Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tanzania, African Safari

Our week in Tanzania was without a doubt one of the most memorable experiences we may ever have. Nothing can compare to being amongst the Big 5 in their natural habitats. People often ask us to choose our favourite destination that we have been to. Our safari trip always comes to the forefront of our minds!

Fast Five Favourites:

  • Serengeti National Park-We got to experience the last of the wildebeest migration. Thousands of wildebeest crossing the river, even their babies. Hungry crocodiles threatening to feast. It was an incredible sight!
  • Tarangire National Park- Our first park and our first introduction to 'Glamping.' Bathrooms and comfy beds. We absolutely loved it! Especially the elevated views from our tent out to the savanna. This park was the most concentrated with wildlife in the dry season, as venturing to the remaining water holes was a daily task. The Tarangire Safari Lodge was beautiful and located in the middle of the park. 
  • Ngorongoro Conservation Crater- Here we had our favourite accommodation of the trip. Luxury Sopa lodges with the most magnificent views and sunset. 
  • Being able to find all of the Big 5-We will never forget when we finally lay eyes on the rhino. Many people miss the opportunity to see this solitary and shy animal. We were so excited to find one sleeping and another one grazing in the distance. The Ngorongoro crater is home to some of the last remaining black rhinos in the wild. 
  • Northern Serengeti-We were so happy we came this far North. It was beautiful and different to the other parks, with green pastures everywhere. We crossed over to the Masaai Mara park in Kenya on our last day game driving. 

Top Ten Memories:

  • Driving into our first national park (Tarangire) and seeing hundreds of wild animals almost instantly. We thought it would take longer before we got to see anything. We had not long got off the plane!
  • Watching a cheetah devour a gazelle. Even though we felt really sad for the gazelle. We were literally a meter away.
  • Having a night guard walk us to our tents to 'protect us' with a torch. Apparently, lions would retreat and run away from the light. 
  • Visiting a Masai village where Riki showed them the haka when we arrived, a cultural exchange of greetings. 
  • Small children shouting to us 'Candy, candy, candy' as we drove by and then throwing rocks at our truck when we didn't have any.
  • Our guide told us not to look a lion in the eye because he was on watch for his tribe and then we looked him in the eye and he let out the biggest roar, we nearly fell over in fright!
  • Having locals cook us delicious meals each evening. The people were incredibly friendly and we will never forget their hospitality.
  • Finding an albino zebra and a monkey with blue balls,  two of the strangest animals we have seen!
  • Sunsets and drinks overlooking miles and miles of seemingly endless plains that extend far beyond the horizon. Living out our childhood Lion King memories. Running into friends from Saudi was also a highlight!
  • Stopping to have a picnic lunch in a wide open space just a few minutes drive from three lions lazing by a tree. We were scared to go to the toilet!


  • If your budget allows, we were really thankful that we had a private car with just the two of us. It meant that we could plan our own days and go at our own pace. There were also a lot of times that we jumped from seat to seat to quickly see something. That would have been hard with a full car.
  • The drivers have to pay big fines for going off the tracks and can also get into a lot of trouble. This could cost them their livelihoods. We think this is important to mention because they want to give you the best possible experience. Often you see other drivers do it and you wonder how many people actually get caught. But it is not worth the risk.
  • Having a good camera is a must. If you have a good zoom, even better. We purchased binoculars beforehand and we would highly recommend for viewing animals in the distance. 
  • Booking through a tour operator that offers a package deal, from the moment you arrive until you leave, is the most convenient way to organize a trip. They also tend to have better rates with hotels and tour guides. We booked with Base Camp who operates from Arusha. They offered the best value and have good reviews on Trip Advisor. Most companies are flexible with the accommodation offered and the cars all look the same so we didn't see the need to pay more for a more expensive provider. Be aware that it is common to bank transfer a deposit and pay the remaining amount in USD upon arrival. 
  • Fly back from the Serengeti if it is in your budget, and especially if you are going to the Northern Serengeti. It can be a long drive back after spending a week heading North. 
  • The tour companies are very good at customizing and adjusting your itinerary to suit your needs. To maximize our time game driving we went straight to Tarangire Park from the airport (often people stay in Arusha the first night which is close to the airport), and flew back from Serengeti Park, before connecting to our International flight. We found this was fine and we didn't feel too rushed or tired from our trip. Of course, we would have loved to stay longer!
  • It is common to tip the guide drivers. People say about $50 USD per day is a reasonable rate to consider. Also, consider tipping the staff at the hotels. 
  • There are a number of souvenir shops in Arusha and the towns that you will pass. Make sure to barter!
  • You will find out that different parks and different seasons have positive and negative aspects for wildlife viewing, especially with reference to the great migration which follows a roughly predictable pattern related to the weather activity. We found the wildlife was abundant in the dry season, and we were able to catch the great migration heading back from the Masaai Mara towards the plains of the Serengeti. Have a look into what is happening when you plan to go, but as our guide said the wildlife has to be somewhere!
  • Overall the food we had was great and we took minimal supplies. Each hotel provides a packed lunch for the day. 
  • We used both a mixture of USD and local currency and found that the prices were similar in either currency. It was easy to get money out at the atm. 
  • If you have time, think about visiting the tropical Island of Zanzibar. We really wanted to but couldn't fit it in. 
  • Glamp at a wilderness camp in the Serengeti. These camps were still very comfortable but are not permanent, and they change location based on the time of year (and where the wildlife is popular). Buffalo and elephants literally walked past our tent. 

Baby on Board:

Lilah wasn't born when we did our safari and we wouldn't take her on this trip. The days and driving would have been far too long for her. We often talk about taking our children back to do a safari when they are at an age where they can remember and appreciate the experience. Even then, we would probably only do two or three days driving maximum, but it is hard to know at this stage!


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