Self-drive safari in Kenya / Tanzania

Jun 9th, 2009, 07:03 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 5
Self-drive safari in Kenya / Tanzania

Hi all,

I'm from Brazil. I'm an Africa continent enthusiast and amateur photographer.

Last year, we did a wonderfull trip in Botswana crossing the Kalahari, Moremi and Chobe in a self-drive safari, no guides, in two cars with RTT. Tracks4Africa is my friend and it was just great.

I'd like to do smth alike in Kenya/Tanzania and I'm just starting to dig some information.

As I'm very very concerned about crowds of tourists, I would like your help to find the best time of year and better places where I could see the most wildlife with less humanlife ;-)

I'm very sad, but I think the big migration will be out of my plans if I want to avoid a shopping park sensation

I tought about TSavo (east, west or both?), Amboseli, Ngorongoro, Serengeti and Masai Mara in 3 weeks. Doable without rush ? I'd like to stay in the places, instead of just passing through...

Is there campsites where I can stay in RTT in these places ? Bush camp allowed ?
I need to book in advance ? How long ?
I need a government or wildlife department permit? How to obtain that from Brazil ?
Any recomendations of car hire company (two Defenders 110 or Land Cruisers - fully equiped) ?

I really count on your help.

Many thanks in advance !

itamar is offline  
Jun 9th, 2009, 07:16 AM
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Just wondering if you've checked for travel warnings from the UK state department which tends to be fairly up to date. It has been several years since I've been to Kenya so perhaps it is less of a concern right now, but there have been several periods where it has been quite dangerous.

Kenya has had problems periodically with armed gangs coming Ethiopia and the Sudan as those countries have dealt with civil war and armed conflict. Certainly any itinerary on your own should be very cautious at parks like Laikipia in the northern third of the country.
Ryan is offline  
Jun 9th, 2009, 10:34 AM
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You can start here -

I believe Erikson Rover Safaris can help you with making a plan.
luangwablondes is offline  
Jun 9th, 2009, 12:28 PM
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My husband and I have a self-drive through Kenya and Tanzania booked for this July - no guide, no driver. We have done several self-drives previously though South Africa, Namibia and Botswana (Chobe and Moremi August 2008). We too use the Tracks4Africa maps.

For our upcoming trip, we fly into to Nairobi and then onward into the Mara. From there, we pick up our fully-equipped 4x4 with a roof-top tent at Serian Camp and then camp our way (for 4 weeks) through the Mara, (cross the Kenya/Tanzania border at Isebania/Sirari) Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara and Tarangire. We begin our trip back to Canada from Arusha. We have booked our vehicle through Safari Drive in the UK. They are not cheap but, at our age (50s), my husband and I like the security of the in-country back-up that Safari Drive provides. We did our research, drafted an itinerary and then contacted Safari Drive, who offered advice and looked after all of our reservations.

In terms of booking, it is the vehicle you will need to book well in advance - we booked our trip back in November.

We don't like crowds either, but we hear that the numbers are down in both countries thanks to the recession.

We are staying in "special" campsites in all of the parks, which have to be booked in advance and are ours exclusively. There are also public sites that you don't have to book in advance, but they are not as isolated and you may have to share with other campers. If by "bush camping" you mean simply setting up wherever you like with no reservation, it is not allowed in any of the parks.

You do need permits to enter the parks, which you can either purchase at the park gates or order ahead of time. Safari Drive has looked after all of our permits and reservations for us. It is difficult to do online from here in Canada.

Have a look at the Safari Drive website. It will at least give you an idea of what is possible. Robin
canadian_robin is offline  
Jun 9th, 2009, 02:17 PM
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Great info CR. And check out CR's 2008 trip report, it is really neat. And not much longer until your Kenya/Tanzania drive. We are counting on, no demanding, a trip report for it

Since CR has pioneered the way to do this, I'm going to suggest to Carolyn that we consider a similar self drive next year. We'll see.

Oh, and CR can you give a rough estimate of your expected total cost per day (not per person) of your upcoming drive (not including air to/from).

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Jun 9th, 2009, 07:26 PM
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Hi Tom!
Geeeez - you seem to think I can do math...
Per day - roughly CDN$500 including fully-equipped vehicle, flights from Nairobi to the Mara for two, accommodation at Serian (3 nights), Lemala Camp at Ngorongoro (2 nights), Olduvai Tented Camp (1 night) Arusha accommodation (2 nights), Speke Bay Lodge (1 night), Nairobi accommodation (1 night), all park fees, ground transport from Arusha to Nairobi, all camping fees, food ..... basically everything but international flights. Not cheap, but we love the freedom of self-drive!

Quite right - roughly 6 weeks until departure and I can't wait. We are ready to go - we have our visas and I had my last rabies shot yesterday. ...And yes, I will be putting together a trip report. We are taking two cameras this time, so there will be no shortage of photos to go with it!

Our biggest challenge - the weight allowance for luggage on that small plane from Nairobi to the Mara. We will be taking few clothes, so we may appear in the same shorts and T-shirts in all of our photos. Also, I live in fear of small planes, so my husband may have to drug me and carry me onto the plane. Robin
canadian_robin is offline  
Jun 10th, 2009, 04:55 AM
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Hi all,

great information to start my draft.
CR, your contribution was priceless !
As we are planning two cars for a 4/5 adults (men) I think the safety is better.
I'm very interested in these "special campsites"
How did you find them?
Any special identifications in T4A?
I'll look for your TR ASAP.

luangwablondes: I'm just starting to read your site and it's clear there are lots of info there. Just what I need.

Many thanks to everybody, and all information are still welcome !

itamar is offline  
Jun 10th, 2009, 06:48 AM
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Hi Itmar!
We have found that the Tracks4Africa map of Kenya/Tanzania is not nearly as detailed as the one for Botswana. The campsites - neither public nor private - are not marked on the maps. We have found that the best maps are the ones by Giovanni Tombazzi and Veronica Roodt - they show all of the campsites. I was able to order all of the maps online. The maps are as follows:

By Tombazzi:
1. New Map of Northern Tanzania (last updated 2007)- useful because it shows all of the parks on the northern circuit of Tanzania

2. New Map of Serengeti National Park 2007 - one side is wet season, other side is dry season

3. Lake Manyara National Park - wet and dry season on either side

4. New Map of Tarangire National Park - wet and dry season

5. New Map of Ngorongoro Conservation area - wet and dry season on either side

By Roodt:
1. The Tourist Map of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

2. The Tourist Map of the Serengeti National Park
The Roodt maps have GPS co-ordinates.

We also purchased the "Visitor Map Guide: Masai Mara:" by Jacana Maps

Veronic Roodt also has two very good books:
1. The Tourist Travel and Field Guide of the Serengeti National Park ISBN: 0-620-34190-4
2. The Tourist Travel and Field Guide to Ngorongoro Conseravtion Area ISBN: 0-620-34191-2
They are a little dated, but we still found them useful in terms of telling us where and when we should be in the areas.

Unlike Botswana, where we used our GPS and Tracks4Africa almost exclusively, I suspect that on this trip we will primarily be using the above paper maps and using the GPS and Tracks4Africa map just to confirm where we are.

For the Mara campsite info, including availability and reservations, go to: - a great site!

For information about the parks and camping in Tanzania go to (TANAPA as it is known)- also an excellent site.

Other books we found helpful when we did our intitial research:

1. Bradt Guide to Tanzania by Philip Briggs
- an excellent book!

2. The Rough Guide to Kenya - also very good!

3. Lonely Planet Guide to Tanzania

As for safety, it will just be the two of us, but Safari Drive provides us with a satellite phone so help is just a phone call away (Safari Drive is based in the UK but has bases in the Mara/Serian Camp and Arusha.). The vehicle also comes very well equipped. We have never felt in any danger during our travels in Southern Africa and we have traveled almost entirely on a self-drive basis since 2004.

Happy reading - this should keep you busy for a while Robin
canadian_robin is offline  
Jun 10th, 2009, 06:57 AM
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Sorry - I should also have said that if you want to see the trip report and photos from Botswana that Tom alluded the link is below. The report will give you an idea of the vehicle, it's equipment and the type of trip we did in Botswana.
If the upcoming trip to Kenya and Tanzania is half as successful/enjoyable as the Botswana trip, we will be happy campers - literally ! Robin
canadian_robin is offline  
Jun 11th, 2009, 11:15 PM
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Hi Itamar!

Tsavo is one big wilderness you can wander for days with hardly seeing a soul (you'll see tourists concentrations at Mzima Springs, Mudanda Rock, Aruba Dam etc'...)
One place you must visit is Lake Jipe on the TZ border
if the camp is not operating, you may be alone in the area
( last i've seen it was for sale
Do not miss the Shitani lava flows (climb on foot) on the way from Tsavo West to Amboseli

in Serengeti it is easy to be on your own, you can find lots of 'empty spaces'

Even in Mara, small as it may seem, you can spend whole days on tourist=free grounds (though you have to know your ways). believe it or not you can get lost in the Mara and miss your lodge/camp - for self drive i suggest you bring a GPS with you

Ngorongoro will always have tourist concentrations - if you 1. stay at sopa and go down via the Sopa road you may enjoy a couple of hours without the hordes
2. be at the gate a few minutes before opening time (most tourists eat breakfast at the lodge since lunch is always a box, so most do not descend as the gate is opened)

Safari njema

aby is offline  
Jun 11th, 2009, 11:29 PM
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an important note about Camp Sites in Serengeti:
The authorities don't make it easy to camp outside the usual public camps!
Suppose you are in Serengeti and you've passed a beautiful special camp site (near some heavenly kopjes) you'd like to spend the night at; you drive to the HQ/gate wanting to book it. the answer you'll get is that booking such special camp=sites is done only in Arusha....
& camping fee for the special campsites pppn is $50 and even $100 pppn in exceptional places
bottom line: special camp sites need to be researched well in advance

and think about staying out of the Serengeti NP areas like Gol Mts etc

aby is offline  
Jun 12th, 2009, 05:35 AM
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Hi everybody !

Many thanks for all this information.
This is pure gold

In our trip to Botswana we had 3 GPS and four notebooks in the two cars
We were never lost in the entire trip.
We also had bought Veronica's maps, but T4A was the most useful in Botswana. I certainly will order all the maps you suggested.

Kindest regards,
itamar is offline  
Jun 12th, 2009, 11:22 AM
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Another option at Ngorongoro is Lemala Camp, which is at the same end as Sopa Lodge and uses the same road, but is a much smaller tented camp and very nice.

The "special" campsites in each park are limited in number and very popular - mostly used by mobile operators and occasionally by self-drivers like us. It is unlikely that you would be able to show up and find one on the spot, especially during the high season/migration. Also, as Aby points out, you have to book the sites through the parks' offices. Safari Drive booked our special campsites for July back in November - through the park's offices in Arusha and Nairobi. The fees for the campsites is steep, but far less expensive than the camps/lodges and well worth the money if you love the independence and isolation, as we do. Robin
canadian_robin is offline  
Jun 12th, 2009, 11:51 AM
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I had the same issue with some campsites in Bots, like the ones in Moremi and Savuti.
I plan to book in much advance, probably 11 months in advance, as it's just the beginning of the trip planning.
I intend to go by August, 2011

Do you have an idea of how much is a Defender 110 fully-equiped with RTT for 20 days in SafariDrive ? Just a guess is ok...

Thanks again.
itamar is offline  
Jun 12th, 2009, 12:40 PM
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in TANAPA site, I saw this:
Special Campsites
Location: Spread throughout the park

How is the process of booking these campsites ?
How do you refer to a specific campsite ?

In Botswana you refer to campsite codes, as CKGR-03 to DWNP.
itamar is offline  
Jun 17th, 2009, 06:44 AM
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For Tanzania, the sites are not named, so the best you can do is describe the location of the site you want within each park. We will not know what site we have been assigned to until we reach each park, but I think we will do well with any of them. Perhaps we will be given a choice when we arrive.

For the Mara, the sites are named on the map that is posted on their website, so you can specify an actual site. Have a look at Click on "visit" near the top and then on "campsite bookings". If you click on the map, it enlarges and you can see all of the campsites. You may also check site availability and read a description of each site. We provided a list of three preferences and were given our first choice, Maji Ya Ndege.
canadian_robin is offline  
Jun 30th, 2010, 12:24 AM
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I realize this has been inactive for sometime. I am planning a self drive with my girlfriend for August 2010. Quite a late start in planning.

Safari Drive has no more vehicles for hire. We have been referred to Fortes and are also talking to a company called Zanzibar Magic. Has anyone here heard of either? Thoughts?

Also, are there special campsites on the Serengeti side of the Mara triangle (Lamai wedge, I believe it's called). We are trying to camp somewhere near Nomad's / Sayari tented camps, as the game viewing is suppoesd to be ideal in early August.
dbeach82 is offline  
Jun 30th, 2010, 08:21 AM
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To those who have driven in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa ( outside the metropolitan areas) the driving is great and more importantly safe. ( I have driven in all these countries and in East Africa). Unfortunately one cannot say the same for East Africa and the roads in Kenya are terrible. Beware of Con men kenya is famous for them. Having sounded the warning, you should be ok if you are street-wise. Keep your windows up when you stop and don't wear necklaces - even pens are snatched from your pocket sometimes. Make time to alert your embassy to your presence and give them a copy of your itinerary.

One of the main hazards on the roads are the "matatu" drivers -give them plenty of room for they prefer to drive at you, in the hope that you will avoid them, rather than risk damaging their suspension in the potholes. Matatu means more than two - they are private minibus taxis often carrying 15 or more in vehicles designed for to carry nine. They are usually purchased by their owners from tour operators who have hammered the life out of the vehicle.
Travpro is offline  
Jun 30th, 2010, 10:44 AM
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dbeach82 I would also love to do a self drive trip like you & have read canadian robin's great report, as well as others that I have found on the internet. Have a look at http://moira-moirasdailyblog.blogspo...y-day-one.html you will see the company they hired from - this is in Botswana, so I don't know if its of use to you, but its one of the more recent reports I found. I did email the company she mentioned in the report & got a prompt response, so maybe thats worth looking at more?
Next year we shall go to Kruger again in February (not the best time I know , but we went this year in March & saw lots). If we could I'd also love to do a self drive there (Botswana & maybe Namibia) later in the year, so I look forward to the replies to your post too.
janev is offline  
Jul 1st, 2010, 07:17 PM
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Since this thread has become active again, I will add the link to our trip report and photos from our self-drive through Kenya and Tanzania in 2009, which is mentioned above. It was an amazing trip.


I believe that the furthest north that you can camp in the Serengeti is Klein's Gate. We camped at Lobo (lovely special campsites), and the game viewing in August 2009 was amazing. As for safety, we always felt perfectly safe self-driving in Kenya and Tanzania. However, we were chased off our campsite in the Serengeti by (we think) poachers. The episode is described in my report. Robin
canadian_robin is offline  

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