Written by Pete Hardy
A four-day stay at the paradise island resort of Lupita on Lake Tanganyika was the icing on the cake for a 60th birthday safari holiday of a lifetime in Tanzania.
My wife, Jan, and I flew in to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, from the UK via Nairobi. Belinda, of Firelight Expeditions, had made all the arrangements for our seven days of safari in the Serengeti and Katavi national parks followed by four days of magical luxury on Lupita Island Resort.
For the safari we would be under canvas. To say we were glamping would be an understatement. The tents – if you could refer to them in such a denigrating way – were like canvas palaces with “his and hers” sinks.
The four-poster double bed, with a secure mosquito net attached, was a delight and each morning we were awoken by the cheerful song of our water carrier – “Jambo, jambo, jambo”. To start the day – a pot of tea on the veranda.
The first class meals were served in a stately way whether out in the bush or back at camp. We were out of bed each day by 7.30am and, after a hearty breakfast, back into the bush we ventured.
Not a day passed when we did not come across a new wildlife sight to wonder at – not to mention a cocktail waiter out in the middle of nowhere serving a selection of iced drinks from a table clad in a clean white cloth.
The animal and bird life was spectacular and our guide was so knowledgeable about all things wild.
After the Serengeti we flew on to Katavi in a private plane and again, luxuriated at a wonderful campsite by the river. Unlike the Serengeti, water abounded. Hippos were now a regular and awe-inspiring sight in so many of the pools we came across.
Eventually, the time had come for our drive to Lake Tanganyika and to the island of Lupita. The long journey by car was made easier by the varied scenery and many a glimpse into the lives of the Tanzanian population in some of the more isolated communities. The drive was followed by a brief boat ride from the mainland to the island.
We were met at the lakeside by staff. At Lupita’s beautiful little harbour there were electric golf carts waiting to carry us and our luggage up the steep road to the resort where there is a bar, dining areas, lounges, an azure blue infinity swimming pool and a games room.
The resort also has a gift shop, a beauty salon and a gym.
The stunning buildings are lofty and completely open to the elements with huge beams carrying the impressive thatched roof giving it that Swiss Family Robinson feel. The abundance of heavy carved wood furniture had obviously been carefully chosen to fit in with the African theme.
We were greeted by a gaggle of waiters desperate to keep us served with drinks and delicious snacks. The best was yet to come!
We were taken by staff out from the base and into one of 13 lodges hidden in the island’s dense woodlands.
The roads to each lodge were carefully signposted and each had its own name. Inside we were greeted by a rose petal pathway leading to the king-size four-poster bed.
Alongside the bedroom was a lounge with sumptuous furniture. On the other side was the bathroom with a shower cascading down from the rock face behind and once again there were the “his and hers” sinks.
In the foreground was the lodge’s own plunge pool down a long wooden stairway. Such a refreshing way to end a day in the heat.
From the lodge you could look out for miles over the lake and adjacent islands.
On one of the days at Lupita, Belinda had arranged a special treat. Using the rose petal trail once again, she led us to the bath tub which stood on the edge of the lodge’s deck, looking out over the lake. The bath was overflowing with bubbles and alongside was an ice bucket containing my favourite tipple – a chilled and fruity Marlborough Sauvignon.
Every meal on Lupita was treated like a special occasion. There was no let up in the excellent service provided by the devoted staff, some of whom had travelled hundreds of miles to be a part of the team.
The food, under Belinda’s direction, would have been at home in any Michelin-starred restaurant. How she managed such a complex and varied menu in such an isolated location is beyond me. Wine too had been selected with long consideration for quality and flavour.
It’s not hard to see how this island is considered to be one of the most exclusive holiday destinations on the planet – a jewel in the crown of Tanzania and its share of the beautiful Lake Tanganyika.