Oh Chem Chem…
I don’t know how to start describing Chem Chem, except to tell you that it is the most enchanting place I have ever been. And this is coming from a girl who worked at Disney World for years.
We arrived dusty but delighted after a long day in Tarangire National Park. We’d been lucky to see a cheetah, lions, and the tiniest baby elephant I never knew possible on our first day of safari in Tanzania, and I could feel myself glowing as we pulled up to the first gate. They radioed the lodge and then lifted the gate to allow us in. “Asanti sana,” we said as we drove through.
We continued driving for what felt like a couple of miles, stopping once to take a couple of pictures of a mama and baby giraffe in the sunset. “Is this the resort property?” I asked from behind my camera. “Oh you will see many animals here at Chem Chem,” Gaudence told us smiling proudly. “You are welcome.”
When we pulled up, it seemed that the whole staff had lined up outside to welcome us. I wondered if it was possible we had been confused for royalty, but no… this is just how they welcome you at Chem Chem. We were offered wet, scented towels to wash our hands, while Peter, (who watched carefully over us and anticipated our every need during our entire stay) stood by with welcome drinks. Pauline, the acting manager stepped forward and lead us up the stairs as our bags were quickly gathered and whisked away.
She asked about our day as she led us along a raised wooden walkway. I didn’t know where to look. Everything around me was so beautiful and so… Africa!
While we walked, she gave us the basic run down of Chem Chem. There are eight luxury tents spread across the grounds of Chem Chem, connected by raised walking paths. Each tent is secluded, located at least 80 meters away from one another. We were staying in tent number one. A guard would stand watch over our tent from 6 p.m. until sunrise every night. We were not to go anywhere without his escort in the evenings. (Let me just stop and tell you how cool it is that we had our own guard… you know, to protect us against lions and such.) We needed to secure the tent with a special monkey-proof lock every time we left, because monkeys are experts at monkeying their way into the tents to steal food. If we wanted privacy, we were to leave the masaai walking stick posted outside.
Peter would be by every morning to bring us coffee as our wake up call. We could have anything we needed brought to the tent- including masseuses. (Turns out the only thing I couldn’t get delivered was a full frame fish eye lens, so I had to make do with the one I brought… but… you can still get the idea!)
I was in love with our tent before we’d even gone inside.
The “tent” (if you can even call it that), was made of canvas, lava stone and wood. It had two sitting porches complete with chairs and daybeds. The bathtub overlooked the plains, and there were both an indoor and an outdoor shower. Roses, cookies and drinks awaited us, along with a welcome package that included safari notebooks, wooden pens, and beautifully illustrated African animal guides.
Pauline left us with an invitation to join her in the lounge after we had gotten settled. As soon as she walked away, I let out a squeal of pure joy. Nothing about this felt like real life. To say that it exceeded my expectations doesn’t do it justice. I never wanted to leave our tent again. Go ahead without me, world. I will be right here. Sitting on our day bed. Watching the impala play in the back “yard”. Heaven.
In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.