Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sea, sand and turtles at Ras Kutani Resort

Ras Kutani is a relaxed, friendly Indian Ocean Lodge, about a 90 minute to 2 hr drive or a very short flight south of Dar Es Salaam. A few days here make for a perfect end to a safari. No 0530A wake-ups, no long bumpy game drives, no getting into and out of safari gear, identifying various new species or jockeying for the best position to take a photograph. None of that. It is easy to have fun at Ras Kutani. It involves a minimum of clothing, lots of sand and sea, great food, exotic cocktails for those so inclined, and great glorious sleep, with a real live ocean and actual wave sounds to take you away. Did I mention a beautiful, big white beach? Ras Kutani is the place to indulge in today's greatest luxury which is to do nothing. Just sit on your comfortable veranda gazing out over the Indian Ocean, take a nap, read a book, have another meal with some of the freshest ingredient you can imagine, or if you have to, catch up on your safari notes and photographs. The rooms are huge and have fantastic views over the lagoon and ocean, and great big comfortable beds where you'd be tempted to spend a lot of time.


The bed in our room at Ras Kutani - it looks straight out over the ocean


The view from our room


Part of the lounge at Ras Kutani


The view from the dining area at Ras Kutani


The bar at Ras Kutani


Another view of the lagoon with the beach and ocean in the background


The pool at Ras Kutani is almost as tempting a spot as the beach itself


The beach is gorgeous though, even when a high tide tosses out some seaweed


Over the course of a 3-day stay there, we enjoyed some excellent meals including fresh seafood (caught by local fishermen and hand-delivered to the lodge), lots of exotic sub-tropical fruit such as granadilla, papaya, pineapple and mango, some wonderfully creative salads and some vegan staples such as herb-flavored couscous and tabouleh.

One morning Kathleen and I strolled over to the remnants of a ship which stranded near Ras Kutani many years ago and snorkelled in and around what remains of the wreck, observing many colorful species of reef fish. I was also able to resume my training for the Boston Marathon. On both full days there, I ran for about an hour along a sandy track to the main road. It was hot and humid, the sandy footing was not ideal and I was running with new shoe inserts. Even so, it was great to be back on my feet again. There are other things to do at Ras Kutani such as horse-back riding, kayak trips on the lagoon, a forest walk and village visits, but that is not why people come here.

Sunrise at Ras Kutani


Early morning at Ras Kutani, from the Family House higher up against the ridge. The views from the various suites are similar


It felt good to be running again, especially against such a backdrop


Every run at Ras Kutani qualifies as a Runners World 'rave run'


Ras Kutani manager Emile sharing his enthusiasm about the release of some turtle hatchlings

A baby turtle hatchling making its way towards the ocean


Guests enjoying the spectacle of turtles being released into the Indian Ocean


On Tuesday Feb 10 we were told to gather at the beach at 1700 (high tide) to witness some young sea turtles being released into the ocean. The local representive of 'Sea Sense' removed the sand from some nesting sites (to which the turtle eggs had been relocated some 55 days previously) and voila, some 40 or so tiny hatchlings started a single-minded scramble to the ocean. The release was timed to occur right at high tide so as to give these vulnerable creatures the best possible chance to make it into deeper water. They need every break they can get: their chance of survival into adulthood is only 1 or 2 in a thousand.

Too soon, our trip came to an end and we had to get back in a car for the bumpy drive back to Dar Es Salaam. Ras Kutani will remain in our memories as a warm and special days to spend a few wonderful, relaxing days. The staff and management were incredibly caring and responsive to our every request - I never needed to ask for soy milk or rooibos tea! Special thanks to Jules for the Dar suggestions - they were all spot on!

We had the better part of a day to kill in Dar Es Salaam and ended up paying a cab driver about US$45 for three hours, to drive us to various places around town, including The Oyster Bay Hotel, Sea Cliff Hotel - where we enjoyed lunch with a glorious view - and ending up at the Slipway, where we made a contribution to the local economy. Kathleen tells me that curios are about 50% less expensive there than at the safari camps. We had a day room at the Kempinski Hotel which we would highly recommend to other visitors in the same situation. We made use of the excellent pool, I spent an hour on a treadmill in the well-equipped gym and we enjoyed a superb dinner at the Oriental restaurant, reputed to be the best of its kind in Dar Es Salaam.

The foyer at the Oyster Bay Hotel


Part of the lounge and dining room at the Oyster Bay Hotel in Dar Es Salaam


Interior of a room at Oyster Bay Hotel


Another room at the Oyster Bay Hotel


A water feature at Oyster Bay Hotel


The view from a room at the Oyster Bay Hotel


The view from the Karambezi Cafe at Sea Cliff Hotel


Kathleen studying the menu at Karambezi Cafe at the Sea Cliff Hotel in Dar Es Salaam


Another view from the Sea Cliff Hotel

And then it was time to drive back to the rather dismal DAR Airport, submit to the usual indignities and inconveniences of multiple security checks and eventually take to the air for the lengthy journey back to Houston. We had packed a lot into what was not even quite a two week trip and I would certainly recommend a much more leisurely visit for anyone else. So if you ever find yourself planning a trip to this marvelous and largely unknown part of Tanzania, take it easy and spend more time in fewer places. It is the secret to a great safari.

3 comments:

Amy said...

Beautiful photos! Especially liked the baby hyena...

Daleen said...

Bert,
Jy het die mooiste vir laaste gehou,die strande lyk nes Mosambiek.Julle was letterlik op die see,wat n amazing plek,die Ras Kutani.
Jy moes op n visvang trip daar gegaan het,baie cuta,kingfish,dorado ens. in daai wereld.
Mooi loop

johnking said...

Bert,
Last Sunday i took the time to show Ashley (RW forum) your pictures and trips...we decided we needed to go where you go. pics are amazing!