We landed at Kilimanjaro International airport (JRO) after a long eight hour flight from Amsterdam. We had stayed two nights in Amsterdam after flying from San Francisco just so that we wouldn’t have to fly twenty hours straight.
We landed at 7.45 pm, local time. I had imagined JRO to be a big airport. I mean, it was an international airport and was the main airport for tourists coming in to Tanzania for the northern safari circuit. Well, it wasn’t big. It was a pretty nondescript small building. All the tourists packed into the dimly lit arrival hall. The hall had two counters for immigration: “need visa” and “have visa”. We already had visas, so we went to the “have visa” line. But if you didn’t, you could get a visa on arrival. USD 100 for US citizens. USD 50 for Europeans. Don’t know why there is a difference in the price.
Immigration was relatively quick. The lady behind the counter didn’t smile at all. She took our fingerprints and we were on our way. The one ATM at the airport didn’t work. So I went to the money exchange bureau counter to convert some of my greenbacks. The exchange rate is 2000:1. At first it seems bizarre trying to get to terms with the Tanzanian shillings. I mean, at the ATM you withdraw 400,000. A cab fare is 10,000. But then you get used to ignoring the thousand at the end and divide the remainder by two. 10,000 is five bucks. Cool.
Outside the arrival hall, we were met with our driver/guide. We had booked the safari through a local company called Easy Travel Tours Ltd that had great reviews on TripAdvisor. Mr Hubat, our guide stood there with a placard with our names on it. It was all very exciting! The start of our adventure! For the next ten days or so, we’d be on the road with Mr Hubat. This would be one hell of a road trip! I had all these questions for Mr Hubat. Were we at the right time of the year? Will we get to see the migration? What about the big five? Mr Hubat remained cool. Hakuna Matata. Take it easy. We will see them all. Hakuna Matata. Cool.
The drive from the airport to Arusha where were staying was not very interesting. The drive took about an hour. It was dark and we couldn’t see much outside the car. Finally we arrived at the African Tulip hotel in Arusha where we were met with moist towels and drinks. Seemed like a very nice hotel. At the hotel we were met by Mr Anuj, an Indian from north India. It felt like home🙂. After checking in and freshening up, we had dinner at the hotel. The food was excellent. They had a buffer dinner. Surprisingly, there were lots of Indian entries. And then we met the executive chef, Mr Anil. Another Indian. Ah! That explains the naans, daal makhni etc🙂