Kiboko Lodge - The Jungle Lodge with a Noble Aim
At the foot of Mount Meru, an hour’s drive away from Kilimanjaro Airport, and a few minutes from central Arusha, stands Kiboko Lodge. An oasis of calm in the middle of the Tanzanian jungle. This lodge is the social enterprise arm of Watoto Foundation, the foundation that works for street boys all around Tanzania.
We spent our first two nights on mainland Tanzania at Kiboko Lodge, and as you can see from our Itinerary, if we knew what a great place to stay this was, we would have definitely spent another two nights at the end of our trip, there as well. Our stay at Kiboko Lodge was one great adventure from start to finish!
Day 1: Zanzibar to Kiboko Lodge
We landed at Arusha Airport in the evening, and were expecting a driver from our hotel to be waiting for us. So we went out of the tiny airport, avoiding the swarm of taxi drivers with a ‘We have our driver waiting for us. Thank you’ and exited onto the unmade road just outside. Our ride was not there yet, so we assumed that he’s probably on his way and we sat down on the sidewalk with a few other tourists and a multitude of taxi drivers. The airport closed, sun set, one by one tourists left, and there we were, all alone with a group of taxi drivers, who like vultures on a kill, constantly reminded us that no one is coming for us! Now, we have all heard stories of tour companies which do not exist, taking tourist’s money and just not showing up. Even though we had been contacting the company for months, shrugging off the idea that we may have been cheated was not easy. With no roaming calls and a dodgy data connection, we tried calling the company and the hotel, trembling with every number we dialed.
Eventually we managed to get hold of the hotel and understood that the driver was sent to Kilimanjaro airport instead of Arusha airport. Without traffic, there is more than an hour drive between the two airports, but we were so relieved that we were prepared to wait for hours on end. These mishaps can happen to anyone, so for us this was all part of our adventure. Both the safari company with whom we had placed our booking, as well as our hotel did all in their power to rectify the situation immediately. We were contacted by Naud, the founder of Watoto Foundation, by Frank the Kiboko Lodge Manager, and by Wilmke from I Dream of Africa. They took the matter so seriously and professionally that our opinion of them skyrocketed.
Once we were sure that we were in safe hands, the mood changed. We decided that instead of treating the taxi drivers as a nuisance, we struck a conversation with them. So we spent the next two hours talking about Tanzania and Malta with the three taxi drivers who remained. These people knew that our driver was coming, so they knew there was no business for them, but still they remained with us keeping us company and when our driver, Japhet, came they even loaded our bags on to the 4x4!
It must have been a tough one for Japhet as well. He had been waiting for us at Kilimanjaro airport from 4pm until 7pm, then he had to drive all the way to Arusha airport to pick us up. We eventually arrived at Kiboko Lodge where Frank and the team were waiting for us. They welcomed us with shouts of welcome and joy, apologised genuinely and gave us their very best rooms.
Our mainland Tanzania stay, started with a ninety minute flight from Zanzibar to Arusha airport, on board a Cessna 208B, operated by Air Excel. Watching the Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru and the vast Tanzanian landscape dotted with Maasai bomas, was already an experience on its own.
Day 2: Ngurdoto village walk and visit to the Watoto Foundation
We woke up to the beautiful sounds of nature and enjoyed a few minutes at the bird watching deck, before breakfast was served at the main hall. Then we joined the team in the kitchen for some dishwashing and a good laugh. Our action took the team, who take serving customers very diligently, by surprise. But, it was a great experience to get to know these people better and appreciate their genuine care and respect.
Amani, a local guide, showed us around Ngurdoto Village in the morning. There we could interact with the daily lives of people as they go by their work and greet us with a smile and a “Jambo” (hello). We saw the large fields of maize on the periphery of Arusha National park and along these fields were small sheds with dead fires. Farmers had spent all night on watch to ensure that elephants do not ruin their crops. How’s that for a scarecrow?
After lunch, Japhet drove us to the Watoto Foundation, Child in the Sky project. We must say this has been a really eye opening experience which merited a dedicated article. There we also met with Christopher Samuel, the owner of I Dream of Africa Safaris, and Ayubu, our nature guide for the next days.
In the evening Isaya was our fire teacher, as we went together through his fire-lighting routine. Every evening he gets a nice fire started at the bird watching deck and lights up lanterns to guide the way towards the hotel bungalows. As the night sets, birds flock to the trees and jungle sounds take over.
Day 3: The Start of Our Safari Adventure
On the morning of third day we headed off to our Safari adventure, but as we left Kiboko Lodge behind, we knew that we had been lucky to have met a great bunch of people and spent a couple of days away from the hustle and bustle of city life. In just a couple of days, we built a strong relationship with the team at Kiboko Lodge. It was perhaps our first experience at the airport which proved that the team was worthy of respect and trust, so our relationship immediately went to a deeper level. They welcomed us like family. We were cared for by Robert, Edward and the team who take care of the kitchen, Tecla taught us how to welcome people in the traditional way, Japhet drove us around even when he must have been terribly angry after having waited for hours at the wrong airport, Frank and Joyce ensured that our stay was memorable, whilst Isaya, our fire teacher, showed us that care and respect greatly outweigh the English language he is still trying to master.
Let’s introduce you to the team:
Frank Robert Massawe
Birthday: 18th September 1985
Employed at Kiboko Since: 2011
He loves: the atmosphere at Kiboko Lodge, loves it when team members joke and likes meeting different people
Joyce Phillipo Nanyaro
Birthday: 14th November 1990
Employed at Kiboko Since: 2018
She loves: meeting different people from all around the world
Assistant Manager/ Maintenance Manager
Birthday: 5th January 1990
Employed at Kiboko Since: 2016
He loves: his wife and two children, sharing ideas with guests and watching birds of different species at Kiboko lodge
Edward Nichodemus Slaa
Assistant Manager/ Chef
Birthday: 17th July 1995
Employed at Kiboko Since: 2015
He loves: when guests are happy with the food
Edward is a Watoto Foundation past student. He was there for three years. His plans are to become a popular and good chef in Arusha (from the food we have tasted, he already is a great chef...hope his plans become a reality)
Cosmas Barsley Kimario
Birthday: 18th May 1996
Employed at Kiboko Since: 2016
He loves: to see his fellow colleagues working together after finishing in Makumira
Cosmas has spent six years at Watoto Foundation. His future plans are to become a Chef
Mubarakah Hussein Salim
Birthday: 29th June 1999
Employed at Kiboko Since: 2019
He loves: guiding clients around
Mubarakah has spent four years at Watoto Foundation
Isaya Simon Laizer
Askari / Guard
Birthday: 5th July 1991
Employed at Kiboko Since: 2019
He loves: to see the guests at the camping fire at night
Kiboko Lodge is really a great place to stay, and supporting a noble cause. As you can see, a number of these team members were actually boys from Watoto Foundation. These men were given a future and they are in turn contributing to society. We wholeheartedly recommend Kiboko Lodge for a stay in the oasis of calm a not too far from Kilimanjaro Airport and Arusha city centre.