Tanzania Safari – Machweo Lodge, Arusha and Faraja Orphanage Visit

photo copyWe flew on Delta/KLM Medford-Portland-Amsterdam-Kilimanjaro.  We flew Economy plus from PDX-AMS (those 3-5 inches make a HUGE difference) and regular economy AMS-JRO.  We only had about an hour layover in AMS due to the plane leaving late, but luckily the gate for our next flight was only about 5 gates away.  We also carried on all of our luggage so had no concerns about luggage making it to the next plane.  Two 10+ hour flights in economy can be brutal!!  We landed at JRO at 7:45pm and after about a 30 min wait for our Visa on Arrival and ATM stop we met up with our driver/guide, Modi (more on this fab guy later) who took us to Machweo Spa and Wellness Retreat  located just outside of Arusha.  As their website says:

Just outside of Arusha, but away from the chaos and mayhem of the city we created a sanctuary of tranquility. We believe Machweo to be the hidden gem you have been looking for: a refuge for those who enjoy the finer things in life. Recharge your batteries after your flight or enjoy some serious pampering before or after your safari adventure or climbing expedition.

We had decided to spend two nights at Machweo to do just that – recharge our batteries.  It was about a 40 minute drive from the airport.  By the time we arrived it was almost 9:30pm and we were starving – but I was not sure if they would still be serving dinner, I was hoping they may be able to provide a snack.  As they were showing us to our rooms I asked how late they served dinner and her response was “We serve dinner until you are finished.”  I was thinking, that’s a good answer!!

We dropped off our bags, washed our faces and headed up to the open air dining area where all our meals were served.


We were served 3 small plates and a soup and then given a verbal menu to choose a starter and a main course.  Lastly, we were served dessert.  Everything was quite good, particularly the soup which would be a common theme throughout our stay in Tanzania.

Our rooms were a very nice size with a large 4 poster bed with mosquito netting, two nightstands, a small desk and a little side room with a twin bed which came in handy for placing our luggage.



The bathroom was a good size with lots of counter space and  towels.




We had a nice deck area outside of our room and there were some nice views from the property.



After dinner we crashed on our beds, tummies full, happy to have made it here safely

The next morning we went to the breakfast buffet which incl yogurt, cereals, meats, breads, croissants, cheeses and juice.  In addition to this there was also a menu where you could order eggs, omelettes, french toast, sausage and bacon.

Before we left on the trip we had decided that we wanted to visit an orphanage.  I asked Naipenda for any recommendations and they sent me links to four places.  We looked them over and chose the Faraja Orphanage in Arusha, just a 10 minute drive from Machweo.  Modi came to pick us up in the morning and we headed over there.



When we first arrived the kids were in classes learning basic letters, reading and writing.  The head of the orphanage brought us into the bunk room where he gave us a quick talk about the orphanage and then gave us a tour.  By this time the kids came out of class to play.  They loved being with us, calling us all “teacher” and reveling in the prospect of having their picture taken with our phone.  “Teacher, photo, teacher, photo” was what we heard over and over!!  They absolutely loved to see themselves or their friends on the iphone screen!  Here you can see a group of boys huddled around Michael’s phone.


After reading quite a bit we had decided not to bring gifts to the kids as many orphanages do not like the children always expecting a handout and often people do not bring enough items for all the kids.  It is best to make a donation upon your return home or before you arrive.  I have to say the kids did not care that we had not brought them gifts.  They would just grab our hands or the little ones would ask us to pick them up.  They really just wanted to play and interact.  Holly and Michael did want to get a soccer ball so we could play with the kids.  One of the orphanage directors took them in his car along with one little girl, who could not have been more proud that she got to join them, and then drove to the nearest shop that sold them.  When they came back we followed the kids, literally “over the river and through the woods” to a clearing where we could all play.








We also met to Danish girls, one 16 and one 19, who were both volunteering there.  A great time was had by all, and Michael gave his favorite hat to one of the boys who could not believe Michael would let him keep it!!


One of the things that I loved about the kids was that whether in class, playing futbol of just hanging around if they had a backpack they kept it on all the time – so cute!!


After our orphanage visit we came back and had a nice lunch and rested.  Since this is the Machweo Spa and Wellness Retreat, I had decided to book us all massage treatments in the afternoon.   Now overall the massages were fine, but there were things that were a bit odd or quirky.  After the massage they sent us to use the steam and then the sauna.  However, they are both located outside of the spa building so you had to walk by the pool and they just give you a towel to wrap around yourself, which was enough to do the job but still felt uncomfortable.  Luckily for us no one was hanging around the pool.


Then, when you are all done you just pick up your clothes and go back to the room (in your towel) as there are no showers in the spa area.  I do not remember if there were any robes in our rooms or not but if there were they should have asked us to come in those to the spa or provide them at the spa.  Anyway, something we all laughed about it dinner.

Overall, a wonderful and memorable day.



Next up – our stay at Manyara Ranch tented camp

If you want to read more about our safari click the links below:

Safari planning

Safari packing tips

Two nights in Manyara Ranch 

Our stay at Exploreans Lodge

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11 responses to “Tanzania Safari – The Good, the Bad, the Unexpected and the Amazing! – What to wear/What to pack”

  1. […] the online travel forums I do not think I am alone in this.  Next up – packing!!  Click here to read […]

  2. Lorraine Tom says:

    What a great post. The details are perfect! I can’t wait to do this one day, too.

  3. Vanessa says:

    Thank you so much for this write up. This was exceptional. I am planning to go to Kenya with my husband (my first time) in February of 2017. I am already purchasing new clothes, as I literally have little to nothing in my wardrobe that would be suitable. We will be doing a one day safari, but dividing our time between Diani Beach and Nairobi. We are very very excited. Your advice is very thorough. I never really thought about not wearing white, but realize now. I am packing light and bringing neutrals, and lightweight clothes I can layer plus my Barbour jacket.

    • Judy Gambee says:

      Vanessa – So glad you found this helpful! You guys will have an amazing time – a safari is really an incredible experience. Enjoy the rest of your planning!!

  4. Mary Lou says:

    I have a question about laundry at the lodges. In general, how long does it take to get your laundry back? If I know I can have laundry returned back the same day, I can pack less. For those hard to find colors for womens t-shirts, I found that Under Armour has a Tactical line of dry fit tees in khaki and olive.

    Thanks so much for the details and pictures on packing. We’re going to Tanzania and Kenya in July and I too am doing tons of research so this really helps.

    • Judy Gambee says:

      Mary Lou – Some of our tents/lodges did it the same day one of them was the next day. i suggest asking your agent to see if they can find out as I would expect that each camp is different.
      You will have an amazing trip, going on safari is incredible!!

  5. April says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post! We are preparing to visit Tanzania with our four children in two weeks and I have been laying our clothes out today. I appreciate that you listed everything and provided photos. Our children really wanted to see a school, so I also enjoyed your post about visiting the orphanage. Do you have any suggestions about group donations that would be appropriate (soccer balls, games,etc.)?

    • Judy Gambee says:

      Sounds like a fabulous trip you have planned – your kids will remember this forever!! I would say any type of balls would be great, as I mentioned we ran to the corner store to buy some soccer balls to play with and the kids LOVED that! It just can be hard to pack them – easier deflated but then you will need to bring a pump. We visited a school in Cambodia once and they asked us to bring the old style manual turn pencil sharpeners (they don’t have electricity in the rooms for the electric ones). Maybe some crayons/markers. Honestly, the kids were just so happy to play with us and absolutely LOVED taking selfies – absolutely bring your phones! I wouldn’t bring any type of game that has a lot of pieces or parts. Jumprope’s might be a fun idea too.

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