Volunteer in Karatu | Placements Opportunities
There are a number of potential volunteer and charity opportunities in and around Karatu where you can benefit the local schools and orphanages, community centers, churches, or environment. Such opportunities can take place over the course of a day or last months depending on your interests and background.
Remember that while you may want to work directly with kids, unless you can devote a significant amount of time (e.g., be a steady presence for at least a few months), it is less disruptive to children to help in other ways such as building school furniture, putting up a fence at the local orphanage, collecting school supplies, or painting a classroom. It is best to commit to a project in advance so that the organizer can be prepared for your visit.
Even if you don’t want to volunteer your actual time, you can still donate to a local project by donating money or supplies (e.g., school or medical supplies). Given our healthcare background, we took the time to visit the non-profit Foundation for African Medicine and Education (FAME) clinic and hospital founded and run by American husband-wife team Dr. Frank Artres and Susan Gustafson.
Free guided visits to FAME can be arranged but must be done so in advance of your visit.
How to get to Karatu
Karatu is within the Arusha District. It is best reached by car or bus from Arusha. The 150 km on a decent road will take just over two hours. The international airport for Arusha is Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO), about 45 minutes away from the city.
A cheaper option is to take a bus or dala dala. This can take up to three hours and should be between 5000-7000 Tsh. These can often get crowded and for the cheap price you often miss out on comfort. It is generally advisable to take a bus that arrives before night falls for safety reasons.
If you are willing to splurge a bit more money, a small plane to the Lake Manyara airstrip is also recommendable. Coastal Aviation and Air Excel both fly from Arusha to Manyara for around 100 US$ as a stopover on their way to the Serengeti. Watch out because this flight is most likely leaving from Arusha Airport, a small local airport, rather than Kilimanjaro Airport, which you might have arrived from via an international flight. From the Manyara airstrip, it is about a 30 minute drive to Karatu, either by taxi or through a transfer arranged by us.
Where to stay in Karatu
Karatu is perfect for a few days to visit surrounding national parks, Lake Eyasi and learn more about the local cultures. Many tourists choose to stay in Karatu as it can be cheaper than staying within the National Parks. Accommodation in Karatu can be cheaper than in the national parks, and thus many people opt for staying in the town. If you are strapped for time, this means however that you will need to do more driving everyday, possibly being quite tiring for you. We recommend to consider whether the reduced driving and time this consumes is not worth staying in a lodge on the crater directly. Karatu has excellent accommodations for all budgets. These are some of our favorite recommendations:
- High-end options: Plantation Lodge and the boutique hotel Oldeani Safari Lodge are definitely pricier but the beautiful ground and colonial style architecture is sure to make your stay worthwhile.
- Medium-priced options: Karatu Simba Lodge and Octagon Lodge still offer comfortable lodgings as well as beautiful gardens around your cottages.
- For a more unique experience, stay on a coffee farm: Gregg’s Farm and the Shangri La estate of Kifaru Coffee are two exceptional possibilities of staying on a coffee farm, experiencing the business first hand and enjoying beautiful views and the opportunity to relax in the tranquil lodges. Gregg’s Farm is a high-end option, offering luxury and a spa, while the Shangri La estate is much more budget friendly but only has a few rooms to offer. If you are interested in staying here, make sure to book ahead!