Safari in Tanzania
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My decision to go to Tanzania was very random. My birthday was coming up and I have this self-made tradition to celebrate my birthday in a new country each year. I was searching the web for ideas and within one hour I booked my flight from London to Dar Es Salaam for less than 250£ return. I had no idea what to expect from Tanzania, what exactly I wanted to see there, where I will stay and go, but flight price was very tempting, so I decided to give it a go! I booked it just a month in advance and nevertheless, it was a great adventure and everything worked out perfect, I would still recommend to book it at least 3 months in advance to allow stress-free preparation.
Before you go
Visa. There was absolutely no problem applying for a visa in London, we paid 40£ and it was ready in 3 days. You can also have your visa on arrival at any airport in Tanzania including Zanzibar, but I prefer to do it in advance since there is no difference in price.
Malaria. Last year I was in Kenya and decided not to take malaria pills, because the risk of getting it was pretty low, so I thought it is the same in Tanzania. I only started reading about it 3 days before departure and HELL YES! You have to take the pills there, the risk of malaria is very high especially in the Northern part. We went for Malarone and I had absolutely no side effects and didn't feel any discomfort during or after the trip, even though I was insanely scared to take those pills at first and wanted to avoid it at any cost. Make sure you eat and drink enough. You have to continue taking tabs for 7 days after your return and that was really hard because I was always forgetting, so set up a reminder for that, don't risk it!
Insurance. I always get insurance when I go somewhere adventurous just in case, so I would really recommend getting one as well.
Money. I got myself plenty of dollars and some money on my travel card. We didn't exchange local currency at all and I only got to see local notes on the last day, when we were given change. Dollars are widely accepted, so you shouldn't worry about exchanging it.
Tour Guide. When you look for the tour agency online you rarely will find prices clearly stated online, it is because everything depends on where you want to go and how many days for, so you need to send an agency a quote. I recommend doing a full itinerary with one agency, instead of booking day tours with different agents, the first option will be cheaper and also your guide would become your actual friend (at least it was like that in my case). Normally you hire a guide who is also your driver and he would follow you along and even sleep in the same hotel as you, so he will always be there for you if you need him. Even when you book a set itinerary with a company your guide remains flexible, so we altered our trip along the way, according to weather, his best knowledge and what kind of thing we wanted to see that day. I would recommend going with a company that someone you know already used and also please make sure it is a local tour guide, so the money you pay benefits the community. I can highly recommend www.souloftanzania.com we had the best time, (well you can tell by the pictures), they made our tour safe, fun and educational! They were also kind enough to offer every one of my followers a free night in Arusha before the safari if you tell them you come from me. Hope this will encourage you to start thinking about your next African adventure!
Great Migration. Obviously, we wanted to see Great Migration, I have read tons of articles, blog posts, wildlife journals to understand the timings and locations for migration. So it appeared that you can witness Great Migration pretty much at any time of the year in Tanzania you just have to know where to go for it. Picking a location is the hardest thing because you never know how animals would behave at this time, as it entirely depends on the rainfall patterns. After my research, I estimated the location of the migration, buuut we missed it by 5 days and animals have already moved from Central Serengeti to South. If this happens to you, make sure you have a flexible and knowledgeable guide who knows exactly where to look for migration. We still managed to see it thanks to our guide.
My recommendation is to check migration patterns before coming: https://www.expertafrica.com/tanzania/info/serengeti-wildebeest-migration. Here you find a location for the migration for each month with satellite maps, so you will be prepared.
What to pack. Make sure everything is light, during the safari you move from one place to another very fast, so make sure you don't take a lot of stuff, which will save a lot of time for folding and packing your bags, also if you are taking planes to move around Tanzania they only accept max 15kg per person. Take warm clothes as well, I know you expect Africa to be hot, but it can be very cold in the morning, cars are always open, so when you are going for an early morning safari you might be cold. Get a strong sunscreen, as malaria tabs lower your natural immunity to the sun, so you might burn very easily. Even if you take tabs, it doesn't stop mosquitos from biting, so get a repellent.
Good breathable walking shoes. Daypack to take your necessities with you. Reusable water bottle. Your tour agent will supply you with plenty of water, however, it is all in plastic, recycling in Tanzania is very new, so try to avoid plastic when possible. You will spend most of the time outdoors, so don't let your phone die in the middle of safari and stop you from taking amazing wildlife shots, take plenty of portable chargers. Lip balm, sunglasses, eye drops are also essential!
How many days. I have been on a safari in Kenya last year. It was a 10-day safari trip and I felt like that was a little bit too much. Don't get me wrong, seeing animals is amazing and you cannot get over it. When joining such tour you are driven by your guide, you cannot leave the car, then you cannot leave your hotel, because there are dangerous animals around. I miss the freedom of doing and going what and where I want. This time I decided that I rather make my trip very intense and try to visit as many places as I can in short time, so we decided to make it 5 days. It was ideal for us, we very very tired every day, had to wake up no later than 5 am every morning, but we were happy tired and knew that we can relax another 5 nights in Zanzibar.
Fly or Drive? We did both. We flew from Dar Es Salaam to Seronera (Central Serengeti) from there we drove for 2 days to Arusha doing a safari on the way. Flew from Arusha to Zanzibar, then Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam and back home. You can do everything the other way around, but safari can be very tiring, so you would really appreciate relaxing for few days on the beach after your safari trip. We did all flights with Coastal, the service was amazing and the staff was very friendly. The planes are really small only for 6-8 people, so the plane doesn't go too high, which allows you to see all landscape, including lakes, and even Kilimanjaro. The pilot talks to you all the time and points out main sights and even animals sometimes. The planes operate like public transport, so they do several stops along the way and pick up/ drop off more passengers. A unique experience and an amazing opportunity for pictures!
Day 1,2 Serengeti.
2 nights in Four Seasons Serengeti.
We arrived in Dar Es Salaam at 4 am and boarded our plane to Serengeti just a few hours later. We reached Serenora super tired and hungry. Right away we were met by the driver from four Seasons who gave us what we needed the most!!! Delicious food and local beer!! Needless to say, I loved that places already! We continued with our game drive right away and wow, we pretty much saw the big five in just a few hours! I have already been on safari before, but it was the first time for my bf and it was even more amusing to watch him, than animals. He was wowing at every single bug, birdie and taking pictures of every single impala we saw, even tho after few days they don't excite you anymore.
The next day we woke up at 3 am, to do a birthday balloon safari over Serengeti. Everyone is getting normal ballons for their birthdays but I get a hot air balloon! Seeing the sun rising above savannah from smoothy floating balloon is a feeling out of this world! And then breakfast in the middle of the savannah with champagne and everyone sang a happy birthday song for me! So sweet!
This is where I made a mistake that couldn't be reversed, remember I said at the beginning that I have researched the migration and booked our hotel stay and balloon safari to where the migration presumed to be? We missed it by 5 days, so we did not see a migration from the balloon, all animals went to South Serengeti, where they do balloon safaris as well, but obviously I didn't know about that so when we arrived we couldn't change that as we didn't have an extra day to go to South Serengeti for a ride there. We still had an amazing time and saw so many animals, but not the migration.
If you are on a safari for 5 and more days, ask where the migration is right when you arrive at Serengeti and perhaps you will be able to alter your plans according to the location of migration to see it from the balloon.
Each Day in Serengeti costs 70$ (National Park fees).
Day 3. Ngorongoro
Overnight in Serena Ngorongoro.
We left our hotel early in the morning and drove to South Serengeti, where we finally were able to see Great Migration! No words to describe the feeling!Literally thousands of wildebeests and zebras with babies crossing roads around you!
We continued towards Ngorongoro Area. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a UNESCO World Heritage and formed about 2.5 million years ago from a large active volcano whose cone collapsed after an eruption. This area is super protected and also considered one of the seven natural wonders of Africa, this huge crater with 19 km diameter and 8,292 square kilometers is home to thousands of species. Because this area is so protected, there are only a few roads inside and cars are not allowed to go off them, which means that you have to be very lucky to see animals here. I was ready to see none, but we still saw some rhinos from very far away. This place is the most expensive to visit and for some people, it is not worth visiting because you don't see as many animals as in Serengeti. But I think since you are already here, you have to visit, sunrise and sunset over the crater was the best and there is no place on Earth like this.
Make sure you have your hotel booking reservation, as you would need that to enter Ngorongoro NP.
Ngorongoro park fees -60$ per person, but if you want to enter the crater itself it is another 395$ per vehicle (can be shared among all people in the car). Another 60$ is a crater hotel fee (not the hotel price).
Day 4,5. Arusha.
Overnight in Serena Arusha.
Early in the morning, we left to Arusha with hopes to get to see Kilimanjaro and take some pictures of it. But mother nature had different plans for us…it was pouring with rain all day and the whole area was cloudy when we arrived. The whole day was about to be wasted, but our guide made some calls and offered us to go to hot springs nearby, he said that the road there is still passable and we should be ok to drive. Without any doubts we said yes, our guide had never been to this place before, so it took us a while to find it. When we have arrived I couldn't believe my eyes. Water greener than in the Maldives and no one around. We were jumping from the rope, diving, swimming around and literally had the best time ever and even our guide got involved and we were just playing around all together making memories.
Sometimes I do believe that my destiny knows what is best for me because I truly cannot imagine spending that day any better. Sometimes being open to spontaneous decisions is truly rewarding, sticking to your feels, not to your plan is what makes your experience adventurous.
The next day we did some kayaking around Lake Duluti, where we learned about local birds. In the afternoon we took a flight to Zanzibar where we spend the next 5 day relaxing and soaking up the sun!
What to expect
It is dusty, so freaking dusty! The roads are bad, when it rains they wash away and when it doesn't the dust is everywhere! Protect your electronic equipment with cases, do not bring white and bright clothing, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and carry baby wipes and good cleanser for your face.
It can be cold. Who would know, seriously! I only took one hoodie with me and I ended up wearing it every day :S Nights are cold, especially in Ngorongoro Crater!
No one seems to worry and hurry here, so it takes time to arrange things, get a response by email.
Toilets are weird. It is not just about how they are (there is plenty western and hole in the ground types) but also toilet staff. I really found that weird and uncomfortable. Locals are assigned to be in the toilet with you, pass you tissues, open tap for you and wish you to have a good day. I kid you not! That was in the middle of nowhere in Savannah, in airports, in hotels, restaurant...everywhere! I do not want to pay for something I can do myself, so obviously just saying thank you, bye and leaving without paying them felt very weird.
You will stand out as a white traveler. People will stare, as they are just curious. When I was in a less visited village kids were running after our car because they wanted to touch me as they thought it was a good luck. Around local markets, people are a little bit pushier, as they treat westeners like money bags, so they will try to sell you anything and would not leave you alone unless you go away. The phrase "I was just looking, thanks" doesn't work here. Don't feel like you have to buy everything they offer, because they are less privileged, do not support scam, I know that few bucks don't change anything but if you let it go once this will happen more, so always agree to the price beforehand and stick to it.
You are expected to tip... For tour guides, it is a minimum of 10$ per person per day, which I think is quite expensive to be a rule, as not a lot of people can afford it. I really dislike tipping and paying someone for kindness, during the whole trip we only tipped people who truly made us feel special.
Beach boys are everywhere. Usually, those are guys who are looking for a western sugar mama. If you are left alone as a girl it takes 5 seconds to be approached by some random guy who would offer you all his love. It can be funny but most of the times just annoying. Even if I am not I am just always saying that I am waiting for my husband.
Beggers will beg. It breaks my heart to walk past begging kids, but supporting beggers would never bring anything but harm, by giving money you are teaching them to improve their begging skills rather than going to school.
Things will go wrong and it is ok. Your car get broke down, light at the airport can go off but it is ok, embrace the chaos, weirdness and learn to appreciate a new culture.
Learn few local words and people will literally love you forever! People here cannot travel, but they are really open to learning about new cultures, learn few words in the different language and know where Latvia is!
Do not be scared of Africa. Many people are afraid of traveling to the whole continent because of some misconceptions and a sheer lack of desire to learn. If a person hears something bad about a place, they tend to immediately think that place is bad forever. Africa has 54 countries each with their own cultures, resources, successes, and challenges, and to consider ‘Africa’ as unsafe is as logical as considering Europe unsafe because it borders Africa across the Mediterranean sea. Many countries in Africa are not without their problems, but in general Africa and it’s people show the true meaning of hospitality and there are few places as unique to visit.
Was it safe visiting Tanzania? YES! Do I want to travel to more African countries after visiting Tanzania and Kenya? YES! Would I recommend everyone to visit here, learn about the culture, witness wildlife and feel the kindness of local people? YES!