 Top Iceland  Travel Tips. If you'd like to watch our Iceland experience on video, check out Bettina's Instagram stories here.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

How We Got To Iceland

 

Soon after we read that article, WOW Air came out with a great fare sale from Chicago to Iceland, which allowed us to pick up round trip tickets for the two of us for only $220 each. You can’t beat this kind of price for a direct flight to Iceland! We left Chicago late on a cold Friday in January and flew overnight. The beauty of over-night flying is that you don't need to get a hotel and you have the entire arrival day to explore. Check out this blog post for tips on how to get over jet lag.

 

Weekend In Iceland Itinerary and Story

We left Chicago on a cold Friday in January and were actually heading to warmer temperatures up in Iceland, the land of ice and fire! Arriving around 5:30am, our first stop was Joe and the Juice, a great coffee shop in the airport, and then to Avis to pick up our rental car.  We then had a 3 hour drive in front of us, to our destination: Vík.

We passed by top sights such as Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss but unfortunately, at this time in the day, it was still pitch dark and we couldn’t see them. It wasn’t until we closed in on Vík closer to 10:00am that the sky started to brighten. We were lucky to have done a complete Iceland road trip back in 2015 and have seen most of the main sights already. We were thus able to focus on one of our favourite areas of Iceland: the South-East coast.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

When we were in Vík in 2015, it was late August and lush, green, and almost warm. Things were slightly different today, with temperatures hovering around 0C (32F) combined with wind and snow. That did not stop us from getting out and capturing some amazing photos at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

Chicwish gifted Bettina this gorgeous dress. It also comes in black and white. It's the perfect dress for a wedding guest!


 

The combination of wind and snow meant we ran back to the car quickly to warm up. The clouds had also moved in, and it began to rain, putting a bit of a damper on our moods. However, one thing to know about Iceland is that the weather changes quickly, is unpredictable, so you just have to expect the unexpected!

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We began our drive back towards our hotel in the direction of Reykjavík and did take the time to stop at the Dyrhólaey lighthouse and both Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss for more pictures despite the continuing rain.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

The sheer power of the waterfalls is absolutely amazing every time you see it.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

During the winter months, Iceland does not get a lot of daylight. With 5 hours of daylight, the sun was already setting as we were heading towards our hotel.

 

 
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Since we really only had one night in Iceland, this was now our chance to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the aurora forecast was not great. It was also a cloudy night, so our chances were slim at best. It was however supposed to be clear skies in the early morning, so we decided to get up at 6:00am and see what we could see. We drove a few minutes out of town to get away from the surrounding lights and stared out at the pitch black sky.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

After fiddling with the camera a bit in the bitter cold, we were able to capture some reflections of the Northern Lights off in the distance. Not quite the epic full sky pictures you see in the travel brochures, but we were happy to have seen something – our trip had not been in vain!

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

After heading back to the hotel to freshen up and have breakfast we were off again, but this time under blue skies and shining sun, exceptionally rare for this time of year, made all the better by the light dusting of snow from the night before.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We drove south towards the ocean and stopped for pictures at Strandakirkja. The views here were absolutely incredible and made us so thankful for our decision to actually do this weekend trip.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Continuing through the Reykjanesfólkvangur Nature Preserve, we came across even more awe-inspiring views.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We were a bit pressed for time at this point to head back to the airport and catch our flight. After a brief stop at the local Costco for a cheap snack and fuel – off we went back to the airport!

 

Costco in Iceland - 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Costco in Iceland - 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 


Despite having only about 30 hours on the ground in Iceland, we had experienced so much in such a short amount of time that it felt like we had been gone for days. If you have the chance to spend a weekend or longer in Iceland, we highly recommend – it is one of our favourite places!

 

 

Top 5 Iceland Travel Tips

 

1) Expect the unexpected when it comes to weather.

You could easily experience weather from all four seasons, so be prepared and take it in stride! Make sure you bring warm and water-proof clothing. We wore Sorel boots and Fjallraven jackets to keep us warm.

2) Find meals at the local Bónus or Krónan grocery store.

Eating out is really expensive. We’re talking $20 to $25 for a basic entrée excluding drinks, starters, or dessert. However, you can find a good selection of food for somewhat reasonable prices at the grocery store. If you can, bring some snacks with you. Trail mix and protein bars travel really well.

3) Rent a car no matter how long your trip.

Iceland is all about getting out and seeing nature, and there’s no better freedom than having your own car to explore. We rented a car with Avis and everything went smoothly.

4) Bring your Costco card!

The store is relatively new in Iceland and you will save big time on fuel, groceries, and snacks from their restaurant! We got gas at Costco right before returning our rental car, and even snuck in the Icelandic version of the famous Costco hot dog.

5) You don’t actually need cash.

As long as you have a chip and pin credit card, you won’t need to exchange for any Icelandic Krona. We used our cards everywhere without problem and saved the time and hassle of exchanging currency.

 

5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Would you visit Iceland just for the weekend? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 

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Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights

So you want to go on a vacation? But you might not have a lot of vacation time or a huge budget? No worries, we have you covered! Other than people asking where our next trip is to, the second most asked question is where and how we book all of our flights to travel everywhere we do. These are our top tips for booking cheap flights! Learn how we travel as much as we do while both having full-time jobs and a busy schedule!

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

#1: Sit Down With a Calendar

 

Not the first tip you were expecting? It may seem unusual, but this is one of the most important!

Most people start off by hearing about or seeing pictures of a particular destination and all of a sudden that’s where they just have to go on their next vacation. In this situation, you will likely struggle to find cheap flights. If you have a set location and set date in mind and no flexibility, you're are at the mercy of the flight deal gods.

While you can certainly get a good deal by booking a vacation with a set destination and date in mind or booking last-minute deals, your chances of finding cheap flights are higher a couple of months in advance. Take the time at the beginning of the year/quarter and sit down with a calendar. Map out the weekends you would like to travel and pick weekends where you want to stay in town. Also think about your already known travel plans such as seeing family for the holidays, weddings you're invited to, etc. The end result is a set number of dates when you know you would like to get away so that when a flight deal comes along there is no wondering of when to go. You will already have a few dates in mind (and discussed with your significant other) and can get straight to the booking process.

 

#2: Sit Down With a Map

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

Okay, so now you have a few weekends and perhaps a week or two when you are planning to travel. But where in the world should you go!? You might have a bucket list, a list of 'saved' places on your social media accounts, or a few places your friends visited that you'd love to go to as well. If you're looking for more inspiration, you can peruse our Pinterest travel boards which include our collection of travel inspiration around the world. Make sure you discuss your favourite destinations with your significant other/family/friends so that when a flight deal comes along, you don't have any convincing to do!

For example, our goal while living in Chicago has been to see all 50 states – that means in 2019, our travel list includes the final states we have left (read about some of our 2019 travel goals in this post here).

So now that you have a list of where you want to go and when you are able to go there – bring on the flight deals!

 

#3 Set Flight Alerts

 

With a list of potential dates and destinations, you can now use the power of Google Flights to set flight alerts for your most-wanted trips. Setting up a flight alert is super easy and only takes a few minutes. This is how you set up a Google Flights alert to find cheap flights:

  1. Create a search with your trip date and location on Google Flights.
  2. Select the 'Track Prices' option below and enter your email.
  3. Wait for an email from Google Flights notifying you when the flights drop or increase in price.

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

This is what a flight tracking email could look like:

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

You can even use multiple origin and destination airports in your Google Flights search. For example, if you wanted to go to Hawaii or the Caribbean but didn’t care which island, you could choose multiple islands in one search.  Or you can search for an entire region such as 'Europe' and Google Flights will provide you with prices for each city.

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

Once you set your flight tracker, you will get notified when prices drop and you can immediately book your cheap flights. Google Flights also includes 'Tips' based on your search and will let you know if the current price is high or low relative to historical prices.

We always set flight alerts far in advance for our inflexible trips, such as heading home to families over the holidays to make sure we find cheap flights.

 

 
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#4 Sign Up for Flight Deals

 

In addition to tracking flight prices on Google Flights, there are incredible flight deals almost every day which let you fly around the world for way less than you think. The only problem is that you likely only hear about the deal once the cheap flights are gone!  Luckily for you and us, there are people who make it their mission to inform us of the latest and best flight deals. We highly recommend following @TheFlightDeal on Twitter so that you get an instant notification when a flight deal is posted. We also highly recommend signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights who will send you an email with your personalized flight deal. You select the region you live in for where you want the flight deals to originate from and then sit back and keep an eye on your inbox for the next great cheap flight to come along!

 

#5 Book the Cheap Flight!

 

So you finally get this email or Twitter alert with an incredible flight deal for one of the destinations you were hoping to go to! Now what?

A good flight deal typically only lasts for about an hour up to a day or two, so you’ve got to move very quickly! Give your significant other/family/friends/travel partner a quick call to confirm the trip and if you have time, take a look at visa requirements and approximate hotel prices to get an idea of the overall cost of the trip.

Once everything is ready to go, head to Google Flights and pull up the flight you received the alert for. For instance, if you got an alert for flights between Chicago and Newark in March, type in Chicago and Newark as your origin and destination in Google Flights, together with your travel dates. The flight options will show up and your flight deal should be part of these options. Clicking on the link in Google Flights will take you directly to the airline's website where you can book the flight.

 

Ready For Take-Off!

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

Before you hit that purchase button, be sure to check the carry-on and checked luggage restrictions and fees as those can both make or break your flight experience.

Now all you have to do is get ready for take-off!

There is a great sense of ‘winning’ or beating the system when you manage to snag an awesome flight deal! And also, don’t worry if you miss out on a deal as there will always be another one.

If you want to learn more on the tips and tricks we use to save money on flights and hotels for our travels, sign up to our mailing list below to receive our free Top 10 Money-Saving Travel Tips!

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

 


 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day is less than a month away and it's the perfect opportunity to get away with your significant other and celebrate a romantic weekend out of town. While a weekend seems short, imagine flying out on Friday evening, waking up in a new place with the promise not having to do anything but enjoy your day together. It's no secret that I love weekend trips as I feel I get so much more out of the two days off work. We usually fly home late on Sunday or very early on Monday morning and go directly to work. If you're looking for a domestic or international getaway, these are my 5 favourite romantic getaway destinations.

 

Romantic Getaway in Charleston

 

Located in South Carolina and being right on the water, Charleston has as much Southern charm as you could possibly imagine. The cobblestone streets and colourful houses transport you back in time and you might just feel like never going back home!

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Charleston

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Charleston

 

Go on a romantic stroll through Battery Promenade and Waterfront Park, enjoy the sun and the ocean front, and make your way through the French Quarter on your way to dinner. If you are looking for no-frills, affordable, but extremely tasty seafood, try 167 Raw. They don't take reservations and tend to get very busy so make sure you get there early. If you're looking for a romantic place to dine, make sure you try the Darling Oyster Bar right on King Street. They immediately won me over with their ambiance and their menu left nothing to be desired.

 

Wander the Streets of London

 

What is more romantic than going to Europe for a weekend? While this might be a tight travel schedule, you can think about taking the Friday or Monday off to make it a long weekend and get 3 full days out of your weekend. London is not just one of my favourite cities in Europe, it's also relatively easy to get to as a lot of airlines fly there directly.

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - London

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - London

 

The city has so much history, culture, and beautiful architecture - I could wander around the streets, feeling like I was in a Sherlock Holmes movie all day. On a sunny day, I highly recommend walking along the Thames towards London bridge and immerse yourself into the busyness of this great city! Make sure to stop by Borough Market, stop by the Shakespeare Globe - what could be more romantic (?) - and if you are looking for some amazing dinner views,  check out Sky Pod Bar at Sky Garden. Don't forget to snap a mandatory picture with the Tower Bridge on your way there!

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - London

 

Relax in Cancun

 

If you're all about escaping the cold this time of the year and relaxing on the beach, there is no better place than Cancun, Mexico! Depending on where you live, it's only a short flight away and Southwest Airlines even flies there (to learn how we save 50% on flight cost with Southwest, check out this post). After only a  short few hours flight, you can relax in the sun, listen to the waves crashing, and eat your body weight in guacamole and chips. Romantic evening walks in the sand and margaritas by the pool will make this trip the perfect romantic getaway and is exactly what we did when we were there (read the full story here).

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Cancun

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Cancun

 

Get Away for a Cabin Weekend

 

How about spending the weekend with your loved one at a cabin in the middle of nowhere? Enjoy 48 blissful hours of alone time at a rustic and cozy cabin - away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. We love staying at the Minnie Lake Ranch House which is part of Douglas Lake Ranch in BC, Canada but there is no need to travel that far. These are some of my favourite cabin getaways that are currently on my wish list:  rustic cabin getaways, Wisconsin cabin getaways, Michigan cabin getaways, Colorado cabin getaways.

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Cabin Weekend

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Cabin Weekend

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Cabin Weekend

 

Visit the City of Love - Paris

 

No romantic getaway list would be complete without Paris - the city of love! While it is a bit more difficult to travel to from the U.S. for just a weekend, it is very much doable (see how we spent a weekend in Paris here) and you won't regret it. As the center of romance, ornate architecture, delicious pastries, and wine, how could you possibly go wrong with Paris? While it's not very warm in February, you can still stroll through the streets in Montmartre - an area of the city, enjoy a macaron or two at Laduree, be dazzled at Galeries Lafayette, and most importantly, have one of the best salads I've ever had (think melted goat cheese and roasted potatoes and not much lettuce) at the quirky Le Relais Gascon.

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Paris

 

5 Romantic Getaway Destinations for Valentine's Day - Paris

 

What is your favourite romantic getaway? Let us know in the comments below and make sure to tag us on Instagram on your next weekend trip!

 

Pin this post on Pinterest to your favourite travel board and share with your significant other to kick-start the romantic getaway planning!

 






 

Skiing in Switzerland

Growing up in Switzerland, I never understood what everyone's fascination with the Alps was. Being surrounded by mountains was all I knew and I wanted to experience the big city life instead.  Things changed very quickly though, once I moved to Illinois - the flattest state in the U.S. I miss mountains a lot! Every time Kyle and I go back to Switzerland, we like to spend some time in the Alps and go skiing if there is snow and the weather conditions are reasonable.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

I have been to a few ski resorts in Switzerland but grew up exploring the hills of Crans-Montana, a ski resort in the French part of Switzerland, in the canton Valais. It's a two hour drive to get there from Bern and you can either drive via Lake Geneva and stop in gorgeous Montreux and visit Chillon Castle on the way, or you can drive through the Bernese Alps and take the Lötschberg car train which is a fun experience by itself. If you have never heard of the car train before, check out this video. The first time I took Kyle there, he was stunned.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Crans-Montana is 1,500m or 4,920ft above sea level and from there you can access the glacier Plaine Morte which is 2,927m or 9,600ft above sea level. Because the ski resort faces south, you often get the sunniest skiing conditions and best views of the Alps and the Valais.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

You can even see the Matterhorn from Crans-Montana, although you'll only see the backside of it which makes it difficult to recognize.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

After a bumpy ride up in the cable car, Kyle and I couldn't wait to finally hit the slopes and go skiing in Switzerland for the first time in 4(!) years.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Shop My Skiing Outfit

 

Many of the items I'm wearing, I've had for years. My jacket is from H&M and I linked similar ones below. My goggles are by Arnette and you can get them on Amazon still.


 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

The morning was a bit foggy but it cleared up soon and we were lucky to get the most beautiful views and blue skies!

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

We were happy to notice that skiing is like riding a bike, although our legs were starting to get sore. After a few runs, we even had enough confidence to go down a double black diamond run but regretted our choice as soon as we looked down the hill. Check out my Instagram stories if you're curious to see the run!

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Arguably, the best part about skiing is getting away from the busy city life to enjoy a day in the snow and sun.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

And while you're out there enjoying your day, make sure you stop by one of the slope bars and restaurants and enjoy a glass of gluhwein and local charcuterie.

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

Skiing in Switzerland - Crans-Montana

 

For all the non-skiers amongst us, I can still highly recommend a visit to Crans-Montana. You can take the cable car to the slopes to enjoy the views or stay in the resort town, to go ice skating ...

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

... go on a walk around the lakes ...

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

... and enjoy the holiday decorations.

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Crans-Montana by night

 

Have you been skiing in Switzerland or would you like to go? Where is your favourite place to go? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Skiing in Switzerland - My favorite resort and views of the Alps
Skiing in Switzerland - My favorite resort and views of the Alps

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 


 

Visions of Zanzibar

Just hearing about Zanzibar evokes visions of an exotic bustling city with winding streets packed with houses, spice markets, bazaars, and mosques with a fusion of cultures and people. We were quite unprepared for Zanzibar, having done virtually zero research. We arrived with no cash and no idea how to get to our hotel! The official taxi cab stand had reasonable rates to Stone Town, the main city on Zanzibar, and so once we had exchanged more USD for a couple hundred thousand Tanzanian Shillings (we felt super rich with all those 000’s!) we were on our way.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Tembo Hotel

 

The Tembo House Hotel is one of the few hotels in Stone Town that offers beach access but also is right in the heart of the city. Wasting no time once we arrived, we were off to explore the city!

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Stone Town is an important historical and artistic city for Eastern Africa due to its diverse mixture of influencing cultures from Arab, Persian, Indian, European, and local Swahili. But don’t just take our word for it. This has led the city to reach UNESCO World Heritage status for it’s ‘outstanding material manifestation of cultural fusion and harmonization.’

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar - St. Joseph Cathedral

 

Visions of Zanzibar - St. Joseph Cathedral

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

The majestic House of Wonders, a former palace of the Sultan of Zanzibar, Bait As-Sahel, another former palace, and the Old Fort, built by the Omani Arabs over 300 years ago when they expelled the Portuguese, stand proudly facing the harbor, though are many decades past their prime, which adds to the unique appeal of the city.

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

After meandering our way through some of the narrow streets we found ourselves back at our hotel, where we cooled off enjoying the luxury of air conditioning compared to our safari tent (read about our safari experience here and here)!

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Feeling luxurious, we walked next door to the beautiful Park Hyatt Zanzibar for drinks and dinner, with another incredible sunset view.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Park Hyatt Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset at Park Hyatt Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset at Park Hyatt Zanzibar

 

The beach seemed to come to life at sundown and was full with fishermand and tourist boats coming back to shore (and taking the boat motor with them), as well as kids playing and swimming.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

For our next day we had visions of taking a boat to nearby Prison Island, or complete a spice tour at one of the many spice farms on the island, however, the weather had other stories.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Tembo Hotel

 

A couple of thunderstorms came rolling through Stone Town during the first half of the day so we instead decided to relax in our hotel room and around the pool – with our trip so far being pretty jam-packed (you can read about our safari here and here) this was our day to sit back and relax, especially through the heat of the afternoon sun.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Tembo Hotel

 

We still managed to spend a few hours wandering around the hotel and the beach right out front once the storms had passed.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Shop Bettina's Look


 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 


 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

In the early evening we ventured back out to explore the streets, finding the Darajani Market which was chaotic...

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Shop Bettina's Look


 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

... and full of some the best smells (think local cinnamon, cardamom, and currys) ...

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

... and worst smells (think of raw fish, raw meat, and rotting vegetables) all combined into one bombardment of the senses.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

We spent dinner at Lukmann Restaurant, which we can highly recommend. They have a massive selection of local fare for a reasonable price, and the place was full of both tourists and locals alike, eating like it was their last meal.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Stone Town at Night

 

Haggling or bartering is not exactly our speciality, but we were getting better throughout the trip. Talking to a Danish couple at our hotel that used to live on Zanzibar, we soon realized we had been duped at the airport two days before! The ‘Official Taxi Prices’ listed, 30,000 Shilling, there were about double what the going rate should be if you can barter appropriately. We are ashamed to admit our mistake and naivety at paying the listed price. We learned our lesson though and drove a hard bargain with a talkative taxi driver, getting him down to half of what we paid from the airport.

Tip: A cab ride from downtown Stone Town to the airport is about 10,000 - 15,000 Shilling. If you arrive in Zanzibar and are being quoted 30,000 Shilling to get to downtown, mention that you got it for 10,000 Shilling last time (or your friend got that price) and the drivers will likely meet you at 15,000 Shilling. 

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

We absolutely loved Stone Town.  There is a very unique blend of Arab, Moorish, English, and African architecture with grand buildings and décor all in various states of disrepair.  The streets are tiny, and crisscross the city in no discernable pattern, but Stone Town is small enough that you can walk until you are lost but can’t really get more than 20 minutes off course. The people are friendly and talkative, and the streets are full of energy.  We can highly recommend spending a few days in Stone Town, and will definitely be doing so again when we return to explore the rest of the island of Zanzibar. Have you been to Zanzibar? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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Exploring African Village Mloka, Tanzania

Ever since I was little, I have been interested in experiencing different cultures and seeing how other people live. To me, seeing how other people live helps me understand their history and their goals better.

Our African Safari didn't 'just' include game drives (check out this post), a boat safari, (see this post) and a walking safari, but we were also given the opportunity to explore a remote African village nearby called Mloka. I, of course, jumped at the chance to see how the locals live.

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

We booked our entire safari with Takims Holidays and loved every aspect of it! Abbas made sure that everything is taken care of, from the accommodation to the flights, airport transport, etc. If you are looking to go on a safari, you can use our exclusive discount code THENEXTTRIP20 to get 20% off your safari with Takims Holidays!

 

After only a few minutes drive, we saw the first signs of civilization and passed by what we assume is the local gas station.

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Mloka has a school, a small medical clinic, and a few shops, but the grounds it is built on are not very rich. Farmers thus live on the other side of the river, where they can grow their crop. Kids commute across the river by canoe to get to school and their parents make the journey to sell their goods or work.

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

This commute isn't an easy one and it's also quite dangerous. The Rufiji river is a great place for hippos to spend their days (check out this blog post if you want to see some hippo pictures) and they tend to get very territorial. If they see a canoe approaching, they might mistake it for another hippo and start attacking it. While hippos are vegetarian, people can still die from getting bitten, crushed, or getting eaten by crocodiles if the boat is flipped. Hippos are in fact claimed to be one of the most dangerous animals in Africa!

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

The canoe schedule seemed to be quite a simple one. Once the boat was full, they would embark to the other side where people were already waiting to use it to get back.

The Rufiji river also serves as a source of water for the locals. However, transporting water from the river up to Mloka isn't an easy task as the ground is sandy and motorized vehicles are rare.

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

After answering the millions of questions I had (yes, I am that kind of person), our guide took us to the center of the African village. Being away from the river, the temperatures seemed to rise by the minute and being used to chilly weather from living in Chicago, I was struggling to adjust.

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Mloka was everything I thought an African village would be - simple, hot, and buzzing with life! We stopped at the local markets...

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

... walked around the town square ...

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

... admired one of the few buses in and out of Mloka and other local vehicles ...

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

... and went for a drink at the local pub (where I got yelled at for trying to take pictures so you will just have to believe me!).

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

My main mission though was to find the perfect souvenir to take home - an African wrap skirt! We went to every single shop there was.

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

Shop My Look

 

I was wearing a tank top to stay cool but covered up with a scarf to be respectful. I linked similar items below!


 

Unfortunately, I didn't find one to take home but splurged on some hand-made earrings in the shape of the African continent.

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

We left Mloka to head back to the Selous Game Reserve and I was extremely impressed by how the locals manage to be seemingly happier than our society is when having so much less to work with. Our excursion truly inspired me to be more grateful and content with what we have.

Have you ever visited a remote African village? If so, share your experience with us below!

 

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

Exploring African Village Mloka - Tanzania

 

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 


 

2018: A Year in Review

Ah 2018. Another year of travel in the books with a number of firsts along the way. Looking back at the very beginning of 2018, we had no idea the experiences we would have and the new places we would visit. No doubt the year went by fast, however if you take the time to sit back and reflect on what you have accomplished and experienced, it makes the year seem more meaningful and richer than just living day to day. Without further ado, here was our 2018:

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

As an avid avgeek, I use OpenFlights to track all of our flights, which comes in handy when you need to look back at where you’ve been. 2018 was our most travelled yet, as we travelled to new countries, new continents, and marched futher towards our goal of visiting all 50 US states. Both working in finance, we love some great statistics, so here we go:

Miles flown: 124, 261 over 88 separate flights (full disclosure, this does include about 25,000 miles flown for work)

Time flying: 12 days, 4 hours, and 9 minutes

Longest flight: 6,529 mile San Francisco to Auckland, NZ

Shortest flight: 24 miles Stiegler’s Gorge Airstrip to Mtemere Airstrip in Tanzania

Countries visited: 12

New countries visited: 2

US states visited: 27 (+5 Canadian provinces!)

New US states visited: 10 (+4 Canadian provinces!)

 

Kyle’s Favourite Trip

 

For a number of years I had been dreaming of doing a camping trip through the San Juan mountains of Colorado, and completing the famous Alpine Loop, which you can read about here and here.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

This past August we made the long trek from Chicago out to Colorado and were able to complete that dream. The high alpine views were spectacular and better than I had imagined.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

We also experienced the Great Sand Dunes, which you can read about our scary first night tenting here and Denver (read about our day in Denver here) on that trip and had an absolute blast!

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Bettina’s Favourite Trip

 

Although we were only in Cancun for less than 48 hours, it was the most relaxing trip all year (get my full review here).

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Having heard other people rave about Mexico and the temperature in Chicago still freezing cold in April, I couldn’t wait to spend some time at the beach and enjoy the sun.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Staying at the Westin Resort & Spa, Cancun, the trip was everything you could imagine – pristine beaches, warm water, a beautiful pool area, and more guacamole and chips that I could eat.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Should winter be just as long as last year, we might escape to Mexico for a weekend again!

 

Other Highlights

 

Tanzania

One of our most recent, and most exotic, trips was to Tanzania which was also amazing. Going on safari was a definite highlight and better than we could have imagined! We thought we’d be lucky to see one giraffe far in the distance running away, but instead, we saw hundreds far and wide. You can read about our safari here and here and our exploration of Dar es Salaam here.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

New Zealand

Of course, how could we forget our first trip venturing into the Southern Hemisphere! Heading down to New Zealand (for only four days no less), was a trip we will not forget about anytime soon, and is a place that we have pegged to visit again in the near future.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

We had a great time exploring the beautiful countryside, which you can read about here, as well as Auckland (read about here), and everything in between (Geothermal Wonderland and Lake Taupo).

 

Eastern Canada Roadtrip

Lastly, we spent the fourth of July on a great American road trip – to Canada – and explored the maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

The weather was great, the people were friendly, and we covered a lot of ground, however we are most proud to have eaten seafood and ice cream on each day of the trip! You can read about our trip here, including Prince Edward Island, historic Peggys’ Cove and Lunenburg Nova Scotia, and the impressive Bay of Fundy here.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

We also thoroughly enjoyed a weekend in Paris, a few days in Bruges, a family get together in Venice and the Dolomites, visiting Montreal, exploring Charleston, and eating our way through New Orleans!

 

The Next Trip in 2019

 

We’re not wasting any time in 2019, starting the year off in Switzerland our first flight will be heading back to Chicago on January 2nd. Shortly after, we will be heading back to Iceland for a weekend in January hoping to catch some Northern Lights. Looking further into the future we hope to round out all 50 US states, so that means trips to hotspots like Hawaii, Alaska, and North Dakota (?), as well as Tennessee, North Carolina, Utah, and New Mexico. We will likely also have a small handful of trips to Europe and hopefully somewhere else warm and sunny! Stay tuned for more adventures on The Next Trip in 2019 and thank you for being here!

 


 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

If you've been following along on our trip to Tanzania, you might recall that we spent our first day in Dar es Salaam (you can check out our city tour here) and the second day on a river safari at the Selous Game Reserve (you can read about our adventure here). With two additional days for safari, we decided to do an early morning game drive the day after we arrived and a full day game drive on the third day.

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

 

Early-Morning Safari Game Drive

 

Doing an early-morning game drive on the second day of our African safari was definitely a struggle as we were still jetlagged. However, it was immediately worth it when no more than five minutes into the drive we came across two giraffes chowing down on a tree near the road! Our safari guide patiently stopped and let us take some imperfect pictures due to the angle and distance. Little did we know, there would be hundreds more giraffes to come.

 

Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

The best place to look for animals in the wilderness is, of course, close to food or water sources. In talking to our guide, the Selous Game Reserve near the Rufiji River Camp contains about seven or so watering holes for the animals, which can make it slightly more difficult to find them, given that water is so plentiful. This is not the typical dry, desolate savannah that you might have expected from an African safari, but rather the geography is rolling hills with trees and bushes all over.

 

Scenery on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Scenery on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

View from the Safari Car - African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Each turn around the next corner brought new excitement as we discovered new animals and views along the way. Forewarning – this is a picture heavy post!

 

Water Buffalo on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Marabou Storks - African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Warthog Family on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Giraffe Family on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Zebra on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Warthog Family on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Halfway through we stopped to enjoy a bush breakfast, complete with hot coffee, delicious fresh fruit, and homemade pastries. This gave us a chance to stretch our legs and walk around.

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

However, you couldn’t wander too far or too close to the water, in case a crocodile had his eyes on you for breakfast.

 

Crocodile on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Just after breakfast we caught a hippo running out of the water – it may not be slim, but can sure run fast. Seeing a hippo out of water during the day is relatively rare as hippos tend to stay in the water all day to protect their skin from the sun and heat. For pictures of hippos in water, check out this post.

 

Hippo on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Further along that day we came across more giraffes, birds, and impalas than we could count.

 

Tower of Giraffes on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Blue Bird on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Blue Bird on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

The impalas give birth to their young each year in November, so there were hundreds of little calves running around.

 

Herd of Impalas on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Baby Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Last but not least, we came across three lions lounging in the sun. We drove right up to them, within 10-15 feet and turned the motor off of our open top, open door safari vehicle. (The third lion was hiding in the bush.)

 

Pride of Lions - African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

The lions couldn’t have cared less that we were there, and just kept on sleeping in the shade, trying to stay cool and away from the hot African sun.  We stayed here quite a while, and saw them stretch, yawn, and lay around, just like a slightly-oversized housecat.

 

Pride of Lions - African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Male Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Male Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Before we knew it we were heading back to the lodge, extremely pleased with all of the animals we had seen that morning.

 

Full-Day Safari Game Drive

 

The next day was our full-day game drive, and we were on the road for almost 7 hours. We saw a lot of the same animals as the day before, but also now spotted an elephant in the wild (and not next to our tent, which you can read about here), ...

 

Lonely Elephant on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

...a small herd of wildebeest,...

 

Herd of Wildebeest on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Herd of Wildebeest on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

...a large heard of zebras,...

 

Zebras on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Herd of Zebras on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

...and a small family of lions and their cubs.

 

Family of Lions on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Two Lion Cubs on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Bettina really wanted to cuddle with the lion cubs, but it was not advised by our safari guide.

 

Lion Mom and Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Everyone has heard of the big five game animals – consisting of the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo, of which we saw three on this trip – but did you know that there is also an ugly five? The less glamorous grouping of animals consists of the warthog, hyena, marabou stork, vulture, and the wildebeest.

 

Warthog on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Two Hyenas in Water on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Two Hyenas in Water on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

We were fortunate to catch all five of these animals on our day-long safari drive.

 

Marabou Stork on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Vulture eating on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Wildebeest on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

And here we have another beautiful animal, affectionally known as the toilet-seat, which you can see from the rings around it’s behind.

 

Male Water Buck on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Female Water Buck with Baby on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Baby Water Buck on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Despite the cute lion cubs and the toilet seat babies, Bettina's favourite animal on the safari was by far the giraffe.

 

Young Male Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Mostly due to their elegance and perfect posting.

 

Giraffe Mom and Baby on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

But also because they made her laugh with their indecisiveness when it comes to directions!

 

Tower of Giraffes on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Our first African safari turned out better than we could have imagined, with our excellent accommodation, sunny weather, and of course all of the animals that we saw.

 

Scenery on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

If you’d like to book your own African safari in Tanzania, we have partnered with Takims Holidays, who booked our safari, and are offering you a 20% discount (use the code thenexttrip20 with your inquiry). Have you been on a safari before?

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 


 

The Start of our First African Safari

Having spent a day in Dar es Salaam, it was finally time to start our first African safari!

 

Getting to Selous Game Reserve

 

We awoke early to head to the airport, though this time we were headed to the smaller, domestic terminal. We had heard that the terminal was small, but we weren’t quite ready for how small. There was a single waiting area of a few benches, a couple passengers sitting around, and an open door out onto the tarmac. Five minutes before our flight was due to take off someone appeared at the door and called for boarding – and off we went with Auricair.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Flying Auricair

 

Only a few minutes later all 12 passengers were seated and we were taking off towards the Selous Game Reserve. Named after famous British explorer, hunter, and conservationist Frederik Selous, the reserve covers 50,000 square km (19,000 sq miles) and has been protected for over 120 years. Wildlife populations are high, however less dense than some of the more popular parks in Northern Tanzania (the Selous reserve is almost 4 times larger than the Serengeti).

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Flying Auricair

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Flying Auricair

 

We dropped off one group of German tourists at Stiegler’s Gorge at another African safari camp, and then it was just Bettina and I for our private 15 minute flight onto the next airstrip. We flew low over the Rufiji River and even spotted our safari camp from the air! The "airport" closest to the Rufiji River camp was everything we had imagined it would be - rustic and outdoorsy. 🙂

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Selous Game Reserve Airstrip

 

Booking and Accommodation

 

Our dedicated time for our African safari adventure was only 3-4 days. Not knowing where to go with our time and budget constraints, we decided to book with Takims Holidays. Our travel agent Abbas suggested we explore the Selous Game Reserve due to a high possibility of wildlife sighting. He booked our stay at the Rufiji River Camp where we had a private tent nestled in the trees with a view over the river.

If you are thinking about going on your own African safari and don't know where to start, we can highly recommend Takims Holidays. Everything was well taken care of and Abbas made sure we would get the best experience possible given our constraints. Get 20% off your safari with Takims Holidays by using our exclusive discount code: thenexttrip20. 

 

The main area of the camp had a large open dining area, firepit, pool, and a number of places to kickback and relax. Upon arrival, we were escorted to our tent due to known elephants in the area.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

Shop Bettina's Safari Look

 


 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

The tent is definitely towards the glamping end of the spectrum given it had a wooden door, two king-size beds, and a full bathroom.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

We were told right at arrival that the cute baboons love to stroll through the guests' camps if you don't keep the door closed and they will make quite a mess looking for food. Sure enough, baboons were walking around our tent at all daytimes, hoping we would leave something for them.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Baboon

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Baboon

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Baboon

 

No sooner than ten minutes after, we heard some rustling in the bushes along the path and this guy appeared.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Elephant at Rufiji River Camp

 

This elephant was munching on a tree on the very path we walked to get to our tent only ten minutes earlier!

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Elephant at Rufiji River Camp

 

African River Safari

 

One of the thing’s we didn’t realize about safaris until we got here, was that you could choose your activities each day, so whether you were staying for three days or ten, each night you chose your activity for the next day, which could be a walking tour, river safari, various safari drives, or a trip to the local village. We thought it best to start with an easy river safari.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - River Safari

 

Before we even made it to the boat we could hear a bunch of grunting, splashing, and animal noises coming from the river. These were the hippos, and they are a noisy bunch!

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

Heading out on the water the hippos live in pods of usually a dozen or more, and all had their heads above water in the distance. As we got closer in the boat they would slowly, one by one, drop under the water until we were nearby and they were all gone! It made photography a bit of a challenge, however since they can only hold their breath for about 5 minutes, they frequently resurfaced.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

Further down the river we spotted our first crocodile! Crocodiles often choose to live near hippos as their droppings attract certain fish crocodiles like to eat. However, hippos and crocodiles definitely do not get along. We witnessed one crocodile getting slightly too close to a hippo near the end of our boat ride.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Crocodile

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Crocodile

 

While harder to photograph, everywhere we turned we saw new types of birds that we’ve never seen before.

 

The Start of our First African Safari

 

The Start of our First African Safari

 

The Start of our First African Safari

 

The Start of our First African Safari

 

Further down the river, we were near the border of the Selous Game Reserve, where villagers commute back and forth on the Rufiji River in dugout canoes.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - People in Selous Game Reserve

 

The Start of our First African Safari - People in Selous Game Reserve

 

The Start of our First African Safari - People in Selous Game Reserve

 

As we were nearing our camp, there was a bunch of splashing and grunting coming from a nearby pod of hippos. We spotted a crocodile that was getting a little bit too close. See for yourself who won this fight!

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo Fighting a Crocodile

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo Fighting a Crocodile

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo Fighting a Crocodile

 

As this was a slower time of the year, all of our activities were either just the two of us, or with one or two other travelers. No complaints here on our private African safari by boat!

The evening was finished off with a fantastic dinner and African sunset.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

We were just getting started, as we heading out on the early game drive the next morning! Is doing an African safari on your bucket list?

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 


 

A One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Travelling to a new country for the first time is always exciting, but it is even more exciting when the trip is to a whole new continent (if you look at our travel map, Africa is looking quite empty)! We took the long way to Tanzania (intentionally), including a 23 hour and 50 minute layover in Switzerland, which allowed us to visit Bettina’s family and spend the night in a real bed. This meant that we arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, late at night about two days after we left Chicago.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We had one day in our itinerary to explore Dar es Salaam and were very fortunate to have a local tour guide, Rumina, show us around. We started at one of the smaller local markets which was full of fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, and an assortment of other household goods.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We were less than 20 minutes into our day and Bettina had already purchased a new handbag! According to Rumina, this would be one of the best places to pick one up on the cheap.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

The heat and humidity (about 33C/92F and 85% humidity) was quickly getting to us – so why not freshen up with a little bit of coconut water?

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Dar Es Salaam has an estimated population of over 5 million. With a fairly small city center it certainly does not seem to be that large.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We enjoyed getting a sense of the city on our driving tour, along with a stop along the coast at Coco Beach to pick up some freshly fried cassava chips.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

When we stopped the car here we were immediately bombarded by everyone hawking whatever food they had to sell. While everyone was friendly, it can be a bit overwhelming when you have 10 or more people all following you around trying to sell you something! The fact that we very much looked like tourists didn't help.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

If you’re interested in getting some great African artwork, there is a market near the Slipway which has a huge selection of locally made goods, where we picked up a few more souvenirs!

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

And when you are tired of shopping, right next door is a couple of great oceanside restaurants for food and drinks with amazing views.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Her purse is from Aldo and is currently on sale!

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

During our short trip to Dar es Salaam, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro. (We managed to pay for our stay entirely with Hyatt points which we had collected on previous trips.) The hotel itself is beautiful and everyone made us feel very welcome.

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We loved our room and the city views that came with it.

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

After our city tour, we went back to our hotel to cool down in the air conditioning and freshen up before dinner, but not before stopping off at the rooftop bar of our hotel.

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

With a great view over the harbour, this is one of the many great spots to catch a sunset in Dar.

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Shop Bettina's Evening Look

 

Another great place to catch a sunset is the Cape Town Fish Market, a restaurant and bar right on the water. The perks of being there on a Sunday night included great live music, including local Tanzanian songs and other popular Western music sung with a very questionable accent, causing us to wonder which language they were actually singing in!

 

Cape Town Fish Market, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We finished the night off with some great food – we have no idea what was ordered, but it was all delicious!

For only having one day to spend in Dar es Salaam, we feel like we got a pretty good feel for the city, but also can’t wait to return to spend a few more days. For anyone who has safety concerns, as long as you apply typical common sense considerations as you would in any large city in the world, you will have a great time exploring this wonderful city. We were surprised at how incredibly friendly everyone was and how delicious the food was!

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Have you been to Dar es Salaam?

 

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