We will do the Tanzanian northern circuit.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the people who have contributed valuable information (whether you know it or not!) that aided our decision on safari company, itinerary and lodging.
DH and I will do a private safari and stay entirely in Thomson's tented camps - Nyumbas. My husband is an avid amateur photographer so that will be a focus - pun intended I am also sun sensitive so having a 4WD with a pop top was crucial. Here is our itinerary:
March 7 Leave US
March 8 Arrive JRO via AMS, overnight Ngare Sero Lodge
March 9 (Sunday) Go to church in Arusha then drive to Tarangire to begin safari
March 10 Tarangire
March 11 Short visit to Lake Manyara NP enroute Ngorogoro Crater. Lunch at the camp then an afternoon game drive in the crater
March 12 Morning with some Masaai then another afternoon game drive (we may transpose this.)
March 13-16 Serengeti in two different locales (also our 15th wedding anniversary there!)
March 17 Fly to Zanzibar via Arusha and stay 3 nights at Ras Nungwi
March 20 Quick visit to Stonetown then hop over to Dar for the afternoon and evening. Dayroom at the Slipway. Fly out that night for the US.
I hope to pay everyone's generosity forward by writing a trip report within a month of our return. It'll have some stuff that hasn't been covered much or at all on this forum to my knowledge, namely:
1. More information about what it's like to stay in Thomson nyumbas.
2. Going to Sunday morning church services in Arusha (we plan to attend the Greek Orthodox church there.)
3. Traveling with a CPAP unit. I have UARS, a sleep disorder, and must sleep with one of these things hanging off my head or I don't get much deep sleep. If I travel without it I'd be miserable - and so would DH! Thomson has agreed to provide a fully charged car battery for me every night to power my unit. In fact, each company we consulted said they could accomodate me on this which is a wonderful thing for all those folks out there with sleep breathing disorders. An inability to provide a car battery, even if we chose a lodge (so many of them have power failures or overnight shutdowns) would have been a deal breaker for any outfitter we consulted.
Safari companies that we contacted for this trip were Thomson, Kiliwarriors, Ker & Downey and Unique Safari. Thomson and Ker were neck and neck but Thomson won our business in the end. Part of the reason we decided to go with Thomson is because they came within our budget and were very perceptive and responsive about what kind of safari experience we wanted. Truth be told though, Ker & Downey dropped their price below Thomsons once I told them we'd decided to go with another company. The agent at Ker, too, was very perceptive and responsive and we may well have gone with them if they'd dropped their price before we committed to Thomson. Kinda got me a little peeved we didn't get their best price right off the bat... There's a lesson in there to make sure you get each company to sharpen their pencil to the breaking point before you commit to one.
I'll probably have some questions now and then of all you good folks out there as the next three months goes by (I'm sooo stinking excited!) We haven't decided yet whether to take along our spotting scope. I suppose it'll come down to weight and room in our duffles the day before we leave.
Thanks again everyone!
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We will do the Tanzanian northern circuit.