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Insider Guides

An Insider Guide To Tanzania With Lisou Founder Rene Macdonald

Lisou Founder and Creative Director, Rene Macdonald, has lived all over the world: from Tanzania to Ethiopia, Southern Africa to London, where she is now based.

Lisou is a vibrant fashion label boldly taking inspiration from Rene’s far-reaching travels. “Lisou is all about colour and print. I would say we make clothing that is influenced by the colours of Africa, with a Western aesthetic,” she adds. Timeless silk shirts, midi-dressing, and classic tailoring are the brand’s signature, enlivened by colourful prints, designed in-house by Rene herself.

Rene usually travels back to Tanzania once a year, returning to reconnect with her family who still live there. What does she miss most when she’s away? “My family first and foremost and then it is the weather and the food.”

Here, Rene shares her tips for an unforgettable trip to Tanzania.


Essential items to pack…

Anything you don’t mind getting dusty for safari; swimwear for the beach, and sunscreen.

The best time to visit Tanzania is…

July for me: it’s not too hot, which means I can get everything that I need to get done.  It is also the best time for safari as the wildebeest migration takes place in June/July.

Our first pitstop should be…

Dar es Salaam harbour for a feel of the city.

 

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For an early morning workout head to…

The hills of Arusha and Udzungwa Mountains National Park for hikes.

Your favourite hotel to check-in at is…

This is a tricky one because I always stay with family or in my own house there. That said, there are some great coffee lodges in Arusha.

Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge

Where should we go for breakfast?

Salt on Ghuba Road in Dar es Salaam.

How about for a long, lazy lunch?

Addis is a great Ethiopian restaurant.  As someone who lived in Ethiopia for years, it’s nice to have the nostalgic taste of Ethiopian cuisine.

And for dinner with friends?

Darajani Market in Zanzibar. There are lots of tempting stalls selling fresh seafood amongst other things.

Your favourite restaurant in town?

For budget, I’d say Msumbi Café in Arusha, they have great homemade cakes and coffee.  For a blow-out option, it has to be Cape Town Fish Market in Dar es Salaam.

 

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A must try spot for date night is…

Sunset at Emerson on Hurumzi. They have the beautiful Tea House restaurant there. It’s a place of culture and a taste of old Zanzibar.

Where should we head post-dinner?

My son and I recently discovered the rooftop bar at Level 8 Hyatt Regency –  it has the most beautiful view across the city.  The Dhow Music Academy is also a great opportunity to watch Taarab singers in action.

The drink to order at the bar…

Konyagi. It’s a Tanzanian spirit, which I’m not a fan of, but it’s always good to try something local. In the countryside the drink of choice is a delicious banana beer called ‘mbege’.

The best place to treat yourself?

The local markets all over the country.

The best place for people watching…

Tanzania is less about people watching and more about enjoying the views. Watching the sunset with Kilimanjaro in the background is magical.

 

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The cultural spot to rave about…

There are so many! Olduvai Gorge is worth a visit, all the national parks, and, of course, Stone Town in Zanzibar for a real cultural experience.

For great shopping head to…

Maasai Market in Arusha. There is so much artisanal craftsmanship on display. Once you’ve seen the speed at which the women there thread beads you’ll feel like an absolute slowcoach!

The one place only locals know about… 

Kikelelwa, on the foothills of Kilimanjaro. It’s my family’s ancestral homeland and very much off the beaten track. In fact, if you go beyond the village you’re in Kenya. I’m also lucky enough to have a cousin who’s a lion tagger and conservationist. Visiting him is always a joy!

Your favourite neighbourhood is…

Njiro Hill in Arusha, where my house is. It’s full of beautiful memories and was built by my parents.

For a change of pace try…

The beautiful beaches. Coco Beach is a fun place and they often have concerts and events there. The East Coast of Zanzibar has wonderful boutique hotels on the beach.

Great day trips include…

A visit to Tarangire National Park. It’s not far from Arusha, and if you don’t have time to safari, it’s a great place to see elephants and giraffes.

For the best views head to…

Lake Manyara to see the flamingos and Serengeti National Park. The view goes on for miles over the plains.

A book to read before we go (or while we’re there)?

The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski for a feel of the continent.

How should we spend the final day of our trip?

Get to know some locals while you’re there and perhaps they will invite you to their home for a traditional Tanzanian meal. We are really friendly and love to entertain.

What’s your Tanzania secret?

My uncle’s avocado farm for the best avocados known to man.

In a word, Tanzania is…

Extraordinary.

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