If you’re thinking of heading to Tanzania and are looking to do some affordable volunteer work, then I can’t recommend Hostel Hoff highly enough. At first, I spent seven weeks there before embarking on the rest of my RTW trip, and loved it so much that I returned earlier this year for three wonderful months.
At Hostel Hoff it’s like being in one big happy family, and the staff work very hard to make you feel at home. I had some of the happiest months of my life here, and volunteering through their organisation was one of the best things I ever decided to do.
Hostel Hoff is a small organisation which began almost ten years ago, with the aim to help volunteers side step international profit orientated “organisations” that generally charge a fortune for people to volunteer. I remember when I was first looking into volunteering, how gob-smacked I was to find that some organisations charge thousands of pounds for you to volunteer for just a couple of weeks. After a lot of research and Googling on other people’s experiences with these types of organisations, it soon became apparent that the majority of this money doesn’t go into directly helping these projects.
Then after stumbling across a random blog article on the ethics of voluntourism, I found out about Hostel Hoff, which runs on the ethos that no one should have to pay to volunteer (as it should be!). Therefore the prices you pay cover your accommodation (including breakfast, dinner and your laundry!) and the volunteering experience is free. For $19 a night that seemed like a pretty good deal to me when comparing it to other organisations (see website for discounted rates for longer stays). Not only that, a portion of all proceeds goes into supporting their registered charity, Path to Africa, which mostly funds a small orphanage centre called Hope Village.
There are a number of projects to suit everyone, from orphanage work to community development, or helping out in schools or medical centres. There’s no obligation to fundraise money for your project (but a lot of volunteers want to) and it’s a great way to see first-hand how your money is directly helping a specific cause.
Accommodation and Facilities
The accommodation has a mix of male and female dorms, as well as safari-style tents that can sleep between two to four guests. There are also a couple of private double/twin rooms available for couples or friends who are travelling together. During my time there, I got the chance to hop around and rest my head in all options available, so I’m in a position to say that they are all equally as comfortable! There are shared bathroom facilities available, which get cleaned every day, and all rooms come equipped with nets for those pesky mosquitoes and individual lockers to store your valuables (don’t forget a padlock!).
Every morning and evening the lovely cooks prepare breakfast and dinner, working to a rotating bi-weekly schedule that includes dishes from a mixture of foreign influences. My personal favourites were Chips and Beef and African Curry night! On a Saturday morning we’d ritually get up to eat a breakfast of mandazis (which are kind of like doughnuts) – the perfect hangover cure after a night of partying on Friday. You’re also welcome to use the kitchen facilities to prepare your lunch and there are fridges available to stock your food.
There are also a number of areas where you can chill out after going to project, whether it be reading a book while lying in a hammock in the beautiful gardens or camping out in the common room to watch a movie. Most evenings volunteers would gather around the outside dining area to chat about their day or play card games (where Konyagi – Tanzania’s version of Gin – can sometimes be involved!)
Hostel Hoff is in Moshi, a vibrant medium-sized town located in the foothills of Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. Watching it creep out from behind the clouds never gets boring and on a clear day you will be completely wowed by its presence as it looms magnificently over the town. Sometimes you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of it from the hostel grounds. Moshi has tons of character and you are never short of things to do (more on that below). The locals are very friendly and generally it’s safe to walk around during the day. It is encouraged that you don’t walk around at night, but the hostel has a good relationship with a number of trustworthy taxi drivers that they can put you in touch with, should you need one. When you arrive at the hostel, they will also organise a town tour of Moshi, giving you the chance to get familiar with your surroundings. If you’d like to find out more about Moshi, you can visit my previous post “Jambo from Moshi.”
Things to do
Whether it’s chilling with a Serengeti beer (my favourite choice of tipple) at the rooftop bar watching the sun set by Mt Kili or heading to one of the many local coffee shops for your caffeine fix, there’s something to suit everyone. The town has an abundance of bars and restaurants to pick from, so you’re never short of places to hang out with fellow volunteers. A few favourites for lunch include Pamoja Cafe, Milans and Union Cafe. Then there are the popular bars Kakas (best BBQ is town!) and Glaciers where you will find most volunteers dancing away to a mix of African and Western music on a Friday night.
Not only that, due to its location, Moshi is the gateway to so many other places that will give you a taste of the ‘real’ Tanzania and the hostel will happily help volunteers with organising trips. Safari excursions to some of Tanzania’s most famous national parks are a popular activity among volunteers, and with Mt Kili on your doorstep you can also organise 5 to 7 day hiking trips to the ‘Roof of Africa’. The beautiful exotic island of Zanzibar is also only a short flight away, and there are a number of other activities you can fill your weekends with such as overnight stays with tribal villages, coffee tours, or day trips to Lake Chala, the Hot Springs or the nearby waterfalls.
If you are staying at Hostel Hoff, they kindly request that you follow these three rules:
- Bring a poster, picture, postcard or something that either represents where you are coming from.
- Bring your favourite book or DVD and add it to the collection.
- Thirdly, and most importantly, you MUST bring chocolate. This will make you the most popular new volunteer when you have chocolate to share around (trust me you’ll be thankful for this later – the variety of chocolate available in Moshi is quite limited, unless you want to fork out on imported products).
What I loved the most about Hostel Hoff is how it’s like having an extended family. Everyone is there for the same reason – to help out and give something back to the community – which means it’s easy to meet like-minded people who all generally get on. I know I’ve been lucky enough to make some friends for life while volunteering through the hostel. What’s also great is how committed and involved the staff are with the daily running of the hostel and the efforts they put in to making you feel welcome. As a result, they feel very much a part of the family too (not forgetting the security dogs Peanut and Butter as well!).
On the whole, you won’t regret your decision to volunteer with Hostel Hoff. And if I haven’t done enough to convince you, you only have to check out their reviews on Trip Advisor to see why.
Where is Noodles? Rating: 10/10
For more information on Hostel Hoff, feel free to head over to their website where they have tons of helpful information.
If you’d like to find out more about my time as a volunteer, click here!