Selfdrive northern circuit

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Dec 4th, 2012, 12:15 PM
  #1
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Selfdrive northern circuit

In february I'm going back to Tanzania again. This will be my 4th time, after spending 2 safaris in the northern circuit and 1 in Selous/Ruaha previously.
This time I will be bringing my girlfriend and hope she will fall in love with safari and africa as well

We are going on a self drive (arranged via Safari Drive) and I'm looking for some tips and advice from other self drivers or just otherwise knowledged/experienced people

Our itinerary is;

2-Feb - Fly from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro, overnight at River Trees Lodge
3-Feb - Pick up the car and get instructions, relax or perhaps already do some shopping. Overnight at River Trees Lodge
4-Feb - Drive to Tarangire. Most likely spent the morning shopping and stocking the car and have lunch at Tarangire Safari Lodge, then game driving to our private camp spot; Mibuyu Mingi Special Campsite
5-Feb - Full day game driving in Tarangire, overnight at Mibuyu Mingi Special Campsite
6-Feb - Morning gamedrive in Tarangire, then drive to Ngorogoro crater. Relax or walk in the afternoon. Overnight at Ngorongoro Crater Simba Public Campsite
7-Feb - Game drive on the crater floor. Overnight at Ngorongoro Crater Simba Public Campsite
8-Feb - Drive to Nainokanoka village, go on a walking safari near Empakai crater. Fly camp
9-Feb - Walking safari Empakai Crater. Fly camp
10-Feb - Drive to Serengeti Moru Kopjes. Overnight at private campsite, Moru 4 Campsite Serengeti National Park
11-Feb - Game driving in Serengeti. Overnight at Moru 4 Campsite Serengeti National Park
12-Feb - Game driving and drive to Simiyu. Overnight at Simiyu Special Campsite.
13-Feb - Game driving. Overnight at Simiyu Special Campsite
14-Feb - Game driving. Overnight at Simiyu Special Campsite
15-Feb - Game drive. Drive to Karatu. Overnight at Gibbs Farm.
16-Feb - Return vehicle and fly back home.

One of the things I'm wondering about is how to arrange payment for park fees. Apparently the Ngorongoro fees need to be payed up front, but do we really need to take the rest of the money in dollars as hard cash with us?
Furthermore I'm curious to hear the experiences about how you spent the days. Did you 'cook' during lunch to avoid atrackting unwanted guests at your campsite? How safe did you feel and how did you manage the 'toilet' (a shovel) at night?
etc. etc.
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Dec 6th, 2012, 11:30 AM
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We completed our second self-drive to Tanzania and Kenya with Safari Drive this past August 2012 - it was another trip of a lifetime. In answer to your questions.....

One of the things I'm wondering about is how to arrange payment for park fees.

You may now pay for all of your park fees by credit card - either MasterCard or Visa. We used MasterCard in all of the Tanzanian parks (at the gates) and had no difficulty.

However, you will need to pay for your diesel with cash - the fuel stations still do not accept credit cards. We carefully calculated what mileage we would be covering, got the latest diesel prices from Safari Drive and then calculated how much cash we would need just for fuel. The most expensive fuel was at Seronera, where it was 2319 tsh/litre. In Arusha, it was 2181 tsh/litre. Try to pick your tsh up at the airport. We had difficulty finding a cash machine in Arusha that was working, and we spent over an hour in a bank line-up as a result.

Furthermore I'm curious to hear the experiences about how you spent the days. Did you 'cook' during lunch to avoid atrackting unwanted guests at your campsite?

Here was a typical day for us:
Up at 5:30am to pack up the tent and depart the campsite at 6:00am - as early as we were allowed in the parks.

Game drive for an hour or two until we found something interesting and then we would stop for breakfast - depending on what "interesting" was - scenery vs a kill/predators - we would eat breakfast in the vehicle or off the hood of the 4x4. We would ensure that all of our breakfast makings were in the vehicle with us so that we didn't need to get out of the 4x4 if we were near predators. We packed a small, soft-sided cooler in one of our suitcases for the perishable breakfast stuff.

Drive until about noon when we would head back to our campsite. We would cook our main hot meal of the day at lunch when it was daylight and easier to see predators, when we were not so tired, and when we were in need of a break from being in the vehicle. We would often make extra to eat at the evening meal, when we would tired and not wanting to cook. We would wash and hang clothing at this mid-day break if need be.

We would head out again around 4:00pm and stay out until sunset, when we would be required to be back on the campsite.

Returning to the campsite, we would download photos, prepare a light dinner and be in bed by 9:00pm.

How safe did you feel and how did you manage the 'toilet' (a shovel) at night?

For the toilet - we would dig a pit somewhere on the peripheral of the campsite as soon as we arrived on the site. As we used it, we added sand to it. At night, we tried to avoid getting up but, when we did, we did not venture as far as the pit, instead staying quite close to the ladder. We would check the area around the vehicle very carefully before getting out of the tent. We kept a roll of toilet paper and two strong Maglites in the tent in case we needed to get up.

We always felt safe on the campsites, but we are very careful. During the day, we watch carefully to see what is approaching and, after dark, we scan constantly with our flashlights for eyes. We took our own, powerful flashlights. Despite our caution and care, we did have one close call on this trip. We stopped for breakfast at a viewpoint in the Mara one morning and, after checking the surrounding area carefully, I got out of the vehicle to get something out of the back seat. We had just been following two cheetahs, so we wrongly assumed that there would be no lions in the area. Big mistake! As I tried to dig out our small cooler, some survival instinct told me to look towards the back of the vehicle. I turned and looked into the eyes of a huge male lion that was behind the 4x4, about 15m from me. It must have been lying unseen nearby in the tall grass. I dove back into the vehicle unharmed but it was a lesson learned - even when you are being very careful, you can get into serious trouble.

If you meant did we feel safe from people - we have never felt in any danger in towns or villages, or when driving in the middle of nowhere.

The dirt track to Mibuyu Mingi is a little rough, but it is a lovely site with huge old baobabs. In Tarangire, most of the action seems to be at the river below the picnic site, so head there when game viewing.

We had amazing sightings around the Moru kopjies - a leopard in a tree and so many lions we stopped counting. The Moru special campsites are a little difficult to find, but there are signs. There are not many vehicles around Moru, so you will feel as though you have the Serengeti to yourselves - amazing!

Feel free to ask any further questions. CR

The folks at Rivertrees took us to a really good (and nearby) Masai market - if you wish to shop for crafts, ask the staff about the market.
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Dec 6th, 2012, 12:02 PM
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Sorry - I should have added that the 4x4 averaged 8.1 to 8.9 km/litre. CR
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Dec 6th, 2012, 10:47 PM
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Wow, thx a lot for your extensive reply Robin. Sounds like you had (another) great trip!
Do you have photo's online somewhere I can watch?

A few more questions pop into mind;
Were you allowed/able to lit a campfire on the private camp sites?
And where exactly do you refill your drinking water (and fuel I guess?)
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Dec 7th, 2012, 07:38 AM
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It was a great trip!

I am afraid that, after a year in Africa, we are way behind with our photos. The Kenya/Tanzania trip was the last trip of the year, just before we returned to Canada, and we have not yet even started editing the photos.

There are fire pits on all of the special campsites but you have to provide your own wood. We purchased some from a roadside vendor on the way out of Arusha and tied it onto the roof. We almost daily lit a fire at midday and cooked our big meal of the day.

The public campsites in the Serengeti all have big tanks of non-drinking water where we would fill the vehicle's water tank. The petrol station at Seronera had a water tap and, in Tarangire, we topped up the tank at the washroom on the picnic site. We also filled up at the Coffee Lodge in Arusha (using their garden hose) when we returned there after Tarangire and Lake Manyara, before heading to the Serengeti. We found that the vehicle's tank lasted us about four days - we used the water in the tank for bathing, laundry and washing dishes, not drinking.

We purchased all of our bottled drinking water at the Shoprite in Arusha - we allow for 6/litres per day for two people (for drinking and cooking) - that seemed to be about right, although you may need more because you will have hotter weather and may be drinking more. Shoprite had cases of twelve x 1.5 litres bottles of drinking water. We stacked the cases on the floor behind the front seats - they were nice and flat and sturdy, and we were able to put other things on top of them. We kept the drinking water bottles as we emptied them and would fill them with non-drinking water (taking the labels off so we knew which contained drinking water) when we filled the vehicle's tank, so that we had extra if we needed it, or in case the water tank sprang a leak on the rough roads.

We filled the fuel tanks in Arusha, the crater rim, Seronera and Bunda (the latter on the way to Kenya) - we would top up the tanks whenever we passed a reliable fuel station.

Feel free to ask more questions. I'll look in my journal and see if there are any tips I should pass on to you. Robin
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Dec 23rd, 2012, 12:42 PM
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Hi Robin,

One thing that I just thought of is if we should take a (detailed) paper map or if the navigation with the (digital) maps are enough? I'd say it would be convenient to have a paper map, just in case.. but can't really seem to find one..
How did you handle the navigation?
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Dec 27th, 2012, 08:52 AM
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Sorry - almost missed this post.

We used our Garmin 60CX GPS, onto which we had loaded the East Africa Tracks4Africa map. We purchased the map online: http://www.tracks4africa.co.za. The SD vehicle came equipped with a Garmin Nüvi, which was also loaded with the appropriate Tracks4Africa map. We couldn’t have become lost if we tried. The Nuvi is very easy to use, so you will not need a second GPS. We took ours because we were confident we knew how to use it. The next trip, we would not bother - we would use the one in the vehicle, which was very easy.

However, we also found paper/hard copy maps helpful, especially while in the parks. Safari Drive will provide maps of the parks (with the package that comes to your home about a month before your departure), and we purchased other maps online from http://www.omnimap.com. As I recall, SD sent us the Veronica Roodt maps and we purchased the Tombazzi maps from Omni. We like the Tombazzi maps - they have wet and dry season info - but you will be fine with the hard copy maps that SD provides.

Have a look here:
http://www.omnimap.com/catalog/int/tanzania.htm

February - not long until your leave! Have a wonderful trip! I'll look forward to hearing all about it! CR
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Dec 28th, 2012, 10:52 AM
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Hi Nikao
I have only selvdrive once in the Serengeti (december-january 2009), with my own Zambian registred car, but living 7 year in Africa ( my wife is a diplomat) i was fortunate to have the possibility to do a lot of selvdrive and camping in the wilderness areas of the region.
Driving early in februar you should consider having to deal with rain shower and some roads can become stiky and treacherous
Tanap use to sell the Veronica Roodt map of both Serengeti and NCA at the gates and i had a god use of them but no map i totaly acurate in the bush since many roads are constantly changing from one year to the other...
Personnaly i have never used a GPS and i like it that way but i understand that it can makes traveling easyer
When it came to safety in the bush i guess you have already heard or read the usuals advices so i will spare you that
Anyway ther are times when you have to listen to that feeling that tells you that something is wrong and that you need to back off even if they or that tells you that it s ok...
Sometimes it s the opposite and i for ex have done a lot of night driving in Africa and had great moments during it, but also near death experience...
When camping, especialy on remote special campsite it sometime great just to sitt in a confortable chair with a coffee for at least one sundown and just wait for the animals that are around to show themself and enjoy it.
Be carefull when driving in the traffic and have a great time!
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Dec 28th, 2012, 02:08 PM
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I certainly can't provide input re self-drives as I'd never even consider this. But after reading Robin's report above, can only say "you go girl!"

However, I note phil's comment re rain in February. While there is no guarantee if/when if might rain anytime of the year, know that February is NOT a month of rain... rather the rains usually come April/May. In fact, February is one of the 'dry' months and rather hot.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 02:08 AM
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Hi sandi,
If february is not considert a month of rain around north Tanzania it doesn t mean t it is not raining in february...
You can have up to 2 week without rainfall but you can also have 2 days with rain for ex while in january it can rain for a week...
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Dec 29th, 2012, 09:02 AM
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Phili -

I didn't say there is never any rain in February, rather that it's not considered one of the 'rain' months for when planning your safari Hey, it can rain in July-Sept, the 'dry' season.

Apparently you got rain in Feb... unusual. But rain is always needed in Africa, so unless there are weeks of monsoon wet, I'll take a few hours or even days. It's not like I'm walking around in it... the game is still about even if the roads can be somewhat treacherous.

And while you can have 2/wks without wet or a few days or more with, you could also have selected (a year in advance) the 2/wks when the herds aren't where they were expected to be.

It's weather - whether it will or whether it won't... but shouldn't put anyone off 'on the chance' - chance happens.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 11:07 AM
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ha ha as a selv driver you have to consider it since you gonna be the one that potensialy have to cross the mud patches or the flooded river to reach you booked destination but it shouldnt put you off... as i say earlyer i have only been once in the Serengeti and have a limited knowledge of it but roads do get closed regulary in the rain in the African bush but luckyly solution are often finded to it so don t worry to much...
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Dec 29th, 2012, 11:16 AM
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if you rent a fully equiped 4/4 and know how to use the gear it helps a lot...
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Dec 31st, 2012, 04:33 PM
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Phili-
Very good advice about listening to that feeling that tells you that something is wrong and that you need to back off... This past August, while self-driving along the base of the Oloololo escarpment in the Wilderness Area of the Mara Triangle, we ignored alarm bells in our heads that told us not to cross a muddy stream. About two thirds of the way across, we sank up to our axle in mud, became hopelessly stuck, and spent the next three hours knee deep in mud trying to dig out the 4x4. A hard lesson learned! It is the only time, in all of our self-drives in Africa, that we have ever become stuck, and we could have avoided it if we had listened to the alarm bells.

We have had rain both in Kenya and Tanzania in August - the dry season - but have never had any difficulty on the roads. The roads, especially in the Mara, can become slick when wet, and we have had to drive with care, but we have never had any real difficulty - except for the incident above, which resulted from our own stupidity. The biggest challenges when driving in Tanzania and Kenya are the washboard gravel roads, the people and animals that litter the roads, and the poor signage.

I also couldn't agree more with your suggestion that sometimes it is worth just sitting on a special campsite, enjoying the solitude and waiting to see what wildlife comes to the site. One of my favourite aspects of self-driving is the feeling that my DH and I have the African bush to ourselves.

Safari Drive's vehicles are very well equipped and the local SD staff hold a very thorough briefing with all clients before the latter are allowed to head into the African bush with the 4x4. Everything is removed from the vehicle and reviewed, a process that takes two to three hours - Nikao is in good hands. CR
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Jan 1st, 2013, 10:41 PM
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Hi Robin,
It s look like SD is a reliable operator!
Crossing waterways can be risky for sure...Waiding accross on foot first as recomended is not always an option.
After heavy rain in the Luangwa for ex roads and bridge to camps can become overfloded with muddy water and waiding in crocodile s waters is not a good idea...Parts off bridge or roads can have been wash away by the waters and trap any car attempting to cross...
Reading your last trip rapport, i am one off your fans,on the leopard hill roads it reminds me off a nice sightseing i had there...
Climbing this road to Lusaka one october evening i saw, when arriving on the top off the escarpement, dozen off pennan-winged nigthjars flying and on the roads.
In the faint light ov early evening it was quite magical...
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 02:52 PM
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ALERT! ALERT!

My apology to Phili - seems the usual 'dry' period the 1st quarter of the year - Jan - mid-Mar - ain't so far in 2013. There have been torrential rains in Tanzania, seems everywhere, with roads washed out, rivers no longer rather all is one big lake, mud everywhere, guests having to walk to/from camps, vehicles stuck in mud, some camps seriously damaged or washed away, airstrips washed out so flights screwed up.

Not sure yet whether it's the same in Kenya.

For how long this will last, no one knows... it's weather. Though there is a difference between weather and client, I can only guess that the lady up there is ticked about what we're all doing down on Mother Earth... she's crying a lot.

Pack your slickers, wear Teva-like sandals on the feet rather than descent walking/hiking shoes (with flip=flops and wet feet you'll wind up on your butts), roll up pants to the knee and forget about having laundry done while in-country as it's unlikely to dry. Do keep one-set of clean/dry clothing for homebound flights.

Does remind me of what happened both Tanzania and Kenya (believe) '06/'07 when the wet started early... in mid=Oct '06 and continued on/off thru to almost May '07.

Try to keep dry folks.
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Jan 4th, 2013, 08:34 AM
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Thanks, Sandi. Where do you get your info? I want to stay on top of this as I go in 5 weeks.
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Jan 4th, 2013, 11:37 AM
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amy - I get info from my peeps in-country. I know there is a 'world weather' site somewhere, but rarely other than major cities. Maybe someone might have a link to help you.

As far as Kenya, heard this morning that while they did have lots of wet during Dec, not near as bad as what Tanzania has been experiencing. It's now starting to get rather warm even in Nairobi, but that's what happens come January.
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Jan 5th, 2013, 02:58 PM
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Right, the best weather I can find online is Arusha, nothing about out where we'll be. Hopefully things turn around in a month!
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Jan 6th, 2013, 03:02 PM
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The Mara Conservancy always give weather/rainfall information in their monthly newsletter for the Mara Triangle. According to their latest report, the Mara Triangle saw quite a bit of rain in December. CR

http://maratriangle.org/connect/mont...december-2012/
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