Serengeti self-drive camping trip

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Dec 12th, 2009, 08:24 AM
  #1
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Serengeti self-drive camping trip

Hi everyone

I am planning to visit Tanzania in July 2010 with my own 4x4. I will only be camping and have all the necessary equipment and driving skills to do this. I do, however, know very little about Tanzania and specifically Serengeti, where I plan to go.

Can anyone answer some of these questions, please!? I have numbered them to make it easier to answer spesific questions:

1) Please clear up the cost issue: How much would it cost two adults in one vehicle to spend 7 days in Serengeti, camping at a public campsite? I am espesially unsure about the vehicle rate - is it per 24/period or once off?
2) Can I pay in cash once I arrive at Serengeti (USD)? If not, how do I pay?
3) Is it necessary to pre-book public campsites for July? What about special campsites?
4) It is compulsory to take a ranger/guide with you into the park?
5) If you could recommend three public/special campsites in Serengeti, which would it be, and why?

I would appreciate any additional information on a self-drive camping trip to Serengeti very much.

Kind regards

Villiers Steyn

South Africa
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Dec 12th, 2009, 09:07 AM
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Hi Villiers
There is a fodorite who did a selfdrive camping trip in 2009 KENYA and TAZ and as far as I recollect it was canadianrobin (sorry if I mix something up here) who will help you here.
But you might make use of the search engine to find her trip report.

Sorry - I cannot help with selfdrive as we only do fly-in safaris.

It would be wonderful if you could publish some of your experience regarding the leopard project in the Tuli in which you were involved.

As you are most probably very much into conservation may I also suggest to join www.bushdrums.com. A totally different forum which has been founded by an Italian-rooted Kenyan and which is extremely into conservation - besides travel.

Looking forward to reading some of your stuff ;-)

THX!

SV
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Dec 12th, 2009, 09:33 AM
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Here is Robin's report.

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...ugust-2009.cfm
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Dec 12th, 2009, 12:41 PM
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See this trip report:
http://bert-and-bin.smugmug.com/Trav...38901400_BHybf

and this brochure (Tanzania section):
http://edition2a.intellimag.com/?id=safaridrive
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Dec 13th, 2009, 06:01 AM
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Dear spassvogel, atravelynn and AKR1 - thank you very much for your help - I really do appreciate it!! I have just logged on and will read the trip reports asap!

spassvogel - unfortunately the Northern Tuli Leopard Project's official website closed once I left Mashatu game reserve in 2007, but please visit www.mashatu.com to read more about the current carnivore research. A good friend, Andre Snyman, has taken over the project from me.

Kind regards

Villiers
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Dec 14th, 2009, 11:51 AM
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THX Villiers for the info! Will check that out.

I have been to Nitani which is not that far from Mashatu but there NO cats at all. Hmm....wondering ;-)

Great stuff at your website!

SV
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Dec 14th, 2009, 02:40 PM
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Hi Villiers! The answers to your questions are all in my report - Lynn has provided you with the link. However, here are the fast answers:

1) Please clear up the cost issue: How much would it cost two adults in one vehicle to spend 7 days in Serengeti, camping at a public campsite? I am espesially unsure about the vehicle rate - is it per 24/period or once off?

US$50 per person per 24 hours entry fee
US$30 per person per night for a public campsite; $50 pp/pn for a special campsite
$40 per 24 hours for a vehicle - the vehicle fee is per 24 hours, I'm afraid.
These prices are for non-Tanzanians.
For more fee info, see the TANAPA website, which is very good.

2) Can I pay in cash once I arrive at Serengeti (USD)? If not, how do I pay?

Cash is not accepted. MasterCard or Visa only. Our campsite fees were paid in advance (when we booked) but we paid the vehicle and people entry fees at the gate when we enetered the park.

3) Is it necessary to pre-book public campsites for July? What about special campsites?

We booked our special campsites in November 2008 for August 2009. The special campsites were busy in August, as were the public campsites. I believe the TANAPA website indicates that you do not need to book public campsites ahead of time but, if it were me, I would book ahead for migration/peak time (July).

4) It is compulsory to take a ranger/guide with you into the park?

No, and we didn't.

5) If you could recommend three public/special campsites in Serengeti, which would it be, and why?

Our favourite campsite in the Serengeti was Turner 1 at Seronera. Isolated and located next to Turner Springs, the water source attracted many nocturnal visitors, including lions and hyenas. Highly recommended!

We loved the Mareo special campsite in the Western Corridor but it is not being used in the next while because of our poaching incident - see my report. If there is a group of you, it might not be a problem. It was wonderfully isolated and had great views. We loved it and regreted having to leave.

We spent one night at Lobo 1 SC and two nights at Lobo Hill SC. The first was lovely but too far to get to the Ngare Naironya Loop at dawn, where all the action (lions!) was. Lobo Hill SC had wonderful views across the hills and was quite close to the Ngare Naironya Loop. Another favourite!

The public campsite at Lobo has great views, but was very busy when we were there in August - the tents were very close together. The public campsites at Seronera were nice but, again, busy.

Let me know if you have any other questions. My report is a work in progress - I will get back to it after the holidays. Have a look at the link - you will get a pretty good idea of what a self-drive in the Serengeti is like. For us, it was the trip of a lifetime. Robin

http://bert-and-bin.smugmug.com/Trav...38901400_BHybf
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Dec 15th, 2009, 06:28 AM
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The fees are outlined in detail on page 5 of my report. Robin
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Dec 25th, 2009, 10:36 AM
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Thank you very much, Robin! Your advice is excellent, and so is your trip report! Well done!! I cant wait to start planning my trip in more detail... Kind regards. Villiers
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Dec 25th, 2009, 04:09 PM
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You're most welcome, Villiers! The report has been on hold for the holidays, but I hope to get back at it in the new year. Robin
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Dec 29th, 2009, 03:32 AM
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Dear Robin

I must admit that the guidebooks I have been using (including Lonely Planet, etc) have relatively little info on selfdrive trips and some guides even give clashing info...

So I thought I'd rather ask you:

Is it as simple as making a booking through TANAPA for both public and special campsites in Serengeti? In other words, can I simply send an e-mail or phone TANAPA, give them the dates and specific camps I want to stay at, and be assured that the booking will be made?(Of course it would include a payment as well)

In one of the guide books I've been reading it says that selfdrive visitors can only book public campsites and not special campsites!?? This can't be right, can it? As far as I understood, the only difference is that special campsites are more expensive and may have better facilities in some places than public campsites!??

I would really appreciate your help in this regard. Thank you very much!

Villiers
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Dec 29th, 2009, 11:16 AM
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Hi Villiers!
As far as I know, you can book the campsites directly through TANAPA and the Mara Conservancy, but I am not certain how easy it is - that is, if they will respond to emails. You would also have to arrange to get the deposit to them - 50% at time of booking. I am not certain how they would handle that. All of our campsite bookings were made through Safari Drive, the folks in the UK that we rented the Land Rover from. They used Cheli and Peacock in Nairobi for the Mara reservation, and their (Safari Drive) representative in Arusha for our Tanzania campsite bookings. They made all of the reservations and looked after the deposits and final payments.

You can certainly book a special campsite. We used special campsites in both Kenya and Tanzania - we were never on a public campsite. The important difference between the two types of sites (besides the cost) is the fact that, when you book a special campsite, you are guaranteed to have it to yourself - no other campers. It is yours exclusively. The public campsites are shared and there were often four or five groups (mobile camps with guides) on a site - typically 10 to 20 people to a site. We loved the fact that we had our sites to ourselves. Also, the special campsites are in much more isolated locations - it really felt as though we had the Mara and Serengeti to ourselves. It was wonderful! If you can afford the additional cost, the special campsites are worth the extra expense.

You might find it easier to use a local agent to book your campsites. You could contact Safari Drive and see if they would be willing to help.

We too found that the guide books (we found the Tanzania Bradt guide the most helpful) had little info about self-driving. Once we began our journey, we understood why. We encountered only one other self-drive couple during our entire four-week trip - this mode of travel is not common in either country. Visitors all seem to travel with a guide. Robin
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Dec 30th, 2009, 07:54 AM
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Thank you (again) for your valuable comments, Robin! I am stunned to hear that there are so few self-drive visitors to this area, but wouldn't want to do it any other way!!! I will definitely concider using Safari Drive (or another agent), but not before I at least try to contact TANAPA directly

I didn't realise that special campsites were exclusive!! I was wondering why there were no other campers in your wonderful photos!! But now it makes sense. So let's hope I can get the funds together to book these rather than public campsites...it might very well be possible!

If I may, let me ask another question: Did you find Tracks 4 Africa to be sufficient in finding your way around Serengeti and other areas around the park? You mentioned that it oftened "saved" you from getting lost... My plan is to upload it onto a Garmin Nuvi GPS in the vehicle. I will obviously also take some maps, but I'm just curious how extensive Tracks 4 Africa is and whether they have most of the Serengeti game viewing roads on it!???

Well, Robin, thanks again for your wonderful report and help with my questions... If you don't mind, I will probably ask a few more in the recent future. May you have a wonderful New Year!!

Kind regards
Villiers
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Dec 30th, 2009, 07:51 PM
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We too were surprised that there weren't more self-drivers. Our previous camping trip in southern Africa had been to Botswana, where self-driving is fairly common, and we had expected to see the same sort of numbers (of self-drivers) in Kenya and Tanzania. We were certainly the exception and, wherever we went in either country, people seemed surpised when they encountered us. Guides seemed especially surprised to find us on our own. In rural areas, both men and women would stop and stare at us as we drove by. The people were in no way threatening, and we never felt in any danger, but it took us a while to realize how unique our situation was and why everyone was staring at us. As white, middle-aged self-drivers, we looked like we had been beamed in from another planet. The only other self-drivers we saw on the entire trip was a young couple with a Land Rover who were camped on a public site at Seronera in the Serengeti. We had planned to go and chat with them after we had eaten lunch, but unfortunately they headed out on a game drive before we had the chance to meet with them. We never encountered them again.

Tracks4Africa East Africa was the only map we had on the GPS and the map included all of the major roads for the Mara and the northern circuit of Tanzania. Initially, we were a bit taken aback by the lack of detail on the map. Compared to the T4A Botswana map, there is much less detail - no shops, campsites, fuel stations and not even all of the towns. However, the map had all of the "highways" and all of the major roads within all of the national parks. In the parks themselves, we tended to use the paper maps and then the GPS to confirm that we were where we thought we were. The smallest game-viewing tracks in the parks weren't on the T4A map, but all of the major tracks were.

The T4A map does not include the campsites, which was a bit of a problem. Most of the campsites in the Serengeti are marked on the Tombazzi (paper) map, so we could get ourselves in the general area and find the site from there - we would drive up and down the road looking for a dirt track branching off on the correct side of the road. The latitude/longtitude of the Maji ya Ndege (Mara) campsite was on the Mara Conservancy website, so we were able to mark the waypoint on our map ahead of time. Unfortunately, TANAPA does not provide waypoints for their campsites or, if they do, I was never able to find them. The public campsites in the Serengeti are either signed or fairly obvious/easy to find. It is the isolated special campsites that are more difficult to find but, in the end, we found all of ours without too much difficulty.

Had it not been for the Track4Africa map, we never would have found our way from Serian Camp to the Oloololo Gate in the Mara, because none of our paper maps included the area to the north of the Mara Reserve. We could not find a paper map that included the conservancies surrounding the Mara - at least, not one that included the roads. South of Serian, there were tracks going every which way, and it was the GPS and T4A map which told us which were the main tracks and if we were heading towards the bridge over the river.

In rural areas in both countries there are few road signs. I guess since (almost) everyone travels with a guide, who has grown up in the area and knows it well, signs aren't thought to be necessary. However, with the GPS and T4A map and a couple of good paper maps, we had little difficulty finding our way either within or between parks.

Happy New Year to you as well, Villiers, and happy planning. Feel free to ask as many questions as you like. My house guests from Australia leave on 10th January and then I should be able to get back to the report. Robin

Did you find Tracks 4 Africa to be sufficient in finding your way around Serengeti and other areas around the park?

Sorry, I tend to be long-winded. The short answer is "yes" in combination with the Roodt and Tombazzi paper maps, which show the location of the public and special campsites.
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Sep 26th, 2014, 01:52 AM
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Hi everybody,

I find this thread fascinating.

Four of us are planning a 21 day safari in the northern circuit with a 4x4 with roof tents in Jan/Feb. We have done this kind of thing before in Namibia and Botswana.

We hope to include Lake Natron and wonder if we can drive in a circle arriving at Lake Natron from Arusha and leaving going NW back into the Serengeti perhaps via Lobo camp. Are there other top places we could stop at? We are looking for wildlife of all kinds ( birds, plants, spiders to elephants) but also the remote wilderness as well.

What would your suggestions be for a route and places to stop?

So far we've been unable to find a good detailed road map. Which one would you suggest we get?

Thanks

Trevor
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Oct 3rd, 2014, 12:40 PM
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Hi Trevor! We have never included Lake Natron in our Tanzanian self-drives, but I do not know of any reason why you wouldn't be able to include it in a Northern Circuit tour.

If you have looked at our trip report from 2009 (link below), then you will know that we found a combination of a GPS with the appropriate Tracks4Africa maps, and paper maps, helpful when finding our way around. The maps, and where we purchased them, are listed in the trip report.

We have just (August 2014) completed another self drive through Tanzania and Kenya. Our self-drive included Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, Moru Kopjes in the Serengeti, and the Mara Triangle in Kenya - all highly recommended stops. If you camp on special (as opposed to public) campsites, you will have the African wilderness all to yourselves. CR

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...ugust-2009.cfm
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