On Site: Tanzania: Day One

One of the most exciting things about visiting Africa is that no one region can prepare you for any other. Going to Morocco will not prepare you for South Africa, and South Africa will not prepare you for Tanzania. Just as European countries are widely different from one another, African nations each have distinct qualities that make each one a unique experience.

Just two weeks after returning from Indaba, I am back in Africa, though this time in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (And while South African Airways makes the 14+-hour New York-to-Johannesburg flight as comfortable and pleasant as a 14+-hour flight can be, making that trip twice in one month is rather exhausting.) Once we arrived in Joburg, we transferred to the International Departures lounge (your clients will have to go through security again, even though they don’t have to leave the terminal…unless we made a wrong turn somewhere…Hey, O.R. Tambo is a huge airport! It’s easy to get lost!) and caught the 3.5-hour flight to Dar es Salaam. (After New York to Joburg, Joburg to Dar es Salaam is a breeze.)

Disembarking from the plane, the heat and humidity pack a punch like…well, intense heat and humidity. (I shouldn’t call the heat “intense.” It’s warm…very warm…but the humidity is much like Hawaii’s, and the baggage claim area does not seem to be air conditioned.) Important: If your clients are planning to visit Tanzania, make sure they know that they will need to get a visa (which costs $100), but they can get it at the airport upon arrival if they don’t get one in advance. 

Also good to know: U.S. dollars seem to be widely accepted in Tanzania, which eliminates the whole conversion problem. Be sure your clients know to bring plenty of single bills for tips and gratuities. 

Once we got onto the highway, we began to see the city and its surrounding areas. The sun had already set (terrific view of the sunset from the plane, by the way), but many streetlights were not lit. Car headlights were the only illumination, and the beams caught the humid air to create a ghostly effect. As we pulled into the city, many buildings had no power, but people were still walking around the streets in the darkness. The effect is at once mysterious and beautiful, with shapes in the shadows and candles in windows creating an atmosphere that words just can’t quite describe.

And now I’m in the New Africa Hotel and Casino, where my group is only spending the night before heading off again early tomorrow morning. It seems like a very nice property—they have no problems with electricity here, and the rooms are plenty big. I just wish it were daylight already so I could get a better photograph of the view across the water.