I dreamed of going on safari in Tanzania for many years before I actually made it happen. I feared that I had built it up so much in my mind that I would be disappointed, but I wasn’t. In two days, I saw the Big Five and just about everything else the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park had to offer. My safari experience in Africa was two days of the most amazing experience of my life, partly because of the safari company and my driver, Justin. There was no problem Justin couldn’t solve.
The company I booked with was Africa Travel Resource (ATR) I had a great experience with them. Normally, I don’t use a travel/tour company, but found it made my trip and safari in Tanzania much more enjoyable to plan and I could relax when I got there knowing the transport and lodging were all taken care of. I found them when I was researching Kilimanjaro about five years ago, and for all those years I received their emails (not too many) and I researched many options for climbing Kili and found ATR to be my best option for dates and prices.
Usually when using a travel company, especially if you’re doing adventure travel or going to lesser-visited destinations, you’ll be required to get travel insurance. This trip was no exception. Every time I get travel insurance, I use World Nomads. They provide great coverage with their two options, and the price is definitely right. I also climbed Kiliamanjaro on this trip, and I was still able to get the basic coverage even though I would be trekking at high altitudes.
We spent our first night near the Ngorongoro Crater at Bashay Rift Lodgel and the next two nights at Serengeti Seronera Camp. Both were beautiful and I wished I could have stayed longer at both of them. Bashay Rift Lodge had the best coffee of our entire trip, but everywhere we went we were served wonderful Tanzanian coffee. No instant! Except on Kilimanjaro, and I mean, come on, I would never ask a porter to carry a coffee pot.
Our safari started on day 2 of our trip, although it could have started on day 1. We were exhausted from our 2:00AM departure from Kuwait, so we opted to go to Bashay and relax a bit before dinner. We were so glad we did. What a stunning accommodation. We had a gorgeous three course dinner, a hot shower in a shower big enough to have a party, and then it was off to bed for the two of us. Our safari, something I had dreamed of all my life it seemed, was finally here.
Our safari driver was Justin from Mt Kilimanjaro Safari Club. This is the safari company used by ATR. There was no problem Justin couldn’t solve. He even pulled another jeep out of the mud while the first six jeeps that arrived just watched because they didn’t have a tow chain. Not to worry. Justin did! We rode with Justin for two days across the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti.
We saw the big five on our safari in Tanzania and so much more. Our last animal sighting at the end of our safari was a leopard in a tree. Picture perfect. We watched him for 30 minutes at least. We saw the migration of the wildebeest, pregnant zebras, countless elephants with their many babies, giraffes right by the road eating acacia, and lions parked right in front of our jeep until they chased and killed a baby warthog. It was incredibly exciting to see even though I felt so bad for the baby warthog and his family. Nature at its finest.
FiveTips for an Amazing Safari in Tanzania
How can you have a great safari and make the most of your time in the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti? Here are some tips I think will help.
1) Choose your time of year carefully.
Research the best time of year to go on safari in the country you want to visit. Many African country’s national parks websites and tourism websites offer a lot of information about which animals you are likely to see at different times of year, as well as what the weather will be like. Is it the rainy season? Dry season? What difference does it make? Do your research. I visited Tanzania in January during the wildebeest migration. In my opinion, this is the optimal time to go to Tanzania no matter what it is you want to do.
2) Invest in a decent camera and don’t rely on your phone!
My camera on this safari was a small point-and-shoot digital camera with a 16x zoom. Nothing fancy. It has some special effects I can add that really make pictures pop, but of course, I can’t change lenses, but it is small enough to fit in my pocket. It’s a far cry from some of the super expensive cameras with lenses like telescopes that I saw while on safari, but I got some great pictures. My friend used her iPhone. She did NOT get great pictures. Use a decent camera! I saw so many people taking pictures with their phones and being disappointed because they couldn’t get ‘that’ shot. Well, no kidding! All the photos in this post were taken with my Nikon S6500 Coolpix with 16x zoom. It cost a $150 four years ago. I got some great pictures and I’m not a great photographer.
I have since purchased a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera with a couple of lenses and I wish I’d had it in Tanzania. It’s not too heavy, not too big, and not expensive as far as DSLR cameras go, but it takes great photos and with the right lens, capturing animals while on a safari is easily done.
3) Dress for the occasion
Two words. Biting flies! Especially when the giraffes are around. I didn’t suffer too badly though because I wore long pants and a long sleeve shirt. My friend wore shorts that were a tad too short and a tank top. She suffered. Mosquito repellant does nothing to ward off biting flies. I didn’t get a sunburn and didn’t have to keep applying sticky sunscreen. We were also told not to wear bright or neon colors on safari as the animals may not respond well, but I saw lots of people in neon workout clothes (???) and it didn’t seem to make a difference. However, I was told to wear neutral or dark colors on an elephant safari in Sri Lanka, so maybe it really is better to wear more neutral or dark colored clothing.
Another thing to consider is that Tanzania is fairly conservative when it comes to how local people dress. Skimpy clothes might attract negative attention, although the animals didn’t seem to notice. Anywhere in Tanzania, just be aware of how you present yourself. Tank tops are more acceptable, but short shorts might make some people uncomfortable and can attract unwanted attention.
4) Use a reputable tour company with experienced drivers. Ask in advance about the drivers.
My driver has been driving for the same safari company for 21 years. All of the drivers network with each other and communicate on the radio, no matter what company they are with. They tell each other about animal sightings. A knowledgeable driver can make all the difference. Justin was able to answer any questions we had about the animals we saw and he offered information about them as well, especially the birds. Finding a good driver starts with finding the right tour company, and there are many good ones out there. This is another case of do your research. Read reviews. Contact the reviewers and ask them questions. Don’t just find the lowest price and book it.
5) Be prepared. Bring supplies.
I despise carrying a backpack when I travel. It’s like wearing a giant sign on your back that says, “I’m a tourist!” But on safari, it’s a necessity. Take a day pack or some type of bag to contain all of your essentials. I wasn’t comfortable leaving mine in the truck when we stopped for lunch and bathroom breaks, but many people did. You’ll be out all day into the late afternoon or evening. You’ll be provided a box lunch that is totally adequate, but there are other essentials besides food that will make your safari days more enjoyable. Here’s a list of what I recommend:
Camera, of course, and an extra battery
Hat/baseball cap and sunglasses
Sunscreen even though the trucks/jeeps have raised covers so you can stand up and still be protected from the sun
Scarf if you’re really sun sensitive
1.5l bottle of water – I got surprisingly thirsty doing nothing but riding and taking pictures
Snacks like nuts, crackers, or cookies – something that holds up well because you’ll be jostled around a lot. I took homemade biscotti with nuts and dried fruit in it and it was just the sugar boost I needed mid-morning and mid-afternoon. I’ll even share the recipe if you want!
If you are a bird lover, take your reference book. Our driver had one. Actually, Justin is a walking reference book! All we had to do was ask.
Tylenol/Advil/Panadol for a headache – between the sun and being jostled around, you might need it
Binoculars if you like. Some drivers have them.
Pack your bag and get ready for the experience of a lifetime!