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Need help with N TZ itinerary

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Hello, we are two couples who have some experience with self-driving safaris in Africa. We want to visit TZ for the first time in August, 2015. This itinerary is a work of progress and I would like your comments and suggestions to improve it. Please comment on route, sequence, places and generally what would make more sense. Our goal is to maximize wildlife encounters and hopefully catch the migration by the Mara river.

Day 0 .Arrive in Arusha hand over Land Rover overnight Outpost Hotel

Day 1 . Drive to Arusha Park overnight Public Camp Site

Day 2 Game drive Arusha Park then Drive to Manyara Overnight
Migunga Tented Camp Site or camp site outside the Park

Day 3. Manyara Park overnight Public Camp Site in the Park .

Day 4. Drive to Lake Natron Overnight Lake Natron Tented Camp the
facilities of the Lodge can be used by campers .

Day 5. Lake Natron Overnight Lake Natron Tented Camp

Day 6. Drive to Serengeti Overnight Lobo Public Camp Site

Day 7. Lobo Public Camp or special camp site closer to Mara river if available.

Day 8. Lobo Public Camp site

Day 9-11 Seronera Public Camp site

Day 12. Game Drive in the Morning then Leave the Serengeti in the Late
afternoon for NCA Overnight Rhino Lodge

Day 13.Early morning drive in the Crater, after a full day leave the NCA
drive to Karatu.

Day 14.drive to Lake Eyasi Kisima Ngeda Camp Site

Day 15. Lake Eyasi Kisima Ngeda Camp Site, visit tribes

Day 16. Drive to Tarangiere Overnight Special Camp Site Mbweha

Day 17. Tarangiere Overnight Special Camp Mbweha

Day 18. Tarangiere in the Afternoon drive to Arusha Overnight Out Post

Day 19. Flight back

Please let me know what you think of this plan for a self-drive tour, camping in roof tent and self-catering.
1. I am debating whether to go to Lake Natron at all. Main reason to go would be avoid traffic And fees for just driving through NCA to reach Serengeti, also is supposed to be scenic and have flamingos? My husband thinks it is worth driving in and out the same way ( entering and leaving Serengeti via Naabi Hill Gate, because we will be inside the park and see more wildlife.
2. Is Mbweha campsite location in Tarangire worth paying more for? Is it close to the river?
Any help is greatly appreciated.

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    See my comments in italics below! CR

    Hello, we are two couples who have some experience with self-driving safaris in Africa. We want to visit TZ for the first time in August, 2015.This itinerary is a work of progress and I would like your comments and suggestions to improve it. Please comment on route, sequence, places and generally what would make more sense. Our goal is to maximize wildlife encounters and hopefully catch the migration by the Mara river.

    At that time of year, if you are not crossing into Kenya to the Mara (something I would consider), you are most likely to see the migration in the Northern Serengeti. Unfortunately, the public (Lobo)/private (Bologonja) campsites in the north are quite far from the Mara River. To give you an idea, it took us about an hour to drive from our campsite at Lobo to the Klein's Gate turn off - still a long way from the Mara River.

    Day 0 .Arrive in Arusha hand over Land Rover overnight Outpost Hotel

    Day 1 . Drive to Arusha Park overnight Public Camp Site

    If it were me, I would take this night and add it to your stay at Lake Manyara. I should hasten to add that I have never been to Arusha NP - I just think you might wish to have longer in Lake Manyara.

    Day 2 Game drive Arusha Park then Drive to Manyara Overnight
    Migunga Tented Camp Site or camp site outside the Park

    Day 3. Manyara Park overnight Public Camp Site in the Park .

    We have not seen the public campsite in Lake Manyara but the special campsites in this park are fantastic. Our favourite is Lakeshore SC which, as the name implies, is on the lakeshore - in fact, in August/the dry season, you are able to camp on the flood plain about 100m from shore, where zebras, lions, wildebeests, giraffes and all manner of wildlife wander past in the evening and morning. Fantastic! The Bagayo A special campsite, at the base of the escarpment and not far from the lake, is also lovely.

    Day 4. Drive to Lake Natron Overnight Lake Natron Tented Camp the
    facilities of the Lodge can be used by campers .

    Day 5. Lake Natron Overnight Lake Natron Tented Camp

    I cannot comment on Lake Natron because we have not been there. However, our favourite stopover is Olduvai Camp, where you are able to spend some time with the Masai in a non-touristy setting.

    Day 6. Drive to Serengeti Overnight Lobo Public Camp Site

    The drive from Seronera to Lobo (Seronera to Lobo = 80km; Moru to Lobo = 129km) is a very long drive over very rough roads through tsetse country - not a fun drive! We left Seronera at 11:30am and arrived at Lobo at 3pm

    Day 7. Lobo Public Camp or special camp site closer to Mara river if available.

    The closest special campsite would be Bologonja SC.

    Day 8. Lobo Public Camp site

    This was sadly neglected when we were there in August of 2012. There was garbage strewn about the campsite and the washrooms had been trashed and were not functional. In fact, most of the Lobo area looked very neglected - the roads were in appalling shape.

    Day 9-11 Seronera Public Camp site

    We stopped at one of the Seronera public campsites for lunch (we stayed on a special campsite near Moru) and you couldn't pay me to stay on a public campsite at Seronera. Garbage everywhere, campers crammed in like sardines, radios blaring - it was horrible! If you are going to splurge for a special campsite in just one of the parks, do it at Seronera. Lobo isn't much better but, being so far north, it isn't quite so busy/crowded.

    Day 12. Game Drive in the Morning then Leave the Serengeti in the Late afternoon for NCA Overnight Rhino Lodge

    I am not familiar with Rhino Lodge, but I would consider Lemala Camp if you are able to afford it, because of the early access (inside the gate) it allows to the crater - and, of course, because it is a fantastic camp - one of our favourites!

    Day 13.Early morning drive in the Crater, after a full day leave the NCA drive to Karatu.

    If it were me, I would spend two days in the crater.

    Day 14.drive to Lake Eyasi Kisima Ngeda Camp Site

    Day 15. Lake Eyasi Kisima Ngeda Camp Site, visit tribes

    Day 16. Drive to Tarangiere Overnight Special Camp Site Mbweha

    Mbweha is a lovely campsite with a very pretty view (over a dry riverbed) of majestic baobabs. It was about a half hour drive from the river - as close as any of the special campsites. We were supposed to stay on the site for three nights, but the huge tree on the site was home to a rather aggressive and large colony of bees, which descended on us at the mere hint of water - it was impossible to cook or even take a drink from our water bottles. Thankfully, the bees disappeared shortly after the sun went down. We moved to another site for the final two nights.

    Day 17. Tarangiere Overnight Special Camp Mbweha

    Day 18. Tarangiere in the Afternoon drive to Arusha Overnight Out Post

    Day 19. Flight back

    Please let me know what you think of this plan for a self-drive tour, camping in roof tent and self-catering.

    You may have seen our trip report and photos from our self-drive along the Northern Circuit of Tanzania and in Kenya in 2009. In case you haven't, the link is below. There are photos of many of the places on your itinerary. CR

    http://www.fodors.com/community/africa-the-middle-east/highlights-and-photos-self-drive-kenya-tanzania-august-2009.cfm

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    Thanks, Robin, for your detailed and candid response. I was hoping that you might answer my questions since you have first-hand knowledge of a trip like that. Yes, I have read all your TR's and I am a dedicated fan of Bert and Bin! Absolutely love your reports and they are a wonderful resource for us newbies.
    Where do I find more info about the special campsites so I can tell my out-fitter which ones to book?
    Just found out- to my chagrin- that our Landrover will not have AC. Now I understand how the tsetse flies keep bugging self-drivers, you and others!
    I will carefully check into your recommendations and keep tweaking the plan. Thanks so much!

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    So happy to learn that the TRs have been of help. When we undertook our first self-drive through Botswana in 2009, I found a fantastic TR on Fodor's that was so helpful. I have always tried to return the favour.

    Unfortunately, there is little info available on any of the special campsites in Tanzania and Kenya. We have always selected ours sites based on location - the special campsites are marked on both of the maps that we use - the wet/dry season maps by Giovanni Tombazzi and those by Veronica Roodt. We purchased the maps online at Omni Map - see the link below. Scroll down (past the Tanzanian road maps and Kilimanjaro maps to the Tanzanian National Parks maps.) Paper maps are a tad old fashioned, but they are very useful when selecting campsites.

    http://www.omnimap.com/catalog/int/tanzania.htm

    Once we have selected sites from the maps, I then do a Google search of each campsite in the hopes of finding a TR that refers to them or, even better, has photos of them.

    A few of our favourites:

    Tarangire - Mbweha (but watch out for the bees) - for our upcoming trip we have asked for it, Terminalia or Mlegea

    Lake Manyara - Lakeshore SC (right on the lake) or Bagayo A (not far from the lake on a pretty site at the base of the escarpment).

    Seronera - we were on Moru 3 in 2012, which was lovely - nestled at the foot of a kopje with a lovely view over the plains. This time we have asked for Moru 4 - we prefer not to return to the same campsites. Most of the SC at Moru are at the base of a kopje - very pretty. From Moru, it is only about a 20 minute drive to Lake Magadi and the Mbalageti River, where we saw lions on a daily basis, two Cheetahs and a leopard in a tree. Great game viewing without the crowds at Seronera!

    Lobo 3 - this SC is closest to the river, but there is a pump that runs 24hrs near the site and you can hear it at night. Lobo Hills is also lovely but the "road" to it is virtually gone/grown over, otherwise we would have moved to it.

    Our vehicles have AC, but we tend not to use it because we like to have the windows open. However, in some areas of Lake Manyara (in the far south) and heading north to Lobo from Seronera, where the tsetses were terrible, we did have to keep the windows shut.

    Feel free to ask any further questions!

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    Hi Robin, thanks for the info about TZ maps. Will look to get them. You are so kind for taking the time to respond. I greatly appreciate it.
    You naming the special websites is very helpful and will aid my planning greatly. Of course, I do have more questions!
    1. On another thread you were mentioning about sharing your shopping list. I would love to have it as a reference tool.

    2. In Bots, we broke up our Chobe/Moremi trip into 2 parts and went to Maun to restock and refuel after 6 days, so I am thinking of doing the same for this trip. The trip is for 18 days starting beginning of August. So considering we would like to get a glimpse of the migration in the Northern Serengeti, should we visit there in the beginning of August and later do crater, Tarangire and Lake Manyara, or vice? I realize it is quite impossible to predict the timing of the migration, but from your experience, should we start in the Serengeti, spend 8 days, go back to Arusha, then visit the other 3 parks? Or vice versa?

    3. I know you guys took most of your food with you from the start, I don't quite see how this is possible, but maybe you can enlighten me?
    Thanks, KaliCA

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    I will happily share my shopping list. I am just working on the menu and grocery list for our upcoming trip. It is a tad lengthy, so I will send it by PM on Trip Advisor when it is complete. I leave nothing to the imagination - it is a very detailed list and menu. The shopping (at Shoprite in Arusha) itself is run with military-like precision, with each of us having our own list and cart. :-) We pay with MC.

    In 2012, we started/stocked up in Arusha and then went to Tarangire and Lake Manyara for a total of 7nts. Then, after a stay at Lemala Camp on the crater rim, (where we didn't need food), we went back and re-stocked in Arusha. From there, we headed into the Serengeti (after an overnight at Olduvai) for about a week, with all of our non-perishables for the rest of the trip (the Serengeti and Mara) and our perishables for the Serengeti. Crossing into Kenya, our perishables for the week in the Mara were provided by Serian Camp (where we stayed for 2nts before self-driving into the Mara). This had been arranged in advance by Safari Drive - we emailed a shopping list to them well in advance. The groceries Serian provided - including some of their homemade bread and muffins, and home-grown veggies - were far superior to anything we had found in Arusha. Rosin, the Manager at Serian Camp in the Mara North Conservancy, was most helpful/accommodating.

    We too will be there for the month of August, so we are leaving the Mara until last, hoping that this will best for the migration. I would be inclined to start with Lake M, Tarangire and the crater, and leave the Northern Serengeti until last. Trouble is, you will then have a long drive back to Arusha with no park to stop in because you have already stopped at them all. You might wish to leave the crater until your return trip - or whichever of Tarangire, Lake M and the crater you anticipate will be the highlight - to break up the drive back to Arusha...and good luck with that decision! :-)

    Our upcoming trip will be:
    Start in Arusha - fly into here
    Tarangire camping
    Lake Manyara camping
    Lemala@Ngorongoro
    Serengeti/Moru kopjes camping
    Lemala Ewanjan@Seronera
    Speke Bay - overnight on the way to Kenya
    Mara Triangle camping - fly out from here

    We will buy all of our non-perishables for the entire trip in Arusha - we are not returning to Arusha on this trip. Goodness knows where we will put them all - among many other things, we will need 4 cases of 1.5 litres water bottles. Serian Camp will once again provide our weeks worth of perishables for the Mara - which is why I am working on our menu and grocery list now - so that I may send them our list well in advance. We will also ask Lemala to provide us with bread. On our last trip, the hotel in Arusha sent us off with 8 muffins from the breakfast buffet - I think they were afraid we were not going to survive. :-)

    I should have the grocery list to you in the next couple of days - I will leave you a message here when I have sent it. Robin

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    Thanks Robin. I will look for the shopping list on TA. I am inclined now to break up the trip into 7 and 10 days with restocking after seven. And maybe leave LM for last. Would you recommend overnighting in Olduvai or make it from Arusha to Senerora in one long dusty day? Can you camp in Olduvai as well? I am afraid it will be too cold to camp at the Simba sites.
    You are the best and I love to hear your ideas.

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