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Trip Report Tanzania Safari

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We used Africa Travel Resource (ATR) and was very very pleased with their service from beginning to end and plan to use them again when I go back to Africa someday. I also found their prices to be fair in comparison to other safari specialists here in the US. Happily ATR customized to what we wanted as I flipped the route order. I wanted a variety of experiences in accommodation in Africa (tent, tented camp, lodge, and B&B/farm). We started our trip with 7 nights in a tent on Mt. Kilimanjaro, so I went for a more upscale tented camp on our safari. I will start with an overview of our itinerary and then review each property following.
We first went to Lake Manyara for a safari on our way to Gibbs Farm. Saw lots of animals there and closer than we encountered at times in the crater or serengetti including Giraffe, Elephant, hippo, buffalo, baboons and vervet monkeys. The water was far away in early March so the flamingos were quite far away, so we didn’t see much bird life as we were hoping for. We went from Gibbs straight to the Serengeti and then backtracked to the Crater later since Gibbs is an hour from the crater rim I wanted to stay somewhere on the rim the night before entering the crater. We passed through the Nduntu area on our way to Serengeti Pioneer Camp. It was interesting driving off road, but I also felt guilty that we were crushing the plant life with wild abandon and ultimately joined a mass of 8 vehicles surrounding a pride of lions. It felt quite intrusive. Knowing that this wouldn't be allowed in the Serengeti or in the crater had me concerned all the wildlife would be at a distance, but that wasn't the case at all. Since we went in March, we stayed in the southern/central Serengeti where the migration was at the time and only for 2 nights since the cost of lodging in tented camps there is exorbitant. It was great to see giant herds of wildebeest, zebra, and antelope, but two days was enough for us. We spent a long time in the care searching for wildlife and finally found a leopard on our second day eating a zebra in a tree. It is amazing how expansive and flat the serengetti is, somewhat like North Dakota but with big wild beasts! The only thing I didn’t like about the Serengeti was the Tse Tse flies, they are very annoying. Luckily the ones there reportedly don’t carry the parasite that causes African Sleeping Sickness. Following our stay there we moved on to the Ngorongoro serena lodge on the crater rim. We picked this as our place to stay the night before we descended into the crater so we wouldn't be caught in the "traffic" at the entrance gate that morning since they are right next to the decent road. The southern ascent road was closed for construction, so we ascended out the north end by Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge and then drove around the rim back to Serena. The views were great along the way and then it started raining so I was glad we went early. We saw lots of wildlife, but after already having 4 days of wildlife spotting there were only two new things we hadn’t seen before: the black rhino, and the crested crane. The density and variety of wildlife in the crater is great, and if one didn’t want to go all the way to the Serengeti you certainly could shorten your trip by going here and to the Ngorongoro conservation area near Nduntu. Then we returned there for a second night, but if I could do it again we could have instead gone to Gibbs afterward and stayed a night or two there before flying home. We skipped Tarangire because it was kind of out of the way and we wanted go to the Serengeti since the migration was nearby during February/March. My ATR guide didn't think Tarangire was all that exciting except for elephants which I saw plenty of in Manyara, the Serengeti and the Crater. I also hear that the Tse Tse flies down there do have the parasite that carries African sleeping sickness.
Rivertrees Country Inn
Loved this place and would have stayed longer if our intention wasn't to move on into the Serengeti. It's perfect to stay longer here if your doing just a day long safari in either Arusha NP, Tangire or Lake manyara and don't want to move around for your accommodations. The grounds were beautiful and we loved watching the playful Vervet monkeys, who were still shy enough to stay away from the dining areas. The rooms were very nice with comfortable beds. They have a pool, but I didn't try it. The food was very tasty too. For the price this was a great value.
Gibbs Farm
I am kicking myself that I didn't plan to stay two nights here instead of just one. They have lots to do and experience around the farm. Luckily my husband got to watch and assist with the coffee roasting before we departed in the morning. The service was great and I enjoyed talking with the waitstaff about the area, the farm and their lives in Tanzania. The food was fantastic and they even made me gluten free bread! If you’re a foodie, don't miss this place. It's still an hour drive to the crater from here, so if planning a morning crater visit, you will be getting up early. Instead plan to come here perhaps after visiting the crater for some relaxation. Looking back it would have been better to end rather than start our trip here.
Serengeti Pioneer camp
Overall we had a great experience here, but it was the most costly of our trip running 3x the cost of each of our other lodgings. It was a once in a lifetime trip for me though, so I splurged for this one. I believe this felt authentic to the experience one would have gotten on an old colonial safari. Nice and stylish accommodations including very comfortable bathrooms in the tents. Nice touches included a decanter of Sherri and lavender candy in the room and a traditional safari hat and cane that you could use if you desired. They had walki talkies to call staff to walk you to the main area when it is dark either at night or early in the AM. You can hear the animals outside the tent at night, but I felt very secure as not even a bug was able to get inside our tent as it is zipped up completely with very sturdy canvas and even curtains that line the inside windows for privacy and outside rolldown flaps if desired.
The main lodge sat on a rock overlooking the serengeti and was a perfect place to relax and watch the migration or sunrise or in the evening with a drink and some snacks. There was a pool but I didn’t use it. We had breakfast by it one morning which was a nice change of scenery.
The food was tasty and they easily accommodated my gluten free diet and even baked gluten free bread. I had beef Carpaccio one night as an appetizer and they made chocolate cream puffs for desert for lunch one day. Meat was cooked to order. Wine was tasty and I also enjoyed the Amarula liquor after dinner.
Service was very attentive, almost too much for our taste as they wouldn't even let us carry our own day-packs, but after recognizing that they feel this is their job, we just handed it over and it wasn’t a big deal. Tipping for your “butler” occurs at the end so you didn't have to worry about carrying a giant stack of small bills. There is a general tipping fund for other staff who may have assisted you if you can't keep track like me.
Ngorongoro Serena Lodge
I liked the look and decor of this place and having a view of the crater was great. The rooms were clean with a large bathroom and sufficient luggage storage space and a safe. Service was very friendly. Food was fine, good selection at the buffet and a few a la carte choices for dinner, just wasn't as outstanding as food we had elsewhere. The unique upside we had here that we didn't get elsewhere on our trip was the entertainment offered in the lounge both before and after dinner ranging from local music, Masai dancing, and acrobatics. Lodge is located close to the decent road, so for early 6AM safaris we were some of the first down into the crater. For the price (in comparison to the super spendy tented camps in the Serengeti), it was worth a stay here.

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