Even though I live in a country that is known for diverse culture and natural resources including wildlife, my greatest challenge to go out on advetures is having enough time and money to travel. My mid-year resolution is therefore to organize weekend getaways to nearby destinations. Last weekend I set off for Karatu, Tanzania. I have never been to the region, had no idea where to sleep or what I will find there. The only thing I knew was that it is the land of the Iraqi people who are close to the Maasai, both being nilots. Armed with the internet on my laptop and mobile phone, I further found out the location, the time it would take to go there and names of a few hotels that were slightly above my budget. Asking around from collegues, I found out the price it would cost and how to get there.
Small hut on the Karatu countryside
With a budget of $80USD (128,000 Tanzanian shillings), my nine year old nephew for company and without a host, I set for Karatu. The road trip was a great idea, I enjoyed watching the landscape taking different forms from plains to hills and valleys; it was a wonderful feeling to see streams and rivers flowing in places that were dry a few months ago. With a stop-over at Arusha, it took about 4hrs or so to reach Karatu town. I spent less than 100,000 Tshs for the entire trip to Karatu and back home; the cost includes meals and snacks, a tour, transport and accomodation.
If you are planning to go to Karatu it is a good idea to get in touch with a freelance tour guide and let them know your budget. The only difference in costs for foreigners will be the amount paid to the tour guides which ranges between 10-30 USD depending on the tour type. Transport, food and accomodation costs are the same for both local and foreign tourists. There are direct buses from Moshi to Karatu which leave at around 6:00 am, alternatively you can take a bus to Arusha then Karatu, the price is the same at 7,500Tshs. The benefit of stopping-over is that you can enjoy a meal in Arusha, take a stretch and get on with the journey. Several buses leave Karatu to Arusha up to evening hours (around 5 pm) so you can actually get back on the same day if you wish to, direct buses to Moshi are from 6:00 am up to around 7:30 am.
Locals gathering wood in Karatu
The weather in Karatu reminded me of Dodoma, dry heat or dry cold. It is a small town that is slowly embracing the wave of development. The municipality has 3 banks with ATM services, a bureua de change, mobile money services, a hospital and a range of accomodation and food joints that would fit any budget.
Even though it is an important connection to Ngorongoro and Serengeti national parks, it is a destination of it's own. It offers an oppotunity to enjoy a work-out through treking or biking safari and learning a new culture through the hospitality of the local people who are generous enough to invite travellers to their homes through culture tourism programmes.
I whole heartedly and witout any conflict of interest recommend, Richard, a freelance tour guide who made our experience in Karatu memorable at short notice, keeping in mind our lack of time and traveling with a budget.
Have you been to Karatu? What was your experience?
You can reach Richard at the following contacts~ web: http://www.gnakoculturaltourism.webs.com mobile: +255767612980 or Facebook: Richardnjuga