|Good morning, Serengeti!|
|Rusumo Falls, at the Tanzania/Rwanda border|
At 3,000 francs per night (about $5), the price was certainly right, and since we didn’t know of any other place to stay, we agreed to stay. Our room was bare except for a bed and mosquito net. Beth and I were both dying for a shower after a long day on buses, but there was no running water in the entire place, and our dreams were quickly dashed. After getting a dinner of omelettes at another nearby bar with excruciatingly slow service, we turned in for the night, trying to take the “ignorance is bliss” route when it came to the cleanliness of the bed linens.
The next morning we were up bright and early to try to beat the lines and buses that clog the border immigration offices. By 7 am, we had gone through the Rwandan side of immigration, and were headed over the pounding waters of Rusumo Falls to the Tanzania side. I mentally congratulated myself on beating the rush as we crossed over into Tanzania with little hassle, until we arrived on the Tanzania side to find that no buses were leaving for Kahama, our destination, for another three hours. Fantastic.
We waited around, had some tea and chapatti, and then finally
we were on our way to Kahama. We transferred buses in Kahama and finally arrived in Mwanza on Lake Victoria at about 8 pm that night, after about 13 hours of travel by bus, where we met up with our Swedish friends, Emmy and Josephine.
|View from my seat on a long, hot bus ride|
The following day, Josephine and I were up at 4:30 am to wait for our guide and driver from Serengeti Expeditions, but due to a miscommunication, we didn’t meet up with them until about 6:30 am. After paying and filling out our paperwork, we were on our way to the Serengeti, about two and half hours drive from Mwanza.
It is possible to go from Kigali to Mwanza, on Lake Victoria, in about 16 hours of travelling by bus. It’s about 3-4 hours from Kigali to Rusumo (the Tanzania/Rwanda border), and about an hour to cross and do immigration stuff. You can take Select or Matunda bus services from Nyabugogo bus park in Kigali (3,000 francs). There’s an hour time change (you lose an hour going to Tanzania) at the border.
There are buses waiting on the Tanzania side to take you to Kahama, about 5 hours away. We took Select Express (a smaller Coaster bus), for 12,000 TSH or 5,500 RWF. At Kahama, you change buses to a big bus to Mwanza. From Kahama to Mwanza it’s about five hours as well. It was 10,000 shillings.
In Mwanza, we stayed at Lake Hotel, close to Lake Victoria and Hotel Tilapia. It was definitely a budget place, but it was safe and definitely a step up from the “rent by the hour” place we stayed the night before. 20,000 TSH ($13) for a double room per night. Check out Hotel Tilapia, just a fifteen minute walk away, for some amazing food and views.
In Kahama, on the way back, I stayed at the New Mongo Hotel, a four story building just a block or two from the bus station. At 35,000 TSH a night it was pretty fancy for me, but very secure and had nice rooms and hot water. +255 282 710 351 and +255 782311679.
We went with Serengeti Expedition, based in Mwanza, for our trip (I had simply emailed about 40 safari companies, and they were the cheapest). It was fairly no-frills, but considering that we paid about $300 per person for 2 days one night in the Serengeti and other companies were quoting $1000, I felt it was a good deal for the money. Our guide was knowledgeable and we saw all of the animals except rhinos. My only complaints were that they had promised us that meals were $10 inside the park, and for some meals they wanted $15 or $20. Our guide seemed almost unsure of what to do for dinner once we arrived at the campsite (other tour groups had their own chef with them). And later in the second day, we had car trouble, and our guide and driver had no phone minutes. It turned out to be okay (we ate lunch while they had our car fixed), but it cut short our second day, and we didn’t get to see the south part of the Serengeti. So if you’re looking for a budget way to see the Serengeti, it was good, but if you have more money than a Peace Corps Volunteer, you might want to look into other tour companies.